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    Chapter 40

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    Chapter 40
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    But, of course, serious things kept intruding. Karlin the express driver, had a sick wife, and Carpenter heard about her and insisted upon going to see her. Apparently there was no end to this business of the poor being sick. It was a new thing to me--this world swarming with dirty and miserable and distracted people. Of course, I had known about "the poor," but always either in the abstract, or else as an individual, or a family, that one could help. But here was a new world, thickly peopled, swarming; that was the terrible part of it--the vastness of it, the thickness of the population in these regions of "the poor." It was like some sort of delirium; like being lost in a wilderness, of which the trees were miseries, and deformities, and pains! I could understand to the full Carpenter's feeling when he put his hands to his forehead, exclaiming: "There is so much to do and so few to do it! Pray to God, that he will send some to help us!"

    When he returned from Simon Karlin's, he brought with him the latter's wife, whom he had healed of a fever; and here was another of the company whom he insisted upon helping--"Comrade" Abell, one of the men I had noticed at the meeting last night, and who appeared to be done up. This man, I learned, was secretary of the Socialist local of Western City. I had known there were Socialists in the city, just as I knew there were poor, but I had never seen one, and was curious about Abell. He was a lawyer; and that might suggest to you a pertain type of person, brisk and well dressed--but apparently Socialist lawyers are not true to type. Comrade Abell was a shy, timid little man, with black hair straggling about his ears, and sometimes into his eyes. He had a gentle, pathetic face, and his voice was melancholy and caressing. He was clad in a frock coat of black broadcloth, which had once been appropriate for Sunday; but I should judge it had been worn for twenty years, for it was green about the collar and the cuffs and button-holes.

    Comrade Abell's office and also his home were in a second story, over a grocery-store in this neighborhood, and here also was a little hall used as a meeting-place by the Socialists. Every Saturday night Abell and two or three of his friends conducted a soap-box meeting on Western City Street, and gave away propaganda leaflets and sold a few pamphlets and books. He had had quite a supply of literature of all kinds at his office, nearly two thousand dollars worth, he told Carpenter, but a few months previously the place had been mobbed. A band of ex-service men, accompanied by a few police and detectives, had raided it and terrified the wife and children by breaking down the doors and throwing the contents of desks and bureaus out on the floor. They had dumped the literature into a truck and carted it away, and after two or three weeks they had dumped it back again, having found nothing criminal in it. "But they ruined it so that it can't be sold!" broke in James, indignantly. "Most of it was bought on credit, and how can we pay for it."

    James was also a Socialist, it appeared, while Korwsky and his friend Karlin advocated "industrial action," and these fell to arguing over "tactics," while Carpenter asked questions, so as to understand their different points of view. Presently Korwsky was called out of the room, and came back with an announcement which he evidently considered grave. John Colver was in the neighborhood, and wanted to know if Carpenter would meet him.

    "Who is John Colver?" asked the prophet. And it was explained that this was a dangerous agitator, now under sentence of twenty years in jail, but out on bail pending the appeal of his case to the supreme court. Colver was a "wobbly," well known as one of their poets. Said Korwsky, "He tinks you vouldn't like to know him, because if de spies find it out, dey vould git after you."

    "I will meet any man," said Carpenter. "My business is to meet men." And so in a few minutes the terrible John Colver was escorted into the room.

    Now, every once in a while I had read in the "Times" how another bunch of these I.W.W's. were put on trial, and how they were insolent to the judge, and how it was proved they had committed many crimes, and how they were sentenced to fourteen years in State's prison under our criminal syndicalism act. Needless to say, I had never seen one of these desperate men; but I had a quite definite idea what they looked like--dark and sinister creatures, with twisted mouths and furtive eyes. I knew that, because I had seen a couple of moving picture shows in which they figured. But now for the first time I met one, and behold, he was an open-faced, laughing lad, with apple cheeks and two most beautiful rows of even white teeth that gleamed at you!

    "Fellow-worker Carpenter!" he cried; and caught the prophet by his two hands. "You are an old friend of ours, though you may not know it! We drink a toast to you in our jungles."

    "Is that so?" said Carpenter.

    "I suppose I really have no right to see you," continued the other, "because I'm shadowed all the time, and you know my organization is outlawed."

    "Why is it outlawed?"

    "Well," said Colver, "they say we burn crops and barns, and drive copper-nails into fruit-trees, and spikes into sawmill lumber."

    "And do you do that?"

    Colver laughed his merry laugh. "We do it just as often as you act for the movies, Fellow-worker Carpenter!"

    "I see," said Carpenter. "What do you really do?"

    "What we really do is to organize the unskilled workers."

    "For what do you organize them?"

    "So that they will be able to run the industries when the system of greed breaks down of its own rottenness."

    "I see," said the prophet, and he thought for a moment. "It is a slave revolt!"

    "Exactly," said the other.

    "I know what they do to slave revolts, my brother. You are fortunate if they only send you to prison."

    "They do plenty more than that," said Colver. "I will give you our pamphlet, 'Drops of Blood,' and you may read about some of the lynching and tarring and feathering and shooting of Mobland." His eyes twinkled. "That's a dandy name you've hit on! I shall be surprised if it doesn't stick."

    Carpenter went on questioning, bent upon knowing about this outlaw organization and its members. It was clear before long that he had taken a fancy to young John Colver. He made him sit beside him, and asked to hear some of his poetry, and when he found it really vivid and beautiful, he put his arm about the young poet's shoulders. Again I found memories of old childhood phrases stirring in my mind. Had there not once been a disciple named John, who was especially beloved?
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