Mary Minds Her Business
Part 4 out of 5
Three of the visitors looked at each other.
"Imagine a tired woman," continued Mary, "standing over that
stove--perhaps expecting another baby before long. She has been washing
all morning and now she is cooking. The room is damp with steam, the
ceiling dotted with flies. Then imagine a child crawling around the
floor, its mother too busy to attend to it, and you'll get an idea of
where some of these children in the nursery would be--if they weren't
here. Mind," she earnestly continued, "I'm not saying that home life for
poor children doesn't have its advantages, but we mustn't forget that it
has its disadvantages, too."
She led them next to the kindergarten.
A recess was on and the children were out in the play-ground--some
swinging, some sliding down the chutes, others playing in a
merry-go-round which was pushed around by hand.
"Every other hour they have for play," said Mary. "In the alternate hours
the teachers read to them, talk to them, teach them their letters, teach
them to sing and give them the regular kindergarten course. If they
weren't here," she said, half turning to Professor Marsh, "most of them
would probably be playing on the street."
The next place they visited was the dining room--which occupied the upper
floor of one of the great buildings which Mary's father had planned. But
to look at it, you would never have suspected the original purpose for
which the place had been intended. It was a dining room that any hotel
would be glad to call its own, with its forest-colour decorations, its
growing palms and ferns on every side.
"The compartments around the walls are for the families," explained Mary.
"It is, of course, optional with those who work here whether they use the
dining room or not. We supply all food at cost. This was this morning's
The bill of fare is too long to quote in full, but the visitors noted
that it included a choice of fruit, choice of cereal, choice of tea,
coffee, milk or cocoa--and for the main dish, either fish, ham and eggs,
oyster stew or small steak.
"What you have seen so far," said Mary, "is a side issue. Many of our
workers are young women not yet married, others have some one at home to
look after the children. In fact the woman with a baby or little children
is in the minority, but I thought it only right to provide for them--for
a number of reasons--"
"Including sympathy?" smiled one of the ladies.
Mary gave her a grateful glance.
"We will now have an inspection of our real work here," she said, "--the
same being the manufacture of bearings."
The first room they entered was the ground floor of one of the buildings
which housed the automatic department. At the nearer machines were long
lines of women stamping out the metal discs which held the balls and
rollers in their places.
"When these machines were operated by men," said Mary, "it required
considerable strength to throw the levers. But by a very simple
improvement we changed the machines so that the lightest touch on the
handle is sufficient to do the work. We also put backs on the stools--and
elbow rests--and racks for the feet--"
They followed her glances to each of these changes but their attention
soon turned to the business-like speed and precision with which each
woman did her work.
"Women, of course, are naturally quick," said Mary as though reading
their thoughts. "You know what they can do on a typewriter, for
instance--or on a sewing machine. As you can see, it is much simpler to
operate one of these automatic machines than it is to typewrite a legal
document--or make a dress."
Together they looked up the long aisle at the double line of workers in
their creams and browns, their fingers deftly placing the blanks in
position and removing the finished discs. Somewhere, unseen, a phonograph
started playing a lively tune.
"Where do they get their flowers?" asked one of the guests, noticing that
each woman was wearing a rose or a carnation.
"They find them in their locker rooms every morning," said Mary. "They
usually sing when the phonograph plays," she added, "but perhaps they
feel nervous--at having company--"
This was confirmed when they left the room, for as they stood in the
hallway first a hum was heard behind them here and there, and soon a
mellow toned chorus arose.
"They certainly seem happy," said one of the visitors.
"They are," said Mary. "And, indeed, why shouldn't they be? Their work is
light and interesting; they are paid well; and more than anything else, I
think, they all know they are making something useful--something
tangible--something they can look upon with satisfaction and pride."
They ascended a stairway and suddenly the scene changed. Below, the work
had been cast as though in a light staccato key, but here the music for
the machinery had a more powerful note.
"These are the oscillating grinders," said Mary, raising her voice above
the skirling symphony. "It isn't everybody who can run them."
She wondered whether her visitors caught the unconscious air of pride
which many of the women wore in this department. At one end of the room a
steady stream of rough castings came flowing in, while at the other end
an equally steady volume of finished cones went flowing out. Mary had
always liked to watch the oscillators and as she stood there, her guests
temporarily forgotten, her eyes filled with the almost human movements of
the whirling machines, her ears with the triumphant music of the abrasive
wheels biting into the metal, that same unconscious air of pride fell
upon her, too, and although she didn't know it, her glance deepened and
her head went up--quite in the old Spencer manner.
"Is their work fairly accurate?" asked one of the visitors, breaking the
"Let's go and see," said Mary, leading the way.
The cones left the grinders upon an endless conveyor which carried them
to an inspection room. Here at long tables were lines of attentive women,
each with a set of gauges in front of her. The visitors stopped behind
one of these inspectors just as she picked up a cone to put it through
its course of tests.
First she slipped it into a gauge to see if it was too large. A pointer
on a dial before her swung to "O.K." Almost without stopping the motion
of her hand, she inserted it into another gauge to see if it was too
small. Again the pointer swung to "O.K." The third test was to verify the
angle of the cone, and for the third time the pointer said "O.K." The
next moment the cone had been dropped into a box and another was going
through the same course.
"How many have been rejected today?" asked one of the visitors.
"Two," said the inspector.
These two unfortunates lay on a rack in front of her. Interrupting her
work she picked up one of them. At the second operation the pointer
turned to a red segment of the dial and a bell rang.
"I don't hear many bells ringing," commented the visitor, quizzically
looking around the room.
Mary smiled with quiet pleasure.
"Next," she said, "I'm going to take you to a department where women
never worked before."
She led the way to one of the tempering buildings--a building equipped
with long lines of ovens--each as large as a baker's oven--where metal
cones were heated instead of rolls.
"Here, too, as you will see," said Mary, "we have tried to reduce the
element of human error as far as possible. In each oven is an electric
thermometer and when the bearings have reached the proper degree of heat,
an incandescent bulb is automatically lighted in front of the oven....
They made their way to the oven where a white light had appeared. A
woman-worker had already opened the door and was pulling a lever. As
though by magic, a bunch of castings, wired together, came travelling out
of their heat bath and were immediately lowered into a large tank which
held the tempering liquid.
"What would have happened if the oven hadn't been opened when the white
light appeared?" asked another of the visitors.
"In five minutes a red lamp would have been automatically lighted," said
Mary "--a signal for the forewoman to come and take charge of the oven."
"And suppose the red lamp had been disregarded?"
"In five minutes more an alarm bell would have started. You would have
heard it over half the factory--and it would have kept ringing until the
superintendent herself had come and stopped it with a key which only she
is allowed to carry."
"Is that the bell now?" he asked, as a mellow chime came from one of the
"No," smiled Mary, listening, "that's the lunch bell. In another ten
minutes I shall have a surprise for you."
At the end of that time, they made their way to the dining room, which
was already filled with eager women. In one corner was a private room,
glass-partitioned. As Mary followed her guests toward it, the full,
subdued strains of the Crusader March suddenly sounded in harmonious
greeting from the other end of the room.
"Ah!" said the most distinguished visitor, turning to look. "Men at
Mary let him look and then she beamed with pleasure at his glance of
"Our own orchestra--one hundred pieces," she said. "This is their first
Oh, but it was a red-letter day for Mary!
Whether it was the way she felt, or because the sound became softened and
mellowed in travelling the length of the dining room, it seemed to her
that she had never heard music so sweet, had never listened to sounds
that filled her heart so full or lifted her thoughts so high.
The climax came at the end of the dessert. A shy girl entered, a small
leather box in her hand.
"I have a souvenir for your visitor, Miss Spencer," she said, and turning
to him she added, "We made it with our own hands, thinking you might like
to use it as a paper weight--as a reminder of what women can do."
The box was lined with blue velvet and contained a small model of the
Spencer bearing, made of gold, perfect to the last ball and the last
roller. The visitor examined it with admiration--every eye in the dining
room (which could be brought to bear) watching him through the glass
"If I ever received a more interesting souvenir," he said, "I fail to
recall it. Thank you, and please thank the others for me. Tell them how
very much I appreciate it, and tell them, too, if you will, that here in
this factory today I have had my outlook on life widened to an extent
which I had thought impossible. For that, too, I thank you."
Of course they couldn't hear him in the main room, but they could see
when he had finished speaking. They clapped their hands; the band played;
and when he arose and bowed, they clapped and played louder than before.
And a few minutes later when the party left the dining room to the
strains of El Capitan, it seemed to Mary that after the closing chord she
heard two vigorous beats of the drum--soul expression of Mrs. Kelly,
signifying "That's us!"
The visitors departed at last, and Mary returned to her office to find
other callers awaiting her.
The first was Helen, togged to the nines.
"Somehow she heard they were here," thought Mary, "and she came down
thinking to meet them. She thought surely I would bring them in here
again." But her next reflection made her frown a little. "--Partly that,
I guess," she thought, "and partly to see Burdon, as usual."
A knock on the door interrupted her, and Joe entered, bearing two cards.
"These gentlemen have been waiting since noon," he announced, "but they
said they didn't mind waiting when I told them who was with you."
The cards bore the name of a firm of public accountants.
"Oh, yes," said Mary. "Show them in, please, Joe. And ask Mr. Burdon if I
can see him for a few minutes."
If you had been there, you might have noticed a change pass over Helen. A
moment before Burdon's name was mentioned she was sitting relaxed and
rather dispirited, as you sometimes see a yacht becalmed, riding the
water without life or interest. But as soon as it appeared that Burdon
was about to enter, a breeze suddenly seemed to fill Helen's sails. Her
beauty, passive before, became active. Her bunting fluttered. Her flags
began to fly.
The door opened, but Helen's smiling glance was disappointed. The two
One was grey, the other was young; but each had the same pale, incurious
air of detachment. They reminded Mary of two astronomy professors of her
college days, two men who had just such an air of detachment, who always
seemed to be out of their element in the daylight, always waiting for the
night to come to resume the study of their beloved stars.
"I have sent for our treasurer, Mr. Woodward," said Mary. "Won't you be
seated for a few minutes?"
They sat down in the same impersonal way and glanced around the room with
eyes that seemed to see nothing. By the side of the mantel was a framed
piece of history, an itemized bill of the first generation of the firm,
dated June 28, 1706, and quaint with its old spelling, its triple column
of pounds, shillings and pence.
"May I look at that?" asked one of the accountants, rising. The other
followed him. Their heads bent over the document.... It occurred to Mary
that they were verifying the addition.
Again the door opened and this time it was Burdon, his dashing
personality immediately dominating the room.
Mary introduced the accountants to him.
"With our new methods," she said, "we probably need a new system of
bookkeeping. I also want to compare our old costs with present costs--"
Burdon stared at her, but Mary--half-ashamed of what she was doing--kept
her glance upon the two accountants.
"Mr. Burdon will give you all the old records, all the old books you
want," she said, "and will help you in every possible way--"
And still Burdon stared at her--his whole life concentrated for a moment
in his glance. And still Mary looked at the two accountants who completed
the triangle by looking at Burdon, as they naturally would, waiting for
him to turn and speak to them. As Mary watched them, she became conscious
of a change in their manner, a tenseness of interest, such as the two
astronomers aforesaid might display at the sight of some disturbance in
"What do they see?" she thought, and looked at Burdon. But Burdon at the
same moment had turned to the accountants, his manner as large, his air
as dashing as ever.
"Anything you want, gentlemen," he said, "you have only to ask for it."
When Mary reached home that evening, you can imagine how Aunt Patty and
Aunt Cordelia listened to her recital, their white heads nodding at the
periods, their cheeks pink with pride. Now and then they exchanged
glances. "Our baby!" these glances seemed to say, and then turned back to
Mary with such love and admiration that finally the object of this
pantomime could stand it no longer, but had to kiss them both till their
cheeks turned pinker than ever and they gasped for breath.
That night, when Mary went to her room and stood at the window, looking
out at the world below and the sky above, she threw out her arms and,
turning her face to the moonlight, she felt that world-old wish to
express the inexpressible, to put immortal yearnings into mortal words.
Life--thankfulness for life--a joy so deep that it wasn't far from
pain--hoping--longing-yearning ... for what? Mary herself could not have
told you--perhaps to be one with the starlight and the scent of
flowers--to have the freedom of infinity--to express the inexpressible--
For a long time she stood at the window, the moon looking down upon her
and bathing her face in its radiance.... Insensibly then the earth
recalled her and her thoughts began to return to the events of the day.
"Oh, yes," she suddenly said to herself, "I knew there was something....
I wonder why the accountants stared at Burdon so...."
Far away, that same moon was watching another scene--a ship on the
Southern sea throbbing its way to New York.
It was a steamer just out of Rio, its drawing rooms and upper decks
filled with tourists doubly happy because they were going home.
On the steerage deck below, in the apron of a kitchen worker, a man was
standing with his elbows on the rail--an uncertain figure in the
moonlight. Once when he turned to look at the deck above, a lamp shone
upon him. If you had been there you would have seen that while a beard
covered much of his face, his cheeks were wasted and his eyes looked as
though he needed rest.
He turned his glance out over the sea again, looking now to the north
star and now to the roadway of ripples that led to the moon.
"I wonder if Rosa's asleep," he thought. "Eleven o'clock. She ought to
be. It's a good school. She's lucky. So was I, that the old gentleman
didn't get my letter...."
On the deck above, a violin and harp were accompanying a piano.
"That's where I ought to be--up there," he thought, "not peeling potatoes
and scouring pans down here. All I have to do is to go up and announce
myself...." He smiled--a grim affair. "Yes, all I have to do is to go up
and announce myself.... They'd take care of me, all right!"
He lifted his hand and thoughtfully rubbed his beard.
"As long as I stick to Russian, I'm safe. Nicholas Rapieff--nobody has
suspected me now for fifteen years. Paul Spencer's dead--dead long ago.
But, somehow or other, I have taken it into my head that I would like to
see the place where he was born...."
His glance were on the ripples that led to the moon.
"I wonder if the orchard is still back of the house," he thought, "and
the winesap tree I fell out of. I wonder if old Hutch is dead yet. I
remember he carried me in the house, and the very next week I knocked the
clock down on him.... I wonder if that swimming hole is still there where
the river turns below the dam. That was the best of all.... I remember
how I liked to lie there--an innocent kid--and dream what I was going to
do when I was a man.... Lord in Heaven, what wouldn't I give to dream
those dreams again...."
On the upper deck the dance had come to an end.
"Time to turn in," thought Paul.
He crossed to the steerage door and a moment later the moon was shining
on an empty deck.
As time went on, it became increasingly clear to Mary that Wally wasn't
happy--that the "one great thing in life" for him was turning out badly.
Never had a Jason sailed forth with greater determination to find the
Golden Fleece of Happiness, but with every passing week he seemed to be
further than ever from the winning of his prize.
Mary turned it over in her mind for a long time before she found a clue
to the answer.
"I believe it's because Helen has nothing useful to occupy her mind," she
thought one day; and more quickly than words can describe the fancy, she
seemed to see the wives at each end of the social scale--each group
engaged from morning till night on a never-ending round of unproductive
activities, walkers of treadmills, drudges of want and wealth.
"They are in just the same fix--the very rich and the very poor,"
she thought, "grinding away all day and getting nowhere--never
satisfied--never happy--because way down in their hearts they know
they're not doing anything useful--not doing anything that counts--"
Her mind returned to Helen's case.
"I'm sure that's it," she nodded. "Helen hasn't found happiness, so she
goes out looking for it, and never thinks of trying the only thing that
would help her. Yes, and I believe that's why so many rich people have
divorces. When you come to think of it, you hardly ever heard of divorces
during the war--because for the first time in their lives a lot of people
were doing something useful--"
Hesitating then she asked herself if she ought not to speak to Helen.
"I didn't get any thanks the last time I tried it," she ruefully
remarked. "But perhaps if I used an awful lot of tact--"
She had her chance that afternoon when Helen dropped in at the office on
her way back from the city.
"Shopping--all day--tired to death," she said, sinking into the chair by
the side of the desk. "How are you getting on?"
Mary felt like replying, "Very well, thank you.... But how are you
getting on, Helen?.... you and Wally?"
Somehow, though, it sounded dreadful, even to hint that everything wasn't
as it should be between Wally and his wife.
"Besides," thought Mary, "she'd only say, 'Oh, all right,' and yawn and
change the subject--and what could I do then?" She answered herself,
"Nothing," and thoughtfully added, "It will take a lot of tact."
Indeed there are some topics which require so much tact in their
presentation that the article becomes lost in its wrappings, and its
presence isn't even suspected by the recipient.
"How's Wally?" asked Mary.
"Oh, he's all right."
"When I saw him the other day, I thought he was looking a bit under."
"Oh, I don't know--"
As Mary had guessed, Helen patted her hand over her mouth to hide a yawn.
"How's Aunt Patty and Aunt Cordelia?" she asked.
Mary sighed to herself.
"What can I do?" she thought. "If I say, 'Helen, you know you're not
happy. Folks never are unless they are doing something useful,' she would
only think I was trying to preach to her. But if I don't say
anything--and things go wrong--"
One of the accountants entered--the elder one--with a sheaf of papers in
his hand. On seeing the visitor, he drew back.
"Don't let me interrupt you," whispered Helen to Mary. "I'll run in and
see Burdon for a few minutes--"
Absent-mindedly Mary began to look at the papers which the accountant
placed before her--her thoughts elsewhere--but gradually her interest
centred upon the matter in hand.
"What?" she exclaimed. "A shortage as big as that last year? Never!"
The accountant looked at her with the same quizzical air as an astronomer
might assume in looking at a child who had just said, "What? The sun
ninety million miles away from the earth? Never!"
"Either that," he said, "or a good many bearings were made in the factory
last year--and lost in the river--"
"Oh, there's some mistake," said Mary earnestly. "Perhaps the factory
didn't make as many bearings as you think."
Again he gave her his astronomical smile, as though she were saying now,
"Perhaps the moon isn't as round as you think it is; it doesn't always
look round to me."
"I thought it best to show you this, confidentially," he said, gathering
the papers together, "because we have lately become conscious of a
feeling of opposition--in trying to trace the source of this discrepancy.
It seems to us," he suggested, speaking always in his impersonal manner,
"that this is a point which needs clearing up--for the benefit of every
"Yes," said Mary after a pause "Of course you must do that. It isn't
right to raise suspicions and then not clear them up.... Besides," she
added, "I know that you'll find it's just a mistake somewhere--"
After he had gone, Helen looked in, Burdon standing behind her, holding
his cane horizontally, one hand near the handle, the other near the
ferrule. In the half gloom of the hall he looked more dashing--more
reckless--than Mary had ever visioned him. His cane might have been a
sword ... his hat three-cornered with a sable feather in it....
"I just looked in to say good-bye," said Helen. "I'm going to take Burdon
"I need somebody to mind me," said Burdon, flashing Mary one of his
violent smiles; and turning to go he said to Helen over his shoulder,
"Come, child. We're late."
"He calls her 'child'..." thought Mary.
That night Wally was a visitor at the house on the hill--and when Mary
saw how subdued he was--how chastened he looked--her heart went out to
"It seems so good to be here, calling again like this," he said. "Does it
remind you of old times, the same as it does me?"
But Mary wouldn't follow him there. As they talked it occurred to her
more than once that while Wally appeared to be listening to her, his
thoughts were elsewhere--his ears attuned for other sounds.
"What are you listening for!" she asked him once.
He answered her with a puzzle.
"For the Lorelei's song," he said, and going to the piano he sang it, his
clear, plaintive tenor still retaining its power to make her nose smart
and the dumb chills to run up and down her back. She was sitting near the
piano and when he was through, he turned around on the bench.
"Have you ever been the least bit sorry," he asked, "that you turned me
down--for a business career?"
"I didn't turn you down," she said. "We couldn't agree on certain things:
"On what, for instance?"
"That love is the one great thing in life, for instance. You always said
it was--especially to a girl. And I always said there were other things
in a woman's life, too--that love shouldn't monopolize her any more than
it does a man."
"You were wrong, Mary, and you know you were wrong."
"I was right, Wally, and you know I was right. Because, don't you
see?--if love is the only thing in life, and love fails, a person's whole
life is in ruins--and that isn't fair--"
"It's true, though," he answered, more to himself than to her. Again he
unconsciously assumed a listening attitude, as one who is trying to catch
a sound from afar.
"Wally!" said Mary. "What on earth are you listening for?"
Again it pleased him to answer her with a riddle.
"Italian opera," he said; and turning back to the keyboard he began--
"Woman is fickle
Moves like a feather
Borne on the breezes--"
"Did you ever sing when you were flying?" she asked, trying to shake him
out of his mood.
The question proved a happy one. For nearly two hours they chatted and
smiled and hummed old airs together--that is to say, Wally hummed them
and Mary tried, for, as you know, she couldn't sing but could only follow
the melody with a sort of a deep note far down in her throat, always
pretending that she wasn't doing it and shyly laughing when Wally nodded
in encouragement and tried to get her to sing up louder.
"Eleven o'clock!" he exclaimed at last. "That's the first time in three
Whatever it was, he didn't finish it, but when he bade her good-bye he
said in a low voice, "Young lady, do you know that you played the very
Old Ned with my life when you turned me down?"
But Mary wouldn't follow him there, either.
"Good-bye, Wally," she said, and just before he went down to his car, she
saw him standing on the step, his face turned toward the drive as though
still listening for that distant sound--that sound which never came.
The riddle was solved the next morning.
Helen appeared at the office soon after nine and the moment she saw Mary
she said, "Has Wally 'phoned you this morning?"
"No," said Mary.
Her cousin looked relieved.
"I want you to fib for me," she said. "You know the way the men stick
together.... Well, the women have to do it, too.... At dinner yesterday,"
she continued, "Wally happened to ask me where I was going that evening,
and I told him I was coming over to see you. And really, dear, I meant it
at the time. Instead, a little crowd of us happened to get together and
we went to the club.
"Well, that was all right. But it was nearly twelve when I got home, and
he looked so miserable that I hated to tell him that I had been off
enjoying myself, so I pretended I had been over to see you."
Mary blinked at the inference, but was too breathless, too alarmed to
"He asked me if I got to your house early," resumed Helen, "and I said,
'Oh, about eight.' And then he said, 'What time did you leave Mary's?'
and I said, 'Oh, about half-past eleven.'
"Of course, I thought everything was all right, but I could tell from
something he said this morning that he didn't believe me. So if he calls
you up, tell him that I was over at your house last night--will
you?--there's a dear--"
"But I can't," said Mary, more breathless, more alarmed than ever. "Wally
was over himself last night--and, oh, Helen, now I know! He was listening
for your car every minute!"
Helen stared ... and then suddenly she laughed--a laugh that had no mirth
in it--that sound, half bitter, half mocking, which is sometimes used as
ironical applause for ironical circumstance.
"I guess I can square it up somehow," she said. "I'll drop in and see
Burdon for a few minutes."
Before her cousin knew it, she was gone.
"I'll speak to her when she comes out," Mary told herself, but while she
was trying to decide what to say, the morning mail was placed on her desk
and the routine of the day began. Half an hour later she heard the sound
of Helen's car rolling away.
"She went without saying good-bye," thought Mary. "Oh, well, I'll see her
again before long."
To her own surprise the events of the last few days worried her less than
she expected. For one reason, she had lived long enough to notice that no
matter how involved things may look, Time has an astonishing faculty of
straightening them out. And for another reason, having two worries to
think about, each one tended to take her mind off the other.
Whenever she started thinking about the accountant's report, she
presently found herself wondering how Helen proposed to square it up with
"Oh, well," she thought again, realizing the futility of trying to read
the future, "let's hope everything will come out right in the end.... It
always has, so far...."
Archey came in toward noon, and Mary went with him to inspect a colony of
bungalows which she was having built on the heights by the side of the
Another thing that she had lived long enough to notice was the different
effect which different people had upon her. Although she preserved, or
tried to preserve, the same tranquil air of interest toward them all--a
tranquillity and interest which generally required no effort--some of the
people she met in the day's work subconsciously aroused a feeling of
antagonism in her, some secretly amused her, some irritated her, some
made her feel under a strain, and some even had the queer, vampirish
effect of leaving her washed out and listless--psychological puzzles
which she had never been able to solve. But with Archey she always felt
restful and contented, smiling at him and talking to him without exertion
or repression and--using one of those old-fashioned phrases which are
often the last word in description--always "feeling at home" with him,
and never as though he had to be thought of as company.
They climbed the hill together and began inspecting the bungalows.
"I wouldn't mind living in one of these myself," said Archey. "What are
you going to do with them?"
But that was a secret. Mary smiled inscrutably and led the way into the
I have called it a kitchen, but it was just as much a living room, a
dining room. A Pullman table had been built in between two of the windows
and on each side of this was a settee. At the other end of the room was a
gas range. When Wally opened the refrigerator door he saw that it could
be iced from the porch. Electric light fixtures hung from the ceiling and
"Going to have an artists' colony up here?" teased Archey, and looking
around in admiration he repeated, "No, sir! I wouldn't mind living in one
of these houses myself--"
They went into the next room--the sitting room proper--unusual for its
big bay window, its built-in cupboards and bookshelves. Then came the
bathroom and three bed-rooms, all in true bungalow style on one floor.
When they had first entered, Mary and Archey had chatted freely enough,
but gradually they had grown quieter. There is probably no place in the
world so contributive to growing intimacy as a new empty house--when
viewed by a young man and a younger woman who have known each other for
The place seems alive, hushed, expectant, watching every move of its
visitors, breathing suggestions to them--
"Do you like it?" asked Mary, breaking the silence.
Archey nodded, afraid for the moment to trust himself to speak. They
looked at each other and, almost in haste, they went outside.
"He'll never get over that trick of blushing," thought Mary. At the end
of the hall was a closet door with a mirror set in it. She caught sight
of her own cheeks. "Oh, dear!" she breathed to herself. "I wonder if I'm
catching it, too!"
Once outside, Archey began talking with the concentration of a man who is
trying to put his mind on something else.
"This work up here was a lucky turn for some of the strikers," he said.
"Things are getting slack again now and men are being laid off. Here and
there I begin to hear the old grumbling, 'Three thousand women keeping
three thousand men out of jobs.' So whenever I hear that, I remind them
how you found work for a lot of the men up here--and then of course I
tell them it was their own fault--going on strike in the first
place--just to get four women discharged!"
"And even if three thousand women are doing the work of three thousand
men," said Mary, "I don't see why any one should object--if the women
don't. The wages are being spent just the same to pay rent and buy food
and clothes--and the savings are going into the bank--more so than when
the men were drawing the money!"
"I guess it's a question of pride on the man's part--as much as anything
"Oh, Archey--don't you think a woman has pride, too?"
"Well, you know what I mean. He feels he ought to be doing the work,
instead of the woman."
"Oh, Archey," she said again. "Can't you begin to see that the average
woman has always worked harder than the average man? You ask any of the
women at the factory which is the easiest--the work they are doing
now--or the work they used to do."
"I keep forgetting that. But how about this--I hear it all the time.
Suppose the idea spreads and after a while there are millions of women
doing work that used to be done by men--what are the men going to do?"
"That's a secret," she laughed. "But I'll tell you some day--if you're
The friendly words slipped out unconsciously, but for some reason her
tone and manner made his heart hammer away like that powerful downward
passage of the Anvil Chorus. "I'll be good," he managed to say.
Mary hardly heard him.
"I wonder what made me speak like that," she was thinking. "I must be
more dignified--or he'll think I'm bold...." And in a very dignified
voice indeed, she said, "I must be getting back now. I wish you'd find
the contractor and ask him when he'll be through."
She went down the hill alone. On the way a queer thought came to her. I
sha'n't attempt to explain it--only to report it.
"Of course it isn't the only thing in life--that's ridiculous," she
thought. "But sooner or later ... I guess it becomes quite important...."
A few hours later, Mary was sitting in her office, thinking of this and
that (as the old phrase goes) when a knock sounded on the door and the
elderly accountant entered.
"We have finished the first part of our work," he said, "that dealing
with factory costs. I will leave this with you and when you have read it,
I would like to go over it with you in detail."
It was a formidable document, nearly three hundred typewritten pages,
neatly bound in hard covers. Mary hadn't looked in it far when she knew
she was examining a work of art.
"How he must love his work!" she thought, and couldn't help wondering
what accidental turn of life had guided his career into the field of
"How interesting he makes it!" she thought again. "Why, it's almost like
Brilliant sentences illuminated nearly every page. "This system,
admirable in its way, is probably a legacy from the past, when the
bookkeepers of Spencer & Son powdered their hair and used quill pens.--"
"Under these conditions, a stock clerk must become a prodigy and depend
upon his memory. When memory fails he must become a poet, for he has
nothing but imagination to guide him." "Thus one department would
corroborate another, like two witnesses independently sworn and each
examined in private--"
The back of the volume, she noticed, was filled with tables of figures.
"This won't be so interesting," she told herself, turning the leaves. But
suddenly she stopped at one of the open pages--and read it again--and
"Comparative Efficiency of Men's Labour and Women's Labour," the sheet
was headed. And there it was in black and white, line after line, just
how much it had cost to make each Spencer bearing when the men did the
work, and just how much it was costing under the new conditions.
"There!" said Mary, "I always knew we could do it, if the women in Europe
could! There! No wonder we've been making so much money lately--!"
She took the report home in triumph to show to her aunts, and when dinner
was over she carried the volume to her den, and never a young lady in
bye-gone days sat down to Don Juan with any more pleasurable anticipation
than Mary felt when she buried herself in her easy chair and opened that
She was still gloating over the table of women's efficiency when Hutchins
"Mr. Archibald Forbes is calling."
Archey had news.
"The men had a meeting this afternoon," he said. "They've been getting up
a big petition, and they are going to send another committee to
"To press for that boycott. Headquarters put them off last time, but
there are so many men out of work now at other factories that they hope
to get a favourable decision."
"I'll see Judge Cutler in the morning," promised Mary, and noticing
Archey's expression, she said, "Don't worry. I'm not the least alarmed."
"What bothers me," he said, "is to have this thing hanging over all the
time. It's like old What's-his-name who had the sword hanging over his
head by a single hair all through the dinner."
The sword didn't seem to bother Mary, though. That comparative table had
given her another idea--an idea that was part plan and part pride. When
she reached the office in the morning she telephoned Judge Cutler and
"A directors' meeting--something important," she told them both; and
after another talk with the accountant she began writing another of her
advertisements. She was finishing this when Judge Cutler appeared. A
minute later Uncle Stanley followed him.
Lately Uncle Stanley had been making his headquarters at the bank--his
attitude toward the factory being one of scornful amusement.
"Women mechanics!" he sometimes scoffed to visitors at the bank. "Women
foremen! Women presidents! By Judas, I'm beginning to think Old Ned
himself is a woman--the sort of mischief he's raising lately!...
Something's bound to crack before long, though."
In that last sentence you have the picture of Uncle Stanley. Even as Mr.
Micawber was always waiting for something to turn up, so Uncle Stanley
was always waiting for something to go wrong.
Mary opened the meeting by showing the accountants' report and then
reading her proposed advertisement. If you had been there, I think you
would have seen the gleam of satisfaction in Uncle Stanley's eye.
"I knew I'd catch her wrong yet," he seemed to be saying to himself. "As
soon as she's made a bit of money, she wants everybody to have it. It's
the hen and the egg all over again--they've simply got to cackle."
Thus the gleam in Uncle Stanley's eye. Looking up at the end of her
reading, Mary caught it. "How he hates women!" she thought. "Still, in a
way, you can't wonder at it.... If it hadn't been for women and the
things they can do he would have had the factory long ago." Aloud she
said, "What do you think of it?"
"I think it's a piece of foolishness, myself," said Uncle Stanley
promptly. "But I know you are going to do it, if you've made up your mind
to do it."
"I'm not so sure it's foolish," said the judge. "It seems to me it's
going to bring us a lot of new business."
"Got all we can handle now, haven't we?"
"Well, we can expand! It wouldn't be the first time in Spencer & Son's
history that the factory has been doubled, and, by Jingo, I believe
Mary's going to do it, too!"
Mary said nothing, but a few mornings later when the advertisement
appeared in the leading newspapers throughout the country, she made a
remark which showed that her co-directors had failed to see at least two
of the birds at which she was throwing her stone.... She had the
newspapers brought to her room that morning, and was soon reading the
following quarter page announcement:
THE FRUITS OF HER LABOUR
For the past six months, Spencer bearings have been made exclusively by
The first result of this is a finer degree of accuracy than had ever been
The second result is a reduction in the cost of manufacture, this
notwithstanding the fact that every woman on our payroll has always
received man's wages, and we have never worked more than eight hours a
To those who watched the work done by women in the war, neither of the
above results will be surprising.
Because of the accuracy of her work, Spencer bearings are giving better
satisfaction than ever before.
Because of her dexterity and quickness, we are able to make the following
We are raising the wages of every woman in our factory one dollar a day;
and we are reducing the price of our bearings ten per cent.
These changes go into effect immediately.
JOSIAH SPENCER & SON, INC.
MARY SPENCER, President.
"There!" said Mary, sitting up in bed and making a gesture to the world
outside. "That's what women can do! ... Are you going to boycott us now?"
If you can imagine a smiling, dreamy-eyed bombshell that explodes in
silence, aimed at men's minds instead of their bodies, rocking fixed
ideas upon their foundations and shaking innumerable old notions upon
their pedestals until it is hard to tell whether or not they are going to
fall, perhaps you can get an idea of the first effect of Mary's
advertisement. Wherever skilled workmen gathered together her
announcement was discussed, and nowhere with greater interest than in her
own home town.
"Seems to me this thing may spread," said a thoughtful looking striker in
Repetti's pool-room. "Looks to me as though we had started something
that's going to be powerful hard to stop."
"What makes you think it's going to spread?" asked another.
"Stands to reason. If women can make bearings cheaper than men, the other
bearing companies have got to hire women, too, or else go out of
business. And you can bet your life they won't go out of business without
giving the other thing a try."
"Hang it all, there ought to be a law against women working," said a
"You mean working for wages?"
"Sure I mean working for wages."
"How are you going to pass a law like that when women can vote?"
impatiently demanded a fourth.
"Bill's right," said another. "We've started something here that's going
to be hard to stop."
"And the next thing you know," continued Bill, looking more thoughtful
than ever, "some manufacturer in another line of business--say
automobiles--is going to get the idea of cutting his costs and lowering
his prices--and pretty soon you'll see women making automobiles, too. You
can go to sleep at some of those tools in a motor shop. Pie for the
"What are us men going to do after a while?" complained another. "Wash
the dishes? Or sweep the streets? Or what?"
"Search me. I guess it'll come out all right in the end; but, believe me,
we certainly pulled a bonehead play when we went on strike because of
those four women."
"I was against it from the first, myself," said another.
"So was I. I voted against the strike."
"So did I!"
"So did I!"
It was a conversation that would have pleased Mary if she could have
heard it, especially when it became apparent that those who had caused
the strike were becoming so hard to find. But however much they might now
regret the first cause, the effect was growing more irresistible with
every passing hour.
It began to remind Mary of the dikes in Holland.
For centuries, working unconsciously more often than not, men had built
walls that kept women out of certain industries.
Then through their own strike, the men at New Bethel had made a small
hole in the wall--and the women had started to trickle through. With the
growth of the strike, the gap in the wall had widened and deepened. More
and more women were pouring through, with untold millions behind them, a
flowing flood of power that was beginning to make Mary feel solemn. Like
William the Thoughtful, she, too, saw that she had started something
which was going to be hard to stop....
All over the country, women had been watching for the outcome of her
experiment, and when the last announcement appeared, a stream of letters
and inquiries poured upon her desk.... The reporters returned in greater
strength than ever.... It sometimes seemed to Mary that the whole dike
was beginning to crack.... Even Jove must have felt a sense of awe when
he saw the effect of his first thunderbolt....
"If they would only go slowly," she uneasily told herself, "it would be
all right. But if they go too fast..."
She made a helpless gesture--again the gesture of those who have started
something which they can't stop--but just before she went home that
evening she received a telegram which relieved the tension.
"May we confer with you Monday at your office regarding situation at New
That was the telegram. It was signed by three leaders of labour--the same
men, Mary remembered, whom Judge Cutler had seen when he had visited
"Splendid men, all of them," she remembered him reporting. "I'm sure
you'd like them, Mary."
"Perhaps they'll be able to help," she told herself. "Anyhow, I'm not
going to worry any more until I have seen them."
That night, after dinner, two callers appeared at the house on the hill.
The first was Helen.
Dinner was hardly over when Mary saw her smart coupe turn in to the
garage. A minute later Helen ran up the steps, a travelling bag in her
hand. She kissed her cousin twice, quotation marks of affection which
enclosed the whisper, "Do you mind if I stay all night?"
"Of course I don't," said Mary, laughing at her earnestness. "What's the
matter? Wally out of town?"
"Oh, don't talk to me about Wally! ... No; he isn't out of town. That's
why I'm here.... Can I have my old room?"
She was down again soon, her eyes brighter than they should have been,
her manner so high strung that it wasn't far from being flighty. As
though to avoid conversation, she seated herself at the piano and played
her most brilliant pieces.
"I think you might tell me," said Mary, in the first lull.
"I told you long ago. Men are fools! But if he thinks he can bully me--!"
"Wally!" Mary's exclamation of surprise was drowned in the ballet from
Coppelia. "I don't allow any man to worry me!" said Helen over her
"But, Helen--don't you think it's just possible--that you've been
A crashing series of chords was her only answer. In the middle of a run
Helen topped and swung around on the bench.
"Talking about worrying people," she said. "What's the matter with Burdon
down at the office lately? What have you been doing to him?"
"Helen! What a thing to say!"
"Well, that's how it started, if you want to know! I was trying to cheer
him up a little ... and Wally thought he saw more than he did...."
For a feverish minute she resumed Delibes' dance, but couldn't finish it.
She rose, half stumbling, blinded by her tears and Mary comforted her.
"Now, go and get your bag, dear," she said at last, "and I'll go home
with you, and stay all night if you like."
But Helen wouldn't have that.
"No," she said, "I'm going to stay here a few days. I told my maid where
she could find me--but I made her promise not to tell Wally till
morning--and I'm not going back till he comes for me."
"I wonder what he saw..." Mary kept thinking. "Poor Wally!" And then more
gently, "Poor Helen! ... It's just as I've always said."
Mary was a long time going to sleep that night, thinking of Helen, and
Wally and Burdon.
Yes, Helen was right about Burdon. Something was evidently worrying him.
For the last few days she had noticed how irritable he was, how drawn he
"I do believe he's in trouble of some sort," she sighed. "And he looks so
reckless, too. I'm glad that Wally did speak to Helen. He isn't safe."
And again the thought recurring, "I wonder what Wally saw...."
A sound from the lawn beneath her window stopped her. At first she
thought she was dreaming--but no, it was a mandolin being played on muted
strings. She stole to the window. In the shadow stood a figure and at the
first subdued note of his song, Mary knew who it was.
"Soft o'er the fountain
Ling'ring falls the southern moon--"
"If that isn't Wally all over," thought Mary. "He thinks Helen's here,
and he wants to make up."
But how did he know Helen was there? And why was he singing so sadly, so
plaintively just underneath Mary's window? Another possibility came to
her mind and she was still wondering what to do when Helen came in, even
as she had come in that night so long ago when Wally had sung Juanita
"Wait till morning! He'll hear from me!" said Helen in indignation.
Wally's song was growing fainter. He had evidently turned and was walking
toward the driveway. A minute later the rumble of a car was heard.
"If he thinks he can talk to me the way he did," said Helen, more
indignant than before, "and then come around here like that--serenading
"Oh, Helen, don't," said Mary, trembling. "...I think he was saying
good-bye.... Wait till I put the light on...."
The distress in her voice cheeked Helen's anger, and a moment later the
two cousins were staring at each other, two tragic figures suddenly
uncovered from the mantle of light.
"I won't go back to my room; I'll stay here," whispered Helen at last.
"Don't fret, Mary; he won't do anything."
It was a long time, though, before Mary could stop trembling, but an hour
later when the telephone bell began ringing downstairs, she found that
her old habit of calmness had fallen on her again.
"I'll answer it," she said to Helen. "Don't cry now. I'm sure it's
But when she returned in a few minutes, Helen only needed one glance to
tell her how far it was from being nothing.
"Your maid," said Mary, hurrying to her dresser. "Wally's car ran into
the Bar Harbor express at the crossing near the club.... He's terribly
hurt, but the doctor says there's just a chance.... You run and dress
now, as quickly as you can.... I have a key to the garage...."
The first east-bound express that left New York the following morning
carried in one of its Pullmans a famous surgeon and his assistant, bound
for New Bethel. In the murk of the smoker ahead was a third passenger
whose ticket bore the name of the same city--a bearded man with rounded
shoulders and tired eyes, whose clothes betrayed a foreign origin.
This was Paul Spencer on the last stage of his journey home.
Until the train drew out of the station, the seat by his side was
unoccupied. But then another foreign looking passenger entered and made
his way up the aisle.
You have probably noticed how some instinctive law of selection seems to
guide us in choosing our companion in a car where all the window seats
are taken. The newcomer passed a number of empty places and sat down by
the side of Paul. He was tall, blonde, with dusty looking eyebrows and a
beard that was nearly the colour of dead grass.
"Russian, I guess," thought Paul, "and probably thinks I am something of
The reflection pleased him.
"If that's the way I look to him, nobody else is going to guess."
When the conductor came, Paul's seat-mate tried to ask if he would have
to change cars before reaching his destination, but his language was so
broken that he couldn't make himself understood.
"I thought he was Russian," Paul nodded to himself, catching a word here
and there; and, aloud, he quietly added in his mother's tongue, "It's all
right, batuchka; you don't have to change."
The other gave him a grateful glance, and soon they were talking
"A Bolshevist," thought Paul, recognizing now and then a phrase or an
argument which he had heard from some of his friends in Rio, "but what's
he going to New Bethel for?"
As the train drew nearer the place of his birth, Paul grew quieter. Old
landmarks, nearly forgotten, began to appear and remind him of the past.
"What time do we get there?" he asked a passing brakeman.
Paul's companion gave him a look of envy.
"You speak English well," said he.
Paul didn't like that, and took refuge behind one of those Slavonic
indirections which are typical of the Russian mind--an indirection
hinting at mysterious purpose and power.
"There are times in a life," said he, "when it becomes necessary to speak
a foreign language well."
They looked at each other then, and simultaneously they nodded.
"You are right, batuchka," said the blonde giant at last, matching
indirection with indirection. "For myself, I cannot speak English
well--ah, no--but I have a language that all men understand--and
fear--and when I speak, the houses fall and the mountains shake their
His eyes gleamed and he breathed quickly--intoxicated by the poetry of
his own words; but Paul had heard too much of that sort of imagery to be
"A Bolshevist, sure enough," he thought.
A familiar landscape outside attracted his attention.
"We'll be there in a few minutes," he thought. "Yes, there's the road ...
and there's the lower bridge.... I hope that old place at the bend of the
river's still there. I'll take a walk down this afternoon, and see."
At the station he noted that his late companion was being greeted by a
group of friends who had evidently come to meet him. Paul stood for a few
minutes on the platform, unrecognized, unheeded, jostled by the throng.
"The prodigal son returns," he sighed, and slowly crossed the square....
Late in the afternoon a tired figure made its way along the river below
the factory. The banks were high, but where the stream turned, a small
grass-covered cove had been hollowed out by the edge of the water.
"This is the best of all," thought Paul after he had climbed down the
bank and, sinking upon the grass, he lay with his face to the sun, as he
had so often lain when he was a boy, dreaming those golden dreams of
youth which are the heritage of us all.
"I was a fool to come," he told himself. "I'll get back to the ship
For where he had hoped to find pleasure, he had found little but
bitterness. The sight of the house on the hill, the factory in the hollow
below the dam, even the faces which he had recognized had given him a
feeling of sadness, of punishment--a feeling which only an outcast can
know to the full--an outcast who returns to the scene of his home after
many years, unrecognized, unwanted, afraid almost to speak for fear he
will betray himself....
For a long time Paul lay there, sometimes staring up at the sky,
sometimes half turning to look up the river where he could catch a
glimpse of the factory grounds and, farther up, the high cascade of water
falling over the dam--the bridge just above it....
Gradually a sense of rest, of relaxation took possession of him. "This is
the best of all," he sighed, "but I'll get back to the ship tomorrow...."
The sun shone on his face.... His eyes closed....
When he opened them again it was dark.
"First time I've slept like that for years," he said, sitting up and
stretching. Around him the grass was wet with dew. "Must be getting
late," he thought. "I'd better get under shelter."
On the bridge above the dam he saw the headlights of a car slowly moving.
In the centre it stopped and the lights went out.
"That's funny," he thought. "Something the matter with his wires, maybe."
He stood up, idly watching. After a few minutes the lights switched on
again and the car began to move forward. Behind it appeared the
approaching lights of a second machine.
"That first car doesn't want to be seen," thought Paul. At each end of
the bridge was an arc lamp. As the first car passed under the light, he
caught a glimpse of it--a grey touring car, evidently capable of speed.
Paul didn't think of this again until he was near the place where he had
decided to pass the night. At the corner of the street ahead of him a
grey car stopped and three men got out--his blonde companion of the train
among them, conspicuous both on account of his height and his beard.
"That's the same car," thought Paul, watching it roll away; and frowning
as he thought of his Russian acquaintance of the morning he uneasily
added, "I wonder what they were doing on that bridge...."
The next morning Wally was a little better.
He was still unconscious, but thanks to the surgeon his breathing was
less laboured and he was resting more quietly. Mary had stayed with Helen
overnight, and more than once it had occurred to her that even as it
requires darkness to bring out the beauty of the stars, so in the shadow
of overhanging disaster, Helen's better qualities came into view and
shone with unexpected radiance.
"I know..." thought Mary. "It's partly because she's sorry, and partly
because she's busy, too. She's doing the most useful work she ever did in
her life, and it's helping her as much as it's helping him--"
They had a day nurse, but Helen had insisted upon doing the night work
herself. There were sedatives to be given, bandages to be kept moist.
Mary wanted to stay up, too, but Helen didn't like that.
"I want to feel that I'm doing something for him--all myself," she said,
and with a quivering lip she added, "Oh, Mary... If he ever gets over
And in the morning, to their great joy, the doctor pronounced him a
little better. Mary would have stayed longer, but that was the day when
the labour leaders were to visit the factory; so after hearing the
physician's good report, she started for the office.
At ten o'clock she telephoned Helen who told her that Wally had just
fallen off into his first quiet sleep.
"I'm going to get some sleep myself, now, if I can," she added. "The
nurse has promised to call me when he wakes."
Mary breathed easier, for some deep instinct told her that Wally would
come through it all right. She was still smiling with satisfaction when
Joe of the Plumed Hair came in with three cards, the dignity of his
manner attesting to the importance of the names.
"All right, Joe, send them in," she said. "And I wish you'd find Mr.
Forbes and Mr. Woodward, and tell them I would like to see them."
"Mr. Woodward hasn't come down yet, but I guess I know where Mr. Forbes
He disappeared and returned with the three callers.
Mary arose and bowed as they introduced themselves, meanwhile studying
them with tranquil attentiveness.
"The judge was right," she told herself. "I like them." And when they sat
down, there was already a friendly spirit in the air.
"This is a wonderful work you are doing here, Miss Spencer," said one.
"You think so?" she asked. "You mean for the women to be making
"Yes. Weren't you surprised yourself when your idea worked out so well?"
"But it wasn't my idea," she said. "It was worked out in the war--oh,
ever so much further than we have gone here. We are only making bearings,
but when the war was on, women made rifles and cartridges and shells,
cameras and lenses, telescopes, binoculars and aeroplanes. I can't begin
to tell you the things they made--every part from the tiniest screws as
big as the end of this pin--to rough castings. They did designing, and
drafting, and moulding, and soldering, and machining, and carpentering,
and electrical work--even the most unlikely things--things you would
never think of--like ship-building, for instance!
"Ship-building! Imagine!" she continued.
"Why, one of the members of the British Board of Munitions said that if
the war had lasted a few months longer, he could have guaranteed to build
a battleship from keel to crow's-nest--with all its machinery and
equipment--all its arms and ammunition--everything on it--entirely by
"So, you see, I can't very well get conceited about what we are doing
here--although, of course, I am proud of it, too, in a way--"
She stopped then, afraid they would think she was gossipy--and she let
them talk for a while. The conversation turned to her last advertisement.
"Are you sure your figures are right?" asked one. "Are you sure your
women workers are turning out bearings so much cheaper than the men did?"
"They are not my figures," she told them. "They are taken from an audit
by a firm of public accountants."
She mentioned the name of the firm and her three callers nodded with
"I have the report here," she said--and showed them the table of
"Remarkable!" said one.
"It only confirms," said Mary, "what often happened during the war."
"Perhaps you are working your women too hard."
"If you would like to go through the factory," said Mary, "you can judge
Archey was in the outer office and they took him with them. They began
with the nursery and went on, step by step, until they arrived at the
"Do you think they are overworked?" asked Mary then.
The three callers shook their heads. They had all grown rather silent as
the tour had progressed, but in their eyes was the light of those who
have seen revelations.
"As happy a factory as I have ever seen," said one. "In fact, it makes it
difficult to say what we wanted to say."
They returned to the office and when they were seated again, Mary said,
"What is it you wanted to say?"
"We wanted to talk to you about the strike. As we understand your
principle, Miss Spencer, you regard it as unfair to bar a woman from any
line of work which she may wish to follow--simply because she is a
"That's it," she said.
"And for the same reason, of course, no man should be debarred from
working, simply because he's a man."
They smiled at that.
"Such being the case," he continued, "I think we ought to be able to find
some way of settling this strike to the satisfaction of both sides. Of
course you know, Miss Spencer, that you have won the strike. But I think
I can read character well enough to know that you will be as fair to the
men as you wish them to be with the women."
"The strike was absolutely without authority from us," said one of the
others. "The men will tell you that. It was a mistake. They will tell you
that, too. Worse than a mistake, it was silly."
"However, that's ancient history now," said the third. "The present
question is: How can we settle this matter to suit both sides?"
"Of course I can't discharge any of the women," said Mary thoughtfully,
"and I don't think they want to leave--"
"They certainly don't look as if they did--"
"I have another plan in mind," she said, more thoughtfully than before,
"but that's too uncertain yet.... The only other thing I can think of is
to equip some of our empty buildings and start the men to work there.
Since our new prices went into effect we have been turning business
"You'll do that, Miss Spencer?"
"Of course the men would have to do as much work as the women are doing
now--so we could go on selling at the new prices."
"You leave that to us--and to them. If there's such a thing as pride in
the world, a thousand men are going to turn out as many bearings as a
"There's one thing more," said the second; "I notice you have raised your
women's wages a dollar a day. Can we tell the men that they are going to
get women's wages?"
They laughed at this inversion of old ideas.
"You can tell them they'll get women's wages," said Mary, "if they can do
But in spite of her smile, for the last few minutes she had become
increasingly conscious of a false note, a forced conclusion in their
plans--had caught glimpses of future hostilities, misunderstandings,
suspicions. The next remark of one of the labour leaders cleared her
thoughts and brought her back face to face with her golden vision.
"The strike was silly--yes," one of the leaders said. "But back of the
men's actions I think I can see the question which disturbed their minds.
If women enter the trades, what are the men going to do? Will there be
work enough for everybody?"
Even before he stopped speaking, Mary knew that she had found herself,
knew that the solid rock was under her feet again.
"There is just so much useful work that has to be done in the world every
day," she said, "and the more hands there are to do it, the quicker it
will get done."
That was as far as she had ever gone before, but now she went a step
"Let us suppose, for instance, that we had three thousand married men
working here eight hours a day to support their families. If now we allow
three thousand women to come out of those same homes and work side by
side with the men--why, don't you see?--the work could be done in four
hours instead of eight, and yet the same family would receive just the
same income as they are getting now--the only difference being that
instead of the man drawing all the money, he would draw half and his wife
would draw half."
"A four hour day!" said one of the leaders, almost in awe.
"I'm sure it's possible if the women help," said Mary, "and
I know they want to help. They want to feel that they are doing
something--earning something--just the same as a man does. They want to
"We used to think they couldn't do men's work," she continued. "I used to
think so, myself. So we kept them fastened up at home--something like
squirrels in cages--because we thought housework was the only thing they
"But, oh, how the war has opened our eyes!...
"There's nothing a man can do that a woman can't do--nothing! And now the
question is: Are we going to crowd her back into her kitchen, when if we
let her out we could do the world's work in four hours instead of eight?"
"Of course there are conditions where four hours wouldn't work," said one
of the leaders half to himself. "I can see that in many places it might
be feasible, but not everywhere--"
"No plan works everywhere. No plan is perfect," said Mary earnestly.
"I've thought of that, too. The world is doing its best to progress--to
make people happier--to make life more worth living all the time. But no
single step will mark the end of human progress. Each step is a step:
"Take the eight hour day, for instance. It doesn't apply to women at
all--I mean house women. And nearly half the people are house women. It
doesn't apply to farmers, either; and more than a quarter of the people
in America are on farms. But you don't condemn the eight hour day--do
you?--just because it doesn't fit everybody?"
"A four hour day!" repeated the first leader, still speaking in tones of
"If that wouldn't make labour happy," said the second, "I don't know what
"Myself, I'd like to see it tried out somewhere," said the third. "It
sounds possible--the way Miss Spencer puts it--but will it work?"
"That's the very thing to find out," said Mary, "and it won't take long."
She told them about the model bungalows.
"I intended to try it with twenty-five families first," she said, taking
a list from her desk. "Here are the names of a hundred women working
here, whose husbands are among the strikers. I thought that out of these
hundred families, I might be able to find twenty-five who would be
willing to try the experiment."
The three callers looked at each other and then they nodded approval.
"So while we're having lunch," she said, "I'll send these women out to
find their husbands, and we'll talk to them altogether."
It was half past one when Mary entered the rest room with her three
visitors and Archey. Nearly all the women had found their men, and they
were waiting with evident curiosity.
As simply as she could, Mary repeated the plan which she had outlined to
"So there you are," she said in conclusion. "I want to find twenty-five
families to give the idea a trial. They will live in those new
bungalows--you have probably all seen them.
"There's a gas range in each to make cooking easy. They have steam heat
from the factory--no stoves--no coal--no ashes to bother with. There's
electric light, refrigerator, bathroom, hot and cold water--everything I
could think of to save labour and make housework easy.
"Now, Mrs. Strauss, suppose you and your husband decide to try this new
arrangement. You would both come here and work till twelve o'clock, and
the afternoons you would have to yourselves.
"In the afternoons you could go shopping, or fishing, or walking, or
boating, or skating, or visiting, or you could take up a course of study,
or read a good book, or go to the theatre, or take a nap, or work in your
garden--anything you liked....
"In short, after twelve o'clock, the whole day would be your own--for
your own development, your own pleasure, your own ideas--anything you
wanted to use it for. Do you understand it, Mrs. Strauss?"
"Indeed I do. I think it's fine."
"Is Mr. Strauss here? Does he understand it?"
"Yes, I understand it," said a voice among the men. Assisted by his
neighbours he arose. "I'm to work four hours a day," he said, "and so's
the wife. Instead of drawing full money, I draw half and she draws half.
We'd have to chip in on the family expenses. Every day is to be like
Saturday--work in the morning and the afternoon off. Suits me to a dot,
if it suits her. I always did think Saturday was the one sensible day in
A chorus of masculine laughter attested approval to this sentiment and
Mr. Strauss sat down abashed.
"Well, now, if you all understand it," said Mary, "I want twenty-five
families who will volunteer to try this four-hour-a-day arrangement--so
we can see how it works. All those who would like to try it--will they
please stand up?"
Presently one of the labour leaders turned to Mary with a beaming eye.
"Looks as though they'll have to draw lots," said he... "They are all
The afternoon was well advanced when her callers left, and Mary had to
make up her work as best she could.
A violent thunder-storm had arisen, but in spite of the lightning she
Wally was still improving.
"I'll be over as soon as I've had dinner," said Mary, "but don't expect
She was hanging up the receiver when the senior accountant entered, a
little more detached, a little more impersonal than she had ever seen
"We shall have our final report ready in the morning," he said.
"That's good," said Mary, starting to sign her letters. "I'll be glad to
see it any time."
At the door he turned, one hand on the knob.
"I haven't seen Mr. Woodward, Jr., today. Do you expect him tomorrow?"
At any other time she would have asked herself, "Why is he inquiring for
Burdon?"--but she had so much work waiting on her desk, demanding her
attention, that it might be said she was talking subconsciously, hardly
knowing what was asked or answered.
It was dusk when she was through, and the rain had stopped for a time.
Near the entrance to the house on the hill--a turn where she always had
to drive slowly--a shabby man was standing--a bearded man with rounded
shoulders and tired eyes.
"I wonder who he is?" thought Mary. "That's twice I've seen him standing
Without seeming to do so, a pretence which only a woman can accomplish,
she looked at him again. "How he stares!" she breathed.
As you have guessed, the waiting man was Paul.
For the first time that morning he had heard about the strike--had
heard other things, too--in the cheap hotel where he had spent the
night--obscure but alarming rumours which had led him to change his plans
about an immediate return to his ship. A bit here, a bit there, he had
pieced the story of the strike together--a story which spared no names,
and would have made Burdon Woodward's ears burn many a time if he had
"There's a bunch of Bolshevikis come in now--" this was one of the things
which Paul had been told. "'Down with the capitalists who prey on women!'
That's them! But it hasn't caught on. Sounds sort of flat around here to
those who know the women. So this bunch of Bols has been laying low the
last few days. They've hired a boat and go fishing in the lake. They
don't fool me, though--not much they don't. They're up to some deviltry,
you can bet your sweet life, and we'll be hearing about it before long--"
Paul's mind turned to the blonde giant who had ridden on the train from
New York, and the group of friends who had been waiting for him at the
"He was up to something--the way he spoke," thought Paul. "And last night
he was in that car on the bridge.... Where do these Bols hang out?" he
He was told they made their headquarters at Repetti's pool-room, but
though he looked in that establishment half a dozen times in the course
of the day, he failed to see them.
"Looking for somebody?" an attendant asked him.
"Yes," said Paul. "Tall man with a light beard. Came in from New York
"Oh, that bunch," grinned the attendant. "They've gone fishing again.
Going to get wet, too, if they ain't back soon."
For over three hours then the storm had raged, the rain falling with the
force of a cloudburst. At seven it stopped and, going out, Paul found
himself drifting toward the house on the hill.
It was there he saw Mary turning in at the gate. He stood for a long time
looking at the lights in the windows and thinking those thoughts which
can only come to the Ishmaels of the world--to those sons of Hagar who
may never return to their father's homes.
"I was a fool for coming," he half groaned, tasting the dregs of
bitterness. Unconsciously he compared the things that were with the
things that might have been.
"She certainly acted like a queen to Rosa," he thought once.
For a moment he felt a wild desire to enter the gate, to see his home
again, to make himself known--but the next moment he knew that this was
his punishment--"to look, to long, but ne'er again to feel the warmth of
He returned to the pool-room, his eyes more tired than ever, and found a
seat in a far corner. Some one had left a paper in the next chair. Paul
was reading it when he became conscious of some one standing in front of
him, waiting for him to look up. It was his acquaintance of the day
before--the Russian traveller--and Paul perceived that he was excited,
and was holding himself very high.
"Good evening, batuchka," said Paul, and looking at the other's wet
clothes he added, "I see you were caught in the storm."
"You are right, batuchka," said the other, and leaning over, his voice
slightly shaking, he added, "Others, too, are about to be caught in a
storm." He raised his finger with a touch of grandeur and took the chair
by Paul's side, breathing hard and obviously holding himself at a
"Your friends aren't with you tonight?"
Again the Russian spoke in parables. "Some men run from great events.
Others stop to witness them."
"Something in the wind," thought Paul. "I think he'll talk." Aloud he
said, pretending to yawn, "Great events, batuchka? There are no more
great events in the world."
"I tell you, there are great events," said the other, "wherever there are
great men to do them."
"You mean your friends?" asked Paul. "But no. Why should I ask! For great
men would not spend their days in catching little fishes--am I not right,
"A thousand times right," said the other, his grandeur growing, "but
instead of catching little fishes, what do you say of a man who can let
loose a large fish--an iron fish--a fish that can speak with a loud noise
and make the whole world tremble--!"
Paul quickly raised his finger to his lips.
"Let's go outside," he said. "Some one may hear us here..."
At eight o'clock Mary had gone to Helen's.
"If I'm not back at ten, I sha'n't be home tonight," she had told
Hutchins as she left the house.
At half past eight Archey called, full of the topic which had been
started that afternoon. Hutchins told him what Mary had said.
"All right," he said. "I'll wait." He left his car under the porte
cochere, and went upstairs to chat with Miss Cordelia and Miss Patty.
At twenty to ten, Hutchins was looking through the hall window up the
drive when he saw a figure running toward the house. The door-bell
rang--a loud, insistent peal.
Hutchins opened the door and saw a man standing there, shabby and
spattered with mud.
"Is Miss Spencer in?"
"No; she's out."
The hall light shone on the visitor's face and he stared hard at the
butler. "Hutch," he said in a quieter voice, "don't you remember me?"
"N-n-no, sir; I think not, sir," said the other--and he, too, began to
"Don't you remember the day I fell out of the winesap tree, and you
carried me in, and the next week I tried to climb on top of that hall
clock, and knocked it over, and you tried to catch it, and it knocked you
The butler's lips moved, but at first he couldn't speak.
"Is it you, Master Paul?" he whispered at last, as though he were seeing
a visitor from the other world. And again "Is it you, Master Paul?"
"You know it is. Listen, now. Pull yourself together. We've got to get to
the dam before ten o'clock, or they'll blow it up. Put your hat on. Have
you a car here?"
In the hall the clock chimed a quarter to ten. The tone of its bell
seemed to act as a spur to them both.
"There's a young gentleman here," said Hutchins, suddenly turning. "I'll
run and get him right away."
As they speeded along the road which led to the bridge above the dam,
Paul told what he had heard--Archey in the front seat listening as well
as he could.
"He didn't come right out and say so," Paul rapidly explained, "but he
dropped hints that a blind man could see. I met him on a train
yesterday--a Russian--a fanatic--proud of what he's done--!
"As nearly as I can make it out, they have got a boat leaning against the
dam with five hundred pounds of TNT in it--or hanging under it--I don't
"There is a battery in the boat, and clockwork to set the whole thing off
at ten o'clock tonight. He didn't come right out and say so, you
understand, and I may be making a fool of myself. But if I am--God knows,
it won't be the first time ... Anyhow we'll soon know."
It was a circuitous road that led to the dam. The rain was pouring again,
the streets deserted. Once they were held up at a railroad crossing....
The clock in the car pointed at five minutes to ten when their headlights
finally fell upon the bridge. As they drew nearer they could hear nothing
in the darkness but the thunder of the water. The bridge was a low one
and only twenty yards up the stream from the falls; but though they
strained their eyes to the uttermost they couldn't see as far as the dam.
"I'll turn one of the headlights," said Archey, "and we'll drive over
The lamp, turned at an angle, swept over the edge of the dam like a
searchlight. Half way over the bridge the car stopped. They had found
what they were looking for.
"Why doesn't it go over?" shouted Archey, jumping out.
"Anchored to a tree up the bend, I guess," Paul shouted back. "They must
have played her down the stream after dark."
Nearly over the dam was a boat painted black and covered with tarpaulin.
"The explosive is probably hanging from a chain underneath," thought
Paul. "The current would hold it tight against the mason-work."
"We ought to have brought some help," shouted Archey, suddenly realizing.
"If that dam breaks, it will sweep away the factory and part of the
town.... What are you going to do?"
Paul had dropped his hat in the stream below the bridge and was watching
to see where it went over the crest. It swept over the edge a few feet to
the right of the boat.
He moved up a little and tried next by dropping his coat. This caught
fairly against the boat. Then before they knew what he was doing, he had
climbed over the rail of the bridge and had dropped into the swiftly
moving water below.
"Done it!" gasped Hutchins.
Paul's arms were clinging around the bow of the boat. He twisted his
body, the current helping him, and gained the top of the tarpaulin. Under
the spotlight thrown by the car, it was like a scene from some epic
drama, staged by the gods for their own amusement--man against the
elements, courage against the unknown-life against death.
"He's feeling for his knife," thought Archey. "He's got it!"
Paul ran his blade around the cloth and had soon tossed the tarpaulin
over the dam. Then he made a gesture of helplessness. From the bridge,
they could see that the stern of the boat was heavily boxed in.
"It's under there!" groaned Hutchins. "He can't get to it!"
Archey ran to the car for a hammer, but Paul had climbed to the bow and
was looking at the ring in which was fastened the cable that held the
boat in place. The strain of the current had probably weakened this, for
the next thing they saw--Paul was tugging at the cable with all his
strength, worrying it from side to side, kicking at the bow with the
front of his heel, evidently trying to pull the ring from its socket.
"If that gives way, the whole thing goes over," cried Archey. "I'll throw
him the hammer."
Even as he spoke the ring suddenly came out of the bow; and thrown off
his balance by his own effort, Paul went over the side of the boat and in
the same moment had disappeared from view.
"Gone ..." gasped Hutchins. "And now that's going after him...."
The boat was lurching forward--unsteadily--unevenly--
"Something chained to the bottom, all right," thought Archey, all eyes to
see, the hammer still in his hand. As they watched, the boat tipped
forward--lurched--vanished--followed quickly by two cylindrical objects
which, in the momentary glimpse they caught of them, had the appearance
of steel barrels.
The two on the bridge were still looking at each other, when Archey
thought to glance at the clock in his car.
It was on the stroke of ten.
"That may go off yet if the thing holds together," shouted Archey. "It
was built good and strong...."
They stood there for a minute looking down into the darkness and were
just on the point of turning back to the car when an explosion arose from
the racing waters far below the dam....
Presently the wind, blowing up stream, drenched their faces with
spray.... Splinters of rock and sand began to fall....
The next morning ushered in one of those days in June which make the
When Mary left Helen's, she thought she had never known the sky so blue,
the world so fair, the air so full of the breath of life, the song of
birds, the scent of flowers.
Wally was definitely out of danger and Helen was nursing him back to
strength like a ministering angel, every touch a caress, every glance a
look of love.
"Now if Burdon will only leave her alone," thought Mary as she turned the
car toward the factory.
She needn't have worried.
Before she had time to look at her mail, Joe announced that the two
accountants were waiting to see her.
"They've been hanging around for the last half hour," he confidentially
added. "I guess they want to catch a train or something."
"All right, Joe," she nodded. "Show them in."
They entered, and for the first time since she had known them, Mary
thought she saw a trace of excitement in their manner--such, for
instance, as you might expect to see in two learned astronomers who had
seen Sirius the dog-star rushing over the heavens in pursuit of the Big
Bear--or the Virgin seating herself in Cassiopeia's Chair.
"We finished our report last night," said the elder, handing her a copy.
"As you will see, we have discovered a very serious situation in the
It struck Mary later that she showed no surprise. Indeed, more than once
in the last few days, when noticing Burdon's nervous recklessness, she
Back to Full Books