Upton Sinclair, ed. (18781968). The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.
The Police-Court Reporter (From Midstream)
By Will Levington Comfort
(American novelist and war-correspondent, born 1878)
WHEN I think of prisons; of the men who send other men there; of chairs of death and hangings, and of all that bring these things aboutit comes to me that the City is organized hell; that there is no end to our cruelty and stupidity. I bought from door to door in city streets the stuff that makes murder; I sat in the forenoon under the corrective forces, which were quite as blindly stupid and cruel.
The women I passed in the night, appeared often in the morning. I talked to them in the nights, and heard them weep in the days; I saw them in the nights with the men who judged them in the days. Out of all that evil, there was no voice; out of all the corrective force there was no voice. The City covered us all. I was one and the other. The women thought themselves beasts; the men thought themselves menand, voiceless between them, the City stood.
The most tragic sentence I ever heard, was from the lips of one of these women. I talked with her through the night. She called it her work; she had an ideal about her work. Every turning in her life had been man-directed. She confessed that she had begun with an unabatable passion; that men had found her sensuousness very attractive when it was fresh. She had preserved a certain sweetness; through such stresses that the upper world would never credit. Thousands of men had come to her; all perversions, all obsessions, all madness, and drunkenness, to her alone in this little room. She told of nights when twenty came. Yet there was something inextinguishable about hersomething patient and optimistic. In the midst of it all, it was like a little girl speaking:
I wake up in the morning, and find a man beside me. I am always frightened, even yet,until I remember. I remember who I am and what I am. Then I try to think what he is likewhat his companions called himwhat he said to me. I try to remember how he lookedbecause you know in the morning, his face is always turned away.
Does it help you to see that we are all one? Yet I couldnt have seen then, trained by men and the City. I belonged to the ranks of the corrective forces in the eyes of the Cityand she, to the destructive. She would have gone to the pen, I sitting opposite waiting for something more important to make a news bulletin. From the Citys point of view, I was at large, safe and sane.