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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, and when their frenzy begins to subside the Fascist dictatorship will no longer be able to stand. Sooner or later and perhaps sooner rather than later—the Fascists will be faced by insurmountable difficulties. They cannot see these difficulties now, because they violently suppress all symptoms of them. But the difficulties are growing day by day, and when these difficulties are so formidable that no human force can overcome them, Mussolini, if he is still at the head of the govern
ment, will be hurled to ruin, and his party and its ideals with him. If, on the contrary, Mussolini disappears, there will always be a certain number of old ladies and retired generals in the world who will say: “The ruin of Fascism is a consequence of Mussolini's disappearance. If Mussolini were still here, Fascism would be invincible." The collective failure of the dictatorship would teach little or nothing because it would not be a personal failure of the dictator. Fascism would be robbed of its value as an experiment.
High in some drowsy attic, now, her dream
And seeing Phoebe now, aged fifty-three,
And roses crushed to red blood on the stairs.
THE RUINOUS WOMAN
F YOU knew Alicia Rayleigh, as most people did, you probably called her That Dreadful Person. If you called her something more amiable, such as the Dash of Bitters, it was proof that you had never felt the sting of her barbed and restless tongue. Alicia wrote-news for a musical weekly, snappy personalities for a magazine that distilled the flavor of the metropolis for inland subscribers; she wrote right up to the twelve-mile limit, and what the libel laws wouldn't let her print she said at lunch.
She meant no harm, of course. Ronnie, the late Mr. Rayleigh, had always assured everybody that she meant no harm. . .
Alicia was dining at the Plaza with Holderness. He talked, and she found her mind wandering, as if she were hearing a concerto that might have been exquisite over a squawky radio.
"Of course," he was explaining, "I don't expect you to be excited about me. You've known me too long. I don't even want it. I'm fifty-four, and I've had enough excitement. . . . So have you."
Her eyes came back from the other side of the dining-room.
"Really? That's news." "So have you," he repeated, "though you're only thirty-eight." "Dear me, Edward, you're terri
bly arithmetical. I'm thirty-three. Ask the election clerk, if you don't believe me."
"Let's see," he computed. "Eight years married, six years a widow, two years out of college before you married-"
"Only the idle rich," said Alicia, "have time for mental arithmetic. Only you, in fact."
"Only I am seeking you in marriage."
"Well! How do you know?" "Your manner," he said critically. "Ladies of a certain age have an uncertain air, unless they're being pursued. They may still hope they're attractive, but they need somebody to second the motion. I don't count, of course. ways been around. But I've seen you when you were being pursued— by others. You looked reassured, Alicia-reassured and wistful. The wistfulness of a poor frail woman helpless in the hands of Fate. That always tells me that you're about to dash somebody's hopes-hopes that you've planted and raised by hand, till they grew up to the dashingpoint."
"Edward, you're perfectly insufferable!" His gray eyes were immovable behind the rimless glasses; her black eyes stared into them sullenly, then roved about the dining-room.
"I can't be a hermit," she protested. "I have to meet people; and I'm human. I-I need friends. I can't help it if the moment I get tired and blue and let somebody kiss me he loses his head."
"You won't need to help it much longer. . . . Oh, I know you, my dear. You like to play hell, and you generally succeed.”
He paused to let her think it over, and supply instances from history. He and she and everybody knew she had played exactly that with Ronnie, for all that she was rather nice to him. Ronnie might have gone far, if Alicia's tongue hadn't raised up a new enemy before him at every turn. "Why do you want me?" she asked. "You don't seem to think I'm good-looking, and you say I'm always playing hell."
But I still don't see why you want me. I amuse you-well, I amuse most people. But nobody else seems to want me around the house-"
"The Dash of Bitters," he observed. "Good for a strong stomach
like mine. You see things with hellish clearness. Most of us can't stand it, but I can. Having no reputation of my own to lose, I enjoy watching you prick holes in other people's reputations."
"So you'd like to settle down with me to slippered ease?"
"Not a bit. Keeping up with you would keep me young; my money would keep you young. You're tired, Alicia. You work hard. Either of your jobs offers unlimited opportunity for blackmail, but some quirk keeps you honest, and poor. Five years more of the grind, and you'll be old. Your beauty is the tricky kind; just a shade in the wrong wrong direction, and it's gone. Marry me-sleep till noon every day, with a clever maid to take care of 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 I'm sixty, we can lean back on the cushions of the limousine and watch the traffic go by."
"I want you because you amuse You ought to want me because I rest you. Ten years ago we'd have murdered each other on the honeymoon. But we're getting on. We'd be a good match now."
"Knew all the things you've said about me? I know them. Everybody knows them. Things you say get around. But you can't hurt me because I have nothing to loseplenty of money and no reputation. You can't hurt me by saying things about me; and you couldn't hurt me, as my wife, by saying things about other people. I'm rich enough to stand it."
As Ronnie hadn't been.
"Yes," said Alicia suavely, "since you've survived two indictments and an alienation suit I don't suppose anything I might say could hurt you.
"No!" she said furiously.
"No? Why not? Don't want to marry for money? What else do ladies of thirty-eight marry for? . . . Love?"
"N-no," she conceded, hating herself for not being able to say it with more assurance. "Not love-but what it does to you. Excitement
And to-to build something-" He was laughing silently.
"I didn't dream there was so much strawberry syrup in the dash of
bitters. You're not much of a builder, Alicia. Your talent runs to tearing down. A very useful talent -I'm not decrying it; but don't try to build. Better buy into an established concern. . . . Really, my dear, you surprise me."
Alicia didn't doubt it. She had surprised herself. For years that streak of sentiment had shown itself only in the inverted reaction of sardonic cynicism; nobody but Alicia had known it was there. And now she had betrayed it to the last man in the world who would find it attractive.
"All the same," she said, though not quite so fiercely, "no."
"As you please. You may change your mind when you look into your glass to-morrow morning."
dancing till half-past three," she admitted, "one is apt to look a little woebegone at breakfast." (They were going on, after dinner, to the Wade Settlement Ball.)
"True. But when you're ready to go to bed at nine o'clock every evening it will be too late-even for me. I'm probably the only man you've ever known ten years without turning him into an enemy; but even my curious fancy may not last forever. I don't mind the tongue, but I'm rather exacting about the face."
Angry and disquieted, she would not meet his eyes; her glance slanted away over his shoulder; absently she smiled and nodded.
"Who is it?" he asked. "Matthew Leashe."
"Leashe the playwright?" She nodded; he turned and stared at a dark man, his fresh-shaven cheeks faintly blue, who sat by the farther wall.
derness. "Isn't he the one who loses wives?"
"Two of them died. The third ran off with a radio announcer."
"Ah, yes; I remember. They call him Bluebeard."
"I started that," said Alicia with a reminiscent smile.
"It sounds like something you started. Does Leashe know it?"
"Oh, yes. He's responded in kind. He told somebody that if there ever was another world war it would be my fault."
"Yes, that line's gone around too."
"I suppose so. But I see things, and why shouldn't I say them? I can stand what they say about me."
"I've no doubt," Holderness agreed, "that you're calloused to attacks on your character. But wait till they start on your face-it won't be long."
"Edward, you're unendurable tonight!"
"I see things, so why shouldn't I say them? . . . What happened to Leashe's wives?"
"One of them was killed in an automobile accident. . . . No, he wasn't driving."
"Then he may not relish being called Bluebeard, if he happened to care for the woman."
"Probably he doesn't relish it. But why should it worry you?"
"Because I'd like to break his neck for the things he's said about you. Sorry, my dear, if I intrude a feeling that seems out of place in our cool relationship; but I happen to feel that way."
"If you tried to break the necks of all the people who say things about me," said Alicia, "you'd be pretty
"Mean-looking rascal," said Hol- busy."