made a dead set at him, and
before the first third of the
dinner was reached, I had
him happy again. It was easy to do -- in a country
of ranks and castes. You see, in a country where
they have ranks and castes, a man isn't ever a man,
he is only part of a man, he can't ever get his full
growth. You prove your superiority over him in
station, or rank, or fortune, and that's the end of it --
he knuckles down. You can't insult him after that.
No, I don't mean quite that; of course you CAN insult
him, I only mean it's difficult; and so, unless you've
got a lot of useless time on your hands it doesn't pay
to try. I had the smith's reverence now, because I
was apparently immensely prosperous and rich; I
could have had his adoration if I had had some
little gimcrack title of nobility. And not only his, but
any commoner's in the land, though he were the
mightiest production of all the ages, in intellect, worth,
and character, and I bankrupt in all three. This was
to remain so, as long as England should exist in the
earth. With the spirit of prophecy upon me, I could
look into the future and see her erect statues and
monuments to her unspeakable Georges and other
royal and noble clothes-horses, and leave unhonored
the creators of this world -- after God -- Gutenburg,
Watt, Arkwright, Whitney, Morse, Stephenson, Bell.
The king got
his cargo aboard, and then,
the talk not turning
upon battle, conquest, or iron-clad
duel, he dulled down to drowsiness
and went off to take a nap. Mrs.
Marco cleared the table, placed
the beer keg handy, and went
away to eat her dinner of leavings
in humble privacy, and the rest
of us soon drifted into matters
near and dear to the hearts of
our sort -- business and wages,
of course. At a first glance,
things appeared to be exceeding
prosperous in this little tributary
kingdom -- whose lord was King
Bagdemagus -- as compared with
the state of things in my own
region. They had the "protection" system
in full force here, whereas we
were working along down toward
free-trade, by easy stages, and
were now about half way. Before
long, Dowley and I were doing
all the talking, the others hungrily
listening. Dowley warmed to his
work, snuffed an advantage in
the air, and began to put questions
which he considered pretty awkward
ones for me, and they did have
something of that look:
"In your country,
brother, what is the wage of
bailiff, master hind, carter,
milrays a day; that is to say,
a quarter of
The smith's face beamed with
joy. He said:
"With us they
are allowed the double of it!
And what may a
mechanic get -- carpenter, dauber,
mason, painter, blacksmith, wheelwright,
and the like?"
"On the average,
fifty milrays; half a cent
us they are allowed a hundred!
With us any good mechanic
is allowed a cent a day! I count
out the tailor, but not the others
-- they are all allowed a cent
a day, and in driving times they
get more -- yes, up to a hundred
and ten and even fifteen milrays
a day. I've paid a hundred and
fifteen myself, within the week.
'Rah for protection -- to Sheol
And his face shone upon the
company like a sunburst. But
I didn't scare at all. I rigged
up my pile-driver, and allowed
myself fifteen minutes to drive
him into the earth -- drive him
ALL in -- drive him in till not
even the curve of his skull should
show above ground. Here is the
way I started in on him. I asked:
"What do you
pay a pound for salt?"
"We pay forty. What do you
pay for beef and mutton -- when
you buy it?" That was a neat
hit; it made the color come.
somewhat, but not much; one
may say 75 milrays
"WE pay 33.
What do you pay for eggs?"
"We pay 20.
What do you pay for beer?"
us 8 1/2 milrays the pint."
"We get it
for 4; 25 bottles for a cent.
What do you pay for
"At the rate
of 900 milrays the bushel."
"We pay 400.
What do you pay for a man's
"We pay 6.
What do you pay for a stuff
gown for the wife
of the laborer or the mechanic?"
"We pay 8.4.0."
"Well, observe the difference:
you pay eight cents and four
mills, we pay only four cents." I
prepared now to sock it to him.
l said: "Look here, dear friend,
WHAT'S BECOME OF YOUR HIGH WAGES
YOU WERE BRAGGING SO ABOUT A
FEW MINUTES AGO?" -- and I looked
around on the company with placid
satisfaction, for I had slipped
up on him gradually and tied
him hand and foot, you see, without
his ever noticing that he was
being tied at all. "What's become
of those noble high wages of
yours? -- I seem to have knocked
the stuffing all out of them,
it appears to me."
But if you will believe me,
he merely looked surprised, that
is all! he didn't grasp the situation
at all, didn't know he had walked
into a trap, didn't discover
that he was IN a trap. I could
have shot him, from sheer vexation.
With cloudy eye and a struggling
intellect he fetched this out:
"Marry, I seem
not to understand. It is PROVED
that our wages be
double thine; how then may it
be that thou'st knocked therefrom
the stuffing? -- an miscall not
the wonderly word, this being
the first time under grace and
providence of God it hath been
granted me to hear it."
Well, I was stunned; partly
with this unlooked-for stupidity
on his part, and partly because
his fellows so manifestly sided
with him and were of his mind
-- if you might call it mind.
My position was simple enough,
plain enough; how could it ever
be simplified more? However,
I must try:
here, brother Dowley, don't
you see? Your wages are
merely higher than ours in NAME,
not in FACT."
They are the DOUBLE -- ye have
confessed it yourself."
don't deny that at all. But
that's got nothing
to do with it; the AMOUNT of
the wages in mere coins, with
meaningless names attached to
them to know them by, has got
nothing to do with it. The thing
is, how much can you BUY with
your wages? -- that's the idea.
While it is true that with you
a good mechanic is allowed about
three dollars and a half a year,
and with us only about a dollar
and seventy-five --"
"There -- ye're
confessing it again, ye're
I've never denied it, I tell
you! What I say is
this. With us HALF a dollar buys
more than a DOLLAR buys with
you -- and THEREFORE it stands
to reason and the commonest kind
of common-sense, that our wages
are HIGHER than yours."
He looked dazed, and said,
cannot make it out. Ye've just
said ours are the
higher, and with the same breath
ye take it back."
Scott, isn't it possible to
get such a simple
thing through your head? Now
look here -- let me illustrate.
We pay four cents for a woman's
stuff gown, you pay 8.4.0, which
is four mills more than DOUBLE.
What do you allow a laboring
woman who works on a farm?"
we allow but half as much;
we pay her only a tenth
of a cent a day; and --"
you see, the thing is very
simple; this time you'll
understand it. For instance,
it takes your woman 42 days to
earn her gown, at 2 mills a day
-- 7 weeks' work; but ours earns
hers in forty days -- two days
SHORT of 7 weeks. Your woman
has a gown, and her whole seven
weeks wages are gone; ours has
a gown, and two days' wages left,
to buy something else with. There
-- NOW you understand it!"
He looked -- well, he merely
looked dubious, it's the most
I can say; so did the others.
I waited -- to let the thing
work. Dowley spoke at last --
and betrayed the fact that he
actually hadn't gotten away from
his rooted and grounded superstitions
yet. He said, with a trifle of
"But -- but
-- ye cannot fail to grant
that two mills a day
is better than one."
Shucks! Well, of course, I
hated to give it up. So I chanced
"Let us suppose
a case. Suppose one of your
journeymen goes out
and buys the following articles:
"1 pound of
salt; 1 dozen eggs; 1 dozen
pints of beer; 1 bushel
of wheat; 1 tow-linen suit; 5
pounds of beef; 5 pounds of mutton.
"The lot will
cost him 32 cents. It takes
him 32 working days
to earn the money -- 5 weeks
and 2 days. Let him come to us
and work 32 days at HALF the
wages; he can buy all those things
for a shade under 14 1/2 cents;
they will cost him a shade under
29 days' work, and he will have
about half a week's wages over.
Carry it through the year; he
would save nearly a week's wages
every two months, YOUR man nothing;
thus saving five or six weeks'
wages in a year, your man not
a cent. NOW I reckon you understand
that 'high wages' and 'low wages'
are phrases that don't mean anything
in the world until you find out
which of them will BUY the most!"
It was a crusher.
it didn't crush. No, I had
to give it up. What
those people valued was HIGH
WAGES; it didn't seem to be a
matter of any consequence to
them whether the high wages would
buy anything or not. They stood
for "protection," and swore by
it, which was reasonable enough,
because interested parties had
gulled them into the notion that
it was protection which had created
their high wages. I proved to
them that in a quarter of a century
their wages had advanced but
30 per cent., while the cost
of living had gone up 100; and
that with us, in a shorter time,
wages had advanced 40 per cent.
while the cost of living had
gone steadily down. But it didn't
do any good. Nothing could unseat
their strange beliefs.
Well, I was smarting under
a sense of defeat. Undeserved
defeat, but what of that? That
didn't soften the smart any.
And to think of the circumstances!
the first statesman of the age,
the capablest man, the best-informed
man in the entire world, the
loftiest uncrowned head that
had moved through the clouds
of any political firmament for
centuries, sitting here apparently
defeated in argument by an ignorant
country blacksmith! And I could
see that those others were sorry
for me -- which made me blush
till I could smell my whiskers
scorching. Put yourself in my
place; feel as mean as I did,
as ashamed as I felt -- wouldn't
YOU have struck below the belt
to get even? Yes, you would;
it is simply human nature. Well,
that is what I did. I am not
trying to justify it; I'm only
saying that I was mad, and ANYBODY
would have done it.
Well, when I make up my mind
to hit a man, I don't plan out
a love-tap; no, that isn't my
way; as long as I'm going to
hit him at all, I'm going to
hit him a lifter. And I don't
jump at him all of a sudden,
and risk making a blundering
half-way business of it; no,
I get away off yonder to one
side, and work up on him gradually,
so that he never suspects that
I'm going to hit him at all;
and by and by, all in a flash,
he's flat on his back, and he
can't tell for the life of him
how it all happened. That is
the way I went for brother Dowley.
I started to talking lazy and
comfortable, as if I was just
talking to pass the time; and
the oldest man in the world couldn't
have taken the bearings of my
starting place and guessed where
I was going to fetch up:
a good many curious things
about law, and
custom, and usage, and all that
sort of thing, when you come
to look at it; yes, and about
the drift and progress of human
opinion and movement, too. There
are written laws -- they perish;
but there are also unwritten
laws -- THEY are eternal. Take
the unwritten law of wages: it
says they've got to advance,
little by little, straight through
the centuries. And notice how
it works. We know what wages
are now, here and there and yonder;
we strike an average, and say
that's the wages of to-day. We
know what the wages were a hundred
years ago, and what they were
two hundred years ago; that's
as far back as we can get, but
it suffices to give us the law
of progress, the measure and
rate of the periodical augmentation;
and so, without a document to
help us, we can come pretty close
to determining what the wages
were three and four and five
hundred years ago. Good, so far.
Do we stop there? No. We stop
looking backward; we face around
and apply the law to the future.
My friends, I can tell you what
people's wages are going to be
at any date in the future you
want to know, for hundreds and
hundreds of years."
"Yes. In seven
hundred years wages will have
risen to six
times what they are now, here
in your region, and farm hands
will be allowed 3 cents a day,
and mechanics 6."
"I would't I might die now
and live then!" interrupted Smug,
the wheelwright, with a fine
avaricious glow in his eye.
"And that isn't
all; they'll get their board
besides -- such
as it is: it won't bloat them.
Two hundred and fifty years later
-- pay attention now -- a mechanic's
wages will be -- mind you, this
is law, not guesswork; a mechanic's
wages will then be TWENTY cents
There was a general gasp of
awed astonishment, Dickon the
mason murmured, with raised eyes
three weeks' pay for one day's
"Riches! -- of a truth, yes,
riches!" muttered Marco, his
breath coming quick and short,
keep on rising, little by little,
little by little,
as steadily as a tree grows,
and at the end of three hundred
and forty years more there'll
be at least ONE country where
the mechanic's average wage will
be TWO HUNDRED cents a day!"
It knocked them absolutely
dumb! Not a man of them could
get his breath for upwards of
two minutes. Then the coal-burner
"Might I but
live to see it!"
"It is the income of an earl!" said
"An earl, say ye?" said Dowley; "ye
could say more than that and
speak no lie; there's no earl
in the realm of Bagdemagus that
hath an income like to that.
Income of an earl -- mf! it's
the income of an angel!"
that is what is going to happen
as regards wages.
In that remote day, that man
will earn, with ONE week's work,
that bill of goods which it takes
you upwards of FIFTY weeks to
earn now. Some other pretty surprising
things are going to happen, too.
Brother Dowley, who is it that
determines, every spring, what
the particular wage of each kind
of mechanic, laborer, and servant
shall be for that year?"
the courts, sometimes the town
council; but most of
all, the magistrate. Ye may say,
in general terms, it is the magistrate
that fixes the wages."
any of those poor devils to
HELP him fix their
wages for them, does he?"
"Hm! That WERE
an idea! The master that's
to pay him the
money is the one that's rightly
concerned in that matter, ye
will notice "
"Yes -- but
I thought the other man might
have some little trifle
at stake in it, too; and even
his wife and children, poor creatures.
The masters are these: nobles,
rich men, the prosperous generally.
These few, who do no work, determine
what pay the vast hive shall
have who DO work. You see? They're
a 'combine' -- a trade union,
to coin a new phrase -- who band
themselves together to force
their lowly brother to take what
they choose to give. Thirteen
hundred years hence -- so says
the unwritten law -- the 'combine'
will be the other way, and then
how these fine people's posterity
will fume and fret and grit their
teeth over the insolent tyranny
of trade unions! Yes, indeed!
the magistrate will tranquilly
arrange the wages from now clear
away down into the nineteenth
century; and then all of a sudden
the wage-earner will consider
that a couple of thousand years
or so is enough of this one-sided
sort of thing; and he will rise
up and take a hand in fixing
his wages himself. Ah, he will
have a long and bitter account
of wrong and humiliation to settle."
"Do ye believe
"That he actually
will help to fix his own wages?
And he will be strong and able,
"Brave times, brave times,
of a truth!" sneered the prosperous
"Oh, -- and
there's another detail. In
that day, a master
may hire a man for only just
one day, or one week, or one
month at a time, if he wants
Moreover, a magistrate won't
be able to force a man
to work for a master a whole
year on a stretch whether the
man wants to or not."
be NO law or sense in that
"Both of them,
Dowley. In that day a man will
be his own property,
not the property of magistrate
and master. And he can leave
town whenever he wants to, if
the wages don't suit him! --
and they can't put him in the
pillory for it."
"Perdition catch such an age!" shouted
Dowley, in strong indignation. "An
age of dogs, an age barren of
reverence for superiors and respect
for authority! The pillory --"
brother; say no good word for
I think the pillory ought to
"A most strange
tell you why. Is a man ever
put in the pillory
for a capital crime?"
"Is it right
to condemn a man to a slight
punishment for a
small offense and then kill him?"
There was no answer. I had
scored my first point! For the
first time, the smith wasn't
up and ready. The company noticed
it. Good effect.
answer, brother. You were about
to glorify the
pillory a while ago, and shed
some pity on a future age that
isn't going to use it. I think
the pillory ought to be abolished.
What usually happens when a poor
fellow is put in the pillory
for some little offense that
didn't amount to anything in
the world? The mob try to have
some fun with him, don't they?"
by clodding him; and they laugh
pieces to see him try to dodge
one clod and get hit with another?"
throw dead cats at him, don't
suppose he has a few personal
enemies in that
mob and here and there a man
or a woman with a secret grudge
against him -- and suppose especially
that he is unpopular in the community,
for his pride, or his prosperity,
or one thing or another -- stones
and bricks take the place of
clods and cats presently, don't
"There is no
doubt of it."
"As a rule
he is crippled for life, isn't
he? -- jaws broken,
teeth smashed out? -- or legs
mutilated, gangrened, presently
cut off? -- or an eye knocked
out, maybe both eyes?"
"It is true,
God knoweth it."
"And if he
is unpopular he can depend
on DYING, right there
in the stocks, can't he?"
can! One may not deny it."
"I take it
none of YOU are unpopular --
by reason of pride
or insolence, or conspicuous
prosperity, or any of those things
that excite envy and malice among
the base scum of a village? YOU
wouldn't think it much of a risk
to take a chance in the stocks?"
Dowley winced, visibly. I judged
he was hit. But he didn't betray
it by any spoken word. As for
the others, they spoke out plainly,
and with strong feeling. They
said they had seen enough of
the stocks to know what a man's
chance in them was, and they
would never consent to enter
them if they could compromise
on a quick death by hanging.
"Well, to change
the subject -- for I think
my point that the stocks ought
to be abolished. I think some
of our laws are pretty unfair.
For instance, if I do a thing
which ought to deliver me to
the stocks, and you know I did
it and yet keep still and don't
report me, YOU will get the stocks
if anybody informs on you."
"Ah, but that would serve you
but right," said Dowley, "for
you MUST inform. So saith the
The others coincided.
right, let it go, since you
vote me down. But there's
one thing which certainly isn't
fair. The magistrate fixes a
mechanic's wage at 1 cent a day,
for instance. The law says that
if any master shall venture,
even under utmost press of business,
to pay anything OVER that cent
a day, even for a single day,
he shall be both fined and pilloried
for it; and whoever knows he
did it and doesn't inform, they
also shall be fined and pilloried.
Now it seems to me unfair, Dowley,
and a deadly peril to all of
us, that because you thoughtlessly
confessed, a while ago, that
within a week you have paid a
cent and fifteen mil --"
Oh, I tell YOU it was a smasher!
You ought to have seen them to
go to pieces, the whole gang.
I had just slipped up on poor
smiling and complacent Dowley
so nice and easy and softly,
that he never suspected anything
was going to happen till the
blow came crashing down and knocked
him all to rags.
A fine effect. In fact, as
fine as any I ever produced,
with so little time to work it
But I saw in a moment that
I had overdone the thing a little.
I was expecting to scare them,
but I wasn't expecting to scare
them to death. They were mighty
near it, though. You see they
had been a whole lifetime learning
to appreciate the pillory; and
to have that thing staring them
in the face, and every one of
them distinctly at the mercy
of me, a stranger, if I chose
to go and report -- well, it
was awful, and they couldn't
seem to recover from the shock,
they couldn't seem to pull themselves
together. Pale, shaky, dumb,
pitiful? Why, they weren't any
better than so many dead men.
It was very uncomfortable. Of
course, I thought they would
appeal to me to keep mum, and
then we would shake hands, and
take a drink all round, and laugh
it off, and there an end. But
no; you see I was an unknown
person, among a cruelly oppressed
and suspicious people, a people
always accustomed to having advantage
taken of their helplessness,
and never expecting just or kind
treatment from any but their
own families and very closest
intimates. Appeal to ME to be
gentle, to be fair, to be generous?
Of course, they wanted to, but
they couldn't dare.