The trial of Andrew Brown was both an opportunity and a test for McGregor. For
a number of years he had lived a lonely life in Chicago. He had made no friends
and his mind had not been confused by the endless babble of small talk on which
most of us subsist. Evening after evening he had walked alone through the
streets and had stood at the door of the State Street restaurant a solitary figure
aloof from life. Now he was to be drawn into the maelstrom. In the past he had
been let alone by life. The great blessing of isolation had been his and in his
isolation he had dreamed a big dream. Now the quality of the dream and the
strength of its hold upon him was to be tested.
McGregor was not to escape the influence of the life of his day. Deep human
passion lay asleep in his big body. Before the time of his Marching Men he had
yet to stand the most confusing of all the modern tests of men, the beauty of
meaningless women and the noisy clamour of success that is equally
On the day of his conversation with Andrew Brown in the old Cook County jail on
Chicago's North Side we are therefore to think of McGregor as facing these tests.
After the talk with Brown he walked along the street and came to the bridge that
led over the river into the loop district. In his heart he knew that he was facing a
fight and the thought thrilled him. With a new lift to his shoulders he walked over
the bridge. He looked at the people and again let his heart be filled with contempt
He wished that the fight for Brown were a fight with fists. Boarding a west side
car he sat looking out through the car window at the passing crowd and imagined
himself among them, striking right and left, gripping throats, demanding the truth
that would save Brown and set himself up before the eyes of men.
When McGregor got to the Monroe Street millinery store it was evening and Edith
was preparing to go out to the evening meal. He stood looking at her. In his voice
rang a note of triumph. Out of his contempt for the men and women of the
underworld came boastfulness. "They have given me a job they think I can't do,"
he said. "I'm to be Brown's counsel in the big murder case." He put his hands on
her frail shoulders and pulled her to the light. "I'm going to knock them over and
show them," he boasted. "They think they're going to hang Brown-- the oily
snakes. Well they didn't count on me. Brown doesn't count on me. I'm going to
show them." He laughed noisily in the empty shop.
At a little restaurant McGregor and Edith talked of the test he was to go through.
As he talked she sat in silence and looked at his red hair.