What My Char-Woman Said to Me

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What My Char-Woman Said to Me: A Parable

"Why it 's not so very hot,"

"But it 's the nights, sir," she said, "there 's no sleeping in the tenements such nights as these,—it 's sitting up all night with a fan in your hand and listening to the coughing and the crying of the children all around."

"I know that 's awful," I said.

"Awful and nothing for it—the landlord gets it all," she went on, "the rooms so small and such a rent; it is n't right, sir, it is n't right."

"Well, of course it is n't right," I said, "and if the poor would vote to tax the value of the land, so that the speculators could n't keep the land from those that need it, they would n't be packed in like cattle as they are now. Only one man in every nine is a landlord, so the remedy is in your own hands."

"And how would that be helping, sir?" said she.

"Why, if only the land were taxed, it would make building cheaper and the people could build flats and homes for themselves. The only tax would be on the land itself, not on what is built on it. It would not pay a man then to hold land idle, or even with a

poor building on it, for he would have to pay just as much as if a fine house was there. It 's the same as if a man takes a room in a hotel and gets the key and goes away; he has to pay as much for it as if he occupied the room and lived in it. In that way we can drive out the dog in the manger that is holding from you what he will not use himself."

"And what could the likes of us do with the land?"

"Sure it 's on the land we live and all we get and use comes out of the land. There is plenty of land, enough in one of the states alone to put the whole world into. We must knock down the fence that shuts the people out, and open up the Land, to the Laborers who will put up buildings enough, and good enough, for everybody in The Town."

"Well, if they could do that, it would be fine," she said, "but, sure, the poor has to vote the way they 're told—the men is n't sure of their jobs and they have to be in with the boss. They talk about this being a free land—there 's little freedom for them that owns no land."

Bolton Hall.

New York City.

  • Bolton Hall, “What My Char-Woman Said to Me,” The Arena 39, no. 218 (January 1908): 68.