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of the militia, he has succeeded in creating a force of his own with which capitalists and military authorities have to reckon. If Mussolini passed from the scene, the militarist-capitalist machine, at the heart of the Fascist system, would continue to function, because it was not made by him, and has always gone its own. way, while taking advantage of his propaganda.
An interesting legend-but a legend and nothing more-began to circulate in 1926, to the effect that Signor Federzoni is a "moderate Fascist," a "reasonable Fascist."
The "moderation" and "reasonableness" of Signor Federzoni and his friends consist precisely of this: they have no love for useless violence, but admit useful violence, which they allow others to commit while turning the results to their own profit. The "moderation" of Signor Federzoni and his friends is the "moderation" of the receiver of stolen goods, one who does not participate in the actual theft. Signor Federzoni is more prudent, more balanced, averse to those sudden impulses that sometimes drive Mussolini to acts of ferocity. But all the "normalizing" legislation has been framed, not by Mussolini, but by Federzoni and his associate, Signor Rocco, minister of justice.
The fact, however, that some one has been spreading the legend of a Signor Federzoni who is a "reasonable Fascist" is most significant. For it proves that some one is already thinking of the need to prepare the way for Mussolini's successor.
The alliance of big landowners, big industrialists, bankers, and high military bureaucrats, which forms
the dominant section of the Fascist system, has already succeeded in setting up a legislation that gives it complete control of public administration, and thus of the country at large. The Fascist crimes created the terror without which such legislation would have met with insuperable opposition. Now that it is in force, crime is no longer necessary. But the memory of the crimes persists, and every one holds Mussolini responsible for them. He inspires fanatical worship in his followers, but he excites also the implacable hatred of his enemies. To the minds of the Italian people he will always be "the murderer of Matteotti." Worse, still, as long as Mussolini remains in power, there is always the risk of fresh crimes, which disturb the public conscience and keep Italy in a continual state of dangerous unrest, whether they are commanded by the Duce, in a moment of unbalanced excitement, or committed by his followers, roused by his bloodthirsty eloquence. To-day Mussolini is no longer a force but a dead-weight for the capitalist-militarist alliance. Were he to vanish, his successor could present himself to the Italian people with bloodless hands, and to all accusations could reply: "Am I to blame? What is done is done! Let us forget the past and adapt ourselves to the requirements of the future."
While the disappearance of Mussolini would be an inestimable boon to the Fascist régime, it would be a calamity for liberal politics in Italy and abroad. The state of hysterical excitement in which the Fascists have been living for six years must sooner or later give place to disappointment. Mussolini's histrionic skill may take
them in for a time, but not forever, ment, will be hurled to ruin, and his and when their frenzy begins to party and its ideals with him. If, on subside the Fascist dictatorship will the contrary, Mussolini disappears, no longer be able to stand. Sooner there will always be a certain number or later—and perhaps sooner rath- of old ladies and retired generals in er than later—the Fascists will be the world who will say: “The ruin of faced by insurmountable difficulties. Fascism is a consequence of MussoThey cannot see these difficulties lini's disappearance. If Mussolini now, because they violently sup- were still here, Fascism would be press all symptoms of them. But invincible.” The collective failure the difficulties are growing day by of the dictatorship would teach little day, and when these difficulties are or nothing because it would not be a so formidable that no human force personal failure of the dictator. can overcome them, Mussolini, if he Fascism would be robbed of its value is still at the head of the govern- as an experiment.
High in some drowsy attic, now, her dream
And seeing Phoebe now, aged fifty-three,
THE RUINOUS WOMAN
F you knew Alicia Rayleigh, as bly arithmetical. I'm thirty-three. most people did, you probably Ask the election clerk, if you don't
called her That Dreadful Person. believe me.” If you called her something more “Let's see,” he computed. “Eight amiable, such as the Dash of Bitters, years married, six years a widow, two it was proof that you had never felt years out of college before you the sting of her barbed and restless married" tongue. Alicia wrote-news for a “Only the idle rich,” said Alicia, musical weekly, snappy personalities “have time for mental arithmetic. for a magazine that distilled the Only you, in fact.” flavor of the metropolis for inland “Only I am seeking you in marsubscribers; she wrote right up to the riage. twelve-mile limit, and what the libel "Well! How do you know?” laws wouldn't let her print she said “Your manner,” he said critically. at lunch.
"Ladies of a certain age have an She meant no harm, of course. uncertain air, unless they're being Ronnie, the late Mr. Rayleigh, had pursued. They may still hope always assured everybody that she they're attractive, but they need meant no harm.
somebody to second the motion. Alicia was dining at the Plaza with I don't count, of course.
I I've alHolderness. He talked, and she ways been around. But I've seen found her mind wandering, as if she you when you were being pursuedwere hearing a concerto that might by others. You looked reassured, have been exquisite over a squawky Alicia-reassured and wistful. The radio.
wistfulness of a poor frail woman “Of course,” he was explaining, helpless in the hands of Fate. That “I don't expect you to be excited always tells me that you're about to about me.
You've known me too dash somebody's hopes-hopes that long. I don't even want it. I'm you've planted and raised by hand, fifty-four, and I've had enough ex- till they grew up to the dashingcitement. . . . So have you." point.”
Her eyes came back from the “Edward, you're perfectly inother side of the dining-room. sufferable!” His gray eyes were “Really? That's news.”
immovable behind the rimless “So have you," he repeated, glasses; her black eyes stared into "though you're only thirty-eight.” them sullenly, then roved about the
"Dear me, Edward, you're terri- dining-room.
“I can't be a hermit,” she pro
But I still don't see why you want tested. “I have to meet people; and I amuse you-well, I amuse I'm human. 1-I need friends. I most people. But nobody else seems can't help it if the moment I get tired to want me around the house and blue and let somebody kiss me “The Dash of Bitters," he obhe loses his head.”
served. “Good for a strong stomach “You won't need to help it much like mine. You see things with longer. . . Oh, I know you, my hellish clearness. Most of us can't dear. You like to play hell, and you stand it, but I can. Having no generally succeed.”
reputation of my own to lose, I enjoy He paused to let her think it over, watching you prick holes in other and supply instances from history. people's reputations.” He and she and everybody knew she “So you'd like to settle down with had played exactly that with Ronnie, me to—slippered ease?” for all that she was rather nice to “Not a bit. Keeping up with you him. Ronnie might have gone far, would keep me young; my money if Alicia's tongue hadn't raised up a would keep you young. You're new enemy before him at every turn. tired, Alicia. You work hard. Ei
"Why do you want me?” she ther of your jobs offers unlimited opasked. “You don't seem to think portunity for blackmail, but some I'm good-looking, and you say I'm quirk keeps you honest, and poor. always playing hell."
Five years more of the grind, and “I want you because you amuse you'll be old. Your beauty is the me. You ought to want me because tricky kind; just a shade in the I rest you. Ten years ago we'd have wrong
wrong direction, and it's gone. murdered each other on the honey- Marry mesleep till noon every day, But we're getting on.
We'd with a clever maid to take care of be a good match now.”
you—and you'll come back in a blaze “So I amuse you, do I? Ah, my of glory for seven or eight years more. dear, if you only knew—"
Then, when you're forty-five and “Knew all the things you've said I'm sixty, we can lean back on the about me? I know them. Every- cushions of the limousine and watch body knows them. Things you say
the traffic go by.” get around. But you can't hurt me “No!” she said furiously. because I have nothing to lose- “No? Why not? Don't want to plenty of money and no reputation. marry for money? What else do You can't hurt me by saying things ladies of thirty-eight marry for? ... about me; and you couldn't hurt me, Love?” as my wife, by saying things about “N-no,” she conceded, hating herother people. I'm rich enough to self for not being able to say it with stand it."
assurance. "Not love-but As Ronnie hadn't been ..
what it does to you. Excitement “Yes,” said Alicia suavely, "since .. And to—to build somethingyou've survived two indictments and He was laughing silently. an alienation suit I don't suppose
"I didn't dream there was so much anything I might say could hurt you. strawberry syrup in the dash of
bitters. You're not much of a derness. “Isn't he the one who loses builder, Alicia. Your talent runs to wives?” tearing down. A very useful talent "Two of them died. The third ran -I'm not decrying it; but don't try off with a radio announcer." to build. Better buy into an es- “Ah, yes; I remember. They call tablished concern. ... Really, my
Really, my him Bluebeard.” dear, you surprise me.”
"I started that,” said Alicia with a Alicia didn't doubt it. She had reminiscent smile. surprised herself. For years that “It sounds like something you streak of sentiment had shown itself started. Does Leashe know it?”
? only in the inverted reaction of sar- “Oh, yes. He's responded in kind. donic cynicism; nobody but Alicia He told somebody that if there ever had known it was there. And now was another world war it would be she had betrayed it to the last man in the world who would find it attractive. “Yes, that line's gone around too." "All the same," she said, though “I suppose so.
But I see things, not quite so fiercely, “no.”
and why shouldn't I say them? I
? “As you please. You may change can stand what they say about me." your mind when you look into your “I've doubt,” Holderness glass to-morrow morning."
agreed, "that you're calloused to “After dancing till half-past attacks
attacks on your character. But three,” she admitted, “one is apt to wait till they start on your face-it look a little woebegone at breakfast.” won't be long." (They were going on, after dinner, to “Edward, you're unendurable tothe Wade Settlement Ball.)
night!” “True. But when you're ready to "I see things, so why shouldn't I go to bed at nine o'clock every eve- say them?... What happened to ning it will be too late—even for me. Leashe's wives?” I'm probably the only man you've
"One of them was killed in an ever known ten years without turn- automobile accident. .. No, he ing him into an enemy; but even my wasn't driving.” curious fancy may not last forever. "Then he may not relish being I don't mind the tongue, but I'm called Bluebeard, if he happened to rather exacting about the face." care for the woman.”
Angry and disquieted, she would “Probably he doesn't relish it. not meet his eyes; her glance slanted But why should it worry you?" away over his shoulder; absently she "Because I'd like to break his smiled and nodded.
neck for the things he's said about “Who is it?” he asked.
you. Sorry, my dear, if I intrude a
. "Matthew Leashe."
feeling that seems out of place in our “Leashe the playwright?” She cool relationship; but I happen to nodded; he turned and stared at a
feel that way.” dark man, his fresh-shaven cheeks "If you tried to break the necks of faintly blue, who sat by the farther all the people who say things about wall.
me,” said Alicia, “you'd be pretty “Mean-looking rascal,” said Hol- busy."