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Chapter 8: Embitterment

The workers began chanting and raising their fists in unison, as Fieldman yelled from the stage, “THIS IS A PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY!”


May 3rd 1886:

I left home late this evening. I fled to Mrs. Parsons’ house, and they took me in. Louie’s plots don’t feel much like a hobby any more. I worry he’s going to hurt someone, or himself.

I woke up this morning and went to watch the children like I usually do. Mr. Parsons was abuzz with another protest that was supposed to take place at the McCormick Harvester Works. Many of the men who’d been striking for days now were going to congregate there tonight, and listen to one of Mr. Parsons’ friends, August Spies, speak.

There was a nervous tension in the air as I took the children about, purchasing groceries for the house. I overheard the butcher say that he was going to the speech, and that he was bringing his pistol “just in case.” I got the kids home as soon as possible, and we stayed inside, playing games, and waited until the Parsons got home

I then fought through the crowds to get home myself, back to Mr. Selliger’s house, where I got a lecture asking where Louie was. Apparently he left just before I got home, taking some of his homemade bombs with him. William shouted at me until I fled to my room in tears. I can’t control my brother, and I can’t live with him either.

I was still bleary eyed from tears when Louie and Elise crept in that evening, long after sundown. William had gone to bed already, and Louie knocked on my door, rousing me. Whether he noticed my distress or not, he gave no indication, but instead manically gushed about the evening’s events, while Elise butted in occasionally to give unnecessary details or giggle at my brother’s “wit.” Apparently the night had proceeded according to schedule, for a time. The striking workers had congregated near the McCormick Harvester Works, and August had indeed begun speaking.

It is at this point he grows vague, and I suspect he was not telling me everything. He told me that in a different part of the crowd than he was in, police officers showed up and tried to disperse the crowd, and they simply attacked them. When I asked “They just attacked, unprompted?” he became angry, furious that I’d question him. However, I’ve seen how he acts around those he calls “scabs.” It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he physically attacked those who worked in the striking worker’s stead as they left the building, provoking the police.

I didn’t question him further, though, and he moved on, saying there’d be retribution tomorrow, with a far-away look in his eyes. It was at that point that I said enough was enough. I wasn’t going to go down this path, even as a bystander. Amid his protestations, I packed my belongings into a sack, and headed out into the night, praying that the Parsons would take me in.

On the way, the streets were unnervingly raucous for so late at night. Patrols of policemen ran by, not stopping to look at me, and dangerous looking men loomed in the darkness, malcontent. This is not the city I have grown accustomed to. I thankfully made it to the Parsons intact, and found them willing to take me in.

I hope things improve tomorrow.

May 4th 1886:

“Tears are the silent language of grief.” 


I had hoped that my late night escape into the night would have prompted a change in his behavior. With the kids taken care of for the morning, and with Mr. Parsons giving a speech in the evening, I set back out to Mr. Seliger’s home, hoping that a night of rest had quelled my brother’s zeal.

Unfortunately, when I arrived, he wasn’t there. William said Louie had begun working on bombs that very evening once again, which led to William discovering him in the morning, having not slept, and kicking him out of the apartment. He didn’t know where he went after that.

No one was at Elise’s apartment. That was to be expected. Louie rarely stayed at Elise’s, and even when he did, he never used her home for his projects. If nothing else, he cared for her.

Asking about his worksite offered little in the way of insight. Most of his fellow laborers had no idea where to look for him. A few offered suggestions, but after checking three places, none had offered any sign of him. I had two more left to check, an abandoned warehouse on Birch, as well as a cottage owned by a “Mrs. Klein.” However, that would have to wait until tomorrow. It was turning into early afternoon, and I knew I would soon be looked after to watch the kids as Mr. Parsons prepared to speak.

Upon arriving, Mrs. Parsons was already getting them prepared, asking me to fetch their coats. She heard it was supposed to rain in the evening. The Parsons had a guest over that afternoon, a Mrs. Lizzie Holmes. She was in from Illinois, and they were catching up.

Sure enough from Mrs. Parson’s concern, as we arrived in the town square, a light drizzle formed. The crowd’s spirits remained high, however. August Spies was currently addressing the crowd, and upon spotting Albert’s arrival, wrapped up and gave Mr. Parsons the stage. He spoke at length, about the importance of worker solidarity, that the corporations would break to the striker’s demands if they only kept up the pressure.

I had my mind focused on other matters, however. I was scanning the crowd for Louie. I thought for sure he had to be here somewhere among the massive crowd. Unfortunately, as Mr. Parsons was wrapping up, Mrs. Parsons asked me to take the children home, and the adults would gather at the nearby tavern with several others wishing to retire for the evening and get out of the rain.

I was able to take the children home without incident, as a man named Samuel Fielden took to the stage and began delivering a fiery rant, stirring the crowd. Coming back to the square, the crowd had gotten smaller in number, but more animated, as Fielden passionately stoked the fires of resentment.

A few dozen feet away, I saw a lot of movement. I turned, and saw a massive contingent of officers moving in. One in particular I was able to identify as the man who stopped me the other day to ask about Louie. They seemed to be shouting at the crowd to go home. The crowd was already in the process of dispersing, but the cops seemed to get them riled, as they doubled back to begin yelling at the gathered force. The workers began chanting and raising their fists in unison, as Fieldman yelled from the stage, “THIS IS A PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY!” and someone raised a fist clenched around a large peculiar object close by where I was standing. I don’t remember who it was, but I remember getting a good look at what he was holding…it was one of Louie’s bombs.

I had only a moment to realize this, before it left the hand holding it, and was flung through the air. I remember screaming as it landed among the police and the noise of the detonation ripped through the din of the crowd. I took off, running away from the explosion. Moments later, the sound of gunfire…I didn’t stop running, until I’d reached the safety of the Parsons’ home. I collapsed on their front porch and broke down into tears.

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