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    Chapter 50

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    Chapter 50
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    T-S had stopped at a caterer's on his way to the gathering, and had done his humble best in the form of a strawberry short-cake almost half as large around as himself; also several bottles of purple color, with the label of grape juice. When the company gathered at the table and these bottles were opened, they made a suspicious noise, and so we all made jokes, as people have the habit of doing in these days of getting used to prohibition. I noticed that Carpenter laughed at the jokes, and seemed to enjoy the whole festivity.

    It happened that fate had placed me next to James, so I listened to more asceticism. "He oughtn't to do things like this! People will say he likes to eat rich food and to drink. It's bad for the movement for such things to be said."

    "Cheer up, my friend!" I laughed. "Even the Bolsheviks have a feast now and then, when they can get it."

    "You'll see what the newspapers do with this tomorrow," growled the other; "then you won't think it so funny."

    "Forget it!" I said. "There aren't any reporters here."

    "No," said he, "but there are spies here, you may be sure. There are spies everywhere, nowadays. You'll see!"

    Presently Carpenter called on some of the company for speeches. Would Bartholomew tell about the unemployed, what their organization was doing, and what were their plans? And after that he asked John Colver, who sat on his right hand, to recite some of his verses. John and his friend Philip, a blue eyed, freckle-faced lad who looked as if he might be in high school, told stories about the adventures of outlaw agitators. For several months these two had been traveling the country as "blanket stiffs," securing employment in lumber-camps and mines, gathering the workers secretly in the woods to listen to the new gospel of deliverance. The employers were organized on a nation-wide scale everywhere throughout the country, and the workers with their feeble craft unions were like men using bows and arrows against machine-guns. There must be One Big Union-- that was the slogan, and if you preached it, you went every hour in peril of such a fate that you counted fourteen years in jail as comparatively a happy ending.

    Said Carpenter: "It is not such a bad thing for a cause to have its preachers go to jail."

    "Well," said the lad of the blue eyes and the freckled face, "we try to keep a few outside, to tell what the rest are in for!"

    Later on, I remember, John Colver told a funny story about this pal of his. The story had to do with grape juice instead of with propaganda, but it appealed to me because it showed the gay spirit of these lads. The two of them had sought refuge from a storm in a barn, and there, lying buried in the hay with the rain pouring down on the roof, they had heard the farmer coming to milk his cows. The man had evidently just parted from his wife, and there had been a quarrel; but the farmer hadn't dared to say what he wanted to, so now he took it out on the cows! "Na! na! na!" he shouted, with furious vehemence. "That's it! Go on! Nag, nag, nag! Don't stop, or I might manage to get a word in! Yes, I'm late, of course I'm late Do you expect me to drive by the clock? Maybe I did forget the sugar! Maybe I've got nothing on my mind but errands! Whiskey? Maybe it's whiskey, and maybe it's gin, and maybe it's grape-juice!" The farmer set down his milk-pail and his lantern, and shook his clenched fist at the patient cattle. "I'm a man, I am, and I'll have you understand I'm master in my own house! I'll drink if I feel like drinking, I'll stop and chat with my neighbors if I feel like stopping, I'll buy sugar if I remember to buy it, and if you don't like it, you can buy your own!" And so on--becoming more inspired with his own eloquence--or maybe with the whiskey, or the gin, or the grape-juice; until young Philip became so filled with the spirit of the combat that he popped up out of the hay and shouted, "Good for you, old man! Stand up for your rights! Don't let her down you! Hurrah for men!" And the astounded farmer stood staring with his mouth open, while the two "wobbles" leaped up and fled from the barn, so convulsed with laughter they hardly noticed the floods of rain pouring down upon them.
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