A Poor Wise Man HTML version

Chapter 49
Howard went back to the municipal building, driving furiously through the empty
streets. The news was ominous. Small bodies of men, avoiding the highways,
were focusing at different points in the open country. The state police had been
fired at from ambush, and two of them had been killed. They had ridden into and
dispersed various gatherings in the darkness, but only to have them re-form in
other places. The enemy was still shadowy, elusive; it was apparently saving its
ammunition. It did little shooting, but reports of the firing of farmhouses and of
buildings in small, unprotected towns began to come in rapidly.
In a short time the messages began to be more significant, indicating that the
groups were coalescing and that a revolutionary army, with the city its objective,
was coming down the river, evidently making for the bridge at Chester Street.
"They've lighted a fire they can't put out," was Howard's comment. His mouth
was very dry and his face twitching, for he saw, behind the frail barrier of the
Chester Street bridge, the quiet houses of the city, the sleeping children. He saw
Grace and Lily, and Elinor. He was among the first to reach the river front.
All through the dawn volunteers labored at the bridge head. Members of the
Vigilance Committee, policemen and firemen, doctors, lawyers, clerks, shop-
keepers, they looted the river wharves with willing, unskillful hands. They turned
coal wagons on their sides, carried packing cases and boxes, and, under the
direction of men who wore the Legion button, built skillfully and well. Willy
Cameron toiled with the others. He lifted and pulled and struggled, and in the
midst of his labor he had again that old dream of the city. The city was a vast
number of units, and those units were homes. Behind each of those men there
was, somewhere, in some quiet neighborhood, a home. It was for their homes
they were fighting, for the right of children to play in peaceful streets, for the right
to go back at night to the rest they had earned by honest labor, for the right of the
hearth, of lamp-light and sunlight, of love, of happiness.
Then, in the flare of a gasoline torch, he came face to face with Louis Akers. The
two men confronted each other, silently, with hostility. Neither moved aside, but it
was Akers who spoke first.
"Always busy, Cameron," he said. "What'd the world do without you, anyhow?"
"Aren't you on the wrong side of this barricade?"
"Smart as ever," Akers observed, watching him intently. "As it happens, I'm here
because I want to be, and because I can't get where I ought to be."