It was a mistake; you see that yourself."

"Yes--it was a mistake."

"Well, just drop it out of your, mind; it's no harm; we all make them. Pull your courage together, and don't brood, and don't give up. I'm at your back, and we'll pull through, don't you be afraid."

When he was gone, Barrow walked the floor a good while, uneasy in his mind. He said to himself, "I'm troubled about him. He never would have made a break like that if he hadn't been a little off his balance. But I know what being out of work and no prospect ahead can do for a man. First it knocks the pluck out of him and drags his pride in the dirt; worry does the rest, and his mind gets shaky. I must talk to these people. No--if there's any humanity in them--and there is, at bottom-- they'll be easier on him if they think his troubles have disturbed his reason. But I've got to find him some work; work's the only medicine for his disease. Poor devil! away off here, and not a friend."

CHAPTER XVII

The moment Tracy was alone his spirits vanished away, and all the misery of his situation was manifest to him. To be moneyless and an object of the chairmaker's charity--this was bad enough, but his folly in proclaiming himself an earl's son to that scoffing and unbelieving crew, and, on top of that, the humiliating result--the recollection of these things was a sharper torture still. He made up his mind that he would never play earl's son again before a doubtful audience.

His father's answer was a blow he could not understand. At times he thought his father imagined he could get work to do in America without any trouble, and was minded to let him try it and cure himself of his radicalism by hard, cold, disenchanting experience. That seemed the most plausible theory, yet he could not content himself with it. A theory that pleased him better was, that this cablegram would be followed by another, of a gentler sort, requiring him to come home. Should he write and strike his flag, and ask for a ticket home? Oh, no, that he couldn't ever do. At least, not yet. That cablegram would come, it certainly would. So he went from one telegraph office to another every day for nearly a week, and asked if there was a cablegram for Howard Tracy. No, there wasn't any. So they answered him at first. Later, they said it before he had a chance to ask. Later still they merely shook their heads impatiently as soon as he came in sight. After that he was ashamed to go any more.

He was down in the lowest depths of despair, now; for the harder Barrow tried to find work for him the more hopeless the possibilities seemed to grow. At last he said to Barrow:

"Look here. I want to make a confession. I have got down, now, to where I am not only willing to acknowledge to myself that I am a shabby creature and full of false pride, but am willing to acknowledge it to you. Well, I've been allowing you to wear yourself out hunting for work for me when there's been a chance open to me all the time. Forgive my pride--what was left of it. It is all gone, now, and I've come to confess that if those ghastly artists want another confederate, I'm their man--for at last I am dead to shame."

"No? Really, can you paint?"

"Not as badly as they. No, I don't claim that, for I am not a genius; in fact, I am a very indifferent amateur, a slouchy dabster, a mere artistic sarcasm; but drunk or asleep I can beat those buccaneers."

"Shake! I want to shout! Oh, I tell you, I am immensely delighted and relieved. Oh, just to work--that is life! No matter what the work is-- that's of no consequence. Just work itself is bliss when a man's been starving for it. I've been there! Come right along; we'll hunt the old boys up. Don't you feel good? I tell you I do."

The freebooters were not at home. But their "works" were, displayed in profusion all about the little ratty studio. Cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them, cannon in front--it was Balaclava come again.

"Here's the uncontented hackman, Tracy.

The American Claimant Page 53

Mark Twain

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