Read CHAPTER IX - CONFRONTED WITH THE BLACK HAND of The Boy With the U.S. Census, free online book, by Francis Rolt-Wheeler, on ReadCentral.com.

The sidelights that Hamilton had received on the Alaskan enumeration had given him a greater zest for census work than ever, and he devoted not a little of his spare time to the study of conditions in the far North. Indeed, the lad became so enthusiastic about it that every evening, when he reached home, he worked out the route of the enumerator whose schedules he had edited during that day’s work. He had secured the big geological reconnaissance map of Alaska for the purpose. Consequently, it was with a sense of regret that he faced the day when the last of the Alaskan schedules had been edited.

“What next, I wonder, Mr. Barnes?” said Hamilton, laying down his pen and glancing round to his companion. “How about Porto Rico? They had a census this spring, too, didn’t they?”

“I imagine the Porto Rico work is about done,” his friend replied, “at least I know that most of it came in some weeks ago. How are you on Spanish?”

“I can read it all right,” Hamilton answered, “although I don’t write particularly well. But are the schedules all in Spanish?”

“Yes, indeed,” said the other.

“I don’t think simple Spanish would bother me at all,” Hamilton replied. “I knew a chap who was going to the Philippines and he wanted some one to take up Spanish with him so that he wouldn’t be alone in it; and to keep him company, I hammered at it too. But, after a bit, he joined a class, so I dropped out, although I did study once in a while so as not to forget it altogether.”

“Why don’t you suggest that you know Spanish,” remarked Barnes, “and perhaps you’ll get the chance.”

Accordingly, when a little later, the final copy on the Alaskan schedules was turned in, Hamilton asked concerning the Porto Rican work, and ventured his slight familiarity with Spanish.

“We have several translators,” replied the chief, “but still, I suppose Mr. Alavero can make you useful. I’ll let you know later on.”

In a few moments he returned and beckoned to the boy, who followed him, with a word of farewell and thanks to the editor of the Alaskan schedules with whom he had enjoyed working greatly.

“Mr. Alavero,” the official said, introducing Hamilton, “this is Noble. I don’t know what his Spanish is like, but I think he may be of some use to you in getting out the manufactures statistics, as he did some work along that line early in the year and has been with the census ever since.”

The editor smiled affably at the boy and shook hands with heartiness.

“The schedule work is all done,” he said, “but it will take some time preparing the report. It is going to be fuller than most of them because there is so much American capital invested in Porto Rico that a detailed analysis will be of value.”

“It is real editorial work, then!” Hamilton said, with a note of pleasure in his voice.

“I think,” said the chief dryly, “that Mr. Alavero will do the editorial work, as you call it, since he is the editor; you are to assist him in preparing tables and matters of that kind.”

But no sooner had the Bureau official gone than the Porto Rican came forward.

“If you like,” he said, “we’ll try to arrange some part of the work that you can do all yourself, writing and everything else, so that it will be ‘real’ editorial work, and you’ll be able to see your own writing in print.”

Hamilton thanked him fervently, and from that day on would have done anything for his new superior.

“This is a considerable change, Mr. Alavero,” said Hamilton the following morning, when he found himself at a table littered with maps and drawings of the island, with papers in Spanish and English, with reports and circulars containing pictures of the sub-tropical landscapes and towns of Porto Rico. “I have been doing nothing but Alaska for a month past.”

“Too cold!” the Porto Rican cried, with a shrug of the shoulders. “I was in Washington this last winter and I thought I should die of freezing.”

“You are from Porto Rico yourself, Mr. Alavero?”

“I was never away from the island at all,” was the reply, “never even on a steamboat until I came to the United States last autumn; I came to show the people in your Congress that the coffee growers of Porto Rico need help.”

“Why?”

“Porto Rican coffee is the finest in the world,” the editor answered with a graphic gesture, “and when Porto Rico was Spanish we could sell in Europe at high prices, but now the European tariff against the United States includes us, and our coffee is taxed so that we cannot sell it. And the American market is satisfied with Brazilian coffee, which is of a cheaper grade.”

“Is coffee the principal crop down there?” queried the boy. “I notice that nearly half these papers and books deal with coffee plantations.”

“It is still, but not as it once was,” the Porto Rican answered. “Sugar and tobacco are the other big crops.”

“Coffee is easy to grow, isn’t it?” asked the boy. “It doesn’t want all the attention that cotton does?”

“After a grove is well-established, no, though we prune a great deal; but sugar, yes. That’s not such an obstacle though. There is plenty of labor on the island.”

“Isn’t the bulk of the island colored?”

“No, no, no,” answered the Porto Rican, shaking his finger in emphatic denial, “more than three-fifths are pure white, a much smaller proportion of negroes than in some of your Southern States. The negroes were slaves, but Spain freed them in 1873. There was no war.” He smiled. “We are a most peaceful people.”

“Not like our other accession from Spain,” Hamilton commented. “I mean the Philippines; you certainly couldn’t call the Filipinos peaceful, it seems to me that they come just about as wild as they make them.”

“Wild? You do not know the half!” said the excitable little editor, who, despite the frequency of his gestures and the volubility of his explanations was busily working with diagrams the while. “You know there was a census in Porto Rico in 1899?”

“I didn’t until this morning,” the boy answered “but as I see that most of these tables are compared with that year it is evident that there must have been.”

“There was a census,” the editor went on, after a pause during which he had been working over a column of figures, “and my uncle was a supervisor. Mr. Gatten you know him?”

“Only by name,” Hamilton replied.

“He was in the Porto Rico census, too. Then in 1903 he went to assist in the census of the Philippines. It was done by the War Department, because the fighting was hardly over. You think the census difficult? You should hear my uncle! The Dattos were not all stopped fighting, because just as soon as the Philippine Commission thought it safe, the census began.”

“Did any one get killed by hostile natives?” asked Hamilton, scenting a story.

“Several wounded, one badly, but no one killed. But” and he waggled a finger warningly “there were plenty of places where the census was only estimated! The blowpipe and the poison arrow are most dangerous. Even with the soldiers taking the census and going with other census men, it was very risky among the uncivilized tribes.”

“They are really wild?” said Hamilton.

“I think the wildest people in the world, the most savage, are in those jungles. My uncle had to go to the haunts of the Pygmies.”

“Pygmies!” exclaimed Hamilton in surprise. “I didn’t know that the Stars and Stripes floated over Pygmy tribes! I thought they were only in Africa!”

“The Negritos are pygmies,” answered the editor, “seldom over four feet ten inches for the man and the woman two or three inches shorter; they use their toes like fingers, they wear only a loin-cloth, their hair is fuzzy like a black bush, and they seldom use fire, even for cooking.”

“How do they live?” asked Hamilton. “We have got used to thinking of the Red Indians as a part of the United States races, but the Pygmies seem outlandish. Have they huts or do they live in caves, or how?”

“Nothing!” was the answer. “A few have rough huts, but most of them wander in the forests.”

“But where do they sleep?”

“On the ground.”

“I should think they would be afraid of wild beasts,” the boy remarked.

“There are very few in the Philippines,” was the reply.

“How about snakes, then?” queried the lad.

“They have to take chances on snakes. But you know a snake will scarcely ever strike unless alarmed or attacked. No snake will bite a sleeping man. Wild animals only attack for food, and man is left alone as much as possible.”

“Haven’t they pythons there? And a python could easily strangle and swallow a man.”

“He could, but he doesn’t,” the Porto Rican pointed out; “rabbits are more his size, or a young fawn. The Negritos are safe enough, as far as that goes.”

“What do they live on?”

“Fish, mostly, together with roots and berries; and they can get all they want with bow and arrow, or with a stone. They can throw a stone as straight as you could shoot a bullet.”

“We ought to import some of them for baseball pitchers,” suggested Hamilton with a grin. “But it really must have been an awful job enumerating them. And when it comes to poisoned arrows! No thank you, I’d rather stick to old Kentucky. Are there many of them?”

“No,” was the reply, “the Negrito is dying out, just as the aboriginal tribes all over the world are doing. There are only about twenty-three thousand of the Pygmies left now.”

“But there are more natives than that in the Philippines?” queried the boy.

“Hundreds of thousands. You see there are really three different types of savages in the Philippines, according to the census reports. The aboriginal tribes are the Negritos, perhaps as close to primitive man as any people on earth; those are the ones I have been telling you about, and they are a race all to themselves, as different from the rest of the Filipinos as the negro is from the white man. The true Filipinos are Malays.”

“Even the head-hunters?”

“Certainly. There are Filipinos of two grades, apparently of two periods of migration. The first came and settled the islands away a long time back, driving the Pygmies to the forests, and occupying the coasts themselves. These tribes, the Igorots, the Ilongots, the Bilans, and so forth, are of the same general type as the head-hunters of Bornéo, and some, like the Ilongots to this day carry out the savage custom that ’no young man can be accepted in marriage until he has presented his bride with a human head.’”

“That is certainly savage,” Hamilton agreed; “one never thinks that sort of thing can be going on still, and certainly not under the American flag!”

“It is, though,” the Porto Rican replied. “The third group,” he continued, “the Moros and so forth, are all Mohammedans, and they seem to have come to the islands after the semi-civilization of the Malay archipelago and its submission to Mohammedanism. The Moros are haughty and assume the air of conquerors. As the Igorots drove the Negritos to the forest and thence to the wild interior, so the Moros drove the Igorots. They are largely pure Malay, warlike and cruel, but shrewd and capable of culture. They assume an over-lordship over all other tribes and their Dattos can generally enforce it.”

“It seems strange,” the boy said, “to think of going among those savages and asking them the same questions that United States citizens were asked, writing the answers on the same kind of schedules, and counting these ferocious head-hunters on a tabulating machine.”

“Of course,” the editor reminded him, “the Philippine census last time was taken by the War Department, although the Bureau is even now considering what will be the best way to attack the problem should it have to take the next Philippine census, as it probably will. But while it was primitive, the work wasn’t so very different. They were able to use advance schedules, for example.”

The boy stared, and his informant laughed outright.

“They were a little different,” he explained, “and it was during the enumeration of the Igorots and similar tribes. It was soon found that they could count up to ten but no further. A certain number of them could grasp the idea of ten groups of ten. So a bundle of sticks was sent to each village and each man was made to cut notches in these sticks up to ten to show how many children, or pigs, or chickens he had. In some of the villages so my uncle told me, the supervisor had a branding iron made with which he had branded on the tally sticks the figure of a pig, or a house, or a chicken or whatever it might be.”

“That is about as far back, I should think, as any one could go, in the way of census-taking,” the boy said. “I thought some of my up-country negro farmers were barbaric especially when I came across some voodooism, but now I see I didn’t know what barbarism meant.”

“There’s just as much savagery of a kind right in the heart of civilization,” said the Porto Rican. “The slums of a great city are little less dangerous than a Philippine jungle, and you will do well to remember it.”

“Why should I remember it especially?” asked Hamilton in surprise.

“Mr. Burns, who has been made an Inspector, told me the other day that he expected to start soon for some of the larger cities, where reports of census frauds had been made, and that he thought he would take you along, if the Director was willing.”

“You mean the Mr. Burns I was with in New Haven?”

“Yes, he seems to want to have you as his assistant in that work.”

“That would be just splendid,” said Hamilton, his eyes shining, “but how about the Porto Rican report, Mr. Alavero?”

“I think I can manage it,” the other replied, endeavoring to suppress a smile, “and the chapter that you were working on is nearly done, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir,” the boy answered, “I can finish it in a couple of days.”

“That will be in plenty of time,” the editor assured him. “I don’t think Mr. Burns intends to start until some time next week.”

Before many days had passed Hamilton found the correctness of the Porto Rican’s information, for as he was busily engaged in compiling a big tabulation on the proportion of breadwinners per age and sex for one of the provinces of the island, his friend the special agent of manufactures, under whom he had been at New Haven, strolled into the office.

“Why, Mr. Burns,” the boy said delightedly, jumping up and shaking hands, “I haven’t seen you for ever so long.”

“I haven’t been in Washington more than twenty-two per cent of the time,” was the reply “and I’m going away on the eleven-fifty next Tuesday evening. Do you want to come along?”

“But ”

“The Director said, if you wanted to come, I could take you.”

“Where are we going, Mr. Burns?”

“New York.”

“What for?”

“Seems to me, Alavero,” said the Inspector, turning to the Porto Rican, “that you’ve been teaching this lad to ask questions. Out of the four remarks he has made since I came in, two have been questions. Fifty per cent is a high average. Well, I’ll tell you,” he added, turning to the boy, “it’s just this: there are always some cities that aren’t satisfied with the census. I believe of the cities of over thirty thousand inhabitants at this census there has been something like nine, decimal-eight-one per cent protests, and the most necessary of these the Bureau investigates. Perhaps ten or a dozen in the entire country get a recount. The Bureau doesn’t officially recognize some of them but sends an inspector to look over the ground, and see if everything was done right. That’s what we’re going to do in New York.”

“All right,” said Hamilton briefly.

“You’ll be on that train?”

“Yes, Mr. Burns,” the boy answered. “Eleven-fifty P.M., Tuesday.”

The opportunity was one which Hamilton had been coveting, for he felt that if he only had a chance to get at the city methods he would have covered almost the entire ground of the field-work of the Decennial Census, and while he was sorry to leave his Porto Rican friend, still the novelty appealed to him greatly, and in spite of his former chief’s mathematical conversation, Hamilton was genuinely fond of him.

“I’ve been wondering, Mr. Burns,” the boy said, as they stood in the great concourse of the Union Station at Washington, “whether there would not be a very large number of protests about census figures, people always seem to have such an exaggerated idea of the size of their own towns.”

“There is to some extent,” Burns replied. “I think something like a hundred places filed protests in this last census.”

“Then I read something, too, about census frauds,” Hamilton said, “soon after the taking of the census, in which it was suggested that some enumerators who were paid per capita had bolstered up the figures in order to get more out of it.”

“There was a little of that,” the Inspector said, “but by far the greatest amount of fraud was due to the desire on the part of the inhabitants of a town or city to make the place appear larger and more important. Tacoma, Washington, was the most flagrant example of this, why, they padded 32,527 names there, and even when the Census had made a recount they tried to repeat the same performance, complaining of the results and demanding a second recount.”

“Was this granted?”

“It was,” the Inspector replied, “largely in order that the Census Bureau itself might have an opportunity to check the correctness of its methods. The second recount was performed by expert statisticians and with extreme care.”

“And how did it come out?” the boy asked.

“It substantiated the first recount in every way. It was, indeed, a wonderful object lesson in showing how small is the margin of error in the United States Census.”

“But was there really much fraud among the enumerators and supervisors, Mr. Burns?”

“With perhaps one exception, no criticism could be made of the supervisors, but you can’t have 70,000 enumerators, chosen for temporary work, and expect perfection! There was quite a little over-counting, caused by entering hotel transients as having permanent residences, by numbering citizens both at business and home addresses, and the constant difficulty of the floating population. Deliberate frauds were very few; where trouble was found it was usually discovered to have been due to the unauthorized activity of committees of boards of trade or other commercial organizations, giving lists of names all ready to be copied on the enumerator’s schedule, which the latter did not take the time and trouble to verify.”

“Then do you think the net result of the census is to make it seem that there are more people in the country than really are here?”

“No,” the Inspector replied confidently, “the total figures are an understatement, probably of about one per cent, maybe a little less, but certainly not much more.”

“I think that’s mighty close,” Hamilton said. “But do towns never wish to have small numbers announced?”

“There was only one case, so far as I know,” the other replied, “in which a Business Men’s Association wrote and demanded a recount on the ground that the figures were too big. The reason was a dispute about raising city salaries when a certain population mark was reached.

“And now, Noble,” he continued, moving on toward the train platform, “we want to look into the question of statistics in New York carefully. Personally I believe the work has been as well done as possible, and I know the Director is satisfied, but one or two little matters have come up, which want looking into.”

Being on a midnight train, Hamilton had no chance for further talk with the Inspector; but it was quite a home-coming when, after passing through the great tunnels under the Hudson River, he found himself next morning among the skyscrapers of New York again.

“I suppose every one feels the same way about his own town,” Hamilton said, “but it always seems to me that you feel the bigness of things more in New York than anywhere. In Washington there always seems lots of time to do everything you want, but New York is just made up of hustle. You’ve got to know what you want in this city and you’ve got to do it in a hurry, before some one else gets there first.”

“New York certainly is hurried and restless; I can’t say I like the noise and the skyscrapers,” replied Burns.

“But it’s great the way those buildings tower up,” the boy exclaimed enthusiastically, “the low houses and poky ways of older and smaller cities look as though they were made for dwarfs, after living in the New York streets.”

“Yet there are taller buildings, in other places, even in Europe,” the statistician remarked.

“Spires!” answered the boy, “propped up by buttresses and flying buttresses and all the rest of it so as to keep them from falling. Look at those,” he added, pointing at the skyscrapers before him, “they’re not afraid to stand by themselves; they mean something, they have a use, while a spire just sticks straight up, pointing at nothing and being of no service unless it is to hang bells in a belfry. I don’t care what people say about those crazy old tumble-down buildings of the Middle Ages, they may be beautiful and all that, but they’re useless nowadays. The New York skyscraper is the greatest example of architecture in the world because it best does what it was built to do.”

“You are enthusiastic, Noble,” said his friend.

“I’m a New Yorker all the way through,” the lad continued, “and I want to feel that I’m right in the whirl of things, where there is so much to do that you can’t crowd it into a day, where the fun is at the same speed as the work. No backwaters for me, I want to be right out in the center. I don’t say that I’m going to win, but I want to be a game sport and try my strength with the rest of the crowd in the current, sink or swim. It’s all right to say that the heart of the nation is Washington, and the backbone is the farm, but its nerve center is here, right here in New York. America’s the wonder of the world, all right, but all there is to it is capital plus brains, and New York is the furnace that melts them down into that quickness and grip on things we call the American spirit. Millions from every race of the world come here, and the Statue of Liberty is the first symbol, and the skyscrapers of lower New York the first reality they see of the Land of Promise.”

“How about the inside of these great shells of structure?”

“No such office buildings in the world,” the boy answered enthusiastically. “The salt winds from over three thousand miles of ocean blow around them; in their steel walls there are lots of windows; lightning speed elevators make the top floor easier to get at than the second story of a dark, old-fashioned staircase building; and I’ve heard that the marble mosaic entrances of the larger of them put the Italian palaces to shame. I don’t know Europe, but I do know New York, and I believe, Mr. Burns, if you knew it as I do, you’d be as proud of it too.”

The Inspector looked at the boy quietly.

“You’re wrong,” he said soberly, “in thinking that I don’t know New York. To-morrow morning you do a little work in a section of the city in which you have probably never been, and I think we’ll hear less tall talk. If you could count the tens of thousands of families who live in rooms with nothing but court windows; if you could find out in how many thousand families children are toiling under sweatshop conditions till far into the night; if you were to ask the tuberculosis district nurses what conditions they find, you might then do a little thinking on your own account. It’s only right you should be proud of New York, but you’d better see both sides before you are sure of yourself. Now, I suppose you’re going home?”

“Yes, sir,” said Hamilton, a little taken aback by his friend’s rebuke.

“Call at my hotel early to-morrow morning and I’ll start you on a ‘Seeing New York’ trip of a new kind.” And turning off sharply, the Inspector swung himself aboard a passing cross-town car.

Nine o’clock the next morning found Hamilton in one of the worst districts he had ever seen. Thronged as it was, the boy was sufficiently conscious of his difference from the people he met to feel uncomfortable. He had one of the schedules that had been filled out during the enumeration of the city, and the Inspector had bidden him verify certain portions of it which were either confusing or slightly incorrect. This was to be done in a dozen or so districts, and if the information was found to be adequate, showing that the enumerators’ work had been faithfully done, there would be no need for further inspection.

The home manufacture of ostrich feathers first gave Hamilton a clear insight into poverty. Four or five rooms each occupied by a family of several persons he entered in one tenement, and in each he found three or four people working over ostrich plumes, working nervously at high speed, afraid to stop, even for a moment. He noted conditions carefully, and was amazed to find that each of the little strands was wired he had always supposed that plumes grew upon the ostrich the way that they are sold.

In one such family dejection seemed to have reached its lowest ebb. The window looked out on a court, a court that was never cleaned and where all manner of rubbish was thrown. Although it was morning and a brilliant, sunshiny day, the light within was so dim that it was hard to work by; yet with characteristic shiftlessness the window had not been washed for months and diminished still further the little light there was; a mattress in the opposite corner from a shaky cooking gas-burner showed that this room was the entire home.

“Where is your husband?” asked the boy, noting on the schedule a man’s name as head of the family.

“In hospital perhaps dead. See!”

The woman pointed to a telegram which had fallen to the floor. Hamilton picked it up. It read:

“John Sobieski worse. Come at once,” and was signed with the name of one of the large hospitals.

“Did you go?” asked the boy.

The woman shook her head.

“Two hours lost, if I go. No good. Two hours’ work means twenty-four cents. What’s the use?”

“What’s the matter with him?”

“Consumption. I die soon, next year, perhaps. All the children sick.”

The boy looked around at ‘all the children.’ There were five of them in that room, and all even the youngest, a baby four years old were knotting the feathers on the plume. The baby could hardly do it, but he was learning.

“Many hands make light work,” said Hamilton as cheerfully as he could. “With so many little workers you ought to get along finely.”

“Yes,” the woman answered listlessly, “we get along. Some days we make as much as a dollar!”

“Each of you?”

“Do we look so rich? One dollar for everybody. But that is only sometimes, when I am not too sick. We can get a little more than five dollar the week, by working all the time.”

The boy hastily asked the remaining questions on the schedule, found everything correctly reported and relieving his conscience by giving a little help out of his own pocket, he left for the next place.

On the floor below was a family working on fur, every one of them with hacking coughs caused by tiny particles of fur in the lungs.

“We work or we starve,” was again the unanswerable explanation.

In the house next door, embroidering rich cloaks, Hamilton found a family of which several of the members had a bad infectious skin disease. Chancing to meet a health inspector soon afterwards he told him about this family and gave him their address.

“I can stop it, as far as this family is concerned,” the health officer said, “and I suppose I ought to. But you know what it means, I suppose?”

“What?” asked the boy.

“It means, if I take their work away, they will starve to death in a couple of weeks.”

“And if you don’t?”

“If I don’t, they’ll go on spreading disease. Oh, I’ll have to put a stop to it, of course, but tell me what is going to happen to the family.”

“They ought to go to a hospital,” Hamilton said.

The health officer shook his head.

“They are not hospital cases,” he said. “None of them need more medical attention than they can get in a dispensary, and every hospital to which they applied would treat them in an Out-Patient department. They would have to take in more work, or die.”

“But where would they get the work?”

“Any of these sweatshop jobbers will give it to them. It makes no difference to the middlemen where the work is done or out of what dens it comes, as long as it is done cheap.”

“And is all clothing open to the same risk?” asked the boy.

The health inspector shook his head.

“Cheap clothing is not,” he said, “because even the cheapest kind of labor is more expensive than machinery, and machine-made clothes are clean. But costly dresses which need hand embroidery are sent to sweatshops to be done. Not all, of course, but enough of them to keep thousands of women and children working day and night the year round. The more elaborate the gown, the longer is it likely to have been in a tenement that the future wearer would not even allow her dog to enter.”

From house to house Hamilton went, finding misery at every step, with the single consolation that the schedule showed in almost every case that the son or the daughter who was working had moved out of the slums, or that the family had progressed sufficiently to find better quarters. Everywhere the children from these fearful homes seemed to have been dowered with promise, and as Burns had suggested, the sole comfort and hope for the future lay in the fact that the New York slum is a one-generation slum.

It was growing toward noon when Hamilton finished the short list that the Inspector had given him in that poorest section, and he was glad when he was able to leave the pressure of the poverty behind him. His next district was a section of the Italian quarter, and Hamilton knew that while he would find poverty of a certain kind there, there was enough of the community spirit among the Italians to prevent such conditions as he had witnessed and enough frugality among them to enable them to make the best of all they had.

Feeling that it was time for lunch, the boy hunted around a while for some restaurant that looked as though it would serve a meal that would not be too distasteful. After a little search he found a small place that seemed to be just the thing. The sign board was in Italian and the list of dishes pasted on the windows was in Italian, but Hamilton’s Spanish enabled him to make out what the phrases meant, and he went in. At a table not far from the door, a man was sitting with his back to the entrance. He did not hear the lad’s step until Hamilton was just behind him, then, with an Italian cry, he turned upon its face the paper on which he had been writing, and jumped to his feet so quickly that the chair on which he had been sitting overturned, and he stumbled as he stepped back a pace or two. He glared threateningly at the boy, who apologized for startling him. But it was evident that the man did not understand a word of English.

Hearing the clatter the proprietor came out from an inner room, and seeing the Italian standing there, broke into a passionate torrent of speech, all utterly unintelligible to Hamilton.

“I hava told heem,” he explained to the boy, “that I not wanta heem in this-a place at all.”

“I shouldn’t think you would,” said Hamilton, “I don’t like his looks. Can I have some dinner?” he added, laying on the table a book he had just taken from his pocket, for the boy when alone always read at his meals.

“Certainly, sair,” and the proprietor rattled off a string of dishes from which the boy made a copious selection, for he was hungry.

But he noticed that the man who had been sitting at the table had not left the place but was furtively watching, a few steps away. He was an ugly-looking customer, and Hamilton, full of grit as he was, felt uneasy. Casting his eye down to where he had laid his book, he noticed the piece of paper sticking from beneath it, and noticed moreover, a heavy shadow as though there were a drawing on the other side. His pulse beat a little faster as an idea came into his mind, but he showed no sign until the proprietor returned to set the table.

“I think,” he said, watching the stranger carefully as he spoke, “that gentleman left a paper behind him. Ask him.”

The proprietor, looking much puzzled, put a question in Italian, to which was evidently returned a sharp denial.

Still watching him, Hamilton slowly reached out his hand for the paper which lay on the table, only half-hidden by the book, and turning it over laid it flat upon the white cloth.

It was the Black Hand.