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A Poor Wise Man By Mary Roberts Rinehart Characters: 3319

Updated: 2017-11-28 00:07

It was dark when Howard Cardew and Willy Cameron left the hospital. Elinor's information had been detailed and exact. Under cover of the general strike the radical element intended to take over the city. On the evening of the first day of the strike, armed groups from the revolutionary party would proceed first to the municipal light plant, and, having driven out any employees who remained at their posts, or such volunteers as had replaced them, would plunge the city into darkness.

Elinor was convinced that following this would come various bomb outrages, perhaps a great number of them, but of this she had no detailed information. What she did know, however, was the dependence that Doyle and the other leaders were placing in the foreign element in the nearby mill towns and from one or two mining districts in the county.

Around the city, in the mill towns, there were more than forty thousand foreign laborers. Subtract from that the loyal aliens, but add a certain percentage of the native-born element, members of seditious societies and followers of the red flag, and the Reds had a potential army of dangerous size.

As an actual fighting force they were much less impressive. Only a small percentage, she knew and told them, were adequately armed. There were a few machine guns, and some long-range rifles, but by far the greater number had only revolvers. The remainder had extemporized weapons, bars of iron, pieces of pipe, farm implements, lances of wood tipped with iron and beaten out on home forges.

They were a rabble, not an army, without organization and with few leaders. Their fighting was certain to be as individualisti

c as their doctrines. They had two elements in their favor only, numbers and surprise.

To oppose them, if the worst came, there were perhaps five thousand armed men, including the city and county police, the state constabulary, and the citizens who had signed the cards of the Vigilance Committee. The local post of the American Legion stood ready for instant service, and a few national guard troops still remained in the vicinity. "What they expect," she said, looking up from her pillows with tragic eyes, "is that the police and the troops will join them. You don't think they will, do you?"

They reassured her, and after a time she slept again. When she wakened, at midnight, the room was empty save for a nurse reading under a night lamp behind a screen. Elinor was not in pain. She lay there, listening to the night sounds of the hospital, the watchman shuffling along the corridor in slippers, the closing of a window, the wail of a newborn infant far away.

There was a shuffling of feet in the street below, the sound of many men, not marching but grimly walking, bent on some unknown errand. The nurse opened the window and looked out.

"That's queer!" she said. "About thirty men, and not saying a word. They walk like soldiers, but they're not in uniform."

Elinor pondered that, but it was not for some days that she knew that Pink Denslow and a picked number of volunteers from the American Legion had that night, quite silently and unemotionally, broken into the printing office where Doyle and Akers had met Cusick, and had, not so silently but still unemotionally, destroyed the presses and about a ton of inflammatory pamphlets.

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