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    Chapter 45

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    Chapter 45
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    The party came to the city jail, and knocked for admission. But no doubt the authorities had taken consultation in the meantime, and there was no admission for prophets. The party stood on the steps, baffled and bewildered, a pitiful and pathetic little group.

    For my part, I thought it just as well that Carpenter had not got inside, for I knew what he would find there. It happens that my Aunt Jennie belongs to a couple of women's clubs, and they have been making a fuss about our city jail; they have kept on making it for many years, but apparently without accomplishing anything. The place was built a generation ago, for a city of perhaps one-tenth our present size; it is old and musty, and the walls are so badly cracked that it has been condemned by the building department. It is so crowded that half a dozen men sometimes sleep on the floor of a single cell. They are devoured by vermin, and lie in semi-darkness, some of them shivering with cold and others half suffocated. They stay there, sometimes for many months unheeded, because the courts are crowded, and if Comrade Abell's word may be taken in the matter, every poor man is assumed to be guilty until he is proven innocent. I have heard Aunt Jennie arguing the matter with considerable energy. Our banks are housed in palaces, and our Chamber of Commerce and our Merchants and Manufacturers and our Real Estate Exchange and all the rest of our boosters have commodious and expensive quarters; but our prisoners lie in torment, and no one boosts for them.

    Did Carpenter know these things? Had the strikers or his little company of agitators, told him about them? Suddenly he said, "Let us pray;" and there on the steps of the jail he raised his hands in invocation, and prayed for all prisoners and captives. And when he finished, Comrade Abell suddenly lifted his voice and began to sing. I would not have supposed that so big a voice could have come out of so frail a body; but I was reminded that Abell had been practicing on soap-boxes a good part of his life. He was one of these shouting evangelists--only his gospel was different. He sang:

    Arise, ye pris'ners of starvation! Arise, ye wretched of the earth! For justice thunders condemnation, A better world's in birth.

    I think I would have shuddered, even more than I did, if I had known the name of this song; if I had realized that this group of fanatics were sounding the dread Internationale on the steps of our city jail! I suspect that what saved them was the fact that the guardians of the jail had no more idea what it was than I had!

    The group had sung a couple of verses, when the iron-barred doors were opened, and a policeman stepped out. He addressed Carpenter, who was not singing. "Tell that bunch of nuts of yours to can the yowling."

    To which Carpenter replied: "I tell you that if these men should hold their peace, the stones of your jail would immediately cry out!" And he turned, and looked up and down the streets of the city, and suddenly I saw that he was weeping. "Oh, Mobland, Mobland! If you had known even at this time the way of justice! But the way is hid from your eyes, and you will not see it, and now the hour is coming, the horrors of the class war are upon you, ruin and destruction are at hand! Your towers of pride shall fall, your own children shall destroy you; they shall not leave you one stone upon another, because you knew not the time for justice when it came."

    The doors of the jail opened again, and three or four more policemen came out, with clubs in their hands. "Get along, now!" they said roughly, and began poking the prophet and his disciples in the back; they poked them down the stairs and along the street for a block or so--until they were sure the ears of the jail inmates would no longer be troubled by offensive sounds. But still they did not arrest them, and I marveled, wondering how long it could go on. I had an uneasy feeling that the longer the climax was postponed, the more severe it would be.

    There was quite a crowd following us now, hoping that something sensational would happen. And presently a woman saw us, and rushed into the house, and came out leading a blind man, and appealing to Carpenter to restore his sight; and when he stopped to do this, there were a couple of newspaper men, and an operator with a camera, and more excitement and more crowds! So we started to walk again, and came to Main Street, which in our city is given up to ten cent picture-shows, and pawn-brokers, and old clothes shops, and eating- stands for workingmen. A block or so distant we saw a mass of people, and something warned me--my heart sank into my boots. Another mob!
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