The Nine-Tenths
by James Oppenheim
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He had gone the way of all reformers, first the explosive arousal, then the theory, then the test.

He went over the Greenwich Village experience with Myra:

"Why," he laughed, "I expected to do great things. Whereas, look, I have done nothing. This strike ends in a little bettering, and a few people read my paper. It's just a little stir, hardly a dent—a few atoms set into motion. How slow! how slow! Patience! That's the word I've learned! It will take worlds of time; it will take a multitude striving; it will take unnumbered forces—education, health-work, eugenics, town-planning, the rise of women, philanthropy, law—a thousand thousand dawning powers. Oh, we are only at the faint beginnings of things!"

And he thought of the books he had read, and the theories of which he had been so sure.

"But," he exclaimed, "was my diagnosis correct? Did I really know the human muddle? Has any man really mapped out civilization? It's so huge, complex, varied—so many disorganized forces—who can classify it—label it? It's bigger than our thought about it. We lay hands on only a few wisps of it! Life! Life itself—not our interpretation—is the great outworking force!"

And then again.

"We see certain tendencies and believe they will advance unhindered, but there may be other tendencies to counteract, change, even defeat these. No future can be predicted! And yet I was so sure of the future—so sure of what we are to build—that future which we keep modifying so persistently the moment it hits To-day."

In short, he had reached his social manhood—which meant to him, not dogma, but the willingness to arise every morning ready to reshape his course, prepared for any adventure, receptive, open-minded, and all willing to render his very life for what seemed good to do. Scientific reverence this, the willingness to experiment, to try, to test, and then, if the test failed, to grope for a new line of outlet, the readiness to reverse all he believed in in the face of a new and contradictory fact. He was a new Joe Blaine.

And so the spirit that sprang from those dead girls became a creative power, a patient, living strength.

And so in the blaze of new morning, in the beginnings of a new life, Joe and Myra leaned over the rail of the boat, coming back, coming back to the ramparts and heights of the great World City. They saw full in the glory of the morning sun those tiers on tiers of towers rising to their lonely pinnacle. Beneath them harbor craft scurried about in the bright waters; above them rose the Big Brothers of the city looking out toward the sea. It seemed some vision builded of no human hands. It seemed winged and uplifted toward the skies, an immensity of power and beauty. It seemed to float on measureless waters, a magic metropolis, setting sail for the Arabian Nights.

Tears came into Joe's eyes. He held Myra's hand fast.

"Are you glad to get back?"

"Yes, glad, Joe."

"No more peace, no more green earth, Myra."

"I know it, Joe."

"Even our honeymoon—that can't be repeated, can it?"

"No," she said, sadly, "I guess it cannot."

"And this means work, hardship, danger, injustice—all the troubles of mankind."

She pressed his hand.

"Yet you're glad, Myra!"

"I am."

"Tell me why."

"Because," she mused, "it's the beginning of our real life together."

"How so real?"

Myra's eyes were suffused with tears.

"The common life—the life of people—the daily toil—the pangs and the struggles. I'm hungry for it all!"

He could have kissed her for the words.

"We'll do, Myra," he cried, "we'll do. Do you know what I see this morning?"


"A new city! My old city, but all new."

"It's you that is new, Joe."

"And that's why I see the new city—a vision I shall see until some larger vision replaces it. Shall I tell you about it?"

"Tell me."

"It is the city of five million comrades. They toil all day with one another; they create all of beauty and use that men may need; they exchange these things with each other; they go home at night to gardens and simple houses, they find happy women there and sunburnt, laughing children. Their evenings are given over to the best play—play with others, play with masses, or play at home. They have time for study, time for art, yet time for one another. Each loosens in himself and gives to the world his sublime possibilities. A city of toiling comrades, of sparkling homes, of wondrous art, and joyous festival. That is the city I see before me!" He paused. "And to the coming of that city I dedicate my life."

She sighed.

"It's too bright, too good for human nature."

"Not for human nature," he whispered. "If only we are patient. If only we are content to add our one stone to its rising walls."

She pressed his hand again.

"Joe," she murmured, "what do you think you'll be doing a year from now?"

"I don't know," he smiled. "Perhaps editing—perhaps working with a strike—perhaps something else. But whatever it is, it will be some new adventure—some new adventure!"

So they entered that city hand in hand, the future all before them. And they found neither that City of the Future nor a City of Degradation, but a very human city full of very human people.


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