It Can't Happen Here

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Chapter 34

Speaking of Julian before he was arrested, probably the New Underground headquarters in Montreal found no unusual value in his reports on M.M. grafting and cruelty and plans for apprehending N.U. agitators. Still, he had been able to warn four or five suspects to escape to Canada. He had had to assist in several floggings. He trembled so that the others laughed at him; and he made his blows suspiciously light.

He was set on being promoted to M.M. district headquarters in Hanover, and for it he studied typing and shorthand in his free time. He had a beautiful plan of going to that old family friend, Commissioner Francis Tasbrough, declaring that he wanted by his own noble qualities to make up to the divine government for his father's disloyalty, and of getting himself made Tasbrough's secretary. If he could just peep at Tasbrough's private files! Then there would be something juicy for Montreal!

Sissy and he discussed it exultantly in their leafy rendezvous. For a whole half hour she was able to forget her father and Buck in prison, and what seemed to her something like madness in Mary's increasing restlessness.

Just at the end of September she saw Julian suddenly arrested.

She was watching a review of M.M.'s on the Green. She might theoretically detest the blue M.M. uniform as being all that Walt Trowbridge (frequently) called it, "The old-time emblem of heroism and the battle for freedom, sacrilegiously turned by Windrip and his gang into a symbol of everything that is cruel, tyrannical, and false," but it did not dampen her pride in Julian to see him trim and shiny, and officially set apart as a squad-leader commanding his minor army of ten.

While the company stood at rest, County Commissioner Shad Ledue dashed up in a large car, sprang up, strode to Julian, bellowed, "This guy—this man is a traitor!" tore the M.M. steering-wheel from Julian's collar, struck him in the face, and turned him over to his private gunmen, while Julian's mates groaned, guffawed, hissed, and yelped.

 

 

She was not allowed to see Julian at Trianon. She could learn nothing save that he had not yet been executed.

When Mary was killed, and buried as a military heroine, Philip came bumbling up from his Massachusetts judicial circuit. He shook his head a great deal and pursed his lips.

"I swear," he said to Emma and Sissy—though actually he did nothing so wholesome and natural as to swear—"I swear I'm almost tempted to think, sometimes, that both Father and Mary have, or shall I say had, a touch of madness in them. There must be, terrible though it is to say it, but we must face facts in these troublous days, but I honestly think, sometimes, there must be a strain of madness somewhere in our family. Thank God I have escaped it!—if I have no other virtues, at least I am certainly sane! even if that may have caused the Pater to think I was nothing but mediocre! And of course you are entirely free from it, Mater. It's you that must watch yourself, Cecilia." (Sissy jumped slightly; not at anything so grateful as being called crazy by Philip, but at being called "Cecilia." After all, she admitted, that probably was her name.) "I hate to say it, Cecilia, but I've often thought you had a dangerous tendency to be thoughtless and selfish. Now Mater: as you know, I'm a very busy man, and I simply can't take a lot of time arguing and discussing, but it seems best to me, and I think I can almost say that it seems wise to Merilla, also, that, now that Mary has passed on, you should just close up this big house, or much better, try to rent it, as long as the poor Pater is—uh—as long as he's away. I don't pretend to have as big a place as this, but it's ever so much more modern, with gas furnace and up-to-date plumbing and all, and I have one of the first television sets in Rose Lane. I hope it won't hurt your feelings, and as you know, whatever people may say about me, certainly I'm one of the first to believe in keeping up the old traditions, just as poor dear old Eff Swan was, but at the same time, it seems to me that the old home here is a little on the dreary and old-fashioned side—of course I never could persuade the Pater to bring it up to date, but—Anyway, I want Davy and you to come live with us in Worcester, immediately. As for you, Sissy, you will of course understand that you are entirely welcome, but perhaps you would prefer to do something livelier, such as joining the Women's Corpo Auxiliary—"

He was, Sissy raged, so damned kind to everybody! She couldn't even stir herself to insult him much. She earnestly desired to, when she found that he had brought David an M.M. uniform, and when David put it on and paraded about shouting, like most of the boys he played with, "Hail Windrip!"

She telephoned to Lorinda Pike at Beecher Falls and was able to tell Philip that she was going to help Lorinda in the tea room. Emma and David went off to Worcester—at the last moment, at the station, Emma decided to be pretty teary about it, though David begged her to remember that they had Uncle Philip's word for it that Worcester was just the same as Boston, London, Hollywood, and a Wild West Ranch put together. Sissy stayed to get the house rented. Mrs. Candy, who was going to open her bakery now and who never did inform the impractical Sissy whether or no she was being paid for these last weeks, made for Sissy all the foreign dishes that only Sissy and Doremus cared for, and they not uncheerfully dined together, in the kitchen.

So it was Shad's time to swoop.

He came blusteringly calling on her, in November. Never had she hated him quite so much, yet never so much feared him, because of what he might do to her father and Julian and Buck and the others in concentration camps.

He grunted, "Well, your boy-friend Jule, that thought he was so cute, the poor heel, we got all the dope on his double-crossing us, all right! He'll never bother you again!"

"He's not so bad. Let's forget him… . Shall I play you something on the piano?"

"Sure. Shoot. I always did like high-class music," said the refined Commissioner, lolling on a couch, putting his heels up on a damask chair, in the room where once he had cleaned the fireplace. If it was his serious purpose to discourage Sissy in regard to that anti-Corpo institution, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, he was succeeding even better than Judge Philip Jessup. Sir William Gilbert would have said of Shad that he was so very, very prolet-ari-an.

She had played for but five minutes when he forgot that he was now refined, and bawled, "Oh, cut out the highbrow stuff and come on and sit down!"

She stayed on the piano stool. Just what would she do if Shad became violent? There was no Julian to appear melodramatically at the nickoftime and rescue her. Then she remembered Mrs. Candy, in the kitchen, and was content.

"What the heck you snickerin' at?" said Shad.

"Oh—oh I was just thinking about that story you told me about how Mr. Falck bleated when you arrested him!"

"Yeh, that was comical. Old Reverend certainly blatted like a goat!"

(Could she kill him? Would it be wise to kill him? Had Mary meant to kill Swan? Would They be harder on Julian and her father if she killed Shad? Incidentally, did it hurt much to get hanged?)

He was yawning, "Well, Sis, ole kid, how about you and me taking a little trip to New York in a couple weeks? See some high life. I'll get you the best soot in the best hotel in town, and we'll take in some shows—I hear this Callin' Stalin is a hot number—real Corpo art—and I'll buy you some honest-to-God champagne wine! And then if we find we like each other enough, I'm willing for us, if you are, to get hitched!"

"But, Shad! We could never live on your salary. I mean—I mean of course the Corpos ought to pay you better—mean, even better than they do."

"Listen, baby! I ain't going to have to get along on any miserable county commissioner's salary the rest of my life! Believe me, I'm going to be a millionaire before very long!"

Then he told her: told her precisely the sort of discreditable secret for which she had so long fished in vain. Perhaps it was because he was sober. Shad, when drunk, reversed all the rules and became more peasant-like and cautious with each drink.

He had a plan. That plan was as brutal and as infeasible as any plan of Shad Ledue for making large money would be. Its essence was that he should avoid manual labor and should make as many persons miserable as possible. It was like his plan, when he was still a hired man, to become wealthy by breeding dogs—first stealing the dogs and, preferably, the kennels.

As County Commissioner he had not merely, as was the Corpo custom, been bribed by the shopkeepers and professional men for protection against the M.M.'s. He had actually gone into partnership with them, promising them larger M.M. orders, and, he boasted, he had secret contracts with these merchants all written down and signed and tucked away in his office safe.

Sissy got rid of him that evening by being difficult, while letting him assume that the conquest of her would not take more than three or four more days. She cried furiously after he had gone—in the comforting presence of Mrs. Candy, who first put away a butcher knife with which, Sissy suspected, she had been standing ready all evening.

Next morning Sissy drove to Hanover and shamelessly tattled to Francis Tasbrough about the interesting documents Shad had in his safe. She did not ever see Shad Ledue again.

She was very sick about his being killed. She was very sick about all killing. She found no heroism but only barbaric bestiality in having to kill so that one might so far live as to be halfway honest and kind and secure. But she knew that she would be willing to do it again.

The Jessup house was magniloquently rented by that noble Roman, that political belch, Ex-Governor Isham Hubbard, who, being tired of again trying to make a living by peddling real estate and criminal law, was pleased to accept the appointment as successor to Shad Ledue.

Sissy hastened to Beecher Falls and to Lorinda Pike.

Father Perefixe took charge of the N.U. cell, merely saying, as he had said daily since Buzz Windrip had been inaugurated, that he was fed-up with the whole business and was immediately going back to Canada. In fact, on his desk he had a Canadian time-table.

It was now two years old.

 

 

Sissy was in too snappish a state to stand being mothered, being fattened and sobbed over and brightly sent to bed. Mrs. Candy had done only too much of that. And Philip had given her all the parental advice she could endure for a while. It was a relief when Lorinda received her as an adult, as one too sensible to insult by pity—received her, in fact, with as much respect as if she were an enemy and not a friend.

After dinner, in Lorinda's new tea room, in an aged house which was now empty of guests for the winter except for the constant infestation of whimpering refugees, Lorinda, knitting, made her first mention of the dead Mary.

"I suppose your sister did intend to kill Swan, eh?"

"I don't know. The Corpos didn't seem to think so. They gave her a big military funeral."

"Well, of course, they don't much care to have assassinations talked about and maybe sort of become a general habit. I agree with your father. I think that, in many cases, assassinations are really rather unfortunate—a mistake in tactics. No. Not good. Oh, by the way, Sissy, I think I'm going to get your father out of concentration camp."

"What?"

Lorinda had none of the matrimonial moans of Emma; she was as business-like as ordering eggs.

"Yes. I tried everything. I went to see Tasbrough, and that educational fellow, Peaseley. Nothing doing. They want to keep Doremus in. But that rat, Aras Dilley, is at Trianon as guard now. I'm bribing him to help your father escape. We'll have the man here for Christmas, only kind of late, and sneak him into Canada."

"Oh!" said Sissy.

 

 

A few days afterward, reading a coded New Underground telegram which apparently dealt with the delivery of furniture, Lorinda shrieked, "Sissy! All you-know-what has busted loose! In Washington! Lee Sarason has deposed Buzz Windrip and grabbed the dictatorship!"

"Oh!" said Sissy.

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