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"The Guilty Party"
by [?]

And then, as the two stood in the middle of the waxed floor, the thing happened to prevent which many lamps are burning nightly in many studies and libraries.

Out from the circle of spectators in the hall leaped Fate in a green silk skirt, under the nom de guerre of “Liz.” Her eyes were hard and blacker than jet. She did not scream or waver. Most unwomanly, she cried out one oath–the Kid’s own favorite oath–and in his own deep voice; and then while the Small Hours Social Club went frantically to pieces, she made good her boast to Tommy, the waiter–made good as far as the length of her knife blade and the strength of her arm permitted.

And next came the primal instinct of self-preservation–or was it self-annihilation, the instinct that society has grafted on the natural branch?

Liz ran out and down the street swift, and true as a woodcock flying through a grove of saplings at dusk.

And then followed the big city’s biggest shame, its most ancient and rotten surviving canker, its pollution and disgrace, its blight and perversion, its forever infamy and guilt, fostered, unreproved and cherished, handed down from a long-ago century of the basest barbarity–the Hue and Cry. Nowhere but in the big cities does it survive, and here most of all, where the ultimate perfection of culture, citizenship and alleged superiority joins, bawling, in the chase.

They pursued–a shrieking mob of fathers, mothers, lovers and maidens–howling, yelling, calling, whistling, crying for blood. Well may the wolf in the big city stand outside the door. Well may his heart, the gentler, falter at the siege.

Knowing her way, and hungry for her surcease, she darted down the familiar ways until at last her feet struck the dull solidity of the rotting pier. And then it was but a few more panting steps–and good mother East River took Liz to her bosom, soothed her muddily taut quickly, and settled in five minutes the problem that keeps lights burning o’ nights in thousands of pastorates and colleges.

It’s mighty funny what kind of dreams one has sometimes. Poets call them visions, but a vision is only a dream in blank verse. I dreamed the rest of this story.

I thought I was in the next world. I don’t know how I got there; I suppose I had been riding on the Ninth avenue elevated or taking patent medicine or trying to pull Jim Jeffries’s nose, or doing some such little injudicious stunt. But, anyhow, there I was, and there was a great crowd of us outside the courtroom where the judgments were going on. And every now and then a very beautiful and imposing court-officer angel would come outside the door and call another case.

While I was considering my own worldly sins and wondering whether there would be any use of my trying to prove an alibi by claiming that I lived in New Jersey, the bailiff angel came to the door and sang out:

“Case No. 99,852,743.”

Up stepped a plain-clothes man–there were lots of ’em there, dressed exactly like preachers and hustling us spirits around just like cops do on earth–and by the arm he dragged–whom, do you think? Why, Liz!

The court officer took her inside and closed the door. I went up to Mr. Fly-Cop and inquired about the case.

“A very sad one,” says he, laying the points of his manicured fingers together. “An utterly incorrigible girl. I am Special Terrestrial Officer the Reverend Jones. The case was assigned to me. The girl murdered her fiance and committed suicide. She had no defense. My report to the court relates the facts in detail, all of which are substantiated by reliable witnesses. The wages of sin is death. Praise the Lord.”

The court officer opened the door and stepped out.

“Poor girl,” said Special Terrestrial Officer the Reverend Jones, with a tear in his eye. “It was one of the saddest cases that I ever met with. Of course she was”–

“Discharged,” said the court officer. “Come here, Jonesy. First thing you know you’ll be switched to the pot-pie squad. How would you like to be on the missionary force in the South Sea Islands– hey? Now, you quit making these false arrests, or you’ll be transferred–see? The guilty party you’ve not to look for in this case is a red-haired, unshaven, untidy man, sitting by the window reading, in his stocking feet, while his children play in the streets. Get a move on you.”

Now, wasn’t that a silly dream?