The Tracer of Lost Persons
Library of Alexandria, 30.06.2016
"I don't want to be pleasant: I want to jar you. Don't I care enough about you to breakfast with you? Then I've a right to be pleasantly unpleasant. I can't bear to watch your mental and spiritual dissolution—a man like you, with all your latent ability and capacity for being nobody in particular—which is the sort of man this nation needs. Do you want to turn into a club-window gazer like Van Bronk? Do you want to become another Courtlandt Allerton and go rocking down the avenue—a grimacing, tailor-made sepulcher?—the pompous obsequies of a dead intellect?—a funeral on two wavering legs, carrying the corpse of all that should be deathless in a man? Why, Jack, I'd rather see you in bankruptcy—I'd rather see you trying to lead a double life in a single flat on seven dollars and a half a week—I'd almost rather see you every day at breakfast than have it come to that!
"Wake up and get jocund with life! Why, you could have all good citizens stung to death if you chose. It isn't that I want you to make money; but I want you to worry over somebody besides yourself—not in Wall Street—a pool and its money are soon parted. But in your own home, where a beautiful wife and seven angel children have you dippy and close to the ropes; where the housekeeper gets a rake off, and the cook is red-headed and comes from Sligo, and the butler's cousin will bear watching, and the chauffeur is a Frenchman, and the coachman's uncle is a Harlem vet, and every scullion in the establishment lies, drinks, steals, and supports twenty satiated relatives at your expense. That would mean the making of you; for, after all, Jack, you are no genius—you're a plain, non-partisan, uninspired, clean-built, wholesome citizen, thank God!—the sort whose unimaginative mission is to pitch in with eighty-odd millions of us and, like the busy coral creatures, multiply with all your might, and make this little old Republic the greatest, biggest, finest article that an overworked world has ever yet put up! . . . Now you can call for help if you choose."