Helen of the Old House
Harold Bell Wright
Part 3 out of 6
of 'get the most for the least' without regard to the meaning and
purpose of the work itself?"
"There's no reason to doubt it, son, that I can see," returned the old
"I have often wondered," said Charlie, "how much the attitude of the
employees toward their work is due to the attitude of their employers
toward that same work."
The old workman returned, heartily, "We'll be seeing a different
feeling in the Mill under John, I am thinkin'--he's different."
"I should say he is different," agreed Charlie, quickly. "John would
rather work at his job for nothing than do anything else for ten times
the salary he draws. But was Adam always as he is now?"
"About his work do you mean?"
Adam Ward's old comrade answered, slowly, "I've often wondered that
myself. I can't say for sure. As I look back now, I think sometimes
that he used to have an interest in the work itself at first. Takin'
his development of the new process and all--it almost seems that he
must have had. And yet, there's some things that make me think that all
the time it meant nothing to him but just what he could get out of it
"Helen will be happy over the change, won't she?" remarked Mary.
"Helen!" ejaculated Captain Charlie, with more emphasis perhaps than
the occasion demanded.
"She won't give it so much as a thought. Why should she? She can go on
with her dinners and card parties and balls and country club affairs
with the silk-hatted slackers of her set, just the same as if nothing
Mary laughed. "Seems to me I have heard something like that
before--'silk-hatted slackers'--it sounds familiar."
Captain Charlie watched her suspiciously.
The father laughed quietly.
"Oh, yes," she exclaimed, with an air of triumph. "It was Bobby Whaley
who said it. I remember thinking at the time that it probably came to
him from his father, who of course got it from Jake Vodell. Silk-hatted
slackers--sounds like Jake, doesn't it, father?"
Captain Charlie grinned sheepishly. "I know it was a rotten thing to
say," he admitted. "Some of the best and bravest men in our army were
silk-hatters at home. They were in the ranks, too, a lot of them--just
like John Ward. And some of the worst cowards and shirkers and slackers
that ever lived belonged to our ancient and noble order of the
horny-handed sons of toil, that Jake Vodell orates about. But what gets
me, is the way some of those fellows who were everything but slackers
in France act, now that they are back home. Over there they were on the
job with everything they had, to the last drop of their blood. But now
that they are back in their own home country again, they have simply
thrown up their hands and quit--that is, a lot of them have. They seem
to think that the signing of the Armistice ended it all and that they
can do nothing now for the rest of their lives. Who was it said, 'Peace
hath her victories,' or something like that? Well, peace hath her
defeats, too. I'll be hanged if I can understand how a man who has it
in him to be a one hundred per cent American hero in war can be a
Simon-pure slacker in times of peace."
As he finished, Captain Charlie pushed his chair back from the table
and, finding his pipe, proceeded to fill it with the grim determination
of an old-time minuteman ramming home a charge in his Bunker Hill
Later the two men went out to enjoy their pipes on the lawn in the cool
of the evening. They were discussing the industrial situation when
Mary, having finished her household work for the night, joined them.
"I forgot to tell you," she said, "that Jake Vodell called to-day."
"Again!" exclaimed Charlie.
"If Vodell wants to talk with us he'll have to come when we are at
home," said Pete Martin, slowly, looking at his daughter.
With a laugh, the young woman returned, "But I don't think that it was
you or Charlie that he wanted to see this time, father."
"What did he want?" demanded her brother quickly.
"He wanted me to go with him to a dance next Tuesday," she answered
"Huh," came in a tone of disgust from Charlie.
The father asked, quietly, "And what did you say to him, Mary?"
"I told him that I went to dances only with my friends."
"Good!" said Captain Charlie.
"And what then?" asked Pete.
"Then," she hesitated, "then he said something about my being careful
that I had the right sort of friends and referred to Charlie and John."
"Yes?" said Mary's father.
"He said that the only use John Ward had for Charlie was to get a line
on the union and the plans of the men--that his friendship was only a
pretext in order that he might use Charlie as a sort of spy and that
the union men wouldn't stand for it."
Captain Charlie muttered something under his breath that he could not
speak aloud in the presence of his sister.
Pete Martin deliberately knocked the ashes from his pipe.
"Then," continued Mary, "he talked about how everybody knew that John
was nothing but a"--she laughed mockingly at her brother--"a
silk-hatted swell who couldn't hold his job an hour if it wasn't that
his father owned the Mill, and that Charlie was a hundred times more
competent to manage the business. He said that anybody could see how
Charlie's promotion in the army proved him superior to John, who was
never anything but a common private."
Captain Charlie laughed aloud. "John and I understand all about that
superiority business. I was lucky, that's all--our captain just
happened to be looking in my direction. Believe me, good old John was
just as busy as I ever dared to be, only it was his luck to be busy at
some other point that the captain didn't see."
"Is that all Jake had to say, daughter?"
"No," answered the young woman, slowly. "I--I am afraid I was angry at
what he called John--I mean at what he said about Charlie and John's
friendship--and so I told him what I thought about him and Sam Whaley
and their crowd, and asked him to go and not come back again except to
see you or Charlie."
"Good for you, Mary!" exclaimed her brother.
But the old workman said nothing.
"And how did Jake take his dismissal?" asked Charlie, presently.
"He went, of course," she answered. "But he said that he would show me
what the friendship of a man of John Ward's class meant to a working
man; that the union men would find out who the loyal members were and
when the time came they would know whom to reward and whom to treat as
traitors to the Cause."
For a little while after this the three sat in silence. At last Peter
Martin rose heavily to his feet. "Come, Charlie, it is time we were on
our way to the meeting; we mustn't be late, you know."
When her father and brother were gone to the meeting of the Mill
workers' union, Mary Martin locked the door of the cottage and walked
It was not far to the Interpreter's hut, and presently the young woman
was climbing the old zigzag stairway to the little house on the edge of
the cliff above. There was no light but the light of the stars--the
faint breath of the night breeze scarcely stirred the leaves of the
bushes or moved the tall weeds that grew on the hillside. At the top of
the stairs Mary paused to look at the many lights of the Flats, the
Mill, the business houses, the streets and the homes, that shone in the
shadowy world below.
She was about to move toward the door of the hut when the sound of
voices coming from the balcony-porch halted her. The Interpreter was
speaking. She could not distinguish his words, but the deep tones of
the old basket maker's voice were not to be mistaken. Then the young
woman heard some one reply, and the laughing voice that answered the
Interpreter was as familiar to Mary Martin as the laugh of her own
brother. The evening visitor to the little hut on the cliff was the son
of Adam Ward.
Very softly Mary Martin stole back down the zigzag steps to the road
below. Slowly she went back through the deep shadows of the night to
her little home, with its garden of old-fashioned flowers, next door to
the deserted house where John Ward was born.
Late that night, while John was still at the Interpreter's hut, Adam
Ward crept alone like some hunted thing about the beautiful grounds of
his great estate. Like a haunted soul of wretchedness, the Mill owner
had left his bed to escape the horror of his dreams and to find, if
possible, a little rest from his torturing fears in the calm solitude
of the night.
* * * * *
When Pete Martin, with Captain Charlie and their many industrial
comrades, had returned to their homes after the meeting of their union,
five men gathered in that dirty, poorly lighted room in the rear of
Dago Bill's pool hall.
The five men had entered the place one at a time. They spoke together
in low, guarded tones of John Ward and his management of the Mill, of
Pete Martin and Captain Charlie, of the Interpreter and McIver.
And three of those five men had come to that secret place at Jake
Vodell's call, directly from the meeting of the Mill workers' union.
Mary was in the flower garden that Sunday forenoon when John Ward
stopped his big roadster in front of the Martin cottage.
It was not at all unusual for the one-time private, John, to call that
way for his former superior officer. Nearly every Sunday when the
weather was fine the comrades would go for a long ride in John's car
somewhere into the country. And always they carried a lunch prepared by
Captain Charlie's sister.
Sometimes there might have been a touch of envy in Mary's generous
heart, as she watched the automobile with her brother and his friend
glide away up the green arched street. After all, Mary was young and
loved the country, and John Ward's roadster was a wonderful machine,
and the boy who had lived in the old house next door had been, in her
girlhood days, a most delightful comrade and playfellow.
The young woman could no more remember her first meeting with John or
his sister Helen than she could recall the exact beginning of her
acquaintance with Charlie. From her cradle days she had known the
neighbor children as well as she had known her own brother. Then the
inevitable separation of the playmates had come with Adam Ward's
increasing material prosperity. The school and college days of John and
Helen and the removal of the family from the old house to the new home
on the hill had brought to them new friends and new interests--friends
and interests that knew nothing of Pete Martin's son and daughter. But
in Mary's heart, because it was a woman's heart, the memories of the
old house lived. The old house itself, indeed, served to keep those
John did not see her at first, but called a cheery greeting to her
father, who with his pipe and paper was sitting under the tree on the
lawn side of the walk.
Mary drew a little back among the flowers and quietly went on with her
"Is Charlie here, Uncle Pete?" asked John, as he came through the gate.
"He's in the house, I think, John, or out in the back yard, maybe,"
answered the old workman. And, then, in his quiet kindly way, Peter
Martin spoke a few words to Adam Ward's son about the change in the
management of the Mill--wishing John success, expressing his own
gratification and confidence, and assuring him of the hearty good will
that prevailed, generally, among the employees.
Presently, as the two men talked together, Mary went to express her
pleasure in the promotion of her old playmate to a position of such
responsibility and honor in the industrial world. And John Ward, when
he saw her coming toward him with an armful of flowers, must at least
have noticed the charming picture she made against that background of
the garden, with its bright-colored blossoms in the flood of morning
Certainly the days of their childhood companionship must have stirred
in his memory, for he said, presently, "Do you know, Mary, you make me
think of mother and the way she used to go among her flowers every
Sunday morning when we lived in the old house there." He looked
thoughtfully toward the neighboring place.
"How is your mother these days, John?" asked Mary's father.
"She is well, thank you, Uncle Pete," returned John. "Except of
course," he added, soberly, "she worries a good deal about father's ill
"Your father will surely be much better, now that he is relieved from
all his business care," said Mary.
"We are all hoping so," returned John.
There was an awkward moment of silence.
As if the mention of his father's condition had in some way suggested
the thought, or, perhaps, because he wished to change the subject, John
said, "The old house looks pretty bad, doesn't it? It is a shame that
we have permitted it to go to ruin that way."
Neither Peter Martin nor his daughter made reply to this. There was
really nothing they could say.
John was about to speak again when Captain Charlie, coming from the
house with their lunch basket in his hand, announced that he was ready,
and the two men started on their way.
Standing at the gate, Mary waved good-by as her brother turned to look
back. Even when the automobile had finally passed from sight she stood
there, still looking in the direction it had gone.
Peter Martin watched his daughter thoughtfully.
Without speaking, Mary went slowly into the house.
Her father sat for some minutes looking toward the door through which
she had passed. At last with deliberate care he refilled his pipe. But
the old workman did not, for an hour or more, resume the reading of his
Sunday morning paper.
Beyond a few casual words, the two friends in the automobile seemed
occupied, each with his own thoughts. Neither asked, "Where shall we
go?" or offered any suggestion for the day's outing. As if it were
understood between them, John turned toward the hill country and sent
the powerful machine up the long, winding grade, as if on a very
definite mission. An hour's driving along the ridges and the hillsides,
and they turned from the main thoroughfare into a narrow lane between
two thinly wooded pastures. A mile of this seldom traveled road and
John stopped his car beside the way. Here they left the automobile,
and, taking the lunch basket, climbed the fence and made their way up
the steep side of the hill to a clump of trees that overlooked the many
miles of winding river and broad valley and shaded hills. The place was
a favorite spot to which they often came for those hours of comradeship
that are so necessary to all well-grounded and enduring friendships.
"Well, _Mister_ Ward," said Captain Charlie, when they were comfortably
seated and their pipes were going well, "how does it feel to be one of
the cruel capitalist class a-grindin' the faces off us poor?"
The workman spoke lightly, but there was something in his voice that
made John look at him sharply. It was a little as though Captain
Charlie were nerving himself to say good-by to his old comrade.
The new general manager smiled, but it was a rather serious smile. "Do
you remember how you felt when you received your captain's commission?"
"I do that," returned Charlie. "I felt that I had been handed a mighty
big job and was scared stiff for fear I wouldn't be able to make good
"Exactly," returned John. "And I'll never forget how _I_ felt when they
stepped you up the first time and left me out. And when you had climbed
on up and Captain Wheeler was killed and you received your commission,
with me still stuck in the ranks--well--I never told you before but
I'll say now that I was the lonesomest, grouchiest, sorest man in the
whole A.E.F. It seemed to me about then that being a private was the
meanest, lowest, most no-account job on earth, and I was darned near
deserting and letting the Germans win the war and be hanged. I thought
it would serve the Allies right if I was to let 'em get licked good and
plenty just for failing to appreciate me."
Captain Charlie laughed.
"Oh, yes, you can laugh," said the new general manager of the Mill.
"It's darned funny _now_, but I can tell you that there wasn't much
humor in it for me _then_. We had lived too close together from that
first moment when we found ourselves in the same company for me to feel
comfortable as a common buck private, watchin' you strut around in the
gentleman officer class, and not daring even to tell you to go to--"
"You poor old fool," said Charlie, affectionately. "You knew my
promotion was all an accident."
"Exactly," returned John dryly. "We've settled all that a hundred
"And you ought to have known," continued Captain Charlie, warmly, "that
my feeling toward you would have been no different if they had made me
"Sure, I ought to have known," retorted John, with an air of triumph.
And then it appeared that John Ward had a very definite purpose in thus
turning his comrade's mind to their army life in France. "And you
should have sense enough to understand that my promotion in the Mill is
not going to make any difference in our friendship. Your promotion was
the result of an accident, Charlie, exactly as my position in the Mill
to-day is the result of an accident. Your superior officer happened to
see you. I happen to be the son of Adam Ward. If I should have known
_then_ that your rank would make no difference in your feeling toward
me, you have got to understand _now_ that my position can make no
difference in my feeling toward you."
Charlie Martin's silence revealed how accurately John had guessed his
Mill comrade's hidden thoughts.
The new manager continued, "The thing that straightened me out on the
question of our different ranks was that scrap where Captain Charlie
and Private John found themselves caught in the same shell hole with no
one else anywhere near except friend enemy, and somebody had to do
something darned quick. Do you remember our argument?"
"Do I remember!" exclaimed Charlie. "I remember how you said it was
your job to take the chance because I, being an officer, was worth more
to the cause and because the loss of a private didn't matter so much
John retorted quickly, "And you said that it was up to you to take the
chance because it was an officer's duty to take care of his men."
"And then," said Charlie, "you told me to go to hell, commission and
all. And I swore that I'd break you for insolence and insubordination
if we ever got out of the scrape alive."
"And so," grinned John, "we compromised by pulling it off together. And
from that time on I felt different and was as proud of you and your
officer's swank as if I had been the lucky guy myself."
"Yes," said Captain Charlie, smiling affectionately, "and I could see
the grin in your eyes every time you saluted."
"No one else ever saw it, though," returned Private Ward, proudly.
"Don't think for a minute that I overlooked that either," said Captain
Martin. "If any one else had seen it, I would have disciplined you for
"And don't you think for a minute that I didn't know that, too,"
retorted John. "I could feel you laying for me, and every man in the
company knew it just as be knew our friendship. That's what made us all
love you so. We used to say that if Captain Charlie would just take a
notion to start for Berlin and invite us to go along the war would be
over right there."
Charlie Martin laughed appreciatively. Then he said, earnestly, "After
all, old man, it wasn't an officers' war and it wasn't a privates' war,
was it? Any more than it was the war of America, or England, or France,
or Australia, or Canada--it was _our_ war. And that, I guess, is the
main reason why it all came out as it did."
"Now," said John, with hearty enthusiasm, "you are talking sense."
"But it is all very different now, John," said Charlie, slowly.
"Millsburgh is not France and the Mill is not the United States Army."
"No," returned John, "and yet there is not such a lot of difference,
when you come to think it out."
"We can't disguise the facts," said Captain Martin stubbornly.
"We are not going to disguise anything," retorted John. "I had an idea
how you would feel over my promotion, and that is why I wanted you out
here to-day. You've got to get this 'it's all very different now' stuff
out of your system. So go ahead and shoot your facts."
"All right," said Charlie. "Let's look at things as they are. It was
all very well for us to moon over what we would do if we ever got back
home when we knew darned well our chances were a hundred to one against
our ever seeing the old U.S. again. We spilled a lot of sentiment about
comradeship and loyalty and citizenship and equality and all that,
"Can your chatter!" snapped John. "Drag out these facts that you are so
anxious to have recognized. Let's have a good look at whatever it is
that makes you rough-neck sons of toil so superior to us lily-fingered
employers. Go to the bat."
"Well," offered Charlie, reluctantly, "to begin with, you are a
millionaire, a university man, member of select clubs; I am nothing but
a common workman."
John returned, quickly, "We are both citizens of the United States. In
the duties and privileges of our citizenship we stand on exactly the
same footing, just as in the army we stood on the common ground of
loyalty. And we are both equally dependent upon the industries of our
country--upon the Mill, and upon each other. Exactly as we were both
dependent upon the army and upon each other in France."
"You are the general manager of the Mill, practically the owner," said
Charlie. "I am only one of your employees."
The son of Adam Ward answered scornfully, "Yes, over there it was
Captain Charlie Martin and Private John Ward of the United States Army.
I suppose it is a lot different now that it is Captain John Ward and
Private Charlie Martin of the United States Industries."
Charlie continued, "You live in a mansion in a select district on the
hill, I live in a little cottage on the edge of the Flats!"
"Over there it was officers' quarters and barracks," said John,
Charlie tried again, "You wear white collars and tailored clothes at
your work--I wear dirty overalls."
"We used to call 'em uniforms," barked John.
Captain Charlie hesitated a little before he offered his next fact, and
when he spoke it was with a little more feeling. "There are our
families to take into account too, John. Your sister--well--isn't it a
fact that your sister would no more think of calling on Mary than she
would think of putting on overalls and going to work in the Mill?"
It was John's turn now to hesitate.
"Don't you see?" continued Charlie, "we belong to different worlds, I
tell you, John."
Deliberately Helen's brother knocked the ashes from his pipe and
refilled it with thoughtful care.
Then he said, gravely, "Helen doesn't realize, as we do, old man. How
could she? The girl has not had a chance to learn what the war taught
us. She is exactly like thousands of other good women, and men, too,
for that matter. They simply don't understand. Good Lord!" he exploded,
suddenly "when I think what a worthless snob I was before I enlisted I
want to kick my fool self to death. But we are drifting away from the
main thought," he finished.
"Oh, I don't know," returned the other.
"I thought we were discussing the question of rank," said John.
"Well," retorted Charlie, dryly, "isn't that exactly the whole question
as your sister sees it?"
"You give me a pain!" growled John. "I'll admit that Helen, right now,
attaches a great deal of importance to some things that--well, that are
not so very important after all. But she is no worse than I was before
I learned better. And you take my word she'll learn, too. Sister visits
the old Interpreter too often not to absorb a few ideas that she failed
to acquire at school. He will help her to see the light, just as he
helped me. But for him, I would have been nothing but a gentleman
slacker myself--if there is any such animal. But what under heaven has
all this to do with our relation as employer and employee in the Mill?
What effect would Mary have had on you over there if she had gone to
you with 'Oh, Charlie dear, you mustn't go out in that dreadful No
Man's Land to-night. It is so dirty and wet and cold. Remember that you
are an officer, Charlie dear, and let Private John go.'"
Captain Charlie laughed--this new general manager of the Mill was so
like the buddie he had loved in France. "Do you remember that night--"
he began, but his comrade interrupted him rudely.
"Shut up! I've got to get this thing off my chest and you've got to
hear me out. This country of ours started out all right with the
proposition that all men are created free and equal. But ninety per
cent of our troubles are caused by our crazy notions as to what that
equality really means. The rest of our grief comes from our fool claims
to superiority of one sort or another. It looks to me as though you and
Helen agreed exactly on this question of rank and I am here to tell you
that you are both wrong."
Captain Charlie Martin sat up at this, but before he could speak John
shot a question at him. "Tell me, when Private Ward saluted Captain
Martin as the regulations provide, was the action held by either the
officer or the private to be a recognition of the superiority of
Captain Martin or the inferiority of Private Ward--was it?"
"Not that any one could notice," answered Charlie with a grin.
"You bet your life it wasn't," said John. "Well, then," he continued,
"what was it that the salute recognized?"
"Why, it was the captain's _rank_."
"Exactly; and what determined that rank?"
"The number of men he commanded."
"That's it!" cried John. "The rank of the captain represented
the--the"--he searched for a word--"the _oneness_ of all the men in his
command. And so you see the thing that the individual private really
saluted as superior to himself was the _oneness_ of all his comrades,
both privates and officers in the company."
"Sure," said Charlie, looking a little puzzled, as if he did not quite
see what the manager of the Mill was driving at. "The salute was merely
a sign of the individual's surrender of his own personal will to the
authority of the rank that represented all his fellow individuals."
"Yes," said John, "and when Jack Pershing stood up there with the rest
of the kings and we paraded past, were we humiliated because we were
not dressed exactly like the reviewing generals? We were not. We stuck
out our chests and pulled in our chins as if the whole show was framed
to honor us. And that is exactly what it was, Charlie, because we were
all included in Pershing's rank. The army was not honoring Pershing the
man, it was honoring _itself_."
"Yes," said Charlie, as if he still did not quite grasp his comrade's
"Here," said John, "this is the idea. You remember how when we were
kids we used to get hold of an old magnifying glass and use it as a
"I remember we darned near set fire to Hank Webster's barn once,"
"Well," returned John, "think of the army as a sun, and of every loyal
individual soldier, officer and private alike, as a ray of that sun and
_there_ is your true equality. Pershing's rank was simply the burning
glass that focused our two million individual rays to a point of such
equality that they could move as one. And I noticed another thing in
that review, too," continued John, earnestly, "even if I was supposed
to have my eyes front, I noticed that General Pershing saluted the
colors. And that meant simply this, that as each individual soldier
honored the whole army in his recognition of the general's rank, the
army itself, through its commander, honored the greater _oneness_ of
the nation. And so Foch's rank was a burning glass that focused the
different allied nations into a still greater _oneness_, and drew their
strength to such a point of equality that it lighted a fire under old
"But what has all this to do with you and me now?" demanded Charlie.
"It looks to me as though you are the one that is getting away from the
"I am not," returned John. "It has this to do with you and me: Our
little part as a nation in that world job in France is finished all
right, and the national job that we have to tackle now, here at home,
is a little different, but the principle of unity involved is exactly
the same. Our everyday work can no more be done by those who work with
their hands alone than the Germans could have been whipped by privates
alone. Nor can our industries be carried on by those who do the
planning and managing alone any more than the army could have carried
out a campaign with nothing but officers."
"Oh, I see now what you are getting at," said Charlie.
"It's about time that you woke up," retorted John.
"You mean," continued Charlie, carefully, "that just as the unity of
the army was in the different ranks that focused the individual soldier
rays upon one common purpose, so the true equality of our industries is
possible only through the difference in rank, such as--well, such as
yours and mine--manager and workman or employer and employee."
"Now you're getting wise," cried John. "Really at times you show signs
of almost human intelligence."
Charlie returned, doubtfully, "How do you suppose Sam Whaley and a few
others I could name in our union would take to this equality stuff of
"And how do you suppose McIver and others like him would take to it?"
retorted John. "All the men in your union are not Sam Whaleys by a long
shot, neither are all employers like McIver. As I remember, you had to
discipline a man now and then in Company K. And you have heard of
officers being cashiered, haven't you?"
"That's all right," returned the captain, "but how will the rank and
file of our industrial army as a whole ever get it?"
For some time John Ward did not reply to this, but sat brooding over
the question, while his former superior officer waited expectantly.
Then the manager said, earnestly, "Charlie, what was it that drew over
four million American citizens of almost every known parentage from
every walk of life, and made them an army with one purpose? And what
was it that inspired one hundred million more to back them?
"I'll tell you what it was," he continued, when his companion did not
answer, "it was the Big Idea.
"Oh, yes, I know there were all kinds of graft and incompetency and
jealousy and mutiny and outrages. And there were traitors and
profiteers and slackers of every sort. But the Big Idea that focused
the strength of the nation as a whole, Charlie, was so much bigger than
any individual or group that it absorbed all. It took possession of us
all--inspired us all--dominated and drove us all, into every
conceivable effort and sacrifice, until it made heroism a common thing.
And this Big Idea was so big that it not only absorbed disloyalty and
selfishness as a great living river takes in a few drops of poison, but
it assimilated, as well, every brand of class and caste. It made no
distinction between officer and private, it ruled General Pershing and
Private Jones alike. It recognized no difference between educated and
uneducated and sent university professors and bootblacks over the top
side by side. And this Big Idea that so focused the individual rays of
our nation against German imperialism was nothing more or less than
_the idea of the oneness of all humanity._ It may be lost in a scramble
for the spoils of victory, it is true, but it was the Big Idea that won
the victory just the same."
John Ward was on his feet now, pacing back and forth. His face was
flushed and eager, his eyes were glowing, as he himself was possessed
of the Big Idea which he strove to put into words.
And Captain Charlie's pipe was forgotten as he watched his friend and
listened. This John Ward was a John Ward that few people in Millsburgh
knew. But Captain Charlie knew him. Captain Charlie had seen him tested
in all the ways that war tests men. In cold and hunger and the
unspeakable discomforts of mud and filth and vermin--in the waiting
darkness when an impatient whisper or a careless move to ease
overstrained nerves meant a deluge of fire and death--in the wild
frenzy of actual conflict--in the madness of victory--in the delirium
of defeat--in the dreary marking time--in the tense readiness for the
charge--in those many moments when death was near enough to strip the
outward husks from these two men and leave their naked souls face to
face--Captain Charlie had learned to know John Ward.
"Do you remember what the Interpreter said to us the first time we went
to see him after we got home?" demanded John.
Charlie nodded. "He said for us not to make the mistake of thinking
that the war was over just because the Armistice was signed and we were
at home in Millsburgh again. I'm afraid a good many people, though, are
making just that mistake."
"I didn't understand what our old friend meant then, Charlie,"
continued John, "but I know now. He meant that the same old fight
between the spirit of imperialism that seeks the selfish dominion of an
individual or class and the spirit of democracy that upholds the
oneness of all for all, is still on, right here at home. The President
said that the war was to make the world safe for democracy, and there
are some wild enthusiasts who say that we Americans won it."
"That 'we won the war' stuff is all bunk," interrupted Charlie, in a
tone of disgust.
"'Bunk' is right," agreed John. "The old A.E.F. did have a hand,
though, in putting a crimp in the Kaiser's little plan for acquiring
title to the whole human race for himself and family. But if the
American people don't wake up to the fact that the same identical
principles of human right and human liberty that sent us to France are
involved in our industrial controversies here at home, we might as well
have saved ourselves the trouble of going over there at all."
"That is all true enough," agreed Captain Charlie, "but what is going
to wake us up? What is going to send us as a nation against the Kaiser
Bills of capital and the Kaiser Bills of labor, or, if you like it
better, the imperialistic employers and the equally imperialistic
John Ward fairly shouted his answer, "The Big Idea, my boy--the same
Big Idea that sent us to war against imperialism over there will wake
us up to drive the spirit of imperialism out of our American industries
here at home."
Charlie shook his head doubtfully. "It was different during the World
War, John. Then the Big Idea was held up before the people to the
exclusion of everything else. When we think of the speeches and parades
and rallies and sermons and books and newspapers and pictures and songs
that were used in the appeal to our patriotism and our common humanity,
it was no wonder that we all felt the pull of it all. But no one now is
saying anything about the Big Idea, except for an occasional paragraph
here and there. And certainly no one is making much noise about
applying it in our industries."
"Yes, I know we can't expect any such hurrah as we had when men were
needed to die for the cause in a foreign land. You go to France and get
shot for humanity and you are a hero. Stay at home and sweat for the
same cause and you are a nobody. From the publicity point of view"
there seems to be a lot of difference between a starving baby in
Belgium and a starving kid in our Millsburgh Flats. But just the same
it is the Big Idea that will save us from the dangers that are
threatening our industries and, through our industries, menacing the
very life of out nation."
"But how will the people get it, John?"
"I don't know how it will come; but, somehow, the appeal must be made
to the loyal citizens of this nation in behalf of the humanity that is
dependent for life itself upon our industries, exactly as the appeal
was made in behalf of the humanity that looked to us for help in time
of war. We must, as a nation, learn, somehow, to feel our work as we
felt our war. The same ideals of patriotism and sacrifice and heroism
that were so exalted in the war must be held up in our everyday work.
We must learn to see our individual jobs in the industrial
organizations of our country as we saw our places in the nation's army.
As a people we must grasp the mighty fact that humanity is the issue of
our mills and shops and factories and mines, exactly as it was the
issue of our campaigns in France. America, Charlie, has not only to
face in her industries the same spirit of imperialism that we fought in
France, but she has to contend with the same breed of disloyal
grafters, profiteers and slackers that would have betrayed us during
the war. And these traitors to our industries must be branded wherever
they are found--among the business forces or in the ranks of labor, in
our schools and churches or on our farms.
"The individual's attitude toward the industries of this nation must be
a test of his loyal citizenship just as a man's attitude toward our
army was a test. And Americans dare not continue to ignore the danger
that lies in the work of those emissaries who are seeking to weaken the
loyalty of our workmen and who by breeding class hatred and strife in
our industries are trying to bring about the downfall of our government
and replace the stars and stripes with the flag that is as foreign to
our American independence as the flag of the German Kaiser himself."
Captain Charlie said, slowly, "That is all true, John, but at the same
time you and I know that there is no finer body of loyal citizens
anywhere in the world than the great army of our American workmen. And
we know, too, that the great army of our American business men are just
as fine and true and loyal."
"Exactly," cried John, "but if these loyal American citizens who work
with their hands in the Mill and these loyal citizens who work in the
office of the Mill don't hold together, in the same spirit of
comradeship that united them in the war, to defend our industries
against both the imperialism of capital and the equally dangerous
imperialism of labor, we may as well run up a new flag at Washington
and be done with it."
"You are right, of course, John," said Captain Charlie, "but how?"
"You and I may not know how," retorted the other, "any more than we
knew how the war was going to be won when we enlisted. But we do know
our little parts right here in Millsburgh clear enough. As I see it, it
is up to us to carry the torch of Flanders fields into the field of our
industries right here in our own home town."
He paced to and fro without speaking for a little while, the other
watching him, waited.
"Of course," said John at last, "a lot of people will call us fanatics
and cranks and idealists for saying that the Big Idea, of the war must
dominate us in our industrial life. And, of course, it is going to be a
darned sight harder in some ways to stand for the principles of our
comradeship here at home than it was over there. 'Don't go out into No
Man's Land to-night, Captain Charlie, it is so dirty and dark and wet
and cold and dangerous; let Private John go.' But the darned fool,
Captain Charlie, went into the cold and the wet and the danger because
he and Private John were comrades in the oneness of the Big Idea."
His voice grew a little bitter as he finished. "Don't go into that
awful Mill, Captain John, it is so dirty and dangerous and you will get
so tired; let Private Charlie do the work while you stay at home and
play tennis or bridge or attend to the social duties of your superior
With ringing earnestness Charlie Martin added, "But the darned fool
fanatic and idealist Captain John will go just the same because he and
Private Charlie are comrades in the oneness of the Big Idea of the Mill
here at home."
For a few moments John stood looking into the distance as one who sees
a vision, then he said, slowly, "And the Big Idea will win again, old
man, as it has always won; and the traitors and slackers and yellow
dogs will be saved with the rest, I suppose, just as they always have
been saved from themselves."
He turned to see his comrade standing at attention. Gravely Captain
* * * * *
Perhaps Jake Vodell was right in believing that the friendship of John
Ward and Charlie Martin was dangerous to his cause in Millsburgh.
The Vodells, who with their insidious propaganda, menace America
through her industrial troubles, will be powerless, indeed, when
American employers and employees can think in terms of industrial
TWO SIDES OF A QUESTION
That evening the new manager of the Mill stayed for supper at the
Martin cottage. It was the first time since he had left the old house
next door for his school in a distant city that he had eaten a meal
with these friends of his boyhood.
Perhaps because their minds were so filled with things they could not
speak, their talk was a little restrained. Captain Charlie attempted a
jest or two; John did his best, and Mary helped them all she could. The
old workman, save for a kindly word now and then to make the son of
Adam Ward feel at home, was silent.
But when the supper was over and the twilight was come and they had
carried their chairs out on the lawn where, in their boy and girl days
they had romped away so many twilight hours, the weight of the present
was lifted. While Peter Martin smoked his pipe and listened, the three
made merry over the adventures of their childhood, until the old house
next door, so deserted and forlorn, must have felt that the days so
long past were come again.
It was rather late when John finally said goodnight. As he drove
homeward he told himself many times that it had been one of the
happiest evenings he had ever spent. He wondered why.
The big house on the hill, as he approached the iron gates, seemed
strangely grim and forbidding. The soft darkness of the starlit night
invited him to stay out of doors. Reluctantly, half in mind to turn
back, he drove slowly up the long driveway. The sight of McIver's big
car waiting decided him. He did not wish to meet the factory owner that
evening. He would wait a while before going indoors. Finding a
comfortable lawn chair not far from the front of the house, he filled
As he sat there, many things unbidden and apparently without purpose
passed in leisurely succession through his mind. Bits of boyhood
experiences, long forgotten and called up now, no doubt, by his evening
at the cottage that had once been as much his home as the old house
itself. How inseparable the four children had been! Fragments of his
army life--what an awakening it had all been for him! The coming
struggle with the followers of Jake Vodell--his new responsibilities.
He had feared that his comradeship with Charlie might be
weakened--well, that was settled now. He was glad they had had their
The door of the house opened and McIver came down the steps to his
automobile. For a moment Helen stood framed against the bright light of
the interior, then the car rolled away. The door was closed.
John recalled what his father had said. Would his sister finally accept
McIver? For a long time the factory owner had been pressing his suit.
Would she marry him at last? A combination of the Ward Mill and the
McIver factory would be a mighty power in the manufacturing world. He
dismissed the thought. He wished that Helen were more like Mary. His
sister was a wonderful woman in his eyes--he was proud of her; but
again his mind went back to the workman's home and to his happy evening
there. His own home was so different. His mother! What a splendid old
man Uncle Peter was!
John Ward's musings were suddenly disturbed by a faint sound. Turning
his head, he saw the form of a man, dark and shadowy in the faint light
of the stars, moving toward the house. John held his place silently,
alert and ready. Cautiously the dark form crept forward with frequent
pauses as if to look about. Then, as the figure stood for a moment
silhouetted against a lighted window of the house, John recognized his
At the involuntary exclamation which escaped the younger man Adam
whirled as if to run.
John spoke, quietly, "That you, father?"
The man came quickly to his son. With an odd nervous laugh, he said,
"Lord, boy, but you startled me! What are you doing out here at this
time of the night?"
"Just enjoying a quiet smoke and looking at the stars," John answered,
It was evident that Adam Ward was intensely excited. His voice shook
with nervous agitation and he looked over his shoulder and peered into
the surrounding darkness as if dreading some lurking danger.
"I couldn't sleep," he muttered, in a low cautious tone.
"Dreams--nothing in them of course--all foolishness--nerves are all
shot to pieces."
He dropped down on the seat beside his son, then sprang to his feet
again. "Did you hear that?" he whispered, and stooping low, he tried to
see into the shadows of the shrubbery behind John.
The younger man spoke soothingly. "There is nothing here, father, sit
down and take it easy."
"You don't know what you're talking about," retorted Adam Ward. "I tell
you they are after me--there's no telling what they will do--poison--a
gun--infernal machines through the mail--bomb. No one has any sympathy
with me, not even my family. All these years I have worked for what I
have and now nobody cares. All they want is what they can get out of
me. And you--you'll find out! I saw your car in front of Martin's again
this evening. You'd better keep away from there. Peter Martin is
dangerous. He would take everything I have away from me if he could."
John tried in vain to calm his father, but in a voice harsh with
passion he continued, and as he spoke, he moved his hands and arms
constantly with excited and vehement gestures.
"That process is mine, I tell you. The best lawyers I could get have
fixed up the patents. Pete Martin is an old fool. I'll see him in his
grave before--" he checked himself as if fearing his own anger would
betray him. As he paced up and he muttered to himself, "I built up the
business and I can tear it down. I'll blow up the Mill. I--" his voice
trailed off into hoarse unintelligible sounds.
John Ward could not speak. He believed that his father's strange fears
for the loss of his property were due to nothing more than his nervous
trouble. Peter Martin's name, which Adam in his most excited moments
nearly always mentioned in this manner, meant nothing more to John than
the old workman's well-known leadership in the Mill workers' union.
Suddenly Adam turned again to his son, and coming close asked in a
whisper, "John--I--is there really a hell, John? I mean such as the
preachers used to tell about. Does a man go from this life to the
horrors of eternal punishment? Does he, son?"
"Why, father, I--" John started to reply, but Adam interrupted him
with, "Never mind; you wouldn't know any more than any one else about
it. The preachers ought to know, though. Seems like there must be some
way of finding out. I dreamed--"
As if he had forgotten the presence of his son, he suddenly started
away toward the house.
Not until John Ward had assured himself that his father was safely in
his room and apparently sleeping at last, did he go to his own
But the new manager of the Mill did not at once retire. He did not even
turn on the lights. For a long time he stood at the darkened window,
looking out into the night. "What was it?" he asked himself again and
again. "What was it his father feared?"
In the distance he could see a tiny spot of light shining high against
the shadowy hillside above the darkness of the Flats. It was a lighted
window in the Interpreter's hut.
* * * * *
As they sat in the night on the balcony porch, Jake Vodell said harshly
to the old basket maker, "You shall tell me about this Adam Ward,
comrade. I hear many things. From what you say of your friendship with
him in the years when he was a workman in the Mill and from your
friendship with his son and daughter you must know better than any one
else. Is it true that it was his new patented process that made him so
"The new process was undoubtedly the foundation of his success,"
answered the Interpreter, "but it was the man's peculiar genius that
enabled him to recognize the real value of the process and to foresee
how it would revolutionize the industry. And it was his ability as an
organizer and manager, together with his capacity for hard work, that
enabled him to realize his vision. It is easily probable that not one
of his fellow workmen could have developed and made use of the
discovery as he has."
Jake Vodell's black brows were raised with quickened interest. "This
new process was a discovery then? It was not the result of research and
The Interpreter seemed to answer reluctantly. "It was an accidental
discovery, as many such things are."
The agitator must have noticed that the old basket maker did not wish
to talk of Adam Ward's patented process, but he continued his
"Peter Martin was working in the Mill at the time of this wonderful
discovery, was he?"
"Oh! and Peter and Adam were friends, too?"
The Interpreter's guest shrugged his shoulders and scowled his
righteous indignation. "And all these years that Adam Ward has been
building up this Mill that grinds the bodies and souls of his fellow
men into riches for himself and makes from the life blood of his
employees the dollars that his son and daughter spend in wicked
luxury--all these years his old friend Peter Martin has toiled for him
exactly as the rest of his slaves have toiled. Bah! And still the
priests and preachers make the people believe there is a God of
The Interpreter replied, slowly, "It may be after all, sir, that Peter
Martin is richer than Adam Ward."
"How richer?" demanded the other. "When he lives in a poor little
house, with no servants, no automobiles, no luxuries of any kind, and
must work every day in the Mill with his son, while his daughter Mary
slaves at the housekeeping for her father and brother! Look at Adam
Ward and his great castle of a home--look at his possessions--at the
fortune he will leave his children. Bah! Mr. Interpreter, do not talk
to me such foolishness."
"Is it foolishness to count happiness as wealth?" asked the
"Happiness?" growled the other. "Is there such a thing? What does the
laboring man know of happiness?"
And the Interpreter answered, "Peter Martin, in the honorable peace and
contentment of his useful years, and in the love of his family and
friends, is the happiest man I have ever known. While Adam Ward--"
Jake Vodell sprang to his feet as if the Interpreter's words exhausted
his patience, while he spoke as one moved by a spirit of contemptuous
intolerance. "You talk like a sentimental old woman. How is it possible
that there should be happiness and contentment anywhere when all is
injustice and slavery under this abominable capitalist system? First we
shall have liberty--freedom--equality--then perhaps we may begin to
talk of happiness. Is Sam Whaley and his friends who live down there in
their miserable hovels--is Sam Whaley happy?"
"Sam Whaley has had exactly the same opportunity for happiness that
Peter Martin has had," answered the Interpreter. "Opportunity, yes,"
snarled the other. "Opportunity to cringe and whine and beg his master
for a chance to live like a dog in a kennel, while he slaves to make
his owners rich. Do you know what this man McIver says? I will tell
you, Mr. Interpreter--you who prattle about a working man's happiness.
McIver says that the laboring classes should be driven to their work
with bayonets--that if his factory employees strike they will be forced
to submission by the starvation of their women and children. Happiness!
You shall see what we will do to this man McIver before we talk of
happiness. And you shall see what will happen to this castle of Adam
Ward's and to this Mill that he says is his."
"I think I should tell you, sir," said the Interpreter, calmly, "that
in your Millsburgh campaign, at least, you are already defeated."
"Defeated! Hah! That is good! And who do you say has defeated me,
before I have commenced even to fight, heh?"
"You are defeated by Adam Ward's retirement from business," came the
THE TWO HELENS
"_O Guns, fall silent till the dead men hear
Above their heads the legions pressing on_:
* * * * *
_Bid them be patient, and some day, anon,
They shall feel earth enwrapt in silence deep;
Shall greet, in wonderment, the quiet dawn,
And in content may turn them to their sleep_."
Immediately following that day when she had watched her father from the
arbor and had talked with Bobby and Maggie Whaley on the old road,
Helen Ward had thrown herself into the social activities of her circle
as if determined to find, in those interests, a cure for her discontent
Several times she called for a few minutes at the little hut on the
cliff. But she did not again talk of herself or of her father to the
old basket maker as she had talked that day when she first met the
children from the Flats. Two or three times she saw the children. But
she passed them quickly by with scarcely a nod of greeting. And yet,
the daughter of Adam Ward felt with increasing certainty that she could
never be content with the busy nothingness which absorbed the lives of
so many of her friends. Her father, since his retirement, seemed a
little better. But she could not put out of her mind the memory of what
she had seen. For her, the dreadful presence of the hidden thing always
attended him. Because she could not banish the feeling and because
there was nothing she could do, she sought relief by escaping from the
house as often as possible on the plea of social duties.
There were times when the young woman thought that her mother knew. At
times she fancied that her brother half guessed the secret that so
overshadowed their home. But Mrs. Ward and her children alike shrank
from anything approaching frankness in mentioning the Mill owner's
condition. And so they went on, feeling the hidden thing, dreading they
knew not what--deceiving themselves and each other with hopes that in
their hearts they knew were false.
The mother, brave, loyal soul, seeing her daughter's unhappiness and
wishing to protect her from the thing that had so saddened her own
life, encouraged Helen to find what relief she could in the pleasures
that kept her so many hours from home. John, occupied by the exacting
duties of his new position, needed apparently nothing more. Indeed, to
Helen, her brother's attitude toward his work, his views of life and
his increasing neglect of what she called the obligations of their
position in Millsburgh, were more and more puzzling. She had thought
that with John's advancement to the general managership of the Mill his
peculiar ideas would be modified. But his promotion seemed to have made
no sign of a change in his conception of the relationship between
employer and employee, or in his attitude toward the unions or toward
the industrial situation as a whole.
Of one thing Helen was certain--her brother had found that which she,
in her own life, was somehow missing. And so the young woman observed
her brother with increasing interest and a growing feeling that
approached envy. At every opportunity she led him to talk of his work
or rather of his attitude toward his work, and encouraged him to
express the convictions that had so changed his own life and that were
so foreign to the tenets of Helen and her class. And always their talks
ended with John's advice: "Go ask the Interpreter; he knows; he will
make it so much clearer than I can."
But with all John's absorbing interest in his work and in the general
industrial situation of Millsburgh, which under the growing influence
of Jake Vodell was becoming every day more difficult and dangerous, the
general manager could not escape the memories of that happy evening at
the Martin cottage. The atmosphere of this workman's home was so
different from the atmosphere of his own home in the big house on the
hill. There was a peace, a contentment, a feeling of security in the
little cottage that was sadly wanting in the more pretentious
residence. Following, as it did, his father's retirement from the Mill
with his own promotion to the rank of virtual ownership and his
immediate talk with Captain Charlie, that evening had reestablished for
him, as it were, the relationship and charm of his boyhood days. It was
as though, having been submitted to a final test, he was now admitted
once more, without reserve, to the innermost circle of their
On his way to and from his office he nearly always, now, drove past the
Martin cottage. The distance was greater, it is true, but John thought
that the road was enough better to more than make up for that. Besides,
he really did enjoy the drive down the tree-arched street and past the
old house. It was all so rich in memories of his happy boyhood, and
sometimes--nearly always, in fact--he would catch a glimpse of Mary
among her flowers or on the porch or perhaps at the gate.
Occasionally this young manager of the Mill, with his strange ideas of
industrial comradeship, found it necessary to spend an evening with
these workmen who were leaders in the union that was held by his father
and by McIver to be a menace to the employer class. It in no way
detracted from the value of these consultations with Captain Charlie
and his father that Mary was always present. In fact, Mary herself was
in a position materially to help John Ward in his study of the
industrial problems that were of such vital interest to him. No one
knew better than did Pete Martin's daughter the actual living
conditions of the class of laboring people who dwelt in the Flats.
Certainly, as he watched the progress of Jake Vodell's missionary work
among them, John could not ignore these Sam Whaleys of the industries
as an important factor in his problem.
So it happened, curiously enough, that Helen herself was led to call at
the little home next door to the old house where she had lived in those
years of her happy girlhood.
* * * * *
Helen was downtown that afternoon on an unimportant shopping errand.
She had left the store after making her purchases and was about to
enter her automobile, when McIver, who chanced to be passing, stopped
to greet her.
There was no doubting the genuineness of the man's pleasure in the
incident, nor was Helen herself at all displeased at this break in what
had been, so far, a rather dull day.
"And what brings you down here at this unreasonable hour?" he asked;
"on Saturday, too? Don't you know that there is a tennis match on at
"I didn't seem to care for the tennis to-day somehow," she returned.
"Mother wanted some things from Harrison's, so I came downtown to get
them for her."
He caught a note in her voice that made him ask with grave concern,
"How is your father, Helen?"
She answered, quickly, "Oh, father is doing nicely, thank you." Then,
with a cheerfulness that was a little forced, she asked in turn, "And
why have you deserted the club yourself this afternoon?"
"Business," he returned. "There will be no more Saturday afternoons off
for me for some time to come, I fear." Then he added, quickly, "But
look here, Helen, there is no need of our losing the day altogether.
Send your man on, and come with me for a little spin. The roadster is
in the next block. I'll take you home in an hour and get on back to my
"The ride will do you good."
"Sure you can spare the time?"
"Sure. It will do me good, too."
"And you're not asking me just to be nice--you really want me?"
"Don't you know by this time whether I want you or not?" he returned,
in a tone that brought the color to her cheeks. "Please come!"
"All right," she agreed.
When they were seated in McIver's roadster, she added, "I really can't
deny myself the thrilling triumph of taking a business man away from
his work during office hours."
"You take my thoughts away from my work a great many times during
office hours, Helen," he retorted, as the car moved away. "Must I wait
much longer for my answer, dear?"
She replied, hurriedly, "Please, Jim, not that to-day. Let's not think
about it even."
"All right," he returned, grimly. "I just want you to know, though,
that I am waiting."
"I know, Jim--and--and you are perfectly wonderful but--Oh, can't we
forget it just for an hour?"
As if giving himself to her mood, McIver's voice and manner changed.
"Do you mind if we stop at the factory just a second? I want to leave
some papers. Then we can go on up the river drive."
* * * * *
An hour later they were returning, and because it was the prettiest
street in that part of Millsburgh, McIver chose the way that would take
them past the old house.
John Ward's machine was standing in front of the Martin cottage.
McIver saw it and looked quickly at his companion. There was no need to
ask if Helen had recognized her brother's car.
The factory owner considered the new manager of the Mill a troublesome
obstacle in his own plans for making war on the unions. He felt, too,
that with John now in control of the business, his chances of bringing
about the combination of the two industries were materially lessened.
He had wondered, at times, if it was not her brother's influence that
caused Helen to put off giving him her final answer to his suit.
When he saw that Helen had recognized John's car, he remarked, with an
insinuating laugh, "Evidently I am not the only business man who can be
lured from his office during working hours."
"Jim, how can you?" she protested. "You know John is there on business
to see Charlie or his father."
"It is a full hour yet before quitting time at the Mill," he returned.
She had no reply to this, and the man continued with a touch of
malicious satisfaction, "After all, Helen, John is human, you know, and
old Pete Martin's daughter is a mighty attractive girl."
Helen Ward's cheeks were red, but she managed to control her voice, as
she said, "Just what do you mean by that, Jim?"
"Is it possible that you really do not know?" he countered.
"I know that my brother, foolish as he may be about some things, would
never think of paying serious attention to the daughter of one of his
employees," she retorted, warmly.
"That is exactly the situation," he returned. "No one believes for a
moment that the affair is serious on John's part."
The color was gone from Helen's face now. "I think you have said too
much not to go on now, Jim. Do you mean that people are saying that
John is amusing himself with Mary Martin?"
"Well," he returned, coolly, "what else can the people think when they
see him going there so often; when they see the two together, wandering
about the Flats; when they hear his car tearing down the street late in
the evening; when they see her every morning at the gate watching for
him to pass on his way to work? Your brother is not a saint, Helen. He
is no different, in some ways, from other men. I always did feel that
there was something back of all this comrade stuff between him and
Charlie Martin. As for the girl, I don't think you need to worry about
her. She probably understands it all right enough."
"Jim, you must not say such things to me about Mary! She is not at all
that kind of girl. The whole thing is impossible."
"What do you know about Mary Martin?" he retorted. "I'll bet you have
never even spoken to her since you moved from the old house."
Helen did not speak after this until they were passing the great stone
columns at the entrance to the Ward estate, then she said, quietly,
"Jim, do you always believe the worst possible things about every one?"
"That's an odd thing for you to ask," he returned, doubtfully, as they
drove slowly up the long curving driveway. "Why?"
"Because," she answered, "it sometimes seems to me as if no one
believed the best things about people these days. I know there is a
world of wickedness among us, Jim, but are we all going wholly to the
McIver laughed. "We are all alike in one thing, Helen. No matter what
he professes, you will find that at the last every man holds to the
good old law of 'look out for number one.' Business or pleasure, it's
all the same. A man looks after his own interests first and takes what
he wants, or can get, when and where and how he can."
"But, Jim, the war--"
He laughed cynically. "The war was pure selfishness from start to
finish. We fed the fool public a lot of patriotic bunk, of course--we
had to--we needed them. And the dear people fell for the sentimental
hero business as they always do." With the last word he stopped the car
in front of the house.
When Helen was on the ground she turned and faced him squarely. "Jim
McIver, your words are an insult to my brother and to ninety-nine out
of every hundred men who served under our flag, and you insult my
intelligence if you expect me to accept them in earnest. If I thought
for a minute that you were capable of really believing such abominable
stuff I would never speak to you again. Good-by, Jim. Thank you so much
for the ride."
Before the man could answer, she ran up the steps and disappeared
through the front door.
But McIver's car was no more than past the entrance when Helen appeared
again on the porch. For a moment she stood, as if debating some
question in her mind. Then apparently, she reached a decision. Ten
minutes later she was walking hurriedly down the hill road--the way
Bobby and Maggie had fled that day when Adam Ward drove them from the
iron fence that guarded his estate. It was scarcely a mile by this road
to the old house and the Martin cottage.
THE WAY BACK
That walk from her home to the little white cottage next door to the
old house was the most eventful journey that Helen Ward ever made. She
felt this in a way at the time, but she could not know to what end her
sudden impulse to visit again the place of her girlhood would
As she made her way down the hill toward that tree-arched street, she
realized a little how far the years had carried her from the old house.
She had many vivid and delightful memories of that world of her
childhood, it is true, but the world to which her father's material
success had removed her in the years of her ripening womanhood had come
to claim her so wholly that she had never once gone back. She had
looked back at first with troubled longing. But Adam Ward's determined
efforts to make the separation of the two families final and complete,
together with the ever-increasing bitterness of his strange hatred for
his old workman friend, had effectually prevented her from any attempt
at a continuation of the old relationship. In time, even the thought of
taking so much as a single step toward the intimacies from which she
had come so far, had ceased to occur to her. And now, suddenly, without
plan or premeditation, she was on her way actually to touch again, if
only for a few moments, the lives that had been so large a part of the
simple, joyous life which she had known once, but which was so foreign
to her now.
Nor was it at all clear to her why she was going or what she would do.
As she had observed with increasing interest the change in her
brother's attitude toward the pleasures that had claimed him so wholly
before the war, she had wondered often at his happy contentment in
contrast to her own restless and dissatisfied spirit. McIver's words
had suddenly forced one fact upon her with startling clearness: John,
through his work in the Mill, his association with Captain Charlie and
his visits to the Martin home, was actually living again in the
atmosphere of that world which she felt they had left so far behind. It
was as though her brother had already gone back.
And McIver's challenging question, "What do you know about Mary
Martin?" had raised in her mind a doubt, not of her brother and his
relationship to these old friends of their childhood, but of herself
and all the relationships that made her present life such a contrast to
her life in the old house.
With her mind and heart so full of doubts and questionings, she turned
into the familiar street and saw her brother's car still before the
As she went on, a feeling of strange eagerness possessed her. Her face
glowed with warm color, her eyes shone with glad anticipation, her
heart beat more quickly. As one returning to well loved home scenes
after many years in a foreign land, the daughter of Adam Ward went down
the street toward the place where she was born. In front of the old
house she stopped. The color went from her cheeks--the brightness from
In her swiftly moving automobile, nearly always with gay companions,
Helen had sometimes passed the old house and had noticed with momentary
concern its neglected appearance. But these fleeting glimpses had been
so quickly forgotten that the place was most real to her as she saw it
in her memories. But now, as she stood there alone, in the mood that
had brought her to the spot, the real significance of the ruin struck
her with appalling force.
Those rooms with their shattered windowpanes, their bare, rotting
casements and sagging, broken shutters appealed to her in the mute
eloquence of their empty loneliness for the joyous life that once had
filled them. The weed-grown yard, the tumbledown fence, the dilapidated
porch, and even the chimneys that were crumbling and ragged against the
sky, cried out to her in sorrowful reproach. A rushing flood of home
memories filled her eyes with hot tears. With the empty loneliness of
the old house in her heart, she went blindly on to the little cottage
next door. There was no thought as to how she would explain her unusual
presence there. She did not, herself, really know clearly why she had
Timidly she paused at the white gate. There was no one in the yard to
bid her welcome. As one in a dream, she passed softly into the yard.
She was trembling now as one on the threshold of a great adventure.
What was it? What did it mean--her coming there?
Wonderingly she looked about the little yard with its bit of lawn--at
the big shade tree--the flowers--it was all just as she had always
known it. Where were they?--John and Mary and Charlie? Why was there no
sound of their voices? Her cheeks were suddenly hot with color. What if
Charlie Martin should suddenly appear! As one awakened from strange
dreams to a familiar home scene, Helen Ward was all at once back in
those days of her girlhood. She had come as she had come so many, many
times from the old house next door, to find her brother and their
friends. Her heart was eager with the shy eagerness of a maid for the
expected presence of her first boyish lover.
* * * * *
Then Peter Martin, coming around the house from the garden, saw her
The old workman stopped, as if at the sight of an apparition.
Mechanically he placed the garden tool he was carrying against the
corner of the house; deliberately he knocked the ashes from his pipe
and placed it methodically in his pocket.
With a little cry, Helen ran to him, her hands outstretched, "Uncle
The old workman caught her and for a few moments she clung to him, half
laughing, half crying, while they both, in the genuineness of their
affection, forgot the years.
"Is it really you, Helen?" he said, at last, and she saw a suspicious
moisture in the kindly eyes. "Have you really come back to see the old
man after all these years?"
Then, with quick anxiety, he asked, "But what is the matter, child?
Your father--your mother--are they all right? Is there anything wrong
at your home up on the hill yonder?"
His very natural inquiry broke the spell and placed her instantly back
in the world to which she now belonged. Drawing away from him, she
returned, with characteristic calmness, "Oh, no, Uncle Pete, father and
mother are both very well indeed. But why should you think there must
be something wrong, simply because I chanced to call?"
The old workman was clearly confused at this sudden change in her
manner. He had welcomed the girl--the Helen of the old house--this
self-possessed young woman was quite a different person. She was the
princess lady of little Maggie and Bobby Whaley's acquaintance, who
sometimes condescended to recognize him with a cool little nod as her
big automobile passed him swiftly by.
Pete Martin could not know, as the Interpreter would have known, how at
that very moment the Helen of the old house and the princess lady were
struggling for supremacy.
Removing his hat and handling it awkwardly, he said, with a touch of
dignity in his tone and manner in spite of his embarrassment, "I'm glad
the folks are well, Helen. Won't you take a seat and rest yourself?"
As they went toward the chairs in the shade of the tree, he added, "It
is a long time since we have seen you in this part of town--walking, I
The Helen of the old house wanted to answer--she longed to cry out in
the fullness of her heart some of the things that were demanding
expression, but it was the princess lady who answered, "I saw my
brother's car here and thought perhaps he would let me ride home with
The old workman was studying her now with kind but frankly
understanding eyes. "John and Mary have gone to see some of the folks
that she is looking after in the Flats," he said, slowly. "They'll be
back any minute now, I should think."
She did not know what to reply to this. There were so many things she
wanted to know--so many things that she felt she must know. But she
felt herself forced to answer with the mere commonplace, "You are all
well, I suppose, Uncle Pete?"
"Fine, thank you," he answered. "Mary is always busy with her housework
and her flowers and the poor sick folks she's always a-looking
after--just like her mother, if you remember. Charlie, he's working
late to-day--some breakdown or something that's keeping him overtime.
That brother of yours is a fine manager, Miss Helen, and," he added,
with a faint note of something in his voice that brought a touch of
color to her cheeks, "a finer man."
Again she felt the crowding rush of those questions she wanted to ask,
but she only said, with an air of calm indifference, "John has changed
so since his return from France--in many ways he seems like a different
"As for that," he replied, "the war has changed most people in one way
or another. It was bound to. Everybody talks about getting back to
normal again, but as I see it there'll be no getting back ever to what
used to be normal before the war started."
She looked at him with sudden, intense interest. "How has it so changed
every one, Uncle Pete? Why can't people be just as they were before it
happened? The change in business conditions and all that, I can
understand, but why should it make any difference to--well, to me, for
The old workman answered, slowly, "The people are thinking deeper and
feeling deeper. They're more human, as you might say. And I've noticed
generally that the way the people think and feel is at the bottom of
everything. It's just like the Interpreter says, 'You can't change the
minds and hearts of folks without changing what they do.' Everybody
ain't changed, of course, but so many of them have that the rest will
be bound to take some notice or feel mighty lonesome from now on."
Helen was about to reply when the old workman interrupted her with,
"There come John and Mary now."
The two coming along the street walk to the gate did not at first
notice those who were watching them with such interest. John was
carrying a market basket and talking earnestly to his companion, whose
face was upturned to his with eager interest. At the gate they paused a
moment while the man, with his hand on the latch, finished whatever it
was that he was saying. And Helen, with a little throb of something
very much like envy in her heart, saw the light of happiness in the
eyes of the young woman who through all the years of their girlhood had
been her inseparable playmate and loyal friend.
When John finally opened the gate for her to pass, Mary was laughing,
and the clear ringing gladness in her voice brought a faint smile of
sympathy even to the face of the now coolly conventional daughter of
Mary's laughter was suddenly checked; the happiness fled from her face.
With a little gesture of almost appealing fear she put her hand on her
In the same instant John saw and stood motionless, his face blank with
amazement. Then, "Helen! What in the world are you doing here?"
John Ward never realized all that those simple words carried to the
three who heard him. Peter Martin's face was grave and thoughtful. Mary
blushed in painful embarrassment. His sister, calm and self-possessed,
came toward them, smiling graciously.
"I saw your roadster and thought I might ride home with you. Uncle Pete
and I have been having a lovely little visit. It is perfectly charming
to see you again like this, Mary. Your flowers are beautiful as ever,
"But, Helen, how do you happen to be wandering about in this
neighborhood alone and without your car?" demanded the still bewildered
"Don't be silly," she laughed. "I was out for a walk--that is all. I do
walk sometimes, you know." She turned to Mary. "Really, to hear this
brother of mine, one would think me a helpless invalid and this part of
Millsburgh a very dangerous community."
Mary forced a smile, but the light in her eyes was not the light of
happiness and her cheeks were still a burning red.
"Don't you think we should go now, John?" suggested Helen.
The helpless John looked from Mary to her father appealingly.
"Better sit down awhile," Pete offered, awkwardly.
John looked at his watch. "I suppose we really ought to go." To Mary he
added, "Will you please tell Charlie that I will see him to-morrow?"
She bowed gravely.
Then the formal parting words were spoken, and Helen and John were
seated in the car. Mary had moved aside from the gate and stood now
very still among her flowers.
* * * * *
Before John had shifted the gears of his machine to high, he heard a
sound that caused him to look quickly at his sister. Little Maggie's
princess lady was sobbing like a child.
"Why, Helen, what in the world--"
She interrupted him. "Please, John--please, don't--don't take me home
now. I--I--Let us stop here at the old house for a few minutes. I--I
can't go just yet."
Without a word John Ward turned into the curb. Tenderly he helped her
to the ground. Reverently he lifted aside the broken-down gate and led
her through the tangle of tall grass and weeds that had almost
obliterated the walk to the front porch. Over the rotting steps and
across the trembling porch he helped her with gentle care. Very softly
he pushed open the sagging door.
AT THE OLD HOUSE
From room to room in the empty old house the brother and sister went
silently or with low, half-whispered words. They moved softly, as if
fearing to disturb some unseen tenant of those bare and dingy rooms.
Often they paused, and, drawing close to each other, stood as if in the
very presence of some spirit that was not of their material world. At
last they came to the back porch, which was hidden from the curious
eyes of any chance observer in the neighborhood by a rank growth of
weeds and bushes and untrimmed trees.
As John Ward looked at his sister now, that expression of wondering
amazement with which he had greeted her was gone. In its place there
was gentle understanding.
With a little smile, Helen sat down on the top step of the porch and
motioned him to a seat beside her. "Won't you tell me about it, John?"
she said, softly.
"Tell you about what, Helen?"
"About everything--your life, your work, your friends." She made a
little gesture toward the cottage next door.
They could see the white gable through the screen of tangled boughs.
"What is it that has changed you so?" she went on. "Your interests are
so different now. You are so happy and contented--so--so alive--and
I"--her voice broke--"I feel as if you were going away off somewhere
and leaving me behind. I am so miserable. John, won't you tell me about
"You poor old girl!" exclaimed John with true brotherly affection.
"I've been a blind fool. I ought to have seen. That's nearly always the
way, though, I guess," he went on, reflectively. "A fellow gets so
darned interested trying to make things go right outside his own home
that he forgets to notice how the people that he really loves most of
all are getting along. It looks as though I have not been doing so much
better than poor old Sam Whaley, after all."
He paused and seemed to be following his thoughts into fields where
only he could go. Helen moved a little closer, and he came back to her.
"I never dreamed that you were feeling anything like this, sister. I
knew that you were worried about father, of course, as we all are, but
aside from that you seemed to be so occupied with your various
interests and with McIver--" He paused, then finished, abruptly, "Look
here, Helen, what about you and McIver anyway; have you given him his
"Has that anything to do with it?" she answered, doubtfully. "There is
nothing that I can tell you about McIver. I don't seem to be able to
make up my mind, that is all. But McIver is only a part of the whole
trouble, John. Oh, can't you understand! How am I to know whether or
not I want to marry him or any one else until--until I have found
myself--until I know where I really belong."
He looked at her blankly for a second, then a smile broke over his
face. "By George!" he exclaimed "that is exactly what I had to do--find
myself and find where I belonged. I never dreamed that my sister might
be compelled to go through the same experience."
"Was it your army life that helped you to know?"
His face was serious now. "It was the things I saw and experienced
while in France."
"Tell me," she demanded. "I mean, tell me some of the things that you
men never talk about--the things you were forced to think and feel and
believe--that showed you your own real self--that changed you into what
you are to-day."
And because John Ward was able that afternoon to understand his
sister's need, he did as she asked. It may have been the influence of
the old house that enabled him to lay bare for her those experiences of
his innermost self--those soul adventures about which, as she had so
truly said, men never talk. Certainly he could never have spoken in
their home on the hill as he spoke in that atmosphere from which their
father and his material prosperity had so far removed them. And Helen,
as she listened, knew that she had found at last the key to all in her
brother's life that had so puzzled her.
But after all, she reflected, when he had finished, John's experience
could not solve her problem. She could not find herself in the things
that he had thought and felt.
"If only I could have been with you over there." she murmured.
"But, Helen," he cried, eagerly, "it is all right here at home. The
same things are happening all about us every day--don't you understand?
The one biggest thing that came to me out of the war is the realization
that, great and terrible though it was, it was in reality only a part
of the greater war that is being fought all the time."
She shook her head with a doubtful smile at his earnestness.
And then he tried to tell her of the Mill as he saw it in its relation
to human life--of the danger that threatened the nation through the
industrial situation--of the menace to humanity that lay in the efforts
of those who were setting class against class in a deadly hatred that
would result in revolution with all its horrors. He tried to make her
feel the call of humanity's need in the world's work, as it was felt in
the need of the world's war. He sought to apply for her the principles
of heroism and comradeship and patriotism and service to this war that
was still being waged against the imperialistic enemies of the nation
and the race.
But when he paused at last, she only smiled again, doubtfully. "You are
wonderful in your enthusiasm, John dear," she said, "and I love you for
it. I think I understand you now, and for yourself it is right, of
course, but for me--it is all so visionary--so unreal."
"And yet," he returned, "you were very active during the war--you made
bandages and lint and sweaters, and raised funds for the Red Cross. Was
it all real to you?"
"Yes," she answered, honestly, "it was very real John; it was so real
that in contrast nothing that I do now seems of any importance."
"But you never saw a wounded soldier--you never witnessed the
horrors--you never came in actual touch with the suffering, did you?"
"And yet you say the war was real to you."
"Very real," she replied.
"Do you think, Helen," he said, slowly, "that the Interpreter's
suffering would have been more real if he had lost his legs by a German
machine gun instead of by a machine in father's mill?"
"John!" she exclaimed, in a shocked tone.
"You say the suffering away over there in France was real to you," he
continued. "Well, less than a mile from this spot, I called this
afternoon on a man who is dying by inches of consumption, contracted
while working in our office. For eight years he was absent from his
desk scarcely a day. The force nicknamed him 'Old Faithful.' When he
dropped in his tracks at last they carried him out and stopped his pay.
He has no care--nothing to eat, even, except the help that the Martins
give him. Another case: A widow and four helpless children--the man was
killed in McIver's factory last week. He died in agony too horrible to
describe. The mother is prostrated, the children are hungry. God knows
what will become of them this next winter. Another: A workman who was
terribly burned in the Mill two years ago. He is blind and crippled in
She interrupted him with a protesting cry, "John, John, for pity's
"Well, why are not these things right here at home as real to you as
you say the same things were when they happened in France?" he
She did not attempt to answer his question but instead asked, gently,
"Is that why you have been going to the Flats with Mary?"
If he noticed any special significance in her words he ignored it.
"Mary visits the people in the Flats as her mother did--as our mother
used to do. She told me about some of the cases, and I have been going
with her now and then to see for myself--that is all."
Then they left the old house and drove back to their pretentious home
on the hill, where Adam Ward suffered his days of mental torture and
was racked by his nightly dreams of hell. And the dread shadow of that
hidden thing was over them all.
* * * * *
That night when John told the Interpreter of his afternoon with his
sister the old basket maker listened silently. His face was turned
toward the scene that, save for the twinkling lights, lay wrapped in
darkness before them. And he seemed to be listening to the voice of the
Mill. When John had finished, the man in the wheel chair said very
But when John was leaving, the Interpreter asked, as an afterthought,
"And where was Captain Charlie this afternoon, John?"
"At the Mill," John answered. "I'm glad he wasn't at home, too; it was
bad enough as it was."
"Perhaps it was just as well," said the old basket maker. And John
Ward, in the darkness, could not see that the Interpreter was smiling.
HER OWN PEOPLE
"A lady to see you, sir."
John did not take his eyes from the work on his desk. "All right,
Jimmy, show her in."
The general manager read on to the bottom of the typewritten page,
signed his name to the sheet, placed it in the proper basket and turned
in his chair.
Little Maggie's princess lady was so lovely that afternoon, as she
stood there framed in the doorway of the manager's office that even her
She was laughing at his surprise, and there was a half teasing, half
serious look in her eyes that was irresistible.
"By George, you are a picture, Helen!" John exclaimed, with not a
little brotherly pride in his face and voice. "But what is the idea?
What are you down here for--all dolled up like this?"
She blushed with pleasure at his compliment. "That is very nice of you,
John; you are a dear to notice it. Are you going to ask me to sit down,
or must you put me out for interrupting?"
He was on his feet instantly. "Forgive me; I am so stunned by the
unexpected honor of your visit that I forget my manners."
When she was seated, he continued, "And now what is it? what can I do
for you, sister?"
She looked about the office--at his desk and through the open door into
the busy outer room. "Are you quite sure that you have time for me?"
"Surest thing in the world," he returned, with a reassuring smile. Then
to a man who at that moment appeared in the doorway, "All right, Tom."
And to Helen, "Excuse me just a second, dear."
She watched him curiously as he turned sheet after sheet of the papers
the man handed him, seeming to absorb the pages at a glance, while a
running fire of quick questions, short answers, terse comments and
clear-cut instructions accompanied the examination.
Helen had never before been inside the doors of the industrial plant to
which her father had literally given his life. In those old-house days,
when Adam worked with Pete and the Interpreter, she had gone sometimes
to the outer gate to meet her father when his day's work was done. On
rare occasions her automobile had stopped in front of the office. That
In a vague, indefinite way the young woman realized that her education,
her pleasures, the dresses she wore, her home on the hill, everything
that she had, in fact, came to her somehow from those great dingy,
unsightly buildings. She knew that people who were not of her world
worked there for her father. Sometimes there were accidents--men were
killed. There had been strikes that annoyed her father. But no part of
it all had ever actually touched her. She accepted it as a matter of
course--without a thought--as she accepted all of the established facts
in nature. The Mill existed for her as the sun existed. It never
occurred to her to ask why. There was for her no personal note in the
droning, moaning voice of its industry. There was nothing of personal
significance in the forest of tall stacks with their overhanging cloud
of smoke. Indeed, there had been, rather, something sinister and
forbidding about the place. The threatening aspect of the present
industrial situation was in no way personal to her except, perhaps, as
it excited her father and disturbed John.
"You've got it all there, Tom," said the manager, finishing his
examination of the papers. "Good work, too. Baird will have those
specifications on that Miller and Wilson job in to-morrow, will he?"
"Good, that's the stuff!"
The man was smiling as he moved toward the door.
"Oh, Tom, just a moment."
Still smiling, the man turned back.
"I want you to meet my sister. Helen, may I present Mr. Conway? Tom is
one of our Mill family, you know, mighty important member, too--regular
shark at figuring all sorts of complicated calculations that I couldn't
work out in a month of Sundays." He laughed with boyish happiness and
pride in Tom's superior accomplishments.
It was a simple little incident, but there was something in it
somewhere that moved Helen Ward strangely. A spirit that was new to her
seemed to fill the room. She felt it as one may feel the bigness of the
mountains or sense the vast reaches of the ocean. These two men,
employer and employee, were in no way conscious of their relationship
as she understood it. Tom did not appear to realize that he was working
_for_ John--he seemed rather to feel that he was working _with_ John.
When the man was gone, she asked again, timidly, "Are you sure,
brother, that I am not in the way?"
"Forget it!" he cried. "Tell me what I can do for you."
"I want to see the Mill," she answered.
John did not apparently quite understand her request. "You want to see
the Mill?" he repeated.
She nodded eagerly. "I want to see it all--not just the office but
where the men work--everything."
She laughed at his bewildered expression as the sincerity of her wish
dawned upon him.
"But what in the world"--he began--"why this sudden interest in the
Half teasing, half laughing, she answered, "You didn't really think,
did you, John, that I would forget everything you said to me at the old
"No," he said, doubtfully. "At least, I suppose I didn't. But,
honestly, I didn't think that I had made much of an impression."
She made a little gesture of helpless resignation. "Here I am just the
same and so much interested already that I can't tear myself away. Come
on, let's start--that is, if you really have the time to take me."
Time to take her! John Ward would have lost the largest contract he had
ever dreamed of securing rather than miss taking Helen through the
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