Next to him sat Colonel Nye, as different a type as could be imagined. Nye had been a soldier of fortune in Mexico and Central America, and had found prosperity as a captain of one of those condottieri bands which were organized by the big corporations of America before the war, for the purpose of crushing strikes. He had commanded a private army of five thousand men, horse, foot and artillery, known to the public as the Smithers Detective Agency. During a great coal-strike he had been placed by a state government in virtual charge of the militia, and had occupied himself in turning loose machine-guns on tent-colonies filled with women and children. He had been tried by a militia court-martial for murder and acquitted—thus making it impossible for any civilian grand-jury ever to indict him and have him hanged. And now he had been automatically taken from the state militia into the national army, where he made a most efficient officer, with a reputation as a strict disciplinarian.
First-Lieutenant Olsen had been a dry goods clerk, who had gone into an officers’ training-camp. As he hoped to rise in the world, he looked to his superiors always before he expressed an opinion. The same was true of Captain Gushing, who was a good-natured young bank-cashier with a pretty wife who spent his salary a couple of months before he got it. The fifth officer, Lieutenant Gannet, did most of the talking, because he was Jimmie’s immediate superior, and had conducted the investigations into the case. He had discussed the matter with Major Prentice, the Judge-Advocate of the court, also with Captain Ardner, the young military lawyer who went through the form of defending Jimmie; the three had agreed that the case was a most serious one. The propaganda of Bolshevism in this Archangel expedition must certainly be nipped in the bud. The charge against Jimmie was insubordination and incitement to mutiny, and the penalty was death.
Jimmie sat in his chair, only partly aware of what was going on, because of the agony in his swollen thumbs and his twisted arms. His flicker of hope had died, and he had lost interest in the proceedings—all his energy was needed to endure his pain. He would not tell them where he had got the leaflets, and when they badgered him, he just grunted with pain. He would not talk with Captain Ardner, who tried in vain to persuade him that he was acting in his—the prisoner’s—interest. Only twice did Jimmie flare up; the first time when Major Gaddis voiced his indignation that any citizen of the great American democracy should ally himself with these Bolshevik vermin, who were carrying on a reign of terror throughout Russia, burning, slaying, torturing—
“Who talks about torturing?” shrieked Jimmie, half-starting from his chair. “Ain’t you been torturing me—regular tearin’ me to pieces?”
The court was shocked. “Torturing?” said Captain Gushing.