Dangerous Days by Mary Roberts Rinehart
Rudolph Klein had not for a moment believed Anna's story about the watch, and on the day after he discovered it on her wrist he verified his suspicions. During his noon hour he went up-town and, with the confident swagger of a certain type of man who feels himself out of place, entered the jeweler's shop in question.
He had to wait for some little time, and he spent it in surveying contemptuously the contents of the show-cases. That even his wildest estimate fell far short of their value he did not suspect, but his lips curled. This was where the money earned by honest workmen was spent, that women might gleam with such gewgaws. Wall Street bought them, Wall Street which was forcing this country into the war to protect its loans to the Allies. America was to pull England's chestnuts out of the fire that women, and yet more women, might wear those strings of pearls, those glittering diamond baubles.
Into his crooked mind there flashed a line from a speech at the hird Street hall the night before: "War is hell. Let those who want to, go to hell."
So - Wall Street bought pearls for its women, and the dissolute sons of the rich bought gold wrist-watches for girls they wanted to seduce. The expression on his face was so terrible that the clerk behind the counter, waiting to find what he wanted, was startled.
"I want to look at gold wrist-watches," he said. And eyed the clerk for a trace of patronage.
He finally found one that was a duplicate of Anna's, and examined it carefully. Yes, it was the same, the maker's name on the dial, the space for the monogram on the back, everything.
"How much is this one?"
"One hundred dollars."
He almost dropped it. A hundred dollars! Then he remembered Anna's story.
"Have you any gold-filled ones that look like this?"
"We do not handle gold-filled cases."
He put it down, and turned to go. Then he stopped.
"Don't sell on the installment plan, either, I suppose?" The sneer in his voice was clearer than his anxiety. In his mind, he already knew the answer.
He went out. So he had been right. That young skunk had paid a hundred dollars for a watch for Anna. To Rudolph it meant but one thing.
That had been early in January. For some days he kept his own counsel, thinking, planning, watching. He was jealous of Graham, but with a calculating jealousy that set him wondering how to turn his knowledge to his own advantage. And Anna's lack of liberty comforted him somewhat. He couldn't meet her outside the mill, at least not without his knowing it.
He established a system of espionage over her that drove her almost to madness.
"What're you hanging round for?" she would demand when he stepped forward at the mill gate. "D'you suppose I never want to be by myself?"
"You just go away, Rudolph Klein. I'm going up with some of the girls."
But she never lost him. He was beside her or at her heels, his small crafty eyes on her. When he walked behind her there was a sensuous gleam in them.
After a few weeks she became terrified. There was a coldness of deviltry in him, she knew. And he had the whip-hand. She was certain he knew about the watch, and her impertinence masked an agony of fear. Suppose he went to her father? Why, if he knew, didn't he go to her father?
She suspected him, but she did not know of what. She knew he was an enemy of all government, save that of the mob, that he was an incendiary, a firebrand who set on fire the brutish passions of a certain type of malcontents. She knew, for all he pretended to be the voice of labor, he no more represented the honest labor of the country than he represented law and order.
She watched him sometimes, at the table, when on Sundays he ate the mid-day meal with them; his thin hatchet face, his prominent epiglottis. He wore a fresh cotton shirt then, with a flaming necktie, but he did not clean his fingernails. And his talk was always of tearing down, never of building up.
"Just give us time, and we'll show them," he often said. And "them" was always the men higher up.
He hated policemen. He and Herman had had many arguments about policemen. Herman was not like Rudolph. He believed in law and order. He even believed in those higher up. But he believed very strongly in the fraternity of labor. Until the first weeks of that New-year, Herman Klein, outside the tyranny of his home life, represented very fairly a certain type of workman, believing in the dignity and integrity of his order. But, with his failure to relocate himself, something went wrong in Herman. He developed, in his obstinate, stubborn, German head a suspicion of the land of his adoption. He had never troubled to understand it. He had taken it for granted, as he took for granted that Anna should work and turn over her money to him.
Now it began to ask things of him. Not much. A delegation of women came around one night and asked him for money for Belgian Relief. The delegation came, because no one woman would venture alone.
"I have no money for Belgians," he said. He would not let them come in. "Why should I help the Belgians? Liars and hypocrites!"
The story went about the neighborhood, and he knew it. He cared nothing for popularity, but he resented losing his standing in the community. And all along he was convinced that he was right; that the Belgians had lied. There had been, in the Germany he had left, no such will to wanton killing. These people were ignorant. Out of the depths of their ignorance they talked.
He read only German newspapers. In the little room back of Gustav Shroeder's he met only Germans. And always, at his elbow, there was Rudolph.
Until the middle of January Rudolph had not been able to get him to one of his incendiary meetings. Then one cold night while Anna sewed by the lamp inside the little house, Rudolph and Herman walked in the frozen garden, Herman with his pipe, Rudolph with the cheap cigarets he used incessantly. Anna opened the door a crack and listened at first. She was watchful of Rudolph, always, those days. But the subject was not Anna.
"You think we get in, then?" Herman asked.
"But for what?"
"So 'Spencers' can make more money out of it," said Rudolph bitterly. "And others like them. But they and their kind don't do the dying. It's the workers that go and die. Look at Germany!"
"Yes. It is so in Germany."
"All this talk about democracy - that's bunk. Just plain bunk. Why should the workers in this country kill the workers in another? Why? To make money for capital - more money."
"Ja," Herman assented. "That is what war is. Always the same. I came here to get away from war."
"Well, you didn't get far enough. You left a king behind, but we've got a Czar here."
Herman was slowly, methodically, following an earlier train of thought.
"I am a workman," he said. "I would not fight against other workmen. Just as I, a German, will not fight against other Germans."
"But you would sit here, on the hill, and do nothing."
"What can I do? One man, and with no job."
"Come to the meeting to-night."
"You and your meetings!" the old German said impatientIy. "You talk. That's all."
Rudolph lowered his voice.
"You think we only talk, eh? Well, you come and hear some things. Talk! You come," he coaxed, changing his tone. "And we'll have some beer and schnitzel at Gus's after. My treat. How about it?"
Old Herman assented. He was tired of the house, tired of the frozen garden, tired of scolding the slovenly girl who pottered around all day in a boudoir cap and slovenly wrapper. Tired of Anna's rebellious face and pert answers.
He went inside the house and put a sweater under his coat, and got his cap.
"I go out," he said, to the impassive figure under the lamp. "You will stay in."
"Oh, I don't know. I may take a walk."
"You will stay in," he repeated, arid followed Rudolph outside. There he reached in, secured the key, and locked the door on the outside. Anna, listening and white with anger, heard his ponderous steps going around to the back door, and the click as he locked that one also.
"Beast!" she muttered. "German sckwein."
It was after midnight when she heard him coming back. She prepared to leap out of her bed when he came up-stairs, to confront him angrily and tell him she was through. She was leaving home. But long after she had miserably cried herself to sleep, Herman sat below, his long-stemmed pipe in his teeth, his stockinged feet spread to the dying fire.
In that small guarded hail that night he had learned many surprising things, there and at Gus's afterward. The Fatherland's war was already being fought in America, and not only by Germans. The workers of the world had banded themselves together, according to the night's speakers. And because they were workers they would not fight the German workers. It was all perfectly simple. With the cooperation of the workers of the world, which recognized no country but a vast brotherhood of labor, it was possible to end war, all war.
In the meantime, while all the workers all over the world were being organized, one prevented as much as possible any assistance going to capitalistic England. One did some simple thing - started a strike, or sawed lumber too short, or burned a wheat-field, or put nails in harvesting machinery, or missent perishable goods, or changed signal-lights on railroads, or drove copper nails into fruit-trees, so they died. This was a pity, the fruit-trees. But at least they did not furnish fruit for Germany's enemies.
So each one did but one thing, and that small, so small that it was difficult to discover. But there were two hundred thousand men to do them, according to Rudolph, and that meant a great deal.
Only one thing about the meeting. Herman had not liked. There were packages of wicked photographs going about. Filthy things. When they came to him be had dropped them on the floor. What had they to do with Germany's enemies, or preventing America from going into the war?
Rudolph laughed when he dropped them.
"They won't bite you!" he had said, and had stooped to pick them up. But Herman had kept his foot on them.
So - America would go into the war against the Fatherland, unless many hundreds of thousands did each their little bit. And if they did not, America would go in, and fight for England to control the seas, and the Spencer plant would make millions of shells that honest German workers, sweat-brothers of the world, might die.
He remembered word for word the peroration of the evening's speech.
"We would extend the hand of brotherhood to the so-called enemy, and strangle the cry for war in the fat white throats of the blood-bloated money-lenders of Wall Street, before it became articulate."
He was very tired. He stooped and picked up his shoes, and with them in his hand, drawn to his old-time military erectness, he stood for some time before the gilt-framed picture on the wall. Then he went slowly and ponderously up-stairs to bed.