Living My Life
by Emma Goldman
New York: Alfred A Knopf Inc., 1931.
WHILE MY MEETINGS WERE BEING SUPPRESSED IN CHICAGO, Sasha was subjected to similar persecution in the East. His lectures were stopped in a number of cities in Massachusetts, and the Union Square demonstrations of the unemployed at which he presided were forcibly dispersed by the police. I was worried about Sasha and wired him to let me know whether it was necessary for me to return to New York. The next morning I read in the newspapers that a bomb had exploded at Union Square, and that Alexander Berkman was arrested in connexion with it. I forgot our disagreements. Sasha was in trouble, and I not at his side to help and comfort him! I resolved to leave for New York immediately, but before I could carry out my decision, a telegram came from Sasha, telling me that the authorities had tried to implicate him in the Union Square affair; failing in that, they had charged him with "inciting to riot." That charge also had to be dropped for lack of proof. A letter explained that there was no need for me to worry and that the only victim of the tragic affair at Union Square was a young comrade, Selig Silverstein, a gentle fellow who had been badly clubbed. He had been mangled by the explosion and had later been tortured at police headquarters. Physical suffering and mental anguish had brought about his end. Sasha's description of the police brutality, and of the comrade so brave and stoical to the last, increased my hatred of the machinery of government and its organized violence. It made me more determined to go on with my work until the last breath.
Before I started out for California; Ben asked to let him come with me on the tour. He had enough money to pay his own way, he assured me. He would help with the work, arrange meetings, sell literature, or do anything else to be near me. The suggestion made me happy with anticipation. It would be wonderful to have someone with me on the long and weary tramps through the country, someone who was lover, companion, and manager. Yet I hesitated. My lectures, deducting my own expenses, left only small margins for Mother Earth. They could hardly bring enough to cover an additional burden, and I was not willing to accept Ben's co-operation without his sharing in the results. There was also another consideration--my comrades. They had helped faithfully, if not always efficiently; they were sure to see in Ben an interloper. He was from another world; moreover, he was impetuous and not always tactful. Clashes would surely follow, and I already had had to face far too many. I found it difficult to decide, but my need of Ben, of what his primitive nature could yield, was compelling. I resolved to have him; let the rest take care of itself.
Sitting beside Ben in the rushing train, his hot breath almost touching my cheek, I listened to him reciting one of his favourite Kipling stanzas:
I sits and looks across the sea
Until it seems that no one's left but you and me.
"You and me, my blue-eyed Mommy," he whispered.
Was this to be the beginning of a new chapter in my life, I wondered. What was it going to bring? My whole being was suffused with a feeling of comfort and security. Blissfully I closed my eyes and nestled closer to my lover. This was a new and great force, which I knew had come to stay.
The meetings in San Francisco were being looked after by my friend Alexander Horr; not expecting any trouble where I had never been interfered with before, I felt at ease.
I had reckoned, however, without the ambitious Chief of Police of San Francisco. Envious, perhaps, of the laurels carried off by his colleagues in the East, Chief Biggey seemed anxious to gain similar glory. He was at the station himself, accompanied by a retinue of officers and equipped with a large automobile. They all piled in and dashed after the taxi that was taking Ben, Horr, and me to the St. Francis Hotel. There he stationed four detectives to watch over my welfare.
The pomp of my entry into the hotel aroused the misgivings of the management and the curiosity of the guests. Unable to account for the unexpected homage, I turned to Horr for an explanation.
"Don't you know," he said with a perfectly sober face, "rumours have gone abroad that you are coming to San Francisco to blow up the American fleet now in the harbor." "Stop your ridiculous invention," I replied; "you do not expect me really to believe that." He insisted that he was in earnest, that Biggey had boasted that he would protect the fleet against "the whole bunch of Emma Goldman and her gang." My friend had purposely reserved a room for me at the highly respectable St. Francis; one living in such a place would not be suspected of association with bombs. " Never mind what people will think," I retorted; "this place is loud and gaudy, and I can't endure having to run the gauntlet of the rich and vulgar people here." Poor Horr looked crest-fallen and went to find other quarters.
Meanwhile I was not left in peace. I was besieged by reporters with cameras, photographed against my will, and asked endless questions, the main one being whether I had really come to blow up the fleet.
"Why waste a bomb?" I replied. "What I should like to do with the fleet, with the entire Navy, and the Army too, would be to dump them in the bay. But as I have not the power to do it, I have come to San Francisco to point out to the people the uselessness and waste of military institutions, whether they operate on land or on sea."
At midnight my friend returned. He had found a place, although it was very far from town. It was the cottage of Joe Edelsohn, in which there was room enough for Ben and me. I knew Joe as a splendid comrade, and I was glad to be able to get out of the St. Francis Hotel, however far I'd have to walk. The three of us, together with all our baggage, loaded into a taxi and, followed by four detectives in another car, arrived at Joe's house. The plain-clothes men remained on watch, in the morning replaced by mounted police. This was kept up all through my stay in the city.
One day Ben took me to the Presidio, the military encampment at San Francisco. He knew the chief physician of its hospital; he had worked with him during the earthquake and had assisted in taking care of patients. We were followed to the very door of the hospital, but we had the satisfaction of seeing the detectives kept out, while Emma Goldman, the foe of militarism, was entertained by the physician in charge and shown through the wards.
My meetings were veritable battle encampments. For blocks the streets were lined with police in autos, on horseback, and on foot. Inside the hall were heavy police guards, the platform surrounded by officers. Naturally this array of uniformed men advertised our meetings far beyond our expectations. Our hall had a seating capacity of five thousand, and it proved too small for the crowds that clamoured for admittance. Lines formed hours before the time set for the opening of my lectures. Never in all the years since I had first gone on tour, with the exception of the Union Square demonstration in 1893, had I seen masses so eager and enthusiastic. It was all due to the stupendous farce staged by the authorities at huge expense to San Francisco taxpayers.
The most interesting meeting took place one Sunday afternoon when I spoke on "Patriotism." The crowds struggling to get in were so large that the doors of the hall had to be closed very early to prevent a panic. The atmosphere was charged with indignation against the police, who were flaunting themselves importantly before the assembled people. My own endurance had almost reached breaking-point because of the annoyances caused by the authorities, and I went to the meeting determined to vent in no uncertain terms my protest. When I looked into the faces of the excited audience, I sensed at once that very little encouragement from me would be needed to arouse them to violent action. Even the dull mind of Biggey responded to the temper of the situation. He came over to beg that I try to pacify the people. I promised on condition that he would reduce the number of his men in the hall. He consented and gave orders to the officers to file out. Out they marched, like guilty schoolboys, accompanied by the jeering and hooting of the crowd.
The subject I had selected for the meeting was particularly timely because of the patriotic stuff which had been filling the San Francisco papers for days past. The presence of so vast an audience testified that I had chosen well. The people were certainly eager to hear some other version of the nationalist myth. "Men and women," I began, "what is patriotism? Is it love of one's birthplace, the place of childhood's recollections and hopes, dreams and aspirations? Is it the place where, in childlike naïveté, we used to watch the passing clouds and wonder why we, too, could not float so swiftly? The place where we used to count the milliard glittering stars, terror-stricken lest each one an eye should be, piercing the very depths of our little souls? Is it the place where we would listen to the music of the birds and long to have wings to fly, even as they, to distant lands? Or the place where we would sit at Mother's knee, enraptured by tales of great deeds and conquests? In short, is it love for the spot, every inch representing dear and precious recollections of a happy, joyous, and playful childhood?
"If that were patriotism, few American men of today could be called upon to be patriotic, since the place of play has been turned into factory, mill, or mine, while deafening sounds of machinery have replaced the music of the birds. Nor can we hear any longer the tales of great deeds, for the stories our mothers tell today are but those of sorrow, tears, and grief.
"What, then, is patriotism? 'Patriotism, sir, is the last resort of scoundrels,' said Dr. Johnson. Leo Tolstoy, the greatest anti-patriot of our times, defined patriotism as the principle that justifies the training of wholesale murderers; a trade that requires better equipment for the exercise of man-killing than the making of such necessities as shoes, clothing, and houses; a trade that guarantees better returns and greater glory than that of the honest workingman."
The uproarious applause that interrupted me showed that the five thousand people were in sympathy with my ideas. I proceeded with an analysis of the origin, nature, and meaning of patriotism, and its terrific cost to every country. At the close of my speech of an hour, delivered amid tense silence, a storm rolled over me and I felt myself surrounded by men and women clamouring to shake my hand. I was dizzy from the excitement and oblivious of what was being said to me. Suddenly I became aware of a tall figure in the uniform of a soldier holding out his hand to me. Before I had time to think, I took it. When the audience saw that, pandemonium broke loose. People threw their hats in the air, stamped their feet, and yelled in uncontrolled joy over the sight of Emma Goldman clasping hands with a soldier. It all happened so quickly that I had no time to ask the man's name. All he said was: "Thank you, Miss Goldman," and then he slipped away as unobserved as he appeared. It was a dramatic ending to a highly dramatic situation.
The next morning I read in the papers that a soldier leaving Emma Goldman's meeting had been followed by plain-clothes men to the Presidio, and that they had reported him to the military authorities. Later the press stated that the soldier's name was William Buwalda, that he had been placed under military arrest and would be "court-martialled for attending Emma Goldman's meeting and for shaking hands with her." It seemed preposterous; nevertheless we set to work immediately to organize a committee for his defence and to raise money for his fight. After that Ben and I left for Los Angeles.
The most interesting events in that city, outside of large and lively meetings, were a debate with Mr. Claude Riddle, a socialist, and a visit with George A. Pettibone. I had debated with a number of socialists before, but my opponent this time proved the most fair-minded of them all. That was a crime in the eyes of his party and he was at once suspended from membership. It was a coincidence no less interesting than significant that a United States soldier and a socialist should fall under the ban at the same time for daring to have anything to do with Emma Goldman.
George A. Pettibone, with Charles H. Moyer and William D. Haywood, had been the victim of a conspiracy to crush the Western Miners' Federation. For years the mine-owners of Colorado had waged relentless war against the workers' organization without success. When they discovered that the spirit of the union could not be broken and the leaders neither bullied nor bought, they sought other means to destroy them. In February 1906 the three had been arrested in Denver on the charge of having killed Ex-Governor Steunenberg. So complete was the autocracy of money and power that the prisoners were rushed to Boise City without a semblance of legality, the train and extradition papers having been prepared even before the arrest. The only evidence against the labour defendants had been furnished by a Pinkerton spy, Harry Orchard.
For a year their lives had hung in the balance. The press in general had been inciting the Idaho authorities to send them to the gallows. The tone in this man-hunt had been set by President Roosevelt, who had branded Moyer, Haywood, and Pettibone as "undesirable citizens."
The immediate and concerted campaign of labour and radical bodies throughout the country had succeeded in frustrating the mineowners. In this agitation the anarchists had played a large part, devoting their energy and means to save the indicted men. I had lectured about the case all through the country, while Mother Earth had proclaimed their innocence and urged the workers to declare a general strike, if need be, to rescue their comrades from the noose. On the day of their acquittal the Mother Earth group had wired Roosevelt: "Undesirable citizens victorious. Rejoice." It was an expression of our contempt for the man who, though President of the United States, had joined the pack of hounds.
I had had no opportunity of meeting any of the three men before or since the trial. In Los Angeles I learned that Pettibone was living in the city in the strictest retirement, his health shattered by his jail experience. When he heard of my arrival, he sent a friend to tell me that he had wanted for many years to meet me.
I found him with the stamp of death on his face, but with enthusiasm for labour's cause still shining in his eyes. He talked of many things, among them of the judicial murder in Chicago, in 1887, which had proved a great factor in awakening his rebellious spirit, as it had mine. He dwelt on the events that had been meant to furnish a second eleventh of November, but instead had turned into a red-letter day for the labour forces. He related many incidents of his conflicts with the Pinkertons and told how he used to make game of their cowardice and stupidity. He spoke of the authorities having attempted to induce him to turn against his comrades. "Just think of it!" he said; "they appealed to my interests as a business man and the chances I'd have to get free and become prosperous. How were those soul-and-mind-impoverished creatures to know that I would have preferred death a thousand times rather than hurt one hair of the other boys."
In Portland, Oregon, we learned the cheerful news that the two halls rented for my lectures, the Arion, belonging to a German society, and the Y.M.C.A., had been refused at the last moment. Fortunately the city had a number of people to whom the right of free speech was not merely a theory. Foremost among them was ex-Senator Charles Erskine Scott Wood, distinguished lawyer, writer, and painter and a man of considerable cultural influence in the town. He was a fine-looking man of gracious personality, and a libertarian in the truest sense. He had been instrumental in securing the two halls, and he was very much distressed that the owners should have backed out. He tried to console me with the assurance that the Arion Society could be held legally responsible, because they had signed a contract for the rental of their hall. When I told him that I never invoked the law against anyone, although the law had often been invoked against me, Mr. Wood exclaimed: "So that's the kind of dangerous anarchist you are! Now that I have found you out, I shall have to take others into my confidence. I shall have to ask them to meet the real Emma Goldman." Within a few days he not only introduced various persons to me, but he also inspired Mr. Chapman, one of the editors of the Oregonian, to write about my lectures, and the Reverend Doctor Elliot, a Unitarian minister, to offer me his church. He induced a considerable number of prominent men and women of the city to declare themselves publicly in favour of my right to be heard.
After this it was easy sailing. A hall was secured, and the meetings were attended by large and representative audiences. Mr. Wood presided at my first lecture and delivered a brilliant introductory speech. With such a backing I should have captured my hearers even if I had been less aroused on this occasion. I was at a high emotional pitch over the news in the morning papers of the treatment accorded William Buwalda. He had been court-martialled, dismissed from the Army, degraded, and sentenced to the military prison on Alcatraz Island for five years. This, notwithstanding the admission of his superior officers that he had been an exemplary soldier in the United States Army for fifteen years. That was the punishment meted out to the man whose crime, as General Funston had stated, had consisted in "attending Emma Goldman's meeting in uniform, applauding her speech, and shaking hands with that dangerous anarchist woman."
My subject was "Anarchism." What better argument did I need than the outrage by the State on William Buwalda, by the State and its military machine, from which there is no redress or escape? My speech was fiery, igniting everyone present, even those who had come out of curiosity. At the close of my lecture I made an appeal for an immediate campaign to arouse public opinion against the sentence of Buwalda. The assembly generously responded with money and pledges to organize the work for his speedy release. Mr. Wood was chosen treasurer, and a considerable sum was contributed on the spot.
The audiences at my meetings kept increasing, the crowds representing every social stratum; lawyers, judges, doctors, men of letters, society women, and factory girls came to learn the truth about the ideas they had been taught to fear and to hate.
We had started for Butte, Montana, after successful meetings in Seattle and Spokane. The trip gave me opportunity to observe the Western farmer and the Indians on the reservations. The Montana farmer differed very little from his New England brother. I found him just as inhospitable and close-fisted as the farmers Sasha and I had canvassed for crayon portraits in 1891. Montana is among the most beautiful States, its soil rich and fertile far beyond the unyielding New England sod. Yet those farmers were unkind, greedy, and suspicious of the stranger. The Indian reservation revealed to me the blessings of the white man's rule. The true natives of America, once masters of the length and breadth of the land, a simple and sturdy race possessing its own art and conception of life, had dwindled to mere shadows of what they had once been. They were infected with venereal disease; their lungs were eaten by the white plague. In return for their lost vigour they had received the gift of the Bible. The kindly and helpful spirit of the Indians was very cheering after the forbidding attitude of their white neighbours.
My tour, more eventful than any previous one, was at an end, and I was on my way to New York. Ben remained in Chicago for a visit with his mother and would join me in the autumn. It was a painful wrench to separate after the intimacy of four months. Only four months since that strange being had come so unexpectedly into my life, and already I felt him in every pore, consumed by longing for his presence!
I had tried all through the months to explain to myself the appeal Ben had for me. With all my absorption in him, I was not deceived about the difference that existed between us. I knew from the first that we had intellectually very little in common, that our outlook on life, our habits, our tastes, were far apart. In spite of his degree of M.D. and his work for the outcast, I had felt Ben to be intellectually crude and socially naïve. He had profound sympathy for society's derelicts, he understood them, and he was their generous friend, but he had no real social consciousness or grasp of the great human struggle. Like many liberal Americans, he was a reformer of surface evils, without any idea of the sources from which they spring. That alone should have been enough to keep us apart, and there were still other and graver differentiations.
Ben was typically American in his love of publicity and of show. The very things I most disliked were inherent in the man I now loved with a fierce passion. Our first serious disagreement had been over a newspaper photographer Ben had "wished" on me without my knowledge or consent. It was during our trip from Chicago to Salt Lake City. The man was on the train and Ben must needs tell him that Emma Goldman was among the passengers. At the next stop, as I was walking along the platform, I suddenly found myself confronting a camera ready to "shoot." I had been often annoyed by invasive American methods and I always ran from them. But there was no place to run to this time. Instinctively I held up a paper before my face. To Ben it was merely a caprice. He could not understand my deep-seated repulsion to the habitual imposition of the newspaper men. He could not comprehend that one who had been so long before the public could still shrink from the vulgarity of being made a public show.
Through all my travels I had managed to keep to myself while en route from one city to another. On this tour our fellow-passengers, the train crew, and even the station-masters knew the glad tidings that Emma Goldman was in their midst. Our car became a magnet that drew all the curiosity-mongers who were about. It was manna to Ben, but torture to me.
Moreover, Ben had the American swagger, which he would display with particular gusto at our meetings and in the homes of comrades. The antagonism his manner aroused caused me great distress and I lived in constant fear of what he might do next. Indeed, there were many elements in my lover to jar my nerves, outrage my taste, and sometimes even make me suspicious of him. Yet it all did not weigh in the scale against the magic that bound me to him and filled my soul with new warmth and colour.
I could find but two explanations of the riddle: First, Ben's childlike nature, unspoiled, untrained, and utterly lacking in artifice. Whatever he said or did came spontaneously, dictated by his intensely emotional nature. It was a rare and refreshing trait, though not always pleasant in its effects. The second was my great hunger for someone who would love the woman in me and yet who would also be able to share my work. I had never had anyone who could do both.
Sasha had been but a short time in my life, and he had been too obsessed by the Cause to see much of the woman who craved expression. Hannes and Ed, who had loved me profoundly, had wanted merely the woman in me; all the others had been attracted by the public personality only. Fedya belonged to the past. He had married, had a child, and disappeared from my ken. My friendship with Max, still as fragrant as it had always been, was less of the senses than of the understanding. Ben had come when I had greatest need of him; our four months together had proved that in him were combined the emotions I had yearned for so long.
Already he had greatly enriched my life. As helpmate in my work he had shown his interest and his worth. With complete absorption and abundance of energy Ben had achieved wonders in the size of our meetings and the increased sales of literature. As travelling companion he had made my trip a new, delightful experience. He was touchingly tender and solicitous, most comforting in releasing me from the petty annoyances and details involved in travelling. As lover he had unleashed elements in me that made all differences between us disappear as so much chaff in a storm. Nothing mattered now except the realization that Ben had become an essential part of myself. I would have him in my life and in my work, whatever the cost.
That the cost would not be small I already knew by the opposition to him which was growing in our ranks. Some of my comrades sensed Ben's possibilities and his value to the movement. Others, however, were antagonistic to him. Of course, Ben did not feel at ease under those circumstances. He could not understand why people standing for freedom should object to anyone's behaving naturally. He was particularly nervous about my New York friends. How would they act towards him and our love? Sasha--what would he say? My account of Sasha's act, his imprisonment and suffering, had stirred Ben profoundly. "I can see Berkman is your greatest obsession," he had once said to me; "no one will ever have a chance alongside of him." "Not an obsession, but a fact," I had told him; "Sasha has been in my life so long that I feel we have grown together like the Siamese twins. But you need fear no rivalry from him. Sasha loves me with his head, not with his heart."
He was not convinced and I could see he was worried. I myself was apprehensive because of the difference in their personalities. Yet I hoped that Sasha, who had touched the depths of life, would understand Ben better than the rest. As for Max, I knew that, whatever his reaction to Ben, he was too considerate to cast any shadow on my love.
More and more the upkeep of Mother Earth was draining my energies. The support from our comrades and from my American friends, considerable as it was, proved insufficient. My tours had become the main source of revenue for the magazine, for the publication of our literature and the other expenses involved. The last tour had left us an unusually large margin, yet by August we were again without funds. My new lecture course could not begin until October. Fortunately help came from an unexpected quarter.
My friend Grace Potter, one of the contributors to Mother Earth, was working on the New York World. She induced her editor to accept an article from me on "What I Believe." I would be paid two hundred and fifty dollars for it, Grace informed me, and I could write with full freedom. I accepted, glad of the opportunity to reach a large audience and at the same time also to earn some money. After the article appeared, exactly as I had written it, I was given the right to publish it in brochure form. "What I Believe" became the bestseller of years. Now we could pay the printer for the current issue and have enough money left for Ben's trip to New York.
I waited for his arrival like a schoolgirl in love for the first time. He came with his old eagerness, ready to throw himself into the work of our magazine. He was his own self when we were alone, but he became a changed creature in the presence of my friends. With them he would grow nervous, inarticulate, and dull, or he would ask silly questions that made them suspicious of him. I was sick with disappointment. I knew that it was only panic that made Ben so awkward and I believed that he would feel more at home on the farm. There life was simpler--Ben would find himself; and Sasha, who was with Becky and other friends on the farm, would be patient and help him along.
My hopes proved vain. Not that Sasha or the other friends were unkind to Ben, but the atmosphere was strained, and no one seemed to find the right word. The situation acted on Ben as on a child expected to be on its good behaviour. He began to show off and brag, boast of his exploits, and talk nonsense, which made matters worse. I felt ashamed of Ben, bitterly resentful of my friends, and angry with myself for having brought him into their midst.
My deepest grief was Sasha. He said nothing to Ben, but he said plenty of cutting things to me. He scoffed at the idea that I could love such a man. It was nothing but a temporary infatuation, he felt sure. Ben lacked social feeling, he had no rebel spirit, and he did not belong in our movement, he insisted. Moreover, he was too ignorant to have passed through college or to have earned a degree. He would write to the university to find out. This, coming from Sasha; completely unnerved me. "You are a zealot," I cried; "you judge human quality by your criterion of one's value to the Cause, as the Christians do from the standpoint of the Church. That has been your attitude towards me since your release. The years of struggle and travail I suffered for my growth mean nothing to you, because you are bound in the confines of your creed. With all your talk of the movement, you thrust back the outstretched hand of a man who comes to learn about your ideals. You and the other intellectuals prate about human nature, yet when someone out of the ordinary appears, you don't even try to understand him. But all that can have no bearing on my feeling for Ben. I love him, and I will fight for him to the death!"
I left the farm with Ben. I was sick from the scene with Sasha, the harsh words I had hurled in his face; and I was tortured by my own doubts. I had to admit to myself that much that Sasha had said about Ben was true. I could see his defects much better than anyone else and I knew how lacking he was. But I could not help loving him.
It had been my plan to devote the winter to New York. I was tired out from trains, strange places, and other people's "atmosphere." Here I had my home, limited and crowded though it was. Mother Earth also needed my presence. I was certain that if I lectured through the winter, I should attract large Yiddish and English audiences. I had talked it over with Ben and he had decided to move to New York and devote himself to my task.
But now Ben hated the city and hated 210 East Thirteenth Street. He could never do any good there, he felt. With me on the road he would be able to put his energies into the work and he would grow, develop, and become a force. I, too, wanted to get away from the disharmony and the censure of the people nearest to me. I was anxious to give Ben a better chance, to help him to an understanding of himself; to bring out what was finest in him.
The previous year I had received an invitation from Australia. J. W. Fleming, our most active comrade there, had even raised enough money for my fare. At that time I could not decide to go away so far and make the long journey alone. With Ben at my side the voyage would be turned into a joy and give me a much needed rest, free from strife. Ben was wild with the idea of Australia; he could talk of nothing else and was eager to start at once. But there were many arrangements to make before I could go on a two years' tour. We decided to leave in October for California, lecturing on the way. By February we would cover the ground, raise enough money to secure the New York end for a time, then sail to the new land, where there were new friends to win, fresh minds and hearts to awaken.
My one anxiety was Mother Earth. Would Sasha consent to continue in charge? On my return from the last tour I had found him better adjusted to life, much surer of himself and more devoted to our magazine than he had been. He had, besides, created many activities of his own while I was away. He had organized the Anarchist Federation, with groups all over the country, and had gained many admirers and friends. When I submitted my Australian plan to Sasha, he expressed surprise that I should have made such a sudden decision, but he assured me that I could be at ease about our work in New York. He would look after everything, and with Max and Hippolyte to help him the magazine and the office would be secure. I was sad that Sasha should show no regret whatever about my going away for so long, but I was too absorbed in my new venture to allow his lack of interest to affect me.
We shipped fifteen hundred pounds of literature to Victoria, Australia. We got in touch with our friends all along the route to California, and within a few weeks our arrangements were made. Ben was all eagerness to discover new ground. "All the world shall know what my Mommy can do," he proclaimed.
On Labour Day a meeting of the unemployed was to take place in Cooper Union. Ben was helping to arrange it and he was also asked to speak. I wanted him to make a good impression and urged him to prepare his notes. He tried industriously, but nothing came of his efforts. It was not of any particular importance what he might say, he told me; he wanted the audience to hear Emma Goldman, and as I had not been invited, I must write out what I would want to say at such a gathering. The suggestion was as fantastic as most of Ben's ideas, but rather than have him make a rambling talk, I prepared a short paper on the meaning of Labour Day.
Cooper Union was crowded. The "anarchist police squad" was present in force, as were also Sasha, Becky, Hippolyte, and I. All went well, Ben holding the audience better than I had expected while he was reading his paper. At the end he announced that what he had just read had been prepared by that "much maligned woman the anarchist Emma Goldman." The house applauded thunderously, but the committee in charge of the meeting became panicky. The chairman offered a profuse apology for the "unfortunate occurrence" and sailed into a violent attack on Ben. The latter had already left the platform and could therefore not reply. Sasha rose to protest. Before he had a chance to be properly heard by the crowd, the police pulled him out of the hall and placed him under arrest. Becky, who had followed Sasha, was also arrested and both were rushed to the, station-house. They were confronted by a burly desk sergeant, who received them with the remark: "You should have been brought here on a stretcher." When Hippolyte called at the police station to find out about our friends, he was refused information. "We have that son of a b---- anarchist Berkman at last," he was told; "we'll fix him this time."
The New York police department had tried repeatedly to get Sasha into their clutches. The previous year, after the Union Square bomb explosion, they had almost succeeded in involving him. I was naturally worried and at once got in touch with Meyer London, the socialist attorney, and other friends, to help us rescue Sasha.
For hours London and Hippolyte waited at the police station to see Sasha and Becky before they would be taken to the night court. Finally they were informed that the case would not come up until morning. No sooner had they left than the two prisoners were hustled into court, tried, and convicted without a chance to say a word in their defence. Sasha was sentenced to the workhouse for five days on the charge of disorderly conduct, while Becky was fined ten dollars for "vagrancy."
Not wanting to involve me, Becky had refused to say where her home was. As a matter of fact, she had been living with us for more than two years. She had been arrested at one of our meetings, which caused her expulsion from high school. Her home conditions were desperately poor and cramped and I had invited her to our flat. Her fine was paid by our dear friend Bolton Hall.
The papers the next day were filled with lurid stories of a "riot prevented by the prompt action of the police," and as usual I was pestered by reporters for days. I did not mind the annoyance, too happy in the thought that Sasha had been given a short sentence. What were five days to a man who had served fourteen years? I went to Blackwell's Island to see him. Memories of my own sojourn on the island and of my two visits to the Western Penitentiary came to my mind. How different the situation had been then--how hopeless and bleak Sasha's chances to come out alive! Now we both joked over the five days. "I can do them on one toe," Sasha laughed. I left him with the old certainty that whatever our disagreements, our friendship was of an eternal quality. I still felt the hurt caused by his attitude towards Ben, yet I knew that nothing could ever come between us.
Everything was ready for my departure. Ben was to precede me to do advance work. A few days before leaving he sent me a letter thirty pages long, a rambling, incoherent account of things he had done since we first met. He had been reading The Power of a Lie, by the Norwegian author Boyer, he wrote; it had struck deep into him, and he felt impelled to confess to me the falsehoods he had told and the mean things he had done while on tour with me. It was giving him no rest. He could keep silent no longer.
He had lied when he had told me that it was not he who had disclosed the plan of my speaking at the social in Chicago last March. He had not informed the police, but he had confided it to a reporter, who had promised to keep it to himself. He had lied when he had given "important matters" as the reason for not calling on me that evening to explain about the presence of the police. He had gone straight from the hall to a girl he cared about. He had lied when he had assured me that he had money to pay his way on the trip with me. He had borrowed the money, gradually paying it back from the sales of our literature. He had also taken money from the receipts to send to his mother. He loved her passionately, and he had always looked after her. He had not dared to tell me that his mother depended on him, because he feared I would send him away. Every time I had expressed surprise that money was apparently missing from our accounts, he had lied. The excuses he had given for so often vanishing after my meetings or for staying away during the day were all false. He had gone with other women, women he had met at the lectures or somewhere else. In nearly every city he had gone with women. He did not love them, but they attracted him physically to the point of obsession. He had always had such obsessions and probably always would have. These women had never meant anything more than a moment's distraction. He always forgot them afterwards; often he did not even know their names. Yes, he had gone with other women during the four months; yet he loved only me. He had loved me from the first, and each day his passion for me had increased. I was the greatest force in his life, my work his deepest concern. He would prove it if I only would not send him away, if I would forgive him his lies and his betrayal, if only I would again have confidence in him. But even if I should send him away after I had read the letter, he would still feel relieved that he had confessed to me. He realized now how disintegrating and crushing is the power of a lie.
I had the feeling of sinking into a swamp. In desperation I clutched the table in front of me and tried to cry out, but no sound came from my throat. I sat numb, the terrible letter seeming to creep over me, word by word, and drawing me into its slime.
I was brought back to myself by Sasha's arrival. Sasha -- at this moment -- of all people! How he would feel justified by this letter in all he had said about Ben! I broke out in uncontrollable laughter.
"Emma, your laugh is terrible. It cuts like a knife. What is it?"
"Nothing, nothing, only I must get out on the street or I shall choke."
I snatched up my coat and hat and ran down the five flights. I walked for hours, the letter burning in my head.
This was the man whom I had taken into my heart, my life, my work! Fool, lovesick fool that I was, blinded by passion not to see what everyone else saw. I, Emma Goldman, to be carried away like any ordinary woman of forty by a mad attraction for a young man, a stranger picked up at a chance meeting, an alien to my every thought and feeling, the reverse of the ideal of man I had always cherished. No, no! It was impossible! The letter could not be true; it was all an invention, imaginary; it could not be real. Ben was impressionable, susceptible to every influence, always seeing his own reflection in the books he read. He loved to dramatize himself and his life. The tragedy of the peasant in Boyer's novel who thoughtlessly, even needlessly, tells a lie and is forced to lie for the rest of his life to sustain his first falsehood is vividly depicted. Ben must have read himself into that character. That was all. That must be all. All this I thought as I walked for hours, torn between my intense desire to believe in him, and my feeling that I had given myself to a man lacking all integrity, a creature I could never trust again.
Days of anguish followed, tortured by attempts to explain and excuse Ben's acts, attempts irritating and vain. Over and again I repeated to myself: "Ben comes from a world where lies prevail in all human relations. He does not know that free spirits in their love and tasks honestly and frankly share everything life brings; that among people with ideals no one need cheat, steal, or lie. He is of another world. What right have I to condemn, I who claim to teach new values of life? " "But his obsessions? His going with every woman?" My heart cried out in protest. "Women he does not love, does not even respect. Can you justify that, too? No, no!" came from the depths of my woman's soul. "Yes," replied my brain, "if it is his nature, his dominant need, how can I object? I have propagated freedom in sex. I have had many men myself. But I loved them; I have never been able to go indiscriminately with men. It will be painful, lacerating, to feel myself one of many in Ben's life. It will be a fearful price to pay for my love. But nothing worth while is gained except at heavy cost. I've paid dearly for the right to myself, for my social ideal, for everything I have achieved. Is my love for Ben so weak that I shall not be able to pay the price his freedom of action demands?" There was no answer. In vain did I strive to harmonize the conflicting elements that were warring in my soul.
Dazed and hardly aware of my surroundings, I jumped out of bed. It was still dark. Like a sleep-walker I got into my clothes, felt my way to Sasha's room, and shook him out of sleep.
"I must go to Ben," I said. "Will you take me to him?"
Sasha was startled. He switched on the light and searchingly looked at me. But he asked no questions and said nothing. He hurriedly dressed and accompanied me.
We walked in silence. My head swam, my feet were unsteady. Sasha put my arm in his. In my purse was a key to the house where Ben was rooming. I let myself in, then turned to Sasha for a moment. Without a word I closed the door and ran up the two flights, bursting into Ben's room.
He jumped up with a cry. "Mommy, you've come at last! You have forgiven, you have understood." We clung to each other, everything else wiped out.
To Chapter 34
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