Then Comrade Smith, the editor of the Worker, was introduced, and the trouble began. The young editor wasted no time in preliminaries; he was an international revolutionist, and no capitalist government was going to draft him for its bloody knaveries. Never would he be led out to murder his fellow-workers, whether in Germany, Austria, Bulgaria or Turkey; the masters of Wall Street would find that when they set out to drive American free men to the slaughter-pen, they had made the mistake of their greedy lives. “Understand me,” declared Comrade Smith—though there seemed so far to have been nothing in which anyone could possibly have misunderstood him—“understand me, I am no pacifist, I am not opposed to war—it is merely that I purpose to choose the war in which I fight. If they try to put a gun into my hands, I shall not refuse to take it—not much, for I and my fellow wage-slaves have long wished for guns! But I shall use my own judgement as to where I aim that gun—whether at enemies in front of me, or at enemies behind me—whether at my brothers, the working-men of Germany, or at my oppressors, the exploiters of Wall Street, their newspaper lackeys and military martinets!”
The sentences of this speech came like the blows of a hammer, and they struck forth a clamour of applause from the audience. But suddenly the cheering crowd became aware that something out of the ordinary was happening. An aged, white-whiskered man clad in a faded blue uniform had risen from his seat in the middle of the hall and was shouting and waving his arms. People near him were trying to pull him down into his seat, but he would not be squelched, he went on shouting; and the audience in part fell silent out of curiosity. “Shame! Shame!” they heard him cry. “Shame upon you!” And he pointed a trembling finger at the orator, declaring, “You are talking treason, young man!”
“Sit down!” shrieked the crowd. “Shut up!”
But the old man turned upon them. “Are there no Americans at all in this audience? Will you listen to this shameless traitor without one word?”
People caught him by the coat-tails, men shook their fists at him; at the other side of the hall “Wild Bill” leaped upon a chair, shrieking: “Cut his throat, the old geezer!”
Two policemen came running down the aisle, and the “old geezer” appealed to them: “What are you here for, if not to protect the flag and the honour of America?” But the policemen insisted that he stop interrupting the meeting, and so the old man turned and stalked out from the hall. But he did not go until he had turned once more and shaken his fist at the crowd, yelling in his cracked voice, “Traitors! Traitors!”
Poor Jimmie remained in his seat, overwhelmed. That he, the most devoted of workers for Socialism, should have been the cause of such a disgraceful scene—bringing to this revolutionary meeting a man in the uniform of a killer of the working-class! He could not stay and face the comrades; before the speaking had finished, he gave Lizzie a nudge, and the two got up and stole out, dodging everyone they knew.