“Thou has great allies; Thy friends are exultations, agonies, And love, and man’s unconquerable mind!”
In the soul of Jimmie Higgins was heard that voice which speaks above the menaces and commands of tyranny: which says: I am Man, and I prevail. I conquer the flesh, I trample upon the body and rise above it. I defy its imprisonments, its prudences and fears. I am Truth, and will be heard in the world. I am Justice, and will be done in the world. I am Freedom, and I break all laws, I defy all repressions, I exult, I proclaim deliverance!—and because, in every age and in every clime, this holy Power has dwelt in the soul of man, because this mystic Voice has spoken there, humanity has moved out of darkness and savagery into at least the dream of a decent and happy world.
So Jimmie lay, converting his pain into ecstasy, a dizzy and perilous rapture, close to the border-line of madness; and Sergeant Perkins arose and looked down on him and shook his head. “By God!” said he. “What’s in that little hell-pup?” He gave Jimmie a kick in the ribs; and Jimmie’s soul took a leap, and went whirling through eternities of anguish.
“By Jesus, I’ll make you talk!” cried Perkins, and he began to kick with his heavy boots—until Connor stopped him, knowing that this was not ethical—it would leave marks.
So finally the sergeant said abruptly, “Wait here.” And he went upstairs to where Gannet was pacing about.
“Lieutenant,” he said, “that fellow’s a stubborn case.”
“What does he say?”
“I can’t get a word out of him. He’s a Socialist and a crank, you know, and you’d be surprised how ugly some of them fellows can be. As soon as I get the story complete I’ll report to you, but meantime there’s no use your waiting here.”
So the officer went away, and Perkins went back to the dungeon and gave orders that every two hours someone should come and fill Jimmie up with water, and give him another chance to say “Yes”. And Jimmie lay and moaned and wept, all by himself, quivering now and then with the perilous ecstasy, which does not last, but has to be renewed by continuous efforts of the will, as a tired horse has to be driven with spur and whip. Never, never could this battle be truly won! Never could the body be wholly forgotten, its clamorous demands wholly stilled! God comes, but doubt follows closely. What is the use of this fearful sacrifice? What good will it accomplish, who will know about it, who will care? Thus Satan in the soul, and thus the eternal duel between the new thing that man dreams, and the old thing that he has made into law.
JIMMIE HIGGINS VOTES FOR DEMOCRACY
Another day had come—though Jimmie did not know it in his dungeon. All he knew was that Sergeant Perkins returned, and stood looking at him, picking his teeth with a quill. This little Bolshevik had stood the water-cure longer than any man whom Perkins had ever known, and he wondered vaguely what sort of damned fool he was, what he thought he was accomplishing, anyhow.