Helen of the Old House
Harold Bell Wright
Part 4 out of 6
* * * * *
With an old linen duster, which had hung in the office closet since
Adam Ward's day, to cover her from chin to shoes, and a cap that John
himself often wore about the plant, to replace her hat, they set out.
Helen's first impression, as she stood just inside the door to the big
main room of the plant, was fear. To her gentle eyes the scene was one
of terrifying confusion and unspeakable dangers.
Those great machines were grim and threatening monsters with ponderous
jaws and arms and chains that seemed all too light to control their
sullen strength. The noise--roaring, crashing, clanking, moaning,
shrieking, hissing--was overpowering in its suggestion of the
ungoverned tumult that belonged to some strange, unearthly realm.
Everywhere, amid this fearful din and these maddening terrors, flitting
through the murky haze of steam and smoke and dust, were men with sooty
faces and grimy arms. Never had the daughter of Adam Ward seen men at
work like this. She drew closer to John's side and held to his arm as
though half expecting him to vanish suddenly and leave her alone in
this monstrous nightmare.
Looking down at her, John laughed aloud and put his arm about her
reassuringly. "Great game, old girl!" he said, with a wholesome pride
in his voice. "This is the life!"
And all at once she remembered that this _was_, indeed, life--life as
she had never seen it, never felt it before. And this life game--this
greatest of all games--was the game that John played with such
absorbing interest day after day.
"I can understand now why you are not so devoted to tennis and teas as
you used to be," she returned, laughing back at him with a new
admiration in her face.
Then John led her into the very midst of the noisy scene. Carefully he
guided her steps through the seeming hurry and confusion of machinery
and men. Now they paused before one of those grim monsters to watch its
mighty work. Now they stopped to witness the terrific power displayed
by another giant that lifted, with its great arms of steel, a weight of
many tons as easily as a child would handle a toy. Again, they stepped
aside from the path of an engine on its way to some distant part of the
plant, or stood before a roaring furnace, or paused to watch a group of
men, or halted while John exchanged a few brief words with a
superintendent or foreman. And always with boyish enthusiasm John
talked to her of what they saw, explaining, illustrating, making the
purpose and meaning of every detail clear.
Gradually, as she thus went closer to this life that was at first so
terrifying to her, the young woman was conscious of a change within
herself. The grim monsters became kind and friendly as she saw how
their mighty strength was obedient always to the directing eye and hand
of the workmen who controlled them. The many noises, as she learned to
distinguish them, came to blend into one harmonious whole, like the
instruments in a great orchestra. The confusion, as she came to view it
understandingly, resolved itself into orderly movement. As she recalled
some of the things that her brother had said to her as they sat on the
back porch of the old house, her mind reached out for the larger truth,
and she thrilled to the feeling that she was standing, as it were, in
the living, beating heart of the nation. The things that she had been
schooled to hold as of the highest value she saw now for the first time
in their just relation to the mighty underlying life of the Mill. The
petty refinements that had so largely ruled her every thought and deed
were no more than frothy bubbles on the surface of the industrial
ocean's awful tidal power. The male idlers of her set were suddenly
contemptible in her eyes, as she saw them in comparison with her
brother or with his grimy, sweating comrades.
Presently John was saying, "This is where father used to work--before
the days of the new process, I mean. That bench there is the very one
he used, side by side with Uncle Pete and the Interpreter."
Helen stared at the old workbench that stood against the wall and at
the backs of the men, as though under a spell. Her father working
Her brain all at once was crowded with questions to which there were no
answers. What if Adam Ward were still a workman at that bench? What if
it had been the Interpreter who had discovered the new process? What if
her father had lost his legs? What if John, instead of being the
manager, were one of those men who worked with their hands? What if
they had never left the old house next door to Mary and Charlie? What
"Uncle Pete," said John, "look here and see who's with us this
Mary's father turned from his work and they laughed at the expression
on his face when he saw her standing there.
And it was the Helen of the old house who greeted him, and who was so
interested in what he was doing and asked so many really intelligent
questions that he was proud of her.
They had left Uncle Pete at his bench, and Helen's mind was again busy
with those unanswerable questions--so busy, in fact, that she scarcely
heard John saying, "I want to show you a lathe over here, Helen, that
is really worth seeing. It is, on the whole, the finest and most
intricate piece of machinery in the whole plant." And, he added, as
they drew near the subject of his remarks, "You may believe me, it
takes an exceptional workman to handle it. There are only three men in
our entire force who are ever permitted to touch it. They are experts
in their line and naturally are the best paid men we have."
As he finished speaking they paused beside a huge affair of black iron
and gray steel, that to Helen seemed an incomprehensible tangle of
wheels and levers.
A workman was bending over the machine, so absorbed apparently in the
complications of his valuable charge that he was unaware of their
Helen spoke close to her brother's ear, "Is he one of your three
John nodded. "He is the chief. The other two are really
assistants--sort of understudies, you know."
At that moment the man straightened up, stood for an instant with his
eyes still on his work, then, as he was turning to another part of the
intricate mechanism, he saw them.
"Hello, Charlie!" said the grinning manager, and to his sister, "Surely
you haven't forgotten Captain Martin, Helen?"
In the brief moments that followed Helen Ward knew that she had reached
the point toward which she had felt herself moving for several
months--impelled by strange forces beyond her comprehension.
Her brother's renewed and firmly established friendship with this
playmate of their childhood years, together with the many stirring
tales that John had told of his comrade captain's life in France, could
not but awaken her interest in the boy lover whom she had, as she
believed, so successfully forgotten. The puzzling change in her
brother's life interests, has neglect of so many of his pre-war
associates and his persistent comradeship with his fellow workman, had
kept alive that interest; while Captain Martin's repeated refusals to
accept John's invitations to the big home on the hill had curiously
touched her woman's pride and at the same time had compelled her
The clash between John's new industrial and social convictions and the
class consciousness to which she had been so carefully schooled, with
its background of her father's wretched mental condition, the
unhappiness of her home and her own repeated failures to find
contentment in the privileges of material wealth, raised in her mind
questions which she had never before faced.
Her talks with the Interpreter, the slow forming of the lines of the
approaching industrial struggle, with the sharpening of the contrast
between McIver and John, her acquaintance with Bobby and Maggie,
even--all tended to drive her on in her search for the answer to her
And so she had been carried to the Martin cottage--to her talk with
John at the old house--to the Mill--to this.
As one may intuitively sense the crisis in a great struggle between
life and death, this woman knew that in this man all her disturbing
life questions were centered. Deep beneath the many changes that her
father's material success in life had brought to her, one unalterable
life fact asserted itself with startling power: It was this man who had
first awakened in her the consciousness of her womanhood. Face to face
with this workman in her father's Mill, she fought to control the
To all outward appearances she did control it. Her brother saw only a
reserved interest in his workman comrade. Captain Martin saw only the
daughter of his employer who had so coldly preferred her newer friends
to the less pretentious companions of her girlhood.
But beneath the commonplace remarks demanded by the occasion, the Helen
of the old house was struggling for supremacy. The spirit that she had
felt in the office when John talked with his fellow workmen, she felt
now in the presence of this workman. The power, the strength, the
bigness, the meaning of the Mill, as it had come to her, were all
personified in him. A strange exultation of possession lifted her up.
She was hungry for her own; she wanted to cry out: "This work is my
work--these people are my people--this man is my man!"
It was Captain Charlie who ended the interview with the excuse that the
big machine needed his immediate attention. He had stood as they talked
with a hand on one of the controls and several times he had turned a
watchful eye on his charge. It was almost, Helen thought with a little
thrill of triumph, as though the man sought in the familiar touch of
his iron and steel a calmness and self-control that he needed. But now,
when he turned to give his attention wholly to his work, with the
effect of politely dismissing her, she felt as though he had suddenly,
if ever so politely, closed a door in her face.
John must have felt it a little, too, for he became rather quiet as
they went on and soon concluded their inspection of the plant.
At the office door, Helen paused and turned to look back, as if
reluctant to leave the scene that had now such meaning for her, while
her brother stood silently watching her. Not until they were back in
the manager's office and Helen was ready to return to the outside world
did John Ward speak.
Facing her with his straightforward soldierly manner, he said,
She returned his look with steady frankness. "I can't tell you what I
think about it all now, John dear. Sometime, perhaps, I may try. It is
too big--too vital--too close. I am glad I came. I am sorry, too."
So he took her to her waiting car.
For a moment he stood looking thoughtfully after the departing machine
and then, with an odd little smile, went back to his work.
IN THE NIGHT
Helen knew, even as she told the chauffeur to drive her home, that she
did not wish to return just then to the big house on the hill. Her mind
was too crowded with thoughts she could not entertain in the atmosphere
of her home; her heart was too deeply moved by emotions that she
scarcely dared acknowledge even to herself.
She thought of the country club, but that, in her present mood, was
impossible. The Interpreter--she was about to tell Tom that she wished
to call at the hut on the cliff, but decided against it. She feared
that she might reveal to the old basket maker things that she wished to
hide. She might go for a drive in the country, but she shrank from
being alone. She wanted some one who could take her out of
herself--some one to whom she could talk without betraying herself.
Not far from the Mill a number of children were playing in the dusty
Helen did not notice the youngsters, but Tom, being a careful driver,
slowed down, even though they were already scurrying aside for the
automobile to pass. Suddenly she was startled by a shrill yell.
"Hello, there! Hello, Miss!"
Bobby Whaley, in his frantic efforts to attract her attention, was
jumping up and down, waving his cap and screeching like a wild boy,
while his companions looked on in wide-eyed wonder, half in awe at his
daring, half in fear of the possible consequence.
To the everlasting honor and glory of Sam Whaley's son, the automobile
stopped. The lady, looking back, called, "Hello, Bobby!" and waited
expectantly for him to approach.
With a look of haughty triumph at Skinny and Chuck, the lad swaggered
forward, a grin of overpowering delight at his achievement on his
dirty, freckled countenance.
"I am so glad you called to me," Helen said, when he was close. "I was
just wishing for some one to go with me for a ride in the country.
Would you like to come?"
"Gee," returned the urchin, "I'll say I would."
"Do you think your mother would be willing for you to go?"
"Lord, yes--ma, she ain't a-carin' where we kids are jest so's we ain't
under her feet when she's a-workin'."
"And could you find Maggie, do you think? Perhaps she would enjoy the
Bobby lifted up his voice in a shrill yell, "Mag! Oh--oh--Mag!"
The excited cry was caught up by the watching children, and the
neighborhood echoed their calls. "Mag! Oh, Mag! Somebody wants yer,
Mag! Come a-runnin'. Hurry up!"
Their united efforts were not in vain. From the rear of a near-by house
little Maggie appeared. A dirty, faded old shawl was wrapped about her
tiny waist, hiding her bare feet and trailing behind. A sorry wreck of
a hat trimmed with three chicken feathers crowned her uncombed hair,
and the ragged remnants of a pair of black cotton gloves completed her
elegant costume. In her thin little arms she held, with tender mother
care, a doll so battered and worn by its long service that one wondered
at the imaginative power of the child who could make of it anything but
a shapeless bundle of dirty rags.
"Get a move on yer, Mag!" yelled the masterful Bobby, with frantic
gestures. "The princess lady is a-goin' t' take us fer a ride in her
swell limerseen with her driver 'n' everything."
For one unbelieving moment, little Maggie turned to the two miniature
ladies who, in costumes that rivaled her own, had come to ask the cause
of this unseemly disturbance of their social affair. Then, at another
shout from her brother, she discarded her finery and, holding fast to
her doll with true mother instinct, hurried timidly to the waiting
On that day when Helen had sent her servant to take them for a ride,
these children of the Flats had thought that no greater happiness was
possible to mere human beings. But now, as they sat with their
beautiful princess lady between them on the deep-cushioned seat, and
watched the familiar houses glide swiftly past, even Bobby was silent.
It was all so unreal--so like a dream. Their former experience was so
far surpassed that they would not have been surprised had the
automobile been suddenly transformed into a magic ship of the air, with
Tom a fairy pilot to carry them away up among the clouds to some
wonderful sunshine castle in the sky.
It is true that Bobby's conscience stirred uneasily when he felt an arm
steal gently about him and he was drawn a little closer to the princess
lady's side. A feller with a proper pride does not readily permit such
familiarities. It had been a long time since any one had put an arm
around Bobby--he did not quite understand.
But as for that, the princess lady herself did not quite understand
either. Perhaps the sight of little Maggie and her play lady friends so
elegantly costumed for their social function had suddenly convinced her
that these children of the Flats were of her world after all. Perhaps
the shouting children had awakened memories that banished for the
moment the sadness of her grown-up years. Or it may have been simply
the way that wee Maggie held her battered doll. It may have been that
the mother instinct of this wistful mite of humanity quickened in the
heart of the young woman something that was deeper, more vital, more
real to her womanhood than the things to which she had so far given
herself. As the Helen of the old house had longed to cry aloud in the
Mill her recognition of her man, she hungered now with a strange woman
hunger for the feel of a child in her arms.
And so, with no care for her gown, which was sure to be ruined by this
contact with the grime of the Flats, with no question as to what people
might think, with no thought for class standards or industrial
problems, the daughter of Adam Ward took the children of Sam Whaley in
her arms and carried them away from the shadow of that dark cloud that
hung always above the Mill. From the smoke and dust and filth of their
heritage, she took them into the clean, sunny air of the hillside
fields and woods. From the hovels and shanties of their familiar haunts
she took them where birds made their nests and the golden bees and
bright-winged butterflies were busy among their flowers. From the
squalid want and cruel neglect of their poverty she took them into a
fairyland that was overflowing with the riches that belong to
And then, when the sun was red above the bluff where the curving line
of cliffs end at the river's edge, she brought them back.
For some reason that has never been made satisfactorily clear by the
wise ones who lead the world's thinking, Bobby and Maggie must always
be brought back to their home in the Flats, the princess lady must
always return to her castle on the hill.
* * * * *
Charlie Martin was unusually quiet when he returned home from his work
that day. The father mentioned Helen's visit to the Mill, and Mary had
many questions to ask, but the soldier workman, usually so ready to
talk and laugh with his sister, answered only in monosyllables or
silently permitted the older man to carry the burden of the
When supper was over and it was dark, Charlie, saying that he thought
he ought to attend Jake Vodell's street meeting that evening, left the
But Captain Charlie did not go to hear the agitator's soap-box oration
that night. For an hour or more, under cover of the darkness, the
workman sat on the porch of the old house next door to his home.
He had pushed aside the broken gate and made his way up the
weed-tangled walk so quietly that neither his sister nor his father,
who were on the porch of the cottage, heard a sound. So still was he
that two neighborhood lovers, who paused in their slow walk, as if
tempted by the friendly shadow of the lonely old place, did not know
that he was there. Then at something her father said, Mary's laugh rang
out, and the lovers moved on.
A little later Captain Charlie stole softly out of the yard and up the
street in the direction from which Helen had come the day of her visit
to the old house. When the sound of his feet on the walk could not be
heard at the cottage, the workman walked briskly, taking the way that
led toward the Interpreter's hut.
One who knew him would have thought that he was going for an evening
call on the old basket maker. He saw the light of the little house on
the cliff presently, and for a moment walked slowly, as if debating
whether or not he should go on as he had intended. Then he turned off
from the way to the Interpreter's and took that seldom used road that
led up the hill toward the home of Adam Ward. With a strong, easy
stride he swung up the grade until he came to the corner of the iron
fence. Slowly and quietly he moved on now in the deeper shadows of the
trees. When he could see the gloomy mass of the house unobstructed
against the sky, he stopped.
The lower floor was brightly lighted. The windows above were dark. With
his back against the trunk of a tree Captain Charlie waited.
An automobile came out between the stone columns of the big gate and
thundered away down the street with reckless speed. Adam Ward, thought
the man under the tree--even John never drove like that. And he
wondered where the old Mill owner could be going at such an hour of the
Still he waited.
Suddenly a light flashed out from the windows of an upper room. A
moment, and the watcher saw the form of a woman framed in the casement
against the bright background. For some time she stood there, her face,
shaded by her hands, pressed close to the glass, as if she were trying
to see into the darkness of the night. Then she drew back. The shade
Very slowly Captain Charlie went back down the hill.
"_O flashing muzzles, pause, and let them see
The coming dawn that streaks the sky afar;
Then let your mighty chorus witness be
To them, and Caesar, that we still make war_."
THE GATHERING STORM
In the weeks immediately following her visit to the Mill, Helen Ward
met the demands of her world apparently as usual. If any one noticed
that she failed to enter into the affairs of her associates with the
same lively interest which had made her a leader among those who do
nothing strenuously, they attributed it to her father's ill health. And
in this they were partially right. Ever since the day when she half
revealed her fears to the Interpreter, the young woman's feeling that
her father's ill health and the unhappiness of her home were the result
of some hidden thing, had gamed in strength. Since her meeting with
Captain Charlie there had been in her heart a deepening conviction
that, but for this same hidden thing, she would have known in all its
fullness a happiness of which she could now only dream.
More frequently than ever before, she went now to sit with the
Interpreter on the balcony porch of that little hut on the cliff. But
Bobby and Maggie wished in vain for their princess lady to come and
take them again into the land of trees and birds and flowers and
sunshiny hills and clean blue sky. Often, now, she went to meet her
brother when his day's work was done, and, sending Tom home with her
big car, she would go with John in his roadster. And always while he
told her of the Mill and led her deeper into the meaning of the
industry and its relation to the life of the people, she listened with
eager interest. But she did not go again to the Martin cottage or visit
the old house.
Once at the foot of the Interpreter's zigzag stairway she met Captain
Martin and greeted him in passing. Two or three times she caught a
glimpse of him among the men coming from the Mill as she waited for
John in front of the office. That was all. But always she was conscious
of him. When from the Interpreter's hut she watched the twisting
columns of smoke rising from the tall stacks, her thoughts were with
the workman who somewhere under that cloud was doing his full share in
the industrial army of his people. When John talked to her of the Mill
and its meaning, her heart was glad for her brother's loyal comradeship
with this man who had been his captain over there. The very sound of
the deep-toned whistle that carried to Adam Ward the proud realization
of his material possessions carried to his daughter thoughts of what,
but for those same material possessions, might have been.
For relief she turned to McIver. There was a rocklike quality in the
factory owner that had always appealed to her. His convictions were so
unwavering--his judgments so final. McIver never doubted McIver. He
never, in his own mind, questioned what he did by the standards of
right and justice. The only question he ever asked himself was, Would
McIver win or lose? Any suggestion of a difference of opinion on the
part of another was taken as a personal insult that was not to be
tolerated. Therefore, because the man was what he was, his class
convictions were deeply grounded, fixed and certain. In the turmoil of
her warring thoughts and disturbed emotions Helen felt her own balance
so shaken that she instinctively reached out to steady herself by him.
The man, feeling her turn to him, pressed his suit with all the ardor
she would permit, for he saw in his success not only possession of the
woman he wanted, but the overthrow of John's opposition to his business
plans and the consequent triumph of his personal material interests and
the interests of his class. But, in spite of the relief she gained from
the strength of McIver's convictions, some strange influence within
herself prevented her from yielding. She probably would yield at last,
she told herself drearily--because there seemed to be nothing else for
her to do.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, from his hut on the cliff, the Interpreter watched the
approach of the industrial storm.
The cloud that had appeared on the Millsburgh horizon with the coming
of Jake Vodell had steadily assumed more threatening proportions until
now it hung dark with gloomy menace above the work and the homes of the
people. To the man in the wheel chair, looking out upon the scene that
lay with all its varied human interests before him, there was no bit of
life anywhere that was not in the shadow of the gathering storm. The
mills and factories along the river, the stores and banks and interests
of the business section, the farms in the valley, the wretched Flats,
the cottage homes of the workmen and the homes on the hillside, were
all alike in the path of the swiftly approaching danger.
The people with anxious eyes watched for the storm to break and made
such hurried preparations as they could. They heard the dull, muttering
sound of its heavy voice and looked at one another in silent dread or
talked, neighbor to neighbor, in low tones. A strange hush was over
this community of American citizens. In their work, in their pleasures,
in their home life, in their love and happiness, in their very sorrows,
they felt the deadening presence of this dread thing that was sweeping
upon them from somewhere beyond the borders of their native land. And
against this death that filled the air they seemingly knew not how to
This, to the Interpreter, was the almost unbelievable tragedy--that the
people should not know what to do; that they should not have given more
thought to making the structure of their citizenship stormproof.
"The great trouble is that the people don't line up right," said
Captain Charlie to John and the Interpreter one evening as the workman
and the general manager were sitting with the old basket maker on the
"Just what do you mean by that, Charlie?" asked John. The man in the
wheel chair was nodding his assent to the union man's remark.
"I mean," Charlie explained, "that the people consider only capital and
labor, or workmen and business men. They put loyal American workmen and
imperialist workmen all together on one side and loyal American
business men and imperialist business men all together on the other.
They line up _all_ employees against _all_ employers. For example, as
the people see it, you and I are enemies and the Mill is our battle
ground. The fact is that the imperialist manual workman is as much my
enemy as he is yours. The imperialist business man is as much your
enemy as he is mine."
"You are exactly right, Charlie," said the Interpreter. "And that is
the first thing that the Big Idea applied to our industries will do--it
will line up the great body of loyal American workmen that you
represent with the great body of loyal American business men that John
represents against the McIvers of capital and the Jake Vodells of
labor. And that new line-up alone would practically insure victory.
Nine tenths of our industrial troubles are due to the fact that
employers and employees alike fail to recognize their real enemies and
so fight their friends as often as they fight their foes.
"The people must learn to call an industrial slacker a slacker, whether
he loafs on a park bench or loafs on the veranda of the country club
house. They have to recognize that a traitor to the industries is a
traitor to the nation and that he is a traitor whether he works at a
bench or runs a bank. They have to say to the imperialist of business
and to the imperialist of labor alike, 'The industries of this country
are not for you or your class alone, they are for all because the very
life of the nation is in them and is dependent upon them.' When the
people of this country learn to draw the lines of class where they
really belong there will be an end to our industrial wars and to all
the suffering that they cause."
"If only the people could be lined up and made to declare themselves
openly," said John, "Jake Vodell would have about as much chance to
make trouble among us as the German Crown Prince would have had among
the French Blue Devils."
"Which means, I suppose," said the Interpreter, "that there would be a
riot to see who could lay hands on him first."
* * * * *
The storm broke at McIver's factory. It was as Jake Vodell had told the
Interpreter it would be--"easy to find a grievance."
McIver declared that before he would yield to the demands of his
workmen, his factory should stand idle until the buildings rotted to
The agitator answered that before his men would yield they would make
Millsburgh as a city of the dead.
Two or three of the other smaller unions supported McIver's employees
with sympathetic strikes. But the success or failure of Jake Vodell's
campaign quickly turned on the action of the powerful Mill workers'
union. The commander-in-chief of the striking forces must win John
Ward's employees to his cause or suffer defeat. He bent every effort to
Sam Whaley and a few like him walked out. But that was expected by
everybody, for Sam Whaley had identified himself from the day of
Vodell's arrival in Millsburgh as the agitator's devoted follower and
right-hand man. But this unstable, whining weakling and his fellows
from the Flats carried little influence with the majority of the
sturdy, clearer-visioned workmen.
At a meeting of the Millsburgh Manufacturing Association, McIver
endeavored to pledge the organization to a concerted effort against the
various unions of their workmen.
John Ward refused to enter into any such alliance against the workmen,
and branded McIver's plan as being in spirit and purpose identical with
the schemes of Jake Vodell. John argued that while the heads of the
various related mills and factories possessed the legal right to
maintain their organization for the purpose of furthering such business
interests as were common to them all, they could not, as loyal
citizens, attempt to deprive their fellow workmen citizens of that same
right. Any such effort to array class against class, he declared, was
nothing less than sheer imperialism, and antagonistic to every
principle of American citizenship.
When McIver characterized Vodell as an anarchist and stated that the
unions were back of him and his schemes against the government, John
retorted warmly that the statement was false and an insult to many of
the most loyal citizens in Millsburgh. There were individual members of
the unions who were followers of Jake Vodell, certainly. But
comparatively few of the union men who were led by the agitator to
strike realized the larger plans of their leader, while the unions as a
whole no more endorsed anarchy than did the Manufacturing Association.
McIver then drew for his fellow manufacturers a very true picture of
the industrial troubles throughout the country, and pointed out clearly
and convincingly the national dangers that lay in the threatening
conditions. Millsburgh was in no way different from thousands of other
communities. If the employers could not defend themselves by an
organized effort against their employees, he would like Mr. Ward to
explain who would defend them.
To all of which John answered that it was not a question of employers
defending themselves against their employees. The owners had no more at
stake in the situation than did their workmen, for the lives of all
were equally dependent upon the industries that were threatened with
destruction. In the revolution that Jake Vodell's brotherhood was
fomenting the American employers could lose no more than would the
American employees. The question was, How could American industries be
protected against both the imperialistic employer and the imperialistic
employee? The answer was, By the united strength of the loyal American
employers and employees, openly arrayed against the teachings and
leadership of Jake Vodell, on the one hand, and equally against all
such principles and actions as had been proposed by Mr. McIver, on the
When the meeting closed, McIver had failed to gain the support of the
Realizing that without the Mill he could never succeed in his plans,
the factory owner appealed to Adam Ward himself.
The old Mill owner, in full accord with McIver, attempted to force John
into line. But the younger man refused to enlist in any class war
against his loyal fellow workmen.
Adam stormed and threatened and predicted utter ruin. John calmly
offered to resign. The father refused to listen to this, on the ground
that his ill health did not permit him to assume again the management
of the business, and that he would never consent to the Mill's being
operated by any one outside the family.
When Helen returned to her home in the early evening, she found her
father in a state of mind bordering on insanity.
Striding here and there about the rooms with uncontrollable nervous
energy, he roared, as he always did on such occasions, about his sole
ownership of the Mill--the legality of the patents that gave him
possession of the new process--how it was his genius and hard work
alone that had built up the Mill--that no one should take his
possessions from him--waving his arms and shaking his fists in violent,
meaningless gestures. With his face twitching and working and his eyes
blazing with excitement and rage, his voice rose almost to a scream:
"Let them try to take anything away from me! I know what they are going
to do, but they can't do it. I've had the best lawyers that I could
hire and I've got it all tied up so tight that no one can touch it.
"I could have thrown Pete Martin out of the Mill any time I wanted. He
has no claim on me that any court in the world would recognize. Let him
try anything he dares. I'll starve him to death--I'll turn him into the
streets--he hasn't a thing in the world that he didn't get by working
for me. I made him--I will ruin him. You all think that I am sick--you
think that I am crazy--that I don't know what I am talking about. I'll
show you--you'll see what will happen if they start any thing--"
The piteous exhibition ended as usual. As if driven by some invisible
fiend, the man rushed from the presence of those whom he most loved to
the dreadful company of his own fearful and monstrous thoughts.
And the room where the wife and children of Adam Ward sat was filled
with the presence of that hidden thing of which they dared not speak.
* * * * *
Everywhere throughout the city the people were discussing John Ward's
opposition to McIver.
The community, tense with feeling, waited for an answer to the vital
question, What would the Mill workers' union do? Upon the answer of
John Ward's employees to the demands of the agitator for a sympathetic
strike depended the success or failure of Jake Vodell's Millsburgh
ADAM WARD'S WORK
It was evening. The Interpreter was sitting in his wheel chair on the
balcony porch with silent Billy not far away. Beyond the hills on the
west the sky was faintly glowing in the last of the sun's light. The
Flats were deep in gloomy shadows out of which the grim stacks of the
Mill rose toward the smoky darkness of their overhanging cloud. Here
and there among the poor homes of the workers a lighted window or a
lonely street lamp shone in the murky dusk. But the lights of the
business section of the city gleamed and sparkled like clusters and
strings of jewels, while the residence districts on the hillside were
marked by hundreds of twinkling, starlike points.
The quiet was rudely broken by a voice at the outer doorway of the hut.
The tone was that of boisterous familiarity. "Hello! hello there!
"Here," answered the Interpreter. "Come in. Or, I should say, come
out," he added, as his visitor found his way through the darkness of
the living room. "A night like this is altogether too fine to spend
under a roof."
"Why in thunder don't you have a light?" said the visitor, with a loud
freedom carefully calculated to give the effect of old and privileged
comradeship. But the laugh of hearty good fellowship which followed his
next remark was a trifle overdone "Ain't afraid of bombs, are you?
Don't you know that the war is over yet?"
The Interpreter obligingly laughed at the merry witticism, as he
answered, "There is light enough out here under the stars to think by.
How are you, Adam Ward?"
From where he stood in the doorway, Adam could see the dim figure of
the Interpreter's companion at the farther end of the porch. "Who is
that with you?" demanded the Mill owner suspiciously.
"Only Billy Rand," replied the man in the wheel chair reassuringly.
"Won't you sit down?"
Before accepting the invitation to be seated, Adam advanced upon the
man in the wheel chair with outstretched hands, as if eagerly meeting a
most intimate friend whose regard he prized above all other
relationships of life. Seizing the Interpreter's hand, he clung to it
in an excess of cordiality, all the while pouring out between short
laughs of pretended gladness, a hurried volume of excuses for having so
long delayed calling upon his dear old friend. To any one at all
acquainted with the man, it would have been very clear that he wanted
"It seems ages since I saw you," he declared, as he seated himself at
last. "It's a shame for a man to neglect an old friend as I have
The Interpreter returned, calmly, "The last time you called was just
before your son enlisted. You wanted me to help you keep him at home."
It was too dark to see Adam's face. "So it was, I remember now." There
was a suggestion of nervousness in the laugh which followed his words.
"The time before that," said the Interpreter evenly, "was when Tom
Blair was killed in the Mill. You wanted me to persuade Tom's widow
that you were in no way liable for the accident."
The barometer of Adam's friendliness dropped another degree. "That
affair was finally settled at five thousand," he said, and this time he
did not laugh.
"The time before that," said the Interpreter, "was when your old friend
Peter Martin's wife died. You wanted me to explain to the workmen who
attended the funeral how necessary it was for you to take that hour out
of their pay checks."
"You have a good memory," said the visitor, coldly, as he stirred
uneasily in the dusk.
"I have," agreed the man in the wheel chair; "I find it a great
blessing at times. It is the only thing that preserves my sense of
humor. It is not always easy to preserve one's sense of humor, is it,
When the Mill owner answered, his voice, more than his words, told how
determined he was to hold his ground of pleasant, friendly comradeship,
at least until he had gained the object of his visit.
"Don't you ever get lonesome up here? Sort of gloomy, ain't
it--especially at nights?"
"Oh, no," returned the Interpreter; "I have many interesting callers;
there are always my work and my books and always, night and day, I have
our Mill over there."
"Heh! What! _Our_ Mill! Where? Oh, I see--yes--_our_ Mill--that's good!
"Surely you will admit that I have some small interest in the Mill
where we once worked side by side, will you not, Adam?"
"Oh, yes," laughed Adam, helping on the jest. "But let me see--I don't
exactly recall the amount of your investment--what was it you put in?"
"Two good legs, Adam Ward, two good legs," returned the old basket
Again Adam Ward was at a loss for an answer. In the shadowy presence of
that old man in the wheel chair the Mill owner was as a wayward child
embarrassed before a kindly master.
When the Interpreter spoke again his deep voice was colored with gentle
"Why have you come to me like this, Adam Ward? What is it that you
Adam moved uneasily. "Why--nothing particular--I just thought I would
call--happened to be going by and saw your light."
There had been no light in the hut that evening. The Interpreter
waited. The surrounding darkness of the night seemed filled with
warring spirits from the gloomy Flats, the mighty Mill, the glittering
streets and stores and the cheerfully lighted homes.
Adam tried to make his voice sound casual, but he could not altogether
cover the nervous intensity of his interest, as he asked the question
that was so vital to the entire community. "Will the Mill workers'
union go out on a sympathetic strike?"
The Mill owner drew a long breath of relief. "I judged you would know."
The Interpreter did not answer.
Adam spoke with more confidence. "I suppose you know this agitator Jake
"I know who he is," replied the Interpreter. "He is a well-known
representative of a foreign society that is seeking, through the
working people of this country, to extend its influence and strengthen
"The unions are going too far," said Adam. "The people won't stand for
their bringing in a man like Vodell to preach anarchy and stir up all
kinds of trouble."
The Interpreter spoke strongly. "Jake Vodell no more represents the
great body of American union men than you, Adam Ward, represent the
great body of American employers."
"He works with the unions, doesn't he?"
"Yes, but that does not make him a representative of the union men as a
whole, any more than the fact that your work with the great body of
American business men makes you their representative."
"I should like to know why I am not a representative American business
man." It was evident from the tone of his voice that the Mill owner
controlled himself with an effort.
The Interpreter answered, without a trace of personal feeling, "You do
not represent them, Adam Ward, because the spirit and purpose of your
personal business career is not the spirit and purpose of our business
men as a whole--just as the spirit and purpose of such men as Jake
Vodell is not the spirit and purpose of our union men as a whole."
"But," asserted the Mill owner, "it is men like me who have built up
this country. Look at our railroads, our great manufacturing plants,
our industries of all kinds! Look what I have done for Millsburgh! You
know what the town was when you first came here. Look at it now!"
"The new process has indeed wrought great changes in Millsburgh,"
suggested the Interpreter.
"The new process! You mean that _I_ have wrought great changes in
Millsburgh. What would the new process have amounted to if it had not
been for me? Why, even the poor old fools who owned the Mill at that
time couldn't have done anything with it. I had to force it on them.
And then when I had managed to get it installed and had proved what it
would do, I made them increase their capitalization and give me a half
interest--told them if they didn't I would take my process to their
competitors and put them out of business. Later I managed to gain the
control and after that it was easy." His voice changed to a tone of
arrogant, triumphant boasting. "I may not be a representative business
man in _your_ estimation, but my work stands just the same. No man who
knows anything about business will deny that I built up the Mill to
what it is to-day."
"And that," returned the Interpreter, "is exactly what Vodell says for
the men who work with their hands in cooeperation with men like you who
work with their brains. You say that you built the Mill because you
thought and planned and directed its building. Jake Vodell says the men
whose physical strength materialized your thoughts, the men who carried
out your plans and toiled under your direction built the Mill. And you
and Jake are both right to exactly the same degree. The truth is that
you have _all together_ built the Mill. You have no more right to think
or to say that you did it than Pete Martin has to think or to say that
he did it."
When Adam Ward found no answer to this the Interpreter continued.
"Consider a great building: The idea of the structure has come down
through the ages from the first habitation of primitive man. The mental
strength represented in the structure in its every detail is the
composite thought of every generation of man since the days when human
beings dwelt in rocky caves and in huts of mud. But listen: The
capitalist who furnished the money says he did it; the architect says
he did it; the stone mason says he did it; the carpenter says he did
it; the mountains that gave the stone say they did it; the forests that
grew the timber say they did it; the hills that gave the metal say they
"The truth is that all did it--that each individual worker, whether he
toiled with his hands or with his brain, was dependent upon all the
others as all were dependent upon those who lived and labored in the
ages that have gone before, as all are dependent at the last upon the
forces of nature that through the ages have labored for all. And this
also is true, sir, whether you like to admit it or not; just as we--you
and I and Pete Martin and the others--all together built the Mill, so
we all together built it for all. You, Adam Ward, can no more keep for
yourself alone the fruits of your labor than you alone and
single-handed could have built the Mill."
The Interpreter paused as if for an answer.
Adam Ward did not speak.
A flare of light from, the stacks of the Mill, where the night shift
was sweating at its work, drew their eyes. Through the darkness came
the steady song of industry--a song that was charged with the life of
millions. And they saw the lights of the business district, where Jake
Vodell was preaching to a throng of idle workmen his doctrine of class
hatred and destruction.
The Interpreter's manner was in no way aggressive when he broke the
silence. There was, indeed, in his deep voice an undertone of sorrow,
and yet he spoke as with authority. "You were driven here to-night by
your fear, Adam Ward. You recognize the menace to this community and to
our nation in the influence and teaching of men like Jake Vodell. Most
of all, you fear for yourself and your material possessions. And you
have reason to be afraid of this danger that you yourself have brought
"What!" cried the Mill owner. "You say that I am responsible?--that I
brought this anarchist agitator here?"
The Interpreter answered, solemnly, "I say that but for you and such
men as you, Adam Ward, Jake Vodell could never gain a hearing in any
Adam Ward laughed harshly.
But the old basket maker continued as if he had not heard. "Every act
of your business career, sir, has been a refusal to recognize those who
have worked with you. Your whole life has been an over assertion of
your personal independence and a denial of the greatest of all
laws--the law of _dependence_, which is the vital principle of life
itself. And so you have, through these years, upheld and exemplified to
the working people the very selfishness to which Jake Vodell appeals
now with such sad effectiveness. It is the class pride and intolerance
which you have fostered in yourself and family that have begotten the
class hatred which makes Vodell's plans against our government a
dangerous possibility. Your fathers fought in a great war for
independence, Adam Ward. Your son must now fight for a recognition of
that _dependence_ without which the _independence_ won by your father
will surely perish from the earth."
At the mention of his son, the Mill owner moved impatiently and spoke
with bitter resentment. "A fine mess you are making of things with your
"It is a fine mess that you have made of things, Adam Ward, with your
'_in_dependence,'" returned the Interpreter, sternly.
"I can tell you one thing," said Adam. "Your unions will never
straighten anything out with the help of Jake Vodell and his gang of
"You are exactly right," agreed the Interpreter. "And I can tell you a
thing to match the truth of your statement. Your combinations of
employers will never straighten anything out with the help of such men
as McIver and his hired gunmen and his talk about driving men to work
at the point of the bayonet. But McIver and his principles are not
endorsed by our American employers," continued the Interpreter, "any
more than Jake Vodell and his methods are endorsed by our American
union employees. The fact is that the great body of loyal American
employers and employees, which is, indeed, the body of our nation
itself, is fast coming to recognize the truth that our industries must
somehow be saved from the destruction that is threatened by both the
McIvers of capital and the Vodells of labor. Our Mill, Adam Ward, that
you and Pete Martin and I built together and that, whether you admit it
or not, we built for all mankind, our Mill must be protected against
both employers and employees. It must be protected, not because the
ownership, under our laws, happens to be vested in you as an individual
citizen, but because of that larger ownership which, under the
universal laws of humanity, is vested in the people whose lives are
dependent upon that Mill as an essential industry. The Mill must be
saved, indeed, for the very people who would destroy it."
"Very fine!" sneered Adam; "and perhaps you will tell me who is to save
my Mill that is not my Mill for the very people who own it and who
would destroy it?"
The voice of the Interpreter was colored with the fire of prophecy as
he answered, "In the name of humanity, the sons of the men who built
the Mill will save it for humanity. Your boy John, Adam Ward, and Pete
Martin's boy Charlie represent the united armies of American employers
and employees that stand in common loyalty against the forces that are,
through the destruction of our industries, seeking to bring about the
downfall of our nation."
Adam Ward laughed. "Tell that to your partner Billy Rand over there; he
will hear it as quick as the American people will."
But the man in the wheel chair was not disturbed by Adam Ward's
"The great war taught the American people some mighty lessons, Adam
Ward," he said. "It taught us that patriotism is not of one class or
rank, but is common to every level of our national social life. It
taught us that heroism is the birthright of both office and shop. Most
of all did the war teach us the lesson of comradeship--that men of
every rank and class and occupation could stand together, live together
and die together, united in the bonds of a common, loyal citizenship
for a common, human cause. And out of that war and its lessons our own
national saviors are come. The loyal patriot employers and the loyal
patriot employees, who on the fields of war were brother members of
that great union of sacrifice and death, will together free the
industries of their own country from the two equally menacing
terrors--imperialistic capital and imperialistic labor.
"The comradeship of your son with the workman Charlie Martin, the stand
that John has taken against McIver, and the refusal of the Mill
workers' union to accept Vodell's leadership--is the answer to your
question, 'Who is to save the Mill?'"
"Rot!" exclaimed Adam Ward. "You talk as though every man who went to
that war was inspired by the highest motives. They were not all heroes
by a good deal."
"True," returned the Interpreter, "they were not all heroes. But there
was the leaven that leavened the lump, and so the army itself was
"What about the moral degeneracy and the crime wave that have followed
the return of your heroic army?" demanded Adam.
"True, again," returned the Interpreter; "it is inevitable that men
whose inherited instincts and tendencies are toward crime should
acquire in the school of war a bolder spirit--a more reckless daring in
their criminal living. But again there is the saving leaven that
leavens the lump. If the war training makes criminals more bold, it as
surely makes the leaven of nobility more powerful. One splendid example
of noble heroism is ten thousand times more potent in the world than a
thousand revolting deeds of crime. No--no, Adam Ward, the world will
not forget the lessons it learned over there. The torch of Flanders
fields has not fallen. The world will carry on."
There was such a quality of reverent conviction in the concluding words
of the man in the wheel chair that Adam Ward was silenced.
For some time they sat, looking into the night where the huge bulk of
the Mill with its towering stacks and overhanging clouds seemed to
dominate not only the neighboring shops and factories and the immediate
Flats, but in some mysterious way to extend itself over the business
district and the homes of the city, and, like a ruling spirit, to
pervade the entire valley, even unto the distant line of hills.
When the old basket maker spoke again, that note of strange and solemn
authority was in his voice. "Listen, Adam Ward! In the ideals, the
heroism, the suffering, the sacrifice of the war--in shell hole and
trench and bloody No Man's Land, the sons of men have found again the
God that you and men like you had banished from the Mill. Your boy and
Pete Martin's boy, with more thousands of their comrades than men of
your mind realize, have come back from the war fields of France to
enthrone God once more in the industrial world. And it shall come that
every forge and furnace and anvil and machine shall be an organ to His
praise--that every suit of overalls shall be a priestly robe of
ministering service. And this God that you banished from the Mill and
that is to be by your son restored to His throne and served by a
priesthood of united employers and employees, shall bear a new name,
Adam Ward, and that name shall be WORK."
Awed by the strange majesty of the Interpreter's voice, Adam Ward could
only whisper fearfully, "Work--the name of God shall be Work!" "Ay,
Adam Ward, WORK--and why not? Does not the work of the world express
the ideals, the purpose, the needs, the life, the _oneness_ of the
world's humanity, even as a flower expresses the plant that puts it
forth? And is not God the ultimate flowering of the human plant?"
The Mill owner spoke with timid hesitation, "Could I--do you
think--could I, perhaps, help to, as you say, put God back into the
"Your part in the building of the Mill is finished, Adam Ward," came
the solemn answer. "You have made many contracts with men, sir; you
should now make a contract with your God."
The owner of the new process sprang to his feet with an exclamation of
fear. As one who sees a thing of horror in the dark, he drew back,
That deep, inexorable voice of sorrowful authority went on, "Make a
contract with your God, Adam Ward; make a contract with your God."
With a wild cry of terror Adam Ward fled into the night.
The Interpreter in his wheel chair looked up at the stars.
* * * * *
It seems scarcely possible that the old basket maker could have
foreseen the tragic effect of his words--and yet--
THE PEOPLE'S AMERICA
At his evening meetings on the street, Jake Vodell with stirring
oratory kindled the fire of his cause. In the councils of the unions,
through individuals and groups, with clever arguments and inflaming
literature, he sought recruits. With stinging sarcasm and withering
scorn he taunted the laboring people--told them they were fools and
cowards to submit to the degrading slavery of their capitalist owners.
With biting invective and blistering epithet he pictured their employer
enemies as the brutal and ruthless destroyers of their homes. With
thrilling eloquence he fanned the flames of class hatred, inspired the
loyalty of his followers to himself and held out to them golden
promises of reward if they would prove themselves men and take that
which belonged to them.
But the Mill workers' union, as an organization, was steadfast in its
refusal to be dominated by this agitator who was so clearly
antagonistic to every principle of American citizenship. Jake Vodell
could neither lead nor drive them into a strike that was so evidently
called in the interests of his cause. And more and more the agitator
was compelled to recognize the powerful influence of the Interpreter.
It was not long before he went to the hut on the cliff with a positive
demand for the old basket maker's open support.
"I do not know why it is," he said, "that a poor old cripple like you
should have such power among men, but I know it is so. You shall tell
this Captain Charlie and his crowd of fools that they must help me to
win for the laboring people their freedom. You shall, for me, enlist
these Mill men in the cause."
The Interpreter asked, gravely, "And when you have accomplished this
that you call freedom--when you have gained this equality that you talk
about--how will your brotherhood be governed?"
Jake Vodell scowled as he gazed at the man in the wheel chair with
quick suspicion. "Governed?"
"Yes," returned the Interpreter. "Without organization of some sort
nothing can be done. No industries can be carried on without the
concerted effort which is organization. Without the industry that is
necessary to human life the free people you picture cannot exist.
Without government--which means law and the enforcement of
law--organization of any kind is impossible."
"There will have to be organization, certainly," answered Vodell.
"Then, there will be leaders, directors, managers with authority to
whom the people must surrender themselves as individuals," said the
Interpreter, quietly. "An organization without leadership is
The agitator's voice was triumphant, as he said, "Certainly there will
be leaders. And their authority will be unquestioned. And these leaders
will be those who have led the people out of the miserable bondage of
their present condition."
The Interpreter's voice had a new note in it now, as he said, "In other
words, sir, what you propose is simply to substitute _yourself_ for
McIver. You propose to the people that they overthrow their present
leaders in the industries of their nation in order that you and your
fellow agitators may become their masters. You demand that the citizens
of America abolish their national government and in its place accept
you and your fellows as their rulers? What assurance can you give the
people, sir, that under your rule they will have more freedom for
self-government, more opportunities for self-advancement and prosperity
and happiness than they have at present?"
"Assurance?" muttered the other, startled by the Interpreter's manner.
The old basket maker continued, "Are you and your self-constituted
leaders of the American working people, gods? Are you not as human as
any McIver or Adam Ward of the very class you condemn? Would you not be
subject to the same temptations of power--the same human passions?
Would you not, given the same opportunity, be all that you say they
Jake Vodell's countenance was black with rage. He started to rise, but
a movement of Billy Rand made him hesitate. His voice was harsh with
menacing passion. "And you call yourself a friend of the laboring
"It is because I am a friend of my fellow American citizens that I ask
you what freedom your brotherhood can insure to us that we have not
now," the Interpreter answered, solemnly. "Look there, sir." He swept,
in a gesture, the scene that lay within view of his balcony porch.
"_That_ is America--_my_ America--the America of the _people_. From the
wretched hovels of the incompetent and unfortunate Sam Whaleys in the
Flats down there to Adam Ward's castle on the hill yonder, it is _our_
America. From the happy little home of that sterling workman, Peter
Martin, to the homes of the business workers on the hillside over
there, it is _ours_. From the business district to the beautiful farms
across the river, it belongs to _us all_. And the Mill there--
representing as it does the industries of our nation and
standing for the very life of our people--is _our_ Mill. The troubles
that disturb us--the problems of injustice--the wrongs of selfishness
that arise through such employers as McIver and such employees as Sam
Whaley, are _our_ troubles, and we will settle our own difficulties in
our own way as loyal American citizens."
The self-appointed apostle of the new freedom had by this time regained
his self-control. His only answer to the Interpreter was a shrug of his
thick shoulders and a flash of white teeth in his black beard.
The old basket maker with his eyes still on the scene that lay before
them continued. "Because I love my countrymen, sir, I protest the
destructive teachings of your brotherhood. Your ambitious schemes would
plunge my country into a bloody revolution the horrors of which defy
the imagination. America will find a better way. The loyal American
citizens who labor in our industries and the equally loyal American
operators of these industries will never consent to the ruthless murder
by hundreds and thousands of our best brains and our best manhood in
support of your visionary theories. My countrymen will never permit the
unholy slaughter of innocent women and children, that would result from
your efforts to overthrow our government and establish a wholly
impossible Utopia upon the basis of an equality that is contrary to
every law of life. You preach freedom to the working people in order to
rob them of the freedom they already have. With visions of impossible
wealth and luxurious idleness you blind them to the greater happiness
that is within reach of their industry. In the name of an equality, the
possibility of which your own assumed leadership denies, you incite a
class hatred and breed an intolerance and envy that destroy the good
feeling of comradeship and break down the noble spirit of that actual
equality which we already have and which is our only salvation."
"Equality!" sneered Jake Vodell. "You have a fine equality in this
America of capitalist-ridden fools who are too cowardly to say that
their souls are their own. It is the equality of Adam Ward and Sam
Whaley, I suppose."
"Sam Whaley is a product of your teaching, sir," the Interpreter
answered. "The equality of which I speak is that of Adam Ward and Peter
Martin as it is evidenced in the building up of the Mill. It is the
equality that is in the comradeship of their sons, John and Charlie,
who will protect and carry on the work of their fathers. It is the
equality of a common citizenship--of mutual dependence of employer and
employee upon the industries, that alone can save our people from want
and starvation and guard our nation from the horrors you would bring
The man laughed. "Suppose you sing that pretty song to McIver, heh?
What do you think he would say?"
"He would laugh, as you are laughing," returned the Interpreter, sadly.
"Tell it to Adam Ward then," jeered the other. "He will recognize his
equality with Peter Martin when you explain it, heh?"
"Adam Ward is already paying a terrible price for denying it," the
Again Jake Vodell laughed with sneering triumph. "Well, then I guess
you will have to preach your equality to the deaf and dumb man there.
Maybe you can make him understand it. The old basket maker without any
legs and the big husky who can neither hear nor talk--they are equals,
I suppose, heh?"
"Billy Rand and I perfectly illustrate the equality of dependence,
sir," returned the Interpreter. "Billy is as much my superior
physically as I am his superior mentally. Without my thinking and
planning he would be as helpless as I would be without his good bodily
strength. We are each equally dependent upon the other, and from that
mutual dependence comes our comradeship in the industry which alone
secures for us the necessities of life. I could not make baskets
without Billy's labor--Billy could not make baskets without my planning
and directing. And yet, sir, you and McIver would set us to fighting
each other. You would have Billy deny his dependence upon me and use
his strength to destroy me, thus depriving himself of the help he must
have if he would live. McIver would have me deny my dependence upon
Billy and by antagonizing him with my assumed superiority turn his
strength to the destruction of our comradeship by which I also live.
Your teaching of class loyalty and class hatred applied to Billy and me
would result in the ruin of our basket making and in our consequent
Again the Interpreter, from his wheel chair, pointed with outstretched
arm to the scene that lay with all its varied grades of life--social
levels and individual interests--before them. "Look," he said, "to the
inequality that is there--inequalities that are as great as the
difference between Billy Rand and myself. And yet, every individual
life is dependent upon all the other individual lives. The Mill yonder
is the basket making of the people. All alike must look to it for life
itself. The industries, without which the people cannot exist, can be
carried on only by the comradeship of those who labor with their hands
and those who work with their brains. In the common dependence all are
"The only equality that your leadership, with its progress of
destruction, can insure to American employers and employees is an
equality of indescribable suffering and death."
The old basket maker paused a moment before he added, solemnly, "I
wonder that you dare assume the responsibility for such a catastrophe.
Have you no God, sir, to whom you must eventually account?"
The man's teeth gleamed in a grin of malicious sarcasm. "I should know
that you believed in God. Bah! An old woman myth to scare fools and
children. I suppose you believe in miracles also?"
"I believe in the miracle of life," the Interpreter answered; "and in
the great laws of life--the law of inequality and dependence, that in
its operation insures the oneness of all things."
The agitator rose to his feet, and with a shrug of contempt, said,
"Very pretty, Mr. Interpreter, very pretty. You watch now from your hut
here and you shall see what men who are not crippled old basket makers
will do with that little bit of your America out there. It is I who
will teach Peter Martin and his comrades in the Mill how to deal with
your friend Adam Ward and his class."
"You are too late, sir," said the Interpreter, as the man moved toward
Jake Vodell turned. "How, too late?" Then as he saw Billy Rand rising
to his feet, his hand went quickly inside his vest.
The old basket maker smiled as he once more held out a restraining hand
toward his companion. "I do not mean anything like that, sir. I told
you some time ago that you were defeated in your Millsburgh campaign by
Adam Ward's retirement from the Mill. You are too late because you are
forced now to deal, not with Adam Ward and Peter Martin, but with their
"Oh, ho! and what you should say also, is that I am really forced to
deal with an old basket maker who has no legs, heh? Well, we shall see
about that, too, Mr. Interpreter, when the time comes--we shall see."
PETER MARTIN'S PROBLEM
It was not long until the idle workmen began to feel the want of their
pay envelopes. The grocers and butchers were as dependent upon those
pay envelopes as were the workmen themselves.
The winter was coming on. There was a chill in the air. In the homes of
the strikers the mothers and their little ones needed not only food but
fuel and clothing as well. The crowds at the evening street meetings
became more ominous. Through the long, idle days grim, sullen-faced men
walked the streets or stood in groups on the corners watching their
fellow citizens and muttering in low, guarded tones. Members of the
Mill workers' union were openly branded as cowards and traitors to
their class. The suffering among the women and children became acute.
But Jake Vodell was a master who demanded of his disciples most heroic
loyalty, without a thought of the cost--to them.
McIver put an armed guard about his factory and boasted that he could
live without work. The strikers, he declared, could either starve
themselves and their families or accept his terms.
The agitator was not slow in making capital of McIver's statements.
The factory owner depended upon the suffering of the women and children
to force the workmen to yield to him. Jake Vodell, the self-appointed
savior of the laboring people, depended upon the suffering of women and
children to drive his followers to the desperate measures that would
further his peculiar and personal interests.
Through all this, the Mill workers' union still refused to accept the
leadership of this man whose every interest was anti-American and
foreign to the principles of the loyal citizen workman. But the fire of
Jake Vodell's oratory and argument was not without kindling power, even
among John Ward's employees. As the feeling on both sides of the
controversy grew more bitter and intolerant, the Mill men felt with
increasing force the pull of their class. The taunts and jeers of the
striking workers were felt. The cries of "traitor" hurt. The suffering
of the innocent members of the strikers' families appealed strongly to
When McIver's imperialistic declaration was known, the number who were
in favor of supporting Jake Vodell's campaign increased measurably.
Nearly every day now at some hour of the evening or night, Pete and
Captain Charlie, with others from among their union comrades, might
have been found in the hut on the cliff in earnest talk with the man in
the wheel chair. The active head of the union was Captain Charlie, as
his father had been before him, but it was no secret that the guiding
counsel that held the men of the Mill steady cane from the old basket
For John Ward the days were increasingly hard. He could not but sense
the feeling of the men. He knew that if Jake Vodell could win them,
such disaster as the people of Millsburgh had never seen would result.
The interest and sympathy of Helen, the comradeship of Captain Charlie,
and the strength of the Interpreter gave him courage and hope. But
there was nothing that he could do. He felt as he had felt sometimes in
France when he was called upon to stand and wait. It was a relief to
help Mary as he could in her work among the sufferers. But even this
activity of mercy was turned against him by both McIver and Vodell. The
factory man blamed him for prolonging the strike and thus working
injury to the general business interests of Millsburgh. The strike
leader charged him with seeking to win the favor of the working class
in order to influence his own employees against, what he called the
fight for their industrial freedom.
The situation was rapidly approaching a crisis when Peter Martin and
Captain Charlie, returning home from a meeting of their union laid one
evening, found the door of the house locked.
The way the two men stood facing each other without a word revealed the
tension of their nerves. Captain Charlie's hand shook so that his key
rattled against the lock. But when they were inside and had switched on
the light, a note which Mary had left on the table for them explained.
The young woman had gone to the Flats in answer to a call for help.
John was with her. She had left the note so that her father and brother
would not be alarmed at her absence in case they returned home before
In their relief, the two men laughed. They were a little ashamed of
their unspoken fears.
"We might have known," said Pete, and with the words seemed to dismiss
the incident from his mind.
But Captain Charlie did not recover so easily. While his father found
the evening paper and, settling himself in an easy-chair by the table,
cleaned his glasses and filled and lighted his pipe, the younger man
went restlessly from room to room, turning on the lights, turning them
off again--all apparently for no reason whatever. He finished his
inspection by returning to the table and again picking up Mary's note.
When he had reread the message he said, slowly, "I thought John
expected to be at the office to-night."
Something in his son's voice caused the old workman to look at him
steadily, as he answered, "John probably came by on his way to the Mill
and dropped in for a few minutes."
"I suppose so," returned Charlie. Then, "Father, do you think it wise
for sister to be so much with John?"
The old workman laid aside his paper. "Why, I don't know--I hadn't
thought much about it, son. It seems natural enough, considering the
way you children was all raised together when you was youngsters."
"It's natural enough all right," returned Captain Charlie, and, with a
bitterness that was very unlike his usual self, he added, "That's, the
hell of it--it's too natural--too human--too right for this day and
Pete Martin's mind worked rather slowly but he was fully aroused
now--Charlie's meaning was clear. "What makes you think that Mary and
John are thinking of each other in that way, son?"
"How could they help it?" returned Captain Charlie. "Sister is exactly
the kind of woman that John would choose for a wife. Don't I know what
he thinks of the light-headed nonentities in the set that he is
supposed to belong to? Hasn't he demonstrated his ideas of class
distinctions? It would never occur to him that there was any reason why
John Ward should not love Mary Martin. As for sister--when you think of
the whole story of their childhood together, of how John and I were all
through the war, of how he has been in the Mill since we came home, of
their seeing each other here at the house so much, of the way he has
been helping her with her work among the poor in the Flats--well, how
could any woman like sister help loving him?"
While the older man was considering his son's presentation of the case,
Captain Charlie added, with characteristic loyalty, "God may have made
finer men than John Ward, but if He did they don't live around
"Well, then, son," said Peter Martin, with his slow smile, "what about
it? Suppose they are thinking of each other as you say?"
Captain Charlie did not answer for a long minute. And the father,
watching, saw in that strong young face the shadow of a hurt which the
soldier workman could not hide.
"It is all so hopeless," said Charlie, at last, in a tone that told
more clearly than words could have done his own hopelessness. "I--it
don't seem right for Mary to have to bear it, too."
"I'm sorry, son," was all that the old workman said, but Captain
Charlie knew that his father understood.
After that they did not speak until they heard an automobile stop in
front of the house.
"That must be Mary now," said Pete, looking at his watch. "They have
never been so late before."
They heard her step on the porch. The sound of the automobile died away
in the distance.
When Mary came in and they saw her face, they knew that Charlie was
right. She tried to return their greetings in her usual manner but
failed pitifully and hurried on to her room.
The two men looked at each other without a word.
Presently Mary returned and told them a part of her evening's
experience. Soon after her father and brother had left the house for
the meeting of their union, a boy from the Flats came with the word
that the wife of one of Jake Vodell's followers was very ill. Mary,
knowing the desperate need of the case but fearing to be alone in that
neighborhood at night, had telephoned John at the Mill and he had taken
her in his car to the place. The woman, in the agonies of childbirth,
was alone with her three little girls. The husband and father was
somewhere helping Jake Vodell in the agitator's noble effort to bring
happiness to the laboring class. While Mary was doing what she could in
the wretched home, John went for a doctor, and to bring fuel and
blankets and food and other things that were needed. But, in spite of
their efforts, the fighting methods of McIver and Vodell scored another
point, that they each might claim with equal reason as in his favor--to
God knows what end.
"I can't understand why you Mill men let them go on," Mary cried, with
a sudden outburst of feeling, as she finished her story. "You could
fight for the women and children during the war. Whenever there is a
shipwreck the papers are always full of the heroism of the men who cry
'women and children first!' Why can't some one think of the women and
children in these strikes? They are just as innocent as the women and
children of Belgium. Why don't you talk on the streets and hold mass
meetings and drive Jake Vodell and that beast McIver out of the
"Jake Vodell and McIver are both hoping that some one will do just
that, Mary," returned Captain Charlie. "They would like nothing better
than for some one to start a riot. You see, dear, an open clash would
result in bloodshed--the troops would be called in by McIver, which is
exactly what he wants. Vodell would provoke an attack on the soldiers,
some one would be killed, and we would have exactly the sort of war
against the government that he and his brotherhood are working for."
The old workman spoke. "Charlie is right, daughter; these troubles will
never be settled by McIver's way nor Vodell's way. They will be settled
by the employers like John getting together and driving the McIvers out
of business--and the employees like Charlie here and a lot of the men
in our union getting together with John and his crowd and sending the
Jake Vodells back to whatever country they came from." When her father
spoke John's name, the young woman's face colored with a quick blush.
The next moment, unable to control her overwrought emotions, she burst
into tears and started to leave the room. But at the door Captain
Charlie caught her in his arms and held her close until the first
violence of her grief was over.
When she had a little of her usual calmness, her brother whispered, "I
know all about it, dear."
She raised her head from his shoulder and looked at him with tearful
doubt. "You know about--about John?" she said, wonderingly.
"Yes," he whispered, with an encouraging smile, "I know--father and I
were talking about it before you came home. I am going to leave you
with him now. You must tell father, you know. Goodnight,
Slowly Mary turned back into the room. The old workman, sitting there
in his big chair, held out his arms. With a little cry she ran to him
as she had gone to him all the years of her life.
When she had told him all--how John that very evening on their way home
from the Flats had asked her to be his wife--and how she, in spite of
her love for him, had forced herself to answer, "No," Pete Martin sat
with his head bowed as one deep in thought.
Mary, knowing her father's slow way, waited.
When the old workman spoke at last it was almost as though, unconscious
of his daughter's presence, he talked to himself. "Your mother and I
used to think in the old days when you children were growing up
together that some time perhaps the two families would be united. But
when we watched Adam getting rich and saw what his money was doing to
him and to his home, we got to be rather glad that you children were
separated. We were so happy ourselves in our own little home here that
we envied no man. We did not want wealth even for you and Charlie when
we saw all that went with it. We did not dream that Adam's success
could ever stand in the way of our children's happiness like this. But
I guess that is the way it is, daughter. I remember the Interpreter's
saying once that no man had a right to make even himself miserable
because no man could be miserable alone."
The old workman's voice grew still more reflective. "It was the new
process that made Adam rich. He was no better man at the bench than I.
I never considered him as my superior. He happened to be born with a
different kind of a brain, that is all. And he thought more of money,
while I cared more for other things. But there is a good reason why his
money should not be permitted to stand between his children and my
children. There is a lot of truth, after all, in Jake Vodell's talk
about the rights of men who work with their hands. The law upholds Adam
Ward in his possessions, I know. And it would uphold him Just the same
if my children were starving. But the law don't make it right. There
should be some way to make a man do what is right--law or no law. You
"Father!" cried Mary, alarmed at his words. "Surely you are not going
to hold with Jake Vodell about such things. What do you mean about
making a man do what is right--law or no law?"
"There, there, daughter," said the old workman, smiling. "I was just
thinking out loud, I guess. It will be all right for you and John. Run
along to bed now, and don't let a worry come, even into your dreams."
"I would rather give John up a thousand times than have you like Jake
Vodell," she said. "You shan't even _think_ that way."
When she was gone, Peter Martin filled and lighted his pipe again, and
for another hour sat alone.
Whether or not his thoughts bore any relation to the doctrines of Jake
Vodell, they led the old workman, on the following day, to pay a visit
to Adam Ward at his home on the hill.
It was Sunday morning and the church bells were ringing over the little
city as the old workman climbed the hill to Adam Ward's estate.
There was a touch of frost in the air. The hillside back of the
interpreter's hut was brown. But the sun was bright and warm and in
every quarter of the city the people were going to their appointed
places of worship. The voice of the Mill was silenced.
Pete wondered if he would find Adam at home. He had not thought about
it when he left the cottage--his mind had been so filled with the
object of his visit to the man who had once been his working comrade
But Adam Ward was not at church.
The Mill owner's habits of worship were very simply regulated. If the
minister said things that pleased him, and showed a properly humble
gratification at Adam's presence in the temple of God, Adam attended
divine services. If the reverend teacher in the pulpit so far forgot
himself as to say anything that jarred Adam's peculiar spiritual
sensitiveness, or failed to greet this particular member of his flock
with proper deference, Adam stayed at home and stopped his subscription
to the cause. Nor did he ever fail to inform his pastor and the
officers of the congregation as to the reason for his nonattendance;
always, at the time, assuring them that whenever the minister would
preach the truths that he wanted to hear, his weekly offerings to the
Lord would be renewed. Thus Adam Ward was just and honest in his
religious life as he was in his business dealings. He was ready always,
to pay for that which he received, but, as a matter of principle, he
was careful always to receive exactly what he paid for.
This Sunday morning Adam Ward was at home.
When Pete reached the entrance to the estate the heavy gates were
closed. As Mary's father stood in doubt before the iron barrier a man
appeared on the inside.
"Good-morning, Uncle Pete," he said, in hearty greeting, when he saw
who it was that sought admittance.
"Good-morning, Henry--and what are you doing in there?" returned the
workman, who had known the man from his boyhood.
The other grinned. "Oh, I'm one of the guards at this institution now."
Pete looked at him blankly. "Guards? What are you guarding, Henry?"
Standing close to the iron bars of the gate, Henry glanced over his
shoulder before he answered in a low, cautious tone, "Adam."
The old workman was shocked. "What! you don't mean it!" He shook his
grizzly head sadly. "I hadn't heard that he was that bad."
Henry laughed. "We're not keepin' the old boy in, Uncle Pete--not yet.
So far, our orders are only to keep people out. Dangerous people, I
mean--the kind that might want to run away with the castle, or steal a
look at the fountain, or sneak a smell of the flowers or something--y'
Pete smiled. "How do you like your job, Henry?"
"Oh, it's all right just now when the strike is on. But was you wantin'
to come in, Uncle Pete, or just passing' by?"
"I wanted to see Adam if I could."
The man swung open the gate. "Help yourself, Uncle Pete, just so you
don't stick a knife into him or blow him up with a bomb or poison him
or something." He pointed toward that part of the grounds where Helen
had watched her father from the arbor. "You'll find him over there
somewhere, I think. I saw him headed that way a few minutes ago. The
rest of the family are gone to church."
"Is Adam's life really threatened, Henry?" asked Pete, as he stepped
inside and the gates were closed behind him.
"Search me," returned the guard, indifferently. "I expect if the truth
were known it ought to be by rights. He sure enough thinks it is,
though. Why, Uncle Pete, there can't a butterfly flit over these
grounds that Adam ain't a yellin' how there's an aeroplane a sailin'
around lookin' fer a chance to drop a monkey wrench on his head or
"Poor Adam!" murmured the old workman. "What a way to live!"
"Live?" echoed the guard. "It ain't livin' at all--it's just bein' in
hell before your time, that's what it is--if you ask me."
* * * * *
When Peter Martin, making his slow way through the beautiful grounds,
first caught sight of his old bench mate, Adam was pacing slowly to and
fro across a sunny open space of lawn. As he walked, the Mill owner was
talking to himself and moving his arms and hands in those continuous
gestures that seemed so necessary to any expression of his thoughts.
Once Pete heard him laugh. And something in the mirthless sound made
the old workman pause. It was then that Adam saw him.
There was no mistaking the sudden fear that for a moment seemed to
paralyze the man. His gray face turned a sickly white, his eyes were
staring, his jaw dropped, his body shook as if with a chill. He looked
about as if he would call for help, and started as if to seek safety in
"Good-morning, Adam Ward," said Pete Martin.
And at the gentle kindliness in the workman's voice Adam's manner, with
a suddenness that was startling, changed. With an elaborate show of
friendliness he came eagerly forward. His gray face, twitching with
nervous excitement, beamed with joyous welcome. As he hurried across
the bit of lawn between them, he waved his arms and rubbed his hands
together in an apparent ecstasy of gladness at this opportunity to
receive such an honored guest. His voice trembled with high-pitched
assurance of his happiness in the occasion. He laughed as one who could
not contain himself.
"Well, well, well--to think that you have actually come to see me at
last." He grasped the workman's hand in both his own with a grip that
was excessive in its hearty energy. With affectionate familiarity he
almost shouted, "You old scoundrel! I can't believe it is you. Where
have you been keeping yourself? How are Charlie and Mary? Lord, but
it's good to see you here in my own home like this."
While Pete was trying to make some adequate reply to this effusive and
startling reception, Adam looked cautiously about to see if there were
any chance observers lurking near.
Satisfied that no one was watching, he said, nervously, "Come on, let's
sit over here where we can talk." And with his hand on Pete's arm, he
led his caller to lawn chairs that were in the open, well beyond
hearing of any curious ear in the shrubbery.
Giving the workman opportunity for no more than an occasional
monosyllable in reply, he poured forth a flood of information about his
estate: The architectural features of his house--the cost; the
loveliness of his trees--the cost; the coloring of his flowers--the
cost; the magnificence of his view, And all the while he studied his
caller's face with sharp, furtive glances, trying to find some clew to
the purpose of the workman's visit.
Peter Martin's steady eyes, save for occasional glances at the objects
of Adam's interest as Adam pointed them out, were fixed on the Mill
owner with a half-wondering, half-pitying expression. Adam's evident
nervousness increased. He talked of his Mill--how he had built it up
from nothing almost, to its present magnitude--of the city and what he
had done for the people.
The old workman listened without comment.
At last, apparently unable to endure the suspense a moment longer, Adam
Ward said, nervously, "Well, Pete, out with it! What do you want? I can
guess what you are here for. We might as well get done with it."
In his slow, thoughtful manner of speech that was so different from the
Mill owner's agitated expressions, the old workman said, "I have wanted
for nothing, Adam. We have been contented and happy in our little home.
But now," he paused as if his thoughts were loath to form themselves
The last vestige of pretense left Adam Ward's face as suddenly as if he
had literally dropped a mask. "It's a good thing you have been
satisfied," he said, coldly. "You had better continue to be. You know
that you owe everything you have in the world to me! You need not
expect anything more."
"Have you not made a big profit on every hour's work that I have done
in your Mill, Adam?"
"Whatever profit I have or have not made on your work is none of your
business, sir," retorted Adam. "I have given you a job all these years.
I could have thrown you out. You haven't a thing on earth that you did
not buy with the checks you received from me. I have worn myself
out--made an invalid of myself--building up the business that has
enabled you and the rest of my employees to make a living. Every cent
that I ever received from that new process I put back into the Mill.
You have had more out of it than I ever did."
Peter Martin looked slowly about at the evidence of Adam Ward's wealth.
When he again faced the owner of the estate he spoke as if doubting
that he had heard him clearly. "But the Mill is yours, Adam?" he said,
at last. "And all this is yours. How--where did it come from?"
"Certainly the Mill is mine. Didn't I make it what it is? As for the
place here--it came from the profits of my business, of course. You
know I was nothing but a common workman when I started out."
"I know," returned Pete. "And it was the new process that enabled you
to get control of the Mill--to buy it and build it up--wasn't it? If
you hadn't happened to have had the process the Mill would have made
all this for some one else, wouldn't it? We never dreamed that the
process would grow into such a big thing for anybody when we used to
talk it over in the old days, did we, Adam?"
Adam Ward looked cautiously around at the shrubbery that encircled the
bit of lawn. There was no one to be seen within hearing distance.
When he faced his companion again the Mill owner's eyes were blazing,
but he controlled his voice by a supreme effort of will. "Look here,
Pete, I'm not going even to discuss that matter with you. I have kept
you on at the Mill and taken care of you all these years because of our
old friendship and because I was sorry for you. But if you don't
appreciate what I have done for you, if you attempt to start any talk
or anything I'll throw you and Charlie out of your jobs to-morrow. And
I'll fix it, too, so you will never either of you get another day's
work in Millsburgh. That process is my property. No one has any
interest in the patents in any way. I have it tied up so tight that all
the courts in the world couldn't take it away from me. Law is law and I
propose to keep what the law says is mine. I have thousands of dollars
to spend in defense of my legal rights where you have dimes. You
needn't whine about moral obligations either. The only obligations that
are of any force in business are legal! If you haven't brains enough to
look after your own interests you can't expect any one else to look
after them for you."
When Adam Ward finished his countenance was distorted with hate and
fear. Before this simple, kindly old workman, in whose honest soul
there was no shadow of a wish to harm any one in any way, the Mill
owner was like a creature of evil at bay.
"I did not come to talk of the past, Adam Ward," said Pete, sadly. "And
I didn't come to threaten you or to ask anything for myself."
At the gentle sadness of his old friend's manner and words, Adam's eyes
gleamed with vicious triumph. "Well, out with it!" he demanded,
harshly. "What are you here for?"
"Your boy and my girl love each other, Adam."
An ugly grin twisted the gray lips of Pete's employer.
But Mary's father went on as though he had not seen. "The children were
raised together, Adam. I have always thought of John almost as if he
were my own son. It seems exactly right that he should want Mary and
that she should want him. There is no man in the world I would rather
it would be."
Adam listened, still grinning, as the old workman continued in his
slow, quiet speech.
"I never cared before for all that the new process made for you. You
wanted money--I didn't. But it don't seem right that what you
have--considering how you got it--should stand in the way of Mary's
happiness. I understand that there is nothing I can do about it, but I
thought that, considering everything, you might be willing to--"
Adam Ward laughed aloud--laughed until the tears of his insane glee
filled his eyes. "So that's your game," he said, at last, when he could
speak. "You hadn't brains enough to protect yourself to start out with
and you have found out that you haven't a chance in the world against
me in the courts. So you try to make it by setting your girl up to
"You must stop that sort of talk, Adam Ward." Peter Martin was on his
feet, and there was that in his usually stolid countenance which made
the Mill owner shrink back. "I was a fool, as you say. But my mistake
was that I trusted you. I believed in your pretended friendship for me.
I thought you were as honest and honorable as you seemed to be. I
didn't know that your religion was all such a rotten sham. I have never
cared that you grew rich while I remained poor. All these years I have
been sorry for you because I have had so much of the happiness and
contentment and peace that you have lost. But you must understand, sir,
that there are some things that I will do in defense of my children
that I would not do in defense of myself."
Adam, white and trembling, drew still farther away. "Be careful," he
cried, "I can call half a dozen men before you can move."
Pete continued as if the other had not spoken. "There is no reason in
the world why John and Mary should not marry."
Adam Ward's insane hatred for the workman and his evil joy over this
opportunity to make his old comrade suffer was stronger even than his
fear. With another snarling laugh he retorted, viciously, "There is the
best reason in the world why they will never marry. _I_ am the reason,
Pete Martin! And I'd like to see you try to do anything about it."
Mary's father answered, slowly, "I do not understand your hatred for
me, Adam. All these years I have been loyal to you. I have never talked
of our affairs to any one--"
Adam interrupted him with a burst of uncontrollable rage. "_Talk_, you
fool! Talk all you please. Tell everybody anything you like. Who will
believe you? You will only get yourself laughed at for being the
short-sighted idiot you were. That process is patented in my name. I
own it. You don't need to keep still on my account, but I tell you
again that if you do try to start anything I'll ruin you and I'll ruin
your children." Suddenly, as if in fear that his rage would carry him
too far, his manner changed and he spoke with forced coldness. "I am
sorry that I cannot continue this interview, Pete. You have all that
you will ever get from me--children or no children. Go on about your
business as usual and you may hold your job in the Mill as long as you
are able to do your work. I had thought that I might give you some sort
of a little pension when you got too old to keep up your end with the
rest of the men."
And then Adam Ward added the crowning insolent expression of his insane
and arrogant egotism. With a pious smirk of his gray, twitching face,
he said, "I want you to know, too, Pete, that you can approach me any
time without any feeling of humiliation."
He turned abruptly away and a moment later the old workman, watching,
saw him disappear behind some tall bushes.
As Pete Martin went slowly back to the entrance gate he did not know
that the owner of the estate was watching him. From bush to bush Adam
crept with the stealthy care of a wild creature, following its
prey--never taking his eyes from his victim, save for quick glances
here and there to see that he himself was not observed. Not until Pete
had passed from sight down the hill road did Adam appear openly. Then,
going to the watchman at the gate, he berated him for admitting the old
workman and threatened him with the loss of his position if he so
* * * * *
When Peter Martin arrived home he found Jake Vodell and Charlie
discussing the industrial situation. The strike leader had come once
more to try to enlist the support of the old workman and his son in his
war against the employer class.
A LAST CHANCE
Jake Vodell greeted the old workman cordially. "You have been to church
this fine morning, I suppose, heh?" he said, with a sneering laugh that
revealed how little his interview with Captain Charlie was contributing
to his satisfaction.
"No," returned Pete. "I did not attend church this morning--I do go,
"Oh-ho! you worship the God of your good master Adam Ward, I suppose."
But Pete Martin was in no way disturbed by the man's sarcasm. "No," he
said, slowly, "I do not think that Adam and I worship the same God."
"Is it so? But when the son goes to war so bravely and fights for his
masters one would expect the father to say his prayers to his masters'
Captain Charlie retorted, sharply, "The men who fought in the war
fought for this nation--for every citizen in it. We fought for McIver
just as we fought for Sam Whaley. Our loyalty in this industrial
question is exactly the same. We will save the industries of this
country for every citizen alike because our national life is at stake.
Did you ever hear of a sailor refusing to man the pumps on a sinking
ship because the vessel was not his personal property?"
"Bah!" growled Jake Vodell. "Your profession of loyalty to your country
amuses me. _Your_ country! It is McIver's country--Adam Ward's country,
I tell you. It is my little band of live, aggressive heroes who are the
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