They Call Me Carpenter - Upton Sinclair - ebook
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Billy is attacked by a mob outside a theater after watching a German film. Billy then stumbles into a church and is visited by Carpenter, that is Jesus, who walks out of a stained glass window. Carpenter is shocked and appalled by upper-class culture.

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Upton Sinclair

Upton Sinclair

They Call Me Carpenter

A Tale of the Second Coming

LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW

PARIS ∙ MADRID ∙ BERLIN ∙ ROME ∙ MEXICO CITY ∙ MUMBAI ∙ SEOUL ∙ DOHA

TOKYO ∙ SYDNEY ∙ CAPE TOWN ∙ AUCKLAND ∙ BEIJING

New Edition

Published by Sovereign Classic

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This Edition

First published in 2016

Copyright © 2016 Sovereign

All Rights Reserved.

Contents

CHAPTER I

CHAPTER II

CHAPTER III

CHAPTER IV

CHAPTER VI

CHAPTER VII

CHAPTER VIII

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER X

CHAPTER XI

CHAPTER XII

CHAPTER XIII

CHAPTER XIV

CHAPTER XV

CHAPTER XVI

CHAPTER XVII

CHAPTER XVIII

CHAPTER XIX

CHAPTER XX

CHAPTER XXI

CHAPTER XXII

CHAPTER XXIII

CHAPTER XXIV

CHAPTER XXV

CHAPTER XXVI

CHAPTER XXVII

CHAPTER XXVIII

CHAPTER XXIX

CHAPTER XXX

CHAPTER XXXI

CHAPTER XXXII

CHAPTER XXXIII

CHAPTER XXXIV

CHAPTER XXXV

CHAPTER XXXVI

CHAPTER XXXVII

CHAPTER XXXVIII

CHAPTER XXXIX

CHAPTER XL

CHAPTER XLI

CHAPTER XLII

CHAPTER XLIII

CHAPTER XLIV

CHAPTER XLV

CHAPTER XLVI

CHAPTER XLVII

CHAPTER XLVIII

CHAPTER XLIX

CHAPTER L

CHAPTER LI

CHAPTER LII

CHAPTER LIII

CHAPTER LIV

CHAPTER LV

CHAPTER LVI

CHAPTER LVII

CHAPTER LVIII

CHAPTER LIX

CHAPTER IX

CHAPTER LXI

CHAPTER LXII

CHAPTER LXIII

TO

CHARLES F. NEVENS

TRUE AND DEVOTED FRIEND

CHAPTER I

The beginning of this strange adventure was my going to see a motion picture which had been made in Germany. It was three years after the end of the war, and you’d have thought that the people of Western City would have got over their war-phobias. But apparently they hadn’t; anyway, there was a mob to keep anyone from getting into the theatre, and all the other mobs started from that. Before I tell about it, I must introduce Dr. Karl Henner, the well-known literary critic from Berlin, who was travelling in this country, and stopped off in Western City at that time. Dr. Henner was the cause of my going to see the picture, and if you will have a moment’s patience, you will see how the ideas which he put into my head served to start me on my extraordinary adventure.

You may not know much about these cultured foreigners. Their manners are like softest velvet, so that when you talk to them, you feel as a Persian cat must feel while being stroked. They have read everything in the world; they speak with quiet certainty; and they are so old—old with memories of racial griefs stored up in their souls. I, who know myself for a member of the best clubs in Western City, and of the best college fraternity in the country—I found myself suddenly indisposed to mention that I had helped to win the battle of the Argonne. This foreign visitor asked me how I felt about the war, and I told him that it was over, and I bore no hard feelings, but of course I was glad that Prussian militarism was finished. He answered: “A painful operation, and we all hope that the patient may survive it; also we hope that the surgeon has not contracted the disease.” Just as quietly as that.

Of course I asked Dr. Henner what he thought about America. His answer was that we had succeeded in producing the material means of civilization by the ton, where other nations had produced them by the pound. “We intellectuals in Europe have always been poor, by your standards over here. We have to make a very little food support a great many ideas. But you have unlimited quantities of food, and—well, we seek for the ideas, and we judge by analogy they must exist—”

“But you don’t find them?” I laughed.

“Well,” said he, “I have come to seek them.”

This talk occurred while we were strolling down our Broadway, in Western City, one bright afternoon in the late fall of 1921. We talked about the picture which Dr. Henner had recommended to me, and which we were now going to see. It was called “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,” and was a “futurist” production, a strange, weird freak of the cinema art, supposed to be the nightmare of a madman. “Being an American,” said Dr. Henner, “you will find yourself asking, ‘What good does such a picture do?’ You will have the idea that every work of art must serve some moral purpose.” After a pause, he added: “This picture could not possibly have been produced in America. For one thing, nearly all the characters are thin.” He said it with the flicker of a smile—”One does not find American screen actors in that condition. Do your people care enough about the life of art to take a risk of starving for it?”

Now, as a matter of fact, we had at that time several millions of people out of work in America, and many of them starving. There must be some intellectuals among them, I suggested; and the critic replied: “They must have starved for so long that they have got used to it, and can enjoy it—or at any rate can enjoy turning it into art. Is not that the final test of great art, that it has been smelted in the fires of suffering? All the great spiritual movements of humanity began in that way; take primitive Christianity, for example. But you Americans have taken Christ, the carpenter—”

I laughed. It happened that at this moment we were passing St. Bartholomew’s Church, a great brown-stone structure standing at the corner of the park. I waved my hand towards it. “In there,” I said, “over the altar, you may see Christ, the carpenter, dressed up in exquisite robes of white and amethyst, set up as a stained glass window ornament. But if you’ll stop and think, you’ll realize it wasn’t we Americans who began that!”

“No,” said the other, returning my laugh, “but I think it was you who finished him up as a symbol of elegance, a divinity of the respectable inane.”

Thus chatting, we turned the corner, and came in sight of our goal, the Excelsior Theatre. And there was the mob!

CHAPTER II

At first, when I saw the mass of people, I thought it was the usual picture crowd. I said, with a smile, “Can it be that the American people are not so dead to art after all?” But then I observed that the crowd seemed to be swaying this way and that; also there seemed to be a great many men in army uniforms. “Hello!” I exclaimed. “A row?”

There was a clamor of shouting; the army men seemed to be pulling and pushing the civilians. When we got nearer, I asked of a bystander, “What’s up?” The answer was: “They don’t want ‘em to go in to see the picture.”

“Why not?”

“It’s German. Hun propaganda!”

Now you must understand, I had helped to win a war, and no man gets over such an experience at once. I had a flash of suspicion, and glanced at my companion, the cultured literary critic from Berlin. Could it possibly be that this smooth-spoken gentleman was playing a trick upon me—trying, possibly, to get something into my crude American mind without my realizing what was happening? But I remembered his detailed account of the production, the very essence of “art for art’s sake.” I decided that the war was three years over, and I was competent to do my own thinking.

Dr. Henner spoke first. “I think,” he said, “it might be wiser if I did not try to go in there.”

“Absurd!” I cried. “I’m not going to be dictated to by a bunch of imbeciles!”

“No,” said the other, “you are an American, and don’t have to be. But I am a German, and I must learn.”

I noted the flash of bitterness, but did not resent it. “That’s all nonsense, Dr. Henner!” I argued. “You are my guest, and I won’t—”

“Listen, my friend,” said the other. “You can doubtless get by without trouble; but I would surely rouse their anger, and I have no mind to be beaten for nothing. I have seen the picture several times, and can talk about it with you just as well.”

“You make me ashamed of myself,” I cried—”and of my country!”

“No, no! It is what you should expect. It is what I had in mind when I spoke of the surgeon contracting the disease. We German intellectuals know what war means; we are used to things like this.” Suddenly he put out his hand. “Good-bye.”

“I will go with you!” I exclaimed. But he protested—that would embarrass him greatly. I would please to stay, and see the picture; he would be interested later on to hear my opinion of it. And abruptly he turned, and walked off, leaving me hesitating and angry.

At last I started towards the entrance of the theatre. One of the men in uniform barred my way. “No admittance here!”

“But why not?”

“It’s a German show, and we aint a-goin’ to allow it.”

“Now see here, buddy,” I countered, none too good-naturedly, “I haven’t got my uniform on, but I’ve as good a right to it as you; I was all through the Argonne.”

“Well, what do you want to see Hun propaganda for?”

“Maybe I want to see what it’s like.”

“Well, you can’t go in; we’re here to shut up this show!”

I had stepped to one side as I spoke, and he caught me by the arm. I thought there had been talk enough, and gave a sudden lurch, and tore my arm free. “Hold on here!” he shouted, and tried to stop me again; but I sprang through the crowd towards the box-office. There were more than a hundred civilians in or about the lobby, and not more than twenty or thirty ex-service men maintaining the blockade; so a few got by, and I was one of the lucky ones. I bought my ticket, and entered the theatre. To the man at the door I said: “Who started this?”

“I don’t know, sir. It’s just landed on us, and we haven’t had time to find out.”

“Is the picture German propaganda?”

“Nothing like that at all, sir. They say they won’t let us show German pictures, because they’re so much cheaper; they’ll put American-made pictures out of business, and it’s unfair competition.”

“Oh!” I exclaimed, and light began to dawn. I recalled Dr. Henner’s remark about producing a great many ideas out of a very little food; assuredly, the American picture industry had cause to fear competition of that sort! I thought of old “T-S,” as the screen people call him for short—the king of the movie world, with his roll of fat hanging over his collar, and his two or three extra chins! I though of Mary Magna, million dollar queen of the pictures, contriving diets and exercises for herself, and weighing with fear and trembling every day!

CHAPTER III

It was time for the picture to begin, so I smoothed my coat, and went to a seat, and was one of perhaps two dozen spectators before whom “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” received its first public showing in Western City. The story had to do with a series of murders; we saw them traced by a young man, and fastened bit by bit upon an old magician and doctor. As the drama neared its climax, we discovered this doctor to be the head of an asylum for the insane, and the young man to be one of the inmates; so in the end the series of adventures was revealed to us as the imaginings of a madman about his physician and keepers. The settings and scenery were in the style of “futurist” art—weird and highly effective. I saw it all in the light of Dr. Henner’s interpretation, the product of an old, perhaps an overripe culture. Certainly no such picture could have been produced in America! If I had to choose between this and the luxurious sex-stuff of Mary Magna—well, I wondered. At least, I had been interested in every moment of “Dr. Caligari,” and I was only interested in Mary off the screen. Several times every year I had to choose between mortally hurting her feelings, and watching her elaborate “vamping” through eight or ten costly reels.

I had read many stories and seen a great many plays, in which the hero wakes up in the end, and we realize that we have been watching a dream. I remembered “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and also “Looking Backward.” An old, old device of art; and yet always effective, one of the most effective! But this was the first time I had ever been taken into the dreams of a lunatic. Yes, it was interesting, there was no denying it; grisly stuff, but alive, and marvelously well acted. How Edgar Allen Poe would have revelled in it! So thinking, I walked towards the exit of the theatre, and a swinging door gave way—and upon my ear broke a clamor that might have come direct from the inside of Dr. Caligari’s asylum. “Ya, ya. Boo, boo! German propaganda! Pay your money to the Huns! For shame on you! Leave your own people to starve, and send your cash to the enemy.”

I stopped still, and whispered to myself, “My God!” During all the time—an hour or more—that I had been away on the wings of imagination, these poor boobs had been howling and whooping outside the theatre, keeping the crowds away, and incidentally working themselves into a fury! For a moment I thought I would go out and reason with them; they were mistaken in the idea that there was anything about the war, anything against America in the picture. But I realized that they were beyond reason. There was nothing to do but go my way and let them rave.

But quickly I saw that this was not going to be so easy as I had fancied. Right in front of the entrance stood the big fellow who had caught my arm; and as I came toward him I saw that he had me marked. He pointed a finger into my face, shouting in a fog-horn voice: “There’s a traitor! Says he was in the service, and now he’s backing the Huns!”

I tried to have nothing to do with him, but he got me by the arm, and others were around me. “Yein, yein, yein!” they shouted into my ear; and as I tried to make my way through, they began to hustle me. “I’ll shove your face in, you damned Hun!”—a continual string of such abuse; and I had been in the service, and seen fighting!

I never tried harder to avoid trouble; I wanted to get away, but that big fellow stuck his feet between mine and tripped me, he lunged and shoved me into the gutter, and so, of course, I made to hit him. But they had me helpless; I had no more than clenched my fist and drawn back my arm, when I received a violent blow on the side of my jaw. I never knew what hit me, a fist or a weapon. I only felt the crash, and a sensation of reeling, and a series of blows and kicks like a storm about me.

I ask you to believe that I did not run away in the Argonne. I did my job, and got my wound, and my honorable record. But there I had a fighting chance, and here I had none; and maybe I was dazed, and it was the instinctive reaction of my tormented body—anyhow, I ran. I staggered along, with the blows and kicks to keep me moving. And then I saw half a dozen broad steps, and a big open doorway; I fled that way, and found myself in a dark, cool place, reeling like a drunken man, but no longer beaten, and apparently no longer pursued. I was falling, and there was something nearby, and I caught at it, and sank down upon a sort of wooden bench.

CHAPTER IV

I had run into St. Bartholomew’s Church; and when I came to—I fear I cut a pitiful figure, but I have to tell the truth—I was crying. I don’t think the pain of my head and face had anything to do with it, I think it was rage and humiliation; my sense of outrage, that I, who had helped to win a war, should have been made to run from a gang of cowardly rowdies. Anyhow, here I was, sunk down in a pew of the church, sobbing as if my heart was broken.

At last I raised my head, and holding on to the pew in front, looked about me. The church was apparently deserted. There were dark vistas; and directly in front of me a gleaming altar, and high over it a stained glass window, with the afternoon sun shining through. You know, of course, the sort of figures they have in those windows; a man in long robes, white, with purple and gold; with a brown beard, and a gentle, sad face, and a halo of light about the head. I was staring at the figure, and at the same time choking with rage and pain, but clenching my hands, and making up my mind to go out and follow those brutes, and get that big one alone and pound his face to a jelly. And here begins the strange part of my adventure; suddenly that shining figure stretched out its two arms to me, as if imploring me not to think those vengeful thoughts!

I knew, of course, what it meant; I had just seen a play about delirium, and had got a whack on the head, and now I was delirious myself. I thought I must be badly hurt; I bowed my reeling head in my arms, and began to sob like a kid, out loud, and without shame. But somehow I forgot about the big brute, and his face that I wanted to pound; instead, I was ashamed and bewildered, a queer hysterical state with a half dozen emotions mixed up. The Caligari story was in it, and the lunatic asylum; I’ve got a cracked skull, I thought, and my mind will never get right again! I sat, huddled and shuddering; until suddenly I felt a quiet hand on my shoulder, and heard a gentle voice saying: “Don’t be afraid. It is I.”

Now, I shall waste no time telling you how amazed I was. It was a long time before I could believe what was happening to me; I thought I was clean off my head. I lifted my eyes, and there, in the aisle of the most decorous church of St. Bartholomew, standing with his hand on my head, was the figure out of the stained glass window! I looked at him twice, and then I looked at the window. Where the figure had been was a great big hole with the sun shining through!

We know the power of suggestion, and especially when one taps the deeps of the unconscious, where our childhood memories are buried. I had been brought up in a religious family, and so it seemed quite natural to me that while that hand lay on my head, the throbbing and whirling should cease, and likewise the fear. I became perfectly quiet, and content to sit under the friendly spell. “Why were you crying?” asked the voice, at last.

I answered, hesitatingly, “I think it was humiliation.”

“Is it something you have done?”

“No. Something that was done to me.”

“But how can a man be humiliated by the act of another?”

I saw what he meant; and I was not humiliated any more.

The stranger spoke again. “A mob,” he said, “is a blind thing, worse than madness. It is the beast in man running away with his master.”

I thought to myself: how can he know what has happened to me? But then I reflected, perhaps he saw them drive me into the church! I found myself with a sudden, queer impulse to apologize for those soldier boys. “We had some terrible fighting,” I cried. “And you know what wars do—to the minds of the people, I mean.”

“Yes,” said the stranger, “I know, only too well.”

I had meant to explain this mob; but somehow, I decided that I could not. How could I make him understand moving picture shows, and German competition, and ex-service men out of jobs? There was a pause, and he asked, “Can you stand up?”

I tried and found that I could. I felt the side of my jaw, and it hurt, but somehow the pain seemed apart from myself. I could see clearly and steadily; there were only two things wrong that I could find—first, this stranger standing by my side, and second, that hole in the window, where I had seen him standing so many Sunday mornings!

“Are you going out now?” he asked. As I hesitated, he added, tactfully, “Perhaps you would let me go with you?”

Here was indeed a startling proposition! His costume, his long hair—there were many things about him not adapted to Broadway at five o’clock in the afternoon! But what could I say? It would be rude to call attention to his peculiarities. All I could manage was to stammer: “I thought you belonged in the church.”

“Do I?” he replied, with a puzzled look. “I’m not sure. I have been wondering—am I really needed here? And am I not more needed in the world?”

“Well,” said I, “there’s one thing certain.” I pointed up to the window. “That hole is conspicuous.”

“Yes, that is true.”

“And if it should rain, the altar would be ruined. The Reverend Dr. Lettuce-Spray would be dreadfully distressed. That altar cloth was left to the church in the will of Mrs. Elvina de Wiggs, and God knows how many thousands of dollars it cost.”

“I suppose that wouldn’t do,” said the stranger. “Let us see if we can’t find something to put there.”

He started up the aisle, and through the chancel. I followed, and we came into the vestry-room, and there on the wall I noticed a full length, life-sized portrait of old Algernon de Wiggs, president of the Empire National Bank, and of the Western City Chamber of Commerce. “Let us see if he would fill the place,” said the stranger; and to my amazement he drew up a chair, and took down the huge picture, and carried it, seemingly without effort, into the church.

He stepped upon the altar, and lifted the portrait in front of the window. How he got it to stay there I am not sure—I was too much taken aback by the procedure to notice such details. There the picture was; it seemed to fit the window exactly, and the effect was simply colossal. You’d have to know old de Wiggs to appreciate it—those round, puffy cheeks, with the afternoon sun behind them, making them shine like two enormous Jonathan apples! Our leading banker was clad in decorous black, as always on Sunday mornings, but in one place the sun penetrated his form—at one side of his chest. My curiosity got the better of me; I could not restrain the question, “What is that golden light?”

Said the stranger: “I think that is his heart.”

“But that can’t be!” I argued. “The light is on his right side; and it seems to have an oblong shape—exactly as if it were his wallet.”

Said the other: “Where the treasure is, there will the heart be also.”

CHAPTER VI

We passed out through the arched doorway, and Broadway was before us. I had another thrill of distress—a vision of myself walking down this crowded street with this extraordinary looking personage. The crowds would stare at us, the street urchins would swarm about us, until we blocked the traffic and the police ran us in! So I thought, as we descended the steps and started; but my fear passed, for we walked and no one followed us—hardly did anyone even turn his eyes after us.

I realized in a little while how this could be. The pleasant climate of Western City brings strange visitors to dwell here; we have Hindoo swamis in yellow silk, and a Theosophist college on a hill-top, and people who take up with “nature,” and go about with sandals and bare legs, and a mane of hair over their shoulders. I pass them on the street now and then—one of them carries a shepherd’s crook! I remember how, a few years ago, my Aunt Caroline, rambling around looking for something to satisfy her emotions, took up with these queer ideas, and there came to her front door, to the infinite bewilderment of the butler, a mild-eyed prophet in pastoral robes, and with a little newspaper bundle in his hand. This, spread out before my aunt, proved to contain three carrots and two onions, carefully washed, and shining; they were the kindly fruits of the earth, and of the prophet’s own labor, and my old auntie was deeply touched, because it appeared that this visitor was a seer, the sole composer of a mighty tome which is to be found in the public library, and is known as the “Eternal Bible.”

So here I was, strolling along quite as a matter of course with my strange acquaintance. I saw that he was looking about, and I prepared for questions, and wondered what they would be. I thought that he must naturally be struck by such wonders as automobiles and crowded street-cars. I failed to realize that he would be thinking about the souls of the people.

Said he, at last: “This is a large city?”

“About half a million.”

“And what quarter are we in?”

“The shopping district.”

“Is it a segregated district?”

“Segregated? In what way?”

“Apparently there are only courtesans.”

I could not help laughing. “You are misled by the peculiarities of our feminine fashions—details with which you are naturally not familiar—”

“Oh, quite the contrary,” said he, “I am only too familiar with them. In childhood I learned the words of the prophet: ‘Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet; therefore the Lord will smite with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will discover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet, and their cauls, and their round tires like the moon, the chains, and the bracelets, and the mufflers, the bonnets, and the ornaments of the legs, and the headbands, and the tablets, and the earrings, and nose jewels, the changeable suits of apparel, and the mantles, and the wimples, and the crisping pins, the glasses, and the fine linen, and the hoods, and the veils. And it shall come to pass that instead of sweet smell there shall be stink; and instead of a girdle a rent; and instead of well set hair, baldness; and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and burning instead of beauty.’”

From the point of view of literature this might be great stuff; but on the corner of Broadway and Fifth Street at the crowded hours it was unusual, to say the least. My companion was entering into the spirit of it in a most alarming way; he was half chanting, his voice rising, his face lighting up. “’Thy men shall fall by the sword, and thy mighty in the war. And her gates shall lament and mourn; and she being desolate shall sit upon the ground.’”

“Be careful!” I whispered. “People will hear you!”

“But why should they not?” He turned on me a look of surprise. “The people hear me gladly.” And he added: “The common people.”

Here was an aspect of my adventure which had not occurred to me before. “My God!” I thought. “If he takes to preaching on street corners!” I realized in a flash—it was exactly what he would be up to! A panic seized me; I couldn’t stand that; I’d have to cut and run!

I began to speak quickly. “We must get across this street while we have time; the traffic officer has turned the right way now.” And I began explaining our remarkable system of traffic handling.

But he stopped me in the middle. “Why do we wish to cross the street, when we have no place to go?”

“I have a place I wish to take you to,” I said; “a friend I want you to meet. Let us cross.” And while I was guiding him between the automobiles, I was desperately trying to think how to back up my lie. Who was there that would receive this incredible stranger, and put him up for the night, and get him into proper clothes, and keep him off the soap-box?

Truly, I was in an extraordinary position! What had I done to get this stranger wished onto me? And how long was he going to stay with me? I found myself recalling the plight of Mary who had a little lamb!

Fate had me in its hands, and did not mean to consult me. We had gone less than a block further when I heard a voice, “Hello! Billy!” I turned. Oh, Lord! Oh, Lord! Of all the thankless encounters—Edgerton Rosythe, moving picture critic of the Western City “Times.” Precisely the most cynical, the most profane, the most boisterous person in a cynical and profane and boisterous business! And he had me here, in full daylight, with a figure just out of a stained glass window in St. Bartholomew’s Church!

CHAPTER VII

“Hello, Billy! Who’s your good-looking friend?” Rosythe was in full sail before a breeze of his own making.

How could I answer. “Why—er—”

The stranger spoke. “They call me Carpenter.”

“Ah!” said the critic. “Mr. Carpenter, delighted to meet you.” He gave the stranger a hearty grip of the hand. “Are you on location?”

“Location?” said the other; and Rosythe shot an arrow of laughter towards me. Perhaps he knew about the vagaries of my Aunt Caroline; anyhow, he would have a fantastic tale to tell about me, and was going to exploit it to the limit!

I made a pitiful attempt to protect my dignity. “Mr. Carpenter has just arrived,” I began&&

“Just arrived, hey?” said the critic. “Oviparous, viviparous, or oviviparous?” He raised his hand; actually, in the glory of his wit, he was going to clap the stranger on the shoulder!

But his hand stayed in the air. Such a look as came on Carpenter’s face! “Hush!” he commanded. “Be silent!” And then: “Any man will join in laughter; but who will join in disease?”

“Hey?” said Rosythe; and it was my turn to grin.

“Mr. Carpenter has just done me a great service,” I explained. “I got badly mauled in the mob—”

“Oh!” cried the other. “At the Excelsior Theatre!” Here was something to talk about, to cover his bewilderment. “So you were in it! I was watching them just now.”

“Are they still at it?”

“Sure thing!”

“A fine set of boobs,” I began—

“Boobs, nothing!” broke in the other. “What do you suppose they’re doing?”

“Saving us from Hun propaganda, so they told me.”

“The hell of a lot they care about Hun propaganda! They are earning five dollars a head.”

“What?”

“Sure as you’re born!”

“You really know that?”

“Know it? Pete Dailey was at a meeting of the Motion Picture Directors’ Association last night, and it was arranged to put up the money and hire them. They’re a lot of studio bums, doing a real mob scene on a real location!”

“Well, I’ll be damned!” I said. “And what about the police?”

“Police?” laughed the critic. “Would you expect the police to work free when the soldiers are paid? Why, Jesus Christ——”

“I beg pardon?” said Carpenter.

“Why—er—” said Rosythe; and stopped, completely bluffed.

“You ought not swear,” I remarked, gravely; and then, “I must explain. I got pounded by that mob; I was knocked quite silly, and this gentleman found me, and healed me in a wonderful way.”

“Oh!” said the critic, with genuine interest. “Mind cure, hey? What line?”

I was about to reply, but Carpenter, it appeared, was able to take care of himself. “The line of love,” he answered, gently.

“See here, Rosythe,” I broke in, “I can’t stand on the street. I’m beginning to feel seedy again. I think I’ll have a taxi.”

“No,” said the critic. “Come with me. I’m on the way to pick up the missus. Right around the corner—a fine place to rest.” And without further ado he took me by the arm and led me along. He was a good-hearted chap inside; his rowdyisms were just the weapons of his profession. We went into an office building, and entered an elevator. I did not know the building, or the offices we came to. Rosythe pushed open a door, and I saw before me a spacious parlor, with birds of paradise of the female sex lounging in upholstered chairs. I was led to a vast plush sofa, and sank into it with a sigh of relief.

The stranger stood beside me, and put his hand on my head once more. It was truly a miracle, how the whirling and roaring ceased, and peace came back to me; it must have shown in my face, for the moving picture critic of the Western City “Times” stood watching me with a quizzical smile playing over his face. I could read his thoughts, as well as if he had uttered them: “Regular Svengali stuff, by God!”

CHAPTER VIII

I was so comfortable there, I did not care what happened. I closed my eyes for a while; then I opened them and gazed lazily about the place. I noted that all the birds of paradise were watching Carpenter. With one accord their heads had turned, and their eyes were riveted upon him. I found myself thinking. “This man will make a hit with the ladies!” Like the swamis, with their soft brown skins, and their large, dark, cow-like eyes!