The Iron Heel
Part 5 out of 6
* Search as we may through all the material of those times that has
come down to us, we can find no clew to the Biedenbach here
referred to. No mention is made of him anywhere save in the
For nineteen years now the refuge that I selected had been almost
continuously occupied, and in all that time, with one exception, it
has never been discovered by an outsider. And yet it was only a
quarter of a mile from Wickson's hunting-lodge, and a short mile
from the village of Glen Ellen. I was able, always, to hear the
morning and evening trains arrive and depart, and I used to set my
watch by the whistle at the brickyards.*
* If the curious traveller will turn south from Glen Ellen, he will
find himself on a boulevard that is identical with the old country
road seven centuries ago. A quarter of a mile from Glen Ellen,
after the second bridge is passed, to the right will be noticed a
barranca that runs like a scar across the rolling land toward a
group of wooded knolls. The barranca is the site of the ancient
right of way that in the time of private property in land ran
across the holding of one Chauvet, a French pioneer of California
who came from his native country in the fabled days of gold. The
wooded knolls are the same knolls referred to by Avis Everhard.
The Great Earthquake of 2368 A.D. broke off the side of one of
these knolls and toppled it into the hole where the Everhards made
their refuge. Since the finding of the Manuscript excavations have
been made, and the house, the two cave rooms, and all the
accumulated rubbish of long occupancy have been brought to light.
Many valuable relics have been found, among which, curious to
relate, is the smoke-consuming device of Biedenbach's mentioned in
the narrative. Students interested in such matters should read the
brochure of Arnold Bentham soon to be published.
A mile northwest from the wooded knolls brings one to the site of
Wake Robin Lodge at the junction of Wild-Water and Sonoma Creeks.
It may be noticed, in passing, that Wild-Water was originally
called Graham Creek and was so named on the early local maps. But
the later name sticks. It was at Wake Robin Lodge that Avis
Everhard later lived for short periods, when, disguised as an
agent-provocateur of the Iron Heel, she was enabled to play with
impunity her part among men and events. The official permission to
occupy Wake Robin Lodge is still on the records, signed by no less
a man than Wickson, the minor oligarch of the Manuscript.
"You must make yourself over again," Ernest wrote to me. "You must
cease to be. You must become another woman--and not merely in the
clothes you wear, but inside your skin under the clothes. You must
make yourself over again so that even I would not know you--your
voice, your gestures, your mannerisms, your carriage, your walk,
This command I obeyed. Every day I practised for hours in burying
forever the old Avis Everhard beneath the skin of another woman
whom I may call my other self. It was only by long practice that
such results could be obtained. In the mere detail of voice
intonation I practised almost perpetually till the voice of my new
self became fixed, automatic. It was this automatic assumption of
a role that was considered imperative. One must become so adept as
to deceive oneself. It was like learning a new language, say the
French. At first speech in French is self-conscious, a matter of
the will. The student thinks in English and then transmutes into
French, or reads in French but transmutes into English before he
can understand. Then later, becoming firmly grounded, automatic,
the student reads, writes, and THINKS in French, without any
recourse to English at all.
And so with our disguises. It was necessary for us to practise
until our assumed roles became real; until to be our original
selves would require a watchful and strong exercise of will. Of
course, at first, much was mere blundering experiment. We were
creating a new art, and we had much to discover. But the work was
going on everywhere; masters in the art were developing, and a fund
of tricks and expedients was being accumulated. This fund became a
sort of text-book that was passed on, a part of the curriculum, as
it were, of the school of Revolution.*
* Disguise did become a veritable art during that period. The
revolutionists maintained schools of acting in all their refuges.
They scorned accessories, such as wigs and beards, false eyebrows,
and such aids of the theatrical actors. The game of revolution was
a game of life and death, and mere accessories were traps.
Disguise had to be fundamental, intrinsic, part and parcel of one's
being, second nature. The Red Virgin is reported to have been one
of the most adept in the art, to which must be ascribed her long
and successful career.
It was at this time that my father disappeared. His letters, which
had come to me regularly, ceased. He no longer appeared at our
Pell Street quarters. Our comrades sought him everywhere. Through
our secret service we ransacked every prison in the land. But he
was lost as completely as if the earth had swallowed him up, and to
this day no clew to his end has been discovered.*
* Disappearance was one of the horrors of the time. As a motif, in
song and story, it constantly crops up. It was an inevitable
concomitant of the subterranean warfare that raged through those
three centuries. This phenomenon was almost as common in the
oligarch class and the labor castes, as it was in the ranks of the
revolutionists. Without warning, without trace, men and women, and
even children, disappeared and were seen no more, their end
shrouded in mystery.
Six lonely months I spent in the refuge, but they were not idle
months. Our organization went on apace, and there were mountains
of work always waiting to be done. Ernest and his fellow-leaders,
from their prisons, decided what should be done; and it remained
for us on the outside to do it. There was the organization of the
mouth-to-mouth propaganda; the organization, with all its
ramifications, of our spy system; the establishment of our secret
printing-presses; and the establishment of our underground
railways, which meant the knitting together of all our myriads of
places of refuge, and the formation of new refuges where links were
missing in the chains we ran over all the land.
So I say, the work was never done. At the end of six months my
loneliness was broken by the arrival of two comrades. They were
young girls, brave souls and passionate lovers of liberty: Lora
Peterson, who disappeared in 1922, and Kate Bierce, who later
married Du Bois,* and who is still with us with eyes lifted to to-
morrow's sun, that heralds in the new age.
* Du Bois, the present librarian of Ardis, is a lineal descendant
of this revolutionary pair.
The two girls arrived in a flurry of excitement, danger, and sudden
death. In the crew of the fishing boat that conveyed them across
San Pablo Bay was a spy. A creature of the Iron Heel, he had
successfully masqueraded as a revolutionist and penetrated deep
into the secrets of our organization. Without doubt he was on my
trail, for we had long since learned that my disappearance had been
cause of deep concern to the secret service of the Oligarchy.
Luckily, as the outcome proved, he had not divulged his discoveries
to any one. He had evidently delayed reporting, preferring to wait
until he had brought things to a successful conclusion by
discovering my hiding-place and capturing me. His information died
with him. Under some pretext, after the girls had landed at
Petaluma Creek and taken to the horses, he managed to get away from
Part way up Sonoma Mountain, John Carlson let the girls go on,
leading his horse, while he went back on foot. His suspicions had
been aroused. He captured the spy, and as to what then happened,
Carlson gave us a fair idea.
"I fixed him," was Carlson's unimaginative way of describing the
affair. "I fixed him," he repeated, while a sombre light burnt in
his eyes, and his huge, toil-distorted hands opened and closed
eloquently. "He made no noise. I hid him, and tonight I will go
back and bury him deep."
During that period I used to marvel at my own metamorphosis. At
times it seemed impossible, either that I had ever lived a placid,
peaceful life in a college town, or else that I had become a
revolutionist inured to scenes of violence and death. One or the
other could not be. One was real, the other was a dream, but which
was which? Was this present life of a revolutionist, hiding in a
hole, a nightmare? or was I a revolutionist who had somewhere,
somehow, dreamed that in some former existence I have lived in
Berkeley and never known of life more violent than teas and dances,
debating societies, and lectures rooms? But then I suppose this
was a common experience of all of us who had rallied under the red
banner of the brotherhood of man.
I often remembered figures from that other life, and, curiously
enough, they appeared and disappeared, now and again, in my new
life. There was Bishop Morehouse. In vain we searched for him
after our organization had developed. He had been transferred from
asylum to asylum. We traced him from the state hospital for the
insane at Napa to the one in Stockton, and from there to the one in
the Santa Clara Valley called Agnews, and there the trail ceased.
There was no record of his death. In some way he must have
escaped. Little did I dream of the awful manner in which I was to
see him once again--the fleeting glimpse of him in the whirlwind
carnage of the Chicago Commune.
Jackson, who had lost his arm in the Sierra Mills and who had been
the cause of my own conversion into a revolutionist, I never saw
again; but we all knew what he did before he died. He never joined
the revolutionists. Embittered by his fate, brooding over his
wrongs, he became an anarchist--not a philosophic anarchist, but a
mere animal, mad with hate and lust for revenge. And well he
revenged himself. Evading the guards, in the nighttime while all
were asleep, he blew the Pertonwaithe palace into atoms. Not a
soul escaped, not even the guards. And in prison, while awaiting
trial, he suffocated himself under his blankets.
Dr. Hammerfield and Dr. Ballingford achieved quite different fates
from that of Jackson. They have been faithful to their salt, and
they have been correspondingly rewarded with ecclesiastical palaces
wherein they dwell at peace with the world. Both are apologists
for the Oligarchy. Both have grown very fat. "Dr. Hammerfield,"
as Ernest once said, "has succeeded in modifying his metaphysics so
as to give God's sanction to the Iron Heel, and also to include
much worship of beauty and to reduce to an invisible wraith the
gaseous vertebrate described by Haeckel--the difference between Dr.
Hammerfield and Dr. Ballingford being that the latter has made the
God of the oligarchs a little more gaseous and a little less
Peter Donnelly, the scab foreman at the Sierra Mills whom I
encountered while investigating the case of Jackson, was a surprise
to all of us. In 1918 I was present at a meeting of the 'Frisco
Reds. Of all our Fighting Groups this one was the most formidable,
ferocious, and merciless. It was really not a part of our
organization. Its members were fanatics, madmen. We dared not
encourage such a spirit. On the other hand, though they did not
belong to us, we remained on friendly terms with them. It was a
matter of vital importance that brought me there that night. I,
alone in the midst of a score of men, was the only person unmasked.
After the business that brought me there was transacted, I was led
away by one of them. In a dark passage this guide struck a match,
and, holding it close to his face, slipped back his mask. For a
moment I gazed upon the passion-wrought features of Peter Donnelly.
Then the match went out.
"I just wanted you to know it was me," he said in the darkness.
"D'you remember Dallas, the superintendent?"
I nodded at recollection of the vulpine-face superintendent of the
"Well, I got him first," Donnelly said with pride. "'Twas after
that I joined the Reds."
"But how comes it that you are here?" I queried. "Your wife and
"Dead," he answered. "That's why. No," he went on hastily, "'tis
not revenge for them. They died easily in their beds--sickness,
you see, one time and another. They tied my arms while they lived.
And now that they're gone, "'tis revenge for my blasted manhood I'm
after. I was once Peter Donnelly, the scab foreman. But to-night
I'm Number 27 of the 'Frisco Reds. Come on now, and I'll get you
out of this."
More I heard of him afterward. In his own way he had told the
truth when he said all were dead. But one lived, Timothy, and him
his father considered dead because he had taken service with the
Iron Heel in the Mercenaries.* A member of the 'Frisco Reds
pledged himself to twelve annual executions. The penalty for
failure was death. A member who failed to complete his number
committed suicide. These executions were not haphazard. This
group of madmen met frequently and passed wholesale judgments upon
offending members and servitors of the Oligarchy. The executions
were afterward apportioned by lot.
* In addition to the labor castes, there arose another caste, the
military. A standing army of professional soldiers was created,
officered by members of the Oligarchy and known as the Mercenaries.
This institution took the place of the militia, which had proved
impracticable under the new regime. Outside the regular secret
service of the Iron Heel, there was further established a secret
service of the Mercenaries, this latter forming a connecting link
between the police and the military.
In fact, the business that brought me there the night of my visit
was such a trial. One of our own comrades, who for years had
successfully maintained himself in a clerical position in the local
bureau of the secret service of the Iron Heel, had fallen under the
ban of the 'Frisco Reds and was being tried. Of course he was not
present, and of course his judges did not know that he was one of
our men. My mission had been to testify to his identity and
loyalty. It may be wondered how we came to know of the affair at
all. The explanation is simple. One of our secret agents was a
member of the 'Frisco Reds. It was necessary for us to keep an eye
on friend as well as foe, and this group of madmen was not too
unimportant to escape our surveillance.
But to return to Peter Donnelly and his son. All went well with
Donnelly until, in the following year, he found among the sheaf of
executions that fell to him the name of Timothy Donnelly. Then it
was that that clannishness, which was his to so extraordinary a
degree, asserted itself. To save his son, he betrayed his
comrades. In this he was partially blocked, but a dozen of the
'Frisco Reds were executed, and the group was well-nigh destroyed.
In retaliation, the survivors meted out to Donnelly the death he
had earned by his treason.
Nor did Timothy Donnelly long survive. The 'Frisco Reds pledged
themselves to his execution. Every effort was made by the
Oligarchy to save him. He was transferred from one part of the
country to another. Three of the Reds lost their lives in vain
efforts to get him. The Group was composed only of men. In the
end they fell back on a woman, one of our comrades, and none other
than Anna Roylston. Our Inner Circle forbade her, but she had ever
a will of her own and disdained discipline. Furthermore, she was a
genius and lovable, and we could never discipline her anyway. She
is in a class by herself and not amenable to the ordinary standards
of the revolutionists.
Despite our refusal to grant permission to do the deed, she went on
with it. Now Anna Roylston was a fascinating woman. All she had
to do was to beckon a man to her. She broke the hearts of scores
of our young comrades, and scores of others she captured, and by
their heart-strings led into our organization. Yet she steadfastly
refused to marry. She dearly loved children, but she held that a
child of her own would claim her from the Cause, and that it was
the Cause to which her life was devoted.
It was an easy task for Anna Roylston to win Timothy Donnelly. Her
conscience did not trouble her, for at that very time occurred the
Nashville Massacre, when the Mercenaries, Donnelly in command,
literally murdered eight hundred weavers of that city. But she did
not kill Donnelly. She turned him over, a prisoner, to the 'Frisco
Reds. This happened only last year, and now she had been renamed.
The revolutionists everywhere are calling her the "Red Virgin."*
* It was not until the Second Revolt was crushed, that the 'Frisco
Reds flourished again. And for two generations the Group
flourished. Then an agent of the Iron Heel managed to become a
member, penetrated all its secrets, and brought about its total
annihilation. This occurred in 2002 A.D. The members were
executed one at a time, at intervals of three weeks, and their
bodies exposed in the labor-ghetto of San Francisco.
Colonel Ingram and Colonel Van Gilbert are two more familiar
figures that I was later to encounter. Colonel Ingram rose high in
the Oligarchy and became Minister to Germany. He was cordially
detested by the proletariat of both countries. It was in Berlin
that I met him, where, as an accredited international spy of the
Iron Heel, I was received by him and afforded much assistance.
Incidentally, I may state that in my dual role I managed a few
important things for the Revolution.
Colonel Van Gilbert became known as "Snarling" Van Gilbert. His
important part was played in drafting the new code after the
Chicago Commune. But before that, as trial judge, he had earned
sentence of death by his fiendish malignancy. I was one of those
that tried him and passed sentence upon him. Anna Roylston carried
out the execution.
Still another figure arises out of the old life--Jackson's lawyer.
Least of all would I have expected again to meet this man, Joseph
Hurd. It was a strange meeting. Late at night, two years after
the Chicago Commune, Ernest and I arrived together at the Benton
Harbor refuge. This was in Michigan, across the lake from Chicago.
We arrived just at the conclusion of the trial of a spy. Sentence
of death had been passed, and he was being led away. Such was the
scene as we came upon it. The next moment the wretched man had
wrenched free from his captors and flung himself at my feet, his
arms clutching me about the knees in a vicelike grip as he prayed
in a frenzy for mercy. As he turned his agonized face up to me, I
recognized him as Joseph Hurd. Of all the terrible things I have
witnessed, never have I been so unnerved as by this frantic
creature's pleading for life. He was mad for life. It was
pitiable. He refused to let go of me, despite the hands of a dozen
comrades. And when at last he was dragged shrieking away, I sank
down fainting upon the floor. It is far easier to see brave men
die than to hear a coward beg for life.*
* The Benton Harbor refuge was a catacomb, the entrance of which
was cunningly contrived by way of a well. It has been maintained
in a fair state of preservation, and the curious visitor may to-day
tread its labyrinths to the assembly hall, where, without doubt,
occurred the scene described by Avis Everhard. Farther on are the
cells where the prisoners were confined, and the death chamber
where the executions took place. Beyond is the cemetery--long,
winding galleries hewn out of the solid rock, with recesses on
either hand, wherein, tier above tier, lie the revolutionists just
as they were laid away by their comrades long years agone.
A LOST OLIGARCH
But in remembering the old life I have run ahead of my story into
the new life. The wholesale jail delivery did not occur until well
along into 1915. Complicated as it was, it was carried through
without a hitch, and as a very creditable achievement it cheered us
on in our work. From Cuba to California, out of scores of jails,
military prisons, and fortresses, in a single night, we delivered
fifty-one of our fifty-two Congressmen, and in addition over three
hundred other leaders. There was not a single instance of
miscarriage. Not only did they escape, but every one of them won
to the refuges as planned. The one comrade Congressman we did not
get was Arthur Simpson, and he had already died in Cabanas after
The eighteen months that followed was perhaps the happiest of my
life with Ernest. During that time we were never apart. Later,
when we went back into the world, we were separated much. Not more
impatiently do I await the flame of to-morrow's revolt than did I
that night await the coming of Ernest. I had not seen him for so
long, and the thought of a possible hitch or error in our plans
that would keep him still in his island prison almost drove me mad.
The hours passed like ages. I was all alone. Biedenbach, and
three young men who had been living in the refuge, were out and
over the mountain, heavily armed and prepared for anything. The
refuges all over the land were quite empty, I imagine, of comrades
Just as the sky paled with the first warning of dawn, I heard the
signal from above and gave the answer. In the darkness I almost
embraced Biedenbach, who came down first; but the next moment I was
in Ernest's arms. And in that moment, so complete had been my
transformation, I discovered it was only by an effort of will that
I could be the old Avis Everhard, with the old mannerisms and
smiles, phrases and intonations of voice. It was by strong effort
only that I was able to maintain my old identity; I could not allow
myself to forget for an instant, so automatically imperative had
become the new personality I had created.
Once inside the little cabin, I saw Ernest's face in the light.
With the exception of the prison pallor, there was no change in
him--at least, not much. He was my same lover-husband and hero.
And yet there was a certain ascetic lengthening of the lines of his
face. But he could well stand it, for it seemed to add a certain
nobility of refinement to the riotous excess of life that had
always marked his features. He might have been a trifle graver
than of yore, but the glint of laughter still was in his eyes. He
was twenty pounds lighter, but in splendid physical condition. He
had kept up exercise during the whole period of confinement, and
his muscles were like iron. In truth, he was in better condition
than when he had entered prison. Hours passed before his head
touched pillow and I had soothed him off to sleep. But there was
no sleep for me. I was too happy, and the fatigue of jail-breaking
and riding horseback had not been mine.
While Ernest slept, I changed my dress, arranged my hair
differently, and came back to my new automatic self. Then, when
Biedenbach and the other comrades awoke, with their aid I concocted
a little conspiracy. All was ready, and we were in the cave-room
that served for kitchen and dining room when Ernest opened the door
and entered. At that moment Biedenbach addressed me as Mary, and I
turned and answered him. Then I glanced at Ernest with curious
interest, such as any young comrade might betray on seeing for the
first time so noted a hero of the Revolution. But Ernest's glance
took me in and questioned impatiently past and around the room.
The next moment I was being introduced to him as Mary Holmes.
To complete the deception, an extra plate was laid, and when we sat
down to table one chair was not occupied. I could have cried with
joy as I noted Ernest's increasing uneasiness and impatience.
Finally he could stand it no longer.
"Where's my wife?" he demanded bluntly.
"She is still asleep," I answered.
It was the crucial moment. But my voice was a strange voice, and
in it he recognized nothing familiar. The meal went on. I talked
a great deal, and enthusiastically, as a hero-worshipper might
talk, and it was obvious that he was my hero. I rose to a climax
of enthusiasm and worship, and, before he could guess my intention,
threw my arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips. He held
me from him at arm's length and stared about in annoyance and
perplexity. The four men greeted him with roars of laughter, and
explanations were made. At first he was sceptical. He scrutinized
me keenly and was half convinced, then shook his head and would not
believe. It was not until I became the old Avis Everhard and
whispered secrets in his ear that none knew but he and Avis
Everhard, that he accepted me as his really, truly wife.
It was later in the day that he took me in his arms, manifesting
great embarrassment and claiming polygamous emotions.
"You are my Avis," he said, and you are also some one else. You
are two women, and therefore you are my harem. At any rate, we are
safe now. If the United States becomes too hot for us, why I have
qualified for citizenship in Turkey."*
* At that time polygamy was still practised in Turkey.
Life became for me very happy in the refuge. It is true, we worked
hard and for long hours; but we worked together. We had each other
for eighteen precious months, and we were not lonely, for there was
always a coming and going of leaders and comrades--strange voices
from the under-world of intrigue and revolution, bringing stranger
tales of strife and war from all our battle-line. And there was
much fun and delight. We were not mere gloomy conspirators. We
toiled hard and suffered greatly, filled the gaps in our ranks and
went on, and through all the labour and the play and interplay of
life and death we found time to laugh and love. There were
artists, scientists, scholars, musicians, and poets among us; and
in that hole in the ground culture was higher and finer than in the
palaces of wonder-cities of the oligarchs. In truth, many of our
comrades toiled at making beautiful those same palaces and wonder-
* This is not braggadocio on the part of Avis Everhard. The flower
of the artistic and intellectual world were revolutionists. With
the exception of a few of the musicians and singers, and of a few
of the oligarchs, all the great creators of the period whose names
have come down to us, were revolutionists.
Nor were we confined to the refuge itself. Often at night we rode
over the mountains for exercise, and we rode on Wickson's horses.
If only he knew how many revolutionists his horses have carried!
We even went on picnics to isolated spots we knew, where we
remained all day, going before daylight and returning after dark.
Also, we used Wickson's cream and butter,* and Ernest was not above
shooting Wickson's quail and rabbits, and, on occasion, his young
* Even as late as that period, cream and butter were still crudely
extracted from cow's milk. The laboratory preparation of foods had
not yet begun.
Indeed, it was a safe refuge. I have said that it was discovered
only once, and this brings me to the clearing up of the mystery of
the disappearance of young Wickson. Now that he is dead, I am free
to speak. There was a nook on the bottom of the great hole where
the sun shone for several hours and which was hidden from above.
Here we had carried many loads of gravel from the creek-bed, so
that it was dry and warm, a pleasant basking place; and here, one
afternoon, I was drowsing, half asleep, over a volume of
Mendenhall.* I was so comfortable and secure that even his flaming
lyrics failed to stir me.
* In all the extant literature and documents of that period,
continual reference is made to the poems of Rudolph Mendenhall. By
his comrades he was called "The Flame." He was undoubtedly a great
genius; yet, beyond weird and haunting fragments of his verse,
quoted in the writings of others, nothing of his has come down to
us. He was executed by the Iron Heel in 1928 A.D.
I was aroused by a clod of earth striking at my feet. Then from
above, I heard a sound of scrambling. The next moment a young man,
with a final slide down the crumbling wall, alighted at my feet.
It was Philip Wickson, though I did not know him at the time. He
looked at me coolly and uttered a low whistle of surprise.
"Well," he said; and the next moment, cap in hand, he was saying,
"I beg your pardon. I did not expect to find any one here."
I was not so cool. I was still a tyro so far as concerned knowing
how to behave in desperate circumstances. Later on, when I was an
international spy, I should have been less clumsy, I am sure. As
it was, I scrambled to my feet and cried out the danger call.
"Why did you do that?" he asked, looking at me searchingly.
It was evident that he had no suspicion of our presence when making
the descent. I recognized this with relief.
"For what purpose do you think I did it?" I countered. I was
indeed clumsy in those days.
"I don't know," he answered, shaking his head. "Unless you've got
friends about. Anyway, you've got some explanations to make. I
don't like the look of it. You are trespassing. This is my
father's land, and--"
But at that moment, Biedenbach, every polite and gentle, said from
behind him in a low voice, "Hands up, my young sir."
Young Wickson put his hands up first, then turned to confront
Biedenbach, who held a thirty-thirty automatic rifle on him.
Wickson was imperturbable.
"Oh, ho," he said, "a nest of revolutionists--and quite a hornet's
nest it would seem. Well, you won't abide here long, I can tell
"Maybe you'll abide here long enough to reconsider that statement,"
Biedenbach said quietly. "And in the meanwhile I must ask you to
come inside with me"
"Inside?" The young man was genuinely astonished. "Have you a
catacomb here? I have heard of such things."
"Come and see," Biedenbach answered with his adorable accent.
"But it is unlawful," was the protest.
"Yes, by your law," the terrorist replied significantly. "But by
our law, believe me, it is quite lawful. You must accustom
yourself to the fact that you are in another world than the one of
oppression and brutality in which you have lived."
"There is room for argument there," Wickson muttered.
"Then stay with us and discuss it."
The young fellow laughed and followed his captor into the house.
He was led into the inner cave-room, and one of the young comrades
left to guard him, while we discussed the situation in the kitchen.
Biedenbach, with tears in his eyes, held that Wickson must die, and
was quite relieved when we outvoted him and his horrible
proposition. On the other hand, we could not dream of allowing the
young oligarch to depart.
"I'll tell you what to do," Ernest said. "We'll keep him and give
him an education."
"I bespeak the privilege, then, of enlightening him in
jurisprudence, Biedenbach cried.
And so a decision was laughingly reached. We would keep Philip
Wickson a prisoner and educate him in our ethics and sociology.
But in the meantime there was work to be done. All trace of the
young oligarch must be obliterated. There were the marks he had
left when descending the crumbling wall of the hole. This task
fell to Biedenbach, and, slung on a rope from above, he toiled
cunningly for the rest of the day till no sign remained. Back up
the canyon from the lip of the hole all marks were likewise
removed. Then, at twilight, came John Carlson, who demanded
The young man did not want to give up his shoes, and even offered
to fight for them, till he felt the horseshoer's strength in
Ernest's hands. Carlson afterward reported several blisters and
much grievous loss of skin due to the smallness of the shoes, but
he succeeded in doing gallant work with them. Back from the lip of
the hole, where ended the young man's obliterated trial, Carlson
put on the shoes and walked away to the left. He walked for miles,
around knolls, over ridges and through canyons, and finally covered
the trail in the running water of a creek-bed. Here he removed the
shoes, and, still hiding trail for a distance, at last put on his
own shoes. A week later Wickson got back his shoes.
That night the hounds were out, and there was little sleep in the
refuge. Next day, time and again, the baying hounds came down the
canyon, plunged off to the left on the trail Carlson had made for
them, and were lost to ear in the farther canyons high up the
mountain. And all the time our men waited in the refuge, weapons
in hand--automatic revolvers and rifles, to say nothing of half a
dozen infernal machines of Biedenbach's manufacture. A more
surprised party of rescuers could not be imagined, had they
ventured down into our hiding-place.
I have now given the true disappearance of Philip Wickson, one-time
oligarch, and, later, comrade in the Revolution. For we converted
him in the end. His mind was fresh and plastic, and by nature he
was very ethical. Several months later we rode him, on one of his
father's horses, over Sonoma Mountains to Petaluma Creek and
embarked him in a small fishing-launch. By easy stages we smuggled
him along our underground railway to the Carmel refuge.
There he remained eight months, at the end of which time, for two
reasons, he was loath to leave us. One reason was that he had
fallen in love with Anna Roylston, and the other was that he had
become one of us. It was not until he became convinced of the
hopelessness of his love affair that he acceded to our wishes and
went back to his father. Ostensibly an oligarch until his death,
he was in reality one of the most valuable of our agents. Often
and often has the Iron Heel been dumbfounded by the miscarriage of
its plans and operations against us. If it but knew the number of
its own members who are our agents, it would understand. Young
Wickson never wavered in his loyalty to the Cause. In truth, his
very death was incurred by his devotion to duty. In the great
storm of 1927, while attending a meeting of our leaders, he
contracted the pneumonia of which he died.*
* The case of this young man was not unusual. Many young men of
the Oligarchy, impelled by sense of right conduct, or their
imaginations captured by the glory of the Revolution, ethically or
romantically devoted their lives to it. In similar way, many sons
of the Russian nobility played their parts in the earlier and
protracted revolution in that country.
THE ROARING ABYSMAL BEAST
During the long period of our stay in the refuge, we were kept
closely in touch with what was happening in the world without, and
we were learning thoroughly the strength of the Oligarchy with
which we were at war. Out of the flux of transition the new
institutions were forming more definitely and taking on the
appearance and attributes of permanence. The oligarchs had
succeeded in devising a governmental machine, as intricate as it
was vast, that worked--and this despite all our efforts to clog and
This was a surprise to many of the revolutionists. They had not
conceived it possible. Nevertheless the work of the country went
on. The men toiled in the mines and fields--perforce they were no
more than slaves. As for the vital industries, everything
prospered. The members of the great labor castes were contented
and worked on merrily. For the first time in their lives they knew
industrial peace. No more were they worried by slack times, strike
and lockout, and the union label. They lived in more comfortable
homes and in delightful cities of their own--delightful compared
with the slums and ghettos in which they had formerly dwelt. They
had better food to eat, less hours of labor, more holidays, and a
greater amount and variety of interests and pleasures. And for
their less fortunate brothers and sisters, the unfavored laborers,
the driven people of the abyss, they cared nothing. An age of
selfishness was dawning upon mankind. And yet this is not
altogether true. The labor castes were honeycombed by our agents--
men whose eyes saw, beyond the belly-need, the radiant figure of
liberty and brotherhood.
Another great institution that had taken form and was working
smoothly was the Mercenaries. This body of soldiers had been
evolved out of the old regular army and was now a million strong,
to say nothing of the colonial forces. The Mercenaries constituted
a race apart. They dwelt in cities of their own which were
practically self-governed, and they were granted many privileges.
By them a large portion of the perplexing surplus was consumed.
They were losing all touch and sympathy with the rest of the
people, and, in fact, were developing their own class morality and
consciousness. And yet we had thousands of our agents among them.*
* The Mercenaries, in the last days of the Iron Heel, played an
important role. They constituted the balance of power in the
struggles between the labor castes and the oligarchs, and now to
one side and now to the other, threw their strength according to
the play of intrigue and conspiracy.
The oligarchs themselves were going through a remarkable and, it
must be confessed, unexpected development. As a class, they
disciplined themselves. Every member had his work to do in the
world, and this work he was compelled to do. There were no more
idle-rich young men. Their strength was used to give united
strength to the Oligarchy. They served as leaders of troops and as
lieutenants and captains of industry. They found careers in
applied science, and many of them became great engineers. They
went into the multitudinous divisions of the government, took
service in the colonial possessions, and by tens of thousands went
into the various secret services. They were, I may say,
apprenticed to education, to art, to the church, to science, to
literature; and in those fields they served the important function
of moulding the thought-processes of the nation in the direction of
the perpetuity of the Oligarchy.
They were taught, and later they in turn taught, that what they
were doing was right. They assimilated the aristocratic idea from
the moment they began, as children, to receive impressions of the
world. The aristocratic idea was woven into the making of them
until it became bone of them and flesh of them. They looked upon
themselves as wild-animal trainers, rulers of beasts. From beneath
their feet rose always the subterranean rumbles of revolt. Violent
death ever stalked in their midst; bomb and knife and bullet were
looked upon as so many fangs of the roaring abysmal beast they must
dominate if humanity were to persist. They were the saviours of
humanity, and they regarded themselves as heroic and sacrificing
laborers for the highest good.
They, as a class, believed that they alone maintained civilization.
It was their belief that if ever they weakened, the great beast
would ingulf them and everything of beauty and wonder and joy and
good in its cavernous and slime-dripping maw. Without them,
anarchy would reign and humanity would drop backward into the
primitive night out of which it had so painfully emerged. The
horrid picture of anarchy was held always before their child's eyes
until they, in turn, obsessed by this cultivated fear, held the
picture of anarchy before the eyes of the children that followed
them. This was the beast to be stamped upon, and the highest duty
of the aristocrat was to stamp upon it. In short, they alone, by
their unremitting toil and sacrifice, stood between weak humanity
and the all-devouring beast; and they believed it, firmly believed
I cannot lay too great stress upon this high ethical righteousness
of the whole oligarch class. This has been the strength of the
Iron Heel, and too many of the comrades have been slow or loath to
realize it. Many of them have ascribed the strength of the Iron
Heel to its system of reward and punishment. This is a mistake.
Heaven and hell may be the prime factors of zeal in the religion of
a fanatic; but for the great majority of the religious, heaven and
hell are incidental to right and wrong. Love of the right, desire
for the right, unhappiness with anything less than the right--in
short, right conduct, is the prime factor of religion. And so with
the Oligarchy. Prisons, banishment and degradation, honors and
palaces and wonder-cities, are all incidental. The great driving
force of the oligarchs is the belief that they are doing right.
Never mind the exceptions, and never mind the oppression and
injustice in which the Iron Heel was conceived. All is granted.
The point is that the strength of the Oligarchy today lies in its
satisfied conception of its own righteousness.*
* Out of the ethical incoherency and inconsistency of capitalism,
the oligarchs emerged with a new ethics, coherent and definite,
sharp and severe as steel, the most absurd and unscientific and at
the same time the most potent ever possessed by any tyrant class.
The oligarchs believed their ethics, in spite of the fact that
biology and evolution gave them the lie; and, because of their
faith, for three centuries they were able to hold back the mighty
tide of human progress--a spectacle, profound, tremendous, puzzling
to the metaphysical moralist, and one that to the materialist is
the cause of many doubts and reconsiderations.
For that matter, the strength of the Revolution, during these
frightful twenty years, has resided in nothing else than the sense
of righteousness. In no other way can be explained our sacrifices
and martyrdoms. For no other reason did Rudolph Mendenhall flame
out his soul for the Cause and sing his wild swan-song that last
night of life. For no other reason did Hurlbert die under torture,
refusing to the last to betray his comrades. For no other reason
has Anna Roylston refused blessed motherhood. For no other reason
has John Carlson been the faithful and unrewarded custodian of the
Glen Ellen Refuge. It does not matter, young or old, man or woman,
high or low, genius or clod, go where one will among the comrades
of the Revolution, the motor-force will be found to be a great and
abiding desire for the right.
But I have run away from my narrative. Ernest and I well
understood, before we left the refuge, how the strength of the Iron
Heel was developing. The labor castes, the Mercenaries, and the
great hordes of secret agents and police of various sorts were all
pledged to the Oligarchy. In the main, and ignoring the loss of
liberty, they were better off than they had been. On the other
hand, the great helpless mass of the population, the people of the
abyss, was sinking into a brutish apathy of content with misery.
Whenever strong proletarians asserted their strength in the midst
of the mass, they were drawn away from the mass by the oligarchs
and given better conditions by being made members of the labor
castes or of the Mercenaries. Thus discontent was lulled and the
proletariat robbed of its natural leaders.
The condition of the people of the abyss was pitiable. Common
school education, so far as they were concerned, had ceased. They
lived like beasts in great squalid labor-ghettos, festering in
misery and degradation. All their old liberties were gone. They
were labor-slaves. Choice of work was denied them. Likewise was
denied them the right to move from place to place, or the right to
bear or possess arms. They were not land serfs like the farmers.
They were machine-serfs and labor-serfs. When unusual needs arose
for them, such as the building of the great highways and air-lines,
of canals, tunnels, subways, and fortifications, levies were made
on the labor-ghettos, and tens of thousands of serfs, willy-nilly,
were transported to the scene of operations. Great armies of them
are toiling now at the building of Ardis, housed in wretched
barracks where family life cannot exist, and where decency is
displaced by dull bestiality. In all truth, there in the labor-
ghettos is the roaring abysmal beast the oligarchs fear so
dreadfully--but it is the beast of their own making. In it they
will not let the ape and tiger die.
And just now the word has gone forth that new levies are being
imposed for the building of Asgard, the projected wonder-city that
will far exceed Ardis when the latter is completed.* We of the
Revolution will go on with that great work, but it will not be done
by the miserable serfs. The walls and towers and shafts of that
fair city will arise to the sound of singing, and into its beauty
and wonder will be woven, not sighs and groans, but music and
* Ardis was completed in 1942 A.D., Asgard was not completed until
1984 A.D. It was fifty-two years in the building, during which
time a permanent army of half a million serfs was employed. At
times these numbers swelled to over a million--without any account
being taken of the hundreds of thousands of the labor castes and
Ernest was madly impatient to be out in the world and doing, for
our ill-fated First Revolt, that had miscarried in the Chicago
Commune, was ripening fast. Yet he possessed his soul with
patience, and during this time of his torment, when Hadly, who had
been brought for the purpose from Illinois, made him over into
another man* he revolved great plans in his head for the
organization of the learned proletariat, and for the maintenance of
at least the rudiments of education amongst the people of the
abyss--all this of course in the event of the First Revolt being a
* Among the Revolutionists were many surgeons, and in vivisection
they attained marvellous proficiency. In Avis Everhard's words,
they could literally make a man over. To them the elimination of
scars and disfigurements was a trivial detail. They changed the
features with such microscopic care that no traces were left of
their handiwork. The nose was a favorite organ to work upon.
Skin-grafting and hair-transplanting were among their commonest
devices. The changes in expression they accomplished were wizard-
like. Eyes and eyebrows, lips, mouths, and ears, were radically
altered. By cunning operations on tongue, throat, larynx, and
nasal cavities a man's whole enunciation and manner of speech could
be changed. Desperate times give need for desperate remedies, and
the surgeons of the Revolution rose to the need. Among other
things, they could increase an adult's stature by as much as four
or five inches and decrease it by one or two inches. What they did
is to-day a lost art. We have no need for it.
It was not until January, 1917, that we left the refuge. All had
been arranged. We took our place at once as agents-provocateurs in
the scheme of the Iron Heel. I was supposed to be Ernest's sister.
By oligarchs and comrades on the inside who were high in authority,
place had been made for us, we were in possession of all necessary
documents, and our pasts were accounted for. With help on the
inside, this was not difficult, for in that shadow-world of secret
service identity was nebulous. Like ghosts the agents came and
went, obeying commands, fulfilling duties, following clews, making
their reports often to officers they never saw or cooperating with
other agents they had never seen before and would never see again.
THE CHICAGO COMMUNE
As agents-provocateurs, not alone were we able to travel a great
deal, but our very work threw us in contact with the proletariat
and with our comrades, the revolutionists. Thus we were in both
camps at the same time, ostensibly serving the Iron Heel and
secretly working with all our might for the Cause. There were many
of us in the various secret services of the Oligarchy, and despite
the shakings-up and reorganizations the secret services have
undergone, they have never been able to weed all of us out.
Ernest had largely planned the First Revolt, and the date set had
been somewhere early in the spring of 1918. In the fall of 1917 we
were not ready; much remained to be done, and when the Revolt was
precipitated, of course it was doomed to failure. The plot of
necessity was frightfully intricate, and anything premature was
sure to destroy it. This the Iron Heel foresaw and laid its
We had planned to strike our first blow at the nervous system of
the Oligarchy. The latter had remembered the general strike, and
had guarded against the defection of the telegraphers by installing
wireless stations, in the control of the Mercenaries. We, in turn,
had countered this move. When the signal was given, from every
refuge, all over the land, and from the cities, and towns, and
barracks, devoted comrades were to go forth and blow up the
wireless stations. Thus at the first shock would the Iron Heel be
brought to earth and lie practically dismembered.
At the same moment, other comrades were to blow up the bridges and
tunnels and disrupt the whole network of railroads. Still further,
other groups of comrades, at the signal, were to seize the officers
of the Mercenaries and the police, as well as all Oligarchs of
unusual ability or who held executive positions. Thus would the
leaders of the enemy be removed from the field of the local battles
that would inevitably be fought all over the land.
Many things were to occur simultaneously when the signal went
forth. The Canadian and Mexican patriots, who were far stronger
than the Iron Heel dreamed, were to duplicate our tactics. Then
there were comrades (these were the women, for the men would be
busy elsewhere) who were to post the proclamations from our secret
presses. Those of us in the higher employ of the Iron Heel were to
proceed immediately to make confusion and anarchy in all our
departments. Inside the Mercenaries were thousands of our
comrades. Their work was to blow up the magazines and to destroy
the delicate mechanism of all the war machinery. In the cities of
the Mercenaries and of the labor castes similar programmes of
disruption were to be carried out.
In short, a sudden, colossal, stunning blow was to be struck.
Before the paralyzed Oligarchy could recover itself, its end would
have come. It would have meant terrible times and great loss of
life, but no revolutionist hesitates at such things. Why, we even
depended much, in our plan, on the unorganized people of the abyss.
They were to be loosed on the palaces and cities of the masters.
Never mind the destruction of life and property. Let the abysmal
brute roar and the police and Mercenaries slay. The abysmal brute
would roar anyway, and the police and Mercenaries would slay
anyway. It would merely mean that various dangers to us were
harmlessly destroying one another. In the meantime we would be
doing our own work, largely unhampered, and gaining control of all
the machinery of society.
Such was our plan, every detail of which had to be worked out in
secret, and, as the day drew near, communicated to more and more
comrades. This was the danger point, the stretching of the
conspiracy. But that danger-point was never reached. Through its
spy-system the Iron Heel got wind of the Revolt and prepared to
teach us another of its bloody lessons. Chicago was the devoted
city selected for the instruction, and well were we instructed.
Chicago* was the ripest of all--Chicago which of old time was the
city of blood and which was to earn anew its name. There the
revolutionary spirit was strong. Too many bitter strikes had been
curbed there in the days of capitalism for the workers to forget
and forgive. Even the labor castes of the city were alive with
revolt. Too many heads had been broken in the early strikes.
Despite their changed and favorable conditions, their hatred for
the master class had not died. This spirit had infected the
Mercenaries, of which three regiments in particular were ready to
come over to us en masse.
* Chicago was the industrial inferno of the nineteenth century A.D.
A curious anecdote has come down to us of John Burns, a great
English labor leader and one time member of the British Cabinet.
In Chicago, while on a visit to the United States, he was asked by
a newspaper reporter for his opinion of that city. "Chicago," he
answered, "is a pocket edition of hell." Some time later, as he
was going aboard his steamer to sail to England, he was approached
by another reporter, who wanted to know if he had changed his
opinion of Chicago. "Yes, I have," was his reply. "My present
opinion is that hell is a pocket edition of Chicago."
Chicago had always been the storm-centre of the conflict between
labor and capital, a city of street-battles and violent death, with
a class-conscious capitalist organization and a class-conscious
workman organization, where, in the old days, the very school-
teachers were formed into labor unions and affiliated with the hod-
carriers and brick-layers in the American Federation of Labor. And
Chicago became the storm-centre of the premature First Revolt.
The trouble was precipitated by the Iron Heel. It was cleverly
done. The whole population, including the favored labor castes,
was given a course of outrageous treatment. Promises and
agreements were broken, and most drastic punishments visited upon
even petty offenders. The people of the abyss were tormented out
of their apathy. In fact, the Iron Heel was preparing to make the
abysmal beast roar. And hand in hand with this, in all
precautionary measures in Chicago, the Iron Heel was inconceivably
careless. Discipline was relaxed among the Mercenaries that
remained, while many regiments had been withdrawn and sent to
various parts of the country.
It did not take long to carry out this programme--only several
weeks. We of the Revolution caught vague rumors of the state of
affairs, but had nothing definite enough for an understanding. In
fact, we thought it was a spontaneous spirit of revolt that would
require careful curbing on our part, and never dreamed that it was
deliberately manufactured--and it had been manufactured so
secretly, from the very innermost circle of the Iron Heel, that we
had got no inkling. The counter-plot was an able achievement, and
ably carried out.
I was in New York when I received the order to proceed immediately
to Chicago. The man who gave me the order was one of the
oligarchs, I could tell that by his speech, though I did not know
his name nor see his face. His instructions were too clear for me
to make a mistake. Plainly I read between the lines that our plot
had been discovered, that we had been countermined. The explosion
was ready for the flash of powder, and countless agents of the Iron
Heel, including me, either on the ground or being sent there, were
to supply that flash. I flatter myself that I maintained my
composure under the keen eye of the oligarch, but my heart was
beating madly. I could almost have shrieked and flown at his
throat with my naked hands before his final, cold-blooded
instructions were given.
Once out of his presence, I calculated the time. I had just the
moments to spare, if I were lucky, to get in touch with some local
leader before catching my train. Guarding against being trailed, I
made a rush of it for the Emergency Hospital. Luck was with me,
and I gained access at once to comrade Galvin, the surgeon-in-
chief. I started to gasp out my information, but he stopped me.
"I already know," he said quietly, though his Irish eyes were
flashing. "I knew what you had come for. I got the word fifteen
minutes ago, and I have already passed it along. Everything shall
be done here to keep the comrades quiet. Chicago is to be
sacrificed, but it shall be Chicago alone."
"Have you tried to get word to Chicago?" I asked.
He shook his head. "No telegraphic communication. Chicago is shut
off. It's going to be hell there."
He paused a moment, and I saw his white hands clinch. Then he
"By God! I wish I were going to be there!"
"There is yet a chance to stop it," I said, "if nothing happens to
the train and I can get there in time. Or if some of the other
secret-service comrades who have learned the truth can get there in
"You on the inside were caught napping this time," he said.
I nodded my head humbly.
"It was very secret," I answered. "Only the inner chiefs could
have known up to to-day. We haven't yet penetrated that far, so we
couldn't escape being kept in the dark. If only Ernest were here.
Maybe he is in Chicago now, and all is well."
Dr. Galvin shook his head. "The last news I heard of him was that
he had been sent to Boston or New Haven. This secret service for
the enemy must hamper him a lot, but it's better than lying in a
I started to go, and Galvin wrung my hand.
"Keep a stout heart," were his parting words. "What if the First
Revolt is lost? There will be a second, and we will be wiser then.
Good-by and good luck. I don't know whether I'll ever see you
again. It's going to be hell there, but I'd give ten years of my
life for your chance to be in it."
The Twentieth Century* left New York at six in the evening, and was
supposed to arrive at Chicago at seven next morning. But it lost
time that night. We were running behind another train. Among the
travellers in my Pullman was comrade Hartman, like myself in the
secret service of the Iron Heel. He it was who told me of the
train that immediately preceded us. It was an exact duplicate of
our train, though it contained no passengers. The idea was that
the empty train should receive the disaster were an attempt made to
blow up the Twentieth Century. For that matter there were very few
people on the train--only a baker's dozen in our car.
* This was reputed to be the fastest train in the world then. It
was quite a famous train.
"There must be some big men on board," Hartman concluded. "I
noticed a private car on the rear."
Night had fallen when we made our first change of engine, and I
walked down the platform for a breath of fresh air and to see what
I could see. Through the windows of the private car I caught a
glimpse of three men whom I recognized. Hartman was right. One of
the men was General Altendorff; and the other two were Mason and
Vanderbold, the brains of the inner circle of the Oligarchy's
It was a quiet moonlight night, but I tossed restlessly and could
not sleep. At five in the morning I dressed and abandoned my bed.
I asked the maid in the dressing-room how late the train was, and
she told me two hours. She was a mulatto woman, and I noticed that
her face was haggard, with great circles under the eyes, while the
eyes themselves were wide with some haunting fear.
"What is the matter?" I asked.
"Nothing, miss; I didn't sleep well, I guess," was her reply.
I looked at her closely, and tried her with one of our signals.
She responded, and I made sure of her.
"Something terrible is going to happen in Chicago," she said.
"There's that fake* train in front of us. That and the troop-
trains have made us late."
"Troop-trains?" I queried.
She nodded her head. "The line is thick with them. We've been
passing them all night. And they're all heading for Chicago. And
bringing them over the air-line--that means business.
"I've a lover in Chicago," she added apologetically. "He's one of
us, and he's in the Mercenaries, and I'm afraid for him."
Poor girl. Her lover was in one of the three disloyal regiments.
Hartman and I had breakfast together in the dining car, and I
forced myself to eat. The sky had clouded, and the train rushed on
like a sullen thunderbolt through the gray pall of advancing day.
The very negroes that waited on us knew that something terrible was
impending. Oppression sat heavily upon them; the lightness of
their natures had ebbed out of them; they were slack and absent-
minded in their service, and they whispered gloomily to one another
in the far end of the car next to the kitchen. Hartman was
hopeless over the situation.
"What can we do?" he demanded for the twentieth time, with a
helpless shrug of the shoulders.
He pointed out of the window. "See, all is ready. You can depend
upon it that they're holding them like this, thirty or forty miles
outside the city, on every road."
He had reference to troop-trains on the side-track. The soldiers
were cooking their breakfasts over fires built on the ground beside
the track, and they looked up curiously at us as we thundered past
without slackening our terrific speed.
All was quiet as we entered Chicago. It was evident nothing had
happened yet. In the suburbs the morning papers came on board the
train. There was nothing in them, and yet there was much in them
for those skilled in reading between the lines that it was intended
the ordinary reader should read into the text. The fine hand of
the Iron Heel was apparent in every column. Glimmerings of
weakness in the armor of the Oligarchy were given. Of course,
there was nothing definite. It was intended that the reader should
feel his way to these glimmerings. It was cleverly done. As
fiction, those morning papers of October 27th were masterpieces.
The local news was missing. This in itself was a masterstroke. It
shrouded Chicago in mystery, and it suggested to the average
Chicago reader that the Oligarchy did not dare give the local news.
Hints that were untrue, of course, were given of insubordination
all over the land, crudely disguised with complacent references to
punitive measures to be taken. There were reports of numerous
wireless stations that had been blown up, with heavy rewards
offered for the detection of the perpetrators. Of course no
wireless stations had been blown up. Many similar outrages, that
dovetailed with the plot of the revolutionists, were given. The
impression to be made on the minds of the Chicago comrades was that
the general Revolt was beginning, albeit with a confusing
miscarriage in many details. It was impossible for one uninformed
to escape the vague yet certain feeling that all the land was ripe
for the revolt that had already begun to break out.
It was reported that the defection of the Mercenaries in California
had become so serious that half a dozen regiments had been
disbanded and broken, and that their members with their families
had been driven from their own city and on into the labor-ghettos.
And the California Mercenaries were in reality the most faithful of
all to their salt! But how was Chicago, shut off from the rest of
the world, to know? Then there was a ragged telegram describing an
outbreak of the populace in New York City, in which the labor
castes were joining, concluding with the statement (intended to be
accepted as a bluff*) that the troops had the situation in hand.
* A lie.
And as the oligarchs had done with the morning papers, so had they
done in a thousand other ways. These we learned afterward, as, for
example, the secret messages of the oligarchs, sent with the
express purpose of leaking to the ears of the revolutionists, that
had come over the wires, now and again, during the first part of
"I guess the Iron Heel won't need our services," Hartman remarked,
putting down the paper he had been reading, when the train pulled
into the central depot. "They wasted their time sending us here.
Their plans have evidently prospered better than they expected.
Hell will break loose any second now."
He turned and looked down the train as we alighted.
"I thought so," he muttered. "They dropped that private car when
the papers came aboard."
Hartman was hopelessly depressed. I tried to cheer him up, but he
ignored my effort and suddenly began talking very hurriedly, in a
low voice, as we passed through the station. At first I could not
"I have not been sure," he was saying, "and I have told no one. I
have been working on it for weeks, and I cannot make sure. Watch
out for Knowlton. I suspect him. He knows the secrets of a score
of our refuges. He carries the lives of hundreds of us in his
hands, and I think he is a traitor. It's more a feeling on my part
than anything else. But I thought I marked a change in him a short
while back. There is the danger that he has sold us out, or is
going to sell us out. I am almost sure of it. I wouldn't whisper
my suspicions to a soul, but, somehow, I don't think I'll leave
Chicago alive. Keep your eye on Knowlton. Trap him. Find out. I
don't know anything more. It is only an intuition, and so far I
have failed to find the slightest clew." We were just stepping out
upon the sidewalk. "Remember," Hartman concluded earnestly. "Keep
your eyes upon Knowlton."
And Hartman was right. Before a month went by Knowlton paid for
his treason with his life. He was formally executed by the
comrades in Milwaukee.
All was quiet on the streets--too quiet. Chicago lay dead. There
was no roar and rumble of traffic. There were not even cabs on the
streets. The surface cars and the elevated were not running. Only
occasionally, on the sidewalks, were there stray pedestrians, and
these pedestrians did not loiter. They went their ways with great
haste and definiteness, withal there was a curious indecision in
their movements, as though they expected the buildings to topple
over on them or the sidewalks to sink under their feet or fly up in
the air. A few gamins, however, were around, in their eyes a
suppressed eagerness in anticipation of wonderful and exciting
things to happen.
From somewhere, far to the south, the dull sound of an explosion
came to our ears. That was all. Then quiet again, though the
gamins had startled and listened, like young deer, at the sound.
The doorways to all the buildings were closed; the shutters to the
shops were up. But there were many police and watchmen in
evidence, and now and again automobile patrols of the Mercenaries
slipped swiftly past.
Hartman and I agreed that it was useless to report ourselves to the
local chiefs of the secret service. Our failure so to report would
be excused, we knew, in the light of subsequent events. So we
headed for the great labor-ghetto on the South Side in the hope of
getting in contact with some of the comrades. Too late! We knew
it. But we could not stand still and do nothing in those ghastly,
silent streets. Where was Ernest? I was wondering. What was
happening in the cities of the labor castes and Mercenaries? In
As if in answer, a great screaming roar went up, dim with distance,
punctuated with detonation after detonation.
"It's the fortresses," Hartman said. "God pity those three
At a crossing we noticed, in the direction of the stockyards, a
gigantic pillar of smoke. At the next crossing several similar
smoke pillars were rising skyward in the direction of the West
Side. Over the city of the Mercenaries we saw a great captive war-
balloon that burst even as we looked at it, and fell in flaming
wreckage toward the earth. There was no clew to that tragedy of
the air. We could not determine whether the balloon had been
manned by comrades or enemies. A vague sound came to our ears,
like the bubbling of a gigantic caldron a long way off, and Hartman
said it was machine-guns and automatic rifles.
And still we walked in immediate quietude. Nothing was happening
where we were. The police and the automobile patrols went by, and
once half a dozen fire-engines, returning evidently from some
conflagration. A question was called to the fireman by an officer
in an automobile, and we heard one shout in reply: "No water!
They've blown up the mains!"
"We've smashed the water supply," Hartman cried excitedly to me.
"If we can do all this in a premature, isolated, abortive attempt,
what can't we do in a concerted, ripened effort all over the land?"
The automobile containing the officer who had asked the question
darted on. Suddenly there was a deafening roar. The machine, with
its human freight, lifted in an upburst of smoke, and sank down a
mass of wreckage and death.
Hartman was jubilant. "Well done! well done!" he was repeating,
over and over, in a whisper. "The proletariat gets its lesson to-
day, but it gives one, too."
Police were running for the spot. Also, another patrol machine had
halted. As for myself, I was in a daze. The suddenness of it was
stunning. How had it happened? I knew not how, and yet I had been
looking directly at it. So dazed was I for the moment that I was
scarcely aware of the fact that we were being held up by the
police. I abruptly saw that a policeman was in the act of shooting
Hartman. But Hartman was cool and was giving the proper passwords.
I saw the levelled revolver hesitate, then sink down, and heard the
disgusted grunt of the policeman. He was very angry, and was
cursing the whole secret service. It was always in the way, he was
averring, while Hartman was talking back to him and with fitting
secret-service pride explaining to him the clumsiness of the
The next moment I knew how it had happened. There was quite a
group about the wreck, and two men were just lifting up the wounded
officer to carry him to the other machine. A panic seized all of
them, and they scattered in every direction, running in blind
terror, the wounded officer, roughly dropped, being left behind.
The cursing policeman alongside of me also ran, and Hartman and I
ran, too, we knew not why, obsessed with the same blind terror to
get away from that particular spot.
Nothing really happened then, but everything was explained. The
flying men were sheepishly coming back, but all the while their
eyes were raised apprehensively to the many-windowed, lofty
buildings that towered like the sheer walls of a canyon on each
side of the street. From one of those countless windows the bomb
had been thrown, but which window? There had been no second bomb,
only a fear of one.
Thereafter we looked with speculative comprehension at the windows.
Any of them contained possible death. Each building was a possible
ambuscade. This was warfare in that modern jungle, a great city.
Every street was a canyon, every building a mountain. We had not
changed much from primitive man, despite the war automobiles that
were sliding by.
Turning a corner, we came upon a woman. She was lying on the
pavement, in a pool of blood. Hartman bent over and examined her.
As for myself, I turned deathly sick. I was to see many dead that
day, but the total carnage was not to affect me as did this first
forlorn body lying there at my feet abandoned on the pavement.
"Shot in the breast," was Hartman's report. Clasped in the hollow
of her arm, as a child might be clasped, was a bundle of printed
matter. Even in death she seemed loath to part with that which had
caused her death; for when Hartman had succeeded in withdrawing the
bundle, we found that it consisted of large printed sheets, the
proclamations of the revolutionists.
"A comrade," I said.
But Hartman only cursed the Iron Heel, and we passed on. Often we
were halted by the police and patrols, but our passwords enabled us
to proceed. No more bombs fell from the windows, the last
pedestrians seemed to have vanished from the streets, and our
immediate quietude grew more profound; though the gigantic caldron
continued to bubble in the distance, dull roars of explosions came
to us from all directions, and the smoke-pillars were towering more
ominously in the heavens.
THE PEOPLE OF THE ABYSS
Suddenly a change came over the face of things. A tingle of
excitement ran along the air. Automobiles fled past, two, three, a
dozen, and from them warnings were shouted to us. One of the
machines swerved wildly at high speed half a block down, and the
next moment, already left well behind it, the pavement was torn
into a great hole by a bursting bomb. We saw the police
disappearing down the cross-streets on the run, and knew that
something terrible was coming. We could hear the rising roar of
"Our brave comrades are coming," Hartman said.
We could see the front of their column filling the street from
gutter to gutter, as the last war-automobile fled past. The
machine stopped for a moment just abreast of us. A soldier leaped
from it, carrying something carefully in his hands. This, with the
same care, he deposited in the gutter. Then he leaped back to his
seat and the machine dashed on, took the turn at the corner, and
was gone from sight. Hartman ran to the gutter and stooped over
"Keep back," he warned me.
I could see he was working rapidly with his hands. When he
returned to me the sweat was heavy on his forehead.
"I disconnected it," he said, "and just in the nick of time. The
soldier was clumsy. He intended it for our comrades, but he didn't
give it enough time. It would have exploded prematurely. Now it
won't explode at all."
Everything was happening rapidly now. Across the street and half a
block down, high up in a building, I could see heads peering out.
I had just pointed them out to Hartman, when a sheet of flame and
smoke ran along that portion of the face of the building where the
heads had appeared, and the air was shaken by the explosion. In
places the stone facing of the building was torn away, exposing the
iron construction beneath. The next moment similar sheets of flame
and smoke smote the front of the building across the street
opposite it. Between the explosions we could hear the rattle of
the automatic pistols and rifles. For several minutes this mid-air
battle continued, then died out. It was patent that our comrades
were in one building, that Mercenaries were in the other, and that
they were fighting across the street. But we could not tell which
was which--which building contained our comrades and which the
By this time the column on the street was almost on us. As the
front of it passed under the warring buildings, both went into
action again--one building dropping bombs into the street, being
attacked from across the street, and in return replying to that
attack. Thus we learned which building was held by our comrades,
and they did good work, saving those in the street from the bombs
of the enemy.
Hartman gripped my arm and dragged me into a wide entrance.
"They're not our comrades," he shouted in my ear.
The inner doors to the entrance were locked and bolted. We could
not escape. The next moment the front of the column went by. It
was not a column, but a mob, an awful river that filled the street,
the people of the abyss, mad with drink and wrong, up at last and
roaring for the blood of their masters. I had seen the people of
the abyss before, gone through its ghettos, and thought I knew it;
but I found that I was now looking on it for the first time. Dumb
apathy had vanished. It was now dynamic--a fascinating spectacle
of dread. It surged past my vision in concrete waves of wrath,
snarling and growling, carnivorous, drunk with whiskey from
pillaged warehouses, drunk with hatred, drunk with lust for blood--
men, women, and children, in rags and tatters, dim ferocious
intelligences with all the godlike blotted from their features and
all the fiendlike stamped in, apes and tigers, anaemic consumptives
and great hairy beasts of burden, wan faces from which vampire
society had sucked the juice of life, bloated forms swollen with
physical grossness and corruption, withered hags and death's-heads
bearded like patriarchs, festering youth and festering age, faces
of fiends, crooked, twisted, misshapen monsters blasted with the
ravages of disease and all the horrors of chronic innutrition--the
refuse and the scum of life, a raging, screaming, screeching,
And why not? The people of the abyss had nothing to lose but the
misery and pain of living. And to gain?--nothing, save one final,
awful glut of vengeance. And as I looked the thought came to me
that in that rushing stream of human lava were men, comrades and
heroes, whose mission had been to rouse the abysmal beast and to
keep the enemy occupied in coping with it.
And now a strange thing happened to me. A transformation came over
me. The fear of death, for myself and for others, left me. I was
strangely exalted, another being in another life. Nothing
mattered. The Cause for this one time was lost, but the Cause
would be here to-morrow, the same Cause, ever fresh and ever
burning. And thereafter, in the orgy of horror that raged through
the succeeding hours, I was able to take a calm interest. Death
meant nothing, life meant nothing. I was an interested spectator
of events, and, sometimes swept on by the rush, was myself a
curious participant. For my mind had leaped to a star-cool
altitude and grasped a passionless transvaluation of values. Had
it not done this, I know that I should have died.
Half a mile of the mob had swept by when we were discovered. A
woman in fantastic rags, with cheeks cavernously hollow and with
narrow black eyes like burning gimlets, caught a glimpse of Hartman
and me. She let out a shrill shriek and bore in upon us. A
section of the mob tore itself loose and surged in after her. I
can see her now, as I write these lines, a leap in advance, her
gray hair flying in thin tangled strings, the blood dripping down
her forehead from some wound in the scalp, in her right hand a
hatchet, her left hand, lean and wrinkled, a yellow talon, gripping
the air convulsively. Hartman sprang in front of me. This was no
time for explanations. We were well dressed, and that was enough.
His fist shot out, striking the woman between her burning eyes.
The impact of the blow drove her backward, but she struck the wall
of her on-coming fellows and bounced forward again, dazed and
helpless, the brandished hatchet falling feebly on Hartman's
The next moment I knew not what was happening. I was overborne by
the crowd. The confined space was filled with shrieks and yells
and curses. Blows were falling on me. Hands were ripping and
tearing at my flesh and garments. I felt that I was being torn to
pieces. I was being borne down, suffocated. Some strong hand
gripped my shoulder in the thick of the press and was dragging
fiercely at me. Between pain and pressure I fainted. Hartman
never came out of that entrance. He had shielded me and received
the first brunt of the attack. This had saved me, for the jam had
quickly become too dense for anything more than the mad gripping
and tearing of hands.
I came to in the midst of wild movement. All about me was the same
movement. I had been caught up in a monstrous flood that was
sweeping me I knew not whither. Fresh air was on my cheek and
biting sweetly in my lungs. Faint and dizzy, I was vaguely aware
of a strong arm around my body under the arms, and half-lifting me
and dragging me along. Feebly my own limbs were helping me. In
front of me I could see the moving back of a man's coat. It had
been slit from top to bottom along the centre seam, and it pulsed
rhythmically, the slit opening and closing regularly with every
leap of the wearer. This phenomenon fascinated me for a time,
while my senses were coming back to me. Next I became aware of
stinging cheeks and nose, and could feel blood dripping on my face.
My hat was gone. My hair was down and flying, and from the
stinging of the scalp I managed to recollect a hand in the press of
the entrance that had torn at my hair. My chest and arms were
bruised and aching in a score of places.
My brain grew clearer, and I turned as I ran and looked at the man
who was holding me up. He it was who had dragged me out and saved
me. He noticed my movement.
"It's all right!" he shouted hoarsely. "I knew you on the
I failed to recognize him, but before I could speak I trod upon
something that was alive and that squirmed under my foot. I was
swept on by those behind and could not look down and see, and yet I
knew that it was a woman who had fallen and who was being trampled
into the pavement by thousands of successive feet.
"It's all right," he repeated. "I'm Garthwaite."
He was bearded and gaunt and dirty, but I succeeded in remembering
him as the stalwart youth that had spent several months in our Glen
Ellen refuge three years before. He passed me the signals of the
Iron Heel's secret service, in token that he, too, was in its
"I'll get you out of this as soon as I can get a chance," he
assured me. "But watch your footing. On your life don't stumble
and go down."
All things happened abruptly on that day, and with an abruptness
that was sickening the mob checked itself. I came in violent
collision with a large woman in front of me (the man with the split
coat had vanished), while those behind collided against me. A
devilish pandemonium reigned,--shrieks, curses, and cries of death,
while above all rose the churning rattle of machine-guns and the
put-a-put, put-a-put of rifles. At first I could make out nothing.
People were falling about me right and left. The woman in front
doubled up and went down, her hands on her abdomen in a frenzied
clutch. A man was quivering against my legs in a death-struggle.
It came to me that we were at the head of the column. Half a mile
of it had disappeared--where or how I never learned. To this day I
do not know what became of that half-mile of humanity--whether it
was blotted out by some frightful bolt of war, whether it was
scattered and destroyed piecemeal, or whether it escaped. But
there we were, at the head of the column instead of in its middle,
and we were being swept out of life by a torrent of shrieking lead.
As soon as death had thinned the jam, Garthwaite, still grasping my
arm, led a rush of survivors into the wide entrance of an office
building. Here, at the rear, against the doors, we were pressed by
a panting, gasping mass of creatures. For some time we remained in
this position without a change in the situation.
"I did it beautifully," Garthwaite was lamenting to me. "Ran you
right into a trap. We had a gambler's chance in the street, but in
here there is no chance at all. It's all over but the shouting.
Vive la Revolution!"
Then, what he expected, began. The Mercenaries were killing
without quarter. At first, the surge back upon us was crushing,
but as the killing continued the pressure was eased. The dead and
dying went down and made room. Garthwaite put his mouth to my ear
and shouted, but in the frightful din I could not catch what he
said. He did not wait. He seized me and threw me down. Next he
dragged a dying woman over on top of me, and, with much squeezing
and shoving, crawled in beside me and partly over me. A mound of
dead and dying began to pile up over us, and over this mound,
pawing and moaning, crept those that still survived. But these,
too, soon ceased, and a semi-silence settled down, broken by groans
and sobs and sounds of strangulation.
I should have been crushed had it not been for Garthwaite. As it
was, it seemed inconceivable that I could bear the weight I did and
live. And yet, outside of pain, the only feeling I possessed was
one of curiosity. How was it going to end? What would death be
like? Thus did I receive my red baptism in that Chicago shambles.
Prior to that, death to me had been a theory; but ever afterward
death has been a simple fact that does not matter, it is so easy.
But the Mercenaries were not content with what they had done. They
invaded the entrance, killing the wounded and searching out the
unhurt that, like ourselves, were playing dead. I remember one man
they dragged out of a heap, who pleaded abjectly until a revolver
shot cut him short. Then there was a woman who charged from a
heap, snarling and shooting. She fired six shots before they got
her, though what damage she did we could not know. We could follow
these tragedies only by the sound. Every little while flurries
like this occurred, each flurry culminating in the revolver shot
that put an end to it. In the intervals we could hear the soldiers
talking and swearing as they rummaged among the carcasses, urged on
by their officers to hurry up.
At last they went to work on our heap, and we could feel the
pressure diminish as they dragged away the dead and wounded.
Garthwaite began uttering aloud the signals. At first he was not
heard. Then he raised his voice.
"Listen to that," we heard a soldier say. And next the sharp voice
of an officer. "Hold on there! Careful as you go!"
Oh, that first breath of air as we were dragged out! Garthwaite
did the talking at first, but I was compelled to undergo a brief
examination to prove service with the Iron Heel.
"Agents-provocateurs all right," was the officer's conclusion. He
was a beardless young fellow, a cadet, evidently, of some great
"It's a hell of a job," Garthwaite grumbled. "I'm going to try and
resign and get into the army. You fellows have a snap."
"You've earned it," was the young officer's answer. "I've got some
pull, and I'll see if it can be managed. I can tell them how I
He took Garthwaite's name and number, then turned to me.
"Oh, I'm going to be married," I answered lightly, "and then I'll
be out of it all."
And so we talked, while the killing of the wounded went on. It is
all a dream, now, as I look back on it; but at the time it was the
most natural thing in the world. Garthwaite and the young officer
fell into an animated conversation over the difference between so-
called modern warfare and the present street-fighting and sky-
scraper fighting that was taking place all over the city. I
followed them intently, fixing up my hair at the same time and
pinning together my torn skirts. And all the time the killing of
the wounded went on. Sometimes the revolver shots drowned the
voices of Garthwaite and the officer, and they were compelled to
repeat what they had been saying.
I lived through three days of the Chicago Commune, and the vastness
of it and of the slaughter may be imagined when I say that in all
that time I saw practically nothing outside the killing of the
people of the abyss and the mid-air fighting between sky-scrapers.
I really saw nothing of the heroic work done by the comrades. I
could hear the explosions of their mines and bombs, and see the
smoke of their conflagrations, and that was all. The mid-air part
of one great deed I saw, however, and that was the balloon attacks
made by our comrades on the fortresses. That was on the second
day. The three disloyal regiments had been destroyed in the
fortresses to the last man. The fortresses were crowded with
Mercenaries, the wind blew in the right direction, and up went our
balloons from one of the office buildings in the city.
Now Biedenbach, after he left Glen Ellen, had invented a most
powerful explosive--"expedite" he called it. This was the weapon
the balloons used. They were only hot-air balloons, clumsily and
hastily made, but they did the work. I saw it all from the top of
an office building. The first balloon missed the fortresses
completely and disappeared into the country; but we learned about
it afterward. Burton and O'Sullivan were in it. As they were
descending they swept across a railroad directly over a troop-train
that was heading at full speed for Chicago. They dropped their
whole supply of expedite upon the locomotive. The resulting wreck
tied the line up for days. And the best of it was that, released
from the weight of expedite, the balloon shot up into the air and
did not come down for half a dozen miles, both heroes escaping
The second balloon was a failure. Its flight was lame. It floated
too low and was shot full of holes before it could reach the
fortresses. Herford and Guinness were in it, and they were blown
to pieces along with the field into which they fell. Biedenbach
was in despair--we heard all about it afterward--and he went up
alone in the third balloon. He, too, made a low flight, but he was
in luck, for they failed seriously to puncture his balloon. I can
see it now as I did then, from the lofty top of the building--that
inflated bag drifting along the air, and that tiny speck of a man
clinging on beneath. I could not see the fortress, but those on
the roof with me said he was directly over it. I did not see the
expedite fall when he cut it loose. But I did see the balloon
suddenly leap up into the sky. An appreciable time after that the
great column of the explosion towered in the air, and after that,
in turn, I heard the roar of it. Biedenbach the gentle had
destroyed a fortress. Two other balloons followed at the same
time. One was blown to pieces in the air, the expedite exploding,
and the shock of it disrupted the second balloon, which fell
prettily into the remaining fortress. It couldn't have been better
planned, though the two comrades in it sacrificed their lives.
But to return to the people of the abyss. My experiences were
confined to them. They raged and slaughtered and destroyed all
over the city proper, and were in turn destroyed; but never once
did they succeed in reaching the city of the oligarchs over on the
west side. The oligarchs had protected themselves well. No matter
what destruction was wreaked in the heart of the city, they, and
their womenkind and children, were to escape hurt. I am told that
their children played in the parks during those terrible days and
that their favorite game was an imitation of their elders stamping
upon the proletariat.
But the Mercenaries found it no easy task to cope with the people
of the abyss and at the same time fight with the comrades. Chicago
was true to her traditions, and though a generation of
revolutionists was wiped out, it took along with it pretty close to
a generation of its enemies. Of course, the Iron Heel kept the
figures secret, but, at a very conservative estimate, at least one
hundred and thirty thousand Mercenaries were slain. But the
comrades had no chance. Instead of the whole country being hand in
hand in revolt, they were all alone, and the total strength of the
Oligarchy could have been directed against them if necessary. As
it was, hour after hour, day after day, in endless train-loads, by
hundreds of thousands, the Mercenaries were hurled into Chicago.
And there were so many of the people of the abyss! Tiring of the
slaughter, a great herding movement was begun by the soldiers, the
intent of which was to drive the street mobs, like cattle, into
Lake Michigan. It was at the beginning of this movement that
Garthwaite and I had encountered the young officer. This herding
movement was practically a failure, thanks to the splendid work of
the comrades. Instead of the great host the Mercenaries had hoped
to gather together, they succeeded in driving no more than forty
thousand of the wretches into the lake. Time and again, when a mob
of them was well in hand and being driven along the streets to the
water, the comrades would create a diversion, and the mob would
escape through the consequent hole torn in the encircling net.
Garthwaite and I saw an example of this shortly after meeting with
the young officer. The mob of which we had been a part, and which
had been put in retreat, was prevented from escaping to the south
and east by strong bodies of troops. The troops we had fallen in
with had held it back on the west. The only outlet was north, and
north it went toward the lake, driven on from east and west and
south by machine-gun fire and automatics. Whether it divined that
it was being driven toward the lake, or whether it was merely a
blind squirm of the monster, I do not know; but at any rate the mob
took a cross street to the west, turned down the next street, and
came back upon its track, heading south toward the great ghetto.
Garthwaite and I at that time were trying to make our way westward
to get out of the territory of street-fighting, and we were caught
right in the thick of it again. As we came to the corner we saw
the howling mob bearing down upon us. Garthwaite seized my arm and
we were just starting to run, when he dragged me back from in front
of the wheels of half a dozen war automobiles, equipped with
machine-guns, that were rushing for the spot. Behind them came the
soldiers with their automatic rifles. By the time they took
position, the mob was upon them, and it looked as though they would
be overwhelmed before they could get into action.
Here and there a soldier was discharging his rifle, but this
scattered fire had no effect in checking the mob. On it came,
bellowing with brute rage. It seemed the machine-guns could not
get started. The automobiles on which they were mounted blocked
the street, compelling the soldiers to find positions in, between,
and on the sidewalks. More and more soldiers were arriving, and in
the jam we were unable to get away. Garthwaite held me by the arm,
and we pressed close against the front of a building.
The mob was no more than twenty-five feet away when the machine-
guns opened up; but before that flaming sheet of death nothing
could live. The mob came on, but it could not advance. It piled
up in a heap, a mound, a huge and growing wave of dead and dying.
Those behind urged on, and the column, from gutter to gutter,
telescoped upon itself. Wounded creatures, men and women, were
vomited over the top of that awful wave and fell squirming down the
face of it till they threshed about under the automobiles and
against the legs of the soldiers. The latter bayoneted the
struggling wretches, though one I saw who gained his feet and flew
at a soldier's throat with his teeth. Together they went down,
soldier and slave, into the welter.
The firing ceased. The work was done. The mob had been stopped in
its wild attempt to break through. Orders were being given to
clear the wheels of the war-machines. They could not advance over
that wave of dead, and the idea was to run them down the cross
street. The soldiers were dragging the bodies away from the wheels
when it happened. We learned afterward how it happened. A block
distant a hundred of our comrades had been holding a building.
Across roofs and through buildings they made their way, till they
found themselves looking down upon the close-packed soldiers. Then
it was counter-massacre.
Without warning, a shower of bombs fell from the top of the
building. The automobiles were blown to fragments, along with many
soldiers. We, with the survivors, swept back in mad retreat. Half
a block down another building opened fire on us. As the soldiers
had carpeted the street with dead slaves, so, in turn, did they
themselves become carpet. Garthwaite and I bore charmed lives. As
we had done before, so again we sought shelter in an entrance. But
he was not to be caught napping this time. As the roar of the
bombs died away, he began peering out.
"The mob's coming back!" he called to me. "We've got to get out of
We fled, hand in hand, down the bloody pavement, slipping and
sliding, and making for the corner. Down the cross street we could
see a few soldiers still running. Nothing was happening to them.
The way was clear. So we paused a moment and looked back. The mob
came on slowly. It was busy arming itself with the rifles of the
slain and killing the wounded. We saw the end of the young officer
who had rescued us. He painfully lifted himself on his elbow and
turned loose with his automatic pistol.
"There goes my chance of promotion," Garthwaite laughed, as a woman
bore down on the wounded man, brandishing a butcher's cleaver.
"Come on. It's the wrong direction, but we'll get out somehow."
And we fled eastward through the quiet streets, prepared at every
cross street for anything to happen. To the south a monster
conflagration was filling the sky, and we knew that the great
ghetto was burning. At last I sank down on the sidewalk. I was
exhausted and could go no farther. I was bruised and sore and
aching in every limb; yet I could not escape smiling at Garthwaite,
who was rolling a cigarette and saying:
"I know I'm making a mess of rescuing you, but I can't get head nor
tail of the situation. It's all a mess. Every time we try to
break out, something happens and we're turned back. We're only a
couple of blocks now from where I got you out of that entrance.
Friend and foe are all mixed up. It's chaos. You can't tell who
is in those darned buildings. Try to find out, and you get a bomb
on your head. Try to go peaceably on your way, and you run into a
mob and are killed by machine-guns, or you run into the Mercenaries
and are killed by your own comrades from a roof. And on the top of
it all the mob comes along and kills you, too."
He shook his head dolefully, lighted his cigarette, and sat down
"And I'm that hungry," he added, "I could eat cobblestones."
The next moment he was on his feet again and out in the street
prying up a cobblestone. He came back with it and assaulted the
window of a store behind us.
"It's ground floor and no good," he explained as he helped me
through the hole he had made; "but it's the best we can do. You
get a nap and I'll reconnoitre. I'll finish this rescue all right,
but I want time, time, lots of it--and something to eat."
It was a harness store we found ourselves in, and he fixed me up a
couch of horse blankets in the private office well to the rear. To
add to my wretchedness a splitting headache was coming on, and I
was only too glad to close my eyes and try to sleep.
"I'll be back," were his parting words. "I don't hope to get an
auto, but I'll surely bring some grub,* anyway."
And that was the last I saw of Garthwaite for three years. Instead
of coming back, he was carried away to a hospital with a bullet
through his lungs and another through the fleshy part of his neck.
I had not closed my eyes the night before on the Twentieth Century,
and what of that and of my exhaustion I slept soundly. When I
first awoke, it was night. Garthwaite had not returned. I had
lost my watch and had no idea of the time. As I lay with my eyes
closed, I heard the same dull sound of distant explosions. The
inferno was still raging. I crept through the store to the front.
The reflection from the sky of vast conflagrations made the street
almost as light as day. One could have read the finest print with
ease. From several blocks away came the crackle of small hand-
bombs and the churning of machine-guns, and from a long way off
came a long series of heavy explosions. I crept back to my horse
blankets and slept again.
When next I awoke, a sickly yellow light was filtering in on me.
It was dawn of the second day. I crept to the front of the store.
A smoke pall, shot through with lurid gleams, filled the sky. Down
the opposite side of the street tottered a wretched slave. One
hand he held tightly against his side, and behind him he left a
bloody trail. His eyes roved everywhere, and they were filled with
apprehension and dread. Once he looked straight across at me, and
in his face was all the dumb pathos of the wounded and hunted
animal. He saw me, but there was no kinship between us, and with
him, at least, no sympathy of understanding; for he cowered
perceptibly and dragged himself on. He could expect no aid in all
God's world. He was a helot in the great hunt of helots that the
masters were making. All he could hope for, all he sought, was
some hole to crawl away in and hide like any animal. The sharp
clang of a passing ambulance at the corner gave him a start.
Ambulances were not for such as he. With a groan of pain he threw
himself into a doorway. A minute later he was out again and
desperately hobbling on.
I went back to my horse blankets and waited an hour for Garthwaite.
My headache had not gone away. On the contrary, it was increasing.
It was by an effort of will only that I was able to open my eyes
and look at objects. And with the opening of my eyes and the
looking came intolerable torment. Also, a great pulse was beating
in my brain. Weak and reeling, I went out through the broken
window and down the street, seeking to escape, instinctively and
gropingly, from the awful shambles. And thereafter I lived
nightmare. My memory of what happened in the succeeding hours is
the memory one would have of nightmare. Many events are focussed
sharply on my brain, but between these indelible pictures I retain
are intervals of unconsciousness. What occurred in those intervals
I know not, and never shall know.
I remember stumbling at the corner over the legs of a man. It was
the poor hunted wretch that had dragged himself past my hiding-
place. How distinctly do I remember his poor, pitiful, gnarled
hands as he lay there on the pavement--hands that were more hoof
and claw than hands, all twisted and distorted by the toil of all
his days, with on the palms a horny growth of callous a half inch
thick. And as I picked myself up and started on, I looked into the
face of the thing and saw that it still lived; for the eyes, dimly
intelligent, were looking at me and seeing me.
After that came a kindly blank. I knew nothing, saw nothing,
merely tottered on in my quest for safety. My next nightmare
vision was a quiet street of the dead. I came upon it abruptly, as
a wanderer in the country would come upon a flowing stream. Only
this stream I gazed upon did not flow. It was congealed in death.
From pavement to pavement, and covering the sidewalks, it lay
there, spread out quite evenly, with only here and there a lump or
mound of bodies to break the surface. Poor driven people of the
abyss, hunted helots--they lay there as the rabbits in California
after a drive.* Up the street and down I looked. There was no
movement, no sound. The quiet buildings looked down upon the scene
from their many windows. And once, and once only, I saw an arm
that moved in that dead stream. I swear I saw it move, with a
strange writhing gesture of agony, and with it lifted a head, gory
with nameless horror, that gibbered at me and then lay down again
and moved no more.
* In those days, so sparsely populated was the land that wild
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