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    Chapter 19

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    Chapter 19
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    The accident had happened in an ill-chosen neighborhood: one of those crowded slum quarters, swarming with Mexicans and Italians and other foreigners. Of course, that was the only neighborhood in which it could have happened, because it is only there that children run wild in the streets at night. There was one child under the front wheels, crushed almost in half, so that you could not bear to look at it, to say nothing of touching it; and there was another, struck by the fender and knocked into the gutter. There was an old hag of a woman standing by, with her hands lifted into the air, shrieking in such a voice of mingled terror and fury as I had never heard in my life before. It roused the whole quarter; there were people running out of twenty houses, I think, before one of us could get out of the car.

    The first person out was Carpenter. He took one glance at the form under the car, and saw there was no hope there; then he ran to the child in the gutter and caught it into his arms. The poor people who rushed to the scene found him sitting on the curb, gazing into the pitiful, quivering little face, and whispering grief-stricken words. There was a street-lamp near, so he could see the face of the child, and the crowd could see him.

    There came a woman, apparently the mother of the dead child. She saw the form under the car, and gave a horrified scream, and fell into a faint. There came a man, the father, no doubt, and other relatives; there was a clamoring, frantic throng, swarming about the car and about the victims. I went to Carpenter, and asked, "Is it dead?" He answered, "It will live, I think." Then, seeing that the crowd was likely to stifle the little one, he rose. "Where does this child live?" he asked, and some one pointed out the house, and he carried his burden into it. I followed him, and it was fortunate that I did so, because of the part I was able to play.

    I saw him lay the child upon a couch, and put his hands upon its forehead, and close his eyes, apparently in prayer. Then, noting the clamor outside growing louder, I went to the door and looked out, and found the Stebbins family in a frightful predicament. The mob had dragged Bertie and the chauffeur outside the car, and were yelling menaces and imprecations into their faces; poor Bertie was shouting back, that it wasn't his fault, how could he help it? But they thought he might have helped coming into their quarter with his big rich car; why couldn't he stay in his own part of the city, and kill the children of the rich? A man hit him a blow in the face and knocked him over; his mother shrieked, and leaped out to help him, and half a dozen women flung themselves at her, and as many men at the chauffeur. There was a pile of bricks lying handy, and no doubt also knives in the pockets of these foreign men; I believe the little party would have been torn to pieces, had it not occurred to me to run into the house and summon Carpenter.

    Why did I do it? I think because I had seen how the crowd gave way before him with the child in his arms. Anyhow, I knew that I could do nothing alone, and before I could find a policeman it might be many times too late. I told Carpenter what was happening, and he rose, and ran out to the street.

    It was like magic, of course. To these poor foreigners, Catholics most of them, he did not suggest a moving picture actor on location; he suggested something serious and miraculous. He called to the crowd, stretching out his arms, and they gave way before him, and he walked into them, and when he got to the struggling group he held his arms over them, and that was all there was to it.

    Except, of course, that he made them a speech. Seeing that he was saving Bertie Stebbins' life, it was no more than fair that he should have his own way, and that a member of the younger generation should listen in unprotesting silence to a discourse, the political and sociological implications of which must have been very offensive to him. And Bertie listened; I think he would not have made a sound, even if he could have, after the crack in the face he had got.

    "My people," said Carpenter, "what good would it do you to kill these wretches? The blood-suckers who drain the life of the poor are not to be killed by blows. There are too many of them, and more of them grow in place of those who die. And what is worse, if you kill them, you destroy in yourselves that which makes you better than they, which gives you the right to life. You destroy those virtues of patience and charity, which are the jewels of the poor, and make them princes in the kingdom of love. Let us guard our crown of pity, and not acquire the vices of our oppressors. Let us grow in wisdom, and find ways to put an end to the world's enslavement, without the degradation of our own hearts. For so many ages we have been patient, let us wait but a little longer, and find the true way! Oh, my people, my beloved poor, not in violence, but in solidarity, in brotherhood, lies the way! Let us bid the rich go on, to the sure damnation which awaits them. Let us not soil our hands with their blood!"

    He spread out his arms again, majestically. "Stand back! Make way for them!"

    Not all the crowd understood the words, but enough of them did, and set the example. In dead silence they withdrew from the sides and front of the car. The body of the dead child had been dragged out of the way and laid on the sidewalk, covered by a coat; and so Carpenter said to the Stebbins family: "The road is clear before you. Step in." Half dazed, the four people obeyed, and again Carpenter raised his voice. "Drinkers of human blood, devourers of human bodies, go your way! Go forward to that doom which history prepares for parasites!"

    The engine began to purr, and the car began to move. There was a low mutter from the crowd, a moan of fury and baffled desire; but not a hand was lifted, and the car shot away, and disappeared down the street, leaving Carpenter standing on the curb, making a Socialist speech to a mob of greasers and dagoes.
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