A Poor Wise Man HTML version
It was dark when Howard Cardew and Willy Cameron left the hospital. Elinor's
information had been detailed and exact. Under cover of the general strike the
radical element intended to take over the city. On the evening of the first day of
the strike, armed groups from the revolutionary party would proceed first to the
municipal light plant, and, having driven out any employees who remained at
their posts, or such volunteers as had replaced them, would plunge the city into
Elinor was convinced that following this would come various bomb outrages,
perhaps a great number of them, but of this she had no detailed information.
What she did know, however, was the dependence that Doyle and the other
leaders were placing in the foreign element in the nearby mill towns and from one
or two mining districts in the county.
Around the city, in the mill towns, there were more than forty thousand foreign
laborers. Subtract from that the loyal aliens, but add a certain percentage of the
native-born element, members of seditious societies and followers of the red flag,
and the Reds had a potential army of dangerous size.
As an actual fighting force they were much less impressive. Only a small
percentage, she knew and told them, were adequately armed. There were a few
machine guns, and some long-range rifles, but by far the greater number had
only revolvers. The remainder had extemporized weapons, bars of iron, pieces of
pipe, farm implements, lances of wood tipped with iron and beaten out on home
They were a rabble, not an army, without organization and with few leaders.
Their fighting was certain to be as individualistic as their doctrines. They had two
elements in their favor only, numbers and surprise.
To oppose them, if the worst came, there were perhaps five thousand armed
men, including the city and county police, the state constabulary, and the citizens
who had signed the cards of the Vigilance Committee. The local post of the
American Legion stood ready for instant service, and a few national guard troops
still remained in the vicinity. "What they expect," she said, looking up from her
pillows with tragic eyes, "is that the police and the troops will join them. You don't
think they will, do you?"
They reassured her, and after a time she slept again. When she wakened, at
midnight, the room was empty save for a nurse reading under a night lamp
behind a screen. Elinor was not in pain. She lay there, listening to the night