Rejoicing City That Dwelt Carelessly
Bright flakes of cloud were scaling off a sky of crushing indigo over the Battery where groups of dingy darkdressed people stood round the Ellis Island landing station and the small boat dock waiting silently for something. Frayed smoke of tugs and steamers hung low and trailed along the opaque glassgreen water. A threemasted schooner was being towed down the North River. A newhoisted jib flopped awkwardly in the wind. Down the harbor loomed taller, taller a steamer head on, four red stacks packed into one, creamy superstructure gleaming. "Mauretania just acomin in twentyfour hours lyte," yelled the man with the telescope and fieldglasses. . . . "Tyke a look at the Mauretania, farstest ocean greyhound, twentyfour hours lyte." The Mauretania stalked like a skyscraper through the harbor shipping. A rift of sunlight sharpened the shadow under the broad bridge, along the white stripes of upper decks, glinted in the rows of portholes. The smokestacks stood apart, the hull lengthened. The black relentless hull of the Mauretania pushing puffing tugs ahead of it cut like a long knife into the North River.
A ferry was leaving the immigrant station, a murmur rustled through the crowd that packed the edges of the wharf. "Deportees. . . . It's the communists the Department of Justice is having deported . . . deportees . . . Reds. . . . It's the Reds they are deporting." The ferry was out of the slip. In the stern a group of men stood still tiny like tin soldiers. "They are sending the Reds back to Russia." A handkerchief waved on the ferry, a red handkerchief. People tiptoed gently to the edge of the walk, tiptoeing, quiet like in a sickroom.
Behind the backs of the men and women crowding to the edge of the water, gorillafaced chipontheshoulder policemen walked back and forth nervously swinging their billies.
"They are sending the Reds back to Russia. . . . Deportees. . . . Agitators. . . . Undesirables." . . . Gulls wheeled crying. A catsupbottle bobbed gravely in the little ground-glass waves. A sound of singing came from the ferryboat getting small, slipping away across the water.