OIL, BY UPTON SINCLAIR
CHAPTER X: THE UNIVERSITY
Southern Pacific University had been launched by a California land baron as a Methodist Sunday school; its professors were all required to be Methodists, and it features scores of religious courses. It had grown enormous upon the money of an oil king who had bribed half a dozen successive governments in Mexico and the United States, and being therefore in doubt as to the safety of his soul gave large sums to professional soul-savers. Apparently uncertain which group had the right "dope," he gave equally to both Catholics and Protestants, and they used the money to denounce and undermine each other.
If Dad had known that his son was to be educated by the donations of Pete O'Reilly, he would have been at once amused and reassured. Not knowing about it, he paid a visit to the place, to see at least the outside of Bunny's future environment. The university had started far out in the suburbs of Angel City, but now the community had grown around it -- which meant another large endowment, contributed by all the rent-payers of the city. Its buildings were elaborate, which impressed Dad; the fact that they were crowded with five thousand young men and women impressed him still more, for when Dad saw a great number of people doing the same thing, he concluded it was something normal and safe.
Still more reassuring was his meeting with President Alonzo T. Cowper, D.D., Ph.D., LL.D. For Dr. Cowper was in the business of interviewing dads; he had been selected by his millionaire trustees because of his skill in interviewing trustees. Dr. Cowper knew how a scholar could be at the same time dignified and deferential. Our Dad, being thoroughly money-conscious, read the doctor's mind as completely as if he had been inside it: if this founder of Ross Consolidated is pleased with the education his son receives, he may some day donate a building for teaching oil chemistry, or at least endow a chair of research in oil geology. And that seemed to Dad exactly the proper attitude for a clergyman-educator to take; everybody in the world was in the business of getting money, and this was a very high-toned way.
Both Dad and Bunny took the university with the seriousness it expected. Neither of them doubted that money which had been gained by subsidizing political parties, and bribing legislators and executive officials and judges and juries -- that such money could be turned at once into the highest type of culture, wholesale, by executive order. Bunny plunged into the excitements of courses and credits, he raced from English 5A to Spanish 2, and from there to Sociology 7 and Modern History 14, and accumulated a stack of textbooks, and listened to lectures, and wrote notes, and stowed in his mind a mass of dates and other details.
It took him a long time to realize that the "English" was cruelly dull, and that the young man who taught it was bored to tears by what he was doing; that the "Spanish" had a French accent, and that the professor was secretly patronizing bootleggers to console himself for having to live in what he considered a land of barbarians; that the "Sociology" was an elaborate structure of classifications, wholly artificial, devised by learned gentlemen in search of something to be learned about; and that the Modern History was taught from textbooks which had undergone the scrutiny of thousands of sharp eyes, in order to spare the sensibilities of Mr. Pete O'Reilly, and avoid giving to any student the slightest hint concerning the forces which control the modern world.
With equal seriousness Bunny took the social life of this enormous institution. It was the far-off wonderful goal to which all high school students had looked; a few lucky ones had got there, and he was among them. His sister's chum had a brother who was a senior, and belonged to the best possible fraternity; so the word was spoken, and Bunny was snapped up. They were a fast, free-spending crowd, aggressive, self-confident, slangy, voluble over the prospects of this year's track team. Bunny was a runner, so they had a reason for welcoming him that was more presentable than his old man's oil.
Like all Western universities, Southern Pacific was co-educational; so Bunny was exposed to the impact of a mass of femininity, the distilled and concentrated essence of allurement. Such swarms of graceful figures, trim ankles, dimpled white and brown arms, costumes the color of Brazilian butterflies; a kaleidoscope of smiles and flashing eyes, a perpetual zephyr of soft scents, blown from lilac-bushes and jasmine vines and miles upon miles of California orange and lemon-orchards. Something was bound to happen to a young idealist in such an environment -- especially when he had just spent the summer in a training-camp for men only!
Not all these bundles of feminine charm were accustomed to follow the market reports upon Ross Consolidated; yet somehow they managed to learn about the discoverer and heir-apparent of the Paradise oil field. Many sets of quick wits were concentrated upon him, he was invited to scores of dances and hundreds of fudge parties and thousands of motor-rides. Then a strange rumor spread; here was an unimaginable phenomenon, a young millionaire who would not "pet"! One by one the champion spell-weavers of Southern Pacific wove in vain; before long there were odds posted, and quite a trade in bets as to who would be the first girl that Bunny Ross would kiss! Researches were conducted in the Beach City High School, and word came that the young oil prince carried in his bosom a broken heart; which, of course, made him a romantic figure, and added enormously to his prestige.
These things go by contraries, and the girl who landed Bunny did so because she did not try. The family of Henrietta Ashleigh had had money for generations, and so could afford to look down upon it, and all those who sought it. This was the way to impress Bunny, who was aware that his money was painfully new. Never would he attain to the aggressive self-assurance of his sister; he was looking for something better than himself, and for a while he found it in the Ashleighs, with their perfect manners and well trained servants and mansion full of the debris of culture.
Henrietta was tall and slender, gentle, soft of voice, and reserved to the point of primness. Her mother had just died, and for a year she wore black, which of course was very conspicuous. She was high church Episcopal, and on Sunday mornings wore long kid gloves and carried a little prayer-book and hymnal joined together, bound in black leather with a gold border. She took Bunny to church and he learned that one does not have to take ancient Hebrew mythology with vulgar literalness, but may have its symbolic meaning explained by a white-haired old gentleman with a trace of English accent.
What Henrietta meant to Bunny was a refuge from the anguish and tumult of illegitimate desire. He fled to her as to a saint, a madonna alive and visible upon a college campus. She was so far above the glaring crudeness of the smart set; she did not use paint nor powder -- nothing so common as perspiration would presume to appear on her delicately chiseled nose. You might dream of kissing her, but it would remain a dream; she would call you "Mr. Ross" during the first six months of your acquaintance, and after that she would call you "Arnold," finding it dignified, perhaps because of Matthew. So long as you knew and truly appreciated her, you would make the highest grades in class, and, as the little black and gold prayer-book phrased it, "honour and obey the civil authority, and submit yourself to all your governors, teachers, spiritual pastors and masters."
Bunny went up to Paradise for his Christmas holidays, and there was the first word from Paul; a plain card, bearing the stamp of the American Expeditionary Force, but no place; no picture postcard with "Scenes in Irkutsk" or "Camel-sleigh on the Volga," or anything like that! "Dear Ruth," it said: "Just a line to let you know that I am well and everything is all right. I have received three letters from you. Please write often. We are busy and I am having an interesting time. Give my love to all the family and to Bunny and Mr. Ross. Affectionately, Paul."
Ruth had had this treasure for several days, and there was no telling how many times she had read it, and studied every mark on both sides. It seemed to Bunny a cold and unsatisfactory note, but he did not say so to Ruth; he asked Dad about it, and Dad said there would necessarily be a great deal of censoring of soldier's mail, and Paul had probably written this bare message to make sure it got through. Why did there have to be so much censoring? Bunny asked; and Dad answered that these were ticklish times, and the army had to protect itself against enemy propaganda.
Dad had been reading a magazine article which explained what was happening in the world. The German and Austrian empires had come down with a crash, and that was a great triumph for democracy. But now the friends of democracy had a second big job to do, which was to crush the wild beast of Bolshevism. They were starving it by a blockade on every front, and wherever the well-behaved and respectable Russians had set up a government on the borders, the allies were helping them with money and supplies. General Denikin had taken possession of south Russia; on the west a lot of new states had been set up; on the north, at Archangel, an anti-Bolshevik group was making headway under British and American protection. As to Siberia, there had been a Socialist government, holding over from the Kerensky days; but these Socialists were a lot of talkers, and now they had been kicked out and replaced by a real fighting man, Admiral Kolchak, who had once commanded the Tsar's fleet. It was this he-admiral the allies were backing to run Siberia, and our troops were there to keep the railroad open for him. Of course the Bolsheviks, and their sympathizers in this country, were making a fuss about it, and telling all the lies they could; that was why we had to have a censorship, said Dad.
Bunny accepted this explanation without question. He had been in a training-camp for seven months, and had acquired the military point of view. He was keenly alert to the danger of Bolshevik propaganda, and determined that if ever he ran into any of it, he would hasten to denounce it. So innocent was he, and so little aware of the subtlety of the enemy -- he never dreamed that he was at this time absorbing the poison; and -- of all places in the world -- in one of the classrooms of his most Christian and conservative university!
It was hard on a poor overworked university president. Dr. Cowper's most trusted dean had engaged this young instructor, upon recommendation of high-up Y.M.C.A. authorities. The young man had been doing relief work in Saloniki, and was the son of a prominent Methodist pastor; he bore the name of Daniel Webster Irving, and how was anyone to imagine that a man with such a name might be suffering from political shell-shock?
This young instructor was subtle in his method; he did not say anything that could be pinned down on him, but would sow his seeds of doubt by asking questions, and advising students to "think for themselves." There are always in every college class one or more "sore-heads," the sons of unorthodox parents; one in Bunny's class was an avowed "rationalist," and another had a Russian name. All that a teacher had to do was to let these fellows ask questions, and quickly the whole group would be wandering in a maze, demoralized by what the Japanese government in its control of education describes as "dangerous thoughts."
President Wilson had gone to Europe, in order to bring about the reign of justice he had promised. He was having a triumphal progress through England and France, and our newspapers were full of the wonders of what he was about to achieve. But in Mr. Irving's class Bunny heard it pointed out that the President had dropped from mention the most important of his "fourteen points," the demand for "freedom of the seas." Could it be that this had been the price of British support for his program? And then, more startling yet, Bunny learned that the secret treaties which the allies had signed among themselves at the outset of the war were now laid on the peace table, and made the basis of jealous bickerings. Bunny had never forgotten about those treaties, how Dad had assured Paul that they would turn out to be Bolshevik forgeries. But here the allies were admitting them to be genuine, and furthermore, were setting out to enforce them, regardless of any promises of fair play which President Wilson had made to the Germans!
Bunny took this amazing news home with him to Dad; apparently Paul had been right, and the wicked Bolsheviks had been telling the truth! What did Dad make of it? Dad didn't know what to make of it; he was much disturbed, and could only say we couldn't judge, we'd jist have to wait. But the trouble was, the longer we waited, the worse things seemed to get; the more evident it became that our President had done the very thing that Dad had been sure he would never do -- he had let himself be "jockeyed." Like water seeping underneath a dike, a subtle current of skepticism was creeping through those freshman classes in Southern Pacific University which were taking "Modern History 14."
Mr. Irving wasn't supposed to be discussing the peace conference at all; he was supposed to be seeing to it that his students memorized the names of battles and commanding generals in the Franco-Prussian war. But one theme led so easily to the other, and it was so difficult to keep the "sore-heads" quiet! This same thing was happening in other classrooms, and in other parts of the United Sates where men encountered their fellows, and thus became exposed to "dangerous thoughts." Before long the forbidden ideas were being voiced in Congress, and after that they could not be kept out of the newspapers. It was like a storm that burst over the whole country. A million idealists like Bunny woke up all at once to the cruel fact that their dolly was stuffed with sawdust.
Yes, it was a trying time to be alive in the world. All those golden promises that had been made to us, those bright hopes we had cherished! All the blood of the young men that had been shed, three hundred thousand of them dead or wounded in France -- and here were the allied statesmen, grim, cruel old men, sitting at the council-table and putting the world right back where it had been before! Perpetuating all the old hatreds, all the old injustices -- with a thousand new ones to torment the future! Tearing Germans away from their own land and giving them to Frenchmen, giving Austrians to Italians, Russians to Poles -- so on through a long list of blunders; condemning millions of people to live under governments which they feared and despised, and thus making certain they would revolt, and throw Europe into uproar again!
Men could not realize these things all at once; they got them little by little, as details of the negotiations leaked out. Every country in the world was carrying on its own propaganda, thinking about its own selfish interests; and President Wilson was in the midst of the mess, being pulled and hauled about, this way and that, quite powerless for the good aims he had proclaimed. As the picture of this got back to America, there spread over the land such a wave of disgust as had never been known before.
And then the President himself came home, to declare that he had achieved a complete victory. In the name of "self- determination of all peoples" he was giving the German Rhineland to France, and German Africa to Britain, and the German Tyrol to Italy, and a Chinese province to Japan, and to the United States a mandate over Armenia! Also he had made a perpetual alliance with France and Britain, whereby we bound ourselves to maintain this brand of self-determination forever! When this program had been thoroughly realized, a tone of hilarious cynicism became the correct thing among the young intellectuals of America; fashionable young matrons took to deceiving their husbands in the name of chastity, and college boys began toting hip-pocket flasks out of loyalty to prohibition.
The thing was particularly hard upon Bunny, because he had to go to Paradise every once in a while, and come face to face with Ruth, and explain how self-determination for the people of Siberia meant that her brother must stay there in peace time and hold a bayonet at their necks. In elucidating this singular situation, Bunny became almost as skillful a trickster as if he had had a regular diplomatic job with extra-territorial immunity. For a month or two he managed it, while the Germans were dragged to Versailles and made to sign an agreement to pay an indemnity so vast that it could not be named.
Then one day came a letter that made his task all but impossible. It was an innocent-looking letter, written in a crude hand on some sheets of cheap paper, postmarked Seattle, and addressed to "Mr. Bunny Ross, Paradise, California." It said:
"Dear Mr. Bunny: You don't know me but I am a returned soldier that used to punch cattle in Salinas valley. Paul Watkins said I should write you because he cant get no news by the censors. I am invalidded back, have had the Asiatic dissenterry, am bleeding at the bowls three months, and you should wash your hands good when you have read this letter, because it is an easy dissease to catch. I am in issolation and this will be smuggled, for God's sake dont let on I have wrote it they would sure put me in the can. But Paul said your father might do something to get us boys out if he knew what a hell it was. Mr. Bunny what are we doing in that place and why do we have to stay? It is forty below zero most of the winter and big storms a lot of the time and you have to do sentry duty and in summer the muskeetoes is big as flies and where they bite the blood runs. And the Japs take shots at us, they are suppose to be our allies but they are sure grabbing that country, there is suppose to be only seven thousand but there is seventy and why did we take them in there? Our boys is not allowed to have no side arms and the Japs have got bayonets and we have only fists. We have zones that we are supposed to control but the Japs will not keep out of them and I have saw them put out with machine guns lined up, and if we have to have a war with them over Siberia there will sure be a lot of our boys massacreed at the startoff. And them Russian refugees and officers that we have orders to help I heard our colonel say, you give them money to start a government and they go on a bust and that night you have to pull them out of a sporting house. They have got one idea which is to shoot all the workingmen they can get hands on and the women too and they torture them, Mr. Bunny I seen things that it would make you sick to read them. From General Graves down our army is sore on this job and some of them is gone crazy, there has been more than twenty in our regement and some has been sent home in a strait jacket. But the people at home is not allowed to know nothing, there is boys in our regement that is not had one line from their folks in half a year and they are crazy with worry. Why do we have to be there when the war is over, if you know I wish you would tell me. But Paul said not to tell his sister, because it is not so bad for himself, they move him a lot and he is always busy it is easy when you have a lot of carpenter work but for some fellers I seen them carry a stack of railway ties a hundred yards and then move them back to the old place just to keep us working. Please send me some cigarettes that will be a way to say that you have got this letter and if you send two packages I will know that you want me to write some more. Yours respectfully, Jeff Korbitty."
Bunny took this letter to Dad, and it worried him very much, of course, but what could Dad do about it. He had three wells to bring in that week, and one of them broke loose and smeared up a couple of hundred acres of rocks. Also he and Mr. Roscoe had to deal with the amazing gyrations of the oil market. It seemed as if all the nations in the world had suddenly set themselves to buying up gasoline; perhaps they were making up for the shortage of the war, or perhaps they were getting ready for another war -- anyhow, the price was up sky-high, and Southern California was being drained. It was truly amazing, the gas-stations were refusing to sell to any but their regular customers, and then only five gallons at a time; other stations were clean empty, and cars were stalled for days. Dad and Mr. Roscoe were making a tremendous killing; they were getting real money too, Dad said with a laugh, none of these foreign bonds for them!
Bunny shipped a dozen cartons of cigarettes to Jeff Korbitty; and day and night he worried over the problem of Paul. Somehow the putting down of Bolshevism took on quite a different aspect when it meant keeping Paul in Siberia! Also, Bolshevik propaganda seemed a different thing when it came from the pen of an ex-cowpuncher from Salinas valley! Bunny simply had to do something, and finally in desperation he sat himself down and composed a letter to his Congressman, Mr. Leathers, telling what he had heard about conditions in Siberia, and requesting that functionary to ascertain the War Department's reasons for censorship of soldiers' mail in peace time, also to urge an investigation by Congress of the reasons for keeping American troops in Siberia.
That letter was due to reach the Congressman five days later. Seven days after Bunny had posted it, a well-dressed and affable gentleman called at the Ross home in Angel City, stating that he was the owner of an oil concession in Siberia and wanted to interest Mr. Ross in it. Dad was up at Paradise, so Bunny talked with the gentleman, and finding him humane and catholic in his interests, told him all about Paul, and showed him Jeff Korbitty's letter. They discussed the situation in Siberia, and the gentleman said there had been no declaration of war against the Russians, so what right did we have fighting them? Bunny said it seemed the same way to him; and then the gentleman went away, and no more was heard about the oil concession, but a couple of weeks later Bunny received a second letter from the ex-cowboy soldier, bitterly reproaching him for having "throwed me down," as he must have done, because Jeff hadn't wrote to nobody else, but the army had got onto him, and they had throwed him into the can just like he had said, and he was smuggling out this letter to tell Bunny that he could go to hell and stay there. Which was one stage more in the education of a little idealist!
Bunny simply had to talk to somebody about this episode. Next day, as he was driving away from the university in his sporty new car, he noticed a young man walking with a slight limp, and it struck him as impolite for a student of the university to drive in a sporty new car, while an instructor of the university had to walk with a slight limp. Bunny slowed up, and inquired, "Will you ride with me, Mr. Irving?"
"If you're going my way," said the other.
"Whatever way you wish," was Bunny's reply. "As a matter of fact, I've been hoping for a chance to talk with you, and it would be a favor to me."
The young man got in, and stated the address to which he wished to go; then he said, "What is on your mind?"
"I want to ask you why you think it is that we are keeping an army in Siberia."
Mr. Daniel Webster Irving was a peculiar-looking person; his head came up a long way out of his collar, and with its quick alert movements it made you think of a quail sitting in a tree and looking out for you and your gun. He had a brown moustache, rather bristly and rebellious, and grey eyes which he fixed upon you sharply when you said something stupid in class. He fixed them now upon Bunny, demanding, "What makes you interested in that?"
"I have a friend with the troops there, nearly a year, and I've had some news that worries me. I don't understand what's going on."
Said Mr. Irving: "Are you asking me as a student, or as a friend?"
"Why," replied Bunny, a little puzzled. "I'd be glad to be a friend, if I might. What is the difference?"
"The difference," said the other, "might be the loss of my position in the university."
Bunny flushed, embarrassed. "I hadn't thought of anything like that, Mr. Irving."
"I'll put it to you bluntly, Ross. I spent all I had saved on relief work in Europe and came home broke. Now I am educating a young sister, and they are paying me the munificent salary of thirteen hundred a year. I am due to get a raise of two hundred next year, and the matter of contracts comes up this month. If it is reported that I am defending Bolshevism to my students, I won't get a contract, either here or anywhere else."
"Oh, but Mr. Irving, I wouldn't dream of reporting you!"
"You wouldn't need to. You'd only need to tell your parents or your friends what I think is the reason our troops are in Siberia, and they would consider it their moral duty to report me."
"Is it as bad as that?" said Bunny.
"It's so bad that I don't see how it could be worse," said Mr. Irving. "I will answer your question provided you agree that I am talking as a friend, and that you won't mention the conversation to anyone else." And you can see how deeply Bunny had fallen into the toils of Bolshevism, when he was willing to agree to a proposition such as that!
What Mr. Irving said was that our troops were in Siberia because American bankers and big businessmen had loaned enormous sums of money to the government of the Tsar, both before the war and during it; the Bolshevik government had repudiated these debts, and therefore our bankers and businessmen were determined to destroy it. It was not merely the amount of the money, but the precedent involved; if the government of any country could repudiate the obligations of a previous government, what would become of international loans? The creditor nations -- that is to say America, Britain and France -- maintained that a government debt was a lien, not against the government, but against the country and its resources. The total amount of international loans was one or two hundred billions of dollars, and the creditor nations meant to make an example of Soviet Russia, and establish the rule that a government which repudiated its debts would be out of business.
Bunny found this a novel point of view, and asked many questions. Mr. Irving said that in Washington was a Russian who had been the war-time ambassador to our country, and in that capacity had had the handling of the money loaned by our government, and used for buying guns and shells for Russia. At the time of the Bolshevik revolution, this ambassador had just got something like a hundred million dollars, and our government was allowing him to use it to set up a propaganda machine against the Soviet government, with a spy system as elaborate as the Tsar had ever known. Newspapers and newspapermen, government officials and legislators, all were on this ambassador's payroll. Moreover, there were in our state department officials who had married Russian wives of the old nobility, and these wives had lost everything in the revolution, and it was natural they should hate the new regime. One official was a member of the banking-house which had handled the loans and stood to lose a fortune; others were tied up with banks and business concerns which had vast sums at stake. So it came about that America was at war with Soviet Russia, on the entire circumference of that vast republic; and so it came about that an instructor in an American university could not discuss the matter with one of his students, even outside the classroom, without fear of losing his position.
Mr. Daniel Webster Irving denied that he had any sympathy with Bolshevism, or wished to teach such doctrines in America; and Bunny, in his innocence of soul, accepted this statement -- not knowing that all Bolshevik agents say that, until they have got the minds of their victims thoroughly poisoned. Mr. Irving expressed the view that what was happening in Russia was a great social experiment. Could a government of the working class succeed? Was democracy in industry a possibility, or only a fanatic's dream? We ought to send disinterested people, experts of all sorts into Russia, to watch what was happening and report it. Instead of that, we were helping France and Britain to starve the Russians out; we were compelling them to spend all their energies resisting our armies, and those which we subsidized; we were making it impossible for the experiment to succeed, and so, of course, its failure would prove nothing.
Bunny, poor little propaganda victim, said that he was beginning to change his mind about these matters. Yes, the Russians surely had a right to work out their own problem in their own way; and certainly we ought to know the truth about what was happening -- he wished there was some way to get it. Thereupon Mr. Irving gave him the names of two weekly magazines, which as it happened, had just been excluded from the library of the university, and from all the high schools of Angel City, for "dangerous thoughts."
You can imagine what happened then. When you tell a high-spirited lad that he must not read certain publications, he becomes immediately filled with curiosity to know what they contain. Bunny went home and sent in his subscription to these papers; quite openly, in his own name. So there was another entry in the card-indexes of the Military Intelligence Department and the Naval Intelligence Department and the Secret Service Department; to say nothing of many organizations which were using these card-indexes as their own -- several patriotic societies, and several militant newspapers, and several big private detective agencies, including, of course, the information service of the once-upon-a-time ambassador from a no-longer-existing Russian government.
Bunny, groping about for some way to help Paul, was next moved to write a letter to the Southern Pacific "Stude," telling what he had come to think about the Siberian situation; being careful, of course, not to refer to Mr. Irving, nor to name either Paul or Jeff Korbitty. His letter was returned to him by the student editor, with a note protesting against a man of his prominence in the university giving such aid to the enemies of his country. The news of this incident spread, and the wildest rumors took wing; Bunny was besieged by friends and others, who wanted to read the letter, and then to argue with him.
One member of the senior class declared that he agreed with Bunny -- certainly the Russians had a right to run their own country. Billy George was this man's name, and his father was a wealthy manufacturer of iron pipe. Needless to say, Bunny was glad to have a little sympathy, and let his new friend read his letter to the "Stude," and Jeff Korbitty's letter to him, and told all his ideas and troubles; and thus the card-indexes in Angel City, New York and Washington were further enriched. Inasmuch as so many other people were allowed to inspect these indexes, it will surely not be unpatriotic for us to take a glimpse into the file. The cards were six by eight in size, neatly typed on both sides; and when one was full, another was started. Our young idealist's now stood as follows:
"Ross, James Arnold, junior, alias Bunny: 679 S. Mendocino Ave., Angel City, Calif., also Paradise, San Elido Co., Calif. Age 20, height 5' 9-1/2", hair brown, eyes brown, features regular; photo attached. Son of J. Arnold Ross, v-pres. Ross Consolidated Oil Co., Vernon Roscoe Bldg., Angel City, also indept. oil interests, estimated worth $25,000,000. Graduate 1918 Beach City (Calif.) High School, school records good, reported sex susceptibility, report agent 11497 attached. Active sympathizer Paradise oil-strike 1916-17, intimate friend of Paul Watkins, strike leader, file 1272 W17. Suspected intimate with Ruth Watkins, sister of Paul. Training at Camp Arthur; 1917-18, record satisfactory. Wrote to Hon. H. G. Leathers, 49th California district, prompted by returned soldier Jeff Korbitty, file 9678K 30; see letter attached, also report agent 23,672 attached. Class of 1923, Southern Pac. Univ., member Kappa Gamma Tau fraternity, trackrunner, pupil of Daniel Washington Irving, file 327118. Sentimental sympathizer Bolsh. Subscriber Nation, New Republic. Further reports from agent 11497, fellow student; also 9621, intimate with subject's sister, known as Birdie Ross."
The elder Ross had another source of information as to world affairs, besides his morning and afternoon newspapers, and his idealist son. His associates in the oil game were thinking vigorously on the subject, and they held long conferences and studied elaborate reports. They also were dissatisfied with the diplomacy of President Wilson -- not because he wasn't making the world safe for democracy, but because he wasn't making it safe for oil operators. In the territories being taken from the enemies were petroleum regions of wealth untold; and here, in the imbecile name of idealism, we were permitting France and Britain to grab this treasure, while all we got was the job of keeping the Turks off the Armenians!
So far as Dad personally was concerned, his interests were at home. It was Excelsior Pete and Victor Oil and the rest of the "Big Five" which were reaching out for foreign concessions, and if they got the prizes, the price of oil at home might drop, and cost Dad a good chunk of money. Nevertheless, he took the patriotic attitude; the country needed oil, and it was our business to get it. So you see, Dad also was an idealist; and it vexed him that his kind of idealism was so little appreciated by his son.
He was becoming convinced that the university was to blame. No matter what Bunny might say, it was this "education business" that was unsettling his mind, and spoiling him to deal with practical affairs. Several times Bunny realized that the shrewd old man was probing his mind; there must be some older person influencing Bunny's thought, and the most suspicious fact was Bunny's failure to mention such a person. Bunny realized that sooner or later the name of Daniel Webster Irving, alias Daniel Washington Irving, was bound to come into the open; so he hit on a shrewd idea -- he would get Dad to meet his instructor-friend! It would never be possible for Dad to report a man whom he had received in his home!
"Dad, I want to bring one of my teachers up to see the field." And of course Dad was delighted; it would bring a bit of culture into his world, and give him a share in his boy's mental life. One fear which haunted Dad was that this "education business" might cause Bunny to become ashamed of his ignorant old father. Dad knew that there were "high-brow fellers," crazy enough to look down upon twenty-five million dollars -- or at any rate to pretend to!
Mr. Irving was to teach in summer school, but he had ten days in between, and Bunny suggested that he might like to motor up to Paradise for a weekend, and the young instructor accepted with pleased surprise. So they set out, one morning in June, in that sunshiny weather which is so common in Southern California that you forget all about it. On the way they talked about events in Russia and Siberia; the progress being made by General Denikin and Admiral Kolchak, the desperate efforts of the Bolsheviks to organize a "red army," and the hope of the German ruling class to win back to respectability by serving the allies against the Russian revolution. Also Bunny told Mr. Irving his idea about this visit; Dad must be allowed to do most of the talking, and Mr. Irving should voice only such opinions as were proper for an elderly oil man to hear.
They arrived at Paradise, and the instructor was duly installed in the fine new Spanish "ranchhouse" which Dad had erected on the tract for the use of himself and his guests. It was built around the four sides of a court, with a fountain splashing in the center, and date palms and banana plants and big shoots from the bougainvillea vine starting to climb the stucco walls. There was a Japanese who served the double function of butler and cook, and a boy who combined gardening with dishwashing, while Ruth had been promoted to be housekeeper and general boss. There were six guestrooms, and when the executives and directors and geologists and engineers of Ross Consolidated came up to the tract, they were always Dad's guests, and it was one big happy family. They would settle around a green baize table in the livingroom right after supper and start playing poker; they would pull off their coats and unhitch their suspenders, and ring for the Jap to bring more cigars and whiskey and soda, and they would fill the room with blue smoke and never move from their seats until the small hours of the morning. It was an amusing illustration of the double standard of morals, that Dad was glad his son preferred to stay in his own room and read, and not hear the stories which the oil men would tell when they broke loose.
But there was no gambling this time -- this was to be a highbrow weekend, in honor of "the professor," as Dad persisted in referring to his guest. The elder Ross was naively proud to have a "professor" visiting him, and to show him the well that was spudding in, and the one that was bailing, and the score that were drilling. They inspected the new refinery, something really special, that had been exploited in the newspapers as the latest miracle in petroleum engineering; incidentally it was a work of art, buildings of concrete and shining, newly-painted metal, set in a regular pleasure park. Oil wells are black and greasy, incurably so, but a refinery is different; the stuff comes in underground pipes, and most of it is taken away in the same fashion, so a refinery can be laid out according to the taste of a young idealist, with neat fences of steel mesh covered with rose vines, and plots of grass with gravelled roads winding between. The Ross refinery was as big as a good-sized village, only most of its houses were tanks; big tanks and little tanks, high tanks and squat tanks, round tanks, oblong tanks and square tanks, black tanks, red tanks, and tanks with an infinite variety of colors inside where they did not show.
The main feature was an enormous battery of stills, set in a row and joined together with a tangle of pipes; each still big enough to have served the purposes of all the bootleggers of the United States. In the first still the crude oil was heated to a certain temperature, and it gave off one of its products; this was the "cracking" process. The remainder went on to the next still, where it got a little hotter, and gave off something else. So it went from still to still -- the process known as "continuous" distillation. The product from each still was run into a big condenser, and from there into its own tank; so you got gasoline of several qualities, and kerosene and benzine and naphtha, and a dozen different grades of lubricating oil, and petrolatum, and thick, black lovely tar, and endless pans of smooth, white paraffin wax.
You can see how in these processes there was room for no end of management, and the discovery of new methods. Dad had a chemist that he never tired of telling about -- say, that fellow was a wonder! Dad paid him six thousand a year, and owned everything he discovered, and he had saved the company several millions since it had started. That McEnnis jist lived on carbon rings and chains -- he would draw you diagrams on the black board, and it would be a purple dye, and then he would add another C-unit, and by golly, it was some green stuff that would cure tapeworms, and the name of it was longer than any tapeworm ever measured.
They must meet this wizard; so they went over to the laboratory, which was on a little hilltop away off by itself, so that the inmate might be free to blow himself up as many times as he wanted. McEnnis was pale, stoop-shouldered and partly bald, and peered at you through big spectacles. Dad was proud to introduce "Professor" Irving, and the chemist showed them a row of test-tubes and retorts, and explained that he was trying to ascertain why normal hexane and the more stable methyl cyclopentane are so much less stable to heat than saturated hydrocarbons of the same molecular weight. There was a chance here to effect the biggest saving in refining history, but the trouble was, the maximum percent of clefines demanded by the simple general equation -- and here the chemist began to write on the blackboard -- RCH² -- CH² -- CH²Rı → RCH³ + CH² = CH.Rı -- was seldom attained owing to polymerization of the clefines and the formation of naphthenes.
After learning which, they went back to the "ranch house" for a supper of fried chicken, with fresh green corn and honeydew melons from Imperial valley, and then they settled down for a chat. Mr. Irving behaved beautifully; they talked till midnight, and he answered a hundred of Dad's questions about world affairs, and told what he had seen of relief work in Greece and of diplomacy in France.
The young instructor had some relatives in high positions, so he knew things on the inside; they fitted in with what Dad knew -- yes, it was awful, the way things were being bungled. My God, here were we jist telling the Japs to help themselves to Saghalien, that had more oil perhaps than all the rest of the world; and the British of course were getting to work to repair the pipelines at Baku, and at Mosul they had the whole field, and the French were getting into Persia with the British, and the same in Syria, and where was your Uncle Sam? Vernon Roscoe was jist raising hell, because he had had some contracts at Baku, and what was the use of kicking out the Bolshevikis and putting in the Anglo-Dutch? Roscoe said this country needed a practical man for president and not a college professor --
Dad stopped, afraid that he had made a "break"; but Mr. Irving laughed, and said, "Don't worry, Mr. Ross, I am not entitled to that high honor, and don't expect ever to make it." So Dad went on with Roscoe's tirade; the oil men by golly had had their lesson, and were going to get together and have something to say about the next election -- they were going to have a businessman for president. Bunny and his Bolshevik instructor exchanged the faintest trace of a glance, but Dad suspected nothing. Afterwards, when he was alone with Bunny, he remarked, "Son, that's a bright young fellow. It's a pleasure to talk with a man that understands affairs like him." You see how the Bolshevik propaganda was spreading!
Bunny spent that summer "playing about," as the phrase ran; he read a few books on the international situation, he studied some of the confidential reports of Vernon Roscoe's foreign agents, and watched the derricks climb over a couple more hills of the Ross Junior tract. Bertie telephoned, insisting that he should make his debut into society and meet some "eligible" girls; so he went with her to spend a week at the camp of the ultra-fashionable Woodbridge Rileys, located high in the mountains, in a "club" to which only the elect might attain. Here people boated and swam, but otherwise lived as complicated lives as in the city, tangled in the same web of social duties and engagements, and dressing several times a day. They drank a great deal at dinner, and danced to the music of a Negro jazz orchestra until daybreak, after which the young people would go horseback riding, and have a late breakfast, and sleep a couple of hours before keeping a luncheon engagement.
Here Bunny got to know Eldon Burdick, who had been his sister's favored suitor for a couple of years. Just what was their relationship Bunny was not sure. Dad had ventured a jest about an approaching wedding, but Bertie froze him; she would attend to her own engagements, with no parental meddling. Now Bunny discovered that the pair were quarreling; he could not help overhearing them, and seeing tears in his sister's eyes. She was angry because Eldon would only spend a weekend at the camp, and he was angry because she punished him by dancing too often with some other man. But neither of the pair offered any confidences to Bunny, and he did not seek them.
Eldon Burdick was the youngest son of a family of old California landowners. Their holdings lay on the outskirts of Angel City, and every ten years or so they would sell off a chunk for "subdivisions," and this development would so increase the value of the remainder that the family grew richer all the time, despite the fact that forty people, young and old, spent money for everything they could think of. Eldon was a handsome, dashing sportsman with a tiny black moustache, after the fashion of a British army officer; he held himself erect and stiff, and Bunny discovered that he had a military mind. Bertie must have mentioned her brother's dangerous ideas, for Eldon invited the younger man for a horseback ride, and proceeded to sound him out. Eldon himself was an amateur patriot, in the proper sense of the abused word amateur; he was letting his string of polo-ponies stay idle all summer, while he did his part to save society.
It did not take long for him to uncover the deeps of Bunny's peril. The boy had got by heart every one of the Bolshevik formulas: that the people of Russia had a right to run their own country in their own way; that our troops had no business shooting and killing them without a declaration of war by Congress; that people in this country had a right to express the above convictions without being beaten or tarred and feathered or sent to prison or deported. Eldon pointed out that all this was merely camouflage, the convenient formulas whereby criminal conspirators sought to cover themselves with a mantle of legality, "free speech" and "civil rights" and all the rest. The Soviet savages had repudiated all these principles, and it was our business to fight them with their own weapons.
Bunny listened politely while his companion explained the ramifications of the Bolshevik plot. Not merely had these traitors sought to give the victory to Germany, they were now organizing a propaganda machine to overthrow civilized government all over the world; they were stirring up Negroes, Hindoos, Chinese and Mohammedans to rise and exterminate the white race. They had secret organizations with hundreds of thousands of followers in this country, they published or subsidized some eight hundred papers, all preaching class hatred. How could any man of decent instincts make a truce with this monstrosity?
It was indeed terrifying, and difficult to answer; nevertheless, Bunny stuck it out, we had no right in Russia or Siberia, and if we would let the Bolsheviks alone, they couldn't hurt us. When we suppressed people's ideas, we made it seem that we couldn't answer them; when we smashed up meetings and threw hundreds of people into jail for trying to attend meetings, we simply advertised the ideas we were trying to suppress, we made lots of other people sympathize with the victims. Look at those Russian Jewish boys and girls that had been arrested in New York, all of them under twenty; they had done nothing but distribute a leaflet appealing to the American people not to make war on Russia, yet they had been tortured in jail until one of them died, and the rest had got sentences of twenty years! When Eldon Burdick discovered that Bunny was defending vermin such as these, he first became hot, and then he became cold; and soon Bunny noticed that others of the guests were cold, and his sister came to him with flashing eyes, declaring that he had ruined her social career.
So Bunny went to visit Henrietta Ashleigh, at the beach-home of her family; located on a beautiful blue lagoon, with little white sailboats dotted over it, and yellow and gray cliffs covered with Spanish bungalows of many-tinted plaster. Here, gliding about in a canoe, Bunny tried to justify his ideas, but met no better success. Henrietta had an invincible prejudice about Bolsheviks, and Bunny suspected the reason -- she had heard about the nationalization of women. He would have liked to hint to her that he doubted the truth of these stories; but if it had been possible to mention such a subject to Henrietta, she would not have been his ideal of feminine purity.
So Bunny had to motor up to Angel City and take Mr. Irving out to lunch, in order to have someone to tell his troubles to. But Mr. Irving made matters worse by giving him an article from a Socialist paper, written by an English journalist who had just come out of Russia, telling of the desperate efforts the Communists were making to defend their cause. The party had conscripted fifty percent of its members to go to the front and die -- that was what it amounted to, for even a slight wound was often fatal as there were no antiseptics anywhere in a country of more than a hundred million people. On twenty-six fronts the Russian workers were waging battle against a host of enemies. In Finland alone the counter-revolutionary general Mannerheim had slaughtered a hundred thousand people suspected of sympathy with Bolshevism; he had done it with American guns and American ammunition, and his troops many of them wearing American uniforms. In cases where the troops had been beaten by the Bolsheviks and forced to retreat, the American Red Cross had burned millions of dollars worth of medical supplies, for fear that they might be used to save wounded Bolshevik soldiers and Bolshevik women in childbirth. Somehow, when you knew that things like this were happening in the world, you did not enjoy drifting about in a canoe on a beautiful blue lagoon!
Bunny went back to Paradise, and studied and thought and waited. There came another postcard from Paul -- just like the former one, cold and matter-of-fact; Paul was well and busy, and was being taken good care of; he had had another letter from Ruth; he hoped that the family was well, and also the Rosses. Bunny now knew the world-situation sufficiently to understand why Paul wrote such a card, and even to imagine the bitterness that Paul must feel to be compelled to write it.
Bunny thought that he also would try his hand at card-writing. He got a plain postal, and told Paul that they were all well and busy, and producing a lot of oil to help defeat America's enemies. "I am doing a lot of thinking," Bunny added; but then it occurred to him that this might suggest a forbidden procedure to troops, so he got another card and told how happy everybody was and how well things were going, and then added, "I am coming to agree with Tom Axton in everything." Bunny figured that the censor would hardly know, way out there in Siberia, how Tom Axton had organized the oil-workers in the Paradise field!
All this time Bunny was torn between two sets of emotions, both strong within him, and absolutely contradictory. He had been in the army as a prospective officer and had burned with patriotic loyalty; but now, only seven months later, here he was with a desire to "root" for the enemies of his country, and to cheer when the flag had to retreat! Yes, he was actually tempted to be glad when he read that the American troops at Archangel were checked, and their British commanders foiled in their objectives! He remembered the thrills that had stirred his soul in the training camp, when he had leaped from his tent at reveille, and seen "Old Glory" floating in the breeze of dawn; if in those days he could have seen himself as he was now, he would have called himself a black-hearted traitor!
There were very few people in the world who thought the Russians would be able to defend themselves against the hosts of all the world. Yet somehow they were managing it. There was a peculiar thing to be noticed in the newspaper despatches from the various anti-Bolshevik fronts. The allied troops would win great victories; they would take Perm, or Ufa, or whatever city it might be, and capture vast thousands of the enemy. A month or two later they would be cheered up -- until it occurred to them to get the map, and compare the location of the two places, and discover that the second place was one or two hundred miles farther back than the first one!
Later on Bunny found out what this meant. The peasants had a way of staying quiet while the allied forces advanced, and then rising up behind their lines and forcing them to retreat. So mighty was Bolshevik propaganda -- it was working thus at Archangel, and all along the western front from the Baltic to the Crimea, and all over Siberia; no victory ever lasted. Admiral Kolchak got all the way across Siberia, General Denikin, in the Ukraine, got within a hundred and twenty-five miles of Moscow; but it all came to nothing.
Then, as summer turned into fall, and fall into winter, a still more terrifying thing began to happen. The armies of the great powers began to show signs of succumbing to the deadly propaganda poison! They were now in the second winter since the armistice, and the soldiers thought the war was over, and why couldn't they go home? The very worst of the prophesies of Eldon Burdick began suddenly to come true. The sailors of the French fleet in the Black Sea rose up and overthrew their officers and captured several battleships! German troops declined to win their way back to respectability by putting down Bolshevism for the allies! British soldiers at Folkestone refused to go onto the ships that were to take them to Archangel!
And most appalling of all, a mutiny in the American army! The first mutiny in the whole history of "Old Glory"! Michigan lumbermen and farmer-boys, shipped up there under the Arctic circle, put under the command of British officers, and ordered out to shoot half-starved and ragged Russian workingmen at fifty degrees below zero -- these boys laid down their arms! The facts were hushed up in the newspapers -- but not in the higher circles of the army and of world diplomacy, nor yet in the office-buildings where the gentlemen and lady-patriots planned the future of the world! In the month of October the allies made their last military effort. They sent in the tsarist General Yudenich to take Petrograd; they gave him all the supplies he could use, and troops of many nations, and he got within a few miles of the city, so that the Soviets had to move their capital to Moscow. But the half-starved and ragged Communists drove back their foes, and Bolshevik propaganda proceeded to cause a revolution in Hungary and another in Bavaria!
Also at home there were portents. In spite of all the raids and jailings and deportations, great numbers of people could not be prevented from saying publicly and loudly that we had no business making war upon a friendly people. More and more there was discontent with the program of keeping our soldiers abroad after the war was over. "Radical" newspapers and magazines continued to be circulated, and in the big cities at any rate it was not possible to prevent mass-meetings.
It was a little difficult to make any protest effective, because of the peculiar condition into which the government had fallen. The President had set out on a tour, to convince the people that they should be satisfied with the peace settlement. He had come to Angel City, and Dad and Bunny had gone to hear him -- in a vast hall where ten thousand people were marshaled, and taught to stand up and sit down again, and cheer at signal, all very reverently, quite like royalty. The great man's voice was strained, and his face had an unwholesome flush, and his arguments were as broken as his appearance. A few days later came word that his health had collapsed, and he was hurried back to Washington, where he had an apoplectic stroke. Now he lay, a helpless, half-conscious invalid, and the country was governed by a strange triumvirate -- a Catholic private secretary, an army doctor, and one of the most fashionably dressed of Washington society ladies.
But somewhere, in the cabinet, perhaps, there was left a trace of intelligence, with which to realize the mounting dangers abroad and at home. At Christmas time, while Bunny was up at Paradise, hunting quail and watching the progress of Ross Consolidated, he went out one morning to meet the Ford car which brought the mail to the tract. He got his morning paper and opened it, and there on the front page was a despatch from Washington, announcing that the army authorities had decided it was no longer necessary for them to police the Trans-Siberian Railway; we were going to leave the Japanese in charge, and come home. Bunny gave a shout, and rushed into the house, calling for Ruth. "Paul is coming back! Paul is coming back!" And then he had to run quick and catch her by the arm and help her to a chair!