A Renewed Acquaintanceship
With the cessation of our propaganda meetings the time hitherto spent in that direction may be spent in various ways. Our internal affairs, our Party press, and our “relations” with our comrades in distant climes are sufficient to absorb most of the meagre leisure-time allowed us by our exploiters; but the absense of the stress and hustle of our out-door work presents an occasional opportunity for us to “rest on our oars.” If not one of the most instructive, at least one of the most amusing ways of employing ourselves on these occasions is to reflect for a few moments on the types of opponents who have essayed battle with us from time to time.
Our opponents have been, like the younger Mr. Weller’s knowledge of London was, extensive and peculiar. We have had the obvious axe-grinding party hack, the honest seeker after truth, the hopeless ignoramus, the mealy-mouthed, unctuous Little Bethelite, the blustering, bucolic Tory blood, and a whole horde of others. All had their interesting points, but there was one individual among them who impressed himself upon the present writer above all others.
He was a short, sparsely built man; his eyes were sad and sombre; he spoke deferentially and at times nervously. The sufferings of the working class he told us, he knew were terrible. Something ought to be done, he thought, to alleviate their lot. He always assured us of his deep sorrow and sympathy, but he used almost to shrivel up with horror at our remedy. How shocking that we should try to stir up strife between the workers and the masters! Could we not see that our revolutionary doctrines would lead to bloodshed? His little sad eyes would partially close and his fragile frame shudder at the thought.
One could hardly help feeling sorry for this poor fellow. He seemed to be continually brooding over the matter. The possibility of bloodshed seemed to obsess him, and at times his wan appearance bespoke hours of anguish and distress. He surely would worry himself into his grave.
In view of the present happenings it is hardly to be wondered at that one’s thoughts should wander off to that poor fellow. With millions of the world’s manhood flying at one another’s throats, Nature’s beauteous plains and dells strewn with the dead and dying bodies of our brothers; with nooks and hillocks, the very charm of which beckons us, used to secrete instruments of death and destruction; with the accumulated knowledge of ages of science surrendered to Mars to perfect his method of murder, who could help feeling genuinely sorry for him? One wondered where he would be hiding himself, that is, if he had survived the shock.
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I passed a recruiting station to-day. A voice with a suspicion of familiarity reached my ears and I glanced at the speaker. There he was, our hater of bloodshed, appealing for recruits. His eyes, open wider than ever seemed possible before, were almost bright. One missed his listless carriage; his tone was no longer deferential it could be very nearly be described as defiant. And this is what he said: “I wish I was young enough to take my place in the firing line and help to exterminate those filthy Huns.” Blimey! It was a funny experience for me.
W. H. S.