In brief, the injustice of the existing social condition became his personal care. It ab sorbed his attention.
Carl continued in this position two years. He had been with the company six years in all. During the first four years he had distin guished himself by industry and by constantly learning more about the business. But from the moment he entered upon the private sec retaryship he ceased using his spare time in studying the affairs of the company, and began to speculate upon something else. But his speculation did not actually enlist his activity. That is, he read about social conditions in books, but he did not observe them in streets, mansions, tenements and men's minds and hearts.
Now, no man can theorize long upon a sub ject without coming to some definite conclu sion about it—a conclusion that is sure to lead him not only to think further, but ultimately to act. Carl's conclusions were very simple and direct : 1. Society is wrongly organized.
2. Its chief sin is injustice to the poor.
3. Something must be done to check these evils.
But the organization of society, its injustice, its evils, existed for Carl only in the pages of books. He had never studied actual con ditions; he knew no specific instances of the injustice and evils of society, though he could have found plenty of them near at hand. He was a member of the social order, and so far as he was concerned he had benefited. This he forgot.
But he felt compelled to do something! The only feasible action that he found open to him was to resign.
He admitted that he liked his work; his associates were agreeable to him; he frankly acknowledged that the business of the com pany was conducted squarely and fairly. But his mind was made up. Even the assurance that a splendid opportunity for advancement awaited him did not deter him. Nor could he state wherein he would better himself or the social conditions by the change.
Carl was then twenty-three.
After a few weeks he went to work for a wholesale house, dealers in farm implements. For a while some of the old enthusiasm of the errand boy was re-awakened in him. He worked hard and advanced rapidly.
This lasted two years. In the meantime, he continued to read, to speculate, and to worry over social affairs. Unrest gave place to enthusiasm. Once again he arrived at a point where he must act ; once again he felt compelled to show the world his disapproval of its method of meting out justice.
What did he do? Being a student of books and not of streets and adventures, he knew of but one way to express his disapproval of things as they are. That was again to resign.
Carl was then twenty-five.
For some time thereafter the Easton Com pany was in receipt of letters asking particu lars of Carl's character and industry. They came from firms to whom he applied for work. And they came frequently. This indicated that he changed his position often. It seemed probable that he went on leaving one place after another in a blind impulse to punish society.
This continued ten years.
One day Carl was walking along a high way, when a social factor, in the shape of an automobile, struck him. He was killed in stantly. Beside his remains there were picked up his steel-rimmed glasses, a book on the subject of "Poverty : Its Cause and Cure," and a letter of recommendation testifying to his good character. No money, no trinkets, noth ing else.
Carl was then thirty-five.
The greatest biography, it seems to me, is often that of the most humble. The fac tors and forces are few, and yet the problem abounds in interest.
To all the work he did this man devoted himself attentively for a time. He was a man of capability, quick to learn, quick to master details, responsible and—then the waning of it all, and its merging into the one form of discontent that clung to him to the last.
In the sea of social confusion of which he was a part he had learned to swim, but he had never learned to question another swim mer. When he saw one go down into the depths, if, indeed, he observed that much of life about him, he thrust his own head under water, stayed down as long as he could, and came up somewhere else.
It never occurred to him to develop himself thoroughly, and thus—the master of greater power—to hold forth a strong, helping hand to another. Hence, at thirty-five, he was no better equipped as a worker in the world's service than he was at nineteen. He devel oped his skill to a slight extent, but kept run ning back and forth over the same path, in stead of getting more skill and lengthening his path. With skill and a longer perspec tive he could have attacked the social problem to his heart's content. And he would have accomplished something, without a doubt.
Hence it is very true, indeed, that "natural abilities are like natural plants, they need prun ing by study."