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Marching Men

CHAPTER IV.3
When McGregor was admitted to the bar and ready to take his place among the
thousands of young lawyers scattered over the Chicago loop district he half drew
back from beginning the practice of his profession. To spend his life quibbling
over trifles with other lawyers was not what he wanted. To have his place in life
fixed by his ability in quibbling seemed to him hideous.
Night after night he walked alone in the streets thinking of the matter. He grew
angry and swore. Sometimes he was so stirred by the meaninglessness of
whatever way of life offered itself that he was tempted to leave the city and
become a tramp, one of the hordes of adventurous dissatisfied souls who spend
their lives drifting back and forth along the American railroads.
He continued to work in the South State Street restaurant that got its patronage
from the underworld. In the evenings from six until twelve trade was quiet and he
sat reading books and watching the restless thrashing crowds that passed the
window. Sometimes he became so absorbed that one of the guests sidled past
and escaped through the door without paying his bill. In State Street the people
moved up and down nervously, wandering here and there, going without purpose
like cattle confined in a corral. Women in cheap imitations of the gowns worn by
their sisters two blocks away in Michigan Avenue and with painted faces leered
at the men. In gaudily lighted store-rooms that housed cheap suggestive shows
pianos kept up a constant din.
In the eyes of the people who idled away the evenings in South State Street was
the vacant purposeless stare of modern life accentuated and made horrible. With
the stare went the shuffling walk, the wagging jaw, the saying of words meaning
nothing. On the wall of a building opposite the door of the restaurant hung a
banner marked "Socialist Headquarters." There where modern life had found
well-nigh perfect expression, where there was no discipline and no order, where
men did not move, but drifted like sticks on a sea-washed beach, hung the
socialist banner with its promise of the co-operative commonwealth.
McGregor looked at the banner and at the moving people and was lost in
meditation. Walking from behind the cashier's desk he stood in the street by the
door and stared about. A fire began to burn in his eyes and the fists that were
thrust into his coat pockets were clenched. Again as when he was a boy in Coal
Creek he hated the people. The fine love of mankind that had its basis in a
dream of mankind galvanised by some great passion into order and meaning
was lost.
In the restaurant after midnight trade briskened Waiters and bartenders from
fashionable restaurants of the loop district began to drop in to meet friends from
 
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