Mary Minds Her Business
Part 2 out of 5
"Perhaps it's because they have no head for business."
She thought that over.
"Can you speak French?" she suddenly asked.
"...I can. I can speak it, and read it, and write it, and think it....
Now don't you think that if a girl can do that--if she can learn
thousands and thousands of new words, how to pronounce them, and spell
them, and parse them, and inflect them--how to supply hundreds of rules
of grammar--and if she can learn to do this so well that she can chat
away in French without giving it a thought--don't you think she might be
able to learn something about the language and rules of business, too, if
they were only taught to her? Then perhaps there wouldn't be so many
helpless widows in the world, as you said just now, at the mercy of the
first glib sharper who comes along."
This time it was the judge's turn to think it over.
"You're an exceptional girl, Mary," he said at last.
"No, really I'm not," she earnestly told him. "Any girl can learn
anything that a boy can learn--if she is only given a chance. Where
boys and girls go to school together--at the grammar schools and high
schools--the girls are just as quick as the boys, and their average marks
are quite as high. It was true at college, too. The girls could learn
anything that the men could learn--and do it just as well."
As one result of this, Judge Cutler began giving Mary lessons in
business, using the inventory as a text and explaining each item in the
settlement of the estate. He also taught her some of the simpler maxims,
beginning with that grand old caution, "Never sign a paper for a
It wasn't long after this that Uncle Stanley called at the house on the
hill. He talked for a time about some of the improvements which were
being made at the factory and then arose as if to go.
"Oh, I nearly forgot," he said, turning back and smiling at his
oversight. "We need a new director to take your father's place. When I'm
away Burdon looks after things, so I suppose he may as well take the
responsibility. It's a thankless position, but some one has to fill it."
"Yes," murmured Mary, "I suppose they do."
"They do," said Uncle Stanley. "So I'll call a stockholders' meeting
right away. Meanwhile if you will sign this proxy--"
But just as quietly Mary murmured, "I'd like to think it over."
They looked at each other then--those two--with that careful, yet
careless-appearing glance which two duellists might employ when some
common instinct warns them that sooner or later they will cross their
Uncle Stanley was the first to lower his eye.
"The law requires three directors," he said in his more usual grumpy
voice, "or I wouldn't have bothered you. I'll leave it and you can sign
it and send it down this afternoon."
But Mary did neither. Instead she went to see Judge Cutler and when
the stockholders' meeting was finally called, she attended it in
person--holding practically all the stock--and Judge Cutler was elected
to fill the vacancy.
Uncle Stanley just managed to control himself. It took an effort, but he
"We've got to elect a president next," he said, trying to make a joke of
it, but unable to keep the tremor of testiness out of his voice. "Of
course I've been here all my life--if that counts for anything--and I am
now serving in the more or less humble capacity of vice-president--but if
the judge would like to throw up his law business and try the
manufacturing end instead--"
"No," smiled the judge, lighting a bombshell--though Uncle Stanley little
guessed it--"I think the position calls for some one younger than I am.
Besides, my name is Cutler, whereas for eight generations this concern
has been headed by a Spencer.
"You know, Mr. Woodward, lawyers are sticklers for precedent, and it
seems to me that as long as there is a Spencer left in the family, that
good old name should stand at the head.
"For the office of president I therefore cast my vote in favour of the
last of the Spencers--Miss Mary--"
That was the bombshell, and oh, but didn't it rock Uncle Stanley back on
"Of course, if you want to make a joke of the company," he said at last,
sticking out his lower lip till it made a little shelf, although it
wasn't a very steady little shelf because it trembled as though from
emotion. "'President, Mary Spencer'--you know as well as I do what people
will think when they see that on the letterhead--"
"Unfortunately, yes," said the judge, flashing him one of his hawk's
glances but still speaking in his gentle voice. "Still, we can easily get
around that difficulty. We can have the letter-heads lithographed
'President, M. Spencer.' Then if our correspondents have imaginations,
they will think that the M stands for Matthew or Mark or Michael or
Malachi. One thing sure," he smiled at the new president, "they'll never
think of Mary."
As in the case of the factory, Uncle Stanley had also been vice-president
of the First National Bank. A few days after the proceedings above
recorded, the stockholders of the bank met to choose a new president.
There was only one vote and when it was counted, Stanley Woodward was
found to be elected.
"I wonder what he'll be doing next," said Mary uneasily when she heard
"My dear girl," gently protested the judge, "you mustn't be so
suspicious. It will poison your whole life and lead you nowhere."
Mary thought that over.
"You know the old saying, don't you?" he continued. "'Suspicion is the
seed of discord.'"
"Yes," nodded Mary, trying to smile, though she still looked troubled. "I
know the old saying--but--the trouble is--I know Uncle Stanley, too, and
that's what bothers me..."
At this point I had meant to tell you more of Wally Cabot--most perfect,
most charming of lovers--but first I find that I must describe a passage
which took place one morning between Mary and Uncle Stanley's son Burdon.
Perhaps you remember Burdon, the tall, dark young man who "smelled nice"
and wore a white edging on the V of his waistcoat.
As far back as Mary could remember him, he had appealed to her
His Norfolk jackets, his gold cigarette case and match box, his air of
distinction, his wealth of black hair which grew to a point on his
forehead, even the walking stick which he sometimes carried; to Mary's
mind these had always been properties in a human drama--a drama
breathless with possibilities, written by Destiny and entitled Burdon
It is hard to express some things, and this is one of them. But among
your own acquaintances there are probably one or two figures which stand
out above the others as though they had been selected by Fate to play
strenuous parts--whether Columbine, clown or star. Something is always
happening to them. Wherever they appear, they seem to hold the centre of
the stage, and when they disappear a dullness falls and life seems flat
for a time. You think of them more often than you realize, perhaps with a
smile, perhaps with a frown, and generally you dismiss them from your
mind with some such thought as this--"He'll get in trouble yet," or "I
wouldn't be surprised if he makes a great man some day"--or "Something
will happen to that girl yet, if she isn't careful!"
That, in short, was the sort of a character that Burdon Woodward had
always been to Mary. For as long as she could remember him, she had
associated him with romance and drama.
To her he had been Raffles, the amateur cracksman. He had also been
Steerforth in David Copperfield--and time after time she had drowned him
in the wreck. In stories of buccaneers he was the captain--sometimes
Captain Morgan, sometimes Captain Kidd--or else he was Black Jack with
Dora in his power and trembling in the balance whether to become a hero
or a villain. As Mary grew older these associations not only lingered;
Not long before her father died she read in the paper of a young
desperado, handsome and well-dressed, who held up a New York jeweller at
the point of a gun and relieved him of five thousand dollars' worth of
diamond rings. The story was made remarkable by a detail. An old woman
was sitting at the corner, grinding a hand-organ, and as the robber ran
past her, he dropped one of the rings into her cup.
"Oh, dad," Mary had said, looking up and speaking on impulse, "did I hear
you say last night that Burdon Woodward was in New York?"
"No, dear. Boston."
"Mm," thought Mary. "He'd say he was going to Boston for a blind." And
for many a week after that she slyly watched his fingers, to see if she
could catch him red-handed so to speak, wearing one of those rings! Yet
even while she glanced she had the grace to smile at her fancies.
"All the same," she told herself, "it sounded an awful lot like him."
The encounter which I am now going to tell you about took place one
morning after Mary had been elected to the presidency of the company. She
had just finished breakfast when Burdon telephoned.
"Your father had some private papers in his desk down here," he said. "I
was wondering if you'd like to come down and look them over."
"Thank you," she said. "I will."
Josiah's private room in the factory office building had been an
impressive one, high-ceiled and flanked with a fire-place which was,
however, never lighted. Ancestral paintings and leather chairs had added
their notes of distinction. The office of any executive will generally
reflect not only his own personality, but the character of the enterprise
of which he stands at the head. Looking in Josiah's room, I think you
would have been impressed, either consciously or not, that Spencer & Son
had dignity, wealth and a history behind it. And regarding then the dark
colouring of the appointments, devoid of either beauty or warmth, and
feeling yourself impressed by a certain chilliness of atmosphere, I can
very well imagine you saying to yourself "Not very cheerful!"
But you wouldn't have thought this on the morning when Mary entered it in
response to Burdon's suggestion.
A fire was glowing on the andirons. New rugs gave colour and life to the
floor. The mantel had been swept clear of annual reports and technical
books, and graced with a friendly clock and a still more friendly pair of
vases filled with flowers. The monumental swivel chair had disappeared,
and in its place was one of wicker, upholstered in cretonne. On the desk
was another vase of flowers, a writing set of charming design and a
triple photograph frame, containing pictures of Miss Cordelia, Miss Patty
and old Josiah himself.
Mary was still marvelling when she caught sight of Burdon Woodward in the
"Who--who did this?" she asked.
He bowed low--as d'Artagnan might have bowed to the queen of France--but
came up smiling.
"Your humble, obedient servant," said he. "Can I come in?"
It had been some time since Mary had seen him so closely, and as he
approached she noticed the faultlessness of his dress, the lily of the
valley in his buttonhole, and that slightly ironic but smiling manner
which is generally attributed to men of the world, especially to those
who have travelled far on adventurous and forbidden paths. In another age
he might have worn lace cuffs and a sword, and have just returned from a
gambling house where he had lost or won a fortune with equal nonchalance.
"He still smells nice," thought Mary to herself, "and I think he's
handsomer than ever--if it wasn't for that dark look around his eyes--and
even that becomes him." She motioned to a chair and seated herself at the
"I thought you'd like to have a place down here to call your own," he
said in his lazy voice. "I didn't make much of a hit with the governor,
but then you know I seldom do--"
"Where did you get the pictures?"
"From the photographers'. Of course it required influence, but I am full
of that--being connected, as you may know, with Spencer & Son. When I
told him why I wanted them, he seemed to be as anxious as I was to find
the old plates."
"And the fire and the rugs and everything--you don't know how I
appreciate it all. I had no idea--"
"I like surprises, myself," he said. "I suppose that's why I like to
surprise others. The keys of the desk are in the top drawer, and I have
set aside the brightest boy in the office to answer your buzzer. If you
want anybody or anything--to write a letter--to see the governor--or even
to see your humble servant--all you have to do is to press this button."
A wave of gratitude swept over her.
"He's nice," she thought, as Burdon continued his agreeable drawl. "But
Helen says he's wicked. I wonder if he is.... Imagine him thinking of
the pictures: I'm sure that doesn't sound wicked, and... Oh,
dear!....Yes, he did it again, then!... He--he's making eyes at me as
much as he dares!..."
She turned and opened a drawer of the desk.
"I think I'll take the papers home and sort them there," she said.
"You're sure there's nothing more I can do?" he asked, rising.
"Nothing more; thank you."
"That window behind you is open at the top. You may feel a draft; I'll
In his voice she caught the note which a woman never misses, and her mind
went back to her room at college where the girls used to gather in the
evenings and hold classes which were strictly outside the regular course.
"It's simply pathetic," one of the girls had once remarked, "but nearly
every man you meet makes love the same way. Talk about sausage for
breakfast every morning in the year. It's worse than that!
"First you catch it in their eye and in their voice: 'Are you sure you're
comfortable?' 'Are you sure you're warm enough?' 'Are you sure you don't
feel a draft?' That's Chapter One.
"Then they try to touch you--absent-mindedly putting their arms along the
back of your chair, or taking your elbow to keep you from falling when
you have to cross a doorsill or a curb-stone or some dangerous place like
that. That's always Chapter Two.
"And then they try to get you into a nice, secluded place, and kiss you.
Honestly, the sameness of it is enough to drive a girl wild. Sometimes I
say to myself, 'The next time a man looks at me that way and asks me if I
feel a draft, I'm going to say, 'Oh, please let's dispense with Chapter
Two and pass directly to the nice, secluded place. It will be such a
change from the usual routine!'"
Mary laughed to herself at the recollection.
"If Vera's right," she thought, "he'll try to touch me next--perhaps the
next time I come."
It happened sooner than that.
After she had tied up the papers and carried them to the car, and had
made a tour of the new buildings--Archey Forbes blushing like a sunset
the moment he saw her--she returned to her motor which was waiting
outside the office building. Burdon must have been waiting for her. He
suddenly appeared and opened the door of the car.
"Allow me," he said. When she stepped up, she felt the support of his
hand beneath her elbow.
She slipped into her place at the wheel and looked ahead as dreamy-eyed
"Chapter Two..." she thought to herself as the car began to roll away,
and taking a hasty mental review of Wally Cabot, and Burdon Woodward and
Archey Forbes, she couldn't help adding, "If a girl's thoughts started to
run that way, oh, wouldn't they keep her busy!"
It relieved her feelings to make the car roar up the incline that led
from the river, but when she turned into the driveway at the house on the
hill, she made a motion of comic despair.
Wally Cabot's car was parked by the side of the house. Inside she heard
the phonograph playing a waltz.
Wally stayed for lunch, looking sheepish at first for having been caught
dancing with Helen. But he soon recovered and became his charming self.
Miss Cordelia and Miss Patty always made him particularly welcome,
listening with approval to his chatter of Boston society, and feeling
themselves refreshed as at some Hebian spring at hearing the broad a's
and the brilliant names he uttered.
"If I were you, Helen," said Mary when lunch was over, "I think I'd go on
teaching Wally that dance." Which may have shown that it rankled a
little, even if she were unconscious that it did. "I have some papers
that I want to look over and I don't feel very trippy this afternoon."
She went to Josiah's old study, but had hardly untied the papers when she
heard the knock of penitence on the door.
"Come in!" she smiled.
The door opened and in came Master Wally, looking ready to weep.
"Wally! Don't!" she laughed. "You'll give yourself the blues!"
"Not when I hear you laugh like that. I know I'm forgiven." He drew a
chair to the fire and sat down with an air of luxury. "I can almost
imagine that we're an old married couple, sitting in here like
"No; I can't. And you've got to be quiet and let me work, or I shall send
you back to Helen."
"She asked me to dance with her--of course, you know that--or I never
would have done it--"
"Oh, fie, for shame," said Mary absently, "blaming the woman. You know
you liked to do it."
He watched her for a time and, in truth, she was worth it. He looked at
the colour of her cheeks, her dreamy eyes like pools of mystery, the
crease in her chin (which he always wanted to kiss), the rise and fall of
the pendant on her breast. He looked until he could look no longer and
then he arose and leaned over the desk.
"Mary--!" he breathed, taking her hand.
"Now, please don't start that, Wally. We'll shake hands if you want to...
There! How are you? Now go back to your chair and be good."
"'Be good!'" he savagely echoed.
"Why, you want to be good; don't you?" she asked in surprise.
"I want you to love me. Mary; tell me you love me just a little bit;
"I like you a whole lot--but when it comes to love--the way you mean--"
"It's the only thing in life that's worth a hang," he eagerly interrupted
her. "The trouble is: you won't try it. You won't allow yourself to let
go. I was like that once--thought it was nothing. But after I met you--!
Oh, girl, it's all roses and lilies--the only thing in the world, and
don't you forget it! Come on in and give it a try!"
"It's not the only thing in the world," said Mary, shaking her head.
"That's the reason I don't want to come in: When a man marries, he goes
right on with his life as though nothing had happened. That shows it's
not the only thing with him. But when a woman marries--well, she simply
surrenders her future and her independence. It may be right that she
should, too, for all I know--but I'm going to try the other way first.
I'm going right on with my life, the same as a man does--and see what I
get by it."
"How long are you going to try it, do you think?"
"Until I've found out whether love _is_ the only thing in a woman's life.
If I find that I can't do anything else--if I find that a girl can only
be as bright as a man until she reaches the marrying age, and then she
just naturally stands still while he just naturally goes forward--why,
then, I'll put an advertisement in the paper 'Husband Wanted. Mary
Spencer. Please apply.'"
"They'll apply over my dead body."
"You're a dear, good boy to say it. No, please, Wally, don't or I shall
go upstairs. Now sit by the fire again--that's better--and smoke if you
want to, and let me finish these papers."
They were for the greater part the odds and ends which accumulate in
every desk. There were receipted bills, old insurance policies, letters
that had once seemed worth prizing, catalogues of things that had never
been bought, prospectuses, newspaper clippings, copies of old contracts.
And yet they had an interest, too--an interest partly historical, partly
This merry letter, for instance, which Mary read and smiled over--who was
the "Jack" who had written it? "Dead, perhaps, like dad," thought Mary.
Yes, dead perhaps, and all his fun and drollery suddenly fallen into
silence and buried with him.
"Isn't life queer!" she thought. "Now why did he save this clipping?"
She read the clipping and enjoyed it. Wally, watching from his chair, saw
the smile which passed over her face.
"She'll warm up some day," he confidently told himself, with that
bluntness of thought which comes to us all at times. "See how she flared
up because I danced with Helen. Maybe if I made her jealous..."
At the desk Mary picked up another paper--an old cable. She read it,
re-read it, and quietly folded it again; but for all her calmness the
colour slowly mounted to her cheeks, as the recollection of odd words and
phrases arose to her mind.
"Wally," she said in her quietest voice, "I'm going to ask you a
question, but first you must promise to answer me truly."
"Cross my heart and hope to die!"
"Are you ready?"
"Then did you ever hear of any one in our family named Paul?"
"Who was he?"
It was some time before he told the story, but trust a girl to make a man
speak when she wishes it! He softened the recital in every possible way,
but trust a girl again to read between the lines when she wants to!
"And didn't he ever come back?" she asked.
"No; you see he couldn't very well. There was an accident out
West--somebody killed--anyhow, he was blamed for it. Queer, isn't it?" he
broke off, trying to relieve the subject. "The Kaiser can start a war and
kill millions. That's glory. But if some poor devil loses his head--"
Mary wasn't through yet.
"You say he's dead!" she asked.
"Oh, yes, years ago. He must have been dead--oh, let me see--about
fifteen or twenty years, I guess."
"Poor dad!" thought Mary that night. "What he must have gone through!
I'll bet he didn't think that love was the only thing in life. And--that
other one," she hesitated, "who was 'wild after the girls,' Wally says,
and finally ran off with one--I'll bet he didn't think so, either--before
he got through--to say nothing of the poor thing who went with him. But
dead fifteen or twenty years--that's the queerest part."
She found the cable again. It was dated Rio Janeiro--
"Gods sake cable two hundred dollars wife children sick desperate next
week too late."
It was signed "Paul" and--the point to which Mary's attention was
constantly returning--it wasn't fifteen or twenty years ago that this
appeal had been received by her father.
The date of the cable was scarcely three years old.
For days Mary could think of little else, but as week followed week, her
thoughts merged into memories--memories that were stored away and stirred
in their hiding places less and less often.
"Dad knew best," she finally told herself. "He bore it in silence all
those years, so it wouldn't worry me, and I'm not going to start now.
Perhaps--he's dead, too. Anyhow," she sternly repeated, "I'm not going to
worry. I've seen enough of worry to start doing that."
Besides, she had too much else on her mind--"to start doing that."
As the war in Europe had progressed--America drawing nearer the crimson
whirlpool with every passing month--a Red Cross chapter was organized at
New Bethel. Mary took active part in the work, and whenever visitors came
to speak at the meetings, they seldom went away without being entertained
at the house on the hill.
"I love to think of it," she told Aunt Patty one day. "The greatest
organization of mercy ever known--and practically all women's work!
Doesn't that mean a lot to you, Aunt Patty? If women can do such
wonderful things for the Red Cross, why can't they do wonderful things in
Her own question set her thinking, and something seemed to tell her that
now or never she must watch her chance to make old dreams come true.
Surely never before in the history of the world had woman come to the
front with such a splendid arrival.
"We'll get things yet, Aunt Delia," she whispered in confidence, "so that
folks will be just as proud of a girl baby as a boy baby." Whereupon she
wagged her finger as though to say, "You mark my words!" and went rolling
away to hear a distinguished lecturer who had just returned from Europe
with a message to the women in America of what their sisters were doing
across the seas.
The address was given at the Red Cross rooms, and as Mary listened she
sewed upon a flannel swaddling robe that was later to go to Siberia lest
a new-born babe might perish. At first she listened conscientiously
enough to the speaker--"What our European sisters have done in
"I do believe at times that it's the women more than the men who make a
country great," she thought as she heard of the women ploughing,
planting, reaping. To Mary's mind each stoical figure glowed with the
light of heroism, and she nodded her head as she worked.
"Just as I've always said," she mused; "there's nothing a man can do that
a woman can't do."
From her chair by the window she chanced to look out at an old circus
poster across the street.
"Now that's funny, too," she thought, her needle suspended; "I never
thought of that before--but even in such things as lion taming and
trapeze performing--where you would think a woman would really be at a
disadvantage--she isn't at all. She's just as good as a man!"
The voice of the speaker broke in upon her thoughts.
"I am now going to tell you," she said, "what the women of Europe are
doing in the factories--"
And oh, how Mary listened, then!
It was a long talk--I cannot begin to give it here--but she drank in
every word, and hungered and thirsted for more.
"There is not an operation in factory, foundry or laboratory," began the
speaker, "where women are not employed--"
As in a dream Mary seemed to see the factory of Spencer & Son. The long
lines of men had vanished, and in their places were women, clear-eyed,
dexterous and happy at escaping from the unpaid drudgery of housework.
"It may come to that, too," she thought, "if we go into war."
"In aeroplane construction," the speaker continued, "where an undetected
flaw in her work might mean an aviator's life, woman is doing the
carpentry work, building the frame work, making the propellers. They are
welding metals, drilling, boring, grinding, milling, even working on the
engines and magnetos--"
A quiver ran up and down Mary's back and her eyes felt wet. "Just what
I've always said," she thought. "Ah, the poor women--"
"They are making telescopes, periscopes, binoculars, cameras--cutting and
grinding the lenses--work so fine that the deviation of a hair's breadth
would cause rejection--some of the lenses as small as a split pea. They
make the metal parts that hold those lenses, assemble them, adjust them,
test them. These are the eyes of the army and navy--surely no small part
for the woman to supply."
Mary's thoughts turned to some of the homes she had seen--the
surroundings--the expression of the housewife. "All her life and no help
for it," she thought. And again, "Ah, the poor women...."
"To tell you the things she is making would be to give you a list of
everything used in modern warfare. They are making ships, tanks, cannon,
rifles, cartridges. They are operating the most wonderful trip hammers
that were ever conceived by the mind of man, and under the same roof they
are doing hand work so delicate that the least extra pressure of a file
would spoil a week's labour. More! There isn't a process in which she has
been employed where woman has failed to show that she is man's equal in
speed and skill. In many operations she has shown that she is man's
superior--doing this by the simple method of turning out more work in a
day than the man whose place she took--"
Mary invited the speaker to go home with her, and if you had gone past
the house on the hill that night, you would have seen lights burning
downstairs until after one o 'clock.
How did they train the women?
How did they find time to do their washing and ironing?
What about the children? And the babies? And the home?
As the visitor explained, stopping now and then to tell her young hostess
where to write for government reports giving facts and figures on the
subject which they were discussing, Mary's eyes grew dreamier and
dreamier as one fancy after another passed through her mind. And when the
clock struck one and she couldn't for shame keep her guest up any longer,
she went to her room at last and undressed in a sort of a reverie, her
glance inward turned, her head slightly on one side, and with such a look
of thoughtful exaltation that I wish I could paint it for you, because I
know I can never put it into words.
Still, if you can picture Betsey Ross, it was thus perhaps that Betsey
looked when first she saw the flag.
Or Joan of Arc might once have gazed that way in Orleans' woods.
It was in December that Mary's great idea began to assume form. She wrote
to the American Ambassadors in Great Britain and France for any documents
which they could send her relating to the subject so close to her heart.
In due time two formidable packages arrived at the house on the hill.
Mary carried them into the den and opened them with fingers that trembled
Yes, it was all true.... All true.... Here it was in black and white,
with photographs and statistics set down by impartial observers and
printed by government. Generally a state report is dry reading, but to
Mary at least these were more exciting than any romances--more beautiful
than any poem she had ever read.
At last woman had been given a chance to show what she could do. And how
she had shown them!
Without one single straining effort, without the least thought of doing
anything spectacular, she had gently and calmly taken up men's tools and
had done men's work--not indifferently well--not in any makeshift
manner--but "in all cases, even the most technical, her work has equalled
that previously done exclusively by man. In a number of instances, owing
to her natural dexterity and colour sense, her work, indeed, has been
How Mary studied those papers!
Never even at college had she applied herself more closely. She
memorized, compared, read, thought, held arguments with herself. And
finally, when she was able to pass any examination that might be set
before her, she went down to the office one day and sent for Mr.
MacPherson, the master mechanic.
He came--grey haired, grim faced, a man who seemed to keep his mouth
buttoned-and Mary asked him to shut the door behind him. Whereat Mac
buttoned his mouth more tightly than before, and looked grimmer, too, if
that were possible.
"You don't look a day older," Mary told him with a smile. "I remember you
from the days when my father used to carry me around--"
"He was a grand man, Miss Mary; it's a pity he's gone," said Mac and
promptly buttoned his mouth again.
"I want to talk to you about something," she said, "but first I want you
to promise to keep it a secret."
He blinked his eyes at that, and as much as a grim faced man can look
troubled, he looked troubled.
"There are vera few secrets that can be kept around this place," was his
strange reply. "Might I ask, Miss Mary, of what nature is the subject?"
And seeing that she hesitated he added, first looking cautiously over his
shoulder, "Is it anything, for instance, to do wi' Mr. Woodward? Or, say,
the conduct of the business?"
"No, no," said Mary, "it--it's about women--" Mac stared at her, but when
she added "--about women working in the factory," he drew a breath of
"Aye," he said, "I think I can promise to keep quiet about that."
"Isn't it true," she began, "that most of the machinery we use doesn't
require a great deal of skill to run it?"
"We've a lot of automatics," acknowledged Mac. "Your grandfather's idea,
Miss Mary. A grand man. He was one of the first to make the machine think
instead of the operator."
"How long does it take to break in an ordinary man?"
"A few weeks is generally enough. It depends on the man and the tool."
Mary told him then what she had in her mind, and Mac didn't think much of
it until she showed him the photographs. Even then he was "michty
cautious" until he happened to turn to the picture of a munition factory
in Glasgow where row after row of overalled women were doing the lathe
"Think of that now," said he; "in Glasga'!" As he looked, the frost left
his eye. "A grand lot of lasses," he said and cleared his throat.
"If they can do it, we can do it, too--don't you think so?"
"Why not?" he asked. "For let me tell you this, Miss Mary. Those old
countries are all grand countries--to somebody's way of thinking. But
America is the grandest of them all, or they wouldn't keep coming here as
fast as ships can bring them! What they can do, yes, we can do--and add
something for good measure, if need be!"
"Well, that's it," said Mary, eagerly. "If we go into the war, we shall
have to do the same as they are doing in Europe--let women do the factory
work. And if it comes to that, I want Spencer & Son to be ready--to be
the first to do it--to show the others the way!"
Mac nodded. "A bit of your grandfather, that," he thought with approval.
"So what I want you to do," she concluded, "is to make me up a list of
machines that women can be taught to handle the easiest, and let me have
it as soon as you can."
"I'll do that," he grimly nodded. "There's far too many vacant now."
"And remember, please, you are not to say anything. Because, you know,
people would only laugh at the idea of a woman being able to do a man's
"I'm mute," he nodded again, and started for the door, his mouth buttoned
very tightly indeed. But even while his hand was stretched out to reach
the knob, he paused and then returned to the desk.
"Miss Mary," he said, "I'm an old man, and you're a young girl. I know
nothing, mind you, but sometimes there are funny things going on in the
world. And a man's not a fool. What I'm going to tell you now, I want you
to remember it, but forget who told it to you. Trust nobody. Be careful.
I can say no more."
"He means Uncle Stanley," thought Mary, uneasily, and a shadow fell upon
the day. She was still troubled when another disturbing incident arose.
"I'll leave these papers in the desk here," she thought, taking her keys
from her handbag. She unlocked the top drawer and was about to place the
papers on top of those which already lay there, when suddenly she paused
and her eyes opened wide.
On the top letter in her drawer--a grey tinted sheet--was a scattered
mound of cigarette ash.
"Somebody's been here--snooping," she thought. "Somebody with a key to
the desk. He must have had a cigarette in his hand when he shut the
drawer, and the ashes jarred off without being noticed--"
Irresistibly her thoughts turned to Burdon Woodward, with his gold
cigarette case and match box.
"It was he who gave me the keys," she thought.
She sighed. A sense of walking among pitfalls took possession of her. As
you have probably often noticed, suspicion feeds upon suspicion, and as
Mary walked through the outer office she felt that more than one pair of
eyes were avoiding her. The old cashier kept his head buried in his
ledger and nearly all the men were busy with their papers and books.
"Perhaps it's because I'm a woman," she thought. Ma'm Maynard's words
arose with a new significance, "I tell you, Miss Mary, it has halways
been so, and it halways will. Everything that lives has its own natural
enemy--and a woman's natural enemy: eet is man!"
But Mary could still smile at that.
"Take Mr. MacPherson," she thought; "how is he my natural enemy? Or Judge
Cutler? Or Archey Forbes? Or Wally Cabot?" She felt more normal then, but
when these reflections had died away, she still occasionally felt her
thoughts reverting to Mac's warning, the cigarette ash, the averted
glances in the office.
The nest morning, though, she thought she had found the answer to the
latter puzzle. She had hardly finished breakfast when Judge Cutler was
announced, his hawk's eyes frowning and never a trace of his smile.
"Did you get your copy of the annual report?" he asked.
"Not yet," said Mary, somehow guessing what he meant. "Why?"
"I got mine in the mail this morning." He drew it from his pocket and his
frown grew deeper. "Let's go in the den," he said; "we've got to talk
It was the annual report of Spencer & Son's business and briefly stated,
it showed an alarming loss for the preceding twelve months.
"Ah-ha!" thought Mary, "that's the reason they didn't look up yesterday.
They had seen this, and they felt ashamed."
"As nearly as I can make it out," said the judge, "there's too many
improvements going on, and not enough business. We must do something to
stop these big expenses, and find a way to get more bearings sold--"
He checked himself then and looked at Mary, much as Mac had looked the
previous day, just before issuing his warning.
"Perhaps he's thinking of Uncle Stanley, too," thought Mary.
"Another bad feature is this," continued the judge, "the bank is getting
too strong a hold on the company. We must stop that before it gets any
"Why?" asked Mary, looking very innocent.
"Because it isn't good business."
"But Uncle Stanley is president of the bank. You don't think he'd do
anything to hurt Spencer & Son; do you?"
The judge tapped his foot on the floor for a time, and then made a noise
like a groan--as though he had teeth in his mind and one of them was
"Many a time," he said, "I have tried to talk you out of your suspicions.
But--if it was any other man than Stanley Woodward, I would say today
that he was doing his best to--to--"
"To 'do' me?" suggested Mary, more innocent than ever.
"Yes, my dear--to do you! And another year's work like this wouldn't be
far from having that result."
Curiously enough it was Mary's great idea that comforted her. Instead of
feeling worried or apprehensive, she felt eager for action, her eyes
shining at the thoughts which came to her.
"All right," she said, "we'll have a meeting in a day or two. I'll wait
till I get my copy of the report."
Wally came that afternoon, and Mary danced with him--that is to say she
danced with him until a freckle-faced apprentice came up from the factory
with an envelope addressed in MacPherson's crabbed hand. Mary took one
peep inside and danced no more.
"If the women can pick it up as quick as the men," she read, "I have
counted 1653 places in this factory where they could be working in a few
weeks time--that is, if the places were vacant. List enclosed.
Respectfully. James O. MacPherson."
It was a long list beginning "346 automatics, 407 grinders--"
Mary studied it carefully, and then after telephoning to the factory, she
called up Judge Cutler.
"I wish you would come down to the office in about half an hour," she
said, ".... Directors' meeting. All right. Thank you."
"What was it dad used to call me sometimes--his 'Little Hustler'?" she
thought. "If he could see, I'll bet that's what he would call me now."
As she passed through the hall she looked in the drawing room to tell
Helen where she was going. Helen was sitting on a chaise lounge and Wally
was bending over her, as though trying to get something out of her eye
with the corner of a handkerchief.
"I don't see anything," Mary heard him saying.
"There must be something. It hurts dreadfully," said Helen.
Looking again, he lightly dabbed at the eye. "Oh!" breathed Helen.
She took hold of his hand as though to stop him. Mary passed on without
saying anything, her nose rather high in the air.
Half way down the hill she laughed at nothing in particular.
"Yes," she told herself. "Helen--in her own way--I guess that she's a
little Hustler ... too ...!"
The meeting was held in Mary's office--the first conference of directors
she had ever attended. By common consent, Uncle Stanley was chosen
chairman of the board. Judge Cutler was appointed secretary.
Mary sat in her chair at the desk, her face nearly hidden by the flowers
in the vase.
It didn't take the meeting long to get down to business.
"From last year's report," began the judge, "it is evident that we must
have a change of policy."
"In what way?" demanded Uncle Stanley.
Whereupon they joined issue--the man of business and the man of law. If
Mary had been paying attention she would have seen that the judge was
slowly but surely getting the worst of it.
To stop improvements now would be inviting ruin--They had their hands on
the top rung of the ladder now; why let go and fall to the bottom--? What
would everybody think if those new buildings stayed empty--?
Uncle Stanley piled fact on fact, argument on argument.
Faint heart never won great fortune--As soon as the war was over, and it
wouldn't be long now--Before long he began to dominate the conference,
the judge growing more and more silent, looking more and more indecisive.
Through it all Mary sat back in her chair at the desk and said nothing,
her face nearly hidden by the roses, but woman-like, she never forgot for
a moment the things she had come there to do.
"What do you think, Mary?" asked the judge at last. "Do you think we had
better try it a little longer and see how it works out?"
"No," said Mary quietly, "I move that we stop everything else but making
In vain Uncle Stanley arose to his feet, and argued, and reasoned, and
sat down again, and brought his fist down on his knee, and turned a rich,
brown colour. After a particularly eloquent period he caught a sight of
Mary's face among the roses--calm, cool and altogether unmoved--and he
stopped almost on the word.
"That's having a woman, in business," he bitterly told himself. "Might as
well talk to the wind. Never mind ... It may take a little longer--but in
Judge Cutler made a minute in the director's book that all work on
improvements was to stop at once.
"And now," he said, "the next thing is to speed up the manufacture of
"Easily said," Uncle Stanley shortly laughed.
"There must be some way of doing it," persisted the judge, taking the
argument on himself again. "Why did our earnings fall down so low last
"Because I can manufacture bearings, but I can't manufacture men,"
reported Uncle Stanley. "We are over three hundred men short, and it's
getting worse every day. Let me tell you what munition factories are
paying for good mechanics--"
Mary still sat in her wicker chair, back of the flowers, and looked
around at the paintings on the walls--of the Josiah Spencers who had
lived and laboured in the past. "They all look quiet, as though they
never talked much," she thought. "It seems so silly to talk, anyhow, when
you know what you are going to do."
But still the argument across the desk continued, and again Uncle Stanley
began to gain his point.
"So you see," he finally concluded, "it's just as I said a few minutes
ago. I can manufacture bearings, but I can't manufacture men!"
From behind the roses then a patient voice spoke.
"You don't have to manufacture men. We don't need them."
Uncle Stanley gave the judge a look that seemed to say, "Listen to the
woman of it! Lord help us men when we have to deal with women!" And aloud
in quite a humouring tone he said, "We don't need men? Then who's to do
Mary moved the vase so she could have a good look at him.
"Women," she replied. "They can do the work. Yes, women," said she.
Again they looked at each other, those two, with the careful glance with
which you might expect two duellists to regard each other--two duellists
who had a premonition that one day they would surely cross their swords.
And again Uncle Stanley was the first to look away.
"Women!" he thought. "A fine muddle there'll he!"
In fancy he saw the company's organization breaking down, its output
decreasing, its product rejected for imperfections. Of course he knew
that women were employed in textile mills and match-box factories and
gum-and-glue places like that where they couldn't afford to employ men,
and had no need for accuracy. But women at Spencer & Sons! Whose boast
had always been its accuracy! Where every inch was divided into a
"She's hanging herself with her own rope," he concluded. "I'll say no
Mary turned to the judge.
"You might make a minute of that," she said.
Half turning, she chanced to catch a glimpse of Uncle Stanley's
"And you might say this," she quietly added, "that Miss Spencer was
placed in charge of the women's department, with full authority to settle
all questions that might arise."
"That's all?" asked Uncle Stanley.
"I think that's all this afternoon," she said.
He turned to the judge as one man to another, and made a sweeping gesture
toward the portraits on the walls, now half buried in the shadows of
"I wonder what they would think of women working here?" he said in a
Mary thought that over.
"I wonder what they would think of this?" she suddenly asked.
She switched on the electric light and as though by magic a soft white
radiance flooded the room.
"Would they want to go back to candles?" she asked.
Later, the thing which Mary always thought of first was the ease with
which the change was accomplished.
First of all she called in Archey Forbes and told him her plan.
"I'm going to make you chief of staff," she said; "that is--if you'd care
for the place."
He coloured with pleasure--not quite as gorgeously as he once did--but
quite enough to be noticeable.
"Anything I can do for you, Miss Mary?" he said.
"Then first we must find a place to train the women workers. One of those
empty buildings would be best, I think. I'll give you a list of machines
to be set in place."
The "school" was ready the following Monday morning. For "teachers" Mary
had selected a number of elderly men whom she had picked for their quiet
voices and obvious good nature. They were all expert machinists and had
On Saturday the following advertisement had appeared in the local paper:
A CALL FOR WOMEN
Women wanted in machine-shop to do men's work at men's wages for the
duration of the war.
No experience necessary. Easier than washing, ironing, scrubbing or
sewing. $21 a week and up.
Apply Monday morning, 8 o'clock.
JOSIAH SPENCER & SON, INC.
As you have guessed, Mary composed that advertisement. It hadn't passed
"I don't think it's necessary to pay them as much as the men," Mac had
suggested. "To say the least it's vera generous and vera unusual."
"Why shouldn't they get as much as the men if they are going to do men's
work?" asked Mary. "Besides, I'm doing it for the men's sake, even more
than for the women's."
Mac stared at that and buttoned his mouth very tightly.
"They have been all through that in Europe," she explained. "Don't you
see? If a woman can do a man's work, and do it for less money, it brings
down men's wages. Because who would hire a man at $21 a week after the
war if they could get a woman to do the same work for $15?"
"You're richt," said Mac after a thoughtful pause. "I must pass that
along. I know from myself that the men will grumble when they think the
women are going to make as much money as themselves. But when they
richtly understand it's for their own sake, too, they'll hush their
Mary was one of the first at the factory on Monday.
"Won't I look silly, if nobody comes!" she had thought every time she
woke in the night. But she needn't have worried. There was an argument in
that advertisement, "Easier than washing, ironing, scrubbing or sewing,"
that appealed to many a feminine imagination, and when the fancy, thus
awakened, played around the promising phrase "$21 a week--and up," hope
presently turned to desire--and desire to resolution.
"We'll have to set up more machines," said Mary to Archey when she saw
the size of her first class. And looking them over with a proudly beating
heart she called out, "Good morning, everybody! Will you please follow
From this point on, particularly, I like to imagine the eight Josiah
Spencers who had gone before following the proceedings with ghostly steps
and eyes that missed not a move--invisible themselves, but hearing all
and saying nothing. And how they must have stared at each other as they
followed that procession over the factory grounds, the last of the
Spencers followed by a silent, winding train of women, like a new type of
Moses leading her sisters into the promised land!
As Mary had never doubted for a moment, the women of New Bethel proved
themselves capable of doing anything that the women of Europe had done;
and it wasn't long before lines of feminine figures in Turkish overalls
were bending over the repetition tools in the Spencer shops--starting,
stopping, reversing gears, oiling bearings--and doing it all with that
deftness and assurance which is the mark of the finished workman.
Indeed, if you had been near-sighted, and watching from a distance, you
might have been pardoned for thinking that they were men--but if you
looked closer you would have seen that each woman had a stool to sit on,
when her work permitted, and if you had been there at half past ten and
again at half past three, you would have seen a hand-cart going up and
down the aisles, serving tea, coffee, cake and sandwiches.
Again at noon you would have seen that the women had a rest room of their
own where they could eat their lunch in comfort--a rest room with
couches, and easy chairs, and palms and flowers, and a piano, and a
talking machine, and a floor that you could dance on, if you felt like
dancing immediately before or after lunch. And how the eight Josiahs
would have stared at that happy, swaying throng in its Turkish
overalls--especially on Friday noon just after the pay envelopes had been
Meanwhile the school was adding new courses of study. The cleverest
operators were brought back to learn how to run more complicated
machines. Turret lathe hands, oscillating grinders, inspectors were
graduated. In short, by the end of March, Mary was able to report to
another special meeting of the board of directors that where Spencer &
Son had been 371 men short on the first of the year, every empty place
was now taken and a waiting list was not only willing but eager to start
upon work which was easier than washing, ironing, scrubbing or sewing,
and was guaranteed to pay $21 a week--and up!
This declaration might be said to mark an epoch in the Spencer factory.
Its exact date was March 31st, 1917.
On April 2nd of the same year, another declaration was made, never to be
forgotten by mankind.
Upon that date, as you will recall, the Sixty-fifth Congress of the
United States of America declared war upon the Imperial German
Wally was the first to go.
On a wonderful moonlight night in May he called to bid Mary good-bye. He
had received a commission in the aviation department and was already in
uniform--as charming and romantic a figure as the eyes of love could
ever wish to see.
But Mary couldn't see him that way--not even when she tried--making a
bold little experiment with herself and feeling rather sorry, if
anything, that her heart beat no quicker and not a thrill ran over her,
when her hand rested for a moment on Wally's shoulder.
"I wonder if I'm different from other girls," she thought. "Or is it
because I have other things to think about? Perhaps if I had nothing else
on my mind, I'd dream of love as much as anybody, until it amounted
to--what do they call it?--a fixed idea?--that thing which comes to
people when they keep turning the same thing over and over in their
minds, till they can't get it out of their thoughts?"
But you mustn't think that Mary didn't care that Wally was going--perhaps
never to return. She knew that she liked him--she knew she would miss
him. And when, just before he left, he sang The Spanish Cavalier in that
stirring tenor which always made her scalp tingle and her breast feel
full, she turned her face to the moonlit scene outside and lived one of
those minutes which are so filled with beauty and the stirring of the
spirit that pleasure becomes poignant and brings a feeling which isn't
far from pain.
"I'm off to the war--to the war I must go,
To fight for my country and you, dear;
But if I should fall, in vain I would call
The blessing of my country and you, dear--"
All their eyes were wet then, even Wally's--moved by the sadness of his
own song. Aunt Patty, Aunt Cordelia and Helen wiped their tears away
unashamed, but Mary tried to hide hers.
And when the time came for his departure, Aunt Cordelia kissed him and
breathed in his ear a prayer, and Aunt Patty kissed him and prayed for
him, and Helen kissed him, too, her arms tight around his neck. But when
it came to Mary's turn, she looked troubled and gazed down at her hand
which he was holding in both of his.
"Come on out for a minute," he whispered, gently leading her.
They went out under the moon.
"Aren't you going to kiss me, too?" he asked.
Mary thought it over.
"If I kissed you, I would love you," she said, and tried to hide her
tears no more.
He soothed her then in the immemorial manner, and soon she was tranquil
"Good-bye, Wally," she said.
"Good-bye, dear. You'll promise to be here when I come back?"
"I shall be here."
"And you won't let anybody run away with you until I've had another
She watched the light of his car diminish until it vanished over the
crest of the hill. A gathering sense of loneliness began to assail her,
but with it was a feeling of freedom and purpose--the feeling that she
was being left alone, clear of distraction, to fight her own fight and
achieve her own destiny.
Archey Forbes was the next to go. His going marked a curious incident.
He had applied for a commission in the engineers, and his record and
training being good, it wasn't long before he received the beckoning
summons of Mars.
Upon the morning of the day when he was to leave New Bethel, he went to
the factory to say good-bye. The one he wished to see the most, however,
was the first one he missed.
"Miss Mary's around the factory somewhere," said a stenographer.
Another spoke up, a dark girl with a touch of passion in her smile. "I
think Mr. Burdon is looking for her, too."
Archey missed neither the smile nor the tone--and liked neither of them.
"He'll get in trouble yet," he thought, "going out with those girls," and
his frown grew as he thought of Burdon's daily contact with Mary.
"I'll see if I can find her," he told himself after he had waited a few
minutes; and stepping out into the full beauty of the June morning, he
crossed the lawn toward the factory buildings.
On one of the trees a robin sang and watched him with its head atilt. A
bee hummed past him and settled on a trellis of roses. In the distance
murmured the falls, with their soothing, drowsy note.
"These are the days, when I was a boy, that I used to dream of running
away and seeing the world and having great adventures," thought Archey,
his frown forgotten. He didn't consciously put it into words, but deep
from his mind arose a feeling of the coming true of great dreams--of
running away from the humdrum of life, of seeing the world, of taking a
part in the greatest adventure ever staged by man.
"What a day!" he breathed, lifting his face to the sun. "Oh, Lord, what a
It was indeed a day--one of those days which seem to have wine in the
air--one of those days when old ambitions revive and new ones flower into
splendour. Mary, for instance, on her way to the machine shop, was busy
with thoughts of a nursery where mothers could bring their children who
were too young to go to school.
"Plenty of sun," she thought, "and rompers for them all, and sand piles,
and toys, and certified milk, and trained nurses--" And while she dreamed
she hummed to herself in approval, and wasn't aware that the air she
hummed was the Spanish Cavalier--and wasn't aware that Burdon Woodward
was near until she suddenly awoke from her dream and found they were face
He turned and walked with her.
The wine of the day might have been working in Burdon, too, for he hadn't
walked far with Mary before he was reminding her more strongly than ever,
of Steerforth in David Copperfield--Baffles in the Amateur Cracksman.
Indeed, that morning, listening to his drawl and looking up at the dark
handsome face with its touch of recklessness, the association of Mary's
M'sieur Beaucaire, just from the gaming table--Don Juan on the Nevski
Prospekt--Buckingham on his way to the Tuileries--they all might have
been talking to her, warming her thoughts not so much by what they said
as by what they might say, appealing to her like a romance which must,
however, be read to the end if you wish to know the full story.
They were going through an empty corridor when it happened. Burdon,
drawling away as agreeably as ever, gently closed his fingers around
"I might have known," she thought in a little panic. "It's my own fault."
But when she tried to pull her hand away, her panic grew.
"No, no," said Burdon, laughing low, his eyes more reckless than ever,
"you might tell--if I stopped now. But you'll never tell a soul on
earth--if I kiss you."
Even while Mary was struggling, her head held down, she couldn't help
thinking, "So that's the way he does it," and felt, I think, as feels the
fly who has walked into the parlour. The next moment she heard a sharp
voice, "Here--stop that!" and running steps approaching.
"I think it was Archey," she thought, as she made her escape, her knees
shaking, her breath coming fast. She knew it was, ten minutes later, when
Archey found her in the office--knew it from the way he looked at her and
the hesitation of his speech--but it wasn't until they were shaking hands
in parting that she saw the cut on his knuckles.
"You've hurt yourself," she said. "Wait; I have some adhesive plaster."
Even then she didn't guess.
"How did you do it?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't know--"
Mary's glance suddenly deepened into tenderness, and when Archey left a
few minutes later, he walked as one who trod the clouds, his head among
An hour passed, and Mary looked in Uncle Stanley's office. Burdon's desk
was closed as though for the day.
"Where's Burdon?" she asked.
"He wasn't feeling very well," said Uncle Stanley after a long look at
his son's desk, "--a sort of headache. I told him he had better go home."
And every morning for the rest of the week, when she saw Uncle Stanley,
she gave him such an innocent look and said, "How's Burdon's head this
morning? Any better?"
Uncle Stanley began to have the irritable feelings of an old mouse in the
hands of a young kitten.
"That's the worst of having women around,"--he scowled to himself--"they
are worse than--worse than--worse than--"
Searching for a simile, he thought of a flash of lightning, a steel hoop
lying on its side, a hornet's nest--but none of these quite suited him.
He made a helpless gesture.
"Hang 'em, you never know what they're up to next!" said he.
For that matter, there were times in the next two years when Mary herself
hardly knew what she was up to next, for if ever a girl suddenly found
herself in deep waters, it was the last of the Spencers. Strangely
enough--although I think it is true of many of life's undertakings--it
wasn't the big things which bothered her the most.
She soon demonstrated--if it needed any demonstration--that what the
women of France and Britain had done, the women of New Bethel could do.
At each call of the draft, more and more men from Spencer & Son obeyed
the beckoning finger of Mars, and more and more women presently took
their places in the workshops. That was simply a matter of enlarging the
training school, of expanding the courses of instruction.
No; it wasn't the big things which ultimately took the bloom from Mary's
cheeks and the smile from her eyes.
It was the small things that worried her--things so trifling in
themselves that it would sound foolish to mention them--the daily nagging
details, the gathering load of responsibility upon her shoulders, the
indifference which she had to dispel, the inertia that had to be
overcome, the ruffled feelings to be soothed, the squabbles to be
settled, the hidden hostilities which she had to contend against in her
own office--and yet pretend she never noticed them.
Indeed, if it hadn't been for the recompensing features, Mary's
enthusiasm would probably have become chilled by experience, and dreams
have come to nothing. But now and then she seemed to sense in the factory
a gathering impetus of efficient organization, the human gears working
smoothly for a time, the whole machine functioning with that beauty of
precision which is the dream of every executive.
That always helped Mary whenever it happened.
And the second thing which kept her going was to see the evidences of
prosperity and contentment which the women on the payroll began to
show--their new clothes and shoes--the hopeful confidence of their
smiles--the frequency with which the furniture dealers' wagons were seen
in the streets around the factory, the sounds of pianos and phonographs
in the evening and, better than all, the fact that on pay day at Spencer
& Sons, the New Bethel Savings Bank stayed open till half past nine at
night--and didn't stay open for nothing!
"If things could only keep going like this when the war ends, too,"
breathed Mary one day. "...I'm sure there must be some way ... some
For the second time in her life (as you will presently see) she was like
a blind-folded player with arms outstretched, groping for her destiny and
missing it by a hair.
"Still," she thought, "when the men come back, I suppose most of the
women will have to go. Of course, the men must have their places back,
but you'd think there was some way ... some way...."
In fancy she saw the women going back to the kitchens, back to the old
toil from which they had escaped.
"It's silly, of course," she thoughtfully added, "and wicked, too, to say
that men and women are natural enemies. But--the way some of the men
act--you'd almost think they believed it...."
She thought of Uncle Stanley and has son. At his own request, Burdon had
been transferred to the New York office and Mary seldom saw him, but
something told her that he would never forgive her for the morning when
he had to go home--"with a sort of a headache."
"And Uncle Stanley, too," she thought, her lip quivering as a wave of
loneliness swept over her and left her with a feeling of emptiness. "If I
were a man, he wouldn't dare to act as he does. But because I'm a girl, I
can almost see him hoping that something will happen to me--"
If that, indeed, was Uncle Stanley's hope, he didn't have to wait much
The armistice was signed, you will remember, in the first week of
November, 1918. Two months later Mary showed Judge Cutler the financial
statement for the preceding year.
"Another year like this," said the judge, "and, barring strikes and
accidents, Spencer & Son will be on its feet again, stronger than ever!
My dear girl," he said, rising and holding out his hand, "I must
Mary arose, too, her hand outstretched, but something in her manner
caught the judge's attention.
"What's the matter, Mary?" he asked. "Don't you feel well?"
"Men--women," she said, unsteadily smiling and giving him her hand, "they
ought to be--now--natural partners--not--not--"
With a sigh she lurched forward and fell--a tired little creature--into
Mary had a bad time of it the next few weeks. More than once her face
seemed turned toward the Valley of the Shadow. But gradually health and
strength returned, although it wasn't until April that she was anything
like herself again.
She liked to sit--sometimes for hours at a time--reading, thinking,
dreaming--and when she was strong enough to go outside she would walk
among the flowers, and look at the birds and the budding trees, and draw
deep breaths as she watched the glory of the sunset appearing and
disappearing in the western sky.
Helen occasionally walked and sat with her--but not often. Helen's time
was being more and more taken up by the younger set at the Country Club.
She came home late, humming snatches of the latest dances and talking of
the conquests she had made, telling Mary of the men who would dance with
no one else, of the compliments they had paid her, of the things they had
told her, of the competition to bring her home. One night, it appears,
they had an old-fashioned country party at the club, and Helen was in
high glee at the number of letters she had received in the game of post
"You mean to say they all kissed you?" asked Mary.
"You bet they did! Good and hard! That's what they were there for!"
Mary thought that over.
"It doesn't sound nice to me, somehow," she said at last. "It sounds--oh,
I don't know--common."
"That's what the girls thought who didn't get called," laughed Helen.
She arranged her hair in front of the mirror, pulling it down over her
forehead till it looked like a golden turban. "Oh, who do you think was
there tonight?" she suddenly interrupted herself.
Mary shook her head.
"Burdon Woodward--as handsome as ever. Yes, handsomer, I think, if he
could be. He asked after you. I told him you were nearly better."
"Then he must be down at the factory every day," thought Mary. But the
thought moved her only a little. Whether or not it was due to her
illness, she seemed to have undergone a reaction in regard to the
factory. Everything was going on well, Judge Cutler sometimes told her.
As the men returned from service, the women were giving up their places.
"Whatever you do," he always concluded, "don't begin worrying about
things down there. If you do, you'll never get well."
"I'm not worrying," she told him, and once she added, "It seems ever so
long ago, somehow--that time we had down there."
As the spring advanced, her thoughts took her further than ever from
their old paths. Instead of thinking of something else (as she used to
do), when Helen was telling of her love affairs, Mary began to listen to
them--and even to sit up till Helen returned from the club. One night, as
Helen was chatting of a young an from Boston who had teased her by
following her around until every one was calling him "Helen's little
lamb," Mary gradually became aware of an elusive scent in the room.
"Cigarettes," she thought, "and--and raspberry jam--!" She waited until
her cousin paused for breath and then, "Did Burdon Woodward ride home
with you tonight?" she asked.
"With Doris and me," nodded Helen, smiling at herself in the mirror. "He
told us he went over with some of the boys, but he wanted to go home
Nothing more was said, but a few mornings later, as Helen sat at
breakfast reading her mail, Mary was sure she recognized Burdon's dashing
handwriting. A vague sense of uneasiness passed over her, but this was
soon forgotten when she went to the den to look at her own mail.
On the top of the pile was a letter addressed to her father.
"Rio de Janeiro," breathed Mary, reading the post-mark. "Why, that's
where the cable came from!"
She opened the letter.... It was signed "Paul."
"Dear Sir (it began)
"This isn't begging. I am through with that. When you paid no attention
to my cable, I said, 'Never again!' You might like to know that I buried
my wife and two youngest that time. It hurt then, but I can see now that
they were lucky.
"I have one daughter left--twelve years old. She's just at the age when
she ought to be looked after. This is her picture. She's a pretty girl,
and a good girl, but fond of fun and good times.
"I've done my best, but I'm down and out--tired--through. I guess it's up
to you what sort of a granddaughter you want. There's a school near here
where she could go and be brought up right. It won't cost much. You can
send the money direct--if you want the right sort of a granddaughter.
"If you want the other kind, all you have to do is to forget it. The
crowd I go with aren't good for her.
"Anyway I enclose the card and rates and references of the school. You
see they give the consuls' names.
"If you decide yes, you want your granddaughter to have a chance, write a
letter to the name and address below. That's me. Then write the school,
sending check for one year and say it is for the daughter of the name and
address below. That is the name I am known by here.
"I'm sorry for everything, but of course it's too late now. The truest
thing in the world is this: As you make your bed, so you've got to lie in
it. I made mine wrong, but you couldn't help it. I wouldn't bother you
now except for Rosa's sake.
"Your prodigal son who is eating husks now,
Mary looked at the photograph--a pretty child with her hair over her
shoulders and a smile in her eyes.
"You poor little thing," she breathed, "and to think you're my niece--and
I'm your aunt ... Aunt Mary," she thoughtfully repeated, and for the
first time she realized that youth is not eternal and that years go
"Life's the strangest thing," she thought. "It's only a sort of an
accident that I'm not in her place, and she's not in mine.... Perhaps I
sha'n't have any children of my own--ever--" she dreamed, "and if I
don't--it will be nice to think that I did something--for this one--"
For a moment the chill of caution went over her.
"Suppose it isn't really Paul," she thought. "Suppose--it's some sharper.
Perhaps that's why dad never wrote him--"
But an instinct, deeper than anything which the mind can express, told
her that the letter rang true and had no false metal in it.
"Or suppose," she thought, "if he knows dad is dead--suppose he turns up
and makes trouble for everybody--"
Wally's story returned to her memory. "There was an accident out
West--somebody killed. Anyhow he was blamed for it--so he could never
come back or they'd get him--"
"That agrees with his living under this Russian name," nodded Mary.
"Anyhow, I'm sure there's nothing to fear in doing a good action--for a
child like this--"
She propped the picture on her desk and after a great deal of dipping her
pen in the ink, she finally began--
"I have opened your letter to my father, Josiah Spencer. He has been dead
three years. I am his daughter.
"It doesn't seem right that such a nice girl as Rosa shouldn't have every
chance to grow up good and happy. So I am writing the school you
mentioned, and sending them the money as you suggest.
"She will probably need some clothes, as they always look at a girl's
clothes so when she goes to school. I therefore enclose something for
"Trusting that everything will turn out well, I am
"P.S. I would like Rosa to write and tell me how she gets on at school."
She wrote the school next and when that was done she sat back in her
chair and looked out of the window at the birds and the flowers and the
bees that flew among the flowers.
"What a queer thing it is--love, or whatever they call it," she thought.
"The things it has done to people--right in this house! I guess it's like
fire--a good servant but a bad master--"
She thought of what it had done to Josiah--and to Josiah's son. She
thought of what it had done to Ma'm Maynard, what it was doing to Helen,
how it had left Aunt Cordelia and Aunt Patty untouched.
"It's like some sort of a fever," she told herself. "You never know
whether you're going to catch it or not--or when you're going to catch,
it--or what it's going to do to you--"
She walked to the window and rather unsteadily her hand arose to her
"I wonder if I shall ever catch it...." she thought. "I wonder what it
will do to me...!"
Archey Forbes came back in the beginning of May and the first call he
made was to the house on the hill. He had brought with him a collection
of souvenirs--a trench-made ring, shrapnel fragments of curious shapes,
the inevitable helmet and a sword handle with a piece of wire attached.
"It was part of our work once," he said, "to find booby traps and make
them harmless. This was in a barn, looking as though some one had tried
to hide his sword in the hay. It looked funny to me, so I went at it easy
and found the wire connected to a fuse. There was enough explosive to
blow up the barn and everybody around there, but it wouldn't blow up a
hill of bears when we got through with it."
He coloured a little through his bronze. "I thought you might like these
things," he awkwardly continued.
"Like them? I'd love them!" said Mary, her eyes sparkling.
"I brought them for you."
They were both silent for a time, looking at the souvenirs, but presently
their glances met and they smiled at each other.
"Of course you're going back to the factory," she said; and when he
hesitated she continued, "I shall rely on you to let me know how things
are going on."
Again he coloured a little beneath his bronze and Mary found herself
watching it with an indefinable feeling of satisfaction. And after he was
gone and she was carrying the souvenirs to the den, she also found
herself singing a few broken bars from the Blue Danube.
"Is that you singing!" shouted Helen from the library.
Helen came hurrying as though to see a miracle, for Mary couldn't sing.
"Oh--oh!" she said, her eyes falling on the helmet. "Who sent it? Wally
"No; Archey Forbes brought it."
"Oh-ho!" said Helen again. "Now I see-ee-ee!"
But if she did, she saw more than Mary.
"Perhaps she thinks I'm in love with him," she thought, and though the
reflection brought a pleasant sense of disturbance with it, it wasn't
long before she was shaking her head.
"I don't know what it is," she decided at last, "but I'm sure I'm not in
love with him."
As nearly as I can express it, Mary was in love with love, and could no
more help it than she could help the crease in her chin or the dreaminess
of her eyes. If Archey had had the field to himself, her heart might soon
have turned to him as unconsciously and innocently as a flower turns its
petals to the sun. But the day after Archey returned, Wally Cabot came
back and he, too, laid his souvenirs at Mary's feet.
It was the same Wally as ever.
He had also brought a piece of old lace for Aunt Cordelia, a jet necklace
for Aunt Patty, a prison-camp brooch for Helen. All afternoon he held
them with tales of his adventures in the air, rolling up his sleeve to
show them a scar on his arm, and bending his head down so they could see
where a German ace had nicked a bit of his hair out.
More than once Mary felt her breath come faster, and when Aunt Cordelia
invited him to stay to dinner and he chanced to look at her, she gave a
barely perceptible signal "Yes," and smiled to herself at the warmth of
"I'll telephone mother," he said, briskly rising. "Where's the phone,
Mary? I forget the way."
She arose to show him.
"Let's waltz out," he laughed. "Play something, Helen. Something lively
It was a long time before Mary went to sleep that night. The moon was
nearly full and shone in her windows, a stream of its rays falling on her
bed and bringing to her those immortal waves of fancy which begin where
the scent of flowers stop, and end where immortal and melancholy music
begins. Unbidden tears came to her eyes, though she couldn't have told
you why, and again a sense of the fleeting of time disturbed her.
"Aunt Mary ..." In a few years she would be old, and her hair would be
white like Aunt Patty's.... And in a few years more....
But even as Wally Cabot kept her from thinking too much of Archey Forbes,
so now Archey unconsciously revenged himself and kept her thoughts from
centring too closely around Wally Cabot.
Archey called the next afternoon and Mary sat on the veranda steps with
him, while Helen made hay with Wally on a tete-a-tete above.
The few women who were left in the factory were having things made
unpleasant for them: that was what Archey had come to tell her. Their
canteen had been stopped; the day nursery discontinued; the nurses
"Of course they are not needed there any longer, so far as that is
concerned," concluded Archey, "but they certainly helped us out of a hole
when we did need them, and it doesn't seem right now to treat them
At hearing this, a guilty feeling passed over Mary and left her cheeks
warm. "They'll think I've deserted them," she thought.
"Well, haven't you?" something inside her asked.
Some of her old dreams returned to her mind, as though to mock her. She
was going to be a new Moses once, leading her sisters out of the house of
bondage. Woman was to have things different. Old drudgeries were to be
lifted from her shoulders. The night was over. The dawn was at hand.
"Well, what can I do?" she thought uneasily.
"You can stop them from being treated roughly," something inside her
"I can certainly do that," she nodded to herself. "I'll telephone Uncle
Stanley right away."
But Uncle Stanley was out, and Mary was going riding with Wally that
afternoon. So she wrote a hurried note and left it at the factory as they
"Dear Uncle Stanley," it read,
"Please see that every courtesy and attention is shown, the women who are
still working. We may need them again some day.
"Now!" she said to Wally, and they started on their ride. And, oh, but
that was a ride!
The afternoon was perfect, the sun warm but not hot, the air crystal
clear. It had showered the night before and the world, in its spring
dress, looked as though it had been washed and spruced for their
"All roses and lilies!" laughed Wally. "That's how I like life!"
They went along hillsides and looked down into the beautiful valleys;
they wound around by the sides of rivers and through deep woods; they
went like the wind; they loafed; they explored country lanes and lost
their way, stopped at a farm-house and found it again, shouted with
delight when a squirrel tried to race them along the top of a fence,
gasped together when they nearly ran over a turkey, chatted, laughed,
sang (though this was a solo, for Mary couldn't sing, though she tried
now and then under her breath), and with every mile they rode they seemed
to pass invisible milestones along the road which leads from friendship
It came to a crisis two weeks later, on an afternoon in June.
Mary was in the garden picking a bouquet for the table, and Wally went to
help her. She gave him a smile that made his heart do a trick, and when
he bent over to help her break a piece of mignonette, his hand touched
"Mary...." he whispered.
"Do you love me a little bit now?"
"I wonder...." said she, and they both bent over to pick another piece of
mignonette. Away down deep in Mary, a voice whispered, "Somebody's
watching." She looked toward the house and caught sight of Helen who was
sitting sideways on the veranda rail and missing never a move.
Wally followed Mary's glance.
"She'll be down here in a minute," he frowned to himself. At the bottom
of the lawn, overlooking the valley, was a summer house of rustic cedar,
nearly covered with honeysuckle.
"Let's take a stroll down there, shall we?" he asked.
The tremor of his voice told Mary more than his words.
"He wants to love me," she thought, and burying her face in her bouquet
she said in a muffled little voice, "...I don't care."
They went down to the summer house, talking, trying to appear
indifferent, but both of them knowing that a truly tremendous moment in
their drama of life was close at hand.
They seated themselves opposite each other on the bench and Mary's dreamy
eyes went out over the valley.
"Mary...." he began. She looked at him for a moment and then her glance
went out over the valley again.
"Don't you think we've waited long enough?" he gently asked.
But Mary's eyes were still upon the valley below.
"In a way, I'm glad you've waited," he said. "Judge Cutler told me some
of the wonderful things you did here during the war. But you don't want
to be bothering with a factory as long as you live. It's grubby, narrow
work, and there's so much else in life, so much that's beautiful and--and
For a fleeting moment a picture arose before Mary's eyes: a tired woman
bending over a wash-tub with a crying child tugging at her skirt. "So
much that's beautiful--and wonderful"--the words were still echoing
around her, and almost without thinking she said a peculiar thing.
"Suppose we were poor," said she.
"But we aren't poor," smiled Wally. "That's one reason why I want to take
you away from this. What's the use of having things if you can't enjoy
She thought that over.
"There is so much that I have always wanted to see," he continued, "but
I've had sense enough to wait until I found the right girl--so we could
go and see it together. Switzerland--and the Nile--and Japan--and the
Riviera, with 'its skies for ever blue.' Any place we liked, we could
stay till we were tired of it. And a house in New York--and an island in
the St. Lawrence--or down near Palm Beach. There's nothing we couldn't
do--nothing we couldn't have--"
"But don't you think--" hesitated Mary and then stopped, timid of
breaking the spell which was stealing over her.
"Don't I think what, dear?"
"Oh, I don't know--but you see so many married people, who seem to have
lost interest in each other--nice people, too. You see them at North East
Harbor--Boston--everywhere--and somehow they are bored at each other's
company. Wouldn't it be awful if--if we were to be married--and then got
like that, too?"
"We never, never could! Oh, we couldn't! You know as well as I do that we
"They must have felt that way once," she mused, her thoughts still upon
the indifferent ones, "but I suppose if people were awfully careful to
guard against it, they wouldn't get that way--"
She felt Wally's arm along the back of the bench.
"Don't be afraid of love, Mary," he whispered. "Don't you know by now
that it's the one great thing in life?"
"I wonder...." breathed Mary.
"Oh, but it is. You shouldn't wonder. It's the sweetest story ever
told--the greatest adventure ever lived--"
But still old dreams echoed in her memory, though growing fainter with
every breath she drew.
"It's all right for the man," she murmured. "If he gets tired of hearing
the story, he's got other thoughts to occupy his mind. He's got his
work--his career. But what's the woman going to do?"
Instinct told him how to answer her.
"I love you," he whispered.
She looked at him. Somewhere over them a robin began to sing as though
its breast would burst. The scent of the honeysuckle grew intoxicating.
"Your heart is beating faster," he whispered again. "'Tck-tck-tck' it's
saying. 'There's going to be a wedding next month'--'Tck-tck-tck' it's
saying. 'Lieutenant Cabot is now about to kiss his future bride--"
Mary's head bent low and just as Wally was lifting it, his hand gently
cupped beneath her chin, he caught sight of Helen running toward them.
"Oh, Mary!" she called.
With an involuntary movement, Mary freed herself from Wally's hand.
"Four women to see you--from the factory, I think," Helen breathlessly
announced, and pretending not to notice Wally's scowl she added, "I
wouldn't have bothered you ... only one of them's crying...."
The four women were standing in the driveway by the side of the house,
and if you had been there as Mary approached, they might have reminded
you of four lost sheep catching sight of their shepherd.
"Come and sit down," said Mary, "and tell me what's the matter."
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