So the poet looked up again. He held out his hand to Peter. “Sure, I know that!” he said, clasping Peter in the grip of comradeship. And then he added: “I’ll tell you a story with a smile!”
Once upon a time, it appeared, Duggan had been working in a moving picture studio, where they needed tramps and outcasts and all sorts of people for crowds. They had been making a “Preparedness” picture, and wanted to show the agitators and trouble-makers, mobbing the palace of a banker. They got two hundred bums and hoboes, and took them in trucks to the palace of a real banker, and on the front lawn the director made a speech to the crowd, explaining his ideas. “Now,” said he, “remember, the guy that owns this house is the guy that’s got all the wealth that you fellows have produced. You are down and out, and you know that he’s robbed you, so you hate him. You gather on his lawn and you’re going to mob his home; if you can get hold of him, you’re going to tear him to bits for what he’s done to you.” So the director went on, until finally Duggan interrupted: “Say, boss, you don’t have to teach us. This is a real palace, and we’re real bums!”
Apparently the others saw the “smile” in this story, for they chuckled for some time over it. But it only added to Peter’s hatred of these Reds; it made him realize more than ever that they were a bunch of “sore heads,” they were green and yellow with jealousy. Everybody that had succeeded in the world they hated—just because they had succeeded! Well, they would never succeed; they could go on forever with their grouching, but the mass of the workers in America had a normal attitude toward the big man, who could do things. They did not want to wreck his palace; they admired him for having it, and they followed his leadership gladly.
It seemed as if Henderson, the lumber-jack, had read Peter’s thought. “My God!” he said. “What a job it is to make the workers class-conscious!” He sat on the edge of his cot, with his broad shoulders bowed and his heavy brows knit in thought over the problem of how to increase the world’s discontent. He told of one camp where he had worked—so hard and dangerous was the toil that seven men had given up their lives in the course of one winter. The man who owned this tract, and was exploiting it, had gotten the land by the rankest kind of public frauds; there were filthy bunk-houses, vermin, rotten food, poor wages and incessant abuse. And yet, in the spring-time, here came the young son of this owner, on a honeymoon trip with his bride. “And Jesus,” said Henderson, “if you could have seen those stiffs turn out and cheer to split their throats! They really meant it, you know; they just loved that pair of idle, good-for-nothing kids!”