A Poor Wise Man HTML version

Chapter 25
The city had taken the rioting with a weary philosophy. It was tired of fighting. For
two years it had labored at high tension for the European war. It had paid taxes
and bought bonds, for the war. It had saved and skimped and denied itself, for
the war. And for the war it had made steel, steel for cannon and for tanks, for
ships and for railroads. It had labored hard and well, and now all it wanted was to
be allowed to get back to normal things. It wanted peace.
It said, in effect: "I have both fought and labored, sacrificed and endured. Give
me now my rest of nights, after a day's work. Give me marriage and children.
Give me contentment. Give me the things I have loved long since, and lost
And because the city craved peace, it was hard to rouse it to its danger. It was
war-weary, and its weariness was not of apathy, but of exhaustion. It was not yet
ready for new activity.
Then, the same night that had seen Willy Cameron's encounter with Akers, it was
roused from its lethargy. A series of bomb outrages shook the downtown district.
The Denslow Bank was the first to go. Willy Cameron, inspecting a cut lip in his
mirror, heard a dull explosion, and ran down to the street. There he was joined by
Joe Wilkinson, in trousers over his night shirt, and as they looked, a dull red glare
showed against the sky. Joe went back for more clothing, but Willy Cameron ran
down the street. At the first corner he heard a second explosion, further away
and to the east, but apparently no fire followed it. That, he learned later, was the
City Club, founded by Anthony Cardew years before.
The Denslow Bank was burning. The facade had been shattered and from the
interior already poured a steady flow of flame and smoke. He stood among the
crowd, while the engines throbbed and the great fire hose lay along the streets,
and watched the little upper room where the precious records of the Committee
were burning brightly. The front wall gone, the small office stood open to the
world, a bright and shameless thing, flaunting its nakedness to the crowd below.
He wondered why Providence should so play into the hands of the enemy.
After a time he happened on Pink Denslow, wandering alone on the outskirts of
the crowd.
"Just about kill the governor, this," said Pink, heavily. "Don't suppose the
watchmen got out, either. Not that they'd care," he added, savagely.