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Mary French




 

The first job Mary French got in New York she got
through one of Ada's friends. It was sitting all day in an
artgallery on Eighth Street where there was an exposition
of sculpture and answering the questions of ladies in flow-
ing batiks who came in in the afternoons to be seen ap-
preciating art. After two weeks of that the girl she was
replacing came back and Mary who kept telling herself
she wanted to be connected with something real went and
got herself a job in the ladies' and misses' clothing de-
partment at Bloomingdale's. When the summer layoff
came she was dropped, but she went home and wrote an
article about departmentstore workers for the Freeman
and on the strength of it got herself a job doing research
on wages, livingcosts and the spread between wholesale
and retail prices in the dress industry for the International
Ladies' Garment Workers. She liked the long hours dig-
ging out statistics, the talk with the organizers, the wise-
cracking radicals, the working men and girls who came
into the crowded dingy office she shared with two or three
other researchworkers. At last she felt what she was doing
was real.

 

Ada had gone to Michigan with her family and had
left Mary in the apartment on Madison Avenue. Mary
was relieved to have her gone; she was still fond of her
but their interests were so different and they had silly
arguments about the relative importance of art and social
justice that left them tired and cross at each other so that
sometimes they wouldn't speak for several days; and then
they hated each other's friends. Still Mary couldn't help
being fond-of Ada. They were such old friends and. Ada
forked out so generously for the strikers' defense com-
mittees, legalaid funds and everything that Mary sug-
gested; she was a very openhanded girl, but her point of

 

-439-

 

view was hopelessly rich, she had no social consciousness.
The apartment got on Mary French's nerves, too, with
its pastelcolored nicknacks and the real Whistler and the
toothick rugs and the toosoft boxsprings on the bed and the
horrid little satin tassels on everything; but Mary was
making so little money that not paying rent was a great
help.



 

Ada's apartment came in very handy the night of the
big meeting in Madison Square Garden to welcome the
classwar prisoners released from Atlanta. Mary French
who had been asked to sit on the platform overheard some
members of the committee saying that they had no place
to put up Ben Compton. They were looking for a quiet
hideout where he could have a rest and shake the D. J.
operatives who'd been following him around everywhere
since he'd gotten to New York. Mary went up to them and
in a whisper suggested her place. So after the meeting she
waited in a yellow taxicab at the corner of Twentyninth
and Madison until a tall pale man with a checked cap
pulled way down over his face got in and sat down shakily
beside her. When the cab started he put his steelrimmed
glasses back on. "Look back and see if a grey sedan's fol-
lowing us," he said. "I don't see anything," said Mary.
"Oh, you wouldn't know it if you saw it," he grumbled.

 

To be on the safe side they left the cab at the Grand
Central station and walked without speaking a way up
Park Avenue and then west on a' cross street and down
Madison again. Mary plucked his sleeve to stop him in
front of the door. Once in the apartment he made Mary
shoot the bolt and let himself drop into a chair without
taking off his cap or his overcoat.



 

He didn't say anything. His shoulders were shaking.
Mary didn't like to stare at him. She didn't know what
to do. She puttered around the livingroom, lit the gaslogs,
smoked a cigarette and then she went into the kitchenette
to make coffee. When she got back he'd taken off his things

 

-440-

 

and was warming his bigknuckled hands at the gaslogs.
"You must excuse me, comrade," he said in a dry hoarse
voice. "I'm all in."

 

"Oh, don't mind me," said Mary. "I thought you might
want some coffee."

 

"No coffee . . . hot milk," he said hurriedly. His teeth
were chattering as if he were cold. She came back with a
cup of hot milk. "Could I have some sugar in it?" he said
and almost smiled.

 

"Of course," she said. "You made a magnificent speech,
so restrained and kind of fiery. . . . It was the best in the
whole meeting.""You didn't think I seemed agitated? I
was afraid I'd go to pieces and not be able to finish. . . .
You're sure nobody knows this address, or the phonenum-
ber? You're sure we weren't followed?""I'm sure no-
body'll find you here on Madison Avenue. . . . It's the
last place they'd look.""I know they are trailing me," he
said with a shudder and dropped into a chair again. They
were silent for a long time. Mary could hear the gaslogs
and the little sucking sips he drank the hot milk with.
Then she said:



 

"It must have been terrible."

 

He got to his feet and shook his head as if he didn't
want to talk about it. He was a young man lankilybuilt,
but he walked up and down in front of the gaslogs with
a strangely elderly dragging walk. His face was white as
a mushroom with sags of brownish skin under the eyes.

 

"You see," he said, "it's like people who've been sick
and have to learn to walk all over again don't pay
any attention."

 

He drank several cups of hot milk and then he went
to bed. She went into the other bedroom and closed the
door and lay down on the bed with a pile of books and
pamphlets. She had some legal details to look up.

 

She had just gotten sleepy and crawled under the covers
herself whon a knocking woke her. She snatched at her

 

-441-

 

bathrobe and jumped up and opened the door. Ben Comp-
ton stood there trembling wearing a long unionsuit. He'd
taken off his glasses and they'd left a red band across the
bridge of his nose. His hair was rumpled and his knobby
feet were bare. "Comrade," he stammered, "d'you mind
if I . . . d'you mind if I . . . d'you mind if I lie on the
bed beside you? I can't sleep. I can't stay alone.""You
poor boy. . . . Get into bed, you are shivering," she said.
She lay down beside him still wearing her bathrobe and
slippers.

 

"Shall I put out the light?" He nodded. "Would you
like some aspirin?" He shook his head. She pulled the
covers up under his chin as if he were a child. He lay there
on his back staring with wideopen black eyes at the ceiling.
His teeth were clenched. She put her hand on his forehead
as she would on a child's to see if he was feverish. He
shuddered and drew away. "Don't touch me," he said.

 

Mary put out the light and tried to compose herself to
sleep on the bed beside him. After a while he grabbed her
hand and held it tight. They lay there in the dark side
by side staring up at the ceiling. Then she felt his grip on
her hand loosen; he was dropping off to sleep. She lay
there beside him with her eyes open. She was afraid the
slightest stir might wake him. Every time she fell asleep
she dreamed that detectives were breaking in the door and
woke up with a shuddering start.

 

Next morning when she went out to go to the office he
was still asleep. She left a latchkey for him and a note
explaining that there was food and coffee in the icebox.
When she got home that afternoon her heart beat fast as
she went up in the elevator.

 

Her first thought after she'd opened the door was that
he'd gone. The bedroom was empty. Then she noticed that
the bathroom door was closed and that a sound of hum-
ming came from there. She tapped. "That you, Comrade
Compton?" she said.

 

-442-

 

"Be right out." His voice sounded firmer, more like
the deep rich voice he'd addressed the meeting in. He
came out smiling, long pale legs bristling with black hairs
sticking oddly out from under Mary's lavender bathrobe.

 

"Hello, I've been taking a hot bath. This is the third
I've taken. Doctor said they were a good thing. . . . You
know, relax. . . ." He pulled out a pinkleather edition of
Oscar Wilde Dorian Grey from under his arm and shook
it in front of her. "Reading this tripe. . . . I feel better.
. . . Say, comrade, whose apartment is this anyway?"

 

"A friend of mine who's a violinist. . . . She's away
till fall.""I wish she was here to play for us. I'd love to
hear some good music. . . . Maybe you're musical."
Mary shook her head.

 

"Could you eat some supper? I've brought some in."
"I'll try . . . nothing too rich . . . I've gotten very
dyspeptic. . . . So you thought I spoke all right?""I
thought it was wonderful," she said.

 

"After supper I'll look at the papers you brought in.
. . . If the kept press only' wouldn't always garble what
we say."

 

She heated some peasoup and made toast and bacon and
eggs and he ate up everything she gave him. While they
were eating they had a nice cozy talk about the movement.
She told him about her experiences in the great steelstrike.
She could see he was beginning to take an interest in her.
They'd hardly finished eating before he began to turn
white. He went to the bathroom and threw up.

 

"Ben, you poor kid," she said when he came back look-
ing haggard and shaky. "It's awful."

 

"Funny," he said in a weak voice. "When I was in the
Bergen County jail over there in Jersey I came out feel-
ing fine . . . but this time it's hit me.""Did they treat
szyou badly?" His teeth clenched and the muscles of his
jaw stiffened, but he shook his head. Suddenly he grabbed.
her hand and his eyes filled with tears. " Mary French,

 

-443-

 

you're being too good to me," he said. Mary couldn't help
throwing her arms around him and hugging him. "You
don't know what it means to find a . . . to find a sweet
girl comrade," he said, pushing her gently away. "Now
let me see what the papers did to what I said."

 

After Ben had been hiding out in the apartment for
about a week the two of them decided one Saturday night
that they loved each other. Mary was happier than she'd
ever been in her life. They romped around like kids all
Sunday and went out walking in the park to hear the band
play in the evening. They threw sponges at each other in
the bathroom and teased each other while they were get-
ting undressed; they slept tightly clasped in each other's
arms.

 

In spite of never going out except at night, in the next
few days Ben's cheeks began to have a little color in them
and his step began to get some spring into it. "You've
made me feel like a man again, Mary," he'd tell her a
dozen times a day. "Now I'm beginning to feel like I
could do something again. After all the revolutionary
labor movement's just beginning in this country. The tide's
going to turn, you watch. It's begun with Lenin and
Trotzky's victories in Russia." There was something mov-
ing to Mary in the way he pronounced those three words:
Lenin, Trotzky, Russia.

 

After a couple of weeks he began to go to conferences
with radical leaders. She never knew if she'd find him in
or not when she got home from work. Sometimes it was
three or four in the morning before he came in tired and
haggard. Always his pockets bulged with literature and
leaflets. Ada's fancy livingroom gradually filled up with
badlyprinted newspapers and pamphlets and mimeo-
graphed sheets. On the mantelpiece among Ada's dresden-
china figures playing musical instruments were stacked the
three volumes of Capital with places marked in them with
pencils. In the evening he'd read Mary pieces of a pam-

 

-444-

 

phlet he was working on, modeled on Lenin What's to
Be Done? and ask her with knitted brows if he was clear,
if simple workers would understand what he meant.

 

One Sunday in August he made her go with him to
Coney Island where he'd made an appointment to meet
his folks; he'd figured it would be easier to see them in
a crowded place. He didn't want the dicks to trail him
home and then be bothering the old people or his sister
who had a good job as secretary to a prominent business-
man. When they met it was some time before the Comp-
tons noticed Mary at all. They sat at a big round table
at Stauch's and drank nearbeer. Mary found it hard to
sit still in her chair when the Comptons all turned their
eyes on her at once. The old people were very polite with
gentle manners but she could see that they wished she
hadn't come. Ben's sister Gladys gave her one hard mean
stare and then paid no attention to her. Ben's brother
Sam, a stout prosperouslooking Jew who Ben had said
had a small business, a sweatshop probably, was polite and
oily. Only Izzy, the youngest brother, looked anything
like a workingman and he was more likely a gangster.
He treated her with kidding familiarity, she could see he
thought of her as Ben's moll. They all admired Ben, she
could see; he was the bright boy, the scholar, but they
felt sorry about his radicalism as if it was an unfortunate
sickness he had contracted. Still his name in the paper,
the applause in Madison Square Garden, the speeches call-
ing him a workingclass hero had impressed them. After
Ben and Mary had left the Comptons and were going into
the subwaystation, Ben said bitterly in her ear, "Well,
that's the Jewish family. . . . What do you think of it?
Some straitjacket. . . . It'ud be the same if I killed a
man or ran a string of whorehouses . . . even in the
movement you can't break away from them.""But, Ben,
it's got its good side . . . they'd do anything in the world

 

-445-

 

for you . . . my mother and me we really hate each
other."

 

Ben needed clothes and so did Mary; she never had
any of the money from the job left over from week to
week, so for the first time in her life she wrote her mother
asking for five hundred dollars. Her mother sent back a
check with a rather nice letter saying that she'd been made
Republican State Committeewoman and that she admired
Mary's independence because she'd always believed women
had just as much iright as men to earn their own living and
maybe women in politics would have a better influence
than she'd once thought, and certainly Mary was showing
grit in carving out a career for herself, but she did hope
she'd soon come around to seeing that she could have
just as interesting a career if she'd come back to Colorado
Springs and occupy the social position her mother's situ-
ation entitled her to. Ben was so delighted when he saw
the check he didn't ask what Mary had got the money
for. "Five hundred bucks is just what I needed," he said.
"I hadn't wanted to tell you but they want me to lead a
strike over in Bayonne . . . rayonworkers . . . you know,
the old munitionplants made over to make artificial silk.
. . . It's a tough town and the workers are so poor they
can't pay their union dues . . . but they've got a fine
radical union over there. It's important to get a foothold
in the new industries . . . that's where the old sellout
organizations of the A. F. of L. are failing. . . . Five hun-
dred bucks'll take care of the printing bill."

 

"Oh, Ben, you are not rested yet. I'm so afraid they'll
arrest you again."

 

He kissed her. "Nothing to worry about."

 

"But, Ben, I wanted you to get some clothes."

 

"This is a fine suit. What's the matter with this suit?
Didn't Uncle Sam give me this suit himself? . . . Once
we get things going we'll get you over to do publicity for
us . . . enlarge your knowledge of the clothing industry.

 

-446-

 

Oh, Mary, you're a wonderful girl to have raised that
money."

 

That fall when Ada came back, Mary moved out and
got herself a couple of small rooms on West Fourth Street
in the Village, so that Ben could have some place to go
when he came over to New York. That winter she worked
tremendously hard, still handling her old job and at the
same time doing publicity for the strikes Ben led in several
Jersey towns. "That's nothing to how hard we'll have to
work when we have soviets in America," Ben would say
when she'd ask him didn't he think they'd do better work
if they didn't always try to do so many things at once.

 

She never knew when Ben was going to turn up. Some-
times he'd be there every night for a week and sometimes
he would be away for a month and she'd only hear from
him through newsreleases about meetings, picketlines
broken up, injunctions fought in the courts. Once they de-
cided they'd get married and have a baby, but the com-
rades were calling for Ben to come and organize the
towns around Passaic and he said it would distract him
from his work and that they were young and that there'd
be plenty of time for that sort of thing after the revo-
lution. Now was the time to fight. Of course she could
have the baby if she wanted to but it would spoil her use-
fulness in the struggle for several months and he didn't
think this was the time for it. It was the first time they'd
quarreled. She said he was heartless. He said they had to
sacrifice their personal feelings for the workingclass, and
stormed out of the house in a temper. In the end she had
an abortion but she had to write her mother again for
money to pay for it.

 

She threw herself into her work for the strikecommittee
harder than ever. Sometimes for weeks she only slept four
or five hours a night. She took to smoking a great deal.
There was always a cigarette resting on a corner of her
typewriter. The fine ash dropped into the pages as they

 

-447-

 

came from the multigraph machine. Whenever she could
be spared from the office she went around collecting money
from wealthy women, inducing prominent liberals to come
and get arrested on the picketline, coaxing articles out of
newspapermen, traveling around the country to find chari-
table people to go on bailbonds. The strikers, the men and
women and children on picketlines, in soupkitchens, being
interviewed in the dreary front parlors of their homes
stripped of furniture they hadn't been able to make the
last payment on, the buses full of scabs, the cops and
deputies with sawedoff shotguns guarding the tall palings
of the silent enormouslyextended oblongs of the black-
windowed millbuildings, passed in a sort of dreamy haze
before her, like a show on the stage, in the middle of the
continuous typing and multigraphing, the writing of let-
ters and working up of petitions, the long grind of office-
work that took up her days and nights.

 

She and Ben had no life together at all any more. She
thrilled to him the way the workers did at meetings when
he'd come to the platform in a tumult of stamping and
applause and talk to them with flushed cheeks and shining
eyes talking clearly directly to each man and woman, en-
couraging them, warning them, explaining the economic
setup to them. The millgirls were all crazy about him.
In spite of herself Mary French would get a sick feeling
in the pit of her stomach at the way they looked at him
and at the way some big buxom freshlooking woman
would stop him sometimes in the hall outside the office
and put her hand on his arm and make him pay attention
to her. Mary working away at her desk with her tongue
bitter and her mouth dry from too much smoking would
look at her yellowstained fingers and push her untidy un-
curled hair off her forehead and feel badlydressed and
faded and unattractive. If he'd give her one smile just
for her before he bawled her out before the whole office be-
cause the leaflets weren't ready, she'd feel happy all day.

 

-448-

 

But mostly he seemed to have forgotten that they'd ever
been lovers.

 

After the A. F. of L. officials from Washington in expen-
sive overcoats and silk mufflers who smoked twentyfivecent
cigars and spat on the floor of the office had taken the
strike out of Ben's hands and settled it, he came back to
the room on Fourth Street late one night just as Mary
was going to bed. His eyes were redrimmed from lack of
sleep and his cheeks were sunken and grey. "Oh, Ben," she
said and burst out crying. He was cold and bitter and des-
perate. He sat for hours on the edge of her bed telling her
in a sharp monotonous voice about the sellout and the
wrangles between the leftwinggers and the oldline socialists
and laborleaders, and how now that it was all over here
was his trial for contempt of court coming up. "I feel so
bad about spending the workers' money on my defense.
. . . I'd as soon go to jail as not . . . but it's the pre-
cedent. . . . We've got to fight every case and it's the
one way we can use the liberal lawyers, the lousy fakers.
. . . And it costs so much and the union's broke and I
don't like to have them spend the money on me . . . but
they say that if we win my case then the cases against the
other boys will all be dropped. . . .""The thing to do,"
she said, smoothing his hair off his forehead, "is to relax
a little.""You should be telling me?" he said and started
to unlace his shoes.

 

It was a long time before she could get him to get into
bed. He sat there halfundressed in the dark shivering and
talking about the errors that had been committed in the
strike. When at last he'd taken his clothes off and stood
up to lay them on a chair he looked like a skeleton in the
broad swath of grey glare that cut across the room from
the streetlight outside her window. She burst out crying
all over again at the sunken look of his chest and the
deep hollows inside his collarbone. "What's the matter,
girl?" Ben said gruffly. "You crying because you haven't

 

-449-

 

got a Valentino to go to bed with you?""Nonsense, Ben,
I was just thinking you needed fattening up . . . you
poor kid, you work so hard,""You'll be going off with a
goodlooking young bondsalesman one of these days, like
you were used to back in Colorado Springs. . . . I know
what to expect . . . I don't give a damn . . . I can make
the fight alone.""Oh, Ben, don't talk like that . . . you
know I'm heart and soul . . ." She drew him to her. Sud-
denly he kissed her.

 

Next morning they quarreled bitterly while they were
dressing, about the value of her researchwork. She said
that after all he couldn't talk; the strike hadn't been such
a wild success. He went out without eating his breakfast.
She went uptown in a clenched fury of misery, threw up
her job and a few days later went down to Boston to
work on the Sacco-Vanzetti case with the new committee
that had just been formed.

 

She'd never been in Boston before. The town these
sunny winter days had a redbrick oldtime steelengraving
look that pleased her. She got herself a little room on the
edge of the slums back of Beacon Hill and decided that
when the case was won, she'd write a novel about Boston.
She bought some school copybooks in a little musty sta-
tioners' shop and started right away taking notes for the
novel. The smell of the new copybook with its faint blue
lines made her feel fresh and new. After this she'd observe
life. She'd never fall for a man again. Her mother had
sent her a check for Christmas. With that she bought her-
self some new clothes and quite a becoming hat. She started
to curl her hair again.

 

Her job was keeping in touch with newspapermen and
trying to get favorable items into the press. It was uphill
work. Although most of the newspapermen who had any
connection with the case thought the two had been wrongly
convicted they tended to say that they were just two wop
anarchists, so what the hell? After she'd been out to

 

-450-

 

Dedham jail to talk to Sacco and to Charlestown to talk
to Vanzetti, she tried to tell the U.P. man what she felt
about them one Saturday night when he was taking her
out to dinner at an Italian restaurant on Hanover Street.

 

He was the only one of the newspapermen she got really
friendly with. He was an awful drunk but he'd seen a
great deal and he had a gentle detached manner that she
liked. He liked her for some reason, though he kidded her
unmercifully about what he called her youthful fanaticism.
When he'd ask her out to dinner and make her drink a
lot of red wine she'd tell herself that it wasn't really a
waste of time, that it was important for her to keep in
touch with the press services. His name was Jerry Burn-
ham.

 

"But, Jerry, how can you stand it? If the State of Mas-
sachusetts can kill those two innocent men in the face of
the protest of the whole world it'll mean that there never
will be any justice in America ever again.""When was
there any to begin with?" he said with a mirthless giggle,
leaning over to fill up her glass. "Ever heard of Tom
Mooney?" The curly white of his hair gave a strangely
youthful look to his puffy red face. "But there's something
so peaceful, so honest about them; you get such a feeling
of greatness out of them. Honestly they are great men."
"Everything you say makes it more remarkable that they
weren't executed years ago.""But the workingpeople, the
common people, they won't allow it.""It's the common
people who get most fun out of the torture and execution
of great men. . . . If it's not going too far back I'd like
to know who it was demanded the execution of our friend
Jesus H. Christ?"

 

It was Jerry Burnham who taught her to drink. He
lived himself in a daily alcoholic haze carrying his drinks
carefully and circumspectly like an acrobat walking across
a tight wire with a tableful of dishes balanced on his head.
He was so used to working his twentyfourhour newsserv-

 

-451-

 

ice that he attended to his wires and the business of his
office as casually as he'd pay the check in one speakeasy
before walking around the corner to another. His kidneys
were shot and he was on the winewagon he said, but she
often noticed whiskey on his breath when she went into
his office. He was so exasperating that she'd swear to her-
self each time she went out with him it was the last. No
more wasting time when every minute was precious. But
the next time he'd ask her out she'd crumple up at once
and smile and say yes and waste another evening drinking
wine and listening to him ramble on. "It'll all end in
blindness and sudden death," he said one night as he left
her in a taxi at the corner of her street. "But who cares?
Who in hell cares . . . ? Who on the bloody louseinfested
globe gives one little small microscopic vestigial hoot?"

 

As courtdecision after courtdecision was lost and the ran-
cid Boston spring warmed into summer and the governor's
commission reported adversely and no hope remained but
a pardon from the governor himself, Mary worked more
and more desperately hard. She wrote articles, she talked
to politicians and ministers and argued with editors, she
made speeches in unionhalls. She wrote her mother piti-
ful humiliating letters to get money out of her on all sorts
of pretexts. Every cent she could scrape up went into the
work of her committee. There were always stationery and
stamps and telegrams and phonecalls to pay for. She spent
long evenings trying to coax communists, socialists, anar-
chists, liberals into working together. Hurrying along the
stonepaved streets she'd be whispering to herself, "They've
got to be saved, they've got to be saved." When at last
she got to bed her dreams were full of impossible tasks;
she was trying to glue a broken teapot together and as
soon as she got one side of it mended the other side would
come to pieces again, she was trying to mend a rent in her
skirt and by the time the bottom was sewed the top had
come undone again; she was trying to put together pieces

 

-452-

 

of a torn typewritten sheet, the telegram was of the great
est importance, she couldn't see, it was all a blur before
her eyes; it was the evidence that would force a new
trial, her eyes were too bad, when she had spelled out
one word from the swollen throbbing letters she'd for-
gotten the last one; she was climbing a shaky hillside
among black guttedlooking houses pitching at crazy angles
where steelworkers lived, at each step she slid back, it was
too steep, she was crying for help, yelling, sliding back.
Then warm reassuring voices like Ben Compton's when
he was feeling well were telling her that Public Opinion
wouldn't allow it that after all Americans' had a sense of
Justice and Fair Play that the Workingclass would rise;
she'd see crowded meetings, slogans, banners, glary bill-
boards with letters pitching into perspective saying: Work-
ers of the World Unite, she'd be marching in the middle
of crowds in parades of protest. They Shall Not Die.

 

She'd wake up with a start, bathe and dress hurriedly
and rush down to the office of the committee snatching up
a glass of orange juice and a cup of coffee on the way. She
was always the first there; if she slackened her work for
a moment she'd see their faces, the shoemaker's sharply-
modeled pale face with the flashing eyes and the fish-
peddler's philosophical mustaches and his musing unscared
eyes. She'd see behind them the electric chair as clear as
if it were standing in front of her desk in the stuffy
crowded office.

 

July went by all too fast. August came. A growing
crowd of all sorts of people began pouring through the
office: old friends, wobblies who'd hitchhiked from the
coast, politicians interested in the Italian vote, lawyers with
suggestions for the defense, writers, outofwork newspaper-
men, cranks and phonies of all kinds attracted by rumors
of an enormous defensefund. She came back one afternoon
from speaking in a unionhall in Pawtucket and found
G. H. Barrow sitting at her desk. He had written a great

 

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pile of personal telegrams to senators congressmen mini-
sters laborleaders demanding that they join in the protest
in the name of justice and civilization and the working-
class, long telegrams and cables at top rates. She figured
out the cost as she checked them off. She didn't know how
the committee could pay for them, but she handed them
to the messengerboy waiting outside. She could hardly be-
lieve that those words had made her veins tingle only a
few weeks before. It shocked her to think how meaning-
less they seemed to her now like the little cards you get
from a onecent fortunetelling machine. For six months
now she'd been reading and writing the same words every
day.

 

Mary didn't have time to be embarrassed meeting
George Barrow. They went out together to get a plate of
soup at a cafeteria talking about nothing but the case as if
they'd never known each other before. Picketing the State
House had begun again and as they came out of the restau-
rant Mary turned to him and said, "Well, George, how
about going up and getting arrested. . . . There's still
time to make the afternoon papers. Your name would give
us back the front page."

 

He flushed red, and stood there in front of the restau-
rant in the noontime crowd looking tall and nervous and
popeyed in his natty lightgrey suit. "But, my dear g-g-girl,
I . . . if I thought it would do the slightest good I would
. . . I'd get myself arrested or run over by a truck . . .
but I think it would rob me of whatever usefulness I
might have."

 

Mary French looked him straight in the eye, her face
white with fury. "I didn't think you'd take the risk," she
said, clipping each word off and spitting it in his face. She
turned her back on him and hurried to the office.

 

It was a sort of relief when she was arrested herself.
She'd planned to keep out of sight of the cops as she
had been told her work was too valuable to lose, but she'd

 

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had to run up the hill with a set of placards for a new
batch of picketers who had gone off without them,
There was nobody in the office she could send. She was
just crossing Beacon Street when two large polite cops
suddenly appeared, one on each side of her. One of them
said, "Sorry, miss, please come quietly," and she found
herself sitting in the dark patrolwagon. Driving to the
policestation she had a soothing sense of helplessness and
irresponsibility. It was the first time in weeks she had
felt herself relax. At the Joy Street station they booked
her but they didn't put her in a cell. She sat on a bench
opposite the window with two Jewish garmentworkers and
a welldressed woman in a flowered summer dress with a
string of pearls round her neck and watched the men pick-
eters pouring through into the cells. The cops were polite,
everybody was jolly; it seemed like a kind of game, it
was hard to believe anything real was at stake.

 

In a crowd that had just been unloaded from the wagon
on the steep street outside the policestation she caught
sight of a tall man she recognized as Donald Stevens from
his picture in the Daily. A redfaced cop held on to each
of his arms. His shirt was torn open at the neck and his
necktie had a stringy look as if somebody had been yank-
ing on it. The first thing Mary thought was how hand-
somely he held himself. He had steelgrey hair and a
brown outdoorlooking skin and luminous grey eyes over
high cheekbones. When he was led away from the desk
she followed his broad shoulders with her eyes into the
gloom of the cells. The woman next to her whispered in
an awed voice that he was being held for inciting to riot
instead of sauntering and loitering like the rest. Five
thousand dollars bail. He had tried to hold a meeting on
Boston Common.

 

Mary had been there about a halfhour when little Mr.
Feinstein from the office came round with a tall fashion-
ablydressed man in a linen suit who put up the bail for

 

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her. At the same time Donald Stevens was bailed out.
The four of them walked down the hill from the police-
station together. At the corner the man in the linen suit
said, "You two were too useful to leave in there all day.
. . . Perhaps we'll see you at the Bellevue . . . suite D,
second floor." Then he waved his hand and left them.
Mary was so anxious to talk to Donald Stevens she didn't
think to ask the man's name. Events were going past her
faster than she could focus her mind on them.

 

Mary plucked at Donald Stevens' sleeve, she and Mr.
Feinstein both had to hurry to keep up with his long
stride. "I'm Mary French," she said. "What can we do?
. . . We've got to do something." He turned to her
with a broad smile as if he'd seen her for the first time.
"I've heard of you," he said. "You're a plucky little girl
. . . you've been putting up a real fight in spite of your
liberal committee.""But they've done the best they
could," she said.

 

"We've' got to get the entire workingclass of Boston
out on the streets," said Stevens in his deep rattling voice.

 

"We've gotten out the garmentworkers but that's all."

 

He struck his open palm with his fist. "What about the
Italians? What about the North End? Where's your
office? Look what we did in New York. Why can't you
do it here?" He leaned over towards her with a caressing
confidential manner. Right away the feeling of being tired
and harassed left her, without thinking she put her hand
on his arm. "We'll go and talk to your committee; then
we'll talk to the Italian committee. Then we'll shake up
the unions.""But, Don, we've only got thirty hours," said
Mr. Feinstein in a dry tired voice. "I have more con-
fidence in political pressure being applied to the governor.
You know he has presidential aspirations. I think the gov-
ernor's going to commute the sentences."

 

At the office Mary found Jerry Burnham waiting for
her. "Well, Joan of Arc," he said, "I was just going

 

-456-

 

down to bail you out. But I see they've turned you loose."
Jerry and Donald Stevens had evidently known each other
before. "Well, Jerry," said Donald Stevens savagely,
"doesn't this shake you out of your cynical pose a little?"

 

"I don't see why it should. It's nothing new to me that
collegepresidents are skunks."

 

Donald Stevens drew off against the wall as if he were
holding himself back from giving Jerry a punch in the
jaw. "I can't see how any man who has any manhood left
can help getting red . . . even a pettybourgeois journal-
ist."

 

"My dear Don, you ought to know by this time that
we hocked our manhood for a brass check about the time
of the first world war . . . that is if we had any . . . I
suppose there'd be various opinions about that." Donald
Stevens had already swung on into the inner office. Mary
found herself looking into Jerry's reddening face, not
knowing what to say. "Well, Mary, if you have a need
for a pickup during the day . . . I should think you
would need it . . . I'll be at the old stand.""Oh, I
won't have time," Mary said coldly. She could hear Don-
ald Stevens' deep voice from the inner office. She hurried
on after him.

 

The lawyers had failed. Talking, wrangling, arguing
about how a lastminute protest could be organized Mary
could feel the hours ebbing, the hours of these men's lives.
She felt the minutes dripping away as actually as if they
were bleeding from her own wrists. She felt weak and
sick. She couldn't think of anything. It was a relief to
be out in the street trotting to keep up with Donald Ste-
vens' big stride. They made a round of the committees. It
was, nearly noon, nothing was done. Down on Hanover
Street a palefaced Italian in a shabby Ford sedan hailed
them. Stevens opened the door of the car. "Comrade
French, this is Comrade Strozzi . . . he's going to drive
us around.""Are you a citizen?" she asked with an

 

-457-

 

anxious frown. Strozzi shook his head and smiled a thin-
lipped smile. "Maybe they give me a free trip back to
the Italy," he said.

 

Mary never remembered what they did the rest of the
day. They drove all over the poorer Boston suburbs. Often
the men they were looking for were out. A great deal of
the time she spent in phonebooths calling wrong numbers.
She couldn't seem to do anything right. She looked with
numb staring eyes out of eyelids that felt like sandpaper
at the men and women crowding into the office. Stevens
had lost the irritated stinging manner he'd had at first.
He argued with tradeunion officials, socialists, ministers,
lawyers, with an aloof sarcastic coolness. "After all they
are brave men. It doesn't matter whether they are saved
or not any more, it's the power of the workingclass that's
got to be saved," he'd say. Everywhere there was the same
opinion. A demonstration will mean violence, will spoil the
chance that the governor will commute at the last moment.
Mary had lost all her initiative. Suddenly she'd become
Donald Stevens' secretary. She was least unhappy when
she was running small errands for him.

 

Late that night she went through all the Italian restau-
rants on Hanover Street looking for an anarchist Stevens
wanted to see. Every place was empty. There was a hush
over everything. Death watch. People kept away from
each other as if to avoid some contagion. At the back of
a room in a little upstairs speakeasy she saw Jerry Burn-
ham sitting alone at a table with a jigger of whiskey and
a bottle of gingerale in front of him. His face was white
as a napkin and he was teetering gently in his chair. He
stared at her without seeing her. The waiter was bending
over him shaking him. He was hopelessly drunk.

 

It was a relief to run back to the office where Stevens
was still trying to line up a general strike. He gave her
a searching look when she came in. "Failed again," she
said bitterly. He put down the telephone receiver, got to

 

-458-

 

his feet, strode over to the line of hooks on the grimy
yellow wall and got down his hat and coat. "Mary French,
you're deadtired. I'm going to take you home."

 

They had to walk around several blocks to avoid the
cordon of police guarding the State House. "Ever played
tug of war?" Don was saying. "You pull with all your
might but the other guys are heavier and you feel your-
self being dragged their way. You're being pulled for-
ward faster than you're pulling back. . . . Don't let me
talk like a defeatist. . . . We're not a couple of god-
damned liberals," he said and burst into a dry laugh.
"Don't you hate lawyers?" They were standing in front
of the bowfronted brick house where she had her room.
"Goodnight, Don," she said. "Goodnight, Mary, try and
sleep."

 

Monday was like another Sunday. She woke late. It
was an agony getting out of bed. It was a fight to put on
her clothes, to go down to the office and face the de-
feated eyes. The people she met on the street seemed to
look away from her when she passed them. Death watch.
The streets were quiet, even the traffic seemed muffled as
if the whole city were under the terror of dying that night.
The day passed in a monotonous mumble of words, col-
umns in newspapers, telephone calls. Death watch. That
night she had a moment of fierce excitement when she
and Don started for Charlestown to join the protest pa-
rade. She hadn't expected they'd be so many. Gusts of
singing, scattered bars of the International burst and faded
above the packed heads between the blank windows of the
dingy houses. Death watch. On one side of her was a
little man with eyeglasses who said he was a musicteacher,
on the other a Jewish girl, a member of the Ladies' Full-
fashioned Hosiery Workers. They linked arms. Don was
in the front rank, a little ahead. They were crossing the
bridge. They were walking on cobbles on a badlylighted

 

-459-

 

street under an elevated structure. Trains roared overhead.
"Only a few blocks from Charlestown jail," a voice yelled.

 

This time the cops were using their clubs. There was
the clatter of the horses' hoofs on the cobbles and the
whack thud whack thud of the clubs. And way off the
jangle jangle of patrolwagons. Mary was terribly scared.
A big truck was bearing down on her. She jumped to one
side out of the way behind one of the girder supports.
Two cops had hold of her. She clung to the grimy girder.
A cop was cracking her on the hand with his club. She
wasn't much hurt, she was in a patrolwagon, she'd lost
her hat and her hair had come down. She caught herself
thinking that she ought to have her hair bobbed if she
was going to do much of this sort of thing. "Anybody
know where Don Stevens is?" Don's voice came a little
shakily from the blackness in front. "That you, Mary?"
"How are you, Don?""O.K. Sure. A little battered round
the head an' ears.""He's bleedin' terrible," came another
man's voice. "Comrades, let's sing," Don's voice shouted.
Mary forgot everything as her voice joined his voice, all
their voices, the voices of the crowds being driven back
across the bridge in singing:

 

Arise ye prisoners of starvation. . .

 


NEWSREEL LXVI

 


HOLMES DENIES STAY

 

A better world's in birth

 

Tiny Wasps Imported From Korea In Battle To Death
With Asiatic Beetle

 

BOY CARRIED MILE DOWN SEWER; SHOT OUT ALIVE

 

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