Marching Men

by Sherwood Anderson

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Book VI: Chapter VI

Who will ever forget that Labour Day in Chicago? How they marched!-- thousands and thousands and more thousands! They filled the streets. The cars stopped. Men trembled with the import of the impending hour.

Here they come! How the ground trembles! The chant chant chant of that song! It must have been thus that Grant felt at the great review of the veterans in Washington when all day long they marched past him, the men of the Civil War, the whites of their eyes showing in the tan of their faces. McGregor stood on the stone curbing above the tracks in Grant Park. As the men marched they massed in there about him, thousands of them, steel workers and iron workers and great red-necked butchers and teamsters.

And in the air wailed the marching song of the workers.

All of the world that was not marching jammed into the buildings facing Michigan Boulevard and waited. Margaret Ormsby was there. She sat with her father in a carriage near where Van Buren Street ends at the Boulevard. As the men kept crowding in about them she clutched nervously at the sleeve of David Ormsby's coat. "He is going to speak," she whispered and pointed. Her tense air of expectancy expressed much of the feeling of the crowd. "See, listen, he is going to speak out."

It must have been five in the afternoon when the men got through marching. They were massed in there clear down to the Twelfth Street Station of the Illinois Central. McGregor lifted his hands. In the hush his harsh voice carried far. "We are at the beginning," he shouted and silence fell upon the people. In the stillness one standing near her might have heard Margaret Ormsby weeping softly. There was the gentle murmur that always prevails where many people stand at attention. The weeping of the woman was scarcely audible but it persisted like the sound of little waves on a beach at the end of the day.


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