- 1 0 0 %
T h e S t o r y o f
a P a t r i o t
- C h a p t e r 5 1
- NELSE Ackerman's home was far out in the suburbs of the city, upon a knoll surrounded by forest. It was a couple of miles from the nearest trolley line, which forced Peter to take a hot walk in the sun. Apparently the great banker, in selecting the site of his residence, had never once thought that anybody might want to get to it without an automobile. Peter reflected as he walked that if he continued to move in these higher circles, he too would have to join the motor-driving class.
About the estate there ran a great bronze fence, ten feet high, with sharp, inhospitable spikes pointing outwards. Peter had read about this fence a long time ago in the American City "Times"; it was so and so many thousand yards long, and had so and so many spikes, and had cost so and so many tens of thousands of dollars. There were big bronze gates locked tight, and a sign that said: "Beware the dogs!" Inside the gates were three guards carrying rifles and walking up and down; they were a consequence of the recent dynamite conspiracy, but Peter did not realize this, he took them for a regular institution, and a symbol of the importance of the man he was to visit.
He pressed a button by the side of the gate, and a lodgekeeper came out, and Peter, according to orders, gave the name "Arthur G. McGillicuddy." The lodge-keeper went inside and telephoned, and then came back and opened the gate, just enough to admit Peter. "You're to be searched," said the lodge-keeper; and Peter, who had been arrested many times, took no offense at this procedure, but found it one more evidence of the importance of Nelse Ackerman. The guards went thru his pockets, and felt him all over, and then one of them marched him up the long gravel avenue thru the forest, climbed a flight of marble steps to the palace on the knoll, and turned him over to a Chinese butler who walked on padded slippers.
If Peter had not known that this was a private home he would have thought it was an art gallery. There were great marble columns, and paintings bigger than Peter, and tapestries with life-size horses; there were men in armor, and battle axes and Japanese dancing devils, and many other strange sights. Ordinarily Peter would have been interested in learning how a great millionaire decorated his house, and would have drunk deep of the joy of being amid such luxury. But now all his thoughts were taken up with his dangerous business. Nell had told him what to look for, and he looked. Mounting the velvet-carpeted staircase, he noted a curtain behind which a man might hide, and a painting of a Spanish cavalier on the wall just opposite. He would make use of these two sights.
They went down a hall, like a corridor in the Hotel de Soto, and at the end of it the butler tapped softly upon a door, and Peter was ushered into a big apartment in semi-darkness. The butler retired without a sound, closing the door behind him and Peter stood hesitating, looking about to get his bearings. From the other side of the room he heard three faint coughs, suggesting a sick man. There was a four-poster bed of some dark wood, with a canopy over it and draperies at the side, and a man in the bed, sitting propped up with pillows. There were more coughs, and then a faint whisper, "This way." So Peter crossed over and stood about ten feet from the bed, holding his hat in his hands; he was not able to see very much of the occupant of the bed, nor was he sure it would be respectful for him to try to see.
"So you're - (cough) what's your name?"
"Gudge," said Peter.
"You are the man - (cough) that knows about the Reds?"
The occupant of the bed coughed every two or three minutes thru the conversation that followed, and each time Peter noticed that he put his hand up to his mouth as if he were ashamed of the noise. Gradually Peter got used to the twilight, and could see that Nelse Ackerman was an old man with puffy, droopy cheeks and chin, and dark puffy crescents under his eyes. He was quite bald, and had on his head a skull cap of embroidered black silk, and a short, embroidered jacket over his night shirt. Beside the bed stood a table covered with glasses and bottles and pill-boxes, and also a telephone. Every few minutes this telephone would ring, and Peter would wait patiently while Mr. Ackerman settled some complex problem of business. "I've told them my terms," he would say with irritation, and then be would cough; and Peter, who was sharply watching every detail of the conduct of the rich, noted that he was too polite even to cough into the telephone. "If they will pay a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars on account, I will wait, but not a cent less," Nelse Ackerman would say. And Peter, awe-stricken, realized that he had now reached the very top of Mount Olympus, he was at the highest point he could hope to reach until he went to heaven.
The old man fixed his dark eyes on his visitor. "Who wrote me that letter?" whispered the husky voice.
Peter had been expecting this. "What letter, sir?"
"A letter telling me to see you."
"I don't know anything about it, sir."
"You mean - (cough) you didn't write me an anonynious letter?"
"No, sir, I didn't."
"Then some friend of yours must have written it."
"I dunno that. It might have been some enemy of the police."
"Well, now, what's this about the Reds having an agent in my home?"
"Did the letter say that?"
"Well, sir, that's putting it too strong. I ain't sure, it's just an idea I've had. It'll need a lot of explaining."
"You're the man who discovered this plot, I understand?"
"Well, take a chair, there," said the banker. There was a chair near the bedside, but it seemed to Peter too close to be respectful, so he pulled it a little farther away, and sat down on the front six inches of it, still holding his hat in his hands and twisting it nervously. "Put down that hat," said the old man, irritably. "So Peter stuck the hat under his chair, and said: "I beg pardon, sir."
C h a p t e r 5 2
- THE old plutocrat was feeble and sick, but his mind was all there, and his eyes seemed to be boring Peter through. Peter realized that he would have to be very careful - the least little slip would be fatal here.
"Now, Gudge," the old man began, "I want you to tell me all about it. To begin with, how did you come to be among these Reds? Begin at the beginning."
So Peter told how he had happened to get interested in the radical movement, laying particular stress upon the dangerousness of these Reds, and his own loyalty to the class which stood for order and progress and culture in the country. "It ought to be stopped, Mr. Ackerman!" he exclaimed, with a fine show of feeling; and the old banker nodded. Yes, yes, it ought to be stopped!
"Well," said Peter, "I said to myself, 'I'm going to find out about them fellows.' I went to their meetings, and little by little I pretended to get converted, and I tell you, Mr. Ackerman, our police are asleep; they don't know what these agitators are doing, what they're preaching. They don't know what a hold they've got on the mobs of the discontented!"
Peter went on to tell in detail about the propaganda of social revolution, and about conspiracies against law and order, and the property and even the lives of the rich. Peter noticed that when the old man took a sip of water his hand trembled so that he could hardly keep the water from spilling; and presently, when the phone rang again, his voice became shrill and imperious. "I understand they're applying for bail for those men. Now Angus, that's an outrage! We'll not hear to anything like that! I want you to see the judge at once, and make absolutely certain that those men are held in jail."
Then again the old banker had a coughing fit. "Now, Gudge," he said, "I know more or less about all that. What I want to know is about this conspiracy against me. Tell me how you came to find out about it."
And Peter told; but of course he embellished it, in so far as it related to Mr. Ackerman - these fellows were talking about Mr. Ackerman all the time, they had a special grudge against him.
"But why?" cried the old man. "Why?"
"They think you're fighting them, Mr. Ackerman."
"But I'm not! That's not true!"
"Well, they say you put up money to hang Goober. They call you - you'll excuse me?"
"Yes, yes, of course."
"They call you the 'head money devil.' They call you the financial king of American City."
"King!" cried the banker. "What rubbish! Why, Gudge, that's fool newspaper talk! I'm a poor man today. There are two dozen men in this city richer than I am, and who have more power. Why - " But the old man fell to coughing and became so exhausted that he sank back into his pillows until he recovered his breath. Peter waited respectfully; but of course he wasn't fooled. Peter had carried on bargaining many times in his life, and had heard people proclaim their poverty and impotence.
"Now, Gudge," the old man resumed. "I don't want to be killed; I tell you I don't want to be killed."
"No, of course not," said Peter. It was perfectly comprehensible to him that Mr. Ackerman didn't want to be killed. But Mr. Ackerman seemed to think it necessary to impress the idea upon him; in the course of the conversation he came back to it a number of times, and each time he said it with the same solemn assurance, as if it were a brand new idea, and a very unusual and startling idea. "I don't want to be killed, Gudge; I tell you I don't want to let those fellows get me. No, no; we've got to circumvent them, we've got to take precautions - every precaution - I tell you every possible precaution."
"I'm here for that purpose, Mr. Ackerman," said Peter, solemnly. "I'll do everything. We'll do everything, I'm sure."
"What's this about the police?" demanded the banker. "What's this about Guffey's bureau? You say they're not competent?"
"Well now, I'll tell you, Mr. Ackerman," said Peter, "It's a little embarrassing. You see, they employ me - "
"Nonsense!" exclaimed the other. "I employ you! I'm putting up the money for this work, and I want the facts! - I want them all."
"Well," said Peter, "they've been very decent to me - "
"I say tell me everything!" exclaimed the old man. He was a most irritable old man, and couldn't stand for a minute not having what he asked for. "What's the matter with them?"
Peter answered, as humbly as he could: "I could tell you a great deal that'd be of use to you, Mr. Ackerman, but you got to keep it between you and me."
"All right!" said the other, quickly. "What is it?"
"If you give a hint of it to anybody else," persisted Peter, "then I'll get fired."
"You'll not get fired, I'll see to that. If necessary I'll hire you direct."
"Ah, but you don't understand, Mr. Ackerman. It's a machine, and you can't run against it; you gotta understand it, you gotta handle it right. I'd like to help you, and I know I can help you, but you gotta let me explain it, and you gotta understand some things."
"All right," said the old man. "Go ahead, what is it?"
"Now," said Peter, "it's like this. These police and all these fellows mean well, but they don't understand; it's too complicated, they ain't been in this movement long enough. They're used to dealing with criminals; but these Reds, you see, are cranks. Criminals ain't organized, at least they don't stand together; but these Reds do, and if you fight 'em, they fight back, and they make what they call 'propaganda.' And that propaganda is dangerous - if you make a wrong move, you may find you've made 'em stronger than they were before."
"Yes, I see that," said the old man. "Well?"
"Then again, the police dunno how dangerous they are. You try to tell them things, they won't really believe you. I've known for a long time there was a group of these people getting together to kill off all the rich men, the big men all over the country. They've been spying on these rich men, getting ready to kill them. They know a lot about them that you can't explain their knowing. That's how I got the idea they had somebody in your house, Mr. Ackerman."
"Tell me what you mean. Tell me at once."
"Well, sir, every once in a while I pick up scraps of conversation. One day I heard Mac - "
"That's McCormick, the one who's in jail. He's an I. W. W. leader, and I think the most dangerous of all. I heard him whispering to another fellow, and it scared me, because it had to do with killing a rich man. He'd been watching this rich man, and said he was going to shoot him down right in his own house! I didn't hear the name of the man - I walked away, because I didn't want him to think I was trying to listen in. They're awful suspicious, these fellows; if you watch Mac you see him looking around over his shoulder every minute or two. So I strolled off, and then I strolled back again, and he was laughing about something, and I heard him say these words; I heard him say, 'I was hiding behind the curtain, and there was a Spanish fellow painted on the wall, and every time I peeked out that bugger was looking at me, and I wondered if he wasn't going to give me away.'"
And Peter stopped. His eyes had got used to the twilight now, and he could see the old banker's eyes starting out from the crescents of dark, puffy flesh underneath. "My God!" whispered Nelse Ackerman.
"Now, that was all I heard," said Peter. "And I didn't know what it meant. But when I learned about that drawing that Mac had made of your house, I thought to myself, Jesus, I bet that was Mr. Ackerman he was waiting to shoot!"
"Good God! Good God!" whispered the old man; and his trembling fingers pulled at the embroidery on the coverlet. The telephone rang, and he took up the receiver, and told somebody he was too busy now to talk; they would have to call him later. He had another coughing spell, so that Peter thought he was going to choke, and had to help him get some medicine down his throat. Peter was a little bit shocked to see such obvious and abject fear in one of the gods. After all, they were just men, these Olympians, as much subject to pain and death as Peter Gudge himself!
Also Peter was surprised to find how "easy" Mr. Ackerman was. He made no lofty pretence of being indifferent to the Reds. He put himself at Peter's mercy, to be milked at Peter's convenience. And Peter would make the most of this opportunity.
"Now, Mr. Ackerman," he began, "You can see it wouldn't be any use to tell things like that to the police. They dunno how to handle such a situation; the honest truth is, they don't take these Reds serious. They'll spend ten times as much money to catch a plain burglar as they will to watch a whole gang like this."
"How can they have got into my home?" cried the old man.
"They get in by ways you'd never dream of, Mr. Ackerman. They have people who agree with them. Why, you got no idea, there's some preachers that are Reds, and some college teachers, and some rich men like yourself."
"I know, I know," said Ackerman. "But surely - "
"How can you tell? You may have a traitor right in your own family."
So Peter went on, spreading the Red Terror in the soul of this old millionaire who did not want to be killed. He said again that he did not want to be killed, and explained his reluctance in some detail. So many people were dependent upon him for their livings, Peter could have no conception of it! There were probably a hundred thousand men with their families right here in American City, whose jobs depended upon plans which Ackerman was carrying, and which nobody but Ackerman could possibly carry. Widows and orphans looked to him for protection of their funds; a vast net-work of responsibilities required his daily, even his hourly decisions. And sure enough, the telephone rang, and Peter heard Nelse Ackerman declare that the Amalgamated Securities Company would have to put off a decision about its dividends until tomorrow, because he was too busy to sign certain papers just then. He hung up the receiver and said: "You see, you see! I tell you, Gudge, we must not let them get me!"
C h a p t e r 5 3
- THEY came down to the question of practical plans, and Peter was ready with suggestions. In the first place, Mr. Ackerman must give no hint either to the police authorities or to Guffey that he was dissatisfied with their efforts. He must simply provide for an interview with Peter now and then, and he and Peter, quite privately, must take certain steps to get Mr. Ackerman that protection which his importance to the community made necessary. The first thing was to find out whether or not there was a traitor in Mr. Ackerman's home, and for that purpose there must be a spy, a first-class detective working in some capacity or other. The only trouble was, there were so few detectives you could trust; they were nearly all scoundrels, and if they weren't scoundrels, it was because they didn't have sense enough to be - they were boobs, and any Red could see thru them in five minutes.
"But I tell you," said Peter, "what I've thought. I've got a wife that's a wonder, and just now while we were talking about it, I thought, if I could only get Edythe in here for a few days, I'd find out everything about all the people in your home, your relatives as well as your servants."
"Is she a professional detective?" asked the banker.
"Why no, sir," said Peter. "She was an actress, her name was Edythe Eustace; perhaps you might have heard of her on the stage."
"No, I'm too busy for the theatre," said Mr. Ackerman.
"Of course," said Peter. "Well, I dunno whether she'd be willing to do it; she don't like having me mix up with these Reds, and she's been begging me to quit for a long time, and I'd just about promised her I would. But if I tell her about your trouble maybe she might, just as a favor."
But how could Peter's wife be introduced into the Ackerman household without attracting suspicion? Peter raised this question, pointing out that his wife was a person of too high a social class to come as a servant. Mr. Ackerman added that he had nothing to do with engaging his servants, any more than with engaging the bookkeepers in his bank. It would look suspicious for him to make a suggestion to his housekeeper. But finally he remarked that he had a niece who sometimes came to visit him, and would come at once if requested, and would bring Edythe Eustace as her maid. Peter was sure that Edythe would be able to learn this part quickly, she had acted it many times on the stage, in fact, it had been her favorite role. Mr. Ackerman promised to get word to his niece, and have her meet Edythe at the Hotel de Soto that same afternoon.
Then the old banker pledged his word most solemnly that he would not whisper a hint about this matter except to his niece. Peter was most urgent and emphatic; he specified that the police were not to be told, that no member of the household was to be told, not even Mr. Ackerman's private secretary. After Mr. Ackerman had had this duly impressed upon him, he proceeded in turn to impress upon Peter the idea which he considered of most importance in the world: "I don't want to be killed, Gudge, I tell you I don't want to be killed!" And Peter solemnly promised to make it his business to listen to all conversations of the Reds in so far as they might bear upon Mr. Ackerman.
When he rose to take his departure, Mr. Ackerman slipped his trembling fingers into the pocket of his jacket, and pulled out a crisp and shiny note. He unfolded it, and Peter saw that it was a five hundred dollar bill, fresh from the First National Bank of American City, of which Mr. Ackerman was chairman of the board of directors. "Here's a little present for you, Gudge," he said. "I want you to understand that if you protect me from these villains, I'll see that you are well taken care of. From now on I want you to be my man."
"Yes, sir," said Peter, "I'll be it, sir. I thank you very much, sir." And he thrust the bill into his pocket, and bowed himself step by step backwards toward the door. "You're forgetting your hat," said the banker.
"Why, yes," said the trembling Peter, and he came forward again, and got his hat from under the chair, and bowed himself backward again.
"And remember, Gudge," said the old man, "I don't want to be killed! I don't want them to get me!"
C h a p t e r 5 4
- PETER'S first care when he got back into the city was to go to Mr. Ackerman's bank and change that five hundred dollar bill. The cashier gazed at him sternly, and scrutinized the bill carefully, but he gave Peter five one hundred dollar bills without comment. Peter tucked three of them away in a safe hiding-place, and put the other two in his pocketbook, and went to keep his appointment with Nell.
He told her all that had happened, and where she was to meet Mr. Ackerman's niece. "What did he give you?" Nell demanded, at once, and when Peter produced the two bills, she exclaimed, "My God! the old skint-flint!" "He said there'd be more," remarked Peter.
"It didn't cost him anything to say that," was Nell's answer. "We'll have to put the screws on him." Then she added, "You'd better let me take care of this money for you, Peter."
"Well," said Peter, "I have to have some for my own expenses, you know."
"You've got your salary, haven't you?"
"Yes, that's true, but - "
"I can keep it safe for you," said Nell, "and some day when you need it you'll be glad to have it. You've never saved anything yourself; that's a woman's job."
Peter tried to haggle with her, but it wasn't the same as haggling with McGivney; she looked at him with her melting glances, and it made Peter's head swim, and automatically he put out his hand and let her take the two bills. Then she smiled, so tenderly that he made bold to remind her, "You know, Nell, you're my wife now!"
"Yes, yes," she answered, "of course. But we've got to get rid of Ted Crothers somehow. He watches me all the time, and I have no end of trouble making excuses and getting away."
"How're you're going to get rid of him?" asked Peter, hungrily.
"We'll have to skip," she answered; "just as soon as we have pulled off our new frame-up - "
"Another one?" gasped Peter, in dismay.
And the girl laughed. "You wait!" she said. "I'm going to pull some real money out of Nelse Ackerman this time! Then when we've made our killing, we'll skip, and be fixed for life. You wait - and don't talk love to me now, because my mind is all taken up with my plans, and I can't think about anything else."
So they parted, and Peter went to see McGivney in the American House. "Stand up to him!" Nell had said. But it was not easy to do, for McGivney pulled and hauled him and turned him about, upside down and inside outwards, to know every single thing that had happened between him and Nelse Ackerman. Lord, how these fellows did hang on to their sources of graft! Peter repeated and insisted that he really had played entirely fair - he hadn't told Nelse Ackerman a thing except just the truth as he had told it to Guffey and McGivney. He had said that the police were all right, and that Guffey's bureau was stepping right on the tail of the Reds all the time.
"And what does he want you to do?" demanded the rat-faced man.
Peter answered, "He just wanted to make sure that he was learning everything of importance, and he wanted me to promise him that he would get every scrap of information that I collected about the plot against him; and of course I promised him that we'd bring it all to him."
"You going to see him any more?" demanded McGivney.
"He didn't say anything about that."
"Did he get your address?"
"No, I suppose if he wants me he'll let you know, the same as before."
"All right," said McGivney. "Did he give you any money?"
"Yes," said Peter, "he gave me two hundred dollars, and he said there was plenty more where that came from, so that we'd work hard to help him. He said he didn't want to get killed; he said that a couple of dozen times, I guess. He spent more time saying that than anything else. He's sick, and he's scared out of his wits."
So at last McGivney condescended to thank Peter for his faithfulness, and went on to give him further orders.
The Reds were raising an awful howl. Andrews, the lawyer, had succeeded in getting a court order to see the arrested men, and of course the prisoners had all declared that the case was a put-up job. Now the Reds were preparing to send out a circular to their fellow Reds all over the country, appealing for publicity, and for funds to fight the "frame-up."
They were very secret about it, and McGivney wanted to know where they were getting their money. He wanted a copy of the circular they were printing, and to know where and when the circulars were to be mailed. Guffey had been to see the post office authorities, and they were going to confiscate the circulars and destroy them all without letting the Reds know it.
Peter rubbed his hands with glee. That was the real business! That was going after these criminals in the way Peter had been urging! The rat-faced man answered that it was nothing to what they were going to do in a few days. Let Peter keep on his job, and he would see! Now, when the public was wrought up over this dynamite conspiracy, was the time to get things done.
C h a p t e r 5 5
- PETER took a street car to the home of Miriam Yankovitch, and on the way he read the afternoon edition of the American City "Times." The editors of this paper were certainly after the Reds, and no mistake! They had taken McCormick's book on Sabotage, just as Nell had predicted, and printed whole chapters from it, with the most menacing sentences in big type, and some boxed up in little frames and scattered here and there over the page so that no one could possibly miss them. They had a picture of McCormick taken in the jail; he hadn't had a chance to shave for several days, and probably hadn't felt pleasant about having his picture taken - anyhow, he looked ferocious enough to frighten the most skeptical, and Peter was confirmed in his opinion that Mac was the most dangerous Red of them all.
Columns and columns of material this paper published about the case, subtly linking it up with all the other dynamitings and assassinations in American history, and with German spy plots and bomb plots. There was a nation-wide organization of these assassins, so the paper said; they published hundreds of papers, with millions of readers, all financed by German gold. Also, there was a double-leaded editorial calling on the citizens to arise and save the republic, and put an end to the Red menace once for all. Peter read this, and like every other good American, he believed every word that he read in his newspaper, and boiled with hatred of the Reds.
He found Miriam Yankovitch away from home. Her mother was in a state of excitement, because Miriam had got word that the police were giving the prisoners the "third degree," and she had gone to the offices of the Peoples' Council to get the radicals together and try to take some immediate action. So Peter hurried over to these offices, where he found some twenty-five Reds and Pacifists assembled, all in the same state of excitement. Miriam was walking up and down the room, clasping and unclasping her hands, and her eyes looked as if she had been crying all day. Peter remembered his suspicion that Miriam and Mac were lovers. He questioned her. They had put Mac in the "hole," and Henderson, the lumber-jack, was laid up in the hospital as a result of the ordeal he had undergone.
The Jewish girl went into details, and Peter found himself shuddering - he had such a vivid memory of the third degree himself! He did not try to stop his shuddering, but took to pacing up and down the room like Miriam, and told them how it felt to have your wrists twisted and your fingers bent backward, and how damp and horrible it was in the "hole." So he helped to work them into a state of hysteria, hoping that they would commit some overt action, as McGivney wanted. Why not storm the jail and set free the prisoners?
Little Ada Ruth said that was nonsense; but might they not get banners, and parade up and down in front of the jail, protesting against this torturing of men who had not been convicted of any crime? The police would fall on them, of course, the crowds would mob them and probably tear them to pieces, but they must do something. Donald Gordon answered that this would only make them impotent to keep up the agitation. What they must try to get was a strike of labor. They must send telegrams to the radical press, and go out and raise money, and call a mass-meeting three days from date. Also, they must appeal to all the labor unions, and see if it was possible to work up sentiment for a general strike.
Peter, somewhat disappointed, went back and reported to McGivney this rather tame outcome. But McGivney said that was all right, he had something that would fix them; and he revealed to Peter a startling bit of news. Peter had been reading in the papers about German spies, but he had only half taken it seriously; the war was a long way off, and Peter had never seen any of that German gold that they talked so much about - in fact, the Reds were in a state of perpetual poverty, one and all of them stinting himself eternally to put up some portion of his scant earnings to pay for pamphlets and circulars and postage and defence funds, and all the expenses of an active propaganda organization. But now, McGivney declared, there was a real, sure-enough agent of the Kaiser in American City! The government had pretty nearly got him in his nets, and one of the things McGivney wanted to do before the fellow was arrested was to get him to contribute some money to the radical cause.
It wasn't necessary to point out to Peter the importance of this. If the authorities could show that the agitation on behalf of McCormick and the rest had been financed by German money, the public would justify any measures taken to bring it to an end. Could Peter suggest to McGivney the name of a German Socialist who might be persuaded to approach this agent of the Kaiser, and get him to contribute money for the purpose of having a general strike called in American City? Several of the city's big manufacturing plants were being made over for war purposes, and obviously the enemy had much to gain by strikes and labor discontent. Guffey's men had been trying for a long time to get Germans to contribute to the Goober Defense fund, but here was an even better opportunity.
Peter thought of Comrade Apfel, who was one of the extreme Socialists, and a temporary Pacifist like most Germans. Apfel worked in a bakery, and his face was as pasty as the dough he kneaded, but it would show a tinge of color when be rose in the local to denounce the "social patriots," those party members who were lending their aid to British plans for world domination. McGivney said he would send somebody to Apfel at once, and give him the name of the Kaiser's agent as one who might be induced to contribute to the radical defense fund. Apfel would, of course, have no idea that the man was a German agent; he would go to see him, and ask him for money, and McGivney and his fellow-sleuths would do the rest. Peter said that was fine, and offered to go to Apfel himself; but the rat-faced man answered no, Peter was too precious, and no chance must be taken of directing Apfel's suspicions against him.
C h a p t e r 5 6
- PETER had received a brief scrawl from Nell, telling him that it was all right, she had gone to her new job, and would soon have results. So Peter went cheerfully about his own duties of trying to hold down the protest campaign of the radicals. It was really quite terrifying, the success they were having, in spite of all the best efforts of the authorities. Bundles of circulars appeared at their gatherings as if by magic, and were carried away and distributed before the authorities could make any move. Every night at the Labor Temple, where the workers gathered, there were agitators howling their heads off about the McCormick case. To make matters worse, there was an obscure one cent evening paper in American City which catered to working-class readers, and persisted in publishing evidence tending to prove that the case was a "frame-up." The Reds had found out that their mail was being interfered with, and were raising a terrific howl about that - pretending, of course, that it was "free speech" they cared about!
The mass meeting was due for that evening, and Peter read an indignant editorial in the American City "Times," calling upon the authorities to suppress it. "Down with the Red Flag!" the editorial was headed; and Peter couldn't see how any red-blooded, 100% American could read it, and not be moved to do something.
Peter said that to McGivney, who answered: "We're going to do something; you wait!" And sure enough, that afternoon the papers carried the news that the mayor of American City had notified the owners of the Auditorium that they would be held strictly responsible under the law for all incendiary and seditious utterances at this meeting; thereupon, the owners of the Auditorium had cancelled the contract. Furthermore, the mayor declared that no crowds should be gathered on the street, and that the police would be there to see to it, and to protect law and order. Peter hurried to the rooms of the Peoples' Council, and found the radicals scurrying about, trying to find some other hall; every now and then Peter would go to the telephone, and let McGivney know what hall they were trying to get, and McGivney would communicate with Guffey, and Guffey would communicate with the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, and the owner of this hall would be called up and warned by the president of the bank which held a mortgage on the hall, or by the chairman of the board of directors of the Philharmonic Orchestra which gave concerts there.
So there was no Red mass meeting that night - and none for many a night thereafter in American City! Guffey's office had got its German spy story ready, and next morning, here was the entire front page of the American City "Times" given up to the amazing revelation that Karl von Stroeme, agent of the German government, and reputed to be a nephew of the German Vice-chancellor, had been arrested in American City, posing as a Swedish sewing-machine agent, but in reality having been occupied in financing the planting of dynamite bombs in the buildings of the Pioneer Foundry Company, now being equipped for the manufacture of machine-guns. Three of von Stroeme's confederates had been nabbed at the same time, and a mass of papers full of important revelations - not the least important among them being the fact that only yesterday von Stroeme had been caught dealing with a German Socialist of the ultra-Red variety, an official of the Bread and Cake-Makers' Union Number 479, by the name of Ernst Apfel. The government had a dictagraph record of conversations in which von Stroeme had contributed one hundred dollars to the Liberty Defense League, an organization which the Reds had got up for the purpose of carrying on agitation for the release of the I. W. W.s arrested in the dynamite plot against the life of Nelse Ackerman. Moreover it was proven that Apfel had taken this money and distributed it among several German Reds, who had turned it in to the defense fund, or used it in paying for circulars calling for a general strike.
Peter's heart was leaping with excitement; and it leaped even faster when he had got his breakfast and was walking down Main Street. He saw crowds gathered, and American flags flying from all the buildings, just as on the day of the Preparedness parade. It caused Peter to feet queer spasms of fright; he imagined another bomb, but he couldn't resist the crowds with their eager faces and contagious enthusiasm. Presently here came a band, with magnificent martial music, and here came soldiers marching - tramp, tramp, tramp - line after line of khaki-clad boys with heavy packs upon their backs and shiny new rifles. Our boys! Our boys! God bless them!
It was three regiments of the 223rd Division, coming from Camp Lincoln to be entrained for the war. They might better have been entrained at the camp, of course, but everyone had been clamoring for some glimpse of the soldiers, and here they were with their music and their flags, and their crowds of flushed, excited admirers - two endless lines of people, wild with patriotic fervor, shouting, singing, waving hats and handkerchiefs, until the whole street became a blur, a mad delirium. Peter saw these closely pressed lines, straight and true, and the legs that moved like clock-work, and the feet that shook the ground like thunder. He saw the fresh, boyish faces, grimly set and proud, with eyes fixed ahead, never turning, even tho they realized that this might be their last glimpse of their home city, that they might never come back from this journey. Our boys! Our boys! God bless them! Peter felt a choking in his throat, and a thrill of gratitude to the boys who were protecting him and his country; he clenched his hands and set his teeth, with fresh determination to punish the evil men and women - draft-dodgers, slackers, pacifists and seditionists - who were failing to take their part in this glorious emprise.
C h a p t e r 5 7
- PETER went to the American House and met McGivney, and was put to work on a job that precisely suited his mood. The time had come for action, said the rat-faced man. The executive committee of the I. W. W. local had been drafting an appeal to the main organization for help, and the executive committee was to meet that evening; Peter was to get in touch with the secretary, Grady, and find out where this meeting was to be, and make the suggestion that all the membership be gathered, and other Reds also. The business men of the city were going to pull off their big stroke that night, said McGivney; the younger members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association had got together and worked out a secret plan, and all they wanted was to have the Reds collected in one place.
So Peter set out and found Shawn Grady, the young Irish boy who kept the membership lists and other papers of the organization, in a place so secret that not even Peter had been able to find them. Peter brought the latest news about the sufferings of Mac in the "hole," and how Gus, the sailor, had joined Henderson in the hospital. He was so eloquent in his indignation that presently Grady told him about the meeting for that evening, and about the place, and Peter said they really ought to get some of their friends together, and work out some way to get their protest literature distributed quickly, because it was evident they could no longer use the mails. What was the use of resolutions of executive committees, when what was wanted was action by the entire membership? Grady said all right, they would notify the active members and sympathizers, and he gave Peter the job of telephoning and travelling about town getting word to a dozen people.
At six o'clock that evening Peter reported the results to McGivney, and then he got a shock. "You must go to that meeting yourself," said the rat-faced man. "You mustn't take any chance of their suspecting you."
"But, my God!" cried Peter. "What's going to happen there?"
"You don't need to worry about that," answered the other. "I'll see that you're protected."
The gathering was to take place at the home of Ada Ruth, the poetess, and McGivney had Peter describe this home to him. Beyond the living-room was a hallway, and in this hallway was a big clothes closet. At the first alarm Peter must make for this place. He must get into the closet, and McGivney would be on hand, and they would pen Peter up and pretend to club him, but in reality would protect him from whatever happened to the rest. Peter's knees began to tremble, and he denounced the idea indignantly; what would happen to him if anything were to happen to McGivney, or to his automobile, and were to fail to get there in time? McGivney declared that Peter need not worry - he was too valuable a man for them to take any chances with. McGivney would be there, and all Peter would have to do was to scream and raise a rumpus, and finally fall unconscious, and McGivney and Hammett and Cummings would carry him out to their automobile and take him away!
Peter was so frightened that he couldn't eat any dinner, but wandered about the street talking to himself and screwing up his courage. He had to stop and look at the American flags, still waving from the buildings, and read the evening edition of the American City "Times," in order to work up his patriotic fervor again. As he set out for the home of the little cripple who wrote pacifist poetry, he really felt like the soldier boys marching away to war.
Ada Ruth was there, and her mother, a dried-up old lady who knew nothing about all these dreadful world movements, but whose pleadings had no effect upon her inspired daughter; also Ada's cousin, a lean old-maid school teacher, secretary of the Peoples' Council; also Miriam Yankovitch, and Sadie Todd, and Donald Gordon. On the way Peter had met Tom Duggan, and the mournful poet revealed that he had composed a new poem about Mac in the "hole." Immediately afterwards came Grady, the secretary, his pockets stuffed with his papers. Grady, a tall, dark-eyed, impulsive-tempered Irish boy, was what the Socialists called a "Jimmie Higgins," that is, one of the fellows who did the hard and dreary work of the movement, who were always on hand no matter what happened, always ready to have some new responsibility put upon their shoulders. Grady had no use for the Socialists, being only interested in "industrial action," but he was willing to be called a "Jimmie Higgins"; he had said that Peter was one too, and Peter had smiled to himself, thinking that a "Jimmie Higgins" was about the last thing in the world he ever would be. Peter was on the way to independence and prosperity, and it did not occur to him to reflect that he might be a "Jimmie Higgins" to the "Whites" instead of to the Reds!
Grady now pulled out his papers, and began to talk over with Donald Gordon the proceedings of the evening. He had had a telegram from the national headquarters of the I. W. W., promising support, and his thin, hungry face lighted up with pride as he showed this. Then he announced that "Bud" Connor was to be present - a well-known organizer, who had been up in the oil country with McCormick, and brought news that the workers there were on the verge of a big strike. Then came Mrs. Jennings, a poor, tormented little woman who was slowly dying of a cancer, and whose husband was suing her for divorce because she had given money to the I. W. W. With her, and helping her along, came "Andy" Adams, a big machinist, who had been kicked out of his lodge for talking too much "direct action." He pulled from his pocket a copy of the "Evening Telegraph," and read a few lines from an editorial, denouncing "direct action" as meaning dynamiting, which it didn't, of course, and asking how long it would be before the friends of law and order in American City would use a little "direct action" of their own.
C h a p t e r 5 8
- SO they gathered, until about thirty were present, and then the meeting speedily got down to business. It was evident, said Grady, that the authorities had deliberately framed-up the dynamite conspiracy, in order to have an excuse for wiping out the I. W. W. organization; they had closed the hall, and confiscated everything, typewriters and office furniture and books - including a book on Sabotage which they had turned over to the editor of the "Evening Times"! There was a hiss of anger at this. Also, they had taken to interfering with the mail of the organization; the I. W. W. were having to get out their literature by express. They were fighting for their existence, and they must find some way of getting the truth to people. If anybody had any suggestions to make, now was the time.
There came one suggestion after another; and meantime Peter sat as if his chair were full of pins. Why didn't they come - the younger members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association - and do what they were going to do without any further delay? Did they expect Peter to sit there all night, trembling with alarm - and he not having any dinner besides?
Suddenly Peter gave a jump. Outside came a yell, and Donald Gordon, who was making a speech, stopped suddenly, and the members of the company stared at one another, and some sprang to their feet. There were more yells, rising to screams, and some of the company made for the front doors, and some for the back doors, and yet others for the windows and the staircase. Peter wasted no time, but dived into the clothes closet in the hallway back of the living-room, and got into the farthest corner of this closet, and pulled some of the clothes on top of him; and then, to make him safer yet, came several other people piling on top of him.
From his place of refuge he listened to the confusion that reigned. The place was a bedlam of women's shrieks, and the curses of fighting men, and the crash of overturning furniture, and of clubs and monkey-wrenches on human heads. The younger members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association had come in sufficient force to make sure of their purpose. There were enough to crowd the room full, and to pack all the doorways, and two or three to guard each window, and a flying squadron to keep watch for anybody who jumped from the roof or tried to hide in the trees of the garden.
Peter cowered, and listened to the furious uproar, and presently he heard the cries of those on top of him, and realized that they were being pulled off and clubbed; he felt hands reach down and grab him, and he cringed and cried in terror; but nothing happened to him, and presently he glanced up and he saw a man wearing a black mask, but easily to be recognized as McGivney. Never in all his life had Peter been gladder to see a human face than he was to see that masked face of a rat! McGivney had a club in his hand, and was dealing ferocious blows to the clothes heaped around Peter. Behind McGivney were Hammett and Cummings, covering the proceedings, and now and then carefully putting in a blow of their own.
Most of the fighting inside the house and outside came quickly to an end, because everybody who fought was laid out or overpowered. Then several of the agents of Guffey, who had been studying these Reds for a year or two and knew them all, went about picking out the ones who were especially wanted, and searching them for arms, and then handcuffing them. One of these men approached Peter, who instantly fell unconscious, and closed his eyes; then Hammett caught him under the armpits and Cummings by the feet, and McGivney walked alongside as a bodyguard, remarking now and then, "We want this fellow, we'll take care of him."
They carried Peter outside, and in the darkness he opened his eyes just enough to see that the street was lined with automobiles, and that the Reds were being loaded aboard. Peter's friends carried him to one car and drove him away, and then Peter returned to consciousness, and the four of them sat up and laughed to split their sides, and slapped one another on the back, and mentioned the satisfactory things they had seen. Had Hammett noticed that slice Grady had got over the eyes, and the way the blood had run all over him? Well, he wanted to be a Red - they had helped him be one - inside and out! Had McGivney noticed how "Buck" Ellis, one of their men, had put the nose of the hobo poet out of joint? And young Ogden, son of the president of the Chamber of Commerce, had certainly managed to show how he felt about these cattle, the female ones as well as the males; when that Yankovich slut had slapped his face, he had caught her by the breasts and nearly twisted them off, and she had screamed and fainted!
Yes, they had cleaned them out. But that wasn't all of it, they were going to finish the job tonight, by God! They were going to give these pacifists a taste of the war, they were going to put an end to the Red Terror in American City! Peter might go along if he liked and see the good work; they were going into the country, and it would be dark, and if he kept a mask on he would be quite safe. And Peter said yes; his blood was up, he was full of the spirit of the hunt, he wanted to be in at the death, regardless of everything.
C h a p t e r 5 9
- THE motor purred softly, and the car sped as if upon wings thru the suburbs of American City, and to the country beyond. There were cars in front, and other cars behind, a long stream of white lights flying out into the country. They came to a grove of big pine trees, which rose two or three feet thick, like church arches, and covered the ground beneath them with a soft, brown carpet. It was a well-known picnic place, and here all the cars were gathering by appointment. Evidently it had all been pre-arranged, with that efficiency which is the pride of 100% Americans. A man with a black mask over his face stood in the center of the grove, and shouted his directions thru a megaphone, and each car as it swept in ranged itself alongside the next car in a broad circle, more than a hundred feet across. These cars of the younger members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association were well behaved - they were accustomed to sliding precisely into place according to orders of a megaphone man, when receptions were being given, or when the younger members and their wives and fiancées, clad in soft silks and satins, came rolling up to their dinner-parties and dances.
The cars came and came, until there was just room enough for the last one to slide in. Then at a shouted command, "Number one!" a group of men stepped out of one of the cars, dragging a handcuffed prisoner. It was Michael Dubin, the young Jewish tailor who had spent fifteen days in jail with Peter. Michael was a student and dreamer, and not used to scenes of violence; also, he belonged to a race which expresses its emotions, and consequently is offensive to 100% Americans. He screamed and moaned while the masked men un-handcuffed him, and took off his coat and tore his shirt in the back. They dragged him to a tree in the center of the ring, a somewhat smaller tree, just right for his wrists to meet around and be handcuffed again. There he stood in the blinding glare of thirty or forty cars, writhing and moaning, while one of the black-masked men stripped off his coat and got ready for action. He produced a long black-snake whip, and stood poised for a moment; then in a booming voice the man with the megaphone shouted, "Go!" and the whip whistled thru the air and was laid across the back of Michael, and tore into the flesh so that the blood leaped into sight. There was a scream of anguish, and the victim began to twist and turn and kick about as if in his death-throes. Again the whip whistled, and again you heard the thud as it tore into the flesh, and another red stripe leaped to view.
Now the younger members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association were in excellent condition for this evening's labor. They were not pale and thin, underfed and overworked, as were their prisoners; they were sleek and rosy, and ashine with health. It was as if long years ago their fathers had foreseen the Red menace, and the steps that would have to be taken to preserve 100% Americanism; the fathers had imported a game which consisted of knocking little white balls around a field with various styles and sizes of clubs. They had built magnificent club-houses out here in the suburbs, and had many hundreds of acres of ground laid out for this game, and would leave their occupations of merchanting and manufacturing early in the afternoon, in order to repair to these fields and keep their muscles in condition. They would hold tournaments, and vie with one another, and tell over the stories of the mighty strokes which they had made with their clubs, and of the hundreds of strokes they had made in a single afternoon. So the man with the black-snake whip was "fit," and didn't need to stop for breath. Stroke after stroke he laid on, with a splendid rhythmic motion; he kept it up easily, on and on. Had he forgotten? Did he think this was a little white ball he was swinging down upon? He kept on and on, until you could no longer count the welts, until the whole back of Michael Dubin was a mass of raw and bleeding flesh. The screams of Michael Dubin died away, and his convulsive struggling ceased, and his head hung limp, and he sunk lower and lower upon the tree.
At last the master of ceremonies stepped forward and ordered a halt, and the man with the whip wiped the sweat from his forehead with his shirt-sleeve, and the other men unchained the body of Michael Dubin, and dragged it a few feet to one side and dumped it face downward in the pine-leaves.
"Number two!" called the master of ceremonies, in a clear, compelling voice, as if he were calling the figures of a quadrille; and from another car another set of men emerged, dragging another prisoner. It was Bert Glikas, a "blanket-stiff" who was a member of the I. W. W.'s executive committee, and had had two teeth knocked out in a harvest-strike only a couple of weeks previously. While they were getting off his coat, he managed to get one hand free, and he shook it at the spectators behind the white lights of the automobiles. "God damn you!" he yelled; and so they tied him up, and a fresh man stepped forward and picked up the whip, and spit on his hands for good luck, and laid on with a double will; and at every stroke Glikas yelled a fresh curse; first in English, and then, as if he were delirious, in some foreign language. But at last his curses died away, and he too sank insensible, and was unhitched and dragged away and dumped down beside the first man. "Number three!" called the master of ceremonies.
C h a p t e r 6 0
- NOW Peter was sitting in the back seat of his car, wearing the mask which McGivney had given him, a piece of cloth with two holes for his eyes and another hole for him to breathe thru. Peter hated these Reds, and wanted them punished, but he was not used to bloody sights, and was finding this endless thud, thud of the whip on human flesh rather more than he could stand. Why had he come? This wasn't his part of the job of saving his country from the Red menace. He had done his share in pointing out the dangerous ones; he was a man of brains, not a man of violence. Peter saw that the next victim was Tom Duggan with his broken and bloody nose, and in spite of himself, Peter started with dismay. He realized that without intending it he had become a little fond of Tom Duggan. For all his queerness, Duggan was loyal, he was a good fellow when you had got underneath his surly manners. He had never done anything except just to grumble, and to put his grumbles into verses; they were making a mistake in whipping him, and for a moment Peter had a crazy impulse to interfere and tell them so.
The poet never made a sound. Peter got one glimpse of his face in the blazing white light, and in spite of the fact that it was smashed and bloody, Peter read Tom Duggan's resolve - he would die before they would get a moan out of him. Each time the lash fell you could see a quiver all over his form; but there was never a sound, and he stood, hugging the tree in a convulsive grip. They lashed him until the whip was spattering blood all over them, until blood was running to the ground. They had taken the precaution to bring along a doctor with a little black case, and he now stepped up and whispered to the master of ceremonies. They unfastened Duggan, and broke the grip of his arms about the tree, and dumped him down beside Glikas.
Next came the turn of Donald Gordon, the Socialist Quaker, which brought a bit of cheap drama. Donald took his religion seriously; he was always shouting his anti-war sentiments in the name of Jesus, which made him especially obnoxious. Now he saw a chance to get off one of his theatrical stunts; he raised his two manacled hands into the air as if he were praying, and shouted in piercing tones: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!"
A murmur started in the crowd; you could hear it mounting to a roar. "Blasphemy!" they cried. "Stop his dirty mouth!" It was the same mouth that had been heard on a hundred platforms, denouncing the war and those who made money out of the war. They were here now, the men who had been denounced, the younger members of the Chamber of Commerce and the Merchants' and Manufacturers' Association, the best people of the city, those who were saving the country, and charging no more than the service was worth. So they roared with fury at this sacreligious upstart. A man whose mask was a joke, because he was so burly and hearty that everybody in the crowd knew him, took up the bloody whip. It was Billy Nash, secretary of the "Improve America League," and the crowd shouted, "Go to it, Billy! Good eye, old boy!" Donald Gordon might tell God that Billy Nash didn't know what he was doing, but Billy thought that he knew, and he meant before he got thru to convince Donald that he knew. It didn't take very long, because there was nothing much to the young Quaker but voice, and he fainted at the fourth or fifth stroke, and after the twentieth stroke the doctor interfered.
Then came the turn of Grady, secretary of the I. W. W., and here a terrible thing happened. Grady, watching this scene from one of the cars, had grown desperate, and when they loosed the handcuffs to get off his coat, he gave a sudden wrench and broke free, striking down one man after another. He had been brought up in the lumber country, and his strength was amazing, and before the crowd quite realized it, he was leaping between two of the cars. A dozen men sprang upon him from a dozen directions, and he went down in the midst of a wild melee. They pinned him with his face mashed into the dirt, and from the crowd there rose a roar as from wild beasts in the night-time, "String him up! String him up!" One man came running with a rope, shouting, "Hang him!"
The master of ceremonies tried to protest thru his megaphone, but the instrument was knocked out of his hands, and he was hauled to one side, and presently there was a man climbing up the pine tree and hanging the rope over a limb. You could not see Grady for the jostling throng about him, but suddenly there was a yell from the crowd, and you saw him quite plainly - he shot high up into the air, with the rope about his neck and his feet kicking wildly. Underneath, men danced about and yelled and waved their hats in the air, and one man leaped up and caught one of the kicking feet and hung onto it.
Then, above all the din, a voice was heard thru the megaphone, "Let him down a bit! Let me get at him!" And those who held the rope gave way, and the body came down toward the ground, still kicking, and a man took out a clasp-knife, and cut the clothing away from the body, and cut off something from the body; there was another yell from the crowd, and the men in the automobiles slapped their knees and shrieked with satisfaction. Those in the car with Peter whispered that it was Ogden, son of the president of the Chamber of Commerce; and all over town next day and for weeks thereafter men would nudge one another, and whisper about what Bob Ogden had done to the body of Shawn Grady, secretary of the "damned wobblies." And every one who nudged and whispered about it felt certain that by this means the Red Terror had been forever suppressed, and 100% Americanism vindicated, and a peaceful solution of the problem of capital and labor made certain.
Strange as it might seem, there was one member of the I. W. W. who agreed with them. One of the victims of that night had learned his lesson! When Tom Duggan was able to sit up again, which was six weeks later, he wrote an article about his experience, which was published in an I. W. W. paper, and afterwards in pamphlet form was read by many hundreds of thousands of workingmen. In it the poet said:
"The preamble of the I. W. W. opens with the statement that the employing class and the working class have nothing in common; but on this occasion I learned that the preamble is mistaken. On this occasion I saw one thing in common between the employing class and the working class, and that thing was a black-snake whip. The butt end of the whip was in the hands of the employing class, and the lash of the whip was on the backs of the working class, and thus to all eternity was symbolized the truth about the relationship of the classes!"