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    Chapter 59

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    Chapter 59
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    I took up Carpenter's lunch at one o'clock, and discovered, to my dismay, that he had not tasted his breakfast. I ventured to speak to him; but he sat on a chair, gazing ahead of him and paying no attention to me, so I left him alone. At six o'clock in the evening I took up his dinner, and discovered that he had not touched either breakfast or lunch; but still he had nothing to say, so I took back the dinner, and went downstairs, and said to T-S: "We've got ourselves in for a hunger strike!"

    Needless to say, under the circumstances we did not very heartily enjoy our own dinner. And T-S, neglecting his important business, stayed around; getting up out of one chair and walking nowhere, and then sitting down in another chair. I did the same, and after we had exchanged chairs a dozen times--it being then about eight o'clock in the evening--I said: "By the way, hadn't you better call up the morning papers and persuade them to be decent." So T-S seated himself at the telephone, and asked for the managing editor of the Western City "Times," and I sat and listened to the conversation.

    It began with a reminder of the amount of advertising space which Eternal City consumed in the "Times" in the course of a year, and also the amount of its payroll in the community. It wasn't often that T-S asked favors, but he wanted to ask one now; he wanted the "Times" to let up on this prophet business, and especially about the prophet's connection with the moving picture industry. Everything was quiet now, the prophet wasn't bothering anybody--

    Suddenly, at the height of his eloquence, T-S stopped; and it seemed to me as if he jumped a foot out of his chair. "VOT!" And then, "Vy man, you're crazy!" He turned upon me, his eyes wide with dismay. "Billy! Dey got a report--Carpenter is shoost now speakin' to a mob on de steps of de City Hall!"

    The magnate did not wait to see me jump out of my chair or to hear my exclamations, but turned again to the telephone. "My Gawd, man! Vot do I know about it? De feller vas up in his room two hours ago ven we took him his dinner! He vouldn't eat it, he vouldn't speak--"

    That was the last I heard, having bolted out of the room, and upstairs. I found Carpenter's door locked; I opened it, and rushed in. The place was empty! The bird had flown!

    How had he got out? Had he climbed through the window and slid down a rain-spout in his prophetic robes? Had he won the heart of some servant? Had some newspaper reporter or agent of our enemies used bribery? I rushed downstairs, and got my car from the garage; and all the way to the city I spent my time in such futile speculations. How Carpenter, having escaped from the house, had managed to get into town so quickly--that was much easier to figure out; for our highways are full of motor traffic, and almost any driver will take in a stranger.

    I came to the city. Even outside the crowded district, the traffic was held up for a minute or two at every corner; so I found time to look about, and to realize that the Brigade had got to town. All day special trains had been pouring into the city, literally dozens of them by every road; and now the streets were thronged with men in uniform, marching arm in arm, shouting, chanting war-cries, roaming in search of adventure. Tomorrow was the first day of the convention, the day of the big parade: tonight was a night of riot. Everything in town was free to ex-service men--and to all others who could borrow or buy a uniform. The spirit of the occasion was set forth in a notice published on the editorial page of the "Times":

    "Hello, bo! Have a cigarette. Take another one. Take anything you see around the place.

    "The town is yours. Take it into camp with you. Scruff it up to your heart's content. Order it about. Let it carry grub to you. Have it shine your shoes. Hand it your coat and tell it to hold it until the show is over.

    "We are all waiting your orders. Shove us back if we crowd. Push us off the street. Give us your grip and tell us where to deliver it. Any errands? Call us. If you want to go anywhere, don't ask for directions. Just jump into the car and tell us where you're bound for.

    "Let's have another one before we part. Put up your money; it's no good here. This one's on Western City."

    I saw that it was not going to be possible to drive through the jam, so I put my car in a parking place, and set out for the City Hall on foot. On the way I observed that the invitation of the "Times" had been accepted; the Brigade had taken possession of the town. It was just about possible to walk on the down-town streets; there were solid masses of noisy, pushing people, every other man in uniform. Evidently there had been a tagit agreement to repeal the Eighteenth amendment to the Constitution for the next three days; bootleggers had drawn up their trucks and automobiles along the curbs, and corn-whiskey, otherwise known as "white lightnin'," was freely sold. You would meet a man with a bottle in his hand, and the effects of other bottles in his face, who would embrace you and offer you a drink; in the same block you would meet another man who would invite you to buy drinks for everybody in sight. The town had apparently agreed that no invitation should be declined. If the great Republic of Mobland had been unable to make for its returned war-heroes the new world which it had promised them--if it could not even give them back the jobs they had had before they left--surely the least it could do was to get them drunk!

    And several times in each block you would have to get off the sidewalk for a group of ten or twenty flushed, dishevelled men, playing the great national game of craps. "Roll the bones!" they would shout, completely ignoring the throngs which surged about them. Each had his pile of bills and silver laid out on the pavement, and his bottle of "white lightnin';" now and then one would take a swig, and now and then one would start singing:

    All we do is sign the pay-roll-- And we don't get a goddam cent.

    You would go a little farther, and find a couple of automobiles trying to get past, and a merry crowd amusing itself throwing large waste cans in front of them. Some one would shout: "Who won the war?" And the answer would come booming: "The goddam slackers;" or maybe it would be, "The goddam officers." The crowd would move along, starting to chant the favorite refrain:

    You're in the army now, You're not behind the plow--; You son-of-a---, You'll never get rich-- You're in the army now!

    And from farther down the street would come a chorus from another crowd of marchers:

    I got a girl in Baltimore, The street-car runs right by her door.

    Every now and then you would come on a fist-fight, or maybe a fight with bottles, and a crowd, laughing and whooping, engaged in pulling the warriors apart and sitting on them. Through a mile or two of this kind of thing I made my way, my heart sinking deeper with misgiving. I got within a couple of blocks of the City Hall, and then suddenly I came upon the thing I dreaded--my friend Carpenter in the hands of the mob!
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