Dream Tales and Prose Poems/Poems in Prose/The Workman and the Man with White Hands

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Workman. Why do you come crawling up to us? What do ye want? You're none of us. . . . Get along!

Man with white hands. I am one of you, comrades!

The workman. One of us, indeed! That's a notion! Look at my hands. D' ye see how dirty they are? And they smell of muck, and of pitch—but yours, see, are white. And what do they smell of?

The man with white hands (offering his hands). Smell them.

The workman (sniffing his hands). That 's a queer start. Seems like a smell of iron.

The man with white hands. Yes; iron it is. For six long years I wore chains on them.

The workman. And what was that for, pray?

The man with white hands. Why, because I worked for your good; tried to set free the oppressed and the ignorant; stirred folks up against your oppressors; resisted the authorities. ... So they locked me up.

The workman. Locked you up, did they? Serve you right for resisting!

Two Years Later.

The same workman to another. I say, Pete. . . . Do you remember, the year before last, a chap with white hands talking to you?

The other workman. Yes; . . . what of it?

The first workman. They're going to hang him to-day, I heard say; that 's the order.

The second workman. Did he keep on resisting the authorities?

The first workman. He kept on.

The second workman. Ah! . . . Now, I say, mate, couldn't we get hold of a bit of the rope they're going to hang him with? They do say, it brings good luck to a house!

The first workman. You're right there. We'll have a try for it, mate.

April 1878.