“After eighteen months of Presidency Windrip was angry that Mexico and Canada and South America (obviously his own property, by manifest destiny) should curtly answer his curt diplomatic notes and show no helpfulness about becoming part of his inevitable empire.
Anyone, from Sarason to inter-office messenger, who did not play valet to his ego he suspected of plotting against him.
He constantly increased his bodyguard, and as constantly distrusted all his guards uand discharged them, and once took a shot at a couple of them.
And once in his irritation he had an ex-Senator and twelve workmen who were in concentration camps taken out and shot on the charge that they had told irreverent stories about him.
And so Buzz Windrip passed into wabbly paragraphs in recollections by ex-diplomatic gentlemen with monocles. In what remained of Ex-President Windrip’s life, everything was ex. He was even so far forgotten that only four or five American students tried to shoot him.
When Dewey Haik became President, then America really did begin to suffer a little, and to long for the good old democratic, liberal days of Windrip.
Windrip and Sarason had not minded mirth and dancing in the street so long as they could be suitably taxed. Haik disliked such things on principle.”
It Can’t Happen Here is a semi-satirical 1935 political novel by American author Sinclair Lewis.
When the Falcks and John Pollikop had been arrested and had joined her father in prison, when such more timid rebels as Mungo Kitterick and Harry Kindermann had been scared away from New Underground activities, Mary Greenhill had to take over the control of the Fort Beulah cell, with only Sissy, Father Perefixe, Dr. Olmsted and his driver, and haIf-a-dozen other agents left. And control it she did, with angry devotion and not too much sense. All she could do was to help in the escape of refugees and to forward such minor anti-Corpo news items as she could discover, with Julian gone.
The demon that had grown within her ever since her husband had been executed now became a great tumor, and Mary was furious at inaction. Quite gravely she talked about assassinations, and long before the day of Mary Greenhill, daughter of Doremus, gold-armored tyrants in towers had trembled at the menace of young widows in villages among the dark hills.
She wanted, first, to kill Shad Ledue who (she did not know, but guessed) had probably done the actual shooting of her husband. But in this small place it might hurt her family even more than they had been hurt. She humorlessly suggested, before Shad was arrested and murdered, that it would be a pretty piece of espionage for Sissy to go and live with him. The once flippant Sissy, so thin and quiet ever since her Julian had been taken away, was certain that Mary had gone mad, and at night was terrified. . . . She remembered how Mary, in the days when she had been a crystal-hard, crystal-bright sportswoman, had with her riding-crop beaten a farmer who had tortured a dog.
Mary was fed-up with the cautiousness of Dr. Olmsted and Father Perefixe, men who rather liked a vague state called Freedom but did not overmuch care for being lynched. She stormed at them. Call themselves men? Why didn’t they go out and do something?
At home, she was irritated by her mother, who lamented hardly more about Doremus’s jailing than she did about the beloved little tables that had been smashed during his arrest.
It was equally the blasts about the greatness of the new Provincial Commissioner, Effingham Swan, in the Corpo press and memoranda in the secret N.U. reports about his quick death verdicts against prisoners that made her decide to kill this dignitary. Even more than Shad (who had not yet been sent to Trianon), she blamed him for Fowler’s fate. She thought it out quite calmly. That was the sort of thinking that the Corpos were encouraging among decent home-body women by their program for revitalizing national American pride.
Except with babies accompanying mothers, two visitors together were forbidden in the concentration camps. So, when Mary saw Doremus and, in another camp, Buck Titus, in early October, she could only murmur, in almost the same words to each of them, “Listen! When I leave you I’ll hold up David, but, heavens, what a husky lump he’s become!, at the gate, so you can see him. If anything should ever happen to me, if I should get sick or something, when you get out you’ll take care of David, won’t you, won’t you?”
She was trying to be matter-of-fact, that they might not worry. She was not succeeding very well.
So she drew out, from the small fund which her father had established for her after Fowler’s death, enough money for a couple of months, executed a power of attorney by which either her mother or her sister could draw the rest, casually kissed David and Emma and Sissy good-bye, and, chatty and gay as she took the train, went off to Albany, capital of the Northeastern Province. The story was that she needed a change and was going to stay near Albany with Fowler’s married sister.
She did actually stay with her sister-in-law long enough to get her bearings. Two days after her arrival, she went to the new Albany training-field of the Corpo Women’s Flying Corps and enlisted for lessons in aviation and bombing.
When the inevitable war should come, when the government should decide whether it was Canada, Mexico, Russia, Cuba, Japan, or perhaps Staten Island that was “menacing her borders,” and proceed to defend itself outwards, then the best women flyers of the Corps were to have commissions in an official army auxiliary. The old-fashioned “rights” granted to women by the Liberals might (for their own sakes) be taken from them, but never had they had more right to die in battle.
While she was learning, she wrote to her family reassuring, mostly postcards to David, bidding him mind whatever his grandmother said.
She lived in a lively boarding-house, filled with M.M. officers who knew all about and talked a little about the frequent inspection trips of Commissioner Swan, by aeroplane. She was complimented by quite a number of insulting proposals there.
She had driven a car ever since she had been fifteen: in Boston traffic, across the Quebec plains, on rocky hill roads in a blizzard; she had made repairs at midnight; and she had an accurate eye, nerves trained outdoors, and the resolute steadiness of a madman evading notice while he plots death.
After ten hours of instruction, by an M.M. aviator who thought the air was as good a place as any to make love in and who could never understand why Mary laughed at him, she made her first solo flight, with an admirable landing. The instructor said (among other things less apropos) that she had no fear; that the one thing she needed for mastery was a little fear.
Meantime she was an obedient student in classes in bombing, a branch of culture daily more propagated by the Corpos.
She was particularly interested in the Mills hand grenade. You pulled out the safety pin, holding the lever against the grenade with your fingers, and tossed. Five seconds after the lever was thus loosened, the grenade exploded and killed a lot of people. It had never been used from planes, but it might be worth trying, thought Mary. M.M. officers told her that Swan, when a mob of steel-workers had been kicked out of a plant and started rioting, had taken command of the peace officers, and himself (they chuckled with admiration of his readiness) hurled such a grenade. It had killed two women and a baby.
Mary took her sixth solo flight on a November morning gray and quiet under snow clouds. She had never been very talkative with the ground crew but this morning she said it excited her to think she could leave the ground “like a reg’lar angel” and shoot up and hang around that unknown wilderness of clouds. She patted a strut of her machine, a high-wing Leonard monoplane with open cockpit, a new and very fast military machine, meant for both pursuit and quick jobs of bombing . . . quick jobs of slaughtering a few hundred troops in close formation.
At the field, as she had been informed he would, District Commissioner Effingham Swan was boarding his big official cabin plane for a flight presumably into New England. He was tall; a distinguished, military-looking, polosuggesting dignitary in masterfully simple blue serge with just a light flying-helmet. A dozen yes-men buzzed about him, secretaries, bodyguards, a chauffeur, a couple of county commissioners, educational directors, labor directors, their hats in their hands, their smiles on their faces, their souls wriggling with gratitude to him for permitting them to exist. He snapped at them a good deal and bustled. As he mounted the steps to the cabin (Mary thought of “Casey Jones” and smiled), a messenger on a tremendous motorcycle blared up with the last telegrams. There seemed to be half a hundred of the yellow envelopes, Mary marveled. He tossed them to the secretary who was humbly creeping after him. The door of the viceregal coach closed on the Commissioner, the secretary, and two bodyguards lumpy with guns.
It was said that in his plane Swan had a desk that had belonged to Hitler, and before him to Marat. To Mary, who had just lifted herself up into the cockpit, a mechanic cried, admiringly pointing after Swan’s plane as it lurched forward, “Gee, what a grand guy that is Boss Swan. I hear where he’s flying down to Washington to chin with the Chief this morning, gee, think of it, with the Chief!”
“Wouldn’t it be awful if somebody took a shot at Mr. Swan and the Chief? Might change all history,” Mary shouted down.
“No chance of that! See those guards of his? Say, they could stand off a whole regiment, they could lick Walt Trowbridge and all the other Communists put together!”
“I guess that’s so. Nothing but God shooting down from heaven could reach Mr. Swan.”
“Ha, ha! That’s good! But couple days ago I heard where a fellow was saying he figured out God had gone to sleep.”
“Maybe it’s time for Him to wake up!” said Mary, and raised her hand.
Her plane had a top of two hundred and eighty-five miles an hour, Swan’s golden chariot had but two hundred and thirty. She was presently flying above and a little behind him. His cabin plane, which had seemed huge as the Queen Mary when she had looked up at its wingspread on the ground, now seemed small as a white dove, wavering above the patchy linoleum that was the ground.
She drew from the pockets of her flying-jacket the three Mills hand grenades she had managed to steal from the school yesterday afternoon. She had not been able to get away with any heavier bomb. As she looked at them, for the first time she shuddered; she became a thing of warmer blood than a mere attachment to the plane, mechanical as the engine.
“Better get it over before I go ladylike,” she sighed, and dived at the cabin plane.
No doubt her coming was unwelcome. Neither Death nor Mary Greenhill had made a formal engagement with Effingham Swan that morning; neither had telephoned, nor bargained with irritable secretaries, nor been neatly typed down on the great lord’s schedule for his last day of life. In his dozen offices, in his marble home, in council hall and royal reviewing-stand, his most precious excellence was guarded with steel. He could not be approached by vulgarians like Mary Greenhill, save in the air, where emperor and vulgarian alike are upheld only by toy wings and by the grace of God.
Three times Mary maneuvered above his plane and dropped a grenade. Each time it missed. The cabin plane was descending, to land, and the guards were shooting up and then “Oh well!” she said, and dived bluntly at a bright metal wing.
In her last ten seconds she thought how much the wing looked like the zinc washboard which, as a girl, she had seen used by Mrs. Candy’s predecessor, now what was her name?, Mamie or something. And she wished she had spent more time with David the last few months. And she noticed that the cabin plane seemed rather rushing up at her than she down at it.
The crash was appalling. It came just as she was patting her parachute and rising to leap out-too late. All she saw was an insane whirligig of smashed wings and huge engines that seemed to have been hurled up into her face.
Speaking of Julian before he was arrested, probably the New Underground headquarters in Montreal found no unusual value in his reports on M.M. grafting and cruelty and plans for apprehending N.U. agitators. Still, he had been able to warn four or five suspects to escape to Canada. He had had to assist in several floggings. He trembled so that the others laughed at 36him; and he made his blows suspiciously light.
He was set on being promoted to M.M. district headquarters in Hanover, and for it he studied typing and shorthand in his free time. He had a beautiful plan of going to that old family friend, Commissioner Francis Tasbrough, declaring that he wanted by his own noble qualities to make up to the divine government for his father’s disloyalty, and of getting himself made Tasbrough’s secretary. If he could just peep at Tasbrough’s private files! Then there would be something juicy for Montreal!
Sissy and he discussed it exultantly in their leafy rendezvous. For a whole half hour she was able to forget her father and Buck in prison, and what seemed to her something like madness in Mary’s increasing restlessness.
Just at the end of September she saw Julian suddenly arrested.
She was watching a review of M.M.’s on the Green. She might theoretically detest the blue M.M. uniform as being all that Walt Trowbridge (frequently) called it, “The oldtime emblem of heroism and the battle for freedom, sacrilegiously turned by Windrip and his gang into a symbol of everything that is cruel, tyrannical, and false,” but it did not dampen her pride in Julian to see him trim and shiny, and officially set apart as a squad-leader commanding his minor army of ten.
While the company stood at rest, County Commissioner Shad Ledue dashed up in a large car, sprang up, strode to Julian, bellowed, “This guy, this man is a traitor!” tore the MM. steering-wheel from Julian’s collar, struck him in the face, and turned him over to his private gunmen, while Julian’s mates groaned, guffawed, hissed, and yelped.
She was not allowed to see Julian at Trianon. She could learn nothing save that he had not yet been executed. When Mary was killed, and buried as a military heroine, Philip came bumbling up from his Massachusetts judicial circuit. He shook his head a great deal and pursed his lips.
“I swear,” he said to Emma and Sissy, though actually he did nothing so wholesome and natural as to swear, “I swear I’m almost tempted to think, sometimes, that both Father and Mary have, or shall I say had, a touch of madness in them. There must be, terrible though it is to say it, but we must face facts in these troublous days, but I honestly think, sometimes, there must be a strain of madness somewhere in our family. Thank God I have escaped it, if I have no other virtues, at least I am certainly sane! even if that may have caused the Pater to think I was nothing but mediocre! And of course you are entirely free from it, Mater. It’s you that must watch yourself, Cecilia.” (Sissy jumped slightly; not at anything so gratefuI as being called crazy by Philip, but at being called “Cecilia.” After all, she admitted, that probably was her name.) “I hate to say it, Cecilia, but I’ve often thought you had a dangerous tendency to be thoughtless and selfish.
Now Mater: as you know, I’m a very busy man, and I simply can’t take a lot of time arguing and discussing, but it seems best to me, and I think I can almost say that it seems wise to Merilla, also, that, now that Mary has passed on, you should just close up this big house, or much better, try to rent it, as long as the poor Pater is, uh, as long as he’s away. I don’t pretend to have as big a place as this, but it’s ever so much more modern, with gas furnace and up-to-date plumbing and all, and I have one of the first television sets in Rose Lane. I hope it won’t hurt your feelings, and as you know, whatever people may say about me, certainly I’m one of the first to believe in keeping up the old traditions, just as poor dear old Eff Swan was, but at the same time, it seems to me that the old home here is a little on the dreary and old-fashioned side, of course I never could persuade the Pater to bring it up to date, but, Anyway, I want Davy and you to come live with us in Worcester, immediately. As for you, Sissy, you will of course understand that you are entirely welcome, but perhaps you would prefer to do something livelier, such as joining the Women’s Corpo Auxiliary.”
He was, Sissy raged, so damned kind to everybody! She couldn’t even stir herself to insult him much. She earnestly desired to, when she found that he had brought David an M.M. uniform, and when David put it on and paraded about shouting, like most of the boys he played with, “Hail Windrip!”
She telephoned to Lorinda Pike at Beecher Falls and was able to tell Philip that she was going to help Lorinda in the tea room. Emma and David went off to Worcester, at the last moment, at the station, Emma decided to be pretty teary about it, though David begged her to remember that they had Uncle Philip’s word for it that Worcester was just the same as Boston, London, Hollywood, and a Wild West Ranch put together. Sissy stayed to get the house rented. Mrs. Candy, who was going to open her bakery now and who never did inform the impractical Sissy whether or no she was being paid for these last weeks, made for Sissy all the foreign dishes that only Sissy and Doremus cared for, and they not uncheerfully dined together, in the kitchen.
So it was Shad’s time to swoop.
He came blusteringly calling on her, in November. Never had she hated him quite so much, yet never so much feared him, because of what he might do to her father and Julian and Buck and the others in concentration camps.
He grunted, “Well, your boy-friend Jule, that thought he was so cute, the poor heel, we got all the dope on his double-crossing us, all right! He’ll never bother you again!”
“He’s not so bad. Let’s forget him. . . . Shall I play you something on the piano?”
“Sure. Shoot. I always did like high-class music,” said the refined Commissioner, lolling on a couch, putting his heels up on a damask chair, in the room where once he had cleaned the fireplace. If it was his serious purpose to discourage Sissy in regard to that anti-Corpo institution, the Dictatorship of the Proletariat, he was succeeding even better than Judge Philip Jessup. Sir William Gilbert would have said of Shad that he was so very, very prolet-ari-an.
She had played for but five minutes when he forgot that he was now refined, and bawled, “Oh, cut out the highbrow stuff and come on and sit down!” She stayed on the piano stool. Just what would she do if Shad became violent? There was no Julian to appear melodramatically at the nick of time and rescue her. Then she remembered Mrs. Candy, in the kitchen, and was content.
“What the heck you snickerin’ at?” said Shad.
“Oh, oh I was just thinking about that story you told me about how Mr. Falck bleated when you arrested him!”
“Yeh, that was comical. Old Reverend certainly blatted like a goat!”
(Could she kill him? Would it be wise to kill him? Had Mary meant to kill Swan? Would they be harder on Julian and her father if she killed Shad? Incidentally, did it hurt much to get hanged?)
He was yawning, “Well, Sis, ole kid, how about you and me taking a little trip to New York in a couple weeks? See some high life. I’ll get you the best soot in the best hotel in town, and we’ll take in some shows, I hear this Callin’ Stalin is a hot number, real Corpo art, and I’ll buy you some honest-to-God champagne wine! And then if we find we like each other enough, I’m willing for us, if you are, to get hitched!”
“But, Shad! We could never live on your salary. I mean, I mean of course the Corpos ought to pay you better, mean, even better than they do.”
“Listen, baby! I ain’t going to have to get along on any miserable county commissioner’s salary the rest of my life! Believe me, I’m going to be a millionaire before very long!”
Then he told her: told her precisely the sort of discreditable secret for which she had so long fished in vain. Perhaps it was because he was sober. Shad, when drunk, reversed all the rules and became more peasant like and cautious with each drink.
He had a plan. That plan was as brutal and as infeasible as any plan of Shad Ledue for making large money would be. Its essence was that he should avoid manual labor and should make as many persons miserable as possible. It was like his plan, when he was still a hired man, to become wealthy by breeding dogs-firs, stealing the dogs and, preferably, the kennels.
As County Commissioner he had not merely, as was the Corpo custom, been bribed by the shopkeepers and professional men for protection against the M.M.’s. He had actually gone into partnership with them, promising them larger M.M. orders, and, he boasted, he had secret contracts with these merchants all written down and signed and tucked away in his office safe.
Sissy got rid of him that evening by being difficult, while letting him assume that the conquest of her would not take more than three or four more days. She cried furiously after he had gone, in the comforting presence of Mrs. Candy, who first put away a butcher knife with which, Sissy suspected, she had been standing ready all evening.
Next morning Sissy drove to Hanover and shamelessly tattled to Francis Tasbrough about the interesting documents Shad had in his safe. She did not ever see Shad Ledue again.
She was very sick about his being killed. She was very sick about all killing. She found no heroism but only barbaric bestiality in having to kill so that one might so far live as to be halfway honest and kind and secure. But she knew that she would be willing to do it again.
The Jessup house was magniloquently rented by that noble Roman, that political belch, Ex-Governor Isham Hubbard, who, being tired of again trying to make a living by peddling real estate and criminal law, was pleased to accept the appointment as successor to Shad Ledue.
Sissy hastened to Beecher Falls and to Lorinda Pike.
Father Perefixe took charge of the N.U. cell, merely saying, as he had said daily since Buzz Windrip had been inaugurated, that he was fed-up with the whole business and was immediately going back to Canada. In fact, on his desk he had a Canadian time-table. It was now two years old.
Sissy was in too snappish a state to stand being mothered, being fattened and sobbed over and brightly sent to bed. Mrs. Candy had done only too much of that. And Philip had given her all the parental advice she could endure for a while. It was a relief when Lorinda received her as an adult, as one too sensible to insult by pity, received her, in fact, with as much respect as if she were an enemy and not a friend.
After dinner, in Lorinda’s new tea room, in an aged house which was now empty of guests for the winter except for the constant infestation of whimpering refugees, Lorinda, knitting, made her first mention of the dead Mary.
“I suppose your sister did intend to kill Swan, eh?”
“I don’t know. The Corpos didn’t seem to think so. They gave her a big military funeral.”
“Well, of course, they don’t much care to have assassinations talked about and maybe sort of become a general habit. I agree with your father. I think that, in many cases, assassinations are really rather unfortunate, a mistake in tactics. No. Not good. Oh, by the way, Sissy, I think I’m going to get your father out of concentration camp.”
Lorinda had none of the matrimonial moans of Emma; she was as business-like as ordering eggs.
“Yes. I tried everything. I went to see Tasbrough, and that educational fellow, Peaseley. Nothing doing. They want to keep Doremus in. But that rat, Aras Dilley, is at Trianon as guard now. I’m bribing him to help your father escape. We’ll have the man here for Christmas, only kind of late, and sneak him into Canada.”
“Oh!” said Sissy.
A few days afterward, reading a coded New Underground telegram which apparently dealt with the delivery of furniture, Lorinda shrieked, “Sissy! All you, know what has busted loose! In Washington! Lee Sarason has deposed Buzz Windrip and grabbed the dictatorship!”
“Oh!” said Sissy.
In his two years of dictatorship, Berzelius Windrip daily became more a miser of power. He continued to tell himself that his main ambition was to make all citizens healthy, in purse and mind, and that if he was brutal it was only toward fools and reactionaries who wanted the old clumsy systems. But after eighteen months of Presidency he was angry that Mexico and Canada and South America (obviously his own property, by manifest destiny) should curtly answer his curt diplomatic notes and show no helpfulness about becoming part of his inevitable empire.
And daily he wanted louder, more convincing Yeses from everybody about him. How could he carry on his heartbreaking labor if nobody ever encouraged him? he demanded. Anyone, from Sarason to inter-office messenger, who did not play valet to his ego he suspected of plotting against him. He constantly increased his bodyguard, and as constantly distrusted all his guards and discharged them, and once took a shot at a couple of them, so that in all the world he had no companion save his old aide Lee Sarason, and perhaps Hector Macgoblin, to whom he could talk easily.
He felt lonely in the hours when he wanted to shuck off the duties of despotism along with his shoes and his fine new coat. He no longer went out racketing. His cabinet begged him not to clown in barrooms and lodge entertainments; it was not dignified, and it was dangerous to be too near to strangers.
So he played poker with his bodyguard, late at night, and at such times drank too much, and he cursed them and glared with bulging eyes whenever he lost, which, for all the good-will of his guards about letting him win, had to be often, because he pinched their salaries badly and locked up the spoons. He had become as unbouncing and unbuzzing a Buzz as might be, and he did not know it.
All the while he loved the People just as much as he feared and detested Persons, and he planned to do something historic. Certainly! He would give each family that five thousand dollars a year just as soon now as he could arrange it.
And Lee Sarason, forever making his careful lists, as patient at his desk as he was pleasure-hungry on the couch at midnight parties, was beguiling officials to consider him their real lord and the master of Corpoism. He kept his promises to them, while Windrip always forgot. His office door became the door of ambition. In Washington, the reporters privily spoke of this assistant secretary and that general as “Sarason men.” His clique was not a government within a government; it was the government itself, minus the megaphones. He had the Secretary of Corporations (a former vice-president of the American Federation of Labor) coming to him secretly every evening, to report on labor politics and in especial on such proletarian leaders as were dissatisfied with Windrip as Chief, i.e., with their own share in the swag. He had from the Secretary of the Treasury (though this functionary, one Webster Skittle, was not a lieutenant of Sarason but merely friendly) confidential reports on the affairs of those large employers who, since under Corpoism it was usually possible for a millionaire to persuade the judges in the labor-arbitration courts to look at things reasonably, rejoiced that with strikes outlawed and employers regarded as state officials, they would now be in secure power forever.
Sarason knew the quiet ways in which these reinforced industrial barons used arrests by the M.M.’s to get rid of “troubIe-makers,” particularly of Jewish radicals, a Jewish radical being a Jew with nobody working for him. (Some of the barons were themselves Jews; it is not to be expected that race-loyalty should be carried so insanely far as to weaken the pocketbook.)
The allegiance of all such Negroes as had the sense to be content with safety and good pay instead of ridiculous yearnings for personal integrity Sarason got by being photographed shaking hands with the celebrated Negro Fundamentalist clergyman, the Reverend Dr. Alexander Nibbs, and through the highly publicized Sarason Prizes for the Negroes with the largest families, the fastest time in floor-scrubbing, and the longest periods of work without taking a vacation.
“No danger of our good friends, the Negroes, turning Red when they’re encouraged like that,” Sarason announced to the newspapers.
It was a satisfaction to Sarason that in Germany, all military bands were now playing his national song, “Buzz and Buzz” along with the Horst Wessel hymn, for, though he had not exactly written the music as well as the words, the music was now being attributed to him abroad.
As a bank clerk might, quite rationally, worry equally over the whereabouts of a hundred million dollars’ worth of the bank’s bonds, and of ten cents of his own lunch money, so Buzz Windrip worried equally over the welfare, that is, the obedience to himself, of a hundred and thirty odd million American citizens and the small matter of the moods of Lee Sarason, whose approval of him was the one real fame. (His wife Windrip did not see oftener than once a week, and anyway, what that rustic wench thought was unimportant.)
The diabolic Hector Macgoblin frightened him; Secretary of War Luthorne and Vice-President Perley Beecroft he liked well enough, but they bored him; they smacked too much of his own small-town boyhood, to escape which he was willing to take the responsibilities of a nation. It was the incalculable Lee Sarason on whom he depended, and the Lee with whom he had gone fishing and boozing and once, even, murdering, who had seemed his own self made more sure and articulate, had thoughts now which he could not penetrate. Lee’s smile was a veil, not a revelation.
It was to discipline Lee, with the hope of bringing him back, that when Buzz replaced the amiable but clumsy Colonel Luthorne as Secretary of War by Colonel Dewey Haik, Commissioner of the Northeastern Province (Buzz’s characteristic comment was that Luthorne was not “pulling his weight”), he also gave to Haik the position of High Marshal of the M.M.‘s, which Lee had held along with a dozen other offices. From Lee he expected an explosion, then repentance and a new friendship. But Lee only said, “Very well, if you wish,” and said it coldly.
Just how could he get Lee to be a good boy and come play with him again?, wistfully wondered the man who now and then planned to be emperor of the world.
He gave Lee a thousand-dollar television set. Even more coldly did Lee thank him, and never spoke afterward of how well he might be receiving the still shaky teievision broadcasts on his beautiful new set.
As Dewey Haik took hold, doubling efficiency in both the regular army and the Minute Men (he was a demon for all-night practice marches in heavy order, and the files could not complain, because he set the example), Buzz began to wonder whether Haik might not be his new confidant. . . . He really would hate to throw Lee into prison, but still, Lee was so thoughtless about hurting his feelings, when he’d gone and done so much for him and all!
Buzz was confused. He was the more confused when Perley Beecroft came in and briefly said that he was sick of all this bloodshed and was going home to the farm, and as for his lofty Vice-Presidential office, Buzz knew what he could do with it.
Were these vast national dissensions no different from squabbles in his father’s drugstore? fretted Buzz. He couldn’t very well have Beecroft shot: it might cause criticism. But it was indecent, it was sacrilegious to annoy an emperor, and in his irritation he had an ex-Senator and twelve workmen who were in concentration camps taken out and shot on the charge that they had told irreverent stories about him.
Secretary of State Sarason was saying good-night to President Windrip in the hotel suite where Windrip really lived.
No newspaper had dared mention it, but Buzz was both bothered by the stateliness of the White House and frightened by the number of Reds and cranks and antiCorpos who, with the most commendable patience and ingenuity, tried to sneak into that historic mansion and murder him. Buzz merely left his wife there, for show, and, except at great receptions, never entered any part of the White House save the office annex.
He liked this hotel suite; he was a sensible man, who preferred straight bourbon, codfish cakes, and deep leather chairs to Burgundy, trout bleu, and Louis Quinze. In this twelve-room apartment, occupying the entire tenth floor of a small unnotorious hotel, he had for himself only a plain bedroom, a huge living room which looked like a combination of office and hotel lobby, a large liquor closet, another closet with thirty-seven suits of clothes, and a bathroom with jars and jars of the pineflavored bath salts which were his only cosmetic luxury. Buzz might come home in a suit dazzling as a horse blanket, one considered in Alfalfa Center a triumph of London tailoring, but, once safe, he liked to put on his red morocco slippers that were down at the heel and display his red suspenders and baby-blue sleeve garters. To feel correct in those decorations, he preferred the hotel atmosphere that, for so many years before he had ever seen the White House, had been as familiar to him as his ancestral corn cribs and Main Streets.
The other ten rooms of the suite, entirely shutting his own off from the corridors and elevators, were filled night and day with guards. To get through to Buzz in this intimate place of his own was very much like visiting a police station for the purpose of seeing a homicidal prisoner. “Haik seems to me to be doing a fine job in the War Department, Lee,” said the President. “Of course you know if you ever want the job of High Marshal back-”
“I’m quite satisfied,” said the great Secretary of State.
“What do you think of having Colonel Luthorne back to help Haik out? He’s pretty good on fool details.” Sarason looked as nearly embarrassed as the seIf-satisfied Lee Sarason ever could look.
“Why, uh, I supposed you knew it. Luthorne was liquidated in the purge ten days ago.”
“Good God! Luthorne killed? Why didn’t I know it?”
“It was thought better to keep it quiet. He was a pretty popular man. But dangerous. Always talking about Abraham Lincoln!”
“So I just never know anything about what’s going on! Why, even the newspaper clippings are predigested, by God, before I see ‘em!”
“It’s thought better not to bother you with minor details, boss. You know that! Of course, if you feel I haven’t organized your staff correctly-”
“Aw now, don’t fly off the handle, Lee! I just meant, of course I know how hard you’ve tried to protect me so I could give all my brains to the higher problems of State. But Luthorne, I kind of liked him. He always had quite a funny line when we played poker.” Buzz Windrip felt lonely, as once a certain Shad Ledue had felt, in a hotel suite that differed from Buzz’s only in being smaller. To forget it he bawled, very brightly, “Lee, do you ever wonder what’ll happen in the future?”
“Why, I think you and I may have mentioned it.”
“But golly, just think of what might happen in the future, Lee! Think of it! Why, we may be able to pull off a North American kingdom!” Buzz half meant it serious, or perhaps quarter meant it. “How’d you like to be Duke of Georgia, or Grand Duke, or whatever they call a Grand Exalted Ruler of the Elks in this peerage business? And then how about an Empire of North and South America after that? I might make you a king under me, then, say something like King of Mexico. Howjuh like that?”
“Be very amusing,” said Lee mechanically, as Lee always did say the same thing mechanically whenever Buzz repeated this same nonsense.
“But you got to stick by me and not forget all I’ve done for you, Lee, don’t forget that.”
“I never forget anything! . . . By the way, we ought to liquidate, or at least imprison, Perley Beecroft, too. He’s still technically Vice-President of the United States, and if the lousy traitor managed some skullduggery so as to get you killed or deposed, he might be regarded by some narrow-minded literalists as President!”
“No, no, no! He’s my friend, no matter what he says about me . . . the dirty dog!” wailed Buzz.
“All right. You’re the boss. G’night,” said Lee, and returned from this plumber’s dream of paradise to his own gold-and-black and apricot-silk bower in Georgetown, which he shared with several handsome young M.M. officers. They were savage soldiers, yet apt at music and at poetry. With them, he was not in the least passionless, as he seemed now to Buzz Windrip. He was either angry with his young friends, and then he whipped them, or he was in a paroxysm of apology to them, and caressed their wounds. Newspapermen who had once seemed to be his friends said that he had traded the green eyeshade for a wreath of violets.
At cabinet meeting, late in 1938, Secretary of State Sarason revealed to the heads of the government disturbing news. Vice-President Beecroft, and had he not told them the man should have been shot?, had fled to Canada, renounced Corpoism, and joined Walt Trowbridge in plotting. There were bubbles from an almost boiling rebellion in the Middle West and Northwest, especially in Minnesota and the Dakotas, where agitators, some of them formerly of political influence, were demanding that their states secede from the Corpo Union and form a cooperative (indeed almost Socialistic) commonwealth of their own.
“Rats! Just a lot of irresponsible wind bags!” jeered President Windrip. “Why! I thought you were supposed to be the camera-eyed gink that kept up on everything that goes on, Lee! You forget that I myself, personally, made a special radio address to that particular section of the country last week! And I got a wonderful reaction. The Middle Westerners are absolutely loyal to me. They appreciate what I’ve been trying to do!”
Not answering him at all, Sarason demanded that, in order to bring and hold all elements in the country together by that useful Patriotism which always appears upon threat of an outside attack, the government immediately arrange to be insulted and menaced in a well planned series of deplorable “incidents” on the Mexican border, and declare war on Mexico as soon as America showed that it was getting hot and patriotic enough. Secretary of the Treasury Skittle and Attorney General Porkwood shook their heads, but Secretary of War Haik and Secretary of Education Macgoblin agreed with Sarason high-mindedly. Once, pointed out the learned Macgoblin, governments had merely let themselves slide into a war, thanking Providence for having provided a conflict as a febrifuge against internal discontent, but of course, in this age of deliberate, planned propaganda, a really modern government like theirs must figure out what brand of war they had to sell and plan the selling campaign consciously. Now, as for him, he would be willing to leave the whole set-up to the advertising genius of Brother Sarason.
“No, no, no!” cried Windrip. “We’re not ready for a war! Of course, we’ll take Mexico some day. It’s our destiny to control it and Christianize it. But I’m scared that your darn scheme might work just opposite to what you say. You put arms into the hands of too many irresponsible folks, and they might use ‘em and turn against you and start a revolution and throw the whole dern gang of us out! No, no! I’ve often wondered if the whole Minute Men business, with their arms and training, may not be a mistake. That was your idea, Lee, not mine!”
Sarason spoke evenly: “My dear Buzz, one day you thank me for originating that ‘great crusade of citizen soldiers defending their homes’, as you love to call it on the radio, and the next day you almost ruin your clothes, you’re so scared of them. Make up your mind one way or the other!”
Sarason walked out of the room, not bowing.
Windrip complained, “I’m not going to stand for Lee’s talking to me like that! Why, the dirty double-crosser, I made him! One of these days, he’ll find a new secretary of state around this joint! I s’pose he thinks jobs like that grow on every tree! Maybe he’d like to be a bank president or something, I mean, maybe he’d like to be Emperor of England!”
President Windrip, in his hotel bedroom, was awakened late at night by the voice of a guard in the outer room: “Yuh, sure, let him pass, he’s the Secretary of State.” Nervously the President clicked on his bedside lamp. . . . He had needed it lately, to read himself to sleep.
In that limited glow he saw Lee Sarason, Dewey Haik, and Dr. Hector Macgoblin march to the side of his bed. Lee’s thin sharp face was like flour. His deep-buried eyes were those of a Sleepwalker. His skinny right hand held a bowie knife which, as his hand deliberately rose, was lost in the dimness. Windrip swiftly thought: Sure would be hard to know where to buy a dagger, in Washington; and Windrip thought: All this is the doggonedest foolishness, just like a movie or one of these old history books when you were a kid; and Windrip thought, all in that same flash: Good God, I’m going to be killed!
He cried out, “Lee! You couldn’t do that to me!”
Lee grunted, like one who has detected a bad smell. Then the Berzelius Windrip who could, incredibly, become President really awoke: “Lee! Do you remember the time when your old mother was so sick, and I gave you my last cent and loaned you my flivver so you could go see her, and I hitch-hiked to my next meeting? Lee!”
“Hell. I suppose so. General.”
“Yes?” answered Dewey Haik, not very pleasantly.
“I think we’ll stick him on a destroyer or something and let him sneak off to France or England. . . . The lousy coward seems afraid to die. . . . Of course, we’ll kill him if he ever does dare to come back to the States. Take him out and phone the Secretary of the Navy for a boat and get him on it, will you?”
“Very well, sir,” said Haik, even less pleasantly.
It had been easy. The troops, who obeyed Haik, as Secretary of War, had occupied all of Washington.
Ten days later Buzz Windrip was landed in Havre and went sighingly to Paris. It was his first view of Europe except for one twenty-one-day Cook’s Tour. He was profoundly homesick for Chesterfield cigarettes, flapjacks, Moon Mullins, and the sound of some real human being saying “Yuh, what’s bitin’ you?” instead of this perpetual sappy “oui?”
In Paris he remained, though he became the sort of minor hero of tragedy, like the ex-King of Greece, Kerensky, the Russian Grand Dukes, Jimmy Walker, and a few ex-presidents from South America and Cuba, who is delighted to accept invitations to drawing rooms where the champagne is good enough and one may have a chance of finding people, now and then, who will listen to one’s story and say “sir.”
At that, though, Buzz chuckled, he had kinda put it over on those crooks, for during his two sweet years of despotism he had sent four million dollars abroad, to secret, safe accounts. And so Buzz Windrip passed into wabbly paragraphs in recollections by ex-diplomatic gentlemen with monocles. In what remained of Ex-President Windrip’s life, everything was ex. He was even so far forgotten that only four or five American students tried to shoot him.
The more dulcetly they had once advised and flattered Buzz, the more ardently did most of his former followers, Macgoblin and Senator Porkwood and Dr. Almeric Trout and the rest, turn in loud allegiance to the new President, the Hon. Lee Sarason.
He issued a proclamation that he had discovered that Windrip had been embezzling the people’s money and plotting with Mexico to avoid war with that guilty country; and that he, Sarason, in quite alarming grief and reluctance, since he more than anyone else had been deceived by his supposed friend, Windrip, had yielded to the urging of the Cabinet and taken over the Presidency, instead of Vice-President Beecroft, the exiled traitor.
President Sarason immediately began appointing the fancier of his young officer friends to the most responsible offices in State and army. It amused him, seemingly, to shock people by making a pink-cheeked, moisteyed boy of twenty-five Commissioner of the Federal District, which included Washington and Maryland. Was he not supreme, was he not semi-divine, like a Roman emperor? Could he not defy all the muddy mob that he (once a Socialist) had, for its weak shiftlessness, come to despise?
“Would that the American people had just one neck!” he plagiarized, among his laughing boys.
In the decorous White House of Coolidge and Harrison and Rutherford Birchard Hayes he had orgies (an old name for “parties”) with weaving limbs and garlands and wine in pretty fair imitations of Roman beakers.
It was hard for imprisoned men like Doremus Jessup to believe it, but there were some tens of thousands of Corpos, in the M.M.’s, in civil service, in the army, and just in private ways, to whom Sarason’s flippant régime was tragic.
They were the Idealists of Corpoism, and there were plenty of them, along with the bullies and swindlers; they were the men and women who, in 1935 and 1936, had turned to Windrip & Co., not as perfect, but as the most probable saviors of the country from, on one hand, domination by Moscow and, on the other hand, the slack indolence, the lack of decent pride of half the American youth, whose world (these idealists asserted) was composed of shiftless distaste for work and refusal to learn anything thoroughly, of blatting dance music on the radio, maniac automobiles, slobbering sexuality, the humor and art of comic strips, of a slave psychology which was making America a land for sterner men to loot.
General Emmanuel Coon was one of the Corpo Idealists.
Such men did not condone the murders under the Corpo régime. But they insisted, “This is a revolution, and after all, when in all history has there been a revolution with so little bloodshed?”
They were aroused by the pageantry of Corpoism: enormous demonstrations, with the red-and-black flags a flaunting magnificence like storm clouds. They were proud of new Corpo roads, hospitals, television stations, aeroplane lines; they were touched by processions of the Corpo Youth, whose faces were exalted with pride in the myths of Corpo heroism and clean Spartan strength and the semi-divinity of the all-protecting Father, President Windrip. They believed, they made themselves believe, that in Windrip had come alive again the virtues of Andy Jackson and Farragut and Jeb Stuart, in place of the mob cheapness of the professional athletes who had been the only heroes of 1935.
They planned, these idealists, to correct, as quickly as might be, the errors of brutality and crookedness among officials. They saw arising a Corpo art, a Corpo learning, profound and real, divested of the traditional snobbishness of the old-time universities, valiant with youth, and only the more beautiful in that it was “useful.” They were convinced that Corpoism was Communism cleansed of foreign domination and the violence and indignity of mob dictatorship; Monarchism with the chosen hero of the people for monarch; Fascism without grasping and selfish leaders; freedom with order and discipline; Traditional America without its waste and provincial cockiness.
Like all religious zealots, they had blessed capacity for blindness, and they were presently convinced that (since the only newspapers they ever read certainly said nothing about it) there were no more of blood-smeared cruelties in court and concentration camp; no restrictions of speech or thought. They believed that they never criticized the Corpo régime not because they were censored, but because “that sort of thing was, like obscenity, such awfully bad form.”
And these idealists were as shocked and bewildered by Sarason’s coup d’état against Windrip as was Mr. Berzelius Windrip himself.
The grim Secretary of War, Haik, scolded at President Sarason for his influence on the nation, particularly on the troops. Lee laughed at him, but once he was sufficiently flattered by Haik’s tribute to his artistic powers to write a poem for him. It was a poem which was later to be sung by millions; it was, in fact, the most popular of the soldiers’ ballads which were to spring automatically from anonymous soldier bards during the war between the United States and Mexico. Only, being as pious a believer in Modern Advertising as Sarason himself, the efficient Haik wanted to encourage the spontaneous generation of these patriotic folk ballads by providing the automatic springing and the anonymous bard. He had as much foresight, as much “prophetic engineering,” as a motorcar manufacturer.
Sarason was as eager for war with Mexico (or Ethiopia or Siam or Greenland or any other country that would provide his pet young painters with a chance to portray Sarason being heroic amid curious vegetation) as Haik; not only to give malcontents something outside the country to be cross about, but also to give himself a chance to be picturesque. He answered Haik’s request by writing a rollicking military chorus at a time while the country was still theoretically entirely friendly with Mexico. It went to the tune of “Mademoiselle from Armentieres”, or “Armenteers.” If the Spanish in it was a little shaky, still, millions were later to understand that “Habla oo?” stood for “?Habla usted?” signifying “Parlez-vous?” It ran thus, as it came from Sarason’s purple but smoking typewriter:
Seflorita from Guadalupe, Qui usted?
Seriorita go roll your hoop, Or come to bed!
Seftorita from Guadalupe
If Padre sees us we’re in the soup, Hinky, dinky, habla oo?
Seftorita from Monterey, Savvy Yank?
Seflorita what’s that you say? You’re Swede, Ay tank!
But Seftorita from Monterey,
You won’t hablar when we hit the hay, Hinky, dinky, habla 00?
Seftorita from Mazatldn, Once we’ve met,
You’ll smile all over your khaki pan,
You won’t forget! For days you’ll holler, ”Oh, what a man!” And you’ll never marry a Mexican.
Hinky, dinky, habla Oo?
If at times President Sarason seemed flippant, he was not at all so during his part in the scientific preparation for war which consisted in rehearsing M.M. choruses in trolling out this ditty with well-trained spontaneity.
His friend Hector Macgoblin, now Secretary of State, told Sarason that this manly chorus was one of his greatest creations. Macgoblin, though personally he did not join in Sarason’s somewhat unusual midnight diversions, was amused by them, and he often told Sarason that he was the only original creative genius among this whole bunch of stuffed shirts, including Haik.
“You want to watch that cuss Haik, Lee,” said Macgoblin. “He’s ambitious, he’s a gorilla, and he’s a pious Puritan, and that’s a triple combination l’m scared of. The troops like him.”
“Rats! He has no attraction for them. He’s just an accurate military bookkeeper,” said Sarason.
That night he had a party at which, for a novelty, rather shocking to his intimates, he actually had girls present, performing certain curious dances. The next morning Haik rebuked him, and, Sarason had a hangover, was stormed at. That night, just a month after Sarason had usurped the Presidency, Haik struck.
There was no melodramatic dagger-and-uplifted-arm business about it, this time, though Haik did traditionally come late, for all Fascists, like all drunkards, seem to function most vigorously at night. Haik marched into the White House with his picked storm troops, found President Sarason in violet silk pajamas among his friends, shot Sarason and most of his companions dead, and proclaimed himself President.
Hector Macgoblin fled by aeroplane to Cuba, then on. When last seen, he was living high up in the mountains of Haiti, wearing only a singlet, dirty white-drill trousers, grass sandals, and a long tan beard; very healthy and happy, occupying a one-room hut with a lovely native girl, practicing modern medicine and studying ancient voodoo.
When Dewey Haik became President, then America really did begin to suffer a little, and to long for the good old democratic, liberal days of Windrip.
Windrip and Sarason had not minded mirth and dancing in the street so long as they could be suitably taxed. Haik disliked such things on principle. Except, perhaps, that he was an atheist in theology, he was a strict orthodox Christian. He was the first to tell the populace that they were not going to get any five thousand dollars a year but, instead, “reap the profits of Discipline and of the Scientific Totalitarian State not in mere paper figures but in vast dividends of Pride, Patriotism, and Power.” He kicked out of the army all officers who could not endure marching and going thirsty; and out of the civil branch all commissioners, including one Francis Tasbrough, who had garnered riches too easily and too obviously.
He treated the entire nation like a well-run plantation, on which the slaves were better fed than formerly, less often cheated by their overseers, and kept so busy that they had time only for work and for sleep, and thus fell rarely into the debilitating vices of laughter, song (except war songs against Mexico), complaint, or thinking. Under Haik there were less floggings in MM. posts and in concentration camps, for by his direction officers were not to waste time in the sport of beating persons, men, women, or children, who asserted that they didn’t care to be slaves on even the best plantation, but just to shoot them out of hand.
Haik made such use of the clergy, Protestant, Catholic, Jewish, and Liberal-Agnostic, as Windrip and Sarason never had. While there were plenty of ministers who, like Mr. Falck and Father Stephen Perefixe, like Cardinal Faulhaber and Pastor Niemoeller in Germany, considered it some part of Christian duty to resent the enslavement and torture of their appointed flocks, there were also plenty of reverend celebrities, particularly large-city pastors whose sermons were reported in the newspapers every Monday morning, to whom Corpoism had given a chance to be noisily and lucratively patriotic. These were the chaplains-at-heart, who, if there was no war in which they could humbly help to purify and comfort the poor brave boys who were fighting, were glad to help provide such a war.
These more practical shepherds, since like doctors and lawyers they were able to steal secrets out of the heart, became valued spies during the difficult months after February, 1939, when Haik was working up war with Mexico. (Canada? Japan? Russia? They would come later.) For even with an army of slaves, it was necessary to persuade them that they were freemen and fighters for the principle of freedom, or otherwise the scoundrels might cross over and join the enemy!
So reigned the good king Haik, and if there was anyone in all the land who was discontented, you never heard him speak, not twice.
And in the White House, where under Sarason shameless youths had danced, under the new reign of righteousness and the blackjack, Mrs. Haik, a lady with eyeglasses and a smile of resolute cordiality, gave to the W.C.T.U., the Y.W.C.A., and the Ladies’ League against Red Radicalism, and their inherently incidental husbands, a magnified and hand-colored Washington version of just such parties as she had once given in the Haik bungalow in Eglantine, Oregon.
To follow in part 13