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Full text of "The damned agitator and other stories."

Little Red Library 
NUMBER SEVEN/ 



DAMNED AGITATOR 





awl 

Stories 



By 

MICHAEL GOLD 
10 Gents 




THE DAILY WORKER 

PUBLISHING CO., 

1113 W. Washirtflton Blvd. 

CHICAGO, ILL. 



J 



Will he issued in: as rapid succession 
as suitable material will allow. 




-TRADE UNIONS IN 
AMERICA, by Wm, Z. 
Poster, J. P. Cannon 
and E. R. Browder, 
-CLASS STRUGGLE 
.vs. 'CLASS COLLAB- 
ORATION, by Earl R. 
Browder, 

-PRINCIPLES'OF 
COMMUNISM, by 
Frederick Engels. 
Translation by Max 
Bedacht. 

-WORKER CORRE- 
SPONDENCE, by 
Wm, P. Dunne. 

No. 5.— POEMS FOR WORK- 
ERS, Edited by Man- 
uel Gomez. 



READY: 



No. 6. — Marx and Engels on 
REVOLUTION I N 
AMERICA, br Heinz 
Neuman. 

No, 8.— 1871— T HE PARIS 
COMMUNE, by Max 
Shachtman. 




No. 4. 



IN PREPARATION: 

THE WORLD RULE OP 
WALL STREET, by 
Manuel Gomez. 



Fo 



Twelve copies will be sent of any single 
number — choice of numbers— or follow- 
ing numbers as soon as off the press. 



The Little Reel Library 

No. 7 



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THE DAMNED AGITATOR 

FREE ! 

THE COAL BREAKER 

By Michael Gold. 



Published b& 

The Daily Worker Publishing Co., 

1113 W. Washington Blvd., 

Chicago, 111. 



Prin tod in the U. S. A. 
,290 







The Damned Agitator 



rpHE strike was now smoldering into its 
h seventh week, and, perhaps, it would soon 
be a bitter ash in the mouths of the men. For 
funds were at an ebb, scabs were coming in 
like a locust pla.gue, the company officials were 
growing more and more militant in their self- 
righteousness, and the strikers themselves 
were drifting into a settled state of depression 
and dangerous self-distrust. Their solidarity 
was beginning to show fissures and aching 
cracks. 

All these woeful conditions beat in like a 
winter sea "on the tired brain of Kurelovitch 
with the bleak morning light that waked him. 
He lifted his throbbing head from the pillow, 
looked about the dingy bedroom with his bleary 
sleep-glazed eyes, and heaved a long, troubled 
sigh out of his pain. 

At a meeting of company executives once 
Kurelovitch had been denounced as a danger- 
ous agitator, whose pathological thirst for vio- 
lence had created arid sustained the strike. 



"The man is a menace, a mad dog, whose 
career ought to be stopped before he does 
more mischief/ 7 said one venerable director, his 
kind, blue eyes developing a pinkish glare that 
would have horrified the women folk of his 
family. 

"The scoundrel's probably pocketing half of 
the strike funds," declared another director 
with plump, rosy gills and a full, bald head 
that glittered like a sunset cloud, as he stunned 
the long table with a blow of his balled fist. 

But Kurelovitch was not a mad dog, and he 
was not waxing fat with industrial spoils, as so 
many of the directors had. He was really a 
tall, tragic, rough-hewn Pole, who had been 
suddenly hammered into leadership by the 
crisis of the strike, by reason of his unquench- 
able integrity and social fire. He had deep, 
blue, burning eyes, a rugged nose and mous- 
taches, and his hands and form were ungainly, 
work-twisted symbols of the life of drudgery 
he had ledr 

Now he was thinking wearily of all the 
thorny problems that would be heaped upon 
him that day in the course of the strike. As 
he extricated himself from the bedclothes and 
sat up to dress, the problems writhed and clam- 
ored in his jaded brain for solution. For seven 
weeks now he had risen almost at dawn and 
had labored till midnight at the Titan task of 



wringing a fifteen per cent increase out of cap- 
italism for his fellow workers. He had grown 
gaunt and somber and wise in the process; 
skeptical of man and of god. He had seen 
plans collapse, heads broken unjustly, sen- 
tences inflicted by corrupt judges, babies and 
women starving. He had heard himself as- 
sailed as a monster by the other group, and as 
a weakling and tool by the more embittered of 
his own side. 

His wife heard him sigh, and she called from 
the kitchen, where she was already stirring. 

"There ain't no coffee for you this morning, 
Stanislaw," she announced in a sullen voice, in 
which there was also anger and scorn. "And 
there ain't no nothin' else to eat, only a few 
hunks of old bread." 

Kurelovitch stumbled wearily to his feet and 
entered the malodorous kitchen. Greasy pans 
and platters and sour garbage were strewn 
about, and in an opaque cloud of smoke his 
wife was hovering over the stove, their fourth 
child mewing in the nest of her arms. She was 
heating all the milk she had for the infant, and 
when her husband came in she turned on him 
with swift virulence. 

"No, not a taste of food in the house, damn 
you," she spat. "And the kids went to bed 
last night without hardly any supper," 

"But it's not my fault, now, is it, Annie?" 
the big man returned humbly as he went over 



■— — ! — • 







to her and put an arm over her shoulder. She 
cast it off with fierce contempt, and stood him 
off with a volley of words that were like poison- 
ed arrows, each piercing straight to his vital 
parts. 

"It is your fault, you clumsy fool, you," she 
screamed out of her over-laden heart. "You 
were one of the first men to go out on strike, 
even though we hadn't a penny in the house 
at the time. And last week when the company 
wanted the men to come back you talked them 
out of it, and so we're all still starving, thanks 
to you/' 

"But, Annie—" the tall man attempted gent- 

"Don't Annie me, or try to fool me with one 
of your speeches. You know the strike's lost 
as well as I do, and that after it you'll be black- 
listed in every mill town in New England. But 
you don't care if your children starve, do you? 
You'd be glad to see us all dead, wouldn't you?" 

The man had crumpled under the attack, and 
he seemed as small almost as his infuriated 
wife. But then he straightened in the dusty 
pallor of the kitchen, and moved to the door. 

"FI1 see that yoii get a lot of groceries and 
things from headquarters this morning," lie 
said huskily, as he went out into the dark, bit- 
ter streets. 

Kurelovitch shivered at his contact" with the 
gray, sharp air. A thin ash of snow had fallen 




through the night, and was. now a noisome 
slush, after its brief experience with the mill 
town, which degraded everything it touched. 
The muddy ooze squirmed through the vul- 
nerable spots in his shoes, and started the 
gooseflesh along Kurelovitch's spine. Across 
the river in the drab morning he could see the 
residential heights where the rich dwelt, and 
they reminded him of the village of his youth, 
with its girdle of snow-covered hills and peace- 
ful cottages. He remembered a Polish lullaby 
his mother used to sing to him, and shivered 
the more. 

From the rough bridge which bound the split 
halves of the town he could see the mill, glow- 
ering and blocking shadows deep as ignorance 
on the rotting ice of the river. The resplend- 
ent emblem of America gleamed and waved 
from a staff on the low, sprawling structure, as 
if to sanctify all that went on beneath. And 
now Kurelovitch had traversed a morass of de- 
caying huts and offal-strewn streets and was 
directly within the massive shadow of the mill. 
Two or three of his fellow-workers recognized 
him, and came hurrying forward from the 
picket line. Kurelovitch's day had begun. 

"The damned gunmen are out for fight this 
morning," said a sombre, chunky Pole, swath- 
ed in old burlap and a tremendous fur cap that 
had come from Europe. 

"Yes, they must have gotten more booze 



than usual last night," said another striker be- 
tween his chattering teeth. 

A young picket with brooding, dark eyes 
burst out with a hot voice, "Well, we'll give 
them any fight they want, the dirty lice. We're 
not afraid." Kurelovitch put his hand on the 
young chap, and then the three went with him 
to where about fifty or more of the strikers 
were shifting slowly up and down the length 
of the wide mill gate. 

There were men and women in the line, all 
dark and silent and seeming more like a host 
of mourners than anything else in the world 
of bitter sky and slush-laden earth. They were 
muffled to the chins in grotesque rags, and 
their breaths went up like incense in the chill 
morning. A mood of sadness and suspense 
hung about them, and whenever they passed 
the knot of gunmen at the gate they turned 
their eyes away almost in grief. 

Two of the gunmen had detached themselves 
from the evil-eyed mob huddled, like a curse, 
at the gate. They carried clubs in their hands, 
and at their hips could be seen bulging the bad- 
ges of their mission in life, which was to break 
si rikes and to murder. 

They came up to Kurelovitch and sneered at 
him with sadistic eyes. As he walked up and 
down in the sluggish picket line, they dogged 
iimi and used their vilest art to taunt him into 
resistance. 




About an hour later, as. he was departing 
from the line, the two gunmen still followed 
him. A little group of pickets, therefore, form- 
ed themselves in a cordon about Kurelovitch 
and escorted him to the strike headquarters, 
burning all the way with repressed rage. Kur- 
elovitch was a marked man in the strike zone, 
and his maiming was a subject of much yearn- 
ing and planning by the gunmen. 

The daily meetings of the strikers were held 
in a great barn-like structure in the center of 
the tangled streets and alleys of the mill-work- 
ers' quarters. A burst of oratory smote Kurel- 
ovitch as he entered the great room and a thou- 
sand faces, staring row on row, orientated to 
the leader as he marched in. 

"Kurelovitch, Kurelovitch has come," ran a 
murmur like wind through a forest. 

Kurelovitch leaped on the rough stage, where 
others of the strike committee were sitting, and 
whispered in consultation with a fellow Pole. 
He learned that there was nothing of moment 
that day— no sign from the bosses nor funds 
from sympathizers. It was merely another of 
the dark days of the strike. 

"But many of the Russians are getting rest- 
less," the man whispered. "Ravillof has been 
at them, and yesterday their priest told them 
to go back. Give 'em hell, Kurelovitch!" 

Kurelovitch came to the edge of the platform 
in a hush like that of an operating room, look- 
ing out over a foam of varied faces. They were 

9 



■■HHHH^^H 



■■IMHH 



faces that had blown into the golden land on 
the twelve winds of the world, though about 
nine-tenths of the faces were the broad-boned, 
earthy, beautiful faces of mystic Slavdom. 
Daylight struggled through large, smutty win- 
dows and dusted the heads and shoulders of 
the strikers with a white, transcendent powder. 
A huge oilcloth behind Kurelovitch proclaimed 
in big, battering letters, "We Average $9 a 
Week and We Are Demanding 15 Per Cent 
More. Are You With Us?" 

The air tightened as Kurelovitch loomed 
there, a sad hero, stooped and gaunt with . 
many cares. Finger-deep hollows were in his 
cheeks, and, with his blazing eyes and strong 
mouth, he seemed like s.ome ascetic follower of 
the warrior Mohammed. 

"Fellow workers. . . " 

In low, thrilling Polish he began by disposing 
of the secular details of the strike, as on every 
day. Then something would come over Kurel- 
ovitch, a strange feeling of automatism, as ic 
he were indeed only the voice that this simple- 
hearted horde had created out of their woe. 
The searing phrases would rush from his lips 
in a wild, stormy music, like the voice of a gale, 
as as mystic and powerful. 

With both hands holding his breast, as if it 
wore bursting with passionate vision, Kurelo- 
vitch lifted his face in one of his superb mo- 
ments and flamed up like an Isaiah. 



10 



"Fellow workers," he chanted, giving the 
words a value such as cannot be transmitted 
by mere writing, "we can never be beaten, for 
we are the workers on whose shoulders rest 
the pillars of the world and in whose hands are 
the tools by which life is carried on. Life, lib- 
erty and happiness— let us not rest till we have 
gotten these for ourselves and our children's 
children I Let us not permit the accidents of a 
strike to stay us on our journey toward the 
beautiful city of freedom, whose grace is one 
day to shine on all the world. 

"We are beginning to starve, some of us, but 
let us starve bravely, for we are soldiers in a 
greater and nobler war than that which is 
bleeding Europe. We are soldiers in the class 
war which is finally to set mankind free of all 
war and all poverty, all bosses and hate. Work- 
ingmen of the world, unite; we have nothing to 
lose but our chains; we have a world to gain!" 

Kurelovitch ended in a great shout, and then , 
the handclapping and whistles rose to him in 
turbulent swirls. He found himself suddenly 
weary and limp and melancholy, and his deep- 
est wish was to go off somewhere alone to wait 
until the hollow places inside were refilled. . . 

But, with the others of trie strike committee, 
he left the platform and fused into the discus- 
sions that were raging everywhere. Every- 
body tried to come near Kurelovitch, to speak 
co him. He was a common hearth at which 



11 



his people crowded and shouldered for warmth, 
his starving, wistful people who believed him 
when he said they could wipe out the accumu- 
lated woe of humanity. . . 

He was treated to long recitals of the work- 
ings of the proletarian soul in this time of want 
and panic and anger. He heard a hundred tales 
of temptation, of desperate hunger, of outrages 
at the hands of the gunmen. Kurelovitch lis- 
tened to it all like a grave, kind father confes- 
sor, untying many a Gordian knot with his 
clear-eyed strength and understanding. 

And then came to him Raviloff, the leader 
of the Russians, a short, black, wrinkled man, 
with slow eyes that became living coals of fire 
when passion breathed on them. 

He was angry to impotence now, "You said 
in your speech that I was a traitor, Kurelo- 
vitch," he shouted fiercely. "You lie; I am not. 
But we Russians think this strike is lost, and 
that we'd all better go back before it's too late." 

"It's not lost," Kurelovitch replied slowly. 
"The mills can't work full time until we choose 
to go back. And, Raviloff, I say again that 
you're a scab and traitor if you go back now." 

Raviloff flushed purple with wrath, and 
rushed upon the tall Pole as if to devour him. 
I in I; Kurelovitch did not lift his stern, calm gaze 
I'rom the other's face, and a light like that of 
swords came and went in his blue eyes. The 
Russian surged up and touched him, chest to 

12 






;■ 



chest, and then Kurelovitch intrigued the other 
into a sensible discussion that served to keep 
the Russian on the firing line. . .' 

And thus it went. So Kurelovitch passed 
his day, moving from the swooning brink of 
one crisis to another. He sat with the strike 
committee for many hours in a smoky room 
and agonized over w r ays and means. He ad- 
dressed another large meeting at headquarters 
in the afternoon. He went out on the picket 
line and was singled out for threats and taunts 
again by the gunmen, so that he felt murder 
boiling in his deeps and left. Then he had to 
return later to the picket line because word 
was rushed to him that five of the pickets had 
been arrested in a fight finally precipitated by 
the gunmen. Kurelovitch spent the rest of the 
afternoon scurrying about and finding bail for 
the five. 

Toward night he had a supper of ham sand- 
wiches and coffee, and then he and three of 
the strike committee went to a meeting of sym- 
pathizers about fifteen miles away. Kurelovitch 
made his third passioned address of the day, 
and stirred up a large collection. The long, 
dull, wrenching ride home followed. 

He got off the trolley car near his house 
about midnight, his brain whirling and hot, his 
heart acrid and despairing. The urgency of 
the fight was passed, and nothing was left to 
buoy him against his weariness. He walked 



13 



in a stupor; the day had sucked every atom of 
his valor and strength. He wished dumbly for 
death; he was the cold ashes of the flaming 
Kurelovitch of the day. Had gunmen come 
now and threatened him he would have cringed 
and then wept. 

There was a feeble light waning and waver- 
ing in the window of his little three-room flat, 
and when he had fumbled with the lock and 
opened the dilapidated door he found some one 
brooding with folded arms near the stove. It 
stood up awfully and turned on him with bale- 
ful eyes, like a wild beast in its cave. 

"You rotten dng! ,} his wife screamed at Ku- 
relovitch in the vast quiet of the night. "You 
mean and dirty pig!" 

"Annie, dear—" 

"To go away in the morning and leave us 
to starve ! To send food to other's families and 
then to forget us! Oh, you'd be glad if we all 
died of starvation! You'd laugh to see us all 
dead, you murderer!" 

Kurelovitch was too sorrowful to attempt an 
answer. He went to the bedroom where he 
and two of the children slept and shut the door 
behind him. His wife took this for a gesture 
of contempt, and her frenzy mounted to a 
blood-curdling crescendo that ran up and down 
the neighborhood like a ravaging blight. Heads 
popped out of windows and bawled to her to 
stop for Christ's sake. And, Anally she broke 



X4 




down of sheer exhaustion and Kurelovitch 
heard her shuffling into bed. 

There was anguished silence, and then Ku- 
relovitch heard his poor, overburdened drudge 
of a wife weeping terribly, with gulping sobs 
that hurt him like knives .... 

And now he could not sleep at all, even after 
her sobbing had merged into ugly snoring. He 
tossed as in a fever, as he had on so many 
other nights of the seven frantic weeks of the 

He went blindly for relief to the window, 
beyond which reigned the cold, inimical night. 
The shabby slum street dwindled to an ob- 
scure horizon, and the mass of the mill build- 
ing could be seen dominating over the ragged 
houses. No being was abroad in the desolate 
dark; he saw a chain of weak lanterns casting 
morbid shadows, and the vicious wind whip- 
ping up the litter of the streets. The stars 
were white and high overhead, as distant as 
beauty from the. place where Kurelovitch 
burned with sleeplessness. He heard the 
rattling gurgling snore of his wife. 

Kurelovitch ached with his great need of 
forgetfulness. As he twitched on his humid 
bed the days that had gone and the darker 
days to come ranged about and taunted him 
like fiends. The feeling that he held the fate 
of the strike in his hand rested on him mon- 
strously, and his starving children made him 
gasp and cry like one drowning. 

15 






In dumb anguish he prayed unconsciously to 
the power of the righteousness, to God or 
whatever fate it was that had brought him in- 
to the world. But no relief came that way, and, 
finally, after a struggle, he groped with all his 
pangs to a little dresser in the room, where 
he searched out a brandy bottle. This he took 
to bed with him, and drank and drank and 
drank again, till the past and the more ter- 
rible future were blurred in kindly night, and 
the great dark wings of peace folded over him 
and he sank into the maternal arms of ob- 
livion. 

On the morrow he would wake and find the 
ring of problems haunting him again, and he 
would grapple them again in his big, tragic 
fashion till his soul bled with many fresh 
wounds as he stumbled home in the" night. And 
thus he would go on and on till he was broken 
or dead, for Kurelovitch had dared to spit into 
the face of the beast that reigns mankind, and 
never for this sin would he be permitted to 
know sweetness or rest under the wide shin- 
ing range of the heavens, 




16 



Free! 



HE morning was spent unwinding the yards 
Of red tape that are woven into the steel 
chains of a prison. The four I. W. W. prison- 
ers were checked thru several offices, the war- 
den spoke to them a moment or two, then 
they turned in their gray prison clothes and 
received in exchange their own forgotten 
creased clothes, stale after five years' repose 
in a bag. Then they were searched twice for 
contraband letters, then they were given their 
railroad tickets to -Chicago, the city where 
they had been tried. 

"So long, boys/' one of the guards at the 
last steel door leading to the world said joy- 
fully to them. He was a tall, portly, serene 
Irishman, with gray walrus moustaches, and 
he had seen 'hundreds of released men stand 
blinking like these four in the strange sun- 
light, dazed as if they had been fetched from 
the bottom of the sea. "So long, boys; drop in 
again some time when you're lonesome; we 
enjoyed your visit." 

The men smiled awkwardly at him, stiffly 
and with the show of prison deference to a 

17 






guard. They were still deferential and cau- 
tious like prisoners; in their minds they were 

not yet free. 

They walked silently down the flat dusty 
road leading from the penitentiary to the high- 
road, their jaws set, their pale faces appearing 
unfamiliar and haggard to each other as their 
eyes glanced from side to side. 

"So this is America l» said little Blackie 
Doan, heaving a deep sigh and spitting hard 
and far into the road to display his nonchal- 
ance Blackie was more nervous and trem- 
bling inside than any of the other men; but 
he could never forget that a gentleman swag- 
gers and grins and spits with a tough air when 
he is in a difficult situation. This blow of 
sudden freedom and sunlight after five years 
in prison fell harder upon Blackie than upon 
the other men. He had just come, the day 
before from five month's of solitary confine- 
ment 'in a black, damp underground cell 
where he had been expiating the worst of 
prison offenses. He had battered with fists 
and feet a guard more than half a foot his 
height for the reason that his guard had been 
beating wiith fist and blackjack and keys a 
weak, half-witted boy of nineteen who never 
seemed to remember his place m the line — 
another enormous prison crime. 

"The land of the free and the home of the 
brave I" John Brown, a tall, lankly Enghsh- 
iii ;mi, with gray hair, hawk nose, and steady 

18 



blue eyes added monotonously, as in a litany. 
"Wish I had a chew of tobacco!" 

The other two I. W, W. prisoners just re- 
leased after their five years' punishment for 
the crime of having opposed a world war did 
not say a word, but stumbled along dumbly, 
as if waiting for something more interesting 
to happen. One was Hill Jones, a husky young 
western American, with the face and physique 
of a college football player, and with ; large 
luminous green eyes that stared at the world 
like those of an unspolied child's. The other 
I. W. W. was Ramon Gonzales, a young, slim, 
dark American-Mexican, the second genera- 
tion of those hard-working Mexican peons who 
build the railroads of our western country. 

"Wish I had a chew of tobacco!" repeated 
Brown, licking his dry lips with his tongue, and 
sweeping the brown drab prairie with his eyes. 
"Peel as if I could spit cotton!" 

The truth was, he wanted the tobacco to 
steady his nerves. Like the others, he was 
quivering internally with a rout of weird emo- 
tions. He had lived for five years in a steel 
house, behind steel bars, in a routine that was 
enforced by men with blackjacks and shot- 
guns, and that was inhuman and perfect as 
steel. Now he was free. No one was watch- 
ing him; he was strolling down a hot country 
road, under the immense yellow sky. He was 
back in the word of free men and free women ; 
and he, and the others with him should have 

19 



1 urn Hum] deeply, kissed the earth and rejoiced; 
instead they seemed tense and worried, a little 
disappointed. 

What had they expected? They could not 
have said, but like all prioners, they had built 
up, without knowing it, fantastic and exag- 
gerated notions of the world outside. It 
seemed a little ordinary to them now. The sky 
was a dun yellowish waste with a sun shining 
thru it. The wide dull prairie stretched on 
every hand like the floor of some empty barn, 
with shocks of gray rattling corn stacked in 
dreary rows, file after file to the horizon. A 
dog was barking somewhere. Smoke was ris- 
ing from a score of farm-houses, and they 
heard the whistle of a distant freight train. 
There was dull burning silence on everything, 
the silence of the sun. The world of free- 
dom seemed dull; but prisons are tense with 
sleepless emotions of hope and fear. 

They were passing a farmer in a flannel 
shirt, plodding behind a team of huge horses 
in a field of stubble. His lean, brown face 
was covered with sweat and fixed in grim, 
unsmiling lines as he held down the bucking 
plow and left a path of rich black soil behind 
him. 

"Looks like a guy in for life, doesn't he?" 
said Brown, pointing to him with his thumb. 
"Looks like that murderer cell-mate of yours, 
doesn't he, Ramon?" 

The Ml He Mexican cast a swift, worried 




glance with his black eyes at the dull fanatic 
behind the plow. 

"Yes," he said sharply, and stared back 
at the road behind his feet, : 

"Same old goddamn, corn," said Blackie, 
grinning, as he kicked a tin can out of the 
road, and spat, all in the same moment. "Same 
old goddamn Hoosiers, raising the goddamn 
corn! Corn and Hoosiers — God, why don't 
they raise carrots once in a while?" 

The others offered no answer to this Amer- 
ican conundrum. They were moving on to 
fresh sights in this new world they had been 
thrust into— they were staring at the bend 
in the highroad where the town street began, 
two miles away from the prison. The ugly 
frame houses of the middle west set among 
trees and smooth lawns, the trolley tracks, 
the stone pavements, then the stores and shop 
windows when they came nearer the heart of 
the town — that was what they saw. Up and 
down the streets men and women walked in 
the humdrum routine of life. A grocer was 
weighing out sugar in a dark window. They 
passed the little shop of an Italian cobbler. 
They passed a white school building, from 
which came the sound of fresh young voices 
singing. There was a line of Fords standing at 
the curb near the railroad depot. There were 
more women and men walking slowly about 
the square near the depot, discussing house- 
work, and the election for sheriff and the price 



20 



21 




of corn and the price of hogs. This was the 

world. 
. "I don't see no brass hands out to meet us 

home," said Blackie, with his irrepressible grin. 

"How do you account for that, Hill? Ain't 

they heard we're coming?" 

Hill,- the young husky quarterback with the 

large green eyes, seemed unable to say a word. 

He scowled at Blackie, it seemed, and shook 

his head. 

'•'What's the matter, .Hill?" that worthy 

queried, with an insolent grin, "ain't we as 

good as they boys who fought to make the 

world safe for democracy?" 

"Aw, shut up!" Hill Jones muttered, "you 

get as talkative as a parrot sometimes!" 
"I'm an agitator, that's why I talk," Blackio 

jeered and would have said more, but that the 

Englishman Brown put his hand on Blackie's 

arm. There was a policeman loitering on the 
next corner, and for some strange reason, 
known only to ex-prisoners, the impassive 
Englishman was suddenly shaken to his soul. 
"Let's get some coffee and," he said, leading 
them in the door of a cheap restaurant shaded 
fry a wide brown maple 'tree. The four sat on 
stools against a broad counter loaded with 
plates of dessert, and looked into a mirror at 
their pale prison faces. 

"Coffee and crullers," ordered the English- 
man, naming the diet of all those who wander 
along the roads of America, and pick up their 

22 




food like the sparrows where they can find it. 

"Ham and eggs," said Hill. 

"Ham and eggs and French friend and cof- 
fee," said Blackie. 

"Ham and eggs," said Ramon, in a muffled 
voice. 

The restaurant proprietor, a fat, cheerful 
man in a white apron, had been counting bills 
a.l his cash register and talking crops with a 
young farm hand in overalls. He locked the 
register with a sharp snap and took their or- 
ders leisurely, the while guessing their status 
with his shrewd eyes. He repeated the orders 
into the little cubby hole leading to the kitchen. 

"Solitary confinement,, eh, what?" Blackie 
said to the Englishman, pointing at the for- 
lorn, middle-aged face of the cook that peered 
out of the cubby hole and repeated the orders 
as if in a voice from the tomb. 

Neither Brown nor the others answered, but 
waited with grim patience for their food. When 
it came, they wolfed it down rapidly, as if 
someone were watching over them. Blackie 
could not be still, however. 

"This is better than the damn beans and 
rotten stew every day at the other hotel," he 
muttered. "Real ham and eggs! Oh, Boy!!" 

Brown looked at the clock. It was just noon. 
"I guess the boys are having their grub now," 
he said. "Yes, there goes the whistle. Gosh, 
you can hear it all the way over here!" 

Yet, it was the prison whistle, the high 

23 



:• :_ 







whining blast like the cry of some cruel hun- 
gry beast of prey, rising and falling over the 
little town and all the flat corn-lands, the 
voice of the master of life, the voice of the 
god of the corn-lands. The four prisoners in 
this restaurant knew that call well; and every- 
one in the town and everyone living on the 
corn-lands knew it as thoroly as they did. 

"Look," said Blackie, pointing thru a win- 
dow behind them, "you can just see the top of 
the prison walls from here. Who would have 
thunk you could see it so far?" 

The men turned from their food to stare 
gloomily, while the fat proprietor hid a know- 
ing smile behind his curled moustaches. 

"Two thousand men in hell/ said Jones 
quietly, "and all these Hoosiers know is corn 
and hogs. God, is it worth while? Twenty- 
five of our boys still in there, ninety-six still 
in Leavenworth— God, why do we let ourselves 
be crucified for these Hoosiers?" 

"Jim Downey's got fifteen more years to go; 
so has Frank Varrochek, Harry Bly, Ralph 
Snellins and four more," said John Brown 
quietly, piercing with his deep blue eyes thru 
Jill the distance. "And Jack Small has con- 
sumption; and George Mulvane is going crazy 

1 1 ill, do you think we'll ever get 'em out 
alive?" 

K anion suddenly became hysterical. 

[-Ie stood up with brandished fists and shook 
thenl at the distant prison, quivering with the 



24 



rage of five years of silence. His olive face 
darkened with blood, and locks of his long 
raven-black hah* fell in his eyes, so that he 
could not see. He flamed into sudden Latin 
eloquence, 

"Beasts!" he cried, in a choked, furious 
voice ] "rohbers of the poor, murderers of the 
young; hangmen, capitalists, patriots; you 
think you have punished us! You think we 
will he silent now, and not speak of your 
crimes! You dirty fools, you can never si- 
lence us! You can torture us, you can keep 
us in prison for all our lives—" 

"Oh, Ramon," Blackie cried, pushing him 
feack into his seat, and patting him soothingly 
on the shoulder. "Easy, easy! We all feel as 
sore as you do, Ramon, and we hate just as 
hard. By God, we hate them. But easy now, 
old-timer, easy!" 

The others helped quiet the nerve-wracked 
young Mexican, and he finally subsided and 
sat there with his face between his hands until 
they had finished their food. Then the four 
paid their check to the discreet but amused 
fat proprietor, and went into the street on 
their way to the railroad station, trying again 
to appear casual and unconcerned. 

At the next corner another policeman was 
lounging against a store window, and it was 
with an effort that each of the freed men 
passed his vacant eye. They braced up and 
walked by bravely, hut they still found it hard 



25 



to brieve thai they were really free 

ft would take them some months to become 
acouatomecl to the greater prison house known 
;i.« the world. 



2U 



The Coal Breaker 



ALWAYS between the sky and their earth 
A the miners saw the unhallowed, grim, irreg- 
ular mass of the coal-breaker, a tall structure 
black with dust and ugly as a giant toad. It 
dominated the whole valley. 

There were green trees in that valley, mead- 
ows and flowers for the light to kindle in the 
summer days. The spring brot a soft flush 
there, much as in other parts of the world. 
There were stars and moon at night, the sun 

by day. . B p ., . 

There was beauty, but it lived furtively un- 
der a shadow. A grea^som'bre coal mine was 
in that valley. It had dragged its black, slimy 
trail across the clear brightness of nature A 
town of dirty, sad houses was heaped about 
like stacks of filth on the grass of the valley 
level. Huge hills of slag stood about the mine s 
mouth, mounds of darkness from which spurt- 
oil over jets of diabolical flame. 

The humble men of all the races lived m 
the shambling houses of the town. They shuf- 

2? 



fled in the raw morning thru the muddy 
■livrli; toward the mine pit, and returned in 
the dusk with their emptied dinner pails, their 
faces black as sinister masks, .their bodies 
d ripping sweat and stooped in weary curves. 
Saturday nights there was one brief candle 
6! romance lit in this dark reality of toil. The 
miners drew their pay then, and spent some 
of it on liquor. They danced, they sang, they 
Fought and grew sentimental, they remembered 
for a moment their human heritage of play. 

I was in Miduvski's general store on a night 
Sue/h as this. The place was dimly lit by 
lamps, and Miduvski, a big, bald-headed, 
shrewd speculator, stood plotting behind his 
counter. There were a few odd customers 
lounging about. Nothing happened for an hour 
or so; then some of the miners came trooping 
in. 

There were about eight of them, and a few 
boys who worked in the coal-breaker trailed 
admiringly in the rear. The miners were 
dressed an overalls and black caps with tiny 
lamps fastened on them, and these lamps 
seemed like the horns of a group of wild-faced 
ilovils. The men were of all races, most of 
them short and squarly built. Their white 
teeth flashed out of the gloom of their faces 
as they laughed uproariously, for they were 
all a little drunk. 

"Set 'em up, Miduvski!" shouted one, a 
stout powerful man with a merry black face 




and little Chinese eyes. "The kdd here is treat- 
ing r 

He dragged forward a youngster who was 
no more than ten years old, and who was 
dressed in ragged overalls too long for him, 
and a miner's cap that came over his ears. 
The boy had high cheek bones, and coal dust 
darkened his straight nose and sandy hair of 
a young Slav. 

'The little Hunkie is goin* to treat!" roared 
the stout miner again. "This ds his first week 
in the breaker, and he's eelefbratin'. Ainchyer, 
kid?'; 

"Yen!" the boy said, laughing mirthlessly 
and staring at them all with big, dazed eyes. 
"I'm a man now!" 

At this there was a general outbreak of 
laughter, and one of the men clapped the boy 
approvingly on the shoulder. Miduvski filled 
the glasses with whiskey, which they gulped 
down With great smacking of lips and long 
"Ahnh-hs!" 

"Give the kid a hooker too!" shouted a tall, 
reckless Irishman, pounding on the counter. 
"He's one of us now, by gory!" 

"Yes, yes!" cried the other men, and the 
storekeeper poured another glass of the red, 
fiery stuff, which they boy swallowed mechan- 
ically. 

"Yah!" shouted the men admriingly, "that's 
the idea!" 

They watched the boy take out his pay enve- 



28 



29 



I. ami extract a dollar Ml which he laid on 

the counter. 

"Game to the core!" the Irishman said, slap- 
I m . i ? -, Mm* hoy on the back again. "Let's have 
another now! My treat!" 

The boy leaned against the counter, and 
looked about him foolishly. "I ain't goin* to 
be a miner all my life," he announced, with 
a superior air. 'Ton go-in' to be a doctor!" 

41 1 tooray for Jansy!" the men shouted, reach- 
ing out for the newly-filled glasses. 

the hoy drank with them again, with a care- 
less pride on his young face. But the next mo- 
inent the wide store with its shadows of lamp- 
llghl and its dark, deep corners and laden 
shelves grew dim and whirling to his eyes. He 
fell like rushing out into the fragrant country 
night, to fling himself down on the cool grass 
somewhere, and to breathe pure adr. A miner 
offered him a chew of tobacco, and the boy 
Hint il necessary to stuff the vile brown plug 
in [lis month, and to munch it busily. But he 
was sicl? to the pit of his stomach. 

A small boy had crept shyly into the place, 
and was looking at the scene with fear. He 
came over- finally and plucked the young 

i mi:-, worker by the sleeve. 

"Jansy," he said, "Mommer's lookin' for ye 
everywhere, and she says she'll give ye an 
;, u lui Ilckin' if ye don't come right home. She's 
[tin' fer yer pay!" 

The breaker-boy pushed his young brother 



30 



away with a silly smile. "Beat it!" he said 
haughtily, tho reeling and .sick with the to- 
bacco and rot-gut whiskey, "I'm a man now. 
Just tell Mommer I'm a man now!" 

The little boy drew back in fright, and stood 
staring at his brother from the doorway, doubt- 
ful as to what to do. 

"Hooray for Jansy!" the men shouted in 
glee, lifting the boy on their shoulders. "Game 
to the core!" 

"We'll have to get him a girl tonight!" the 
Irishman cried waving his glass of whiskey 
recklessly. "He's a real man now, the little 
l \ilak, workin', drinkin', ehewin', and whorin'!" 

The boy grinned wearily. Outside in the 
night could be seen the monstrous form of the 
breaker in whose black bowels gangs of chil- 
dren slaved in fierce silence ten hours each day, 
sorting the slag from the coal with raw fin- 
gers. The coal breaker dominated the town, 
it blotted out the night and stars from human 
eyes. Its dust darkened all the houses and 
rested heavily on the weeds struggling about 
the mine's mouth, and in that valley even 
childhood was fouled and withered by the 
black, black dust of the breaker. 



31 



r 




**"*"***».ll ■■»«' 1 1 HI J 



'■ 



e I 



In the 

LENIN 




Lenin on Organization. 



ro more important publication than 
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In this, the first of probably six 
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Add "Lenin on Organization" to 
your library— It can't, be complete 
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Attractively Cloth Sound, 
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^ 













The A wakening 
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By JAS. IL DOLSEN 



Over four hundred million 
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This gigantic upheaval from 
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threatens world stability 
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