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    Chapter 23

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    Chapter 23
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    I went early next morning, but not early enough. The Mexican woman told me that "the master" had waited, and finally had gone. He had asked the way to the Labor Temple, and left word that I would find him there. So I stepped back into my taxi, and told the driver to take the most direct route.

    Meantime I kept watch for my friend, and I did not have to watch very long. There was a crowd ahead, the street was blocked, and a premonition came to me: "Good Lord, I'm too late--he's got into some new mess!" I leaned out of the window, and sure enough, there he was standing on the tail-end of a truck, haranguing a crowd which packed the street from one line of houses to the other. "And before he got half way to the Labor Temple!" I thought to myself.

    I got out, and paid the driver of the taxi, and pushed into the crowd. Now and then I caught a few words of what Carpenter was telling them, and it seemed quite harmless--that they were all brothers, that they should love one another, and not do one another injustice. What could there have been that made him think it necessary to deliver this message before breakfast? I looked about, noting that it was the Hebrew quarter of the city, plastered with signs with queer, spattered-up letters. I thought: "Holy smoke! Is he going to convert the Jews?"

    I pushed my way farther into the crowd, and saw a policeman, and went up to him. "Officer, what's this all about?" I spoke as one wearing the latest cut of clothes, and he answered accordingly. "Search me! They brought us out on a riot call, but when we got here, it seems to have turned into a revival meeting."

    I got part of the story from this policeman, and part from a couple of bystanders. It appeared that some Jewish lady, getting her shopping done early, had complained of getting short weight, and the butcher had ordered her out of his shop, and she had stopped to express her opinion of profiteers, and he had thrown her out, and she had stood on the sidewalk and shrieked until all the ladies in this crowded quarter had joined her. Their fury against soaring prices and wages that never kept up with them, had burst all bounds, and they had set out to clean up the butcher-shop with the butcher. So there was Carpenter, on his way to the Labor Temple, with another mob to quell!

    "You know how it is," said the policeman. "It really does cost these poor devils a lot to live, and they say prices are going down, but I can't see it anywhere but in the papers."

    "Well," said I, "I guess you were glad enough to have somebody do this job."

    He grinned. "You bet! I've tackled crowds of women before this, and you don't like to hit them, but they claw into your face if you don't. I guess the captain will let this bird spout for a bit, even if he does block the traffic."

    We listened for a minute. "Bear in mind, my friends, I am come among you; and I shall not desert you. I give you my justice, I give you my freedom. Your cause is my cause, world without end. Amen."

    "Now wouldn't that jar you?" remarked the "copper." "Holy Christ, if you'd hear some of the nuts we have to listen to on street-corners! What do you suppose that guy thinks he can do, dressed up in Abraham's nightshirt?"

    Said Carpenter: "The days of the exploiter are numbered. The thrones of the mighty are tottering, and the earth shall belong to them that labor. He that toils not, neither shall he eat, and they that grow fat upon the blood of the people--they shall grow lean again."

    "Now what do you think o' that?" demanded the guardian of authority. "If that ain't regular Bolsheviki talk, then I'm dopy. I'll bet the captain don't stand much more of that."

    Fortunately the captain's endurance was not put to the test. The orator had reached the climax of his eloquence. "The kingdom of righteousness is at hand. The word will be spoken, the way will be made clear. Meantime, my people, I bid you go your way in peace. Let there be no more disturbance, to bring upon you the contempt of those who do not understand your troubles, nor share the heartbreak of the poor. My people, take my peace with you!" He stretched out his arms in invocation, and there was a murmur of applause, and the crowd began slowly to disperse.

    Which seemed to remind my friend the policeman that he had authority to exercise. He began to poke his stick into the humped backs of poor Jewish tailors, and into the ample stomachs of fat Jewish housewives. "Come on now, get along with you, and let somebody else have a bit o' the street." I pushed my way forward, by virtue of my good clothes, and got through the press about Carpenter, and took him by the arm, saying, "Come on now, let's see if we can't get to the Labor Temple."
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