It Can't Happen Here

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Chapter 27

Mary Greenhill, revenging the murdered Fowler, was the only one of the conspirators who seemed moved more by homicidal hate than by a certain incredulous feeling that it was all a good but slightly absurd game. But to her, hate and the determination to kill were tonic. She soared up from the shadowed pit of grief, and her eyes lighted, her voice had a trembling gayety. She threw away her weeds and came out in defiant colors—oh, they had to economize, these days, to put every available penny into the missionary fund of the New Underground, but Mary had become so fire-drawn that she could wear Sissy's giddiest old frocks.

She had more daring than Julian, or even Buck—indeed led Buck into his riskiest expeditions.

In mid-afternoon, Buck and Mary, looking very matrimonial, domestically accompanied by David and the rather doubtful Foolish, ambled through the center of Burlington, where none of them were known—though a number of dogs, city slickers and probably con-dogs, insisted to the rustic and embarrassed Foolish that they had met him somewhere.

It was Buck who muttered "Right!" from time to time, when they were free from being observed, but it was Mary who calmly, a yard or two from M.M.'s or policemen, distributed crumpled-up copies of:

 

A Little Sunday-school Life of JOHN SULLIVAN REEK Second-class Political Crook, & Certain Entertaining Pictures of Col. Dewey Haik, Torturer.

 

These crumpled pamphlets she took from a specially made inside pocket of her mink coat; one reaching from shoulder to waist. It had been recommended by John Pollikop, whose helpful lady had aforetime used just such a pocket for illicit booze. The crumpling had been done carefully. Seen from two yards away, the pamphlets looked like any waste paper, but each was systematically so wadded up that the words, printed in bold red type, "Haik himself kicked an old man to death" caught the eye. And, lying in corner trash baskets, in innocent toy wagons before hardware stores, among oranges in a fruit store where they had gone to buy David a bar of chocolate, they caught some hundreds of eyes in Burlington that day.

On their way home, with David sitting in front beside Buck and Mary in the back, she cried, "That will stir 'em up! But oh, when Daddy has finished his booklet on Swan—God!"

David peeped back at her. She sat with eyes closed, with hands clenched.

He whispered to Buck, "I wish Mother wouldn't get so excited."

"She's the finest woman living, Dave."

"I know it, but—She scares me so!"

One scheme Mary devised and carried out by herself. From the magazine counter in Tyson's drugstore, she stole a dozen copies of the Readers' Digest and a dozen larger magazines. When she returned them, they looked untouched, but each of the larger magazines contained a leaflet, "Get Ready to Join Walt Trowbridge," and each Digest had become the cover for a pamphlet: "Lies of the Corpo Press."

 

 

To serve as center of their plot, to be able to answer the telephone and receive fugitives and put off suspicious snoopers twenty-four hours a day, when Buck and the rest might be gone, Lorinda chucked her small remaining interest in the Beulah Valley Tavern and became Buck's housekeeper, living in the place. There was scandal. But in a day when it was increasingly hard to get enough bread and meat, the town folk had little time to suck scandal like lollipops, and anyway, who could much suspect this nagging uplifter who so obviously preferred tuberculin tests to toying with Corydon in the glade? And as Doremus was always about, as sometimes he stayed overnight, for the first time these timid lovers had space for passion.

It had never been their loyalty to the good Emma—since she was too contented to be pitied, too sure of her necessary position in life to be jealous—so much as hatred of a shabby hole-and-corner intrigue which had made their love cautious and grudging. Neither of them was so simple as to suppose that, even with quite decent people, love is always as monogamic as bread and butter, yet neither of them liked sneaking.

Her room at Buck's, large and square and light, with old landscape paper showing an endlessness of little mandarins daintily stepping out of sedan chairs beside pools laced with willows, with a four-poster, a colonial highboy, and a crazy-colored rag carpet, became in two days, so fast did one live now in time of revolution, the best-loved home Doremus had ever known. As eagerly as a young bridegroom he popped into and out of her room, and he was not overly particular about the state of her toilet. And Buck knew all about it and just laughed.

Released now, Doremus saw her as physically more alluring. With parochial superiority, he had noted, during vacations on Cape Cod, how often the fluffy women of fashion when they stripped to bathing suits were skinny, to him unwomanly, with thin shoulder blades and with backbones as apparent as though they were chains fastened down their backs. They seemed passionate to him and a little devilish, with their thin restless legs and avid lips, but he chuckled as he considered that the Lorinda whose prim gray suits and blouses seemed so much more virginal than the gay, flaunting summer cottons of the Bright Young Things was softer of skin to the touch, much richer in the curve from shoulder to breast.

He rejoiced to know that she was always there in the house, that he could interrupt the high seriousness of a tract on bond issues to dash out to the kitchen and brazenly let his arm slide round her waist.

She, the theoretically independent feminist, became flatteringly demanding about every attention. Why hadn't he brought her some candy from town? Would he mind awfully calling up Julian for her? Why hadn't he remembered to bring her the book he had promised—well, would have promised if she had only remembered to ask him for it? He trotted on her errands, idiotically happy. Long ago Emma had reached the limit of her imagination in regard to demands. He was discovering that in love it is really more blessed to give than to receive, a proverb about which, as an employer and as a steady fellow whom forgotten classmates regularly tried to touch for loans, he had been very suspicious.

 

 

He lay beside her, in the wide four-poster, at dawn, March dawn with the elm branches outside the window ugly and writhing in the wind, but with the last coals still snapping in the fireplace, and he was utterly content. He glanced at Lorinda, who had on her sleeping face a frown that made her look not older but schoolgirlish, a schoolgirl who was frowning comically over some small woe, and who defiantly clutched her old-fashioned lace-bordered pillow. He laughed. They were going to be so adventurous together! This little printing of pamphlets was only the beginning of their revolutionary activities. They would penetrate into press circles in Washington and get secret information (he was drowsily vague about what information they were going to get and how they would ever get it) which would explode the Corpo state. And with the revolution over, they would go to Bermuda, to Martinique—lovers on purple peaks, by a purple sea—everything purple and grand. Or (and he sighed and became heroic as he exquisitely stretched and yawned in the wide warm bed) if they were defeated, if they were arrested and condemned by the M.M.'s, they would die together, sneering at the firing-squad, refusing to have their eyes bandaged, and their fame, like that of Servetus and Matteotti and Professor Ferrer and the Haymarket martyrs, would roll on forever, acclaimed by children waving little flags—

"Gimme a cigarette, darling!"

Lorinda was regarding him with a beady and skeptical eye.

"You oughtn't to smoke so much!"

"You oughtn't to boss so much! Oh, my darling!" She sat up, kissed his eyes and temples, and sturdily climbed out of bed, seeking her own cigarette.

"Doremus! It's been marvelous to have this companionship with you. But—" She looked a little timid, sitting cross-legged on the rattan-topped stool before the old mahogany dressing table—no silver or lace or crystal was there, but only plain wooden hairbrush and scant luxury of small drugstore bottles. "But darling, this cause—oh, curse that word 'cause'—can't I ever get free of it?—but anyway, this New Underground business seems to me so important, and I know you feel that way too, but I've noticed that since we've settled down together, two awful sentimentalists, you aren't so excited about writing your nice venomous attacks, and I'm getting more cautious about going out distributing tracts. I have a foolish idea I have to save my life, for your sake. And I ought to be only thinking about saving my life for the revolution. Don't you feel that way? Don't you? Don't you?"

Doremus swung his legs out of bed, also lighted an unhygienic cigarette, and said grumpily, "Oh, I suppose so! But—tracts! Your attitude is simply a hold-over of your religious training. That you have a duty toward the dull human race—which probably enjoys being bullied by Windrip and getting bread and circuses—except for the bread!"

"Of course it's religious, a revolutionary loyalty! Why not? It's one of the few real religious feelings. A rational, unsentimental Stalin is still kind of a priest. No wonder most preachers hate the Reds and preach against 'em! They're jealous of their religious power. But—Oh, we can't unfold the world, this morning, even over breakfast coffee, Doremus! When Mr. Dimick came back here yesterday, he ordered me to Beecher Falls—you know, on the Canadian border—to take charge of the N.U. cell there—ostensibly to open up a tea room for this summer. So, hang it, I've got to leave you, and leave Buck and Sis, and go. Hang it!"

"Linda!"

She would not look at him. She made much, too much, of grinding out her cigarette.

"Linda!"

"Yes?"

"You suggested this to Dimick! He never gave any orders till you suggested it!"

"Well—"

"Linda! Linda! Do you want to get away from me so much? You—my life!"

She came slowly to the bed, slowly sat down beside him. "Yes. Get away from you and get away from myself. The world's in chains, and I can't be free to love till I help tear them off."

"It will never be out of chains!"

"Then I shall never be free to love! Oh, if we could only have run away together for one sweet year, when I was eighteen! Then I would have lived two whole lives. Well, nobody seems to be very lucky at turning the clock back—almost twenty-five years back, too. I'm afraid Now is a fact you can't dodge. And I've been getting so—just this last two weeks, with April coming in—that I can't think of anything but you. Kiss me. I'm going. Today."

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