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HOME > Biographical > A Book About Myself > CHAPTER XXXIX
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 Possibly it was the brightness and freshness of this first day, the romance of an international fair in America, the snowy whiteness of the buildings against the morning sun, a blue sky and a bluer lake, the weaving in and out, achieving a lightness and an airiness wholly at war with anything that this Western world had as yet presented, which caused me to be swept into a dream from which I did not recover for months. I walked away a little space with my friend of the night before, learning more of her home and environment. As I saw her now, she seemed more and more natural, , . Humor seemed a part of her, and romance, as well as understanding and patience, a quiet and restful and undisturbed patience. I liked her immensely. She seemed from the first to offer me an understanding and a sympathy which I had never yet realized in any one. She smiled at my humor, appreciated my moods. Returning to my room late in the afternoon I was conscious of a difficult task, what to write that was worth while, and yet so deeply moved by it all that I could have clapped my hands for joy. I wanted to versify or describe it—a mood which youth will understand and smile at, which causes the mind to sing, to set on fantastic pilgrimages.  
But if I wrote anything worth while I cannot now recall it. I was too eager to loaf and dream and do nothing at all, almost too idle to concentrate on what I had been called upon to do. I sent off something, a thousand or so words of drivel or , and then settled to my real task of seeing the Fair by night and by day. Now that I was here I was cheered by the thought that very soon, within a day or two at most, I should be able to seek out and crow over all my old familiars, Maxwell, Dunlap, Brady, Hutchinson, a considerable group of newspaper men, as well as my brothers A—— and E——, who were here employed somewhere, and my father and several sisters.
For my father, who was now seventy-two years of age, I had, all of a sudden, as I have indicated above, the greatest sympathy. At home, up to my seventeenth or eighteenth birthday, before I got out in the world and began to make my own way, I had found him , cranky, dosed with too much religion; but in spite of all this and the quarrels and bickerings which arose because of it there had always been something tender in his views, charming, and . Now I felt sorry for him. A little while before and after my mother’s death it had seemed to me that he had become wild on the subject of the church and the hereafter, was annoying us all with his preachments concerning duty, economy and the like, the need of living a clean, saving, religious life. Now, after a year out in the world, with a broadening knowledge of very different things, I saw him in an different light. While realizing that he was , crotchety, domineering, I suddenly saw him as just a broken old man whose hopes and ambitions had come to nothing, whose religion, impossible as it was to me, was still a comfort and a to him. Here he was, alone, his wife dead, his children and not very much interested in him any more.
Now that I was here in the city again, I that as soon as I could arrange my other affairs I would go over on the west side and look him up and bring him to see the Fair, which of course he had not seen. For I knew that with his saving, worrying, almost he would not be able to bring himself to endure the expense, even though tickets were provided him, of visiting the Fair alone. He had had too much trouble getting enough to live on in these latter years to permit him to enjoy anything which cost money. I could hear him saying: “No, no. I cannot afford it. We have too many debts.” He had not always been so but time and many troubles had made the saving of money almost a with him.
The next morning, therefore, I journeyed to the west side and finally found him quite alone, as it chanced, the other members of the family then living with him having gone out. I shall never forget how old he looked after my year’s absence, how his . After a slightly quizzical and attempted hard examining glance at me his lips twitched and tears welled to his eyes. He was so done for, as he knew, and dependent on the courtesy of his children and life. I cried myself and rubbed his hands and his hair, then told him that I was doing well and had come to take him to see the Fair, that I had tickets—a , no less—and that it shouldn’t cost him a penny. Naturally he was surprised and glad to see me, so anxious to know if I still adhered to the Catholic faith and went to and communion regularly. In the old days this had been the main bone of between us.
“Tell me, Dorsch,” he said not two minutes after I arrived, “do you still keep up your church duties?”
When I hesitated for a moment, uncertain what to say, he went on: “You ought to do that, you know. If you should die in a state of mortal sin——”
“Yes, yes,” I interrupted, making up my mind to give him peace on this score if I never did another thing in this world, “I always go right along, once every month or six weeks.”
“You really do that, do you?” he asked, eyeing me more in appeal than doubt, though judging by my past he must have doubted.
“Yes,” I insisted, “sure. I always go regularly.”
“I’m glad of that,” he went on hopefully. “I worry so. I think of you and the rest of the children so much. You’re a young man now and out in the world, and if you neglect your religious duties——” and he paused as if in a grave . “When you’re out like that I know it’s hard to think of the church and your duties, but you shouldn’t neglect them——”
“Oh, Lord!” I thought. “Now he’s off again! This is the same old story—religion, religion, religion!”
“But I do go,” I insisted. “You mustn’t worry about me.”
“I know,” he said, with a sudden catch in his voice, “but I can’t help it. You know how it is with the other children: they don’t always do right in that respect. Paul is away on the stage; I don’t know whether he goes to church any more. A—— and E—— are here, but they don’t come here much—I haven’t seen them in I don’t know how long—months——”
I resolved to plead with E—— and A—— when I saw them.
He was sitting in a big armchair facing a rear window, and now he took my hand again and held it. Soon I felt hot tears on it.
“Pop,” I said, pulling his head against me and smoothing it, “you mustn’t cry. Things aren’t so bad as all that. The children are all right. We’ll probably be able to do better and more for you than we’ve ever done.”
“I know, I know,” he said after a little while, overcoming his emotion, “but I’m getting so old, and I don’t sleep much any more—just an hour or two. I lie there and think. In the morning I get up at four sometimes and make my coffee. Then the days are so long.”
I cried too. The long days ... the fading interests ... Mother gone and the family broken up....
“I know,” I said. “I haven’t acted just right—none of us have. I’ll write you from now on when I’m away, and send you some money once in a while. I’m going to get you a big overcoat for next winter. And now I want you to come over with me to the Fair. I’ve tickets, and you’ll enjoy it. I’m a press representative now, a traveling correspondent. I’ll show you everything.”
After due he got his hat and stick and came with me. We took a car and an elevated road, which finally landed us at the gate, and then, for as long as his strength would endure, we wandered about looking at the enormous buildings, the great Ferris Wheel, the caravels Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria in which Columbus sailed to America, the convent of La Rabida (which, because it related to the Trappists, fascinated him), and finally the German Village on the Midway, as German and ordentlich as ever a German would wish, where we had coffee and little German cakes with caraway seeds on them and some pot cheese with red pepper and onions. He was so interested and amused by the vast spectacle that he could do little save exclaim: “By crackie!” “This is now beautiful!” or “That is now wonderful!” In the German village he fell into a conversation with a German frau who had a stand there and who hailed from some part of Germany about which he seemed to know, and then all was well indeed. It was long before I could get him away. These visits were repeated only about four times during my stay of two weeks, when he admitted that it was tiring and he had seen enough.
Another morning when I had not too much to do I looked up my brother E——, who was driving a laundry somewhere on the south side, and got him to come out evenings and Sundays, as well as A——, who was connected with an electric plant as assistant of some kind. I recall now, with an odd feeling as to the significance of relationship and family ties generally, how keenly important his and E——’s interests were to me then and how I suffered because I thought they were not getting along as well as they should. Looking in a shoe window in Pittsburgh a year or two later, I actually choked with emotion because I thought that maybe E—— did not earn enough to keep himself looking well. A—— always seemed more or less in his ambitions, and whenever I saw him I felt sad because, like so many millions of others in this grinding world, he had never had a real chance. Life is so casual, and luck comes to many who sleep and flies from those who try. I always felt that under more circumstances A—— would have done well. He was so wise, if slightly , full of a laughing humor. His taste for literature and things in general was high, although entirely untrained. Like myself he had a turn for the problems of nature, constantly wondering as to the why of this or that and seeking the answer in a broader knowledge. But long hours of work and poor pay seemed to handicap him in his search. I was sad beyond words about his condition, and urged him to come to St. Louis and try his luck there, which he subsequently did.
Another thing I did was to visit the old Globe office in Fifth Avenue downtown, only to find things in a bad way there. Although Brady, Hutchinson and Dunlap were still there the paper was not paying, was, in fact, in danger of . John B. MacDonald, its financial backer or angel, having lost a fortune in trying to make it pay and win an election with it, was about ready to quit and the paper was on its last legs............
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