An honest propagandist for any Cause, that is, one who honestly studies and figures out the most effective way of putting over his Message, will learn fairly early that it is not fair to ordinary folks—it just confuses them—to try to make them swallow all the true facts that would be suitable to a higher class of people. And one seemingly small but almighty important point he learns, if he does much speechifying, is that you can win over folks to your point of view much better in the evening, when they are tired out from work and not so likely to resist you, than at any other time of day.
Zero Hour, Berzelius Windrip.
The Fort Beulah Informer had its own three-story-and basement building, on President Street between Elm and Maple, opposite the side entrance of the Hotel Wessex. On the top story was the composing room; on the second, the editorial and photographic departments and the bookkeeper; in the basement, the presses; and on the first or street floor, the circulation and advertising departments, and the front office, open to the pavement, where the public came to pay subscriptions and insert want-ads. The private room of the editor, Doremus Jessup, looked out on President Street through one not too dirty window. It was larger but little more showy than Lorinda Pike's office at the Tavern, but on the wall it did have historic treasures in the way of a water-stained surveyor's-map of Fort Beulah Township in 1891, a contemporary oleograph portrait of President McKinley, complete with eagles, flags, cannon, and the Ohio state flower, the scarlet carnation, a group photograph of the New England Editorial Association (in which Doremus was the third blur in a derby hat in the fourth row), and an entirely bogus copy of a newspaper announcing Lincoln's death. It was reasonably tidy—in the patent letter file, otherwise empty, there were only 2 1/2 pairs of winter mittens, and an 18-gauge shotgun shell.
Doremus was, by habit, extremely fond of his office. It was the only place aside from his study at home that was thoroughly his own. He would have hated to leave it or to share it with anyone—possibly excepting Buck and Lorinda—and every morning he came to it expectantly, from the ground floor, up the wide brown stairs, through the good smell of printer's ink.
He stood at the window of this room before eight, the morning when his editorial appeared, looking down at the people going to work in shops and warehouses. A few of them were in Minute Men uniforms. More and more even the part-time M.M.'s wore their uniforms when on civilian duties. There was a bustle among them. He saw them unfold copies of the Informer; he saw them look up, point up, at his window. Heads close, they irritably discussed the front page of the paper. R. C. Crowley went by, early as ever on his way to open the bank, and stopped to speak to a clerk from Ed Howland's grocery, both of them shaking their heads. Old Dr. Olmsted, Fowler's partner, and Louis Rotenstern halted on a corner. Doremus knew they were both friends of his, but they were dubious, perhaps frightened, as they looked at an Informer.
The passing of people became a gathering, the gathering a crowd, the crowd a mob, glaring up at his office, beginning to clamor. There were dozens of people there unknown to him: respectable farmers in town for shopping, unrespectables in town for a drink, laborers from the nearest work camp, and all of them eddying around M.M. uniforms. Probably many of them cared nothing about insults to the Corpo state, but had only the unprejudiced, impersonal pleasure in violence natural to most people.
Their mutter became louder, less human, more like the snap of burning rafters. Their glances joined in one. He was, frankly, scared.
He was half conscious of big Dan Wilgus, the head compositor, beside him, hand on his shoulder, but saying nothing, and of Doc Itchitt cackling, "My—my gracious—hope they don't—God, I hope they don't come up here!"
The mob acted then, swift and together, on no more of an incitement than an unknown M.M.'s shout: "Ought to burn the place, lynch the whole bunch of traitors!" They were running across the street, into the front office. He could hear a sound of smashing, and his fright was gone in protective fury. He galloped down the wide stairs, and from five steps above the front office looked on the mob, equipped with axes and brush hooks grabbed from in front of Pridewell's near-by hardware store, slashing at the counter facing the front door, breaking the glass case of souvenir postcards and stationery samples, and with obscene hands reaching across the counter to rip the blouse of the girl clerk.
Doremus cried, "Get out of this, all you bums!"
They were coming toward him, claws hideously opening and closing, but he did not await that coming. He clumped down the stairs, step by step, trembling not from fear but from insane anger. One large burgher seized his arm, began to bend it. The pain was atrocious. At that moment (Doremus almost smiled, so grotesquely was it like the nick-of-time rescue by the landing party of Marines) into the front office Commissioner Shad Ledue marched, at the head of twenty M.M.'s with unsheathed bayonets, and, lumpishly climbing up on the shattered counter, bellowed:
"That'll do from you guys! Lam out of this, the whole damn bunch of you!"
Doremus's assailant had dropped his arm. Was he actually, wondered Doremus, to be warmly indebted to Commissioner Ledue, to Shad Ledue? Such a powerful, dependable fellow—the dirty swine!
Shad roared on: "We're not going to bust up this place. Jessup sure deserves lynching, but we got orders from Hanover—the Corpos are going to take over this plant and use it. Beat it, you!"
A wild woman from the mountains—in another existence she had knitted at the guillotine—had thrust through to the counter and was howling up at Shad, "They're traitors! Hang 'em! We'll hang you, if you stop us! I want my five thousand dollars!"
Shad casually stooped down from the counter and slapped her. Doremus felt his muscles tense with the effort to get at Shad, to revenge the good lady who, after all, had as much right as Shad to slaughter him, but he relaxed, impatiently gave up all desire for mock heroism. The bayonets of the M.M.'s who were clearing out the crowd were reality, not to be attacked by hysteria.
Shad, from the counter, was blatting in a voice like a sawmill, "Snap into it, Jessup! Take him along, men."
And Doremus, with no volition whatever, was marching through President Street, up Elm Street, and toward the courthouse and county jail, surrounded by four armed Minute Men. The strangest thing about it, he reflected was that a man could go off thus, on an uncharted journey which might take years, without fussing over plans and tickets, without baggage, without even an extra clean handkerchief, without letting Emma know where he was going, without letting Lorinda—oh, Lorinda could take care of herself. But Emma would worry.
He realized that the guard beside him, with the chevrons of a squad leader, or corporal, was Aras Dilley, the slatternly farmer from up on Mount Terror whom he had often helped … or thought he had helped.
"Ah, Aras!" said he.
"Huh!" said Aras.
"Come on! Shut up and keep moving!" said the M.M. behind Doremus, and prodded him with the bayonet.
It did not, actually, hurt much, but Doremus spat with fury. So long now he had unconsciously assumed that his dignity, his body, were sacred. Ribald Death might touch him, but no more vulgar stranger.
Not till they had almost reached the courthouse could he realize that people were looking at him—at Doremus Jessup!—as a prisoner being taken to jail. He tried to be proud of being a political prisoner. He couldn't. Jail was jail.
The county lockup was at the back of the courthouse, now the center of Ledue's headquarters. Doremus had never been in that or any other jail except as a reporter, pityingly interviewing the curious, inferior sort of people who did mysteriously get themselves arrested.
To go into that shameful back door—he who had always stalked into the front entrance of the courthouse, the editor, saluted by clerk and sheriff and judge!
Shad was not in sight. Silently Doremus's four guards conducted him through a steel door, down a corridor, to a small cell reeking of chloride of lime and, still unspeaking, they left him there. The cell had a cot with a damp straw mattress and damper straw pillow, a stool, a wash basin with one tap for cold water, a pot, two hooks for clothes, a small barred window, and nothing else whatever except a jaunty sign ornamented with embossed forget-me-nots and a text from Deuteronomy, "He shall be free at home one year."
"I hope so!" said Doremus, not very cordially.
It was before nine in the morning. He remained in that cell, without speech, without food, with only tap water caught in his doubled palm and with one cigarette an hour, until after midnight, and in the unaccustomed stillness he saw how in prison men could eventually go mad.
"Don't whine, though. You here a few hours, and plenty of poor devils in solitary for years and years, put there by tyrants worse than Windrip … yes, and sometimes put there by nice, good, social-minded judges that I've played bridge with!"
But the reasonableness of the thought didn't particularly cheer him.
He could hear a distant babble from the bull pen, where the drunks and vagrants, and the petty offenders among the M.M.'s, were crowded in enviable comradeship, but the sound was only a background for the corroding stillness.
He sank into a twitching numbness. He felt that he was choking, and gasped desperately. Only now and then did he think clearly—then only of the shame of imprisonment or, even more emphatically, of how hard the wooden stool was on his ill-upholstered rump, and how much pleasanter it was, even so, than the cot, whose mattress had the quality of crushed worms.
Once he felt that he saw the way clearly:
"The tyranny of this dictatorship isn't primarily the fault of Big Business, nor of the demagogues who do their dirty work. It's the fault of Doremus Jessup! Of all the conscientious, respectable, lazy-minded Doremus Jessups who have let the demagogues wriggle in, without fierce enough protest.
"A few months ago I thought the slaughter of the Civil War, and the agitation of the violent Abolitionists who helped bring it on, were evil. But possibly they had to be violent, because easy-going citizens like me couldn't be stirred up otherwise. If our grandfathers had had the alertness and courage to see the evils of slavery and of a government conducted by gentlemen for gentlemen only, there wouldn't have been any need of agitators and war and blood.
"It's my sort, the Responsible Citizens who've felt ourselves superior because we've been well-to-do and what we thought was 'educated,' who brought on the Civil War, the French Revolution, and now the Fascist Dictatorship. It's I who murdered Rabbi de Verez. It's I who persecuted the Jews and the Negroes. I can blame no Aras Dilley, no Shad Ledue, no Buzz Windrip, but only my own timid soul and drowsy mind. Forgive, O Lord!
"Is it too late?"
Once again, as darkness was coming into his cell like the inescapable ooze of a flood, he thought furiously:
"And about Lorinda. Now that I've been kicked into reality—got to be one thing or the other: Emma (who's my bread) or Lorinda (my wine) but I can't have both.
"Oh, damn! What twaddle! Why can't a man have both bread and wine and not prefer one before the other?
"Unless, maybe, we're all coming into a day of battles when the fighting will be too hot to let a man stop for anything save bread … and maybe, even, too hot to let him stop for that!"
The waiting—the waiting in the smothering cell—the relentless waiting while the filthy window glass turned from afternoon to a bleak darkness.
What was happening out there? What had happened to Emma, to Lorinda, to the Informer office, to Dan Wilgus, to Buck and Sissy and Mary and David?
Why, it was today that Lorinda was to answer the action against her by Nipper! Today! (Surely all that must have been done with a year ago!) What had happened? Had Military Judge Effingham Swan treated her as she deserved?
But Doremus slipped again from this living agitation into the trance of waiting—waiting; and, catnapping on the hideously uncomfortable little stool, he was dazed when at some unholily late hour (it was just after midnight) he was aroused by the presence of armed M.M.'s outside his barred cell door, and by the hill-billy drawl of Squad Leader Aras Dilley:
"Well, guess y' better git up now, better git up! Jedge wants to see you—jedge says he wants to see you. Heh! Guess y' didn't ever think I'd be a squad leader, did yuh, Mist' Jessup!"
Doremus was escorted through angling corridors to the familiar side entrance of the courtroom—the entrance where once he had seen Thad Dilley, Aras's degenerate cousin, shamble in to receive sentence for clubbing his wife to death… . He could not keep from feeling that Thad and he were kin, now.
He was kept waiting—waiting!—for a quarter hour outside the closed courtroom door. He had time to consider the three guards commanded by Squad Leader Aras. He happened to know that one of them had served a sentence at Windsor for robbery with assault; and one, a surly young farmer, had been rather doubtfully acquitted on a charge of barn-burning in revenge against a neighbor.
He leaned against the slightly dirty gray plaster wall of the corridor.
"Stand straight there, you! What the hell do you think this is? And keeping us up late like this!" said the rejuvenated, the redeemed Aras, waggling his bayonet and shining with desire to use it on the bourjui.
Doremus stood straight.
He stood very straight, he stood rigid, beneath a portrait of Horace Greeley.
Till now, Doremus had liked to think of that most famous of radical editors, who had been a printer in Vermont from 1825 to 1828, as his colleague and comrade. Now he felt colleague only to the revolutionary Karl Pascals.
His legs, not too young, were trembling; his calves ached. Was he going to faint? What was happening in there, in the courtroom?
To save himself from the disgrace of collapsing, he studied Aras Dilley. Though his uniform was fairly new, Aras had managed to deal with it as his family and he had dealt with their house on Mount Terror—once a sturdy Vermont cottage with shining white clapboards, now mud-smeared and rotting. His cap was crushed in, his breeches spotted, his leggings gaping, and one tunic button hung by a thread.
"I wouldn't particularly want to be dictator over an Aras, but I most particularly do not want him and his like to be dictators over me, whether they call them Fascists or Corpos or Communists or Monarchists or Free Democratic Electors or anything else! If that makes me a reactionary kulak, all right! I don't believe I ever really liked the shiftless brethren, for all my lying hand-shaking. Do you think the Lord calls on us to love the cowbirds as much as the swallows? I don't! Oh, I know; Aras has had a hard time: mortgage and seven kids. But Cousin Henry Veeder and Dan Wilgus—yes, and Pete Vutong, the Canuck, that lives right across the road from Aras and has just exactly the same kind of land—they were all born poor, and they've lived decently enough. They can wash their ears and their door sills, at least. I'm cursed if I'm going to give up the American-Wesleyan doctrine of Free Will and of Will to Accomplishment entirely, even if it does get me read out of the Liberal Communion!"
Aras had peeped into the courtroom, and he stood giggling.
Then Lorinda came out—after midnight!
Her partner, the wart Nipper, was following her, looking sheepishly triumphant.
"Linda! Linda!" called Doremus, his hands out, ignoring the snickers of the curious guards, trying to move toward her. Aras pushed him back and at Lorinda sneered, "Go on—move on, there!" and she moved. She seemed twisted and rusty as Doremus would have thought her bright steeliness could never have been.
Aras cackled, "Haa, haa, haa! Your friend, Sister Pike—"
"My wife's friend!"
"All right, boss. Have it your way! Your wife's friend, Sister Pike, got hers for trying to be fresh with Judge Swan! She's been kicked out of her partnership with Mr. Nipper—he's going to manage that Tavern of theirn, and Sister Pike goes back to pot-walloping in the kitchen, like she'd ought to!—like maybe some of your womenfolks, that think they're so almighty stylish and independent, will be having to, pretty soon!"
Again Doremus had sense enough to regard the bayonets; and a mighty voice from inside the courtroom trumpeted: "Next case! D. Jessup!"
On the judges' bench were Shad Ledue in uniform as an M.M. battalion leader, ex-superintendent Emil Staubmeyer presenting the rôle of ensign, and a third man, tall, rather handsome, rather too face-massaged, with the letters "M.J." on the collar of his uniform as commander, or pseudo-colonel. He was perhaps fifteen years younger than Doremus.
This, Doremus knew, must be Military Judge Effingham Swan, sometime of Boston.
The Minute Men marched him in front of the bench and retired, with only two of them, a milky-faced farm boy and a former gas-station attendant, remaining on guard inside the double doors of the side entrance … the entrance for criminals.
Commander Swan loafed to his feet and, as though he were greeting his oldest friend, cooed at Doremus, "My dear fellow, so sorry to have to trouble you. Just a routine query, you know. Do sit down. Gentlemen, in the case of Mr. Doremus, surely we need not go through the farce of formal inquiry. Let's all sit about that damn big silly table down there—place where they always stick the innocent defendants and the guilty attorneys, y' know—get down from this high altar—little too mystical for the taste of a vulgar bucket-shop gambler like myself. After you, Professor; after you, my dear Captain." And, to the guards, "Just wait outside in the hall, will you? Close the doors."
Staubmeyer and Shad looking, despite Effingham Swan's frivolity, as portentous as their uniforms could make them, clumped down to the table. Swan followed them airily, and to Doremus, still standing, he gave his tortoise-shell cigarette case, caroling, "Do have a smoke, Mr. Doremus. Must we all be so painfully formal?"
Doremus reluctantly took a cigarette, reluctantly sat down as Swan waved him to a chair—with something not quite so airy and affable in the sharpness of the gesture.
"My name is Jessup, Commander. Doremus is my first name."
"Ah, I see. It could be. Quite so. Very New England. Doremus." Swan was leaning back in his wooden armchair, powerful trim hands behind his neck. "I'll tell you, my dear fellow. One's memory is so wretched, you know. I'll just call you 'Doremus,' sans Mister. Then, d' you see, it might apply to either the first (or Christian, as I believe one's wretched people in Back Bay insist on calling it)—either the Christian or the surname. Then we shall feel all friendly and secure. Now, Doremus, my dear fellow, I begged my friends in the M.M.—I do trust they were not too importunate, as these parochial units sometimes do seem to be—but I ordered them to invite you here, really, just to get your advice as a journalist. Does it seem to you that most of the peasants here are coming to their senses and ready to accept the Corpo fait accompli?"
Doremus grumbled, "But I understood I was dragged here—and if you want to know, your squad was all of what you call 'importunate'!—because of an editorial I wrote about President Windrip."
"Oh, was that you, Doremus? You see?—I was right—one does have such a wretched memory! I do seem now to remember some minor incident of the sort—you know—mentioned in the agenda. Do have another cigarette, my dear fellow."
"Swan! I don't care much for this cat-and-mouse game—at least, not while I'm the mouse. What are your charges against me?"
"Charges? Oh, my only aunt! Just trifling things—criminal libel and conveying secret information to alien forces and high treason and homicidal incitement to violence—you know, the usual boresome line. And all so easily got rid of, my Doremus, if you'd just be persuaded—you see how quite pitifully eager I am to be friendly with you, and to have the inestimable aid of your experience here—if you'd just decide that it might be the part of discretion—so suitable, y' know, to your venerable years—"
"Damn it, I'm not venerable, nor anything like it. Only sixty. Sixty-one, I should say."
"Matter of ratio, my dear fellow. I'm forty-seven m'self, and I have no doubt the young pups already call me venerable! But as I was saying, Doremus—"
(Why was it he winced with fury every time Swan called him that?)
"—with your position as one of the Council of Elders, and with your responsibilities to your family—it would be too sick-making if anything happened to them, y' know!—you just can't afford to be too brash! And all we desire is for you to play along with us in your paper—I would adore the chance of explaining some of the Corpos' and the Chief's still unrevealed plans to you. You'd see such a new light!"
Shad grunted, "Him? Jessup couldn't see a new light if it was on the end of his nose!"
"A moment, my dear Captain… . And also, Doremus, of course we shall urge you to help us by giving us a complete list of every person in this vicinity that you know of who is secretly opposed to the Administration."
"If I'm accused of—I insist on having my lawyer, Mungo Kitterick, and on being tried, not all this bear-baiting—"
"Quaint name. Mungo Kitterick! Oh, my only aunt! Why does it give me so absurd a picture of an explorer with a Greek grammar in his hand? You don't quite understand, my Doremus. Habeas corpus—due processes of law—too, too bad!—all those ancient sanctities, dating, no doubt, from Magna Charta, been suspended—oh, but just temporarily, y' know—state of crisis—unfortunate necessity martial law—"
"Damn it, Swan—"
"Commander, my dear fellow—ridiculous matter of military discipline, y' know—such rot!"
"You know mighty well and good it isn't temporary! It's permanent—that is, as long as the Corpos last."
"It could be!"
"Swan—Commander—you get that 'it could be' and 'my aunt' from the Reggie Fortune stories, don't you?"
"Now there is a fellow detective-story fanatic! But how too bogus!"
"And that's Evelyn Waugh! You're quite a literary man for so famous a yachtsman and horseman, Commander."
"Horsemun, yachtsmun, lit-er-ary man! Am I, Doremus, even in my sanctum sanctorum, having, as the lesser breeds would say, the pants kidded off me? Oh, my Doremus, that couldn't be! And just when one is so feeble, after having been so, shall I say excoriated, by your so amiable friend, Mrs. Lorinda Pike? No, no! How too unbefitting the majesty of the law!"
Shad interrupted again, "Yeh, we had a swell time with your girl-friend, Jessup. But I already had the dope about you and her before."
Doremus sprang up, his chair crashing backward on the floor. He was reaching for Shad's throat across the table. Effingham Swan was on him, pushing him back into another chair. Doremus hiccuped with fury. Shad had not even troubled to rise, and he was going on contemptuously:
"Yuh, you two'll have quite some trouble if you try to pull any spy stuff on the Corpos. My, my, Doremus, ain't we had fun, Lindy and you, playing footie-footie these last couple years! Didn't nobody know about it, did they! But what you didn't know was Lindy—and don't it beat hell a long-nosed, skinny old maid like her can have so much pep!—and she's been cheating on you right along, sleeping with every doggone man boarder she's had at the Tavern, and of course with her little squirt of a partner, Nipper!"
Swan's great hand—hand of an ape with a manicure—held Doremus in his chair. Shad snickered. Emil Staubmeyer, who had been sitting with fingertips together, laughed amiably. Swan patted Doremus's back.
He was less sunken by the insult to Lorinda than by the feeling of helpless loneliness. It was so late; the night so quiet. He would have been glad if even the M.M. guards had come in from the hall. Their rustic innocence, however barnyardishly brutal, would have been comforting after the easy viciousness of the three judges.
Swan was placidly resuming: "But I suppose we really must get down to business—however agreeable, my dear clever literary detective, it would be to discuss Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers and Norman Klein. Perhaps we can some day, when the Chief puts us both in the same prison! There's really, my dear Doremus, no need of your troubling your legal gentleman, Mr. Monkey Kitteridge. I am quite authorized to conduct this trial—for quaintly enough, Doremus, it is a trial, despite the delightful St. Botolph's atmosphere! And as to testimony, I already have all I need, both in the good Miss Lorinda's inadvertent admissions, in the actual text of your editorial criticizing the Chief, and in the quite thorough reports of Captain Ledue and Dr. Staubmeyer. One really ought to take you out and shoot you—and one is quite empowered to do so, oh quite!—but one has one's faults—one is really too merciful. And perhaps we can find a better use for you than as fertilizer—you are, you know, rather too much on the skinny side to make adequate fertilizer.
"You are to be released on parole, to assist and coach Dr. Staubmeyer who, by orders from Commissioner Reek, at Hanover, has just been made editor of the Informer, but who doubtless lacks certain points of technical training. You will help him—oh, gladly, I am sure!—until he learns. Then we'll see what we'll do with you! … You will write editorials, with all your accustomed brilliance—oh, I assure you, people constantly stop on Boston Common to discuss your masterpieces; have done for years! But you'll write only as Dr. Staubmeyer tells you. Understand? Oh. Today—since 'tis already past the witching hour—you will write an abject apology for your diatribe—oh yes, very much on the abject side! You know—you veteran journalists do these things so neatly—just admit you were a cockeyed liar and that sort of thing—bright and bantering—you know! And next Monday you will, like most of the other ditchwater-dull hick papers, begin the serial publication of the Chief's Zero Hour. You'll enjoy that!"
Clatter and shouts at the door. Protests from the unseen guards. Dr. Fowler Greenhill pounding in, stopping with arms akimbo, shouting as he strode down to the table, "What do you three comic judges think you're doing?"
"And who may our impetuous friend be? He annoys me, rather," Swan asked of Shad.
"Doc Fowler—Jessup's son-in-law. And a bad actor! Why, couple days ago I offered him charge of medical inspection for all the M.M.'s in the county, and he said—this red-headed smart aleck here!—he said you and me and Commissioner Reek and Doc Staubmeyer and all of us were a bunch of hoboes that 'd be digging ditches in a labor camp if we hadn't stole some officers' uniforms!"
"Ah, did he indeed?" purred Swan.
Fowler protested: "He's a liar. I never mentioned you. I don't even know who you are."
"My name, good sir, is Commander Effingham Swan, M.J.!"
"Well, M. J., that still doesn't enlighten me. Never heard of you!"
Shad interrupted, "How the hell did you get past the guards, Fowley?" (He who had never dared call that long-reaching, swift-moving redhead anything more familiar than "Doc.")
"Oh, all your Minnie Mouses know me. I've treated most of your brightest gunmen for unmentionable diseases. I just told them at the door that I was wanted in here professionally."
Swan was at his silkiest: "Oh, and how we did want you, my dear fellow—though we didn't know it until this moment. So you are one of these brave rustic Æsculapiuses?"
"I am! And if you were in the war—which I should doubt, from your pansy way of talking—you may be interested to know that I am also a member of the American Legion—quit Harvard and joined up in 1918 and went back afterwards to finish. And I want to warn you three half-baked Hitlers—"
"Ah! But my dear friend! A mil-i-tary man! How too too! Then we shall have to treat you as a responsible person—responsible for your idiocies—not just as the uncouth clodhopper that you appear!"
Fowler was leaning both fists on the table. "Now I've had enough! I'm going to push in your booful face—"
Shad had his fists up, was rounding the table, but Swan snapped, "No! Let him finish! He may enjoy digging his own grave. You know—people do have such quaint variant notions about sports. Some laddies actually like to go fishing—all those slimy scales and the shocking odor! By the way, Doctor, before it's too late, I would like to leave with you the thought for the day that I was also in the war to end wars—a major. But go on. I do so want to listen to you yet a little."
"Cut the cackle, will you, M. J.? I've just come here to tell you that I've had enough—everybody's had enough—of your kidnaping Mr. Jessup—the most honest and useful man in the whole Beulah Valley! Typical low-down sneaking kidnapers! If you think your phony Rhodes-Scholar accent keeps you from being just another cowardly, murdering Public Enemy, in your toy-soldier uniform—"
Swan held up his hand in his most genteel Back Bay manner. "A moment, Doctor, if you will be so good?" And to Shad: "I should think we'd heard enough from the Comrade, wouldn't you, Commissioner? Just take the bastard out and shoot him."
"O.K.! Swell!" Shad chuckled; and, to the guards at the half-open door, "Get the corporal of the guard and a squad—six men—loaded rifles—make it snappy, see?"
The guard were not far down the corridor, and their rifles were already loaded. It was in less than a minute that Aras Dilley was saluting from the door, and Shad was shouting, "Come here! Grab this dirty crook!" He pointed at Fowler. "Take him along outside."
They did, for all of Fowler's struggling. Aras Dilley jabbed Fowler's right wrist with a bayonet. It spilled blood down on his hand, so scrubbed for surgery, and like blood his red hair tumbled over his forehead.
Shad marched out with them, pulling his automatic pistol from its holster and looking at it happily.
Doremus was held, his mouth was clapped shut, by two guards as he tried to reach Fowler. Emil Staubmeyer seemed a little scared, but Effingham Swan, suave and amused, leaned his elbows on the table and tapped his teeth with a pencil.
From the courtyard, the sound of a rifle volley, a terrifying wail, one single emphatic shot, and nothing after.