There is an old adage that “a cat may look at a king”. But this can only have been meant to apply to house-cats, cats of the palace, accustomed to the etiquette of courts; it cannot have been meant for proletarian cats of the gutter, the Jimmie Higgins variety of red revolutionary yowlers. Jimmie and his companion stood on their perch, shouting “Ya! Ya!” and suddenly the crowd melted away in front of them, exposing them to the angry finger of the young master. “Get along now! Beat it! Quick!” And Jimmie, poor little ragged, stunted Jimmie, with bad teeth and toil-deformed hands, wilted before this blast of aristocratic wrath, and made haste to hide himself in the throng. But it was with blazing soul that he went; every instant he imagined himself turning back, defying the angry finger, shouting down the imperious voice, even smashing it back into the throat from which it came!
Jimmie did not even stop for supper. The greater part of the night he worked at helping to organize the strikers, and all next day he spent arranging Socialist meetings. He worked like a man possessed, lifted above the limitations of the flesh. For everywhere that day he carried with him the image of the proud, free, rich young aristocrat, with his dark eyes roaming swiftly, his tall, perfectly groomed figure eloquent of mastership, his voice ringing with challenge. Jimmie was for the time utterly possessed by hatred; and he saw about him thousands of others sharing the mood and shouting it aloud. Every speaker who could be found was turned loose to talk till he was hoarse, and in the evening there was to be half a dozen street meetings. That was always the way when there were strikes; then the working man had time to listen—and also the desire!
So came the final crisis, when the little machinist had to show the stuff he was made of. He was holding aloft the torch at the regular meeting-place on the corner of Main and Third Streets, and Comrade Gerrity was explaining the strike and the ballot as two edges of the sword of labour, when four policemen came suddenly round the corner and pushed their way through the crowd. “You’ll have to stop this!” declared one.
“Stop?” cried Gerrity. “What do you mean?”
“There’s to be no more street-speaking during the strike.”
“Who says so?”
“Orders from the chief.”
“But we’ve got a permit.”
“All permits revoked. Cut it out.”
“But this is an outrage!”
“We don’t want any argument, young man—”
“But we’re within our rights here.”
“Forget it, young feller!”
Gerrity turned swiftly to the throng.
“Fellow-citizens,” he cried, “we are here in the exercise of our rights as American citizens! We are conducting a peaceable and orderly political meeting, and we know our rights and propose to maintain them. We—”