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BY ANNIE W. NOEL
'mrs. Scott is dead.'
Mrs. Anderson was shocked. She laid down her garden-shears and looked at Mrs. Hoxie, who was telling her.
For Mrs. Anderson had been planning to call; and she turned involuntarily toward Mrs. Scott's house just in back of her. Mrs. Scott had bought that house just six years ago. She had planted the most wonderful red peonies — they were blooming now — if she was dead —
Mrs. Anderson turned rather indignantly on Mrs. Hoxie. How should she know? She lived a whole block away —
'Mrs. Wilson saw the hearse at the door.'
Mrs. Anderson gazed at the silent house just behind. She had been planning to call.
'Mrs. Wilson was shocked,' Mrs. Hoxie went on. 'She said she felt she ought to have known it before the hearse came, living only four houses away. A hearse is a shock, of course. Mrs. Wilson is a lovely woman.'
That certainly was no way to speak of the dead. Mrs. Anderson looked after Mrs. Hoxie with resentment. Then her own remorse deepened. She had been planning to call, and the red peonies blooming so heartlessly in Mrs. Scott's own yard disturbed her. It was not right to let them stand that way if Mrs. Scott was dead. With a deep pang she wished she had called.
She went into Mrs. Lewis's next door, to see if Mrs. Lewis knew.
Mrs. Lewis knew. She had just read
it in the New York Tribune. The New York Tribune still lay on the floor where it had fallen.
Tears were in Mrs. Lewis's eyes. It seemed so wrong, now, that they had lived so long almost back to back and had never spoken. 'I have met her on the street too,' said Mrs. Lewis, with profound regret.
Going back to her garden, Mrs. Anderson looked at Mrs. Scott's sightless windows. She had often wondered if Mrs. Scott was looking. Now she knew there was no one behind those windows. It was dreadful certainty.
She wished she had called.
She saw Mrs. Allen, next door on the other side, and wondered if she knew. She stepped to the hedge, irresistibly impelled.
'I don't believe it,' replied Mrs. Allen, with the utmost firmness.
Mrs. Anderson was aroused. Why a tone like that? Toward the dead? But she replied gently. The hearse had been seen at the door. And Mrs. Lewis had read it in the Tribune.
'Oh!' replied Mrs. Allen, unrelenting; 'the Tribune.'
She had n't known her personally, Mrs. Allen went on, seeming to think some explanation was due. All she knew of her was that, the day after they had moved in, a voice had called Mr. Allen on the 'phone, and asked if they were sure they had a buildingpermit to put up exactly that type of ready-cut garage.
Mrs. Anderson's eyes drooped as she looked at the garage. And again she wondered, passionately, why she had n't called on Mrs. Scott.
Young Mrs. Baker was just passing, with little Marjorie.
'She's the only other woman in the block with just one child,' meditated young Mrs. Baker. 'Is she dead?' asked young Mrs. Baker with energy.
The hearse had been seen at the door, And it was in the Tribune.
'Just before I left the house, not ten minutes ago,' continued young Mrs. Baker, only growing firmer,'the Board of Health called up to say they had been asked to instruct me to keep Marjorie on her own premises until she got over her cough. A neighbor. With one child. They are not allowed to give names.'
Together they gazed at the silent house.
A colored woman came out and began to pick the peonies.
'I suppose she would know,' said Mrs. Anderson, with a catch in her voice.
She wished she had called.
The colored woman picked all the peonies.
The house stated at them.
'I was planning to call,' said Mrs. Anderson.
Mrs. Anderson went in to get her market-basket. She felt as if she must get away for a little while. But even the market-basket was on a shelf by the window, and through the window she saw Mrs. Scott's house.
'Oh!' cried Mrs. Anderson to herself, 'I wish I had called.'
At a turn of the road she stooped to help a small child with his rebellious sandal; and on lifting her head, looked straight at Mrs. Scott, pausing, interested.
'Oh!' Mrs. Anderson caught herself in time.
'Yes,' replied Mrs. Scott amused, tactful. 'So many did. It was Mr. Scott's mother. She had been visiting us.'
Swept on by the current of her relief, Mrs. Anderson felt a great need of saying something. She had been so profoundly moved. She had experienced so much in the last hour. It did not seem possible to have things return to their former basis. She had always felt that she Would have liked Mrs. Scott. She had felt that Mrs. Scott was not quite understood by some. And to have died — actually died, without anyone's knowing it, when she lived just back —
But, no, she had not.
Mrs. Anderson felt justified in the feeling she had always thought she would have had for Mrs. Scott.
She had felt that Mrs. Scott would not.
'I have been intending to call,' she said warmly, trying to crowd all the passionate remorse of the last hour into a few words.
'Yes, do,' replied Mrs. Scott, with answering cordiality, as she passed on. 'Some time.'
PREACHING IN LONDON. Ill
BY JOSEPH FORT NEWTON
(No sooner had the Armistice been signed, than there followed, not simply a rebound, but a collapse, which no one who lived through it will ever forget. Swiftly, tragically, the high mood of sacrifice yielded to a ruthless selfishness, and the solidarity won by the war was lost, together with most of the idealism that had stood the stress and terror of it. The moral demobilization was terrifying; the disillusionment appalling. Men had lived a generation in five years; and instead of a new world of which they had dreamed, they found themselves in a world embittered, confused, cynical, gray with grief, if not cracked to its foundations — all the old envies working their malign intent. Such a chaos offered free play to every vile and slimy influence, making the earth an auditorium for every hoarse and bitter voice that could make itself heard. It was a time of social irritation, moral reaction, and spiritual fatigue, almost more trying than the war itself, the only joy being that the killing of boys had stopped.
Old jealousies and new envies began to make themselves felt — among them a very emphatic anti-American feeling; a reminiscence, in part, of the impatience at our delay in entering the war, joined with suspicion of our wealth and power. The same was true in America, in its feeling toward England and the other Allies. Mrs. A. Burnett-Smith — 'Annie S. Swan' — in her admirable book, America at Home, tells how fine and warm the feeling in America was before the Armistice, and how quickly it changed: 'There was a reaction, of which was born a coolness, a new, subtle hostility, which one could sense everywhere.' Her book, I may add, is one of the few of its kind that never fails of that fineness of feeling which should always exist between kindred peoples. Her observations are interesting, her comments frank but kindly, and the
whole book is informed with a charming and sympathetic personality. As Mr. W. L. George has said, if the war did not make us love our enemies, it at least taught us to hate our allies.)
November 20, 1918. — For one who has set great store by the cooperation of English-speaking peoples, the new antiAmerican propaganda is like a personal bereavement. The feeling in England with regard to America is certainly, as the Scotch would say, 'on the north side of friendly,' and manifests itself in many petty, nagging ways. To read the London papers now, one would think that America, and not Germany, had been the enemy of England in the war. Every kind of gibe, slur, and sneer is used to poison the public mind against America. My mail at the City Temple has become almost unreadable. It takes the familiar forms — among the upper classes an insufferably patronizing and contemptuous attitude toward America and all things American; among the lower classes an ignorant ill-will. The middle classes are not much influenced by it, perhaps because, as Emerson said, America is a 'middle-class country' — whereof we ought to be both grateful and proud. This feeling against America is confined, for the most part, to England, — it hardly exists in Scotland or in Wales, — and, like the anti-British feeling in America, it is a fruitful field for the venal press and the stupid demagogue. Naturally, a journal like John Bull — leader of the gutter-press — is in its glory; but even in the better class of papers one reads nasty flings at America and its President. As for the Morning Post, no one expects anything other than its usual pose of supercilious condescension and savage satire, and it is at its brilliant worst. Six weeks ago we were regarded as friends; to-day our country is the target of ridicule as clever as it is brutal. No doubt it is mostly nerves — a part of the inevitable reaction— and will pass away; but it is none the less a tragedy.
November 22. — It is nothing short of a calamity that in this ugly hour of reaction and revenge there is to be a national election. There is no need for an election, no demand for it. But to those who can see beneath the surface, there is a deeper meaning. Three months ago Arthur Henderson said: 'If we have a national election in Britain, you will not get a Wilson peace.' I did not realize at the time what he meant; but I can now say to him, 'Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.' There is to be a khaki election, such as Chamberlain had following the Boer War, the better to coin into political capital all the anger, suspicion, resentment, and disillusionment burning in the public mind. In other words, it is a deliberate scheme of the Prime Minister — or a group of strong men who use him as a tool — to mobilize the least admirable elements of England, — not the great, noble England, but a reactionary, imperialistic England, — and have them in solid phalanx behind the Peace Conference. And in the mood of the hour the scheme will work, with consequences both for England and for the world which no one can predict. Reaction in England will mean reaction elsewhere, if not everywhere.
November 24.—Nothing was left hazy after the speech of the Premier in Westminster Hall, launching his Coalition campaign. It was a skillful speech, intimating that even the Throne may be in danger, and playing upon the fears and
hates of men. He wants a Parliament, he said, in which there shall be no opposition, — no criticism, no discussion, — and this proposal to prostitute Parliament was greeted with applause. There is protest in the Liberal press; but men in the street and tram give each other the knowing look and the approving nod, praising 'the Little Welsh Wizard.' It is called a 'Coupon Election,' since each Coalition candidate must have the indorsement of the Prime Minister, and the food-coupon is the most detestable thing in the public mind. Sir George Younger — master brewer of the kingdom — is the organizer and wire-puller of the campaign.
As for the Prime Minister, he is both the author and the hero of the most remarkable blood-and-thunder movingpicture show in political history; what the papers call 'The Victory Film, or How I Won the War.' He goes to and fro, shrieking two slogans. First, hang the Kaiser! Second, twenty-five thousand million pounds indemnity! What sublime statesmanship! Behind this smoke-screen of rhetoric and revenge the most sinister forces are busy; and the trick will work. Liberals and Laborites are unable to unite. Even if they should unite, they could not stem the tide. Two things are as plain as if they were written upon the wall. First, the President is defeated before he sails; and second, if the war is won, the peace is lost.
November 26. — Once again opinion is sharply divided as to the motives and purposes of the Prime Minister. By some he is held to be a messiah, by others a light-minded mountebank. Still others think he is only a political chameleon, taking color from the last strong man, or group of men, he meets. Obviously he is none of these things, but merely an opportunist, without any principle or policy, — except to retain power, — feeling his way to get all he can. The story is that, walking in the House of Parliament with a friend the other day, he suddenly stopped, tapped his breast, and said:'I sometimes wonder if this is Lloyd George.' His wonder is shared by millions of people. Certainly it is not the Lloyd George we used to know, who had the light of morning in his eyes. Limehouse is far in the distance. The fiery champion of justice for the Boers is a pathetic memory. The man who defied the vested interests of England in behalf of the poor, the aged, the disinherited, is a ghost. There is another Lloyd George, so new and strange that he does not know himself. With his personality, his power of speech, his political acumen, which almost amounts to inspiration, he could lead England anywhere; but he has turned back. It is one of the greatest failures of leadership in our time.
November 28. — Often one is tempted to think that the Labor Movement is the most Christian thing on this island. In its leadership, at least, it is spiritually minded; its leaders, as I have come to know them, being sincere, earnest, honest men who have worked their way up from the bottom, or else have been drawn into the Movement by the opportunity for service. Not all of them are so minded, but the outstanding leaders and spokesmen of the Movement — who, unfortunately, are in advance of the rank and file — are men of a type unknown, or nearly so, in American labor. Henderson, Thomas, Snowden, Webb, MacDonald, Clynes, and the rest, make a goodly group. Henderson is a lay preacher; so is Thomas. As for Robert Smillie, I do not know what his religious affiliations, if any, may be, except that he is a disciple of Keir Hardie, and that his relentless idealism is matched by the nobility of his character. Tall, gaunt, stooped, his face reveals the harsh attrition of earlier
years; but his smile is kindly, and his eyes have in them the light of an unconquerable will. He helps one to know what Lincoln must have been like.
In this campaign the leaders of Labor are almost the only keepers of the nobler idealism of England, and their programme is essentially Christian. Alas, they have a heavy weight of inertia to carry, and one wonders if they can fire the apathetic mass, fatalistically submissive to its lot, and suspicious of anyone who tries to alter it.
November 29. — Anyway, I am having the time of my life, going to every sort of political meeting and listening to every sort of speech. It is a big show and a continuous performance. The best address I have heard, so far, was delivered by a Methodist preacher at a Labor meeting in Kingsway Hall. His sentences cracked like rifle-shots, and they hit the mark. The campaign makes me first sick, and then homesick; it is so like our way of doing it. That is, all except the hecklers. They are so quick and keen of retort. Also, the English can beat us at mud-slinging. It is humiliating to admit it, but it is so. We are amateurs in abusing the government; but we are young yet, and longer practice will no doubt give us greater skill. How like our elections is the hubbub and hysteria of it all. Mr. Asquith told me how he made a speech on worldaffairs, and one of his audience said: 'What we want to know is, are we going to get a pier for our boats!' Always the local grievance clouds the larger Lssue. How familiar it is, as if a man went out, and encountered in the street what he thought for the moment was himself. Men, otherwise sane, seem to lose their senses in a political campaign. Statesmen talk drivel, promising what no mortal can perform, challenging the scorn of man and the judgment of heaven. O Democracy!