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THE MAKING OF AN AMERICAN

An Autobiography
BY JACOB A. RIIS

Author of " How the Other Half Lives," " A Ten Years' War," etc., etc. Chapter 1.-Meeting on the Bridge shoulder. Well, with tassels! What

then? Did I not worship a pair of boots N the outskirts of

with tassels which I passed in a shop the ancient town of

window in Copenhagen every day for a Ribe, on the Dan

whole year, because they were the only ish north seacoast,

other pair I ever saw ? I don't knowa wooden bridge

there may have been more; perhaps others spanned the Nibs

wore them. I know she did. Curls she River when I

had, too-curls of yellow gold. Why do was a boy

girls not have curls these days ? It is a frail. struc

such a rare thing to see them that when ture with twin

you do, you feel like walking behind them arches like the

miles and miles just to feast your eyes. humps of a

Too much bother, says my daughter. dromedary for

Bother? Why, I have carried one of your OUR STORK

boats to go

mother's, miss! all these—there, I shall under. Upon it my story begins. The

not say how long--and carry it still. bridge is long since gone. The grass-grown

Bother? Great Scott! lane that knew our romping feet leads no

And is this going to be a love story, then? where now. But in my memory it is all as

Well, I have turned it over and over, and it was that day nearly forty years ago, and

looked at it from every angle, but if I am it is always summer there. The bees are

to tell the truth, as I promised, I don't droning among the forget-me-nots that

see how it can be helped. If I am to do grow along shore, and the swans arch

that, I must begin at the Long Bridge. I their necks in the limpid stream. The

stepped on it that day a boy, and came clatter of the mill-wheel down at the dam

off it with the fixed purpose of a man. comes up with drowsy hum; the sweet

How I stuck to it is part of the story—the smells of meadow and field are in the air.

best part, to my thinking; and I ought On the bridge a boy and a girl have met.

to know, seeing that our silver wedHe whistles a tune, boy-fashion, with

ding comes this March. Silver wedding, worsted jacket slung across his arm, on

humph! She isn't a week older than the his way home from the carpenter-shop to

day I married her—not a week. It was his midday meal. When she has passed

all in the way of her that I came here; he stands looking after her, all the music

though at the time I am speaking of I gone out of him. At the other end of

rather guessed than knew it was Elizathe bridge she turns with the feeling that

beth. She lived over there beyond the he is looking, and, when she sees that he K

bridge. We had been children together. is, goes on with a little toss of her pretty

I suppose I had seen her a thousand head. As she stands one brief moment

times before without noticing. In school there with the roguish look, she is to stand

I had heard the boys trading in her for in his heart forever-a sweet girlish fig

marbles and brass buttons as a partner at ure, in jacket of gray, black-embroidered,

dances and games-generally trading off with school-books and pretty bronzed

the other girls for her. She was such a boots

pretty dancer! I was not. “Soldiers “With tassels !” says my wife, mali

and robbers” was more to my taste. ciously-she has been looking over my That any girl with curls or without. 1 Copyright, 1901, the Outlook Company, New York should be worth a good marble, or a regi

mental button with a sound eye, that the times changed, and of all its greatness could be strung, was rank foolishness to there remained to Ribe only its famed me until that day on the bridge.

cathedral, with eight centuries upon its And now I shall have to recross it after hoary head, and its Latin School. Of all, to tell who and what we were, that the castle of the Valdemars there was we may start fair. I shall have to go left only this green hill with solemn sheep slow, too, for back of that day everything browsing upon it and ba-a-a-ing into the seems very indistinct and strange. A few sunset. In the moats, where once ships things stand out more clearly than the sailed in from the sea, grcat billowy rest. The day, for instance, when I was masses of reeds ever bent and swayed first dragged off to school by an avenging under the west wind that swept over the housemaid and thrust howling into an meadows. They grew much taller than empty hogshead by the ogre of a school- our heads, and we boys loved to play in marm, who, when she had put the lid on, them, to track the tiger or the grizzly to gnashed her yellow teeth at the bung its lair, not without creeping shudders at hole and told me that so bad boys were the peril that might lie in ambush at the dealt with in school. At recess she had next turn; or, hidden deep down among me up to the pig-pen in the yard as a them, we lay and watched the white clouds further warning. The pig had a slit iu go overhead and listened to the reeds whisthe ear. It was for being lazy, she ex- per of the great days and deeds that were. plained, and showed me the shears. Boys The castle hill was the only high ground were no better than pigs. Some were about the town. It was said in some worse; then—a jab at the air with the book of travel that one might see twentyscissors told the rest. Poor father! He four miles in any direction from Ribe, was a schoolmaster, too; how much lying flat on one's back; but that was sorrow it might have spared him had he drawing the long bow. Flat the landscape known of this! But we were too scared was, undeniably. From the top of the to tell, I suppose. He had set his heart castle hill we could see the sun setting upon my taking up his calling, and I upon the sea, and the islands lying hated the school from the day I first saw high in fine weather, as if floating in the it. Small wonder. The only study he air, the Nibs winding its silvery way succeeded in interesting me in was through the green fields. Not a tree, English, because Charles Dickens's paper, hardly a house, hindered the view. It “ All the Year Round,” came to the house was grass, all grass, for miles, to the sand with stories ever so much more alluring dunes and the beach. Strangers went into than the tedious grammar. He was of ecstasy over the little woodland patch the old dispensation, wedded to the old down by the Long Bridge, and very sweet ways. But the short cut I took to knowl- and pretty it was; but to me, who was edge in that branch I think opened his born there, the wide view to the sea, the eyes to some things ahead of his time. green meadows, with the peewit ever Their day had not yet come. He lived fretting about its nest, and the curlew's to see it dawn and was glad. Some of the call in the night-watches, were dearer far, schools our women made an end of a few with all their melancholy. More than years ago weren't much better. To help mountains in their majesty; more, infinitely clean them out was like getting square more, than the city of teeming millions with the ogre that plagued my childhood. with all its wealth and might, they seem

I mind, too, my first collision with the to me to typify human freedom and the tenement. There was just one, and it stood struggle for it. Thence came the vikings over against the castle hill, separated from that roved the seas, serving no man as it only by the dry moat. We called it Rag master; and through the dark ages of Hall, and I guess it deserved the name. feudalism no lord long bent the neck of Ribe was a very old town. Five hundred those stout yeomen to the yoke. Germany, years ago or so it had been the seat of forgetting honor, treaties, and history, is the fighting kings, when Denmark was a trying to do it now in Slesvig, south of power to be reckoned with. There they the Nibs, and she will as surely fail. The were handy when trouble broke out with day of long-delayed justice, when dynasthe German barons to the south. But ties by the grace of God shall have been

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replaced by government by right of the twist to my make-up, for the boys called people, will find them unconquered still. me “ Jacob the delver," mainly because

Alas! I am afraid that thirty years in of my constant bothering with the sewerthe land of my children's birth have left age of our house, which was of the most me as much of a Dane as ever. I no primitive kind. An open gutter that was sooner climb the castle hill than I am full of rats led under the house to the fighting tooth and nail the hereditary foes likewise open gutter of the street. That of my people whom it was built high to was all there was of it, and very bad it har. Yet, would you have it otherwise ? was; but it had always been so, and as, What sort of a husband is the man going consequently, it could not be otherwise, to make who begins by pitching his old my energies spent themselves in unending mother out of the door to make room for warfare with those rats, whose nests his wife? And what sort of wife would choked the gutter. I could hardly have she be to ask or to stand it ?

been over twelve or thirteen when Rag But I was speaking of the tenement by Hall challenged my resentment. My the moat. It was a ramshackle, two-story methods in dealing with it had at least the affair with shiftless tenants and ragged merit of directness, if they added nothing children. Looking back now, I think to the sum of human knowledge or likely it was the contrast of its desolation happiness. I had received a “mark," with the green hill and the fields I loved, which was a coin like our silver quarter, on of its darkness and human misery and Christmas Eve, and I hied myself to Rag inefficiency with the valiant fighting men Hall at once to divide it with the poorest of my boyish dreams, that so impressed me. family there, on the express condition that I believe it because it is so now. Over they should tidy up things, especially those against the tenements that we fight in children, and generally change their way our cities ever rises in my mind the fieldsof living. The man took the money-I the woods, God's open sky, as accuser have a vague recollection of seeing a and witness that His temple is being so stunned look on his face—and, I believe, defiled man so dwarfed in body and soul. brought it back to our house to see if it

I know that Rag Hall displeased me was all right, thereby giving me great very much. I presume there must have offense. But he did the best for himself been something of an inquiring Yankee that way, for so Rag Hall came under the

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