It was at this point that Babbitt muttered, “Oh, rot!”
“Huh?” said Chum Frink.
“He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It’s just as clear as mud. It doesn’t mean a darn thing.”
Frink looked at him doubtfully, through all the service kept glancing at him doubtfully, till Babbitt was nervous.
The strikers had announced a parade for Tuesday morning, but Colonel Nixon had forbidden it, the newspapers said. When Babbitt drove west from his office at ten that morning he saw a drove of shabby men heading toward the tangled, dirty district beyond Court House Square. He hated them, because they were poor, because they made him feel insecure “Damn loafers! Wouldn’t be common workmen if they had any pep,” he complained. He wondered if there was going to be a riot. He drove toward the starting-point of the parade, a triangle of limp and faded grass known as Moore Street Park, and halted his car.
The park and streets were buzzing with strikers, young men in blue denim shirts, old men with caps. Through them, keeping them stirred like a boiling pot, moved the militiamen. Babbitt could hear the soldiers’ monotonous orders: “Keep moving—move on, ’bo—keep your feet warm!” Babbitt admired their stolid good temper. The crowd shouted, “Tin soldiers,” and “Dirty dogs—servants of the capitalists!” but the militiamen grinned and answered only, “Sure, that’s right. Keep moving, Billy!”
Babbitt thrilled over the citizen-soldiers, hated the scoundrels who were obstructing the pleasant ways of prosperity, admired Colonel Nixon’s striding contempt for the crowd; and as Captain Clarence Drum, that rather puffing shoe-dealer, came raging by, Babbitt respectfully clamored, “Great work, Captain! Don’t let ’em march!” He watched the strikers filing from the park. Many of them bore posters with “They can’t stop our peacefully walking.” The militiamen tore away the posters, but the strikers fell in behind their leaders and straggled off, a thin unimpressive trickle between steel-glinting lines of soldiers. Babbitt saw with disappointment that there wasn’t going to be any violence, nothing interesting at all. Then he gasped.
Among the marchers, beside a bulky young workman, was Seneca Doane, smiling, content. In front of him was Professor Brockbank, head of the history department in the State University, an old man and white-bearded, known to come from a distinguished Massachusetts family.
“Why, gosh,” Babbitt marveled, “a swell like him in with the strikers? And good ole Senny Doane! They’re fools to get mixed up with this bunch. They’re parlor socialists! But they have got nerve. And nothing in it for them, not a cent! And—I don’t know ’s all the strikers look like such tough nuts. Look just about like anybody else to me!”
The militiamen were turning the parade down a side street.