VI-"Max" - Helen Campbell - Sunday Afternoon

"It seems a hundred years ago that I was a little fellow at home," he began, still looking up to the strip of sky, and his slender hands clasped about one knee. " You can judge for yourself that I did not come of the same stock as most of the men here. My father was a lawyer in H; a stern, hard man, deep in his business from morning till night, and paying little attention to me one way or another. My mother was very gentle and delicate and sad; loving me passionately, as she had loved my father till his coldness and hardness made her concentrate it all on me. I suppose she spoiled me, and yet it is through her that I am here to-day. At any rate, I know that any freedom or indulgence always had to be coupled with the words: 'We won't say anything about it before father, Max; he might not like it.' The most reasonable thing was always hedged round with this warning, and we both shook when he came near us unexpectedly. He was a very religious man in his own fashion, but not much of the real thing as you get it here. His God liked best to roast sinners, and I heard very little from him but threats of dropping into hell, if I went a hair's-breadth out of the way. He had been brought up so, and stood it, and he could not see why the same thing did not fit me. So I was either scared to death or reckless, and ended with being the last, pretty much all the time. I was bright enough, and father had me study Latin when I was only seven. At ten he sent me to boarding-school, and that pretty nearly killed mother. She had been a good deal of an invalid, but then she went to bed, and staid there mostly except when I came home for vacations."

Description:Campbell relays her conversation with Max, a lifelong resident of the Lower Manhattan's tenements. Campbell's articles published in Sunday Afternoon, along with those in Lippincott's Magazine, were reprinted in a book titled "The Problem of the Poor" (1888).

Rights: Public domain, online article.