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The Cynosure

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Berkman, Alexander (1912) Prison Memoirs of an Anarchist, Mother Earth Press.



THE DOORS OF Frick's private office, to the left of the reception-room, swings open as the colored attendant emerges, and I catch a flitting glimpse of a black-bearded, well-knit figure at a table in the back of the room.
      "Mistah Frick is engaged. He can't see you now, sah," the negro says, handing back my card.
      I take the pasteboard, return it to my case, and walk slowly out of the reception-room. But quickly retracing my steps, I pass through the gate separating the clerks from the visitors, and brushing the astounded attendant aside, I step into the office on the left, and find myself facing Frick.
      For an instant the sunlight, streaming through the windows, dazzles me. I discern two men at the further end of the long table.
      "Fr-," I begin. The look of terror on his face strikes me speechless. It is the dread of the conscious presence of death. "He understands," it flashes through my mind. With a quick motion I draw the revolver. As I raise the weapon, I see Frick clutch with both hands the arm of the chair, and attempt to rise. I aim at his head. "Perhaps he wears armor," I reflect. With a look of horror he quickly averts his face, as I pull the trigger. There is a flash, and the high-ceilinged room reverberates as with the booming of cannon. I hear a sharp, piercing cry, and see Frick on his knees, his head against the arm of the chair. I feel calm and possessed, intent upon every movement of the man. He is lying head and shoulders under the large armchair, without sound or motion. "Dead?" I wonder. I must make sure. About twenty-five feet separate us. I take a few steps toward him, when suddenly the other man, whose presence I had quite forgotten, leaps upon me. I struggle to loosen his hold. He looks slender and small. I would not hurt him: I have no business with him. Suddenly I hear the cry, "Murder! Help!" My heart stands still as I realize that it is Frick shouting. "Alive?" I wonder. I hurl the stranger aside and fire at the crawling figure of Frick. The man struck my hand,-I have missed! He grapples with me, and we wrestle across the room. I try to throw him, but spying an opening between his arm and body, I thrust the revolver against his side and aim at Frick, cowering behind the chair. I pull the trigger. There is a click-but no explosion! By the throat I catch the stranger, still clinging to me, when suddenly something heavy strikes me on the back of the head. Sharp pains shoot through my eyes. I sink to the floor, vaguely conscious of the weapon slipping from my hands.
      "Where is the hammer? Hit him, carpenter!" Confused voices ring in my cars. Painfully I strive to rise. The weight of many bodies is pressing on me. Now-it's Frick's voice! Not dead? ... I crawl in the direction of the sound, dragging the struggling men with me. I must get the dagger from my pocket-I have it! Repeatedly I strike with it at the legs of the man near the window. I hear Frick cry out in pain-there is much shouting and stamping-my arms are pulled and twisted, and I am lifted bodily from the floor.

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