“Despite strikes and riots all over the country, bloodily put down by the Minute Men, Windrip’s power in Washington was maintained.
Never in American history had the adherents of a President been so well satisfied; they were not only appointed to whatever political jobs there were but to ever so many that really were not; and with such annoyances as Congressional Investigations hushed, the official awarders of contracts were on the merriest of terms with all contractors.
Unemployment had, under the benign reign of President Berzelius Windrip, almost disappeared. Almost all workless men were assembled in enormous labor camps, under M.M. officers. Their wives and children accompanied them and took care of the cooking, cleaning, and repair of clothes. The men did not merely work on state projects; they were also hired out at the reasonable rate of one dollar a day to private employers. Of course, so selfish is human nature even in Utopia, this did cause most employers to discharge the men to whom they had been paying more than a dollar a day, but that took care of itself, because these overpaid malcontents in their turn were forced into the labor camps.
And they had the Jews and the Negroes to look down on, more and more. The M.M.’s saw to that. Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on.”
It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis.
Published during the rise of fascism in Europe, the novel describes the rise of Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, a demagogue who is elected President of the United States, after fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms while promoting a return to patriotism and “traditional” values.
After his election, Windrip takes complete control of the government and imposes a pIutocratic/totalitarian rule with the help of a ruthless paramilitary force, in the manner of Adolf Hitler and the SS.
The novel’s plot centers on journalist Doremus Jessup’s opposition to the new regime and his subsequent struggle against it as part of a liberal rebellion.
“I have no desire to be President. I would much rather do my humble best as a supporter of Bishop Prang, Ted Bilbo, Gene Talmadge or any other broad-gauged but peppy Liberal. My only longing is to Serve.”
Zero Hour, Berzelius Windrip.
Like many bachelors given to vigorous hunting and riding, Buck Titus was a fastidious housekeeper, and his mid-Victorian farmhouse fussily neat. It was also pleasantly bare: the living room a monastic hall of heavy oak chairs, tables free of dainty covers, numerous and rather solemn books of history and exploration, with the conventional “sets,” and a tremendous fireplace of rough stone. And the ash trays were solid pottery and pewter, able to cope with a whole evening of cigarette-smoking. The whisky stood honestly on the oak buffet, with siphons, and with cracked ice always ready in a thermos jug.
It would, however, have been too much to expect Buck Titus not to have red-and-black imitation English hunting-prints.
This hermitage, always grateful to Doremus, was sanctuary now, and only with Buck could he adequately damn Windrip & Co. and people like Francis Tasbrough, who in February was still saying, “Yes, things do look kind of hectic down there in Washington, but that’s just because there’s so many of these bullheaded politicians that still think they can buck Windrip. Besides, anyway, things like that couldn’t ever happen here in New England.”
And, indeed, as Doremus went on his lawful occasions past the red-brick Georgian houses, the slender spires of old white churches facing the Green, as he heard the lazy irony of familiar greetings from his acquaintances, men as enduring as their Vermont hills, it seemed to him that the madness in the capital was as alien and distant and unimportant as an earthquake in Tibet.
Constantly, in the Informer, he criticized the government but not too acidly.
The hysteria can’t last; be patient, and wait and see, he counseled his readers.
It was not that he was afraid of the authorities. He simply did not believe that this comic tyranny could endure. It can ’t happen here, said even Doremus, even now.
The one thing that most perplexed him was that there could be a dictator seemingly so different from the fervent Hitlers and gesticulating Fascists and the Caesars with laurels round bald domes; a dictator with something of the earthy American sense of humor of a Mark Twain, a George Ade, a Will Rogers, an Artemus Ward. Windrip could be ever so funny about solemn jaw-drooping opponents, and about the best method of training what he called “a Siamese flea hound.” Did that, puzzled Doremus, make him less or more dangerous?
Then he remembered the most cruel, mad of all pirates, Sir Henry Morgan, who had thought it ever so funny to sew a victim up in wet rawhide and watch it shrink in the sun.
From the perseverance with which they bickered, you could tell that Buck Titus and Lorinda were much fonder of each other than they would admit. Being a person who read little and therefore took what he did read seriously, Buck was distressed by the normally studious Lorinda’s vacation liking for novels about distressed princesses, and when she airily insisted that they were better guides to conduct than Anthony Trollope or Thomas Hardy, Buck roared at her and, in the feebleness of baited strength, nervously filled pipes and knocked them out against the stone mantel. But he approved of the relationship between Doremus and Lorinda, which only he (and Shad Ledue!) had guessed, and over Doremus, ten years his senior, this shaggy-headed woodsman fussed like a thwarted spinster.
To both Doremus and Lorinda, Buck’s overgrown shack became their refuge. And they needed it, late in February, five weeks or thereabouts after Windrip’s election.
Despite strikes and riots all over the country, bloodily put down by the Minute Men, Windrip’s power in Washington was maintained. The most liberal four members of the Supreme Court resigned and were replaced by surprisingly unknown lawyers who called President Windrip by his first name. A number of Congressmen were still being “protected” in the District of Columbia jail; others had seen the blinding light forever shed by the goddess Reason and happily returned to the Capitol. The Minute Men were increasingly loyal, they were still unpaid volunteers, but provided with “expense accounts” considerably larger than the pay of the regular troops. Never in American history had the adherents of a President been so well satisfied; they were not only appointed to whatever political jobs there were but to ever so many that really were not; and with such annoyances as Congressional Investigations hushed, the official awarders of contracts were on the merriest of terms with all contractors. . . . One veteran lobbyist for steel corporations complained that there was no more sport in his hunting you were not only allowed but expected to shoot all government purchasing agents sitting.
None of the changes was so publicized as the Presidential mandate abruptly ending the separate existence of the different states, and dividing the whole country into eight “provinces”, thus, asserted Windrip, economizing by reducing the number of governors and all other state officers and, asserted Windrip’s enemies, better enabling him to concentrate his private army and hold the country.
The new “Northeastern Province” included all of New York State north of a line through Ossining, and all of New England except a strip of Connecticut shore as far east as New Haven. This was, Doremus admitted, a natural and homogeneous division, and even more natural seemed the urban and industrial “Metropolitan Province,” which included Greater New York, Westchester County up to Ossining, Long Island, the strip of Connecticut dependent on New York City, New Jersey, northern Delaware, and Pennsylvania as far as Reading and Scranton.
Each province was divided into numbered districts, each district into lettered counties, each county into townships and cities, and only in these last did the old names, with their traditional appeal, remain to endanger President Windrip by memories of honorable local history. And it was gossiped that, next, the government would change even the town names, that they were already thinking fondly of calling New York “Berzelian” and San Francisco “San Sarason.” Probably that gossip was false.
The Northeastern Province’s six districts were: 1, Upper New York State west of and including Syracuse; 2, New York east of it; 3, Vermont and New Hampshire; 4, Maine; 5, Massachusetts; 6, Rhode Island and the unraped portion of Connecticut.
District 3, Doremus Jessup’s district, was divided into the four “counties” of southern and northern Vermont, and southern and northern New Hampshire, with Hanover for capital, the District Commissioner merely chased the Dartmouth students out and took over the college buildings for his offices, to the considerable approval of Amherst, Williams, and Yale.
So Doremus was living, now, in Northeastern Province, District 3, County B, township of Beulah, and over him for his admiration and rejoicing were a provincial commissioner, a district commissioner, a county commissioner, an assistant county commissioner in charge of Beulah Township, and all their appertaining M.M. guards and emergency military judges.
Citizens who had lived in any one state for more than ten years seemed to resent more hotly the loss of that state’s identity than they did the castration of the Congress and Supreme Court of the United States, indeed, they resented it almost as much as the fact that, while late January, February, and most of March went by, they still were not receiving their governmental gifts of $5000 (or perhaps it would beautifully be $10,000) apiece; had indeed received nothing more than cheery bulletins from Washington to the effect that the “Capital Levy Board,” or C.L.B. was holding sessions.
Virginians whose grandfathers had fought beside Lee shouted that they’d be damned if they’d give up the hallowed state name and form just one arbitrary section of an administrative unit containing eleven Southern states; San Franciscans who had considered Los Angelinos even worse than denizens of Miami now wailed with agony when California was sundered and the northern portion lumped in with Oregon, Nevada, and others as the “Mountain and Pacific Province,” while southern California was, without her permission, assigned to the Southwestern Province, along with Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and Hawaii. As some hint of Buzz Windrip’s vision for the future, it was interesting to read that this Southwestern Province was also to be permitted to claim “all portions of Mexico which the United States may from time to time find it necessary to take over, as a protection against the notorious treachery of Mexico and the Jewish plots there hatched.”
“Lee Sarason is even more generous than Hitler and Alfred Rosenberg in protecting the future of other countries,” sighed Doremus.
As Provincial Commissioner of the Northeastern Province, comprising Upper New York State and New England, was appointed Colonel Dewey Haik, that soldier-lawyer-politician-aviator who was the chilliest-blooded and most arrogant of all the satellites of Windrip yet had so captivated miners and fishermen during the campaign. He was a strong-flying eagle who liked his meat bloody.
As District Commissioner of District 3, Vermont and New Hampshire, appeared, to Doremus’s mingled derision and fury, none other than John Sullivan Reek, that stuffiest of stuffed-shirts, that most gaseous gas bag, that most amenable machine politician of Northern New England; a Republican ex-governor who had, in the alembic of Windrip’s patriotism, rosily turned Leaguer.
No one had ever troubled to be obsequious to the Hon. J. S. Reek, even when he had been Governor. The weediest back-country Representative had called him “Johnny,” in the gubernatorial mansion (twelve rooms and a leaky roof); and the youngest reporter had bawled, “Well, what bull you handing out today, Ex?”
It was this Commissioner Reek who summoned all the editors in his district to meet him at his new viceregal lodge in Dartmouth Library and receive the precious privileged information as to how much President Windrip and his subordinate commissioners admired the gentlemen of the press.
Before he left for the press conference in Hanover, Doremus received from Sissy a “poem”, at least she called it that, which Buck Titus, Lorinda Pike, Julian Falck, and she had painfully composed, late at night, in Buck’s fortified manor house:
Be meek with Reek,
Go fake with Haik.
One rhymes with sneak,
And t’ other with snake.
Haik, with his beak,
Is on the make,
But Sullivan Reek
“Well, anyway, Windrip’s put everybody to work. And he’s driven all these unsightly billboards off the highways, much better for the tourist trade,” said all the old editors, even those who wondered if the President, wasn’t perhaps the least bit arbitrary.
As he drove to Hanover, Doremus saw hundreds of huge billboards by the road. But they bore only Windrip propaganda and underneath, “with the compliments of a loyal firm” and, very large, “Montgomery Cigarettes” or “Jonquil Foot Soap.” On the short walk from a parking-space to the former Dartmouth campus, three several men muttered to him, “Give us a nickel for cuppa coffee, Boss, a Minnie Mouse has got my job and the Mouses won’t take me, they say I’m too old.” But that may have been propaganda from Moscow.
On the long porch of the Hanover Inn, officers of the Minute Men were reclining in deck chairs, their spurred boots (in all the MM. organization there was no cavalry) up on the railing.
Doremus passed a science building in front of which was a pile of broken laboratory glassware, and in one stripped laboratory he could see a small squad of M.M.’s drilling.
District Commissioner John Sullivan Reek affectionately received the editors in a classroom. . . . Old men, used to being revered as prophets, sitting anxiously in trifling chairs, facing a fat man in the uniform of an M.M. commander, who smoked an unmilitary cigar as his pulpy hand waved greeting.
Reek took not more than an hour to relate what would have taken the most intelligent man five or six hours, that is, five minutes of speech and the rest of the five hours to recover from the nausea caused by having to utter such shameless rot. . . .
President Windrip, Secretary of State Sarason, Provincial Commissioner Haik, and himself, John Sullivan Reek, they were all being misrepresented by the Republicans, the Jeffersonians, the Communists, England, the Nazis, and probably the jute and herring industries; and what the government wanted was for any reporter to call on any member of this Administration, and especially on Commissioner Reek, at any time, except perhaps between 3 and 7 A.M., and “get the real low-down.”
Excellency Reek announced, then: “And now, gentlemen, I am giving myself the privilege of introducing you to all four of the County Commissioners, who were just chosen yesterday. Probably each of you will know personally the commissioner from your own county, but I want you to intimately and cooperatively know all four, because, whomever they may be, they join with me in my unquenchable admiration of the press.”
The four County Commissioners, as one by one they shambled into the room and were introduced, seemed to Doremus an oddish lot: A moth-eaten lawyer known more for his quotations from Shakespeare and Robert W. Service than for his shrewdness before a jury. He was luminously bald except for a prickle of faded rusty hair, but you felt that, if he had his rights, he would have the floating locks of a tragedian of 1890.
A battling clergyman famed for raiding roadhouses.
A rather shy workman, an authentic proletarian, who seemed surprised to find himself there. (He was replaced, a month later, by a popular osteopath with an interest in politics and vegetarianism.)
The fourth dignitary to come in and affectionately bow to the editors, a bulky man, formidable-looking in his uniform as a battalion leader of Minute Men, introduced as the Commissioner for northern Vermont, Doremus Jessup’s county, was Mr. Oscar Ledue, formerly known as “Shad.”
Mr. Reek called him “Captain” Ledue. Doremus remembered that Shad’s only military service, prior to Windrip’s election, had been as an A.E.F. private who had never got beyond a training-camp in America and whose fiercest experience in battle had been licking a corporal when in liquor.
“Mr. Jessup,” bubbled the Hon. Mr. Reek, “I imagine you must have met Captain Ledue, comes from your charming city.”
“Uh-uh-ur,” said Doremus.
“Sure,” said Captain Ledue. “I’ve met old Jessup, all right, all right! He don’t know what it’s all about. He don’t know the first thing about the economics of our social Revolution. He’s a Cho-vinis. But he isn’t such a bad old coot, and I’ll let him ride as long as he behaves himself!” “Splendid!” said the Hon. Mr. Reek.
“Like beefsteak and potatoes stick to your ribs even if you’re working your head off, so the words of the Good Book stick by you in perplexity and tribulation. If I ever held a high position over my people, I hope that my ministers would be quoting, from II Kings, 18; 31 8: 32: ”Come out to me, and then eat ye every man of his own vine, and every one of his fig tree, and drink ye every one the waters of his cistern, until I come and take you away to a land of corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive oil and honey, that ye may live and not die.”
Zero Hour, Berzelius Windrip
Despite the claims of Montpelier, the former capital of Vermont, and of Burlington, largest town in the state, Captain Shad Ledue fixed on Fort Beulah as executive center of County B, which was made out of nine former counties of northern Vermont. Doremus never decided whether this was, as Lorinda Pike asserted, because Shad was in partnership with Banker R. C. Crowley in the profits derived from the purchase of quite useless old dwellings as part of his headquarters, or for the even sounder purpose of showing himself off, in battalion leader’s uniform with the letters “C.C.” beneath the five-pointed star on his collar, to the pals with whom he had once played pool and drunk applejack, and to the “snobs” whose lawns he once had mowed.
Besides the condemned dwellings, Shad took over all of the former Scotland County courthouse and established his private office in the judge’s chambers, merely chucking out the law books and replacing them with piles of magazines devoted to the movies and the detection of crime, hanging up portraits of Windrip, Sarason, Haik, and Reek, installing two deep chairs upholstered in poison-green plush (ordered from the store of the loyal Charley Betts but, to Betts’s fury, charged to the government, to be paid for if and when) and doubling the number of judicial cuspidors.
In the top center drawer of his desk Shad kept a photograph from a nudist camp, a flask of Benedictine, a .44 revolver, and a dog whip.
County commissioners were allowed from one to a dozen assistant commissioners, depending on the population. Doremus Jessup was alarmed when he discovered that Shad had had the shrewdness to choose as assistants men of some education and pretense to manners, with “Professor” Emil Staubmeyer as Assistant County Commissioner in charge of the Township of Beulah, which included the villages of Fort Beulah, West and North Beulah, Beulah Center, Trianon, Hosea, and Keezmet.
As Shad had, without benefit of bayonets, become a captain, so Mr. Staubmeyer (author of Hitler and Other Poems of Passion, unpublished) automatically became a doctor.
Perhaps, thought Doremus, he would understand Windrip & Co. better through seeing them faintly reflected in Shad and Staubmeyer than he would have in the confusing glare of Washington; and understand thus that a Buzz Windrip, a Bismarck, a Caesar, a Pericles was like all the rest of itching, indigesting, aspiring humanity except that each of these heroes had a higher degree of ambition and more willingness to kill.
By June, the enrollment of the Minute Men had increased to 562,000, and the force was now able to accept as new members only such trusty patriots and pugilists as it preferred. The War Department was frankly allowing them not just “expense money” but payment ranging from ten dollars a week for “inspectors” with a few hours of weekly duty in drilling, to $9700 a year for “brigadiers” on full time, and $16,000 for the High Marshal, Lee Sarason . . . fortunately without interfering with the salaries from his other onerous duties.
The M.M. ranks were: inspector, more or less corresponding to private; squad leader, or corporal; cornet, or sergeant; ensign, or lieutenant; battalion leader, a combination of captain, major, and lieutenant colonel; commander, or colonel; brigadier, or general; high marshal, or commanding general. Cynics suggested that these honorable titles derived more from the Salvation Army than the fighting forces, but be that cheap sneer justified or no, the fact remains that an M.M. helot had ever so much more pride in being called an “inspector,” an awing designation in all police circles, than in being a “private.”
Since all members of the National Guard were not only allowed but encouraged to become members of the Minute Men also, since all veterans of the Great War were given special privileges, and since “Colonel” Osceola Luthorne, the Secretary of War, was generous about lending regular army officers to Secretary of State Sarason for use as drill masters in the M.M.’s, there was a surprising proportion of trained men for so newly born an army.
Lee Sarason had proven to President Windrip by statistics from the Great War that college education, and even the study of the horrors of other conflicts, did not weaken the masculinity of the students, but actually made them more patriotic, flag-waving, and skillful in the direction of slaughter than the average youth, and nearly every college in the country was to have, this coming autumn, its own battalion of M.M.’s, with drill counting as credit toward graduation. The collegians were to be schooled as officers. Another splendid source of M.M. officers were the gymnasiums and the classes in Business Administration of the Y.M.C.A.
Most of the rank and file, however, were young farmers, delighted by the chance to go to town and to drive automobiles as fast as they wanted to; young factory employees who preferred uniforms and the authority to kick elderly citizens above overalls and stooping over machines; and rather a large number of former criminals, ex-bootleggers, ex-burglars, ex-labor racketeers, who, for their skill with guns and leather life-preservers, and for their assurances that the majesty of the Five-Pointed Star had completely reformed them, were forgiven their earlier blunders in ethics and were warmly accepted in the MM. Storm Troops. It was said that one of the least of these erring children was the first patriot to name President Windrip “the Chief,” meaning Fiihrer, or Imperial Wizard of the KKK, or II Duce, or Imperial Potentate of the Mystic Shrine, or Commodore, or University Coach, or anything else supremely noble and good-hearted. So, on the glorious anniversary of July 4, 1937, more than five hundred thousand young uniformed vigilantes, scattered in towns from Guam to Bar Harbor, from Point Barrow to Key West, stood at parade rest and sang, like the choiring seraphim:
”Buzz and buzz and hail the Chief,
And his five-pointed sta-ar,
The U.S. ne’er can come to grief
With us prepared for wa-ar.”
Certain critical spirits felt that this version of the chorus of “Buzz and Buzz,” now the official M.M. anthem, showed, in a certain roughness, the lack of Adelaide Tarr Gimmitch’s fastidious hand. But nothing could be done about it. She was said to be in China, organizing chain letters. And even while that uneasiness was over the M.M., upon the very next day came the blow.
Someone on High Marshal Sarason’s staff noticed that the U.S.S.R.’s emblem was not a six-pointed star, but a five-pointed one, even like America’s, so that we were not insulting the Soviets at all.
Consternation was universal. From Sarason’s office came sulphurous rebuke to the unknown idiot who had first made the mistake (generally he was believed to be Lee Sarason) and the command that a new emblem be suggested by every member of the MM. Day and night for three days, M.M. barracks were hectic with telegrams, telephone calls, letters, placards, and thousands of young men sat with pencils and rulers earnestly drawing tens of thousands of substitutes for the five-pointed star: circles in triangles, triangles in circles, pentagons, hexagons, alphas and omegas, eagles, aeroplanes, arrows, bombs bursting in air, bombs bursting in bushes, billy-goats, rhinoceri, and the Yosemite Valley. It was circulated that a young ensign on High Marshal Sarason’s staff had, in agony over the error, committed suicide. Everybody thought that this hara-kiri was a fine idea and showed sensibility on the part of the better M.M.’s; and they went on thinking so even after it proved that the Ensign had merely got drunk at the Buzz Backgammon Club and talked about suicide.
In the end, despite his uncounted competitors, it was the great mystic, Lee Sarason himself, who found the perfect new emblem, a ship’s steering wheel.
It symbolized, he pointed out, not only the Ship of State but also the wheels of American industry, the wheels and the steering wheel of motorcars, the wheel diagram which Father Coughlin had suggested two years before as symbolizing the program of the National Union for Social Justice, and, particularly, the wheel emblem of the Rotary Club.
Sarason’s proclamation also pointed out that it would not be too far-fetched to declare that, with a little drafting treatment, the arms of the Swastika could be seen as unquestionably related to the circle, and how about the KKK. of the Kuklux Klan? Three K’s made a triangle, didn’t they? and everybody knew that a triangle was related to a circle.
So it was that in September, at the demonstrations on Loyalty Day (which replaced Labor Day), the same wideflung seraphim sang:
“Buzz and buzz and hail the Chief,
And th’ mystic steering whee-el,
The U.S. ne’er can come to grief
While we defend its we-ul.”
In mid-August, President Windrip announced that, since all its aims were being accomplished, the League of Forgotten Men (founded by one Rev. Mr. Prang, who was mentioned in the proclamation only as a person in past history) was now terminated. So were all the older parties, Democratic, Republican, Farmer-Labor, or what not. There was to be only one: The American Corporate State and Patriotic Party, no! added the President, with something of his former good humor: “there are two parties, the Corporate and those who don’t belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!”
The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary Sarason had more or less taken from Italy. All occupations were divided into six classes: agriculture, industry, commerce, transportation and communication, banking and insurance and investment, and a grabbag class including the arts, sciences, and teaching. The American Federation of Labor, the Railway Brotherhoods, and all other labor organizations, along with the Federal Department of Labor, were supplanted by local Syndicates composed of individual workers, above which were Provincial Confederations, all under governmental guidance. Parallel to them in each occupation were Syndicates and Confederations of employers. Finally, the six Confederations of workers and the six Confederations of employers were combined in six joint federal Corporations, which elected the twenty-four members of the National Council of Corporations, which initiated or supervised all legislation relating to labor or business.
There was a permanent chairman of this National Council, with a deciding vote and the power of regulating all debate as he saw fit, but he was not elected, he was appointed by the President; and the first to hold the office (without interfering with his other duties) was Secretary of State Lee Sarason. Just to safeguard the liberties of Labor, this chairman had the right to dismiss any unreasonable member of the National Council.
All strikes and lockouts were forbidden under federal penalties, so that workmen listened to reasonable government representatives and not to unscrupulous agitators.
Windrip’s partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the “Corpos,” which nickname was generally used.
By ill-natured people the Corpos were called “the Corpses.” But they were not at all corpse-like. That description would more correctly, and increasingly, have applied to their enemies.
Though the Corpos continued to promise a gift of at least $5000 to every family, “as soon as funding of the required bond issue shall be completed,” the actual management of the poor, particularly of the more surly and dissatisfied poor, was undertaken by the Minute Men.
It could now be published to the world, and decidedly it was published, that unemployment had, under the benign reign of President Berzelius Windrip, almost disappeared. Almost all workless men were assembled in enormous labor camps, under M.M. officers. Their wives and children accompanied them and took care of the cooking, cleaning, and repair of clothes. The men did not merely work on state projects; they were also hired out at the reasonable rate of one dollar a day to private employers. Of course, so selfish is human nature even in Utopia, this did cause most employers to discharge the men to whom they had been paying more than a dollar a day, but that took care of itself, because these overpaid malcontents in their turn were forced into the labor camps.
Out of their dollar a day, the workers in the camps had to pay from seventy to ninety cents a day for board and lodging.
There was a certain discontentment among people who had once owned motorcars and bathrooms and eaten meat twice daily, at having to walk ten or twenty miles a day, bathe once a week, along with fifty others, in a long trough, get meat only twice a week, when they got it, and sleep in bunks, a hundred in a room. Yet there was less rebellion than a mere rationalist like Walt Trowbridge, Windrip’s ludicrously defeated rival, would have expected, for every evening the loudspeaker brought to the workers the precious voices of Windrip and Sarason, Vice-President Beecroft, Secretary of War Luthorne, Secretary of Education and Propaganda Macgoblin, General Coon, or some other genius, and these Olympians, talking to the dirtiest and tiredest mudsills as warm friend to friend, told them that they were the honored foundation stones of a New Civilization, the advance guards of the conquest of the whole world.
They took it, too, like Napoleon’s soldiers. And they had the Jews and the Negroes to look down on, more and more. The M.M.’s saw to that. Every man is a king so long as he has someone to look down on.
Each week the government said less about the findings of the board of inquiry which was to decide how the $5000 per person could be wangled. It became easier to answer malcontents with a cuff from a Minute Man than by repetitious statements from Washington.
But most of the planks in Windrip’s platform really were carried out, according to a sane interpretation of them. For example, inflation.
In America of this period, inflation did not even compare with the German inflation of the 1920’s, but it was sufficient. The wage in the labor camps had to be raised from a dollar a day to three, with which the workers were receiving an equivalent of sixty cents a day in 1914 values. Everybody delightfully profited, except the very poor, the common workmen, the skilled workmen, the small business men, the professional men, and old couples living on annuities or their savings, these last did really suffer a little, as their incomes were cut in three. The workers, with apparently tripled wages, saw the cost of everything in the shops much more than triple.
Agriculture, which was most of all to have profited from inflation, on the theory that the mercurial crop-prices would rise faster than anything else, actually suffered the most of all, because, after a first flurry of foreign buying, importers of American products found it impossible to deal in so skittish a market, and American food exports, such of them as were left, ceased completely.
It was Big Business, that ancient dragon which Bishop Prang and Senator Windrip had gone forth to slay, that had the interesting time.
With the value of the dollar changing daily, the elaborate systems of cost-marking and credit of Big Business were so confused that presidents and sales-managers sat in their offices after midnight, with wet towels. But they got some comfort, because with the depreciated dollar they were able to recall all bonded indebtedness and, paying it off at the old face values, get rid of it at thirty cents on the hundred. With this, and the currency so wavering that employees did not know just what they ought to get in wages, and labor unions eliminated, the larger industrialists came through the inflation with perhaps double the wealth, in real values, that they had had in 1936.
And two other planks in Windrip’s encyclical vigorously respected were those eliminating the Negroes and patronizing the Jews.
The former race took it the less agreeably. There were horrible instances in which whole Southern counties with a majority of Negro population were overrun by the blacks and all property seized. True, their leaders alleged that this followed massacres of Negroes by Minute Men. But as Dr. Macgoblin, Secretary of Culture, so well said, this whole subject was unpleasant and therefore not helpful to discuss.
All over the country, the true spirit of Windrip’s Plank Nine, regarding the Jews, was faithfully carried out. It was understood that the Jews were no longer to be barred from fashionable hotels, as in the hideous earlier day of race prejudice, but merely to be charged double rates. It was understood that Jews were never to be discouraged from trading but were merely to pay higher graft to commissioners and inspectors and to accept without debate all regulations, wage rates, and price lists decided upon by the stainless Anglo-Saxons of the various merchants’ associations. And that all Jews of all conditions were frequently to sound their ecstasy in having found in America a sanctuary, after their deplorable experiences among the prejudices of Europe.
In Fort Beulah, Louis Rotenstern, since he had always been the first to stand up for the older official national anthems, “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “Dixie,” and now for “Buzz and Buzz,” since he had of old been considered almost an authentic friend by Francis Tasbrough and R. C. Crowley, and since he had often good-naturedly pressed the unrecognized Shad Ledue’s Sunday pants without charge, was permitted to retain his tailor shop, though it was understood that he was to charge members of the MM. prices that were only nominal, or quarter nominal.
But one Harry Kindermann, a Jew who had profiteered enough as agent for maple-sugar and dairy machinery so that in 1936 he had been paying the last installment on his new bungalow and on his Buick, had always been what Shad Ledue called “a fresh Kike.” He had laughed at the flag, the Church, and even Rotary. Now he found the manufacturers canceling his agencies, without explanation.
By the middle of 1937 he was selling frankfurters by the road, and his wife, who had been so proud of the piano and the old American pine cupboard in their bungalow, was dead, from pneumonia caught in the one-room tarpaper shack into which they had moved.
At the time of Windrip’s election, there had been more than 80,000 relief administrators employed by the federal and local governments in America. With the labor camps absorbing most people on relief, this army of social workers, both amateurs and long-trained professional uplifters, was stranded.
The Minute Men controlling the labor camps were generous: they offered the charitarians the same dollar a day that the proletarians received, with special low rates for board and lodging. But the cleverer social workers received a much better offer: to help list every family and every unmarried person in the country, with his or her finances, professional ability, military training and, most important and most tactfully to be ascertained, his or her secret opinion of the M.M.’s and of the Corpos in general.
A good many of the social workers indignantly said that this was asking them to be spies, stool pigeons for the American Oh Gay Pay Oo. These were, on various unimportant charges, sent to jail or, later, to concentration camps, which were also jails, but the private jails of the M.M.’s, unshackled by any old-fashioned, nonsensical prison regulations.
In the confusion of the summer and early autumn of 1937, local M.M. officers had a splendid time making their own laws, and such congenital traitors and bellyachers as Jewish doctors, Jewish musicians, Negro journalists, socialistic college professors, young men who preferred reading or chemical research to manly service with the M.M.’s, women who complained when their men had been taken away by the M.M.’s and had disappeared, were increasingly beaten in the streets, or arrested on charges that would not have been very familiar to pre-Corpo jurists.
And, increasingly, the bourgeois counter revolutionists began to escape to Canada; just as once, by the “underground railroad” the Negro slaves had escaped into that free Northern air.
In Canada, as well as in Mexico, Bermuda, Jamaica, Cuba, and Europe, these lying Red propagandists began to publish the vilest little magazines, accusing the Corpos of murderous terrorism, allegations that a band of six M.M.’s had beaten an aged rabbi and robbed him; that the editor of a small labor paper in Paterson had been tied to his printing press and left there while the M.M.’s burned the plant; that the pretty daughter of an ex-Farmer-Labor politician in Iowa had been raped by giggling young men in masks.
To end this cowardly flight of the lying counter revolutionists (many of whom, once accepted as reputable preachers and lawyers and doctors and writers and excongressmen and ex-army officers, were able to give a wickedly false impression of Corpoism and the M.M.’s to the world outside America) the government quadrupled the guards who were halting suspects at every harbor and at even the minutest trails crossing the border; and in one quick raid, it poured M.M. storm troopers into all airports, private or public, and all aeroplane factories, and thus, they hoped, closed the air lanes to skulking traitors.
As one of the most poisonous counter revolutionists in the country, Ex-Senator Walt Trowbridge, Windrip’s rival in the election of 1936, was watched night and day by a rotation of twelve M.M. guards. But there seemed to be small danger that this opponent, who, after all, was a crank but not an intransigent maniac, would make himself ridiculous by fighting against the great Power which (per Bishop Prang) Heaven had been pleased to send for the healing of distressed America.
Trowbridge remained prosaically on a ranch he owned in South Dakota, and the government agent commanding the M.M.‘s (a skilled man, trained in breaking strikes) reported that on his tapped telephone wire and in his steamed-open letters, Trowbridge communicated nothing more seditious than reports on growing alfalfa. He had with him no one but ranch hands and, in the house, an innocent aged couple.
Washington hoped that Trowbridge was beginning to see the light. Maybe they would make him Ambassador to Britain, vice Sinclair.
On the Fourth of July, when the M.M’s gave their glorious but unfortunate tribute to the Chief and the Fivepointed Star, Trowbridge gratified his cow-punchers by holding an unusually pyrotechnic celebration. All evening skyrockets flared up, and round the home pasture glowed pots of Roman fire. Far from cold-shouldering the MM. guards, Trowbridge warmly invited them to help set off rockets and join the gang in beer and sausages. The lonely soldier boys off there on the Prairie, they were so happy shooting rockets!
An aeroplane with a Canadian license, a large plane, flying without lights, sped toward the rocket-lighted area and, with engine shut off, so that the guards could not tell whether it had flown on, circled the pasture outlined by the Roman fire and swiftly landed.
The guards had felt sleepy after the last bottle of beer. Three of them were napping on the short, rough grass.
They were rather disconcertingly surrounded by men in masking flying-helmets, men carrying automatic pistols, who handcuffed the guards that were still awake, picked up the others, and stored all twelve of them in the barred baggage compartment of the plane.
The raiders’ leader, a military-looking man, said to Walt Trowbridge, “Ready, sir?”
“Yep. Just take those four boxes, will you, please, Colonel?”
The boxes contained photostats of letters and documents.
Unregally clad in overalls and a huge straw hat, Senator Trowbridge entered the pilots’ compartment. High and swift and alone, the plane flew toward the premature Northern Lights.
Next morning, still in overalls, Trowbridge breakfasted at the Fort Garry Hotel with the Mayor of Winnipeg.
A fortnight later, in Toronto, he began the republication of his weekly, A Lance for Democracy, and on the cover of the first number were reproductions of four letters indicating that before he became President, Berzelius Windrip had profited through personal gifts from financiers to an amount of over $1,000,000. To Doremus Jessup, to some thousands of Doremus Jessups, were smuggled copies of the Lance, though possession of it was punishable (perhaps not legally, but certainly effectively) by death.
But it was not till the winter, so carefully did his secret agents have to work in America, that Trowbridge had in full operation the organization called by its operatives the “New Underground,” the “N.U.,” which aided thousands of counter revolutionists to escape into Canada.
“In the little towns, ah, there is the abiding peace that I love, and that can never be disturbed by even the noisiest Smart Alecks from these haughty megalopolises like Washington, New York, & etc.”
Zero Hour, Berzelius Windrip.
Doremus’s policy of “wait and see,” like most Fabian policies, had grown shaky. It seemed particularly shaky in June, 1937, when he drove to North Beulah for the fortieth graduation anniversary of his class in Isaiah College.
As the custom was, the returned alumni wore comic costumes. His class had sailor suits, but they walked about, bald-headed and lugubrious, in these well-meant garments of joy, and there was a look of instability even in the eyes of the three members who were ardent Corpos (being local Corpo commissioners).
After the first hour Doremus saw little of his classmates. He had looked up his familiar correspondent, Victor Loveland, teacher in the classical department who, a year ago, had informed him of President Owen J. Peaseley’s ban on criticism of military training.
At its best, Loveland’s jerry-built imitation of an Anne Hathaway cottage had been no Palace, Isaiah assistant professors did not customarily rent palaces. Now, with the pretentiously smart living room heaped with burlapcovered chairs and rolled rugs and boxes of books, it looked like a junkshop. Amid the wreckage sat Loveland, his wife, his three children, and one Dr. Arnold King, experimenter in chemistry.
“What’s all this?” said Doremus.
“I’ve been fired. As too ‘radical,”’ growled Loveland. “Yes! And his most vicious attack has been on Glicknow’s treatment of the use of the aorist in Hesiod!” wailed his wife.
“Well, I deserve it, for not having been vicious about anything since AD. 300! Only thing I’m ashamed of is that they’re not firing me for having taught my students that the Corpos have taken most of their ideas from Tiberius, or maybe for having decently tried to assassinate District Commissioner Reek!” said Loveland.
“Where you going?” inquired Doremus.
“That’s just it! We don’t know! Oh, first to my dad’s house, which is a six-room packing-box in Burlington, Dad’s got diabetes. But teaching, President Peaseley kept putting off signing my new contract and just informed me ten days ago that I’m through, much too late to get a job for next year. Myself, I don’t care a damn! Really I don’t! I’m glad to have been made to admit that as a college prof I haven’t been, as I so liked to convince myself, any Erasmus Junior, inspiring noble young souls to dream of chaste classic beauty, save the mark!, but just a plain hired man, another counter-jumper in the Marked-down Classics Goods Department, with students for bored customers, and as subject to being hired and fired as any janitor. Do you remember that in Imperial Rome, the teachers, even the tutors of the nobility, were slaves, allowed a lot of leeway, I suppose, in their theories about the anthropology of Crete, but just as likely to be strangled as the other slaves! I’m not kicking-”
Dr. King, the chemist, interrupted with a whoop: “Sure you’re kicking! Why the hell not? With three kids? Why not kick! Now me, I’m lucky! I’m half Jew, one of these sneaking, cunning Jews that Buzz Windrip and his boyfriend Hitler tell you about; so cunning I suspected what was going on months ago and so, I’ve also just been fired, Mr. Jessup, I arranged for a job with the Universal Electric Corporation. . . .They don’t mind Jews there, as long as they sing at their work and find boondoggles worth a million a year to the company, at thirty five hundred a year salary! A fond farewell to all my grubby studes! Though-“ and Doremus thought he was, at heart, sadder than Loveland-“I do kind of hate to give up my research. Oh, hell with ‘em!”
The version of Owen J. Peaseley, M.A. (Oberlin), LL.D. (Conn. State), president of Isaiah College, was quite different. “Why no, Mr. Jessup! We believe absolutely in freedom of speech and thought, here at old Isaiah. The fact is that we are letting Loveland go only because the Classics Department is overstaffed, so little demand for Greek and Sanskrit and so on, you know, with all this modern interest in quantitative bio-physics and aeroplane-repairing and so on. But as to Dr. King, um, I’m afraid we did a little feel that he was riding for a fall, boasting about being a Jew and all, you know, and, But can’t we talk of pleasanter subjects? You have probably learned that Secretary of Culture Macgoblin has now completed his plan for the appointment of a director of education in each province and district?, and that Professor Almeric Trout of Aumbry University is slated for Director in our Northeastern Province? Well, I have something very gratifying to add. Dr. Trout, and what a profound scholar, what an eloquent orator he is, did you know that in Teutonic ‘Almeric’ means ‘noble prince’?, and he’s been so kind as to designate me as Director of Education for the Vermont, New Hampshire District! Isn’t that thrilling! I wanted you to be one of the first to hear it, Mr. Jessup, because of course one of the chief jobs of the Director will be to work with and through the newspaper editors in the great task of spreading correct Corporate ideals and combating false theories, yes, oh yes.”
It seemed as though a large number of people were zealous to work with and through the editors these days, thought Doremus.
He noticed that President Peaseley resembled a dummy made of faded gray flannel of a quality intended for petticoats in an orphan asylum.
The Minute Men’s organization was less favored in the staid villages than in the industrial centers, but all through the summer it was known that a company of M.M.’s had been formed in Fort Beulah and were drilling in the Armory under National Guard officers and County Commissioner Ledue, who was seen sitting up nights in his luxurious new room in Mrs. lngot’s boarding-house, reading a manual of arms. But Doremus declined to go look at them, and when his rustic but ambitious reporter, “Doc” (otherwise Otis) Itchitt, came in throbbing about the M.M.’s and wanted to run an illustrated account in the Saturday Informer, Doremus sniffed.
It was not till their first public parade, in August, that Doremus saw them, and not gladly.
The whole countryside had turned out; he could hear them laughing and shuffling beneath his office window; but he stubbornly stuck to editing an article on fertilizers for cherry orchards. (And he loved parades, childishly!) Not even the sound of a band pounding out “Boola, Boola” drew him to the window. Then he was plucked up by Dan Wilgus, the veteran job compositor and head of the Informer chapel, a man tall as a house and possessed of such a sweeping black mustache as had not otherwise been seen since the passing of the oId-time bartender. “You got to take a look, Boss; great show!” implored Dan.
Through the Chester-Arthur, red-brick prissiness of President Street, Doremus saw marching a surprisingly well drilled company of young men in the uniforms of Civil War cavalrymen, and just as they were opposite the Informer office, the town band rollicked into “Marching through Georgia.” The young men smiled, they stepped more quickly, and held up their banner with the steering wheel and MM. upon it.
When he was ten, Doremus had seen in this self-same street a Memorial Day parade of the GAR. The veterans were an average of under fifty then, and some of them only thirty-five; they had swung ahead lightly and gayly, and to the tune of “Marching through Georgia.” So now in 1937 he was looking down again on the veterans of Gettysburg and Missionary Ridge. Oh, he could see them all, Uncle Tom Veeder, who had made him the willow whistles; old Mr. Crowley with his cornflower eyes; Jack Greenhill who played leapfrog with the kids and who was to die in Ethan Creek, they found him with thick hair dripping. Doremus thrilled to the MM. flags, the music, the valiant young men, even while he hated all they marched for, and hated the Shad Ledue whom he incredulously recognized in the brawny horseman at the head of the procession.
He understood now why the young men marched to war. But “Oh yeah, you think so!” he could hear Shad sneering through the music.
The unwieldy humor characteristic of American politicians persisted even through the eruption. Doremus read about and sardonically “played up” in the Informera minstrel show given at the National Convention of Boosters’ Clubs at Atlantic City, late in August. As end-men and interlocutor appeared no less distinguished persons than Secretary of the Treasury Webster R. Skittle, Secretary of War Luthorne, and Secretary of Education and Public Relations, Dr. Macgoblin. It was good, old-time Elks Club humor, uncorroded by any of the notions of dignity and of international obligations which, despite his great services, that queer stick Lee Sarason was suspected of trying to introduce. Why (marveled the Boosters) the Big Boys were so democratic that they even kidded themselves and the Corpos, that’s how unassuming they were!
“Who was this lady I seen you going down the street with?” demanded the plump Mr. Secretary Skittle (disguised as a colored wench in polka-dotted cotton) of Mr. Secretary Luthorne (in black-face and large red gloves). “That wasn’t no lady, that was Walt Trowbridge’s paper.” “Ah don’t think Ah cognosticates youse, Mist’ Bones.” “Why, you know’ A Nance for Plutocracy.”‘
Clean fun, not too confusingly subtle, drawing the people (several millions listened on the radio to the Boosters’ Club show) closer to their great-hearted masters.
But the high point of the show was Dr. Macgoblin’s daring to tease his own faction by singing:
“Buzz and booze and biz, whatfun! This job gets drearier and dreurier, When I get out of Washington, I’m going to Siberia!”
It seemed to Doremus that he was hearing a great deal about the Secretary of Education. Then, in late September, he heard something not quite pleasant about Dr. Macgoblin. The story, as he got it, ran thus:
Hector Macgoblin, that great surgeon-boxer-poet-sailor, had always contrived to have plenty of enemies, but after the beginning of his investigation of schools, to purge them of any teachers he did not happen to like, he made so unusually many that he was accompanied by bodyguards. At this time in September, he was in New York, finding quantities of “subversive elements” in Columbia University, against the protests of President Nicholas Murray Butler, who insisted that he had already cleaned out all willful and dangerous thinkers, especially the pacifists in the medical school, and Macgoblin’s bodyguards were two former instructors in philosophy who in their respective universities had been admired even by their deans for everything except the fact that they would get drunk and quarrelsome. One of them, in that state, always took off one shoe and hit people over the head with the heel, if they argued in defense of Jung.
With these two in uniforms as MM. battalion leaders, his own was that of a brigadier, after a day usefully spent in kicking out of Columbia all teachers who had voted for Trowbridge, Dr. Macgoblin started off with his brace of bodyguards to try out a wager that he could take a drink at every bar on Fifty-second Street and still not pass out.
He had done well when, at ten-thirty, being then affectionate and philanthropic, he decided that it would be a splendid idea to telephone his revered former teacher in Leland Stanford, the biologist Dr. Willy Schmidt, once of Vienna, now in Rockefeller Institute. Macgoblin was indignant when someone at Dr. Schmidt’s apartment informed him that the doctor was out. Furiously: “Out? Out? What d’you mean he’s out? Old goat like that got no right to be out! At midnight! Where is he? This is the Police Department speaking! Where is he?”
Dr. Schmidt was spending the evening with that gentle scholar, Rabbi Dr. Vincent de Verez.
Macgoblin and his learned gorillas went to call on De Verez. On the way nothing of note happened except that when Macgoblin discussed the fare with the taxidriver, he felt impelled to knock him out. The three, and they were in the happiest, most boyish of spirits, burst joyfully into Dr. de Verez’s primeval house in the Sixties. The entrance hall was shabby enough, with a humble show of the good rabbi’s umbrellas and storm rubbers, and had the invaders seen the bedrooms they would have found them Trappist cells. But the long living room, front and back-parlor thrown together, was half museum, half lounge. Just because he himself liked such things and resented a stranger’s possessing them, Macgoblin looked sniffily at a Beluchi prayer rug, a Jacobean court cupboard, a small case of incunabula and of Arabic manuscripts in silver upon scarlet parchment.
“Swell joint! Hello, Doc! How’s the Dutchman? How’s the antibody research going? These are Doc Nemo and Doc, uh, Doc Whoozis, the famous glue lifters. Great frenzh mine. Introduce us to your Jew friend.”
Now it is more than possible that Rabbi de Verez had never heard of Secretary of Education Macgoblin.
The houseman who had let in the intruders and who nervously hovered at the living-room door, he is the sole authority for most of the story, said that Macgoblin staggered, slid on a rug, almost fell, then giggled foolishly as he sat down, waving his plug-ugly friends to chairs and demanding, “Hey, Rabbi, how about some whisky? Lil Scotch and soda. I know you Geonim never lap up anything but snow-cooled nectar handed out by a maiden with a dulcimer, singing of Mount Abora, or maybe just a little shot of Christian children’s sacrificial blood, ha, ha, just ajoke, Rabbi; I know these ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ are all the bunk, but awful handy in propaganda, just the same and, But I mean, for plain Goyim like us, a little real hootch! Hear me?”
Dr. Schmidt started to protest. The Rabbi, who had been carding his white beard, silenced him and, with a wave of his fragile old hand, signaled the waiting houseman, who reluctantly brought in whisky and siphons.
The three coordinators of culture almost filled their glasses before they poured in the soda.
“Look here, De Verez, why don’t you kikes take a tumble to yourselves and get out, beat it, exeunt bearing corpses, and start a real Zion, say in South America?” The Rabbi looked bewildered at the attack. Dr. Schmidt snorted, “Dr. Macgoblin, once a promising pupil of mine, is Secretary of Education and a lot of tings, I don’t know vot!, at Washington. Corpo!”
“Oh!” The Rabbi sighed. “I have heard of that cult, but my people have learned to ignore persecution. We have been so impudent as to adopt the tactics of your Early Christian Martyrs! Even if we were invited to your Corporate feast, which, I understand, we most warmly are not!, I am afraid we should not be able to attend. You see, we believe in only one Dictator, God, and I am afraid we cannot see Mr. Windrip as a rival to Jehovah!”
“Aah, that’s all baloney!” murmured one of the learned gunmen, and Macgoblin shouted, “Oh, can the two-dollar words! There’s just one thing where we agree with the dirty, Kike-loving Communists, that’s in chucking the whole bunch of divinities, Jehovah and all the rest of ‘em, that’ve been on relief so long!”
The Rabbi was unable even to answer, but little Dr. Schmidt (he had a doughnut mustache, a beer belly, and black button boots with soles haIf-an-inch thick) said, “Macgoblin, I suppose I may talk frank wit’ an old student, there not being any reporters or loutspeakers arount. Do you know why you are drinking like a pig? Because you are ashamt! Ashamt that you, once a promising researcher, should have solt out to freebooters with brains like decayed liver and-”
“That’ll do from you, Prof!”
“Say, we oughtta tie those seditious sons of hounds up and beat the daylight out of ‘em!” whimpered one of the watchdogs.
Macgoblin shrieked, “You highbrows, you stinking intellectuals! You, you Kike, with your lush, luzurious library, while Common People been starving, would be now if the Chief hadn’t saved ‘em! Your c’lection books, stolen from the pennies of your poor, dumb, foot-kissing congregation of pushcart peddlers!”
The Rabbi sat bespelled, fingering his beard, but Dr. Schmidt leaped up, crying, “You three scoundrels were not invited here! You pushed your way in! Get out! Go! Get out!”
One of the accompanying dogs demanded of Macgoblin, “Going to stand for these two Yiddles insulting us, insulting the whole by God Corpo state and the MM. uniform? Kill ‘em!”
Now, to his already abundant priming, Macgoblin had added two huge whiskies since he had come. He yanked out his automatic pistol, fired twice. Dr. Schmidt toppled. Rabbi De Verez slid down in his chair, his temple throbbing out blood. The houseman trembled at the door, and one of the guards shot at him, then chased him down the street, firing, and whooping with the humor of the joke. This learned guard was killed instantly, at a street crossing, by a traffic policeman.
Macgoblin and the other guard were arrested and brought before the Commissioner of the Metropolitan District, the great Corpo Viceroy, whose power was that of three or four state governors put together.
Dr. de Verez, though he was not yet dead, was too sunken to testify. But the Commissioner thought that in a case so closely touching the federal government, it would not be seemly to postpone the trial.
Against the terrified evidence of the Rabbi’s Russian Polish houseman were the earnest (and by now sober) accounts of the federal Secretary of Education, and of his surviving aide, formerly Assistant Professor of Philosophy in Pelouse University. It was proven that not only De Verez but also Dr. Schmidt was a Jew, which, incidentally, he 100 per cent was not. It was almost proven that this sinister pair had been coaxing innocent Corpos into De Verez’s house and performing upon them what a scared little Jewish stool pigeon called “ritual murders.” Macgoblin and friend were acquitted on grounds of selfdefense and handsomely complimented by the Commissioner, and later in telegrams from President Windrip and Secretary of State Sarason, for having defended the Commonwealth against human vampires and one of the most horrifying plots known in history.
The policeman who had shot the other guard wasn’t, so scrupulous was Corpo justice, heavily punished, merely sent out to a dreary beat in the Bronx. So everybody was happy.
But Doremus Jessup, on receiving a letter from a New York reporter who had talked privately with the surviving guard, was not so happy. He was not in a very gracious temper, anyway. County Commissioner Shad Ledue, on grounds of humanitarianism, had made him discharge his delivery boys and employ M.M.’s to distribute (or cheerfully chuck into the river) the Informer.
“Last straw, plenty last,” he raged.
He had read about Rabbi de Verez and seen pictures of him. He had once heard Dr. Willy Schmidt speak, when the State Medical Association had met at Fort Beulah, and afterward had sat near him at dinner. If they were murderous Jews, then he was a murderous Jew too, he swore, and it was time to do something for His Own People.
That evening, it was late in September, 1937, he did not go home to dinner at all but, with a paper container of coffee and a slab of pie untouched before him, he stooped at his desk in the Informer office, writing an editorial which, when he had finished it, he marked: “Must. 12-pt bold face-box top front p.”
The beginning of the editorial, to appear the following morning was:
“Believing that the inefficiency and crimes of the Corpo administration were due to the difficulties attending a new form of government, we have waited patiently for their end. We apologize to our readers for that patience.
It is easy to see now, in the revolting crime of a drunken cabinet member against two innocent and valuable old men like Dr. Schmidt and the Rev. Dr. de Verez, that we may expect nothing but murderous extirpation of all honest opponents of the tyranny of Windrip and his Corpo gang.
Not that all of them are as vicious as Macgoblin. Some are merely incompetent, like our friends Ledue, Reek, and Haik. But their ludicrous incapability permits the homicidal cruelty of their chieftains to go on without check.
Buzzard Windrip, the ”Chief,” and his pirate gang . . .”
A smallish, neat, gray-bearded man, furiously rattling an aged typewriter, typing with his two forefingers.
Dan Wilgus, head of the composing room, looked and barked like an old sergeant and, like an old sergeant, was only theoretically meek to his superior officer. He was shaking when he brought in this copy and, almost rubbing Doremus’s nose in it, protested, “Say, boss, you don’t honest t’ God think we’re going to set this up, do you?”
“I certainly do!”
“Well, I don’t! Rattlesnake poison! It’s all right your getting thrown in the hoosegow and probably shot at dawn, if you like that kind of sport, but we’ve held a meeting of the chapel, and we all say, damned if we’ll risk our necks too!”
“All right, you yellow pup! All right, Dan, I’ll set it myself!”
“Aw, don’t! Gosh, I don’t want to have to go to your funeral after the M.M.’s get through with you, and say, ‘Don’t he look unnatural!’“
“After working for me for twenty years, Dan! Traitor!”
“Look here! I’m no Enoch Arden or, oh, what the hell was his name?, Ethan Frome or Benedict Arnold or whatever it was!, and more ‘n once I’ve licked some galoot that was standing around a saloon telling the world you were the lousiest highbrow editor in Vermont, and at that, I guess maybe he was telling the truth, but same time-“ Dan’s effort to be humorous and coaxing broke, and he wailed, “God, boss, please don’t!”
“I know, Dan. Prob’ly our friend Shad Ledue will be annoyed. But I can’t go on standing things like slaughtering old De Verez any more and, Here! Gimme that copy!”
While compositors, pressmen, and the young devil stood alternately fretting and snickering at his clumsiness, Doremus ranged up before a type case, in his left hand the first composing-stick he had held in ten years, and looked doubtfully at the case. It was like a labyrinth to him. “Forgot how it’s arranged. Can’t find anything except the e-box!” he complained.
“Hell! I’ll do it! All you pussyfooters get the hell out of this! You don’t know one doggone thing about who set this up!” Dan Wilgus roared, and the other printers vanished!, as far as the toilet door.
In the editorial office, Doremus showed proofs of his indiscretion to Doc Itchitt, that enterprising though awkward reporter, and to Julian Falck, who was off now to Amherst but who had been working for the Informer all summer, combining unprintable articles on Adam Smith with extremely printable accounts of golf and dances at the country club.
“Gee, I hope you will have the nerve to go on and print it, and same time, I hope you don’t! They’ll get you!” worried Julian.
“Naw! Gwen and print it! They won’t dare to do a thing! They may get funny in New York and Washington, but you’re too strong in the Beulah Valley for Ledue and Staubmeyer to dare lift a hand!” brayed Doc Itchitt, while Doremus considered, “I wonder if this smart young journalistic Judas wouldn’t like to see me in trouble and get hold of the Informer and turn it Corpo?”
He did not stay at the office till the paper with his editorial had gone to press. He went home early, and showed the proof to Emma and Sissy. While they were reading it, with yelps of disapproval, Julian Falck slipped in.
Emma protested, “Oh, you can’t, you mustn’t do it! What will become of us all? Honestly, Dormouse, I’m not scared for myself, but what would I do if they beat you or put you in prison or something? It would just break my heart to think of you in a cell! And without any clean underclothesl It isn’t too late to stop it, is it?”
“No. As a matter of fact the paper doesn’t go to bed till eleven. . . . Sissy, what do you think?”
“I don’t know what to think! Oh damn!”
“Why Sissy,” from Emma, quite mechanically.
“It used to be, you did what was right and got a nice stick of candy for it,” said Sissy. “Now, it seems as if whatever’s right is wrong. Julian-funny-face-what do you think of Pop’s kicking Shad in his sweet hairy ears?” “Why, Sis-”
Julian blurted, “I think it’d be fierce if somebody didn’t try to stop these fellows. I wish I could do it. But how could I?”
“You’ve probably answered the whole business,” said Doremus. “If a man is going to assume the right to tell several thousand readers what’s what, most agreeable, hitherto, he’s got a kind of you might say priestly obligation to tell the truth. ‘O cursed spite.’ Well! I think I’ll drop into the office again. Home about midnight. Don’t sit up, anybody, and Sissy, and you, Julian, that particularly goes for you two night prowlers! As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord, and in Vermont, that means going to bed.”
“And alone!” murmured Sissy.
“ Why Cecilia Jessup! ”
As Doremus trotted out, Foolish, who had sat adoring him, jumped up, hoping for a run.
Somehow, more than all of Emma’s imploring, the dog’s familiar devotion made Doremus feel what it might be to go to prison.
He had lied. He did not return to the office. He drove up the valley to the Tavern and to Lorinda Pike.
But on the way he stopped in at the home of his son-in-law, bustling young Dr. Fowler Greenhill; not to show him the proof but to have, perhaps in prison?, another memory of the domestic life in which he had been rich. He stepped quietly into the front hall of the Greenhill house, a jaunty imitation of Mount Vernon; very prosperous and secure, gay with the brass-knobbed walnut furniture and painted Russian boxes which Mary Greenhill affected. Doremus could hear David (but surely it was past his bedtime?, what time did nine-year-old kids go to bed these degenerate days?) excitedly chattering with his father, and his father’s partner, old Dr. Marcus Olmsted, who was almost retired but who kept up the obstetrics and eye-and-ear work for the firm.
Doremus peeped into the living room, with its bright curtains of yellow linen. David’s mother was writing letters, a crisp, fashionable figure at a maple desk complete with yellow quill pen, engraved notepaper, and silver-backed blotter. Fowler and David were lounging on the two wide arms of Dr. Olmsted’s chair. “So you don’t think you’ll be a doctor, like your dad and me?” Dr. Olmsted was quizzing.
David’s soft hair fluttered as he bobbed his head in the agitation of being taken seriously by grown-ups. “Oh-oh-oh yes, I would like to. Oh, I think it’d be slick to be a doctor. But I want to be a newspaper, like Granddad. That’d be a wow! You said it!”
(“David! Where you ever pick up such language!”)
“You see, Uncle, Doctor, a doctor, oh gee, he has to stay up all night, but an editor, he just sits in his office and takes it easy and never has to worry about nothing!” That moment, Fowler Greenhill saw his father-in-law making monkey faces at him from the door and admonished David, “Now, not always! Editors have to work pretty hard sometimes, just think of when there’s train wrecks and floods and everything! I’ll tell you. Did you know I have magic power?”
“What’s ‘magic power,’ Daddy?”
“I’ll show you. I’ll summon your granddad here from misty deeps-” (“But will he come?” grunted Dr. Olmsted.) “-and have him tell you all the troubles an editor has. Just make him come flying through the air!” “Aw, gee, you couldn’t do that, Dad!” “Oh, can’t I!” Fowler stood solemnly, the overhead lights making soft his harsh red hair, and he windmilled his arms, hooting, “Presto-vesto-adsit-Granddad Jessup-voilél”
And there, coming through the doorway, sure enough was Granddad Jessup!
Doremus remained only ten minutes, saying to himself, “Anyway, nothing bad can happen here, in this solid household.” When Fowler saw him to the door, Doremus sighed to him, “Wish Davy were right, just had to sit in the office and not worry. But I suppose some day I’ll have a run-in with the Corpos.”
“I hope not. Nasty bunch. What do you think, Dad? That swine Shad Ledue told me yesterday they wanted me to join the M.M.’s as medical officer. Fat chance! I told him so.”
“Watch out for Shad, Fowler. He’s vindictive. Made us rewire our whole building.”
“I’m not scared of Captain General Ledue or fifty like him! Hope he calls me in for a bellyache some day! I’ll give him a good sedative, potassium of cyanide. Maybe I’ll some day have the pleasure of seeing that gent in his coffin. That’s the advantage the doctor has, you know! G’-night, Dad! Sleep tight!”
A good many tourists were still coming up from New York to view the colored autumn of Vermont, and when Doremus arrived at the Beulah Valley Tavern he had irritably to wait while Lorinda dug out extra towels and looked up tram schedules and was polite to old ladies who complained that there was too much, or not enough, sound from the Beulah River Falls at night. He could not talk to her apart until after ten. There was, meanwhile, a curious exalted luxury in watching each lost minute threaten him with the approach of the final press time, as he sat in the tea room, imperturbably scratching through the leaves of the latest Fortune.
Lorinda led him, at ten-fifteen, into her little office, just a roll-top desk, a desk chair, one straight chair, and a table piled with heaps of defunct hotel magazines. It was spinsterishly neat yet smelled still of the cigar smoke and old letter files of proprietors long since gone.
“Let’s hurry, Dor. I’m having a little dust-up with that snipe Nipper.” She plumped down at the desk.
“Linda, read this proof. For tomorrow’s paper. . . . No. Wait. Stand up.”
He himself took the desk chair and pulled her down on his knees. “Oh, you!” she snorted, but she nuzzled her cheek against his shoulder and murmured contentedly. “Read this, Linda. For tomorrow’s paper. I think I’m going to publish it, all right, got to decide finally before eleven, but ought I to? l was sure when I left the office, but Emma was scared-”
“Oh, Emma! Sit still. Let me see it.” She read quickly. She always did. At the end she said emotionlessly, “Yes. You must run it. Doremus! They’ve actually come to us here the Corpos, it’s like reading about typhus in China and suddenly finding it in your own house!”
She rubbed his shoulder with her cheek again, and raged, “Think of it! That Shad Ledue, and I taught him for a year in district school, though I was only two years older than he was, and what a nasty bully he was, too! He came to me a few days ago, and he had the nerve to propose that if I would give lower rates to the M.M.’s, he sort of hinted it would be nice of me to serve M.M. officers free, they would close their eyes to my selling liquor here, without a license or anything! Why, he had the inconceivable nerve to tell me, and condescendingly! my dear, that he and his fine friends would be willing to hang out here a lot! Even Staubmeyer, oh, our ‘professor’ is blossoming out as quite a sporting character! And when I chased Ledue out, with a flea in his ear, well, just this morning I got a notice that I have to appear in the county court tomorrow, some complaint from my endearing partner, Mr. Nipper, seems he isn’t satisfied with the division of our work here, and honestly, my darling, he never does one blame thing but sit around and bore my best customers to death by telling what a swell hotel he used to have in Florida. And Nipper has taken his things out of here and moved into town. I’m afraid I’ll have an unpleasant time, trying to keep from telling him what I think of him, in court.”
“Good Lord! Look, sweet, have you got a lawyer for it?”
“Lawyer? Heavens no! Just a misunderstanding, on little Nipper’s part.”
“You’d better. The Corpos are using the courts for all sorts of graft and for accusations of sedition. Get Mungo Kitterick, my lawyer.”
“He’s dumb. Ice water in his veins.”
“I know, but he’s a tidier-up, like so many lawyers. Likes to see everything all neat in pigeonholes. He may not care a damn for justice, but he’ll be awfully pained by any irregularities. Please get him, Lindy, because they’ve got Effingham Swan presiding at court tomorrow.”
“Swan, the Military Judge for District Three, that’s a new Corpo office. Kind of circuit judge with court-martial powers. This Effingham Swan, I had Doc Itchitt interview him today, when he arrived, he’s the perfect gentleman, Fascist, Oswald Mosley style. Good family, whatever that means. Harvard graduate. Columbia Law School, year at Oxford. But went into finance in Boston. Investment banker. Major or something during the war. Plays polo and sailed in a yacht race to Bermuda. Itchitt says he’s a big brute, with manners smoother than a butterscotch sundae and more language than a bishop.”
“But I’ll be glad to have a gentleman to explain things to, instead of Shad.”
“A gentleman’s blackjack hurts just as much as a mucker’s!”
“Oh, you!” with irritated tenderness, running her forefinger along the line of his jaw.
Outside, a footstep. She sprang up, sat down primly in the straight chair. The footsteps went by. She mused:
“All this trouble and the Corpos, they’re going to do something to you and me. We’ll become so roused up that, either we’ll be desperate and really cling to each other and everybody else in the world can go to the devil or, what I’m afraid is more likely, we’ll get so deep into rebellion against Windrip, we’ll feel so terribly that we’re standing for something, that we’ll want to give up everything else for it, even give up you and me. So that no one can ever find out and criticize. We’ll have to be beyond criticism.”
“No! I won’t listen. We will fight, but how can we ever get so involved, detached people like us.”
“You are going to publish that editorial tomorrow?”
“It’s not too late to kill it?”
He looked at the clock over her desk,so ludicrously like a grade-school clock that it ought to have been flanked with portraits of George and Martha. “Well, yes, it is too late, almost eleven. Couldn’t get to the office till ‘way past”
“You’re sure you won’t worry about it when you go to bed tonight? Dear, I so don’t want you to worry! You’re sure you don’t want to telephone and kill the editorial?”
“I’m glad! Me, I’d rather be shot than go sneaking around, crippled with fear. Bless you!”
She kissed him and hurried off to another hour or two of work, while he drove home, whistling vaingloriously.
But he did not sleep well, in his big black-walnut bed. He startled to the night noises of an old frame housethe easing walls, the step of bodiless assassins creeping across the wooden floors all night long.
To follow in part 6