ESSAYISTS young and old, known and unknown, are invited to compete for the Club. A prize of $250 will be posted each month for the most distinctive essay of a thousand words. It gives us great pleasure to confer the November award on Robert Shelby Darbishire, of Stanford, Kentucky, a newcomer to the Atlantic.

‘PITY the poor Southern tenant’? I do. But I pity the poor landlord, getting poorer, with a problem of physical, mental, and moral therapy on his hands, whose solution he can neither provide himself nor pay taxes to get solved.

Lately, the tenant whom we will call Mr. Gorpers came to the end of my patience and his tenancy. He has gone where he may keep open house for his even less desirable relatives, at a distance from my corncrib. Mr. Gorpers’s parting words were ‘I never was better treated by nobody, nowhere.'

While I was helping to catch the chickens, one of them flew up an elm. ‘I’ll git her,’ said Mr. Gorpers, producing a Colt like a cannon from about his workaday person. ‘When I goes, I goes, and chickens goes with me, dead or alive.’

It later turned out that the chicken belonged to another tenant. When I reproached Mr. Gorpers, he showed at once a fine sense of discrimination of where the landlord stands (or lies prostrate) in the matter of tenant fowls. ‘There was nothing in that chicken that warn’t yourn, nohow.’

The tenant always has many children. These children and their friends climb every roof, break limbs in my carefully pruned fruit trees, throw about sticks and stones and glass and rags and broken toys. They hurt themselves. They get suddenly and tragically ill. They die needlessly. You may diet the baby for ‘summer complaint’ and the parents will feed it pickle. You may pay a good doctor for pneumonia and they will take the advice of a quack and buy a cough mixture (at $1,50 a bottle) for ‘water on the lungs.’

Mr. Gorpers himself owned that he was no great hand at a garden. I fully agree with this understatement. He would sow a few beans if someone gave them to him and if he wasn’t ‘afeard the bugs would git ‘em.’ Never yet has a tenant sowed his own seed. He would appreciate sweet potatoes and even set the plants out, but would not work them. I have all but used the lash to get the tenants to manure their gardens, prepare them in time, set out enough for summer and winter too, and then keep the weeds down. But the garden is ‘woman’s work.’ And the women, according to Mr. Gorpers, ‘is not what they was before them high-minded shoes come in.’ Nor will Mrs. Gorpers put up anything but a few quarts of blackberries. ‘’Pears like the other stuff goes bad.’ This is not for want of garden truck or fruit, for always I provide enough and to spare in my own orchard and garden.

Fuel? I have a farm littered with ‘down wood’ from a storm. But the tenant cuts a young walnut or steals my coal or the sticks from the tobacco barns. In this respect, however, Mr. Gorpers must have his due. He is ‘handy with an axe as a snake with pizen.'

Mr. Gorpers has another talent, for hunting.

‘Mr. Gorpers,’ I have said, ‘sell your dogs and feed your children.’

‘Chillun?’ said he. ‘These hounds has more sense than chillun.’ Then he added with finality, ‘Huntin’ is my pleasure.’

I was indiscreet enough to suggest that he would get more pleasure out of well-fed children than well-fed hounds, but he pitied my unbelief.

‘I reckon we all git what’s comin’ to us.’

You have seen pictures of the house of the poor tenant labeled ‘unfit for human habitation,’ and I admit that I would not wish to inhabit the palazzo Gorpers. If I did, with hammer and nails at hand for borrowing, it would not remain as it is now. You have seen the picture of what the tenant has reduced a good house to. For want of half an hour’s leak-stopping on his part or notice to the landlord, rafter, chimney, floor, joint, and foundation have to be repaired. New wallpaper is instantly splashed, spat upon, scribbled upon, greased with grimy fingers, torn, used (as is the woodwork) for a pincushion. The ceiling is shot through. Plaster is knocked off. Windows are broken by children or because they ‘won’t open.’ We used to have a third cottage, but the tenants used most of it and all the apple trees for firewood. Screens last a few weeks, and in any case are always kept open by the children for handy throwing out of slops or the convenience of dogs. Rodent and insect life abounds in all tenant houses, no matter how much the landlord provides in the way of poison or trap. Rentals are dear, at $4.00 a month. Are these people human?

I have tried to indicate that they are human, pitifully human, all too human. I know that they are ignorant because they will not go to school. I know that they are undernourished because they neither inherit the balanced diet of the European peasant nor will consider adopting one. I know that they are weary after the day’s work and unprovided with servants and plumbing that make cleanliness easy for us. I know that they are a submerged class. Who is to blame? You may blame the landlord, the lack of ownership, the capitalist system, the President, the Civil War, the Southern sun. Some people even blame the tenants themselves. Pity them you must. But what is to be done about them? We suffer from them. The land suffers from them. The country suffers from them. Society is in danger from them. And what can be done with Tovarish Gorpers but pay a month’s rent to his next landlord and endeavor to nourish ‘no hard feelings’?

And so Mr. and Mrs. Gorpers took their solitary way through Eden, attended by three dogs, six children, some sixty hens —’leaving, with touching confidence, their ‘meat-hawgs’ for me to feed until ‘the first cold for hawg-killing.’