“All right, you fight!” shouted Comrade Schneider, the brewer, his purple face more purple than ever before in the history of Local Leesville.
“I’m going to fight all right,” answered the young lawyer. “This is my last speech here or anywhere else—I’m leaving for an officers’ training-camp to-morrow. I have come here to do my duty, to warn you comrades—even though I know it will be in vain. The time for debate has passed—the country is going into war—”
“I’m not going into war!” roared Schneider.
“Be careful,” answered the other. “You may find yourself in before you know it.”
And the big brewer laughed to shake the plaster off the walls. “I’d like to see them send me! To fight for the British sea-power! Ho! Ho! Ho!”
It was a stormy speech young Norwood made, but he persisted to the end, so that, as he said, his conscience might be clear, he might know that he had done what he could to protect the movement from its greatest blunder. He warned them that the temper of the country was rising; you could see it rising hour by hour, and things which had been tolerated in the past would be tolerated no longer. Democracy would protect its life—it would show that in a crisis it was as strong as militarism—
“Yes, and turn itself into militarism to do it!” cried Comrade Mary Allen. The Quaker lady was almost beside herself; she, more even than the Germans, saw in what was transpiring the violation of her most sacred convictions.
America, her own country, was giving itself to war, making ready to turn its resources to the wholesale mutilation of men! Comrade Mary’s thin face was white; her lips were tight with resolve, but her feelings betrayed themselves by the quivering of her nostrils. And oh, what a speech she made! Such torrents of furious hatred in the cause of universal love! Comrade Mary quoted a Socialist writer who had said that just as gladiatorial combats had continued until Christian monks were willing to throw themselves into the arena, so war would continue until Socialists were willing to throw themselves beneath the hoofs of the cavalry. And in this Quaker spinster you saw one Socialist who was ready to go out that very night and throw herself beneath the hoofs of cavalry, infantry, or artillery, or even of a police automobile.
And that was the sentiment of the meeting as a whole. If America entered the European strife, it would be because the Socialist organization had exhausted its means of protest in vain. They would call meetings, they would distribute literature, they would voice their convictions on the streets and in the shops and wherever the people might be reached. They would have no part in this wicked strife, either now or later; they would continue in the future, as in the past, to denounce and to expose the capitalist politicians and the capitalist newspapers who caused war and thrived upon war. And in proportion to the intensity of their feelings would be their bitterness and contempt for the few renegades who in this hour of crisis, this test of manhood and integrity, were deserting the movement and going to enrol themselves in officers’ training-camps!