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There was shouting, and people running from every direction. The throng would surge back, and a few run from it. "What's the matter?" I cried to one of these, and the answer was, "They're cleaning out the reds!" Comrade Abell, who knew the neighborhood, exclaimed in dismay, "It's Erman's Book Store!"
"Who's doing this?" I asked of another bystander, and the answer was, "The Brigade! They're cleaning up the city before the convention!" And Comrade Abell clasped his hands to his forehead, and wailed in despair, "It's because they've been selling the 'Liberator'! Erman told me last week he'd been warned to stop selling it!"
Now, I don't know whether or not Carpenter had ever heard of this radical monthly. But he knew that here was a mob, and people in trouble, and he shook off the hands which sought to restrain him, and pushed his way into the throng, which gave way before him, either from respect or from curiosity. I learned later that some of the mob had dragged the bookseller and his two clerks out by the rear entrance, and were beating them pretty severely. But fortunately Carpenter did not see this. All he saw were a dozen or so ex-soldiers in uniform carrying armfuls of magazines and books out into a little square, which was made by the oblique intersection of two avenues. They were dumping the stuff into a pile, and a man with a five gallon can was engaged in pouring kerosene over it.
"My friend," said Carpenter, "what is this that you do?"
The other turned upon him and stared. "What the hell you got to do with it? Get out of the way there!" And to emphasize his words he slopped a jet of kerosene over the prophet's robes.
Said Carpenter: "Do you know what a book is? One of your poets has described it as the precious life-blood of a great spirit, embalmed and preserved to all posterity."
The other laughed scornfully. "Was he talkin' about Bolsheviki books, you reckon?"
Said Carpenter: "Are you one that should be set to judge books? Have you read these that you are about to destroy?" And as the other, paying no attention, knelt down to strike a match and light the pyre, he cried, in a louder voice: "Behold what a thing is war! You have been trained to kill your fellow men; the beast has been let loose in your heart, and he raves within!"
"One of these God-damn pacifists, eh?" cried the ex-soldier; and he dropped his matches and sprang up with fists clenched. Carpenter faced him without flinching; there was something so majestic about him, the man did not strike him, he merely put his spread hand against the prophet's chest and shoved him violently. "Get back out of the way!"
I well knew the risk I was taking, but I could not refrain. "Now, look here, buddy!" I began; and the soldier whirled upon me. "You one of these Huns, too?"
"I was all through the Argonne," I said quickly. "And I belong to the Brigade."
"Oh ho! Well, pitch in here, and help carry out this bloody Arnychist literature!"
I was about to answer, but Carpenter's voice rang out again. He had turned and stretched out his arms to the crowd, and we both stopped to listen to his words.
"Shall ye be wolves, or shall ye be men? That is the choice, and ye have chosen wolfhood. The blood of your brothers is upon your hands, and murder in your hearts. You have trained your young men to be killers of their brothers, and now they know only the law of madness."
There were a dozen ex-doughboys in sound of this discourse, and I judged they would not stand much of it. Suddenly one of them began to chant; and the rest took it up, half laughing, half shouting:
Rough! Tough! We're the stuff! We want to fight and we can't get enough!
And after that:
Hail! Hail! The gang's all here! We're going to get the Kaiser!
The crowd joined in, and the words of the prophet were completely drowned out. A moment later I heard a gruff voice behind me. "Make way here!" There came a policeman, shoving through. "What's all this about?"
The fellow with the kerosene can spoke up: "Here's this damn Arnychist prophet been incitin' the crowd and preachin' sedition! You better take him along, officer, and put him somewhere he'll be safe, because me and my buddies won't stand no more Bolsheviki rantin'."
It seemed ludicrous when I looked back upon it; though at the moment I did not appreciate the funny side. Here was a group of men engaged in raiding a book-store, beating up the proprietor and his clerks, and burning a thousand dollars worth of books and magazines on the public street; but the policeman did not see a bit of that, he had no idea that any such thing was happening! All he saw was a prophet, in a white nightgown dripping with kerosene, engaged in denouncing war! He took him firmly by the arm, saying, "Come along now! I guess we've heard enough o' this;" and he started to march Carpenter down the street.
"Take me too!" cried Moneta, the Mexican, beside himself with excitement; and the policeman grabbed him with the other hand, and the three set out to march.
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