70 The Coalman. By Krausz, Sigmund

A type strictly belonging to the poorest tenement districts of a large city. Many a lady, living midst wealth and luxury, looking at the picture, might doubt the existence of pedjsle who sell coal by the bushel. Just think of it! Coal by the bushel! Are there people poor enough to be compelled to buy coal in such small quantities? Indeed there are; and many thousands besides who cannot afford to buy it at all. You can see them follow the wagons to pick up falling pieces of coal; you can see them search every inch of ground in the railroad yards for the black diamonds, which are diamonds to them indeed.

Warmth is life, and poor people cling to life with the same tenacity as millionaires. So they must have coal in winter to keep out the icy drafts from their damp and dingy rooms. To these people the coal man, who sells his goods by the bushel and who sometimes even grants a little credit, is a boon. He is one of the most welcome figures in that terrible maelstrom of poverty, the poor tenement district. He is honest; perhaps as much by choice as by necessity, for it is not easy to cheat a customer who buys coal by the bushel. The coal man himself only ekes out a precarious living, but he must feel contented when he compares his existence with the abject misery which he witnesses every day of his life. If he were a novelist what dreadful pictures of human suffering he could unroll. He could, as an eye witness, tell these who live in abundance that there are human beings who starve for the want of a crust of bread, and whose limbs get numbed for the want of fuel. But the coal man is not a novelist. Maybe he thinks a great deal about what he sees. But he does not say much. Perhaps it is better so.

Dieses Kapitel ist Teil des Buches STREET TYPES GREAT AMERICAN CITIES