CONVENTION IN HADES
Chicago sweltered under the blazing July sun. No people and no breeze stirred in the streets of the Windy City. The people had fled from hot pavements to the beach, the woods, and the suburbs. But in a huge auditorium, which looked and smelled like the local stock yards, milled twenty thousand yelling, cursing, sweating delegates. The air, foul with tobacco and alcohol, and humid with perspiration, was unbearable. The men, after hours of frenzied attempts at agreement, were tired and sick. They paid no attention to the speakers except to hiss off the platform those whose stentorian tones interrupted conversations on the floor. The chairman wearily hammered his gavel and introduced the last speaker of the day. Thanking heaven that the end was near, he slumped in his chair and mopped his forehead with a soggy handerkerchief.
A tall broad fellow faced the unruly audience. His blazing black eyes glared down the noise. Before he had said a word, the bedlam was ended. Startled by the quiet, the mob gazed open-mouthed at the platform. Then, when complete silence acknowledged his absolute mastery, he spoke.
Hypnotized by the power and harmony of his voice, fascinated by his flowing phrases, the listeners responded to the orator's least gesture and subtlest inflection. They groaned with him as he pictured the miseries of the Western people. Thunderous applause greeted his proclamation of "the cause of humanity." As he approached his climax, the crowd tensed. He named their opponents; denounced and defied them; and, challenging them to battle in a final forensic explosion, left the podium. The audience remained silent, the last words still rining in their ears: "You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold."
It took a full minute for the audience to drag itself back to reality. And then a deafening tumult rattled the convention hall. The shrieking mob raised their now leader upon their shoulders. They stamped round the room to the rhythm of thumping chairs, waving flags, and a steady chant of "Bryan, Bryan, William Jennings Bryan, BRYAN, BRYAN, WILLIAM JENNINGS . . ."
The name still throbbing in his brain, Vag closed the book. He snapped on the radio and dropped into his arm chair. Through closed eyes he saw again the steaming convention hall. Suddenly a penetrating voice at his elbow interrupted, "You shall not press down upon the brow of labor this--." Vag leaped to his feet and then sheepishly noticed the radio dial: WRUL. His watch said 7:30 and it was Tuesday, March 5. Of course, this was the Harvard Radio Workshop's program on the Westward Movement. Vag, chuckling, tuned in a little more carefully and settled down to hear the rest of the playlet.