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Full Online Book HomeLong Stories100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 36
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100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 36 Post by :ben.g Category :Long Stories Author :Upton Sinclair Date :May 2012 Read :1884

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100%: The Story Of A Patriot - Section 36

"Well," said McGivney one day, "I've got something interesting for you now. You're going into high society for a while!"

And the rat-faced man explained that there was a young man in a neighboring city, reputed to be a multi-millionaire, who had written a book against the war, and was the financial source of much pacificism and sedition. "These people are spending lots of money for printing," said McGivney, "and we hear this fellow Lackman is putting it up. We've learned that he is to be in town tomorrow, and we want you to find out all about his affairs."

So Peter was to meet a millionaire! Peter had never known one of these fortunate beings, but he was for them--he had always been for them. Ever since he had learned to read, he had liked to find stories about them in the newspapers, with pictures of them and their palaces. He had read these stories as a child reads fairy tales. They were his creatures of dreams, belonging to a world above reality, above pain and inconvenience.

And then in the days when Peter had been a servant in the Temple of Jimjambo, devoted to the cult of Eleutherinian Exoticism, he had found hanging in the main assembly room a picture labelled, "Mount Olympus," showing a dozen gods and goddesses reclining at ease on silken couches, sipping nectar from golden goblets and gazing down upon the far-off troubles of the world. Peter would peer from behind the curtains and see the Chief Magistrian emerging from behind the seven mystic veils, lifting his rolling voice and in a kind of chant expounding life to his flock of adoring society ladies. He would point to the picture and explain those golden, Olympian days when the Eleutherinian cult had originated. The world had changed much since then, and for the worse; those who had power must take it as their task to restore beauty and splendor to the world, and to develop the gracious possibilities of being.

Peter, of course, hadn't really believed in anything that went on in the Temple of Jimjambo; and yet he had been awed by its richness, and by the undoubtedly exclusive character of its worshippers; he had got the idea definitely fixed in his head that there really had been a Mount Olympus, and when he tried to imagine the millionaires and their ways, it was these gods and goddesses, reclining on silken couches and sipping nectar, that came to his mind!

Now since Peter had come to know the Reds, who wanted to blow up the palaces of the millionaires, he was more than ever on the side of his gods and goddesses. His fervors for them increased every time he heard them assailed; he wanted to meet some of them, and passionately, yet respectfully, pour out to them his allegiance. A glow of satisfaction came over him as he pictured himself in some palace, lounging upon a silken conch and explaining to a millionaire his understanding of the value of beauty and splendor in the world.

And now he was to meet one; it was to be a part of his job to cultivate one! True, there was something wrong with this particular millionaire--he was one of those freaks who for some reason beyond imagining gave their sympathy to the dynamiters and assassins. Peter had met "Parlor Reds" at the home of the Todd sisters; the large shining ladies who came in large shining cars to hear him tell of his jail experiences. But he hadn't been sure as to whether they were really millionaires or not, and Sadie, when he had inquired particularly, had answered vaguely that every one in the radical movement who could afford an automobile or a dress-suit was called a millionaire by the newspapers.

But young Lackman was a real millionaire, McGivney positively assured him; and so Peter was free to admire him in spite of all his freak ideas, which the rat-faced man explained with intense amusement. Young Lackman conducted a school for boys, and when one of the boys did wrong, the teacher would punish himself instead of the boy! Peter must pretend to be interested in this kind of "education," said McGivney, and he must learn at least the names of Lackman's books.

"But will he pay any attention to me?" demanded Peter.

"Sure, he will," said McGivney. "That's the point--you've been in jail, you've really done something as a pacifist. What you want to do is to try to interest him in your Anti-conscription League. Tell him you want to make it into a national organization, you want to get something done besides talking."

The address of young Lackman was the Hotel de Soto; and as he heard this, Peter's heart gave a leap. The Hotel de Soto was the Mount Olympus of American City! Peter had walked by the vast white structure, and seen the bronze doors swing outward, and the favored ones of the earth emerging to their magic chariots; but never had it occurred to him that he might pass thru those bronze doors, and gaze upon those hidden mysteries!

"Will they let me in?" he asked McGivney, and the other laughed. "Just walk in as if you owned the place," he said. "Hold up your head, and pretend you've lived there all your life."

That was easy for McGivney to say, but not so easy for Peter to imagine. However, he would try it; McGivney must be right, for it was the same thing Mrs. James had impressed upon him many times. You must watch what other people did, and practice by yourself, and then go in and do it as if you had never done anything else. All life was a gigantic bluff, and you encouraged yourself in your bluffing by the certainty that everybody else was bluffing just as hard.

At seven o'clock that evening Peter strolled up to the magic bronze doors, and touched them; and sure enough, the blue-uniformed guardians drew them back without a word, and the tiny brass-button imps never even glanced at Peter as he strode up to the desk and asked for Mr. Lackman.

The haughty clerk passed him on to a still more haughty telephone operator, who condescended to speak into her trumpet, and then informed him that Mr. Lackman was out; he had left word that he would return at eight. Peter was about to go out and wander about the streets for an hour, when he suddenly remembered that everybody else was bluffing; so he marched across the lobby and seated himself in one of the huge leather arm-chairs, big enough to hold three of him. There he sat, and continued to sit--and nobody said a word!

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Yes, this was Mount Olympus, and here were the gods: the female ones in a state of divine semi-nudity, the male ones mostly clad in black coats with pleated shirt-fronts puffing out. Every time one of them moved up to the desk Peter would watch and wonder, was this Mr. Lackman? He might have been able to pick out a millionaire from an ordinary crowd; but here every male god was got up for the precise purpose of looking like a millionaire, so Peter's job was an impossible one.In front of him across the lobby floor there arose a ten-foot pillar
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All this time the country had been going to war. The huge military machine was getting under way, the storm of public feeling was rising. Congress had voted a huge loan, a country-wide machine of propaganda was being organized, and the oratory of Four Minute Men was echoing from Maine to California. Peter read the American City "Times" every morning, and here were speeches of statesmen and sermons of clergymen, here were cartoons and editorials, all burning with the fervor's of patriotism. Peter absorbed these, and his soul became transfigured. Hitherto Peter had been living for himself; but there comes a
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