A Poor Wise Man
On the restored fence around the polo grounds a Red flag was found one
morning, and two nights later the guard at the padlocked gate was shot through
the heart, from ambush.
Then, about the first of August, out of a clear sky, sporadic riotings began to
occur. They seemed to originate without cause, and to end as suddenly as they
began. Usually they were in the outlying districts, but one or two took place in the
city itself. The rioters were not all foreign strikers from the mills. They were
garment workers, hotel waiters, a rabble of the discontented from all trades. The
riots were to no end, apparently. They began with a chance word, fought their
furious way for an hour or so, and ended, leaving a trail of broken heads and torn
clothing behind them.
On toward the end of July one such disturbance grew to considerable size. The
police were badly outnumbered, and a surprising majority of the rioters were
armed, with revolvers, with wooden bludgeons, lengths of pipe and short, wicked
iron bars. Things were rather desperate until the police found themselves
suddenly and mysteriously reenforced by a cool-headed number of citizens, led
by a tall thin man who limped slightly, and who disposed his heterogeneous
support with a few words and considerable skill.
The same thin young man, stopping later in an alley way to investigate an arm
badly bruised by an iron bar, overheard a conversation between two roundsmen,
met under a lamppost after the battle, for comfort and a little conversation.
"Can you beat that, Henry?" said one. "Where the hell'd they come from?"
"Search me," said Henry. "D'you see the skinny fellow? Limped, too. D'you notice
that? Probably hurt in France. But he hasn't forgotten how to fight, I'll tell the
The outbreaks puzzled the leaders of the Vigilance Committee. Willy Cameron
was inclined to regard them as without direction or intention, purely as
manifestations of hate, and as such contrary to the plans of their leaders. And
Mr. Hendricks, nursing a black eye at home after the recent outburst, sized up
the situation shrewdly.
"You can boil a kettle too hard," he said, "and then the lid pops off. Doyle and
that outfit of his have been burning the fire a little high, that's all. They'll quit now,
because they want to get us off guard later. You and your committee can take a
vacation, unless you can set them to electioneering for me. They've had enough
for a while, the devils. They'll wait now for Akers to get in and make things easy
for them. Mind my words, boy. That's the game."
And the game it seemed to be. Small violations of order still occurred, but no big
ones. To the headquarters in the Denslow Bank came an increasing volume of