Infomotions, Inc.Mary Minds Her Business / Weston, George



Author: Weston, George
Title: Mary Minds Her Business
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): mary; wally; helen; miss cordelia; uncle stanley; miss patty; burdon woodward; judge cutler; new bethel; ma'm maynard; josiah spencer; miss spencer; aunt patty; spencer son
Contributor(s): Tarbell, Ida M., 1857-1944 [Editor]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
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Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 63,677 words (short) Grade range: 8-10 (high school) Readability score: 70 (easy)
Identifier: etext13034
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Title: Mary Minds Her Business

Author: George Weston

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                         MARY MINDS HER BUSINESS

                            BY GEORGE WESTON

Author of "Oh, Mary, Be Careful," "The Apple-Tree Girl," and "You Never
Saw Such a Girl."

                                 1920




To Karl Edwin Harriman
One of the Noblest of them All
G.W.




MARY MINDS HER BUSINESS




So that you may understand my heroine, I am going to write a preface and
tell you about her forebears.

In the latter part of the seventeenth century, there was a young
blacksmith in our part of the country named Josiah Spencer. He had a
quick eye, a quick hand and a quicker temper.

Because of his quick eye he married a girl named Mary McMillan. Because
of his quick hand, he was never in need of employment. And because of his
quick temper, he left the place of his birth one day and travelled west
until he came to a ford which crossed the Quinebaug River.

There, before the week was over, he had bought from Oeneko, the Indian
chief, five hundred acres on each side of the river--land in those days
being the cheapest known commodity. Hewing his own timber and making his
own hardware, he soon built a shop of his own, and the ford being on the
main road between Hartford and the Providence Plantations, it wasn't long
before he had plenty of business.

Above the ford was a waterfall. Josiah put in a wheel, a grist mill and a
saw mill.

By that time Mary, his wife, had presented him with one of the two
greatest gifts that a woman can ever bestow, and presently a sign was
painted over the shop:

JOSIAH SPENCER & SON

In course of time young Josiah made his first horse-shoe and old Josiah
made his last.

On a visit to New Amsterdam, the young man had already fallen in love
with a girl named Matilda Sturtevant. They were married in 1746 and had
one of those round old-fashioned families when twelve children seemed to
be the minimum and anything less created comment.

Two of the boys were later killed in the Revolution, another became
Supreme Court justice, but the likeliest one succeeded to the business of
Josiah Spencer & Son, which was then making a specialty of building
wagons--and building them so well that the shop had to be increased in
size again and again until it began to have the appearance of quite a
respectable looking factory.

The third Spencer to own the business married a Yankee--Patience
Babcock--but Patience's only son married a French-Canadian girl--for even
then the Canadians were drifting down into our part of the country.

So by that time, as you can see--and this is an important part of my
preface--the Spencer stock was a thrifty mixture of Yankee, Irish,
Scotch, Dutch and French blood--although you would never have guessed it
if you had simply seen the name of one Josiah Spencer following another
as the owner of the Quinebaug Wagon Works.

In the same year that the fourth Josiah Spencer succeeded to the
business, a bridge was built to take the place of the ford and the
waterfall was fortified by a dam. By that time a regular little town had
formed around the factory.

The town was called New Bethel.

It was at this stage of their history that the Spencers grew proud,
making a hobby of their family tree and even possibly breathing a sigh
over vanished coats-of-arms.

The fifth of the line, for instance, married a Miss Copleigh of Boston.
He built a big house on Bradford Hill and brought her home in a tally-ho.
The number of her trunks and the size of her crinolines are spoken of to
this day in our part of the country--also her manner of closing her eyes
when she talked, and holding her little finger at an angle when drinking
her tea. She had only one child--fortunately a son.

This son was the grandfather of our heroine. So you see we are getting
warm at last.

The grandfather of our heroine was probably the greatest Spencer of them
all.

Under his ownership the factory was rebuilt of brick and stone. He
developed the town both socially and industrially until New Bethel bade
fair to become one of the leading cities in the state. He developed the
water power by building a great dam above the factory and forming a lake
nearly ten miles long. He also developed an artillery wheel which has
probably rolled along every important road in the civilized world.

Indeed he was so engaged in these enterprises that he didn't marry until
he was well past forty-five. Then one spring, going to Charlestown to buy
his season's supply of pine, he came back with a bride from one of the
oldest, one of the most famous families in all America.

There were three children to this marriage--one son and two daughters.

I will tell you about the daughters in my first chapter--two delightful
old maids who later had a baby between them--but first I must tell you
about the seventh and last Josiah.

In his youth he was wild.

This may have been partly due to that irreducible minimum of Original Sin
which (they say) is in all of us--and partly due to his cousin Stanley.

Now I don't mean to say for a moment that Stanley Woodward was a natural
born villain. I don't think people are born that way at all. At first the
idea probably struck him as a sort of a joke. "If anything happens to
young Josiah," I can imagine him thinking to himself with a grin, "I may
own this place myself some day.... Who knows?"

And from that day forward, he unconsciously borrowed from the spiders--if
you can imagine a smiling spider--and began to spin.

Did young Josiah want to leave the office early? Stanley smilingly did
his work for him.

Was young Josiah late the next morning? Stanley smilingly hid his
absence.

Did young Josiah yearn for life and adventure? Stanley spun a few more
webs and they met that night in Brigg's livery stable.

It didn't take much of this--unexpectedly little in fact--the last of the
Spencers resembling one of those giant firecrackers of bygone days--the
bigger the cracker, the shorter the fuse. Some say he married an actress,
which was one of the things which were generally whispered when I was a
boy. A Russian they said she was--which never failed to bring another
gasp. Others say she was a beautiful bare-back rider in a circus and wore
tights--which was another of the things which used to be whispered when I
was a boy, and not even then unless the children had first been sent from
the room and only bosom friends were present.

Whatever she was, young Josiah disappeared with her, and no one saw him
again until his mother died in the mansion on the hill. Some say she died
of a broken heart, but I never believed in that, for if sorrow could
break the human heart I doubt if many of us would be alive to smile at
next year's joys. However that may be, I do believe that young Josiah
thought that he was partly responsible for his mother's death. He turned
up at the funeral with a boy seven years old; and bit by bit we learned
that he was separated from his wife and that the court had given him
custody of their only child.

As you have probably noticed, there are few who can walk so straight as
those who have once been saved from the crooked path. There are few so
intolerant of fire as those poor, charred brands who have once been
snatched from the burning.

After his mother's funeral young Spencer settled down to a life of
atonement and toil, till first his father and then even his cousin
Stanley were convinced of the change which had taken place in the
one-time black sheep of the family.

By that time the patents on the artillery wheel had expired and a
competition had set in which was cutting down the profits to zero. Young
Josiah began experimenting on a new design which finally resulted in a
patent upon a combination ball and roller bearing. This was such an
improvement upon everything which had gone before, that gradually Spencer
& Son withdrew from the manufacture of wagons and wheels and re-designed
their whole factory to make bearings.

This wasn't done in a month or two, nor even in a year or two. Indeed the
returned prodigal grew middle aged in the process. He also saw the
possibilities of harnessing the water power above the factory to make
electric current. This current was sold so cheaply that more and more
factories were drawn to New Bethel until the fame of the city's products
were known wherever the language of commerce was spoken.

At the height of his son's success, old Josiah died, joining those silent
members of the firm who had gone before. I often like to imagine the
whole seven of them, ghostly but inquisitive, following the subsequent
strange proceedings with noiseless steps and eyes that missed nothing;
and in particular keeping watch upon the last living Josiah Spencer--a
heavy, powerfully built man with a look of melancholy in his eyes and a
way of sighing to himself as though asking a question, and then answering
it with a muffled "Yes... Yes..." This may have been partly due to the
past and partly due to the future, for the son whom he had brought home
with him began to worry him--a handsome young rascal who simply didn't
have the truth in him at times, and who was buying presents for girls
almost before he was out of short trousers.

His name was Paul--"Paul Vionel Olgavitch Spencer," he sometimes proudly
recited it, and whenever we heard of that we thought of his mother.

The older Paul grew, the handsomer he grew. And the handsomer he grew,
the wilder he became and the less the truth was in him. At times he would
go all right for a while, although he was always too fond of the river
for his aunts' peace of mind.

At a bend below the dam he had found a sheltered basin, covered with
grass and edged with trees. And there he liked to lie, staring up into
the sky and dreaming those dreams of youth and adventure which are the
heritage of us all.

Or else he would sit and watch the river, although he couldn't do it
long, for its swift movement seemed to fascinate him and excite him, and
to arouse in him the desire to follow it--to follow it wherever it went.
These were his quieter moods.

Ordinarily there was something gipsy-like, something Neck-or-Nothing
about him. A craving for excitement seemed to burn under him like a fire.
The full progression of correction marched upon him and failed to make
impression: arguments, orders, warnings, threats, threshings and the
stoppage of funds: none of these seemed to improve him in the least.

Josiah's two sisters did their best, but they could do nothing, either.

"I wouldn't whip him again, Josiah," said Miss Cordelia one night,
timidly laying her hand upon her brother's arm. "He'll be all right when
he's a little older.... You know, dear ... you were rather wild, yourself
... when you were young.... Patty and I were only saying this morning
that if he takes after you, there's really nothing to worry about--"

"He's God's own punishment," said Josiah, looking up wildly. "I
know--things I can't tell you. You remember what I say: that boy will
disgrace us all...."

He did.

One morning he suddenly and simply vanished with the factory pay-roll and
one of the office stenographers.

In the next twelve months Josiah seemed to age at least twelve years--his
cousin Stanley watching him closely the while--and then one day came the
news that Paul Spencer had shot and killed a man, while attempting to
hold him up, somewhere in British Columbia.

If you could have seen Josiah Spencer that day you might have thought
that the bullet had grazed his own poor heart.

"It's God's punishment," he said over and over. "For seven generations
there has been a Spencer & Son--a trust that was left to me by my father
that I should pass it on to my son. And what have I done...!"

Whereupon he made a gesture that wasn't far from despair--and in that
gesture, such as only those can make who know in their hearts that they
have shot the albatross, this preface brings itself to a close and at
last my story begins.




CHAPTER I


"Patty," said Miss Cordelia one morning, "have you noticed Josiah
lately?"

"Yes," nodded Miss Patricia, her eyes a little brighter than they should
have been.

"Do you know," continued the other, her voice dropping to a whisper, "I'm
afraid--if he keeps on--the way he is--"

"Oh, no, Cordelia! You know as well as I do--there has never been
anything like that in our family."

Nevertheless the two sisters looked at each other with awe-stricken eyes,
and then their arms went around each other and they eased their hearts in
the immemorial manner.

"You know, he worries because we are the last of the Spencers," said
Cordelia, "and the family dies with us. Even if you or I had children, I
don't think he would take it so hard--"

A wistful look passed over their faces, such as you might expect to see
on those who had repented too late and stood looking through St. Peter's
gate at scenes in which they knew they could never take a part.

"But I am forty-eight," sighed Cordelia.

"And I--I am fifty--"

The two sisters had been writing when this conversation started. They
were busy on a new generation of the Spencer-Spicer genealogy, and if you
have ever engaged on a task like that, you will know the correspondence
it requires. But now for a time their pens were forgotten and they sat
looking at each other over the gatelegged table which served as desk.
They were still both remarkably good-looking, though marked with that
delicacy of material and workmanship--reminiscent of old china--which
seems to indicate the perfect type of spinster-hood. Here and there in
their hair gleamed touches of silver, and their cheeks might have
reminded you of tinted apples which had lightly been kissed with the
frost.

And so they sat looking at each other, intently, almost breathlessly,
each suddenly moved by the same question and each wishing that the other
would speak.

For the second time it was Cordelia who broke the silence.

"Patty--!"

"Yes, dear?" breathed Patty, and left her lips slightly parted.

"I wonder if Josiah--is too old--to marry again! Of course," she
hurriedly added, "he is fifty-two--but it seems to me that one of the
Spicers--I think it was Captain Abner Spicer--had children until he was
sixty--although by a younger wife, of course."

They looked it up and in so doing they came across an Ezra Babcock,
father-in-law of the Third Josiah Spencer, who had had a son proudly born
to him in his sixty-fourth year.

They gazed at each other then, those two maiden sisters, like two
conspirators in their precious innocence.

"If we could find Josiah a young wife--" said the elder at last.

"Oh, Cordelia!" breathed Patty, "if, indeed, we only could!"

Which was really how it started.

As I think you will realize, it would be a story in itself to describe
the progress of that gentle intrigue--the consultations, the gradual
eliminations, the search, the abandonment of the search--(which came
immediately after learning of two elderly gentlemen with young wives--but
no children!)--the almost immediate resumption of the quest because of
Josiah's failing health--and finally then the reward of patience,
the pious nudge one Sunday morning in church, the whispered "Look,
Cordelia, that strange girl with the Pearsons--no, the one with the red
cheeks--yes, that one!"--the exchange of significant glances, the
introduction, the invitation and last, but least, the verification of the
fruitfulness of the vine.

The girl's name was Martha Berger and her home was in California. She had
come east to attend the wedding of her brother and was now staying with
the Pearsons a few weeks before returning west. Her age was twenty-six.
She had no parents, very little money, and taught French, English and
Science in the high school back home.

"Have you any brothers or sisters!" asked Miss Cordelia, with a side
glance toward Miss Patty.

"Only five brothers and five sisters," laughed Martha.

For a moment it might be said that Miss Cordelia purred.

"Any of them married?" she continued.

"All but me."

"My dear! ... You don't mean to say that they have made you an aunt
already?"

Martha paused with that inward look which generally accompanies mental
arithmetic.

"Only about seventeen times," she finally laughed again.

When their guest had gone, the two sisters fairly danced around each
other.

"Oh, Patty!" exulted Miss Cordelia, "I'm sure she's a fruitful vine!"




CHAPTER II


There is something inexorable in the purpose of a maiden lady--perhaps
because she has no minor domestic troubles to distract her; and when you
have two maiden ladies working on the same problem, and both of them
possessed of wealth and unusual intelligence--!

They started by taking Martha to North East Harbor for the balance of the
summer, and then to keep her from going west in the fall, they engaged
her to teach them French that winter at quite a fabulous salary. They
also took her to Boston and bought her some of the prettiest dresses
imaginable; and the longer they knew her, the more they liked her; and
the more they liked her, the more they tried to enlist her sympathies in
behalf of poor Josiah--and the more they tried to throw their brother
into Martha's private company.

"Look here," he said one day, when his two sisters were pushing him too
hard. "What's all this excitement about Martha? Who is she, anyway?"

"Why, don't you know!" Cordelia sweetly asked him, and drawing a full
breath she added: "Martha--is--your--future--wife--"

If you had been there, you would have been pardoned for thinking that the
last of the Spencers had suddenly discovered that he was sitting upon a
remonstrative bee.

The two sisters smiled at him--rather nervously, it is true, but still
they kept their hands upon their brother's shoulders, as though they were
two nurses soothing a patient and saying: "There, now ... The-e-e-ere ...
Just be quiet and you'll feel better in a little while."

"Yes, dear," whispered Cordelia, her mouth ever so close to his ear.
"Your future wife--and the mother of your future children--"

"Nonsense, nonsense--" muttered Josiah, breaking away quite flustered.
"I'm--I'm too old--"

Almost speaking in concert they told him about Captain Abner Spencer who
had children until he was sixty, and Ezra Babcock, father-in-law of the
third Josiah Spencer, who had a son proudly born to him in his
sixty-fourth year.

"And she's such a lovely girl," said Cordelia earnestly. "Patty and I are
quite in love with her ourselves--"

"And think what it would mean to your peace of mind to have another
son--"

"And what it would mean to Spencer & Son--!"

Josiah groaned at that. As a matter of fact he hadn't a chance to escape.
His two sisters had never allowed themselves to be courted, but they must
have had their private ideas of how such affairs should be conducted, for
they took Josiah in hand and put him through his paces with a speed which
can only be described as breathless.

Flowers, candy, books, jewellery, a ring, the ring--the two maiden
sisters lived a winter of such romance that they nearly bloomed into
youth again themselves; and whenever Josiah had the least misgiving about
a man of fifty-two marrying a girl of twenty-six, they whispered to him:
"Think what it will mean to Spencer & Son--" And whenever Martha showed
the least misgivings they whispered to her: "That's only his way, my
dear; you mustn't mind that." And once Cordelia added (while Patty nodded
her head): "Of course, there has to be a man at a wedding, but I want you
to feel that you would be marrying us, as much as you would be marrying
Josiah. You would be his wife, of course, but you would be our little
sister, too; and Patty and I would make you just as happy as we could--"

Later they were glad they had told her this.

It was a quiet wedding and for a time nothing happened; although if you
could have seen the two maiden sisters at church on a Sunday morning, you
would have noticed that after the benediction they seemed to be praying
very earnestly indeed--even as Sarah prayed in the temple so many years
ago. There was this curious difference, however: Sarah had prayed for
herself, but these two innocent spinsters were praying for another.

Then one morning, never to be forgotten, Martha thought to herself at the
breakfast table, "I'll tell them as soon as breakfast is over."

But she didn't.

She thought, "I'll take them into the garden and tell them there--"

But though she took them into the garden, somehow she couldn't tell them
there.

"As soon as we get back into the house," she said, "I'll tell them."

Even then the words didn't come, and Martha sat looking out of the window
so quietly and yet with such a look of mingled fear and pride and
exaltation on her face, that Cordelia suddenly seemed to divine it.

"Oh, Martha," she cried. "Do you--do you--do you really think--"

Miss Patty looked up, too--stricken breathless all in a moment--and
quicker than I can tell it, the three of them had their arms around each
other, and tears and smiles and kisses were blended--quite in the
immemorial manner.




CHAPTER III


"We must start sewing," said Miss Cordelia.

So they started sewing, Martha and the two maiden sisters, every stitch a
hope, every seam the dream of a young life's journey.

"We must think beautiful thoughts," spoke up Miss Patty another day.

So while they sewed, sometimes one and sometimes another read poetry, and
sometimes they read the Psalms, especially the Twenty-third, and
sometimes Martha played the Melody in F, or the Shower of Stars or the
Cinquieme Nocturne.

"We must think brave thoughts, too," said Miss Cordelia.

So after that, whenever one of them came to a stirring editorial in a
newspaper, or a rousing passage in a book, it was put on one side to be
read at their daily sewing bee; and when these failed they read Barbara
Fritchie, or Patrick Henry, or Horatio at the Bridge.

"Do you notice how much better Josiah is looking!" whispered Miss
Cordelia to her sister one evening.

"A different man entirely," proudly nodded Miss Patty. "I heard him
speaking yesterday about an addition to the factory--"

"I suppose it's because he's living in the future now--"

"Instead of in the past. But I do wish he wouldn't be quite so sure that
it's going to be a boy. I'm afraid sometimes--that perhaps he won't like
it--if it's a girl--"

They had grown beautiful as they spoke, but now they looked at each other
in silence, the same fear in both their glances.

"Oh, Cordelia," suddenly spoke Miss Patty. "Suppose it is a girl--!"

"Hush, dear. Remember, we must have brave thoughts. And even if the first
one is a girl, there'll be plenty of time for a boy--"

"I hadn't thought of that," said Miss Patty.

They smiled at each other in concert, and a faint touch of colour arose
to Miss Cordelia's slightly withered cheeks.

"Do you know," she said, hesitating, smiling--yes, and thrilling a
little, too--"we've had so much to do with bringing it about, that
somehow I feel as though it's going to be _my_ baby--"

"Why, Cordelia!" whispered Miss Patty, who had been nodding throughout
this confession. "That's exactly how I feel about it, too!"

It wasn't long after that before they began to look up names.

"If Josiah wasn't such a family name," said Miss Cordelia, "I'd like to
call him Basil. That means kingly or royal." Then of course they turned
to Cordelia. Cordelia meant warm-hearted. Patricia meant royal. Martha
meant the ruler of the house.

They were pleased at these revelations.

The week before the great event was expected, Martha had a notion one
day. She wished to visit the factory. Josiah interpreted this as the
happiest of auguries.

"After seven generations," was his cryptic remark, "you simply can't keep
them away. It's bred in the bone...."

He drove Martha down to the works himself, and took her through the
various shops, some of which were of such a length that when you stood at
one end, the other seemed to vanish into distance.

Everything went well until they reached the shipping room where a
travelling crane was rolling on its tracks overhead, carrying a load of
boxes. This crane was hurrying back empty for another load, its chain and
tackle swinging low, when Martha started across the room to look at one
of the boys who had caught his thumb between a hammer and a nail and was
trying to bind it with his handkerchief. The next moment the swinging
tackle of the crane struck poor Martha in the back, caught in her dress
and dragged her for a few horrible yards along the floor.

That night the house on the hill had two unexpected visitors, the Angel
of Death following quickly in the footsteps of the Angel of Life.

"You poor motherless little thing," breathed Cordelia, cuddling the baby
in her arms. "Look, Josiah," she said, trying to rouse her brother. "Look
...it's smiling at you--"

But Josiah looked up with haggard eyes that saw nothing, and could only
repeat the sentence which he had been whispering to himself, "It's God's
own punishment--God's own punishment--there are things--I can't tell
you--"

The doctor came to him at last and, after he was quieter, the two sisters
went away, carrying their precious burden with them.

"Wasn't there a girl's name which means bitterness?" asked Miss Cordelia,
suddenly stopping.

"Yes," said Miss Patty. "That's what 'Mary' means."

The two sisters looked at each other earnestly--looked at each other and
nodded.

"We'll call her 'Mary' then," said Miss Cordelia.

And that is how my heroine got her name.




CHAPTER IV


I wish I had time to tell you in the fulness of detail how those two
spinsters brought up Mary, but there is so much else to put before you
that I dare not dally here. Still, I am going to find time to say that
all the love and affection which Miss Cordelia and Miss Patty had ever
woven into their fancies were now showered down upon Mary--falling softly
and sweetly like petals from two full-blown roses when stirred by a
breeze from the south.

When she was a baby, Mary's nose had an upward tilt.

One morning after Miss Cordelia had bathed her (which would have reminded
you of a function at the court of the Grand Monarque, with its Towel
Holder, Soap Holder, Temperature Taker and all and sundry) she suddenly
sent the two maids and the nurse away and, casting dignity to the winds,
she lifted Mary in a transport of love which wouldn't be denied any
longer, and pretended to bite the end of the poor babe's nose off.

"Oh, I know it's candy," she said, mumbling away and hugging the blessed
child. "It's even got powdered sugar on it--"

"That's talcum powder," said Miss Patty, watching with a jealous eye.

"Powdered sugar, yes," persisted Miss Cordelia, mumbling on. "I know. And
I know why her nose turns up at the end, too. That naughty Miss Patty
washed it with yellow soap one night when I wasn't looking--"

"I never, never did!" protested Miss Patty, all indignation in a moment.

"Washed it with yellow soap, yes," still persisted Miss Cordelia, "and
made it shine like a star. And that night, when Mary lay in her bed, the
moon looked through the window and saw that little star twinkling there,
and the moon said 'Little star! Little star! What are you doing there in
Mary's bed? You come up here in the sky and twinkle where you belong!'
And all night long, Mary's little nose tried to get up to the moon, and
that's why it turns up at the end--" And then in one grand finale of
cannibalistic transport, Miss Cordelia concluded, "Oh, I could eat her
up!"

But it was Miss Patty's turn then, because although Cordelia bathed the
child, it was the younger sister's part to dress her. So Miss Patty put
her arms out with an authority which wouldn't take "No" for an answer,
and if you had been in the next room, you would then have heard--

"Oh, where have you been
 My pretty young thing--?"

Which is a rather active affair, especially where the singer shows how
she danced her a dance for the Dauphin of France. By that time you won't
be surprised when I tell you that Miss Patty's cheeks had a downright
glow on them--and I think her heart had something of the same glow, too,
because, seating herself at last to dress our crowing heroine, she beamed
over to her sister and said (though somewhat out of breath) "Isn't it
nice!"

This, of course, was all strictly private.

In public, Mary was brought up with maidenly deportment. You would never
dream, for instance, that she was ever tickled with a turkey feather
(which Miss Cordelia kept for the purpose) or that she had ever been
atomized all over with Lily of the Valley (which Miss Patty never did
again because Ma'm Maynard, the old French nurse, smelled it and told the
maids). But always deep down in the child was an indefinable quality
which puzzled her two aunts.

As Mary grew older, this quality became clearer.

"I know what it is," said Miss Cordelia one night. "She has a mind of her
own. Everything she sees or hears: she tries to reason it out."

I can't tell you why, but Miss Patty looked uneasy.

"Only this morning," continued Miss Cordelia, "I heard Ma'm Maynard
telling her that there wasn't a prettier syringa bush anywhere than the
one under her bedroom window. Mary turned to her with those eyes of
hers--you know the way she does--'Ma'm Maynard,' she said, 'have you seen
all the other s'inga bushes in the world?' And only yesterday I said to
her, 'Mary, you shouldn't try to whistle. It isn't nice.' She gave me
that look--you know--and said, 'Then let us learn to whistle, Aunt
T'delia, and help to make it nice.'"

"Imagine you and I saying things like that when we were girls," said Miss
Patty, still looking troubled.

"Yes, yes, I know. And yet... I sometimes think that if you and I had
been brought up a little differently...."

They were both quiet then for a time, each consulting her memories of
hopes long past.

"Just the same," said Miss Patty at last, "there are worse things in the
world than being old-fashioned."

In which I think you would have agreed with her, if you could have seen
Mary that same evening.

At the time of which I am now writing she was six years old--a rather
quiet, solemn child--though she had a smile upon occasions, which was
well worth going to see.

For some time back she had heard her aunts speaking of "Poor Josiah!" She
had always stood in awe of her father who seemed taller and gaunter than
ever. Mary seldom saw him, but she knew that every night after dinner he
went to his den and often stayed there (she had heard her aunts say)
until long after midnight.

"If he only had some cheerful company," she once heard Aunt Cordelia
remark.

"But that's the very thing he seems to shun since poor Martha died,"
sighed Miss Patty, and dropping her voice, never dreaming for a moment
that Mary was listening, she added with another sigh, "If there had only
been a boy, too!"

All these things Mary turned over in her mind, as few but children can,
especially when they have dreamy eyes and often go a long time without
saying anything. And on the same night when Aunt Patty had come to
the conclusion that there are worse things in the world than being
old-fashioned, Mary waited until she knew that dinner was over and then,
escaping Ma'm Maynard, she stole downstairs, her heart skipping a beat
now and then at the adventure before her. She passed through the hall and
the library like a determined little ghost and then, gently turning the
knob, she opened the study door.

Her father was sitting at his desk.

At the sound of the opening door he turned and stared at the apparition
which confronted him. Mary had closed the door and stood with her back to
it, screwing up her courage for the last stage of her journey.

And in truth it must have taken courage, for there was something in old
Josiah's forbidding brow and solitary mien which would have chilled the
purpose of any child. It may have been this which suddenly brought the
tears to Mary's eyes, or it may have been that her womanly little breast
guessed the loneliness in her father's heart. Whatever it was, she
unsteadily crossed the room, her sight blurred but her plan as steadfast
as ever, and a moment later she was climbing on Josiah's knee, her arms
tight around his neck, sobbing as though it would shake her little frame
to pieces.

What passed between those two, partly in speech but chiefly in silence
with their wet cheeks pressed together, I need not tell you; but when
Ma'm Maynard came searching for her charge and stood quite open-mouthed
in the doorway, Josiah waved her away, his finger on his lip, and later
he carried Mary upstairs himself--and went back to his study without a
word, though blowing his nose in a key which wasn't without significance.

And nearly every night after that, when dinner was over, Mary made a
visit to old Josiah's study downstairs; and one Saturday morning when he
was leaving for the factory, he heard the front door open and shut behind
him and there stood Mary, her little straw bonnet held under her chin
with an elastic. In the most matter of fact way she slipped her fingers
into his hand. He hesitated, but woman-like she pulled him on. The next
minute they were walking down the drive together.

As they passed the end of the house, he remembered the words which he had
once used to his sisters, "After seven generations you simply can't keep
them away. It's bred in the bone."

A thrill ran over him as he looked at the little figure by his side.

"If she had only been a boy!" he breathed.

At the end of the drive he stopped.

"You must go back now, dear."

"No," said Mary and tried to pull him on.

For as long as it might take you to count five, Josiah stood there
irresolute, Mary's fingers pulling him one way and the memory of poor
Martha's fate pulling him the other.

"And yet," he thought, "she's bound to see it sometime. Perhaps better
now--before she understands--than later--"

He lifted her and sat her on his arm.

"Now, listen, little woman," he said as they gravely regarded each other.
"This is important. If I take you this morning, will you promise to be a
good girl, and sit in the office, and not go wandering off by yourself?
Will you promise me that?"

This, too, may have been heredity, going back as far as Eve: Still
gravely regarding him she nodded her head in silence and promised him
with a kiss. He set her down, her hand automatically slipping into his
palm again, and together they walked to the factory.

The road made a sharp descent to the interval by the side of the river,
almost affording a bird's-eye view of the buildings below--lines of
workshops of an incredible length, their ventilators like the helmets of
an army of giants.

A freight train was disappearing into one of the warehouses. Long lines
of trucks stood on the sidings outside. Wisps of steam arose in every
direction, curious, palpitating.

From up the river the roar of the falls could just be heard while from
the open windows of the factory came that humming note of industry which,
more than anything else, is like the sound which is sometimes made by a
hive of bees, immediately before a swarm.

It was a scene which always gave Josiah a well-nigh oppressive feeling
of pride and punishment--pride that all this was his, that he was
one of those Spencers who had risen so high above the common run of
man--punishment that he had betrayed the trust which had been handed down
to him, that he had broken the long line of fathers and sons which had
sent the Spencer reputation, with steadily increasing fame, to the
corners of the earth. As he walked down the hall that Saturday morning,
his sombre eyes missing no detail, he felt Mary's fingers tighten around
his hand and, glancing down at her, he saw that her attention, too, was
engrossed by the scene below, her eyes large and bright as children's are
when they listen to a fairy tale.

Arrived at the office, he placed her in a chair by the side of his desk,
and you can guess whether she missed anything of what went on. Clerks,
business callers, heads of departments came and went. All had a smile for
Mary who gravely smiled in return and straightway became her dignified
little self again.

"When is Mr. Woodward expected back?" Josiah asked a clerk.

"On the ten-thirty, from Boston."

This was Stanley Woodward, Josiah's cousin--Cousin Stanley of the
spider's web whom you have already met. He was now the general manager of
the factory, and had always thought that fate was on his side since the
night he had heard of Martha's death and that the child she left behind
her was a girl.

Josiah glanced at his watch.

"Time to make the rounds," he said and, lifting Mary on his arm, he left
the office and started through the plant.

And, oh, how Mary loved it--the forests of belts, whirring and twisting
like live things, the orderly lines of machine tools, each doing its work
with more than human ingenuity and precision, the enormous presses
reminding her of elephants stamping out pieces of metal, the grinders
which sang to her, the drilling machines which whirred to her, the
polishing machines which danced for her, the power hammers which bowed to
her. Yes, and better than all was the smile that each man gave her,
smiles that came from the heart, for all the quiet respect that
accompanied them.

"It's his daughter," they whispered as soon as Josiah was out of hearing.
Here and there one would stop smiling and say, "I remember the day he
brought her mother through--"

At the end of one of the workshops, Mr. Spencer looked at his watch
again.

"We'd better get back to the office," he said. "Tired, dear?"

In a rapture of denial, she kicked her little toes against his side.

"Bred in the bone..." he mused. "Eh, if she had only been a boy...!" But
that was past all sighing for, and in the distance he saw Cousin Stanley,
just back from Boston, evidently coming to find him.

Mary, too, was watching the approaching figure. She had sometimes seen
him at the house and had formed against him one of those instinctive
dislikes which few but children know. As Stanley drew near she turned her
head and buried her face against her father's shoulder.

"Good news?" asked Josiah.

"Good news, of course," said Stanley, speaking as an irresistible force
might speak, if it were endowed with a tongue. "When Spencer & Son start
out for a thing, they get it." You could tell that what he meant was
"When Stanley Woodward starts out for a thing, he gets it." His elbows
suddenly grew restless. "It will take a lot of money," he added. "Of
course we shall have to increase the factory here--"

Still Mary kept her face hidden against her father's shoulder.

"Got the little lady with you, I see."

"Yes; I'm afraid I've tired her out."

A murmur arose from his shoulder.

"What?" said Josiah. "Not tired? Then turn around and shake hands with
Uncle Stanley."

Slowly, reluctantly, Mary lifted her head and began to reach out her
hand. Then just before their fingers would have touched, she quickly
clasped her hands around her father's neck and again she buried her face
upon his shoulder.

"She doesn't seem to take to you," said Josiah.

"So it seems," said the other dryly. Reaching around he touched Mary's
cheek with the back of his finger. "Not mad at your uncle, are you,
little girl?" he asked.

"Don't!" said Josiah, speaking with quick concern. "You're only making
her tremble...."

The two stared at each other, slightly frowning. Stanley was the first to
catch himself. "I'll see you at the office later," he said, and with a
bow at the little figure on Josiah's arm he added with a touch of irony,
"Perhaps I had better wait until you're alone!"

He turned and made his way back to the office, his elbows grown restless
again.

"A good thing it isn't a boy," he thought, "or he might not like me when
he grows up, either. But a girl... Oh, well, as it happens, girls don't
count.... And a good thing, too, they don't," he thoughtfully added. "A
good thing, too, they don't...."




CHAPTER V


Mary grew, and grew, and grew.

She never outgrew her aversion to Uncle Stanley, though.

One day, when she was in Josiah's office, a young man entered and was
warmly greeted by her father. He carried a walking stick, sported a white
edging on his waistcoat and had just the least suspicion of perfumery on
him--a faint scent that reminded Mary of raspberry jam.

"He smells nice," she thought, missing nothing of this.

"You've never seen my daughter, have you?" asked Josiah.

"A little queen," said the young man with a brilliant smile. "I hope I'll
see her often."

"That's Uncle Stanley's son Burdon," said Josiah when he had left. "He's
just through college; he's going to start in the office here."

Mary liked to hear that, and always after that she looked for Burdon and
watched him with an interest that had something of fascination in it.

Before she was ten, she and Josiah had become old chums. She knew the
factory by the river almost as well as she knew the house on the hill.
Not only that but she could have told you most of the processes through
which the bearings passed before they were ready for the shipping room.

To show you how her mind worked, one night she asked her father, "What
makes a machine squeak?"

"Needs oil," said Josiah, "generally speaking."

The next Saturday morning she not only kept her eyes open, but her ears
as well.

Presently her patience was rewarded.

"Squee-e-eak! Squee-e-eak!" complained a lathe which they were passing.
Mary stopped her father and looked her very old-fashionedest at the lathe
hand.

"Needs oil," said she, "gen'ly speaking."

It was one of the proud moments in Josiah's life, and yet when back of
him he heard a whisper, "Chip of the old block," he couldn't repress the
well nigh passionate yearning, "Oh, Lord, if she had only been a boy!"

That year an addition was being made to the factory and Mary liked to
watch the builders. She often noticed a boy and a dog sitting under the
trees and watching, too.

Once they smiled at each other, the boy blushing like a sunset. After
that they sometimes spoke while Josiah was talking to the foreman. His
name, she learned, was Archey Forbes, his father was the foreman, and
when he grew up he was going to be a builder, too. But no matter how
often they saw each other, Archey always blushed to the eyes whenever
Mary smiled at him.

Occasionally a man would be hurt at the factory. Whenever this happened,
Aunt Patty paid a weekly call to the injured man until he was well--an
old Spencer custom that had never died out.

Mary generally accompanied her aunts on these visits--which was a part of
the family training--and in this way she saw the inside of many a home.

"I wouldn't mind being a poor man," she said one Saturday morning,
breaking a long silence, "but I wouldn't be a poor woman for anything."

"Why not?" asked Miss Cordelia.

She couldn't tell them why but for the last half hour she had been
comparing the lives of the men in the factory with the lives of their
wives at home.

"A man can work in the factory," she tried to tell them, "and everything
is made nice for him. But his wife at home-now--nobody cares--nobody
cares what happens to her--"

"I never saw such a child," said Miss Cordelia, watching her start with
her father down the hill a few minutes later. "And the worst of it is, I
think we are partly to blame for it."

"Cordelia!" said Miss Patty. "How?"

"I mean in keeping her surrounded so completely with old people. When
everything is said and done, dear, it isn't natural."

"But we would miss her so much if we sent her to school--"

"Oh, I wasn't thinking of sending her to school--"

Miss Patty was quiet for a time.

"If we could find some one of her own age," she said at last, "whom she
could play with, and talk with--some one who would lead her thoughts into
more natural channels--"

This question of companionship for Mary puzzled the two Miss Spencers for
nearly a year, and then it was settled, as so many things are, in an
unexpected manner.

In looking up the genealogy of the Spicer family, Miss Patty discovered
that a distant relative in Charleston had just died, leaving a daughter
behind him--an orphan--who was a year older than Mary. Correspondence
finally led Miss Patty to make the journey, and when she returned she
brought with her a dark-eyed girl who might have been the very spirit of
youthful romance.

"My dear," said Miss Patty, "this is your cousin Helen. She is going to
make us a long visit, and I hope you will love each other very much."

The two cousins studied each other. Then in her shy way Mary held out her
hand.

"Oh, I love you already!" said Helen impulsively, and hugged her instead.
That evening they exchanged confidences and when Miss Cordelia heard
about this, she questioned Mary and enjoyed herself immensely.

"And then what did she ask you?" finally inquired Miss Cordelia, making
an effort to keep her face straight.

"She asked me if I had a beau, and I told her 'No.'"

"And then what did she say?"

"She asked me if there was anything the matter with the boys around here,
and I told her I didn't know."

"And then?"

"And then she said, 'I'll bet you I'll soon find out.' But just then Aunt
Patty came in and we had to stop."

Later Miss Patty came downstairs looking thoughtful and spoke to her
sister in troubled secret.

"I've just been in Helen's room," she said, "and what do you think she
has on her dresser?"

"I give it up," replied Miss Cordelia in a very rich, voice.

"Three photographs of young men!"

The two sisters gazed at each other, quite overcome, and if you had been
there you would have seen that if they had held fans in their hands, they
would have fanned themselves with vigour.

"Didn't you hear anything of this--in Charleston?" asked Miss Cordelia at
last.

"Not a word, my dear. I heard she was very popular; that was all."

"'Popular'...!"

"The one thing, perhaps, that we have never been."

Miss Cordelia shook her head and made a helpless gesture. "Well," she
said at last, "I must confess we were looking for an antidote ... but I
never thought we'd be quite so successful...."




CHAPTER VI


A few weeks after her arrival, Helen and Mary were walking to the
post-office. Helen had a number of letters to mail, her correspondents
being active and her answers prompt.

They hadn't gone far when a young man appeared in the distance,
approaching them. Mary gave him a look to see who it was, and after
saying to Helen, "This is Bob McAllister--one of our neighbours. He's
home from school," she continued the conversation and failed to give Sir
Robert another thought.

Not so Helen, however.

One hand went to the back of her hair with a graceful gesture, and next
she touched her nose with a powdered handkerchief.

A moment before, she had been looking straight ahead with a rather
thoughtful expression, but now she half turned to Mary, smiling and
nodding. In some manner her carriage, even her walk, underwent a change.
But when I try to tell you what I mean I feel as tongue-tied as a boy who
is searching for a word which doesn't exist. As nearly as I can express
it, she seemed to "wiggle" a little, although that isn't the word. She
seemed to hang out a sign "Oh, look--look at me!"--and that doesn't quite
describe it, either.

Just as Master McAllister reached them, raising his hat and bowing to
Mary and her friend--Helen's eyes and Helen's smile unconsciously
lingered on him for a second or two until, apparently recollecting that
she was looking at another, she lowered her glance and peeped at him
through her eyelashes instead.

Mary meanwhile was calmly continuing her conversation, never even
suspecting the comedy which was going on by her side, but when Helen shot
a glance over her shoulder and whispered with satisfaction "He turned to
look!" even Mary began to have some slight idea of what was going on.

"Helen," she demurred, "you should never turn around to look at a young
man."

"Why not?" laughed Helen, her arm going around her cousin's waist. And
speaking in the voice of one who has just achieved a triumph, she added,
"They're all such fo-oo-ools!"

Mary thought that over.

Helen's correspondents continued active, and as each letter arrived she
read parts of it to her cousin. She was a mimic, and two of the letters
she read in character one afternoon when Mary was changing her dress for
dinner.

"Oh, Helen, you shouldn't," said Mary, laughing in spite of herself and
feeling ashamed of it the same moment. "I think it's awful to make fun of
people who write you like that."

"Pooh!" laughed Helen. "They're all such fo-oo-ools!"

"You don't think that of all men, do you!"

"Why not?" laughed Helen again, and tucking the letters into her waist
she started humming. Unobserved Ma'm Maynard had entered to straighten
the room and, through the mirror, Mary saw her grimly nodding her head.

"Why, Ma'm Maynard," said Mary, "you don't think that all men are fools,
too, do you?"

"Eet is not halways safe to say what one believes," said Ma'm, pursing
her lips with mystery. "Eef mademoiselles, your aunts, should get to
hear--"

"Oh, I won't tell."

"Then, yes, ma cherie, I think at times all men are fools ... and I think
it is also good at times to make a fool of man. For why? Because it is
revenge.

"Ah, ma cherie, I who have been three times wed--I tell you I often think
the old-world view is right. Man is the natural enemy of a woman.

"He is not to be trus'.

"I have heard it discuss' by great minds--things I cannot tell you
yet--but you will learn them as you live. And halways the same conclusion
arrives: Man is the natural enemy of a woman, and the one best way to
keep him from making a fool of you, is to turn 'round queeck and make it
a fool of him!"

"Oh, Ma'm Maynard, no!" protested Mary, who had turned from the mirror
and was staring with wide eyes. "I can't believe it--never!"

"What is it, ma cherie, which you cannot believe?"

"That man is woman's natural enemy."

"But I tell you, yes, yes.... It has halways been so and it halways will.
Everything that lives has its own natural enemy--and a woman's natural
enemy--it is man!

"Think just for a moment, ma cherie," she continued. "Why are parents so
careful? Mon Dieu, you would think it at times that a tiger is out in the
streets at night--such precautions are made if the girl she is out after
dark. And yes, but the parents are right. There is truly a tiger who
roams in the black, but his name--eet is Man!

"Think just for a moment, ma cherie. Why are chaperons require'--even in
the highest, most culture' society? Why is marriage require'? Is it not
because all the world knows well that a man cannot be left to his own
promise, but has to be bound by the law as a lion is held in a cage?"

"No," said Mary, shaking her head, "I'm sure it isn't that way. You're
simply turning things around and making everything seem horrid."

"You think so, ma cherie? Eh, bien. Three husbands I've had. I am not
without experience."

"But you might as well say that woman is man's natural enemy--"

"And some say that," said Ma'm nodding darkly. "Left to himself, they
say, man might aspire to be as the gods; but halways at his helbow is a
woman like a figure of fate--and she--she keeps him down where he
belongs--"

"I hate all that," said Mary quietly. "Every once in a while I read
something like it in a book or a magazine, and whenever I do, I put the
book down and open the window and breathe the fresh air. Of course I know
some married people aren't happy. But it isn't always because they are
married. Single people are unhappy, too. Aunt Patty has indigestion
sometimes, and I suppose a lot of people do. But you wouldn't call food a
natural enemy; would you? And some children are just as bad as they can
be. But you wouldn't call children natural enemies, would you--or try to
get along without them?"

But Ma'm Maynard would only shrug her shoulders.

"Eh, bien," she said. "When you have live' as long as me--"

Through the open window a clock could be heard.

"Six o'clock!" squealed Helen, "and I'm not changed yet." As she hurried
to the door she said, "I heard Aunt Patty say that Uncle Stanley was
coming to dinner again tonight. I hope he brings his handsome son
again--don't you?"




CHAPTER VII


Uncle Stanley of late had been a frequent visitor on the hill,
occasionally bringing his son Burdon with him, but generally coming
alone. After dinner he and Josiah would sit in the den till well past
midnight, going over papers and figures, and drafting out instructions
for Judge Cutler, the firm's lawyer.

Mary was never able to overcome her aversion to Uncle Stanley.

"I wish he'd stay away," she ruefully remarked to her father one night.
"Three evenings this week I haven't been able to come in the den."

"Never mind, dear," said Josiah, looking at her with love in his sombre
eyes. "What we're doing: it's all for you."

"All for me? How?"

He explained to her that whereas Josiah Spencer & Son had always been a
firm, it was now being changed to a corporation.

"As long as there was a son," he said, "the partnership arrangement was
all right. But the way things are now--Well, when I'm gone, Mary, you'll
own the stock of the company, and draw your dividends, and have no
responsibilities to bother you."

"But who'll run the factory?"

"I suppose Stanley will, as long as he lives. You'll be the owner, of
course, but I don't think you'll ever find anybody to beat Uncle Stanley
as a general manager."

"And when Uncle Stanley dies--what then?"

"I think you'll find his son Burdon the next best man."

Mary felt her heart grow heavy. It may have been presentiment, or it may
have been the thought of her father's possible death.

"Don't let's talk any more about dying," she said. "But tell me: Is that
why you are making so many additions to the factory--because we are
changing to a corporation?"

Josiah hesitated, struggling to speak to his daughter as though she
were a young man instead of a young woman. But heredity, training and
world-old custom restrained him. What would a girl know about mergers,
combinations, fundamental patents, the differences between common and
preferred stock, and all that? "It would only confuse her," he thought,
looking at her with love in his eyes. "She would nod her pretty head to
be polite, but I might as well be talking Greek to her."

"No, dear," he said, at last. "I'll tell you why we are making those
additions. I have bought options on some of the biggest bearing factories
in the country--so you won't have so much competition when I'm gone. And
instead of running those other factories, I'm going to move their
machinery down here. When the changes are once made, it's more economical
to run one big factory than half a dozen little ones. And of course it
will make it better for New Bethel."

"But it must make it bad for the towns where the factories are now," said
Mary after a thoughtful pause. "I know how it would hurt New Bethel if we
closed up."

Josiah nodded his head. "I didn't like it myself at first."

"It was Uncle Stanley's idea, then?"

"Yes; he's engineering it."

Again Mary felt her heart grow heavy.

"It must be costing an awful lot of money," she said.

"It is," said Josiah, leaning over and making a gesture. "Of course we'll
get it back, and more, too--but for quite a few years now it's been
taking a lot of money--a dreadful lot of money. Still, I think the end's
in sight--"

He was sitting at his desk with a shaded lamp in front of him, and as he
leaned over and gestured with his hands, Mary's eyes caught the shadow on
the wall. She seemed to see a spider--a spider that was spinning and
weaving his web--and for the third time that night her heart grew heavy
within her.




CHAPTER VIII


The next day was Saturday and Mary drove her father down to the factory.
A small army of men was at work at the new improvements, and when they
reached the brow of the hill which overlooked the scene below, Josiah
felt that thrill of pride which always ran over him when beholding this
monument to his family's genius.

"The greatest of its kind in the world," he said.

With her free hand, Mary patted his arm.

"That's us!" she said, as proud as he. "I'll leave you at the office
door, and then I'm going to drive around and see how the building's going
on--"

There was plenty for Mary to see.

A gang of structural workers was putting up the steel frame-work for one
of the new buildings. Nearby the brick-layers were busy with mortar and
trowels. Carpenters were swarming over a roof, their hammers beating
staccato.

As they worked in the sunshine, they joked and laughed and chatted with
each other, and Mary couldn't help reverting to some of her old thoughts.

"How nice to be a man!" she half sighed to herself. "Back home, their
wives are working in the kitchens--the same thing every day and nothing
to show for it. But the men come out and do all sorts of interesting
things, and when they are through they can say 'I helped build that
factory' or 'I helped build that ship' or whatever it is that they have
been doing. It doesn't seem fair, somehow, but I suppose it's the way it
always has been, and always will be--"

Near her a trench was being dug for water pipes. At one place the men had
uncovered a large rock, and she was still wondering how they were going
to get it out of the way, when a young man came briskly forward and gave
one glance at the problem.

"We'll rig up a derrick for this little beauty," he said. "Come on, boys;
let's get some timbers."

They were back again in no time, and before Mary knew what they were
doing, they had raised a wooden tripod over the rock. The apex of this
was bound together with a chain from which a pulley was hung. Other
chains were slung under the rock. Then from a nearby hoisting engine, a
cable was passed through the pulley and fastened to the chains below.

"All right, boys?"

"All right!"

The young man raised his hand. "Let her go!" he shouted. "Tweet-tweet!"
sounded a whistle. The engine throbbed. The cable tightened. The little
beauty began to stir uneasily in its hammock of chains. Then slowly and
steadily the rock arose, and nearly as quickly as I can write the words,
it was lying on the side of the trench and the derrick was being
dismantled.

As the young man hurried away he passed Mary's car.

"Why, it's Archey!" she thought. Whether or not it was due to telepathy,
the young man looked up and his colour deepened under his tan. "It is
Archey; isn't it?" asked Mary, leaning forward and smiling.

"Yes'm," he said, awkwardly enough, and grammar deserting him in his
confusion he added: "It's me all right, Miss Spencer."

"I've been watching you get that rock out," she began, looking at him
with frank admiration, and then they talked for a few minutes. I need not
tell you what they said--it would only sound trivial--but as they talked
a bond of sympathy, of mutual interest, seemed gradually to wind itself
around them. They smiled, nodded, looking approvingly at each other; and
each felt that feeling of warmth and satisfaction which comes to the
heart when instinct whispers, "Make no mistake. You've found a friend."

"But what are you doing here?" she finally asked.

"Working," he grinned. "I graduated last year--construction engineer--and
this is my second job. This winter I was down in old Mexico on bridge
work--"

"You must tell me about it some time," she said, as one of the workmen
came to take him away; and driving off in her car she couldn't help
thinking with a smile of amusement, "'Woman's natural enemy'--how silly
it sounds in the open air ...!"




CHAPTER IX


Meanwhile the matter of Mary's education was receiving the attention of
her aunts.

"Patty," said Miss Cordelia one day, "do you know that child of ours is
seventeen?"

The years had dealt kindly with the Misses Spencer and as they looked at
each other, with thoughtful benignity, their faces were like two studies
in silver and pink.

"Although I say it myself," continued Miss Cordelia, "I doubt if we could
have improved her studies. Indeed she is unusually advanced in French,
English and music. But I do think she ought to go to a good finishing
school now for a year or two--Miss Parsons', of course--where she would
not only be welcomed because of her family, but where she would form
suitable friendships and learn those lessons of modern deportment which
we ourselves, I fear, would never be able to teach her."

But if you had been there when the subject of Miss Parsons' School for
Young Ladies was broached to Mary, I think it would have reminded you of
that famous recipe for rabbit pie which so wisely begins "First catch
your rabbit."

Mary listened to all that was said and then, quietly but unmistakably,
she put her foot down on Miss Parsons' fashionable institution of
learning.

I doubt if she herself could have given you all her reasons.

For one thing, the older she grew, the more democratic, the more American
she was becoming.

Deep in her heart she thought the old original Spencers had done more for
the world than any leaders of fashion who ever lived; and when she read
or thought of those who had made America, her mind never went to smart
society and its doings, but to those great, simple souls who had braved
the wilderness in search of liberty and adventure--who had toiled, and
fought, and given their lives, unknown, unsung, but never in Mary's mind
to be forgotten. And whenever she thought of travel, she found she would
rather see the Rockies than the Alps, rather go to New Orleans than Old
Orleans, rather visit the Grand Canyon than the Nile, and would
infinitely rather cross the American continent and see three thousand
miles of her own country, than cross the Atlantic and see three thousand
miles of water that belonged to every one in general and no one in
particular.

"But, my dear," said Miss Cordelia, altogether taken aback, "you ought to
go somewhere, you know. Let me tell you about Miss Parsons' school--"

"It's no use, Aunty. I don't want to go to Miss Parsons' school--"

"Where do you want to go then?"

Like most inspirations, it came like a flash.

"If I'm going anywhere, I want to go to college--"

To college! A Spencer girl--or a Spicer--going to college! Miss Cordelia
gasped. If Mary had been noticing, she might not have pursued her
inspiration further, but her mind was running along a breathless panorama
of Niagara Falls, Great Lakes, Chicago, the farms of the Middle West,
Yellowstone Park, geysers, the Old Man of the Mountain, Aztec ruins,
redwood forests, orange groves and at the end of the vista--like a statue
at the end of a garden walk--she imagined a great democratic institution
of learning where one might conceivably be prepared to solve some of
those problems which life seems to take such deep delight in presenting
to us, with the grim command, "Not one step farther shall you go until
you have answered this!"

"To college?" gasped Miss Cordelia.

"Yes," said Mary, still intent upon her panorama, "there's a good one in
California. I'll look it up."

The more Mary thought of it, the fonder she grew of her idea--which is, I
think, a human trait and true of nearly every one. It was in vain that
her aunts argued with her, pointing out the social advantages which she
would enjoy from attending Miss Parsons' School. Mary's objection was
fundamental. She simply didn't care for those advantages. Indeed, she
didn't regard them as advantages at all.

Helen did, though.

In her heart Helen had always longed to tread the stage of society--to
her mind, a fairyland of wit and gallantry, masquerades and music, to say
nothing of handsome young polo players and titled admirers from foreign
shores--"big fools," all of them, as you can guess, when dazzled by the
smiles of Youth and Beauty.

"Mary can go to California if she likes," said Helen at last, "but give
me Miss Parsons' School."

And Mary did go to California, although I doubt if she would have gained
her point if her father hadn't taken her part. For four years she
attended the university by the Golden Gate, and every time she made the
journey between the two oceans, sometimes accompanied by Miss Cordelia
and sometimes by Miss Patty, she seemed to be a little more serene of
glance, a little more tranquil of brow, as though one by one she were
solving some of those problems which I have mentioned above.

Meanwhile Helen was in her glory at Miss Parsons'; and though the two
aunts didn't confess it, they liked to sit and listen to her chatter of
the girls whose friendship she was making, and to whose houses she was
invited for the holidays.

When she was home, she sang snatches from the operas, danced with
imaginary partners, rehearsed parts of private theatricals and dreamed of
conquests. She had also learned the knack of dressing her hair which,
when done in the grand manner, isn't far from being a talent. Pulled down
on one side, with a pin or two adjusted, she was a dashing young duchess
who rode to hounds and made the old duke's eyes pop out. Or she could dip
it over her ears, change a few pins again and--lo!--she was St. Cecilia
seated at the organ, and butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

"She is quite pretty and very clever," said Miss Cordelia one day. "I
think she will marry well."

"Do you think she's as pretty as Mary?" asked Miss Patty.

"My dear!" said Miss Cordelia with a look that said 'What a question you
are asking!' "--is pretty in a way, of course," she said, "but there is
something about our Mary--"

"I know," nodded Miss Patty. "Something you can't express--"

"The dear child," mused Miss Cordelia, looking out toward the west. "I
wonder what she is doing this very moment!"

At that very moment, as it happened, Mary was in her room on the other
side of the continent studying the manufacture of raisin fudge.
Theretofore she had made it too soft, or too sugary, but this time she
was determined to have it right. Long ago she had made all the friends
that her room would hold, and most of them were there. Some were
listening to a girl in spectacles who was talking socialism, while a more
frivolous group, perched on the bed, was arguing the question whether the
perfect lover had a moustache or a clean-shaven lip.

"Money is cruel; it ought to be abolished," said the earnest girl in the
spectacles. "Money is a millstone which the rich use to grind the poor.
You girls know it as well as I do."

Mary stirred away at the fudge.

"It's a good thing she doesn't know that I'm rich," she smiled to
herself. "I wonder when I shall start grinding the poor!"

"And yet the world simply couldn't get along without the wage-earners,"
continued the young orator. "So all they have to do is strike--and
strike--and keep on striking--and they can have everything they want--"

"So could the doctors," mused Mary to herself, stirring away at the
fudge. "Imagine the doctors striking.... And so could the farmers.
Imagine the farmers striking for eight hours a day, and no work Sundays
and holidays, and every Saturday afternoon off...."

Dimly, vaguely, a troubled picture took shape in her mind. She stirred
the fudge more reflectively than ever.

"I wonder if civil wars are started that way," she thought, "one class
setting out to show its power over another and gradually coming to blows.
Suppose--yes, suppose the women were to go on strike for eight hours a
day, and as much money as the men, and Saturday afternoons and Sundays
off, and all the rest of it.... The world certainly couldn't get along
without women. As Becky says, they would only have to strike--and
strike--and keep on striking--and they could get everything they
wanted--"

Although she didn't suspect it, she was so close to her destiny at that
moment that she could have reached out her hand and touched it. But all
unconsciously she continued to stir the fudge.

"I've always thought that women have a poor time of it compared with
men," she nodded to herself. "Still, perhaps it's the way of the world,
like ... like children have the measles ... and old folks have to wear
glasses."

She put the pan on the sill to cool and stood there for a time, looking
out at the campus, dreamy-eyed, half occupied with her own thoughts and
half listening to the conversation behind her.

"There oughtn't to be any such thing as private property--"

"Why, Vera, if he kissed you in the dark, you couldn't tell whether he
was a man or a girl--"

"--Everything should belong to the state--"

"--No, listen. Kiss me both ways, and then tell me which you think is the
nicest--"

A squeal of laughter arose from the bed and, turning, Mary saw that one
of the girls was holding the back of a toothbrush against her upper lip.

"Now," she mumbled, "this is with the moustache ... Kiss me hard ..."

"The greatest book in the world," continued the girl with the spectacles,
"is Marx's book on Capital--"

Mary turned to the window again, more dreamy-eyed than ever.

"The greatest book in the world," she thought, "is the book of life....
Oh, if I could only write a few pages in it ... myself ...!"




CHAPTER X


Mary "came out" the winter after her graduation.

If she had been left to herself she would have dispensed with the
ceremony quite as cheerfully as she had dispensed with Miss Parsons'
School for Young Ladies. But in the first place her aunts were adamant,
and in the second place they were assisted by Helen. Helen hadn't been
going to finishing school for nothing. She knew the value of a proper
social introduction.

Indeed it was her secret ambition to outshine her cousin--an ambition
which was at once divined by her two aunts. Whereupon they groomed Mary
to such good purpose that I doubt if Society ever looked upon a lovelier
debutante.

She was dressed in chiffon, wore the Spencer pearls, and carried herself
with such unconscious charm that more than one who danced with her that
night felt a rapping on the door of his heart and heard the voice of love
exclaiming "Let me in!"

There was one young man in particular who showed her such attention that
the matrons either smiled or frowned at each other. Even Miss Cordelia
and Miss Patty were pleased, although of course they didn't show it for a
moment. He was a handsome, lazy-looking young rascal when he first
appeared on the scene, lounging against the doorway, drawling a little as
he talked to his friends--evidently a lion, bored in advance with the
whole proceeding and meaning to slip away as soon as he could. But when
his eye fell on Mary, he stared at her unobserved for nearly a minute and
his ennui disappeared into thin air.

"What's the matter, Wally?" asked one of his friends.

"James," he solemnly replied, "I'm afraid it's something serious. I only
hope it's catching." The next minute he was being introduced to Mary and
was studying her card.

"Some of these I can't dance," she warned him.

"Will you mark them with a tick, please--those you can't dance?"

Unsuspectingly she marked them.

"Good!" said he, writing his name against each tick. "We'll sit those
out. The next waltz, though, we will dance that."

"But that's engaged--'Chester A. Bradford,'" she read.

"Poor Brad--didn't I tell you?" asked Wally. "He fell downstairs a moment
ago and broke his leg."

That was the beginning of it.

The first dance they sat out Wally said to himself, "I shall kiss her, if
it's the last thing I ever do."

But he didn't.

The next dance they sat out he said to himself, "I shall kiss her if I
never do another thing as long as I live--"

But he didn't.

The last dance they sat out he said to himself, "I shall kiss her if I
hang for it."

He didn't kiss her, even then, but felt himself tremble a little as he
looked in her eyes. Then it was that the truth began to dawn upon him.
"I'm a gone coon," he told himself, and dabbed his forehead with his
handkerchief ...

"You've got him, all right," said Helen later, going to Mary's room
ostensibly to undress, but really to exchange those confidences without
which no party is complete.

"Got who?" asked Mary. And she a Bachelor of Arts!

"Oh, aren't you innocent! Wally Cabot, of course. Did he kiss you?"

"No, he did not!"

"Of course, if you don't want to tell--!"

"There's nothing to tell."

"There isn't? ... Oh, well, don't worry.... There soon will be."

Helen was right.

From that time forward Mary's own shadow was hardly less attentive than
Master Wally Cabot. His high-powered roadster was generally doing one of
three things. It was either going to Mary's, or coming from Mary's, or
taking a needed rest under Mary's porte cochere.

One day Mary suddenly said to her father, "Who was Paul?"

Fortunately for Josiah the light was on his back.

"Last night at the dance," she continued, "I heard a woman saying that I
didn't look the least bit like Paul, and I wondered who he was."

"Perhaps some one in her own family," said Josiah at last.

"Must have been," Mary carelessly nodded. They went on chatting and
presently Josiah was himself again.

"What are you going to do about Walter Cabot?" he asked, looking at her
with love in his sombre eyes.

Mary made a helpless gesture.

"Has he asked you yet?"

"Yes," she said in a muffled voice, "--often."

"Why don't you take him?"

Again Mary made her helpless gesture and, for a long moment she too was
on the point of opening her heart. But again heredity, training and
age-old tradition stood between them, finger on lip.

"I sometimes have such a feeling that I want to do something in the
world," she nearly told him. "And if I married Wally, it would spoil it
all. I sometimes have such dreams--such wonderful dreams of doing
something--of being somebody--and I know that if I married Wally I should
never be able to dream like that again--"

As you can see, that isn't the sort of a thing which a girl can very well
say to her father--or to any one else for that matter, except in fear and
hesitation.

"The way I am now," she nearly told him, "there are ever so many things
in life that I can do--ever so many doors that I can open. But if I marry
Wally, every door is locked but one. I can be his wife; that's all."

Obviously again, you couldn't expect a girl to speak like that,
especially a girl with dreamy eyes and shy. Nevertheless those were the
thoughts which often came to her at night, after she had said her prayers
and popped into bed and lay there in the dark turning things over in her
mind.

One night, for instance, after Wally had left earlier than usual, she
lay with her head snuggled on the pillow, full of vague dreams and
visions--vague dreams of greatness born of the sunsets and stars and
flowers--vague visions of proving herself worthy of the heritage of life.

"I don't think it's a bit fair," she thought. "As soon as a woman
marries--well, somehow, she's through. But it doesn't seem to make any
difference to the man. He can go right on doing the big things--the great
things--"

She stopped, arrested by the sound of a mandolin under her window. The
next moment the strains of Wally's tenor entered the room, mingled with
the moonlight and the scent of the syringa bush. A murmuring, deep-toned
trio accompanied him.

"Soft o'er the fountain
 Ling'ring falls the southern moon--"

The beauty of it brought a thrill to the roots of Mary's hair--brought
quick tears to her eyes--and she was wondering if Wally was right, after
all--if love (as he often told her) was indeed the one great thing of
life and nothing else mattered, when her door opened and Helen came
twittering in.

"A serenade!" she whispered excitedly. "Im-a-gine!"

She tip-toed to the window and, kneeling on the floor, watched the
singers through the curtain--knowing well it wasn't for her, but drinking
deep of the moment.

Slowly, sweetly, the chorus grew fainter--fainter--

"Nita--Juanita
 Ask thy soul if we should part--"

"What do you think of that!" said Helen, leaning over and giving her
cousin a squeeze and a kiss. "He had the two Garde boys and Will Thompson
with him. I thought he was leaving earlier than usual tonight; didn't
you? But a serenade! I wonder if the others heard it, too!"

Miss Patty and Miss Cordelia had both heard it, and Helen had hardly gone
when they came pattering in--each as proud as Punch of Mary for having
caused such miracles to perform--and gleeful, too, that they had lived in
the land long enough to hear a real, live serenade. And after they had
kissed her and gone, Ma'm Maynard came in with a pretty little speech in
French. So that altogether Mary held quite a reception in bed. As one
result, her feeling toward Wally melted into something like tenderness,
and if it hadn't been for the tragic event next morning, the things which
I have to tell you might never have taken place.

"I wonder if your father heard it," said Miss Patty at the breakfast
table next morning.

"I wonder!" laughed Mary. "I think I'll run in and see."

According to his custom Josiah breakfasted early and had gone to his den
to look over his mail. Mary passed gaily through the library, but it
wasn't long before she was back at the dining room door, looking as
though she had seen a ghost.

"Come--come and look," she choked. "Something--something terrible--"

Josiah sat, half collapsed, in his chair. Before him, on the desk, lay
his mail. Some he had read. Some he would never, never read.

"He must have had a stroke," said Miss Cordelia, her arms around Mary;
and looking at her brother she whispered, "I think something upset him."

When they had sent for the doctor and had taken Mary away, they returned
to look over the letters which Josiah had opened as his last mortal act.

"I don't see anything in these that could have bothered him," said Miss
Cordelia, fearfully looking.

"What's this?" asked Miss Patty, picking up an empty envelope from the
floor.

It was post-marked "Rio de Janeiro" and the date showed that it had taken
three weeks to make the journey.

"I have some recollection of that writing," said Miss Cordelia.

"So have I," said Miss Patty in a low voice, "but where's the letter?"

Again it was she who made the discovery.

"That must be it," she said. "His ash tray is cleaned out every morning."

It was a large, brass tray and in it was the char of a paper that had
been burned. This ash still lay in its folds and across its surface,
black on black, could be seen a few lines which resembled the close of a
letter.

"Can you read it?" she asked.

Miss Cordelia bent over, and as a new angle of light struck the tray, the
words became as legible as though they had just been written.

"I thought I knew the writing," whispered Miss Cordelia, and lowering her
voice until her sister had to hang breathless upon the movement of her
lips, she added "Oh, Patty ... We all thought he was dead ... No wonder
it killed poor Josiah ..."

Their arms went around each other. Their glances met.

"I know," whispered Miss Patty, her lips suddenly gone dry, "....It was
from Paul...!"




CHAPTER XI


For the first few months after her father's death, Mary's dreams seemed
to fade into mist.

Between her and Josiah a bond of love had existed, stronger than either
had suspected--and now that he was gone the world seemed unaccountably
empty--and unaccountably cruel. As her father had gone, so must Aunt
Cordelia and Aunt Patty some day surely go ... Yes, and even Mary herself
must just as surely follow.

The immemorial doubt assailed her--that doubt which begins in
helplessness and ends in despair. "What's the use?" she asked herself.
"We plan and work so hard--like children making things in the sand--and
then Death comes along with a big wave and flattens everything out ...
like that ..."

But gradually her sense of balance began to return. One day she stood on
the brink of the hill looking at the great factory below, and a calmer,
surer feeling slowly swept over her.

"That's it," she thought. "The real things of life go on, no matter who
dies, just as though nothing had happened. Take the first Josiah Spencer
and look down there what he left behind him. Why, you might even say that
he was alive today! And see what Washington left behind him--and Fulton,
who invented the steamboat--and Morse who invented the telegraph. So it's
silly to say 'What's the use?' Suppose Columbus had said it--or any of
the others who have done great things in the world--"

It slowly came to her then, her doubts still lingering, how many are
called, how few are chosen.

"That's the trouble," she said. "We can't all be Washingtons. We can't
all do great things. And yet--an awful lot of people had to live so that
Washington could be born when he was....

"His parents: that was two. And his grand-parents: he must have had four.
And his great grand-parents: eight of them....

"Why, it's like the problem of the horse-shoe nails," she continued in
growing excitement. "In twenty-eight generations there must have been
millions and millions of people who lived--just so George Washington
could be born one day at Mt. Vernon--and grow up to make America free!
Yes, and every one of them was just as necessary as Washington himself,
because if it hadn't been for every single one of them--we would never
have had him!"

For a moment she seemed to be in touch with the infinite plan. Down the
hill she saw a woman in a black dress, crossing the street.

"Mrs. Ridge going out for the day," thought Mary, recognizing the figure
below. "Yes, and who knows? She may be a link in a chain which is leading
straight down to some one who will be greater than Washington--greater
than Shakespeare--greater than any man who ever lived...!" And her old
dreams, her old visions beginning to return, she added with a sigh, "Oh,
dear! I wish I could do something big and noble--so if all those millions
who are back of me are watching, they'll feel proud of what I'm doing and
nudge each other as if they were saying, 'You see? She's come at last.
That's us!'"

As you will realize, this last thought of Mary's suggested more than it
told--as I believe great thoughts often do--but at least I think you'll
be able to grasp the idea which she herself was groping after. At the
same time you mustn't suppose that she was constantly going around
dreaming, and trying to find expression for those vague strivings and
yearnings which come to us all at different times in our lives,
especially in the golden days of youth when the flood of ambition is
rising high within us--or again in later years when we feel the tide will
soon begin to turn, and we must make haste or it will be too late.

No, Mary had plenty of practical matters, too, to engage her attention
and keep her feet on the earth.

For one thing there was Wally Cabot--he who had so lately serenaded Mary
in the moonlight. But I'll tell you about him later.

Then the settlement of her father's estate kept coming up for action.
Judge Cutler and Mary's two aunts were the trustees--an arrangement which
didn't please Uncle Stanley any too well, although he was careful not to
show it. And the more Mary saw of the silvery haired judge with his
hawk's eyes and gentle smile, the more she liked him.

One of the first things they discovered was that Mary's heritage
consisted of the factory by the river--but little else. Practically all
the bonds and investments that Josiah had ever owned had been sold for
the greater glory of Spencer & Son--to buy in other firms and patents--to
increase the factory by the river. As her father had once confided to
Mary this had taken money--"a dreadful lot of money"--she remembered the
wince with which he had spoken--and a safe deposit box which was nearly
empty bore evidence to the truth of what he had said.

"High and low," mused the judge when the inventory was at last completed,
"it's always the same. The millionaire and the mill-hand--somehow they
always manage to leave less than every one expected--"

"Why is that?" asked Mary. "Is it because the heirs expect too much?"

"No, child. I think it's the result of pride. As a rule, man is a proud
animal and he doesn't like to tell anything which doesn't redound to his
credit. If a man buys bonds, for instance, he is very apt to mention it
to his family. But if for any reason he has to sell those bonds, he will
nearly always do it quietly and say nothing about it, hoping to buy them
back again later, or something better yet--

"I've seen so many estates," he continued, "shrink into next to
nothing--so many widows who thought they were well off, suddenly waking
up and finding themselves at the mercy of the world--the little they have
often being taken away from them by the first glib sharper who comes
long--that I sometimes think every man should give his family a show-down
once a year. It would surely save a lot of worries and heartaches later
on--

"Still," he smiled, looking down at the inventory, with its noble line of
figures at the bottom of the column, "I don't think you'll have much
trouble in keeping the wolf from the door."

Mary turned the pages in a helpless sort of way.

"You'll have to explain some of this," she said at last. But before
giving it back to him she looked out of the window for a time--one of her
slow, thoughtful glances--and added, "I wonder why girls aren't brought
up to know something about business--the way boys are."

"Perhaps it's because they have no head for business."

She thought that over.

"Can you speak French?" she suddenly asked.

"No."

"...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
stranger--"

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
swords.

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
did it.

"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
his heels!

"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
the news.

"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..."




CHAPTER XII


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
imagination.

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
Woodward.

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;
they strengthened.

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
doorway.

"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
desk.

"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
shut it."

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
as ever.

"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.




CHAPTER XIII


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
this--can't you?"

"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."

"Mary--!"

"Hush!"

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;
won't you?"

"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
personal.

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?"

"Quite ready."

"Then did you ever hear of any one in our family named Paul?"

"Y-yes--"

"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.




CHAPTER XIV


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
other ways?"

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
agriculture--"

"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.




CHAPTER XV


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
with eagerness.

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
superior."

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
relief.

"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
work.

"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
work."

"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
this out."

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
worse."

"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
being pulled.

"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.
"Don't, Wally!"

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 ...!"




CHAPTER XVI


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
bearings."

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
the end...."

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
bearings."

"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
year?"

"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
the work?"

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
thousand parts!

"She's hanging herself with her own rope," he concluded. "I'll say no
more."

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
satisfaction.

"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
approaching evening.

"I wonder what they would think of women working here?" he said in a
significant tone.

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.




CHAPTER XVII


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
families.

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
without criticism.

"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
noise."

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
me?"

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
handed around!

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
Government.




CHAPTER XVIII


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
again.

"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
chance?"

"Don't worry."

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
day!"

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
to 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
ideas widened.

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
Mary's hand.

"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
the stars.

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.




CHAPTER XIX


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
way...."

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
longer.

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
congratulate you!"

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
his arms.




CHAPTER XX


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
office.

"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
civilized."

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,

"PAUL."

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
swiftly by.

"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--

"Dear Sir:

"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
that.

"Trusting that everything will turn out well, I am

"Yours sincerely,

"MARY SPENCER.

"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
breast.

"I wonder if I shall ever catch it...." she thought. "I wonder what it
will do to me...!"




CHAPTER XXI


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.

"Trying to."

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
Cabot?"

"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
his acceptance.

"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
and happy...."

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
discharged.

"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
rough."

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
answered.

"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
passed by.

"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.

"Sincerely,

"MARY."

"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
approval.

"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
to love.

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
hers....

"Mary...." he whispered.

"Yes?"

"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
wonderful--"

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
them?"

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
couldn't!"

"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...."




CHAPTER XXII


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."

"We've been discharged," said one with a red face. "Of course I know that
we shouldn't have come to bother you about it, Miss Spencer, but it was
you who hired us, and I told him, said I, 'Miss Spencer's going to hear
about this. She won't stand for any dirty work.'"

Mary had seated herself on the veranda steps and, obeying her gesture,
the four women sat on the step below her, two on one side and two on the
other.

"Who discharged you?" she asked.

"Mr. Woodward."

"Which Mr. Woodward?"

"The young one--Burdon."

"What did he discharge you for?"

"That's it. That's the very thing I asked him."

"Perhaps they need your places for some of the men who are coming back."

"No, ma'm. We wouldn't mind if that was it, but there's nobody expected
back this week."

"Then why is it?"

There was a moment's hesitation, and then the one who had been crying
said, "It's because we're women."

A shadow of unconscious indignation swept over Mary's face and, seeing
it, the four began speaking at once.

"Things have never been the same, Miss Spencer, since you were sick--"

"First they shut down the nursery--"

"Then the rest room--said it was a bad example for the men--"

"A bad example for the men, mind you--us!"

"And then the canteen was closed--"

"And behind our backs, they called us 'Molls.'"

"Not that I care, but 'Molls,' mind you--"

"Then they began hanging signs in our locker room--"

"'A woman's place is in the home' and things like that--"

"And then they began putting us next to strange men--"

"And, oh, their language, Miss Spencer--"

"Don't tell her--"

As the chorus continued, Mary began to feel hot and uncomfortable. "I had
no right to leave them in the lurch like that," she thought, and her
cheeks stung as she recalled her old plans, her old visions.

"And now they've got to go back to their kitchens for the rest of their
lives--and told they are not wanted anywhere else--because they are
women--"

The more she thought about it, the warmer she grew; and the higher her
indignation arose, the more remote were her thoughts of Wally--Wally with
his greatest adventure that was ever lived--Wally with his sweetest story
ever told. She looked at the hands of the two women below her and saw
three wedding rings.

"The roses and lilies didn't last long with them," thought Mary grimly.
"Oh, I'm sure it's all wrong, somehow.... I'm sure there's some way that
things could be made happier for women...."

She interrupted the quartette, in her voice a note which Wally had never
heard before and which made him exchange a glance with Helen.

"Now first of all," she said, "just how badly do you four women need your
pay envelopes every week?"

They told her, especially the one who had been crying, and who now
started crying again.

"Wait here a minute, please," said Mary, that note in her voice more
marked than before. She arose and went in the house, and Wally guessed
that she had gone to telephone the factory. For a while they couldn't
hear her, except when she said "I want to speak to Mr. Burdon
Woodward--yes--Mr. Burdon Woodward--"

They could faintly hear her talking then, but toward the end her voice
came full and clear.

"I want you to set them to work again! They are coming right back! Yes,
the four of them! I shall be at the office in the morning. That's all.
Good-bye."

She came out, then, like a young Aurora riding the storm.

"You're to go right back to your work," she said, and in a gentler voice,
"Wally, can I speak to you, please?"

He followed her into the house and when he came out alone ten minutes
later, he drew a deep sigh and sat down again by Helen, a picture of
utter dejection.

"Never mind, Wally," she said, and patted his arm.

"I can't make her out at times," he sighed.

"No, and nobody else," she whispered.

"What do you think, Helen?" he asked. "Don't you think that love is the
greatest thing in life?"

"Why, of course it is," she whispered, and patted his arm again.




CHAPTER XXIII


In spite of her brave words the day before, when Mary left the house for
the office in the morning, a feeling of uncertainty and regret weighed
upon her, and made her pensive. More than once she cast a backward look
at the things she was leaving behind--love, the joys of youth, the
pleasure places of the world to see, romance, heart's ease, and "skies
for ever blue."

At the memory of Wally's phrase she grew more thoughtful than before.

"But would they be for ever blue?" she asked herself. "I guess every
woman in the world expects them to be, when she marries. Yes, and they
ought to be, too, an awful lot more than they are. Oh, I'm sure there's
something wrong somewhere.... I'm, sure here's something wrong...."

She thought of the four women standing in the driveway by the side of the
house, looking lost and bewildered, and the old sigh of pity arose in her
heart.

"The poor women," she thought. "They didn't look as though the sweetest
story ever told had lasted long with them--"

She had reached the crest of the hill and the factory came to her view. A
breeze was rising from the river and as she looked down at the scene
below, as her forbears had looked so many times before her, she felt as a
sailor from the north might feel when after drifting around in drowsy
tropic seas, he comes at last to his own home port and feels the clean
wind whip his face and blow away his languor.

The old familiar office seemed to be waiting for her, the pictures
regarding her as though they were saying "Where have you been, young
lady? We began to think you had gone." Through the window sounded the old
symphony, the roar of the falls above the hum of the shops, the choruses
and variations of well-nigh countless tools, each having its own
particular note or song.

Mary's eyes shone bright.

Gone, she found, were her feeling of uncertainty, her sighs of regret.
Here at last was something real, something definite, something noble and
great in the work of the world.

"And all mine," she thought with an almost passionate feeling of
possession. "All mine--mine--mine--"

Archey was the first to come in, and it only needed a glance to see that
Archey was unhappy.

"I'm afraid the men in the automatic room are shaping for trouble," he
said, as soon as their greetings were over.

"What's the matter with them?"

"It's about those four women--the four who came back."

Mary's eyes opened wide.

"There has been quite a lot of feeling," he continued, "and when the four
women turned up this morning again and started work, the men went out and
held a meeting in the locker room. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if the
automatic hands went on strike."

"You mean to say they will go on strike before they will work with their
own wives and sisters?"

"That's the funny part of it. As far as I can find out, the trouble
wasn't started by our own men--but by strangers--men from New York and
Boston--professional agitators, they look like to me--plenty of money and
plenty of talk and clever workmen, too. I don't know just how far they've
gone, but--"

The office boy appeared in the doorway and he, too, looked worried.

"There's a committee to see you, Miss Spencer," he said, "a bunch from
the lathe shops."

"Have they seen Mr. Woodward?"

"No'm. He referred them to you."

"All right, Joe. Send them in, please."

The committee filed in and Archey noted that they were still wearing
their street clothes. "Looks bad," he told himself.

There were three men, two of them strangers to Mary, but the third she
recognized as one of the teachers in her old "school"--a thoughtful
looking man well past middle age, with a long grey moustache and
reflective eyes. "Mr. Edsol, isn't it?" she asked.

"Yes'm," he solemnly replied. "That's me."

She looked at the other two. The first had the alert glance and actions
which generally mark the orator, the second was a dark, heavy man who
never once stopped frowning.

"Miss Spencer," immediately began the spokesman--he who looked like the
orator--"we have been appointed a committee by the automatic shop to tell
you that we do not believe in the dilution of labour by women. Unless the
four women who are working in our department are laid off at once, the
men in our shop will quit."

"Just a moment, please," said Mary, ringing. "Joe, will you please tell
Mr. Woodward, Sr., that I would like to see him?"

"He's just gone out," said Joe.

"Mr. Burdon, then."

"Mr. Burdon sent word he wouldn't be down today. He's gone to New York."

Mary thought that over.

"Joe," she said. "There are four women working in the automatic shop. I
wish you'd go and bring them here." And turning to the committee she
said, "I think there must be some way of settling this to everybody's
satisfaction, if we all get together and try."

It wasn't long before the four women came in, and again it struck Mary
how nervous and bewildered three of them looked. The fourth, however,
held her back straight and seemed to walk more than upright.

"Now," smiled Mary to the spokesman of the committee, "won't you tell me,
please, what fault you find with these four women?"

"As I understand it," he replied, "we are not here to argue the point.
Same time, I don't see the harm of telling you what we think about it.
First place, it isn't natural for a woman to be working in a factory."

"Why not?"

"Well, for one thing, if you don't mind me speaking out, because she has
babies."

"But the war has proved a baby is lucky to have its mother working in a
modern factory," replied Mary. "The work is easier than housework, the
surroundings are better, the matter is given more attention. As a result,
the death rate of factory babies has been lower than the death rate of
home babies. Don't you think that's a good thing? Wouldn't you like to
see it go on?"

"Who says factory work is easier than housework?"

"The women who have tried both. These four, for instance."

"Well, another thing," he said, "a woman can't be looking after her
children when she's working in a factory."

"That's true. But she can't be looking after them, either, when she's
washing, or cooking, or doing things like that. They lie and cry--or
crawl around and fall downstairs--or sit on the doorstep--or play in the
street.

"Now, here, during the war," she continued, "we had a day nursery. You
never saw such happy children in your life. Why, almost the only time
they cried was when they had to go home at night!" Mary's eyes brightened
at the memory of it. "Didn't your son's wife have a baby in the nursery,
Mr. Edsol?"

"Two," he solemnly nodded.

"For another thing," said the chairman, "a woman is naturally weaker than
a man. You couldn't imagine a woman standing up under overtime, for
instance."

"Oh, you shouldn't say that," said Mary earnestly, "because everybody
knows that in the human family, woman is the only one who has always
worked overtime."

Here the third member of the committee muttered a gruff aside. "No use
talking to a woman," said he.

"You be quiet, I'm doing this," said the chairman. "Another thing that
everybody knows," he continued to Mary, "a woman hasn't the natural knack
for mechanics that a man has."

"During the war," Mary told him, "she mastered nearly two thousand
different kinds of skilled work--work involving the utmost precision. And
the women who did this weren't specially selected, either. They came from
every walk of life--domestic servants, cooks, laundresses, girls who had
never left home before, wives of small business men, daughters of dock
labourers, titled ladies--all kinds, all conditions."

She told him, then, some of the things women had made--read him
reports--showed him pictures.

"In fact," she concluded, "we don't have to go outside this factory to
prove that a woman has the same knack for mechanics that a man has.
During the war we had as many women working here as men, and every one
will tell you that they did as well as the men."

"Well, let's look at it another way," said the chairman, and he nodded to
his colleagues as though he knew there could be no answer to this one.
"There are only so many jobs to go around. What are the men going to do
if the women take their jobs?"

"That's it!" nodded the other two. All three looked at Mary.

"I used to wonder that myself," she said, "but one day I saw that I was
asking the wrong question. There is just so much work that has to be done
in the world every day, so we can all be fed and clothed, and have those
things which we need to make us happy. Now everybody in this room knows
that 'many hands make light work.' So, don't you see? The more who work,
the easier it will be for everybody."

But the spokesman only smiled at this--that smile which always meant to
Mary, "No use talking to a woman"--and aloud he said, "Well, as I told
you before, we weren't sent to argue. We only came to tell you what the
automatic hands were going to do if these four women weren't laid off."

"I understand," said Mary; and turning to the four she asked, "How do you
feel about it?"

"I suppose we'll have to go," said Mrs. Ridge, her face red but her back
straighter then ever. "I guess it was our misfortune, Miss Spencer, that
we were born women. It seems to me we always get the worst end of it,
though I'm sure I don't know why. I did think once, when the war was on,
that things were going to be different for us women after this. But it
seems not.... You've been good to us, and we don't want to get you mixed
up in any strike, Miss Spencer.... I guess we'd better go...."

Judge Cutler's expression returned to Mary's mind: "Another year like
this and, barring strikes and accidents, Spencer & Son will be on its
feet again--" Barring strikes! Mary was under no misapprehension as to
what a strike might mean....

"I want to get this exactly right," she said, turning to the chairman
again. "The only reason you wish these women discharged is because they
are women, is that it?"

"Yes; I guess that's it, when you come right down to it."

"Do you think it's fair?"

"I'm sorry, Miss Spencer, but it's not a bit of use arguing any longer.
If these four women stay, the men in our department quit: that's all."

Mary looked up at the pictures of her forbears who seemed to be listening
attentively for her answer.

"Please tell the men that I shall be sorry--very sorry--to see them go,"
she said at last, "but these four women are certainly going to stay."




CHAPTER XXIV


From one of the windows of Mary's office, she could see the factory gate.

"If they do go on strike," she thought, "I shall see them walk out."

She didn't have to watch long.

First in groups of twos and threes, and then thick and fast, the men
appeared, their lunch boxes under their arms, all making for the gate.
Some were arguing, some were joking, others looked serious. It struck
Mary that perhaps these latter were wondering what they would tell their
wives.

"I don't envy them the explanation," she half smiled to herself.

But her smile was short-lived. In the hallway she heard a step and,
turning, she saw Uncle Stanley looking at her.

"What's the matter with those men who are going out?" he asked.

"As if he didn't know!" she thought, but aloud she answered, "They're
going on strike."

"What are they striking for?"

"Because I wouldn't discharge those four women."

He gave her a look that seemed to say, "You see what you've done--think
you could run things. A nice hornet's nest you've stirred up!" At first
he turned away as though to go back to his office, but he seemed to think
better of it.

"You might as well shut down the whole plant," he said. "We can't do
anything without the automatics. You know that as well as I do."

He waited for a time, but she made no answer.

"Shall I tell the rest of the men?" he asked.

"Tell them what, Uncle Stanley?"

"That we're going to shut down till further notice?"

Mary shook her head.

"It would be a pity to do that," she said, "because--don't you
see?--there wouldn't be anything then for the four women to do."

At this new evidence of woman's utter inability to deal with large
affairs, Uncle Stanley snorted. "We've got to do something," said he.

"All right, Uncle," said Mary, pressing the button on the side of her
desk, "I'll do the best I can."

For in the last few minutes a plan had entered her mind--a plan which has
probably already presented itself to you.

"When the war was on," she thought, "nearly all the work in that room was
done by women. I wonder if I couldn't get them back there now--just to
show the men what we can do--"

In answer to her ring, Joe knocked and entered, respectful admiration in
his eye. You may remember Joe, "the brightest boy in the office." In the
three years that Mary had known him, he had grown and was now in the
transient stage between office boy and clerk--wore garters around his
shirt sleeves to keep his cuffs up, feathered his hair in the front, and
wore a large black enamel ring with the initial "J" worked out in
"diamonds."

"Joe," she said, "I want you to bring me the employment cards of all the
women who worked here during the war. And send Miss Haskins in, please; I
want to write a circular letter."

She hurried him away with a nod and a quick smile.

"Gee, I wish there was a lion or something out here," he thought as he
hurried through the hall to the outer office, and after he had taken Mary
the cards and sent Miss Haskins in, he proudly remarked to the other
clerks, "Maybe they thought she'd faint away and call for the doctor when
they went on strike, but, say, she hasn't turned a hair. I'll bet she's
up to something, too."

It wasn't a long letter that Mary sent to the list of names which she
gave Miss Haskins, but it had that quiet pull and power which messages
have when they come from the heart.

"Oh, I know a lot will come," said Mrs. Ridge when Mary showed her a copy
of it. "They would come anyhow, Miss Spencer. Most of them never made
money like they made it here. They've been away long enough now to miss
it and--Ha-ha-a!--Excuse me." She suddenly checked herself and looked
very red and solemn.

"What are you laughing at?" asked Mary.

"I was thinking of my next door neighbour, Mrs. Strauss. She's never
through saying that the year she was here was the happiest year of her
life; and how she'd like to come back again. She'll be one of the first
to come--I know she will. And her husband is one of the strikers--that's
the funny part of it!"

Mary smiled herself at that, and she smiled again the next morning when
she saw the women coming through the gate.

"Report in your old locker room," her letter had read, "and bring your
working clothes."

By nine o'clock more than half the automatic machines were busy, and
women were still arriving.

"The canteen's going again," ran the report up and down the aisles.

At half past ten the old gong sounded in the lathe room, and the old tea
wagon began its old-time trundling. In addition to refreshments each
woman received a rose-bud--"From Miss Spencer. With thanks and best
wishes."

"Do you know if the piano's here yet?" asked a brisk looking matron in
sky blue overalls.

"Yep," nodded the tea girl. "When I came through, they were taking the
cover off it, and fixing up the rest room."

"Isn't it good to be back again!" said the brisk young matron to her
neighbour. "Believe me or not, I haven't seen a dancing floor since I
quit work here."

Mrs. Ridge had been appointed forewoman. Just before noon she reported to
Mary.

"There'll be a lot more tomorrow," she said. "When these get home,
they'll do nothing but talk about it; and I keep hearing of women who
are fixing things up at home so they can come in the morning. So don't
you worry, Miss Spencer, this strike isn't going to hurt you none,
but--Ha-ha-ha!--Excuse me," she said, suddenly checking her mirth again
and looking very red and solemn.

"I like to hear you laugh," said Mary, "but what's it about this time!"

"Mrs. Strauss is here. I told you she would be. She left her husband home
to do the housework and today is washday--that's the funny part of it!"

Whatever Mrs. Ridge's ability as a critic of humour might be, at least
she was a good prophet. Nearly all the machines were busy the next
morning, and new arrivals kept dropping in throughout the day.

Mary began to breathe easy, but not for long.

"I don't want to be a gloom," reported Archey, "but the lathe hands are
trying to get the grinders to walk out. They say the men must stick
together, or they'll all lose their jobs."

She looked thoughtful at that.

"I think we had better get the nursery ready," she said. "Let's go and
find the painters."

It was a pleasant place--that nursery--with its windows overlooking the
river and the lawn. In less than half an hour the painters had spread
their sheets and the teamster had gone for a load of white sand. The cots
and mattresses were put in the sun to air. The toys had been stored in
the nurse's room. These were now brought out and inspected.

"I think I'll have the other end of the room finished off as a
kindergarten," said Mary. "Then we'll be able to take care of any
children up to school age, and their mothers won't have to worry a bit."

She showed him where she wished the partition built, and as he ran his
rule across the distance, she noticed a scar across the knuckles of his
right hand.

"That's where I dressed it, that time," she thought. "Isn't life queer!
He was in France for more than a year, but the only scar that I can see
is the one he got--that morning--"

Something of this may have shown in her eyes for when Archey straightened
and looked at her, he blushed ("He'll never get over that!" thought
Mary)--and hurried off to find the carpenters.

These preparations were completed only just in time.

On Thursday she went to New York to select her kindergarten equipment. On
Friday a truck arrived at the factory, filled with diminutive chairs,
tables, blackboards, charts, modelling clay, building blocks, and more
miscellaneous items than I can tell you. And on Saturday morning the
grinders sent a committee to the office that they could no longer labour
on bearings which had passed through the hands of women workers.

Mary tried to argue with them.

"When women start to take men's jobs away--" began one of the committee.

"But they didn't," she said. "The men quit."

"When women start to take men's jobs away from them," he repeated, "it's
time for the men to assert themselves."

"We know that you mean well, Miss Spencer," said another, "but you are
starting something here that's bad. You're starting something that will
take men's work away from them--something that will make more workers
than there are jobs."

"It was the war that started it," she pleaded, "not I. Now let me ask you
something. There is so much work that has to be done in the world every
day; isn't there?"

"Yes, I guess that's right."

"Well, don't you see? The more people there are to do that work, the
easier it will be for everybody."

But no, they couldn't see that. So Mary had to ring for Joe to bring in
the old employment cards again, and that night and all day Sunday, Mrs.
Ridge's company spread the news that four hundred more women were wanted
at Spencer & Son's--"and you ought to see the place they've got for
looking after children," was invariably added to the mothers of tots,
"free milk, free nurses, free doctoring, free toys, rompers, little
chairs and tables, animals, sand piles, swings, little pails and
shovels--you never saw anything like it in your life--!"

If the tots in question heard this, and were old enough to understand,
their eyes stood out like little painted saucers, and mutely then or
loudly they pleaded Mary's cause.




CHAPTER XXV


It sometimes seems to me that the old saying, "History repeats itself,"
is one of the truest ever written. At least history repeated itself in
the case of the grinders.

Before the week was over, the places left vacant by the men had been
filled by women, and the nursery and kindergarten had proved to be
unqualified successes.

Many of the details I will reserve till later, including the growth of
the canteen, the vanishing mirror, an improvement in overalls, to say
nothing of daffodils and daisies and Mrs. Kelly's drum. And though some
of these things may sound peculiar at first, you will soon see that they
were all repetitions of history. They followed closely after things that
had already been done by other women in other places, and were only
adopted by Mary first because they added human touches to a rather
serious business, and second because they had proved their worth
elsewhere.

Before going into these affairs, however, I must tell you about the
reporters.

The day the grinders went on strike, a local correspondent sent a story
to his New York paper. It wasn't a long story, but the editor saw
possibilities in it. He gave it a heading, "Good-bye, Man, Says She.
Woman Owner of Big Machine Shop Replaces Men With Women." He also sent a
special writer and an artist to New Bethel to get a story for the Sunday
edition.

Other editors saw the value of that "Good-bye, Man" idea and they also
sent reporters to the scene. They came; they saw; they interviewed; and
almost before Mary knew what was happening, New Bethel and Spencer & Son
were on their way to fame.

Some of the stories were written from a serious point of view, others in
a lighter vein, but all of them seemed to reflect the opinion that a
rather tremendous question was threatening--a question that was bound to
come up for settlement sooner or later, but which hadn't been expected so
soon.

"Is Woman Really Man's Equal?" That was the gist of the problem. Was her
equality theoretical--or real? Now that she had the ballot and could no
longer be legislated against, could she hold her own industrially on
equal terms with man? Or, putting it as briefly as possible, "Could she
make good?"

Some of these articles worried Mary at first, and some made her smile,
and after reading others she wanted to run away and hide. Judge Cutler
made a collection of them, and whenever he came to a good one, he showed
it to Mary.

"I wish they would leave us alone," she said one day.

"I don't," said the judge seriously. "I'm glad they have turned the
spotlight on."

"Why?"

"Because with so much publicity, there's very little chance of rough
work. Of course the men here at home wouldn't do anything against their
own women folks, but quite a few outsiders are coming in, and if they
could work in the dark, they might start a whisper, 'Anything to win!'"

Mary thought that over, and somehow the sun didn't shine so brightly for
the next few minutes. Ma'm Maynard's old saying arose to her mind:

"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!"

"No, sir, I don't believe it!" Mary told herself. "And I never shall
believe it, either!"

The next afternoon Judge Cutler brought her an editorial entitled, "We
Shall See."

"The women of New Bethel (it read) are trying an experiment which,
carried to its logical conclusion, may change industrial history.

"Perhaps industrial history needs a change. It has many dark pages where
none but man has written.

"If woman is the equal of man, industrially speaking, she is bound to
find her natural level. If she is not the equal of man, the New Bethel
experiment will help to mark her limitations.

"Whatever the outcome, the question needs an answer and those who claim
that she is unfitted for this new field should be the most willing to let
her prove it.

"By granting them the suffrage, we have given our women equal rights.
Unless for demonstrated incapacity, upon what grounds shall we now deny
them equal opportunities?

"The New Bethel experiment should be worked out without hard feeling or
rancour on either side.

"Can a woman do a man's work?

"Let us watch and we shall see."

Mary read it twice.

"I like that," she said. "I wish everybody in town could see that."

"Just what I thought," said the judge. "What do you say if we have it
printed in big type, and pasted on the bill-boards?"

They had it done.

The day after the bills were posted, Archey went around to see how they
were being received.

"It was a good idea," he told Mary the next morning, but she noticed that
he looked troubled and absent-minded, as though his thoughts weren't in
his words.

"What's the matter, Archey?" she quietly asked.

"Oh, I don't know," he said, and with the least possible touch of
irritation he added, "Sometimes I think it's because I don't like him.
Everything that counts against him sticks--and I may have been mistaken
anyway--"

"It's something about Burdon," thought Mary, and in the same quiet voice
as before she said,

"What is it, Archey?"

"Well," he said, hesitating, "I went out after dinner last night--to see
if they were reading the bill-boards. I thought I'd walk down Jay
Street--that's where the strikers have their headquarters. I was walking
along when all at once I thought I saw Burdon's old car turning a corner
ahead of me.

"It stopped in front of Repetti's pool-room. Two men came out and got in.

"A little while later I was speaking to one of our men and he said some
rough actors were drifting in town and he didn't like the way they were
talking. I asked him where these men were making their headquarters and
he said, 'Repetti's Pool Room.'"

Mary thought that over.

"Mind you, I wouldn't swear it was Burdon's old car," said Archey, more
troubled than before. "I can only tell you I'm sure of it--and I might be
mistaken at that. And even if it was Burdon, he'd only say that he had
gone there to try to keep the strike from spreading--yes, and he might be
right at that," he added, desperately trying to be fair, "but--well, he
worries me--that's all."

He was worrying Mary, too, although for a different reason.

With increasing frequency, Helen was coming home from the Country Club
unconsciously scented with that combination of cigarette smoke and
raspberry jam. Burdon had a new car, a swift, piratical craft which had
been built to his order, and sometimes when he called at the house on the
hill for Helen, Mary amused herself by thinking that he only needed a
little flag-pole and a Jolly Roger--a skirted coat and a feathered
hat--and he would be the typical younger son of romance, scouring the
main in search of Spanish gold.

Occasionally when he rolled to the door, Wally's car was already there,
for Wally--after an absence--was again coming around, pale and in need of
sympathy, singing his tenor songs to Helen's accompaniment and with
greater power of pathos than ever, especially when he sang the sad ones
at Mary's head--

"There in the churchyard, crying, a grave I se-ee-ee
Nina, that sweet dove flying was thee-ee-ee, was thee--"

"Ah, I have sighed for rest--"

"--And if she willeth to destroy me
I can die.... I can die...."

After Wally had moved them all to a feeling of imminent tears, he would
hover around Helen with a vague ambition of making her cousin jealous--a
proceeding which didn't bother Mary at all.

But she did worry about the growing intimacy between Helen and Burdon
and, one evening when Helen was driving her up to the house from the
factory, Mary tried to talk to her.

"If I were you, Helen," she said, "I don't think I'd go around with
Burdon Woodward quite so much--or come to the office to see him quite so
often."

Helen blew the horn, once, twice and again.

"No, really, dear, I wouldn't," continued Mary. "Of course you know he's
a terrible flirt. Why he can't even leave the girls at the office alone."

Quite unconsciously Helen adopted the immemorial formula.

"Burdon Woodward has always acted to me like a perfect gentleman," said
she.

"Of course he has, dear. If he hadn't, I know you wouldn't have gone out
with him last night, for instance. But he has such a reckless, headstrong
way with him. Suppose last night, instead of coming home, he had turned
the car toward Boston or New York, what would you have done then?"

"Don't worry. I could have stopped him."

"Stopped him? How could you, if he were driving very fast?"

"Oh, it's easy enough to stop a car," said Helen. "One of the girls at
school showed me." Leaning over, she ran her free hand under the
instrument board.

"Feel these wires back of the switch," she said. "All you have to do is
to reach under quick and pull one loose--just a little tug like this--and
you can stop the wildest man, and the wildest car on earth.... See?"

In the excitement of her demonstration she tugged the wire too hard. It
came loose in her hand and the engine stopped as though by magic.

"It's a good thing we are up to the house," she laughed. "You needn't
look worried. Robert can fix it in a minute."

It wasn't that, though, which troubled Mary.

"Think of her knowing such a thing!" she was saying to herself. "How her
mind must run at times!"

But of course she couldn't voice a thought like that.

"All the same, Helen," she said aloud, "I wouldn't go out with him so
much, if I were you. People will begin to notice it, and you know the way
they talk."

Helen tossed her head, but in her heart she knew that her cousin was
right--a knowledge which only made her the more defiant. Yes ...people
were beginning to notice it....

The Saturday afternoon before, when Burdon was taking her to the club in
his gallant new car, they had stopped at the station to let a train pass.
A girl on the sidewalk had smiled at Burdon and stared at Helen with
equal intensity and equal significance.

"Who was that?" asked Helen, when the train had passed.

"Oh, one of the girls at the office. She's in my department--sort of a
bookkeeper." Noticing Helen's silence he added more carelessly than
before, "You know how some girls act if you are any way pleasant to
them."

It was one of those trifling incidents which occasionally seem to have
the deepest effect upon life. That very afternoon, when Mary had tried to
warn her cousin, Helen had gone to the factory apparently to bring Mary
home, but in reality to see Burdon. She had been in his private office,
perched on the edge of his desk and swinging her foot, when the same girl
came in--the girl who had smiled and stared near the station.

"All right, Fanny," said Burdon without looking around. "Leave the
checks. I'll attend to them."

It seemed to Helen that the girl went out slowly, a sudden spot of colour
on each of her cheeks.

"You call her Fanny!" Helen asked, when, the door shut again.

"Yes," he said, busy with the checks. "They do more for you, when you are
decent with them."

"You think so?"

He caught the meaning in her voice and sighed a little as he sprawled his
signature on the next check. "I often wish I was a sour, old crab," he
said, half to Helen and half to himself. "I'd get through life a whole
lot better than I do."

Mary had come to the door then, ready to start for home. When Helen
passed through the outer office she saw the girl again, her cheek on her
palm, her head bent over her desk, dipping her pen in the red ink and
then pushing the point through her blotter pad. None of this was lost on
Helen, nor the girl's frown, nor the row of crimson blotches that
stretched across the blotter.

"She'll go in now to get those checks," thought Helen, as the car started
up the hill, and it was just then that Mary started to warn her about
going out so much with Burdon.

Once in the night Helen awoke and lay for a long time looking at the
silhouette of the windows. "...I wonder what they said to each other...."
she thought.

The next morning Mary was going through her mail at the office when she
came to an envelope with a newspaper clipping in it. This had been cut
from the society notes of the New Bethel _Herald_.

"Burdon Woodward has a specially designed new car which is attracting
much attention."

The clipping had been pasted upon a sheet of paper, and underneath it,
the following two questions were typewritten:

"How can a man buy $8,000 cars on a $10,000 salary?

"Why don't you audit his books and see who paid for that car?"

Mary's cheeks stung with the brutality of it.

"What a horrible thing to do!" she thought. "If any one paid attention to
things like this--why, no one would be safe!"

She was on the point of tearing it to shreds when another thought struck
her.

"Perhaps I ought to show it to him," she uneasily thought. "If a thing
like this is being whispered around, I think he ought to get to the
bottom of it, and stop it.... I know I don't like him for some things,"
she continued, more undecided than ever, "but that's all the more reason
why I should be fair to him--in things like this, for instance."

She compromised by tucking the letter in her pocket, and when Judge
Cutler dropped in that afternoon, she first made him promise secrecy, and
then she showed it to him.

"I feel like you," he said at last. "An anonymous attack like this is
usually beneath contempt. And I feel all the more like ignoring it
because it raises a question which I have been asking myself lately: How
_can_ a man on a ten thousand dollar salary afford to buy an eight
thousand dollar car?"

Mary couldn't follow that line of reasoning at all.

"Why do you feel like ignoring it, if it's such a natural question?" she
asked.

"Because it's a question that might have occurred to anybody."

That puzzled Mary, too.

"Perhaps Burdon has money beside his salary," she suggested.

"He hasn't. I know he hasn't. He's in debt right now."

They thought it over in silence.

"I think if I were you, I'd tear it up," he said at last.

She promptly tore it into shreds.

"Now we'll forget that," he said. "I must confess, however, that it has
raised another question to my mind. How long is it since your bookkeeping
system was overhauled here?"

She couldn't remember.

"Just what I thought. It must need expert attention. Modern conditions
call for modern methods, even in bookkeeping. I think I'll get a good
firm of accountants to go over our present system, and make such changes
as will keep you in closer touch with everything that is going on."

Mary hardly knew what to think.

"You're sure it has nothing to do with this?" she asked, indicating the
fragments in the waste-basket.

"Not the least connection! Besides," he argued, "you and I know very
well--don't we?--that with all his faults, Burdon would never do anything
like that--"

"Of course he wouldn't!"

"Very well. I think we ought to forget that part of it, and never refer
to it again--or it might be said that we were fearing for him."

This masculine logic took Mary's breath away, but though she thought it
over many a time that day, she couldn't find the flaw in it.

"Men are queer," she finally concluded. "But then I suppose they think
women are queer, too. To me," she thought, "it almost seems insulting to
Burdon to call accountants in now; but according to the judge it would be
insulting to Burdon not to call them in--"

She was still puzzling over it when Archey, that stormy petrel of bad
news, came in and very soon took her mind from anonymous letters.

"The finishers are getting ready to quit," he announced. "They had a vote
this noon. It was close, but the strikers won."

They both knew what a blow this would be. With each successive wave of
the strike movement, it grew harder to fill the men's places with women.

"If this keeps on, I don't know what we shall do," she thought. "By the
time we have filled these empty places, we shall have as many women
working here as we had during the war."

Outwardly, however, she gave no signs of misgivings, but calmly set in
motion the machinery which had filled the gaps before.

"If you're going to put that advertisement in again," said Archey, "I
think I'd add 'Nursery, Restaurant, Rest-room, Music'"

She included the words in her copy, and after a moment's reflection she
added "Laundry."

"But we have no laundry," objected Archey, half laughing. "Are you
forgetting a little detail like that?"

"No, I'm not," said Mary, her eyes dancing. "You must do the same with
the laundry as I did with the kindergarten. Go to Boston this
afternoon.... Take a laundryman with you if you like.... And bring the
things back in the morning by motor truck. We have steam and hot water
and plenty of buildings, and I'm sure it won't take long to get the
machines set up when you once get them here--"

At such moments there was something great in Mary. To conceive a plan and
put it through to an irresistible conclusion: there was nothing in which
she took a deeper delight.

That night, at home, she told them of her new plan.

"Just think," she said, "if a woman lives seventy years, and the washing
is done once a week, you might say she spent one-seventh of her life--or
ten whole years--at the meanest hardest work that was ever invented--"

"They don't do the washing when they're children," said Helen.

"No, but they hate it just as much. I used to see them on wash days when
Aunt Patty took me around, and I always felt sorry for the children."

Wally came in later and listened sadly to the news of the day.

"You're only using yourself up," he said, "for a lot of people who don't
care a snap of the finger for you. It seems to me," he added, "that you'd
be doing better to make one man happy who loves you, than try to please a
thousand women who never, never will."

She thought that over, for this was an angle which hadn't occurred to her
before.

"No," she said, "I'm not doing it to gain anything for myself, but to
lift the poor women up--to give them something to hope for, something to
live for, something to make them happier than they are now. Yes, and from
everybody's point of view, I think I'm doing something good. Because when
the woman is miserable, she can generally make her man miserable. But
when the woman is happy, she can nearly always make the man happy, too."

"I wish you'd make me happy," sighed poor Wally.

"Here comes Helen," said Mary with just the least trace of wickedness in
her voice. "She'll do her best, I'm sure."

Helen was dressed for the evening, her arms and shoulders gleaming, her
coiffure like a golden turban.

"Mary hardly ever dresses any more," she said as she came down the
stairs, "so I feel I have to do double duty."

On the bottom landing she stopped and with extravagant motions of her
body sang the opening lines of the Bedouin's Love Song, Wally joining in
at last with his plaintive, passionate tenor.

"If you ever lose your money, Wally," she said, coming down the remaining
stairs, "we'll take up comic opera." Curtseying low she simpered, "My
lord!" and gave him her hand to kiss.

"She knows how to handle men," thought Mary watching, "just as the women
at the factory know how to handle metal. I wonder if it comes natural to
her, or if she studies it by herself, or if she learned any of it at Miss
Parsons'."

She was interrupted by a message from Hutchins, the butler. The spread of
the strike had been flashed out by the news association early in the
afternoon, and the eight-ten train had brought a company of reporters.

"There are half a dozen of them," said Hutchins, noble in voice and
deportment. "Knowing your kindness to them before, I took the liberty of
showing them into the library. Do you care to see them, or shall I tell
them you are out?"

Mary saw them and they greeted her like old friends. It didn't take long
to confirm the news of the strike's extension.

"How many men are out now?" one of them asked.

"About fifteen hundred."

"What are you going to do when you have used up all your local women?"
asked another.

"What would you do?" she asked.

"I don't know," he replied. "I guess I'd advertise for women in other
cities-cities where they did this sort of thing during the war."

"Bridgeport, for instance," suggested another.

"Pittsburgh--there were a lot of women doing machine work there--"

"St. Louis," said a fourth. "Some of the shops in St. Louis were half
full of women--" With the help they gave her, Mary made up a list.

"Even if you could fill the places locally," said the first, "I think
I'd get a few women from as many places as possible. It spreads the
idea--makes a bigger story--rounds out the whole scheme."

After they had gone Mary sat thoughtful for a few minutes and then
returned to the drawing room. When she entered, Helen and Wally were
seated on the music bench, and it seemed to Mary that they suddenly drew
apart--or if I may express a distinction, that Wally suddenly drew apart
while Helen played a chord upon the piano.

"Poor Wally," thought Mary a little later. "I wish he wouldn't look like
that when he sings.... Perhaps he feels like I felt this spring.... I
wonder if Ma'm was right.... I wonder if people do fall in love with
love...."

Her reflections took a strange turn, half serious, half humorous.

"It's like a trap, almost, when you think of it that way," she thought.
"When a man falls in love, he can climb out again and go on with his
work, and live his life, and do wonderful things if he has a chance. But
when a woman falls in the trap, she can never climb out and live her own
life again. I wonder if the world wouldn't be better off if the women had
been allowed to go right on and develop themselves, and do big things
like the men do....

"I'm sure they couldn't do worse....

"Look at the war--the awfullest thing that ever happened: that's a sample
of what men do, when they try to do everything themselves.... But they'll
have to let the women out of their traps, if they want them to help....

"I wonder if they ever will let them out....

"I wonder if they ought to come out....

"I wonder...."

To look at Mary as she sat there, tranquil of brow and dreamy-eyed, you
would never have guessed that thoughts like these were passing through
her mind, and later when Helen took Wally into the next room to show him
something, and returned with a smile that was close to ownership, you
would never have guessed that Mary's heart went heavy for a moment.

"Helen," she said, when their visitor had gone, "do you really love
Wally--or are you just amusing yourself?"

"I only wish that Burdon had half his money."

"Helen!"

"Oh, it's easy for you to say 'Helen'! You don't know what it is to be
poor.... Well, good-night, beloved--

"Good-night, good-night
My love, my own--"

she sang. "I've a busy day ahead of me tomorrow."

Mary had a busy day, too.

Nearly two hundred women responded to her new advertisement in the
morning, and as many more at noon. Fortunately some of these were
familiar with the work, and the most skilful were added to the corps of
teachers. In addition to this, new nurses were telephoned for to take
care of the rapidly growing nursery, temporary tables were improvised in
the canteen, another battery of ranges was ordered from the gas company,
and preparations were made for Archey's arrival with the laundry
equipment.

Yes, it was a busy day and a busy week for Mary; but somehow she felt a
glory in every minute of it--even, I think, as Molly Pitcher gloried in
her self-appointed task so many years ago. And when at the close of each
day, she locked her desk, she grew into the habit of glancing up and
nodding at the portraits on the walls--a glance and a nod that seemed to
say, "That's us!"

For myself, I like to think of that long line of Josiah Spencers, holding
ghostly consultations at night; and if the spirits of the dead can ever
return to the scenes of life which they loved the best, they must have
spent many an hour together over the things they saw and heard.

Steadily and surely the places left vacant by the men were filled with
women, naturally deft of hand and quick of eye; but the more apparent it
became that the third phase of the strike was being lost by the men, the
more worried Archey looked--the oftener he peeped into the future and
frowned at what he saw there.

"The next thing we know," he said to Mary one day, "every man on the
place will walk out, and what are we going to do then?"

She told him of the reporter's suggestion.

"A good idea, too," he said. "If I were you, I'd start advertising in
those other cities right away, and get as many applications on file as
you can. Don't just ask for women workers. Mention the kind you want:
machine tool hands, fixers, tool makers, temperers, finishers,
inspectors, packers--I'll make you up a list. And if you don't mind I'll
enlarge the canteen, and change the loft above it into a big dining room,
and have everything ready this time--"

A few days later Spencer & Son's advertisement appeared for the first
time outside of New Bethel, and soon a steady stream of applications
began to come in.

Although Mary didn't know it, her appeal had a stirring note like the
peal of a silver trumpet. It gripped attention and warmed imagination all
the way from its first line "A CALL TO WOMEN" to its signature, "Josiah
Spencer & Son, Inc. Mary Spencer, President."

"That's the best yet," said Archey, looking at the pile of applications
on the third day. "I sha'n't worry about the future half as much now."

"I don't worry at all any more," said Mary, serene in her faith. "Or at
least I don't worry about this," she added to herself.

She was thinking of Helen again.

The night before Helen had come in late, and Mary soon knew that she had
been with Burdon. Helen was quiet--for her--and rather pale as well.

"Did you have a quarrel?" Mary had hopefully asked.

"Quarrel with Burdon Woodward?" asked Helen, and in a low voice she
answered herself, "I couldn't if I tried."

"... Do you love him, Helen?"

To which after a pause, Helen had answered, much as she had spoken
before, "I only wish he had half of Wally's money...." And would say no
more.

"I have warned her so often," said Mary. "What more can I say?" She
uneasily wondered whether she ought to speak to her aunts, but soon shook
her head at that. "It would only bother them," she told herself, "and
what good could it do?"

Next day at the factory she seemed to feel a shadow around her and a
weight upon her mind.

"What is it?" she thought more than once, pulling herself up short. The
answer was never far away. "Oh, yes--Helen and Burdon Woodward. Well, I'm
glad she's going out with Wally today. She's safe enough with him."

It had been arranged that Wally should drive Helen to Hartford to do some
shopping, and they were expected back about nine o'clock in the evening.
But nine o'clock, ten o'clock, eleven o'clock and midnight came--and
still no sign of Wally's car.

"They must have had an accident," thought Mary, and at first she pictured
this as a slight affair which simply called for a few hours' delay at a
local garage--perhaps the engine had overheated, or the battery had
failed.

But when one o'clock struck, and still no word from the absent pair,
Mary's fancies grew more tragic.

By two o'clock she imagined the car overturned at the bottom of some
embankment, and both of them badly hurt. At three o'clock she began to
have such dire forebodings that she went and woke up Aunt Cordelia, and
was on the point of telephoning Wally's mother when the welcome rumbling
of a car was heard under the porte cochere. It was Wally and Helen, and
though Helen looked pale she had that air of ownership over her
apologetic escort which every woman understands.

Mary already divined the end of the story.

"We were coming along all right," said Wally, "and would have been home
before ten. But when we were about nine miles from nowhere and going over
a bad road, I had a puncture.

"Of course that delayed me a little--to change the wheels--but when I
tried to start the car again, she wouldn't go.

"I fussed and fixed for a couple of hours, it seems to me, and then I
thought I'd better go to the nearest telephone and have a garage send a
car out for us. But Helen, poor girl, was tired and of course I couldn't
leave her there alone. So I tackled the engine again and just when I was
giving up hope, a car came along.

"They couldn't take us in--they were filled--but they promised to wake up
a garage man in the next town and send him to the rescue. It was half
past two when he turned up, but it didn't take him long to find the
trouble, and here we are at last."

He drew a full breath and turned to Helen.

"Of course I wouldn't have cared a snap," he said, "if it hadn't been for
poor Helen here."

"Oh, I don't mind--now," she said.

"I knew it!" thought Mary. "They're engaged..." And though she tried to
smile at them both, for some reason which I can never hope to explain, it
took an effort. Wally and Helen were still looking at each other.

"Tired, dear?" he asked.

Helen nodded and glanced at Mary with a look that said, "Did you hear him
call me 'Dear'?"

"I think if I were you, I'd go to bed," continued Wally, all gentle
solicitude. She took an impulsive step toward him. He kissed her.

"We're engaged," he said to Mary.

What Mary said in answer, she couldn't remember herself when she tried to
recall it later, for a strange thought had leaped into her mind, driving
out everything else.

"I almost hate to ask," she thought. "It would be too dreadful to know."

But curiosity has always been one of mankind's fateful gifts, and at the
breakfast table next morning, Mary had Wally to herself.

"Oh, Wally," she said. "What did the garage man find was the trouble with
your car?"

"The simplest thing imaginable," he said. "One of the wires leading to
the switch on the instrument board had worked loose--that awful road, you
know."

"I knew it," Mary quietly told herself, and in her mind she again saw
Helen demonstrating how to quell the wildest car on earth. Mary ought to
have stopped there, but a wicked imp seemed to have taken possession of
her.

"Did Helen cry, when she saw how late it was getting?"

"She did at first," he said, looking very solemn, "but when I told her--"

His confessions were interrupted by Hutchins, who whispered to Mary that
she was wanted on the telephone.

"It's Mr. Forbes," he said.

Archey's voice was ringing with excitement when he greeted Mary over the
wire.

"Can you come down to the office early this morning?" he asked.

"What's the matter?"

"I just found out that the rest of the men had a meeting last night--and
they voted to strike. There won't be a man on the place this morning ...
and I think there may be trouble...."




CHAPTER XXVI


Afterwards, when Mary looked back at the leading incidents of the big
strike it wasn't the epic note which interested her the most, although
the contest had for her its moments of exaltation.

Nor did her thoughts revert the oftenest to those strange things which
might have engrossed the chance observer--work and happiness walking hand
in hand, for instance, to the accompaniment of Mrs. Kelly's drum--or
woman showing that she can acquire the same dexterity on a drilling
machine as on a sewing machine, the same skill at a tempering oven as at
a cook stove, the same competence and neatness in a factory as in a
house.

Indeed, when all is said and done, the sound of the work which women were
presently doing at New Bethel was only an echo of the tasks which women
had done during four years of war, and being a repetition of history, it
didn't surprise Mary when she stopped to think it over. But looking back
at the whole experience later, these were the two reflections which
interested her the most.

"They have always called woman a riddle," she thought. "I wonder if that
is because she could never be natural. If woman has been a riddle in the
past, I wonder if this is the answer now...."

That was her first reflection.

Her second was this, and in it she unconsciously worded one of the great
lessons of life. "The things I worried about seldom happened. It was
something which nobody ever dreamed of--that nearly ended everything."

And when she thought of that, her breath would come a little quicker and
soon she would shake her head, and try to put her mind on something else;
although if you had been there I think you would have seen a suspicious
moisture in her eye, and if she were in her room at home, she would go to
a photograph on the wall-the picture of a gravely smiling girl on a
convent portico--signed "With all my love, Rosa."

Still, as you can see, I am running ahead of my story, and so that you
may better understand Mary's two reflections and the events which led to
them, I will now return to the morning when she received Archey's message
that every man in the factory had gone on strike as a protest against the
employment of women.

As soon as she reached the office she sent a facsimile letter to the
skilled women workers who had applied from out of town.

"If we only get a third of them," she thought, "we'll pull through
somehow."

But Mary was reckoning without her book. For one thing, she was unaware
of the publicity which her experiment was receiving, and for another
thing perhaps it didn't occur to her that the same yearnings, the same
longings, the same stirrings which moved her own heart and mind so
often--the same vague feeling of imprisonment, the same vague groping for
a way out--might also be moving the hearts and minds of countless other
women, and especially those who had for the first time in their lives
achieved economic independence by means of their labour in the war.

Whatever the reason, so many skilled women journeyed to New Bethel that
week, coming with the glow of crusaders, eager to write their names on
this momentous page of woman's history, that Mary's worry turned into a
source of embarrassment. However, by straining every effort,
accommodations were found for the visitors and the work of
re-organization was at once begun.

The next six weeks were the busiest, I had almost said the most feverish,
in Mary's life.

The day after the big strike was declared, not a single bearing was made
at Spencer & Son's great plant. For a factory is like a road of many
bridges, and when half of these bridges are suddenly swept away, traffic
is out of the question.

So the first problem was to bridge the gaps.

From the new arrivals, fixers, case-hardeners and temperers were set to
work--women who had learned their trades during the war.

Also a call was issued for local workers and the "school" was opened,
larger than ever. For the first few weeks it might be said that half the
factory was a school of intensive instruction; and then, one day which
Mary will never forget, a few lonely looking bearings made laborious
progress through the plant--only a few, but each one embodying a secret
which I will tell you about later.

The missing bridges weren't completed yet, you understand--not by any
manner of means--but at least the foundations had been laid, and every
day the roadway became a little wider and a little firmer--and the
progress of the bearings became a little thicker and a little quicker.

And, oh, the enthusiasm of the women--their shining eyes, their
breathless attention--as they felt the roadway growing solid beneath
their feet and knew it was all their work!

"If we keep on at this rate," said Archey, looking at the reports in
Mary's office one morning, "it won't be long before we're doing something
big."

There was just the least touch of astonishment in his voice--masculine,
unconscious--which raised an equally unconscious touch of exultation in
Mary's answer.

"Perhaps sooner than you think," she said.

For no one knew better than she that the new organization was rapidly
finding itself now that the roadway of production had been rebuilt. Every
day weak spots had been mended, curves straightened out, narrow places
made wider.

"Let's speed up today," she finally said, "and see what we can do."

At the end of that day the reports showed that all the departments had
made an improvement until the bearings reached the final assembling room
and there the traffic had become congested. For the rest of the week the
assembly room was kept under scrutiny, new methods were tried, more women
were set to work.

"Let's speed up again today," said Mary one morning, "and see if we can
make it this time--"

And finally came the day when they _did_ make it! For four consecutive
days their output equalled the best ever done by the factory, and then
just as every woman was beginning to thrill with that jubilation which
only comes of a hard task well done, a weak spot developed in the
hardening department.

Oh, how everybody frowned and clicked their tongues! You might have
thought that all the cakes in the world had suddenly burned in the
ovens--that every clothes line in America had broken on a muddy washday!

"Never mind," said Mary. "We're nearly there. One more good try, and over
the top we'll go...."

One more good try, and they _did_ go over the top. For two days, three
days, four days, five days, a whole week, they equalled the best man-made
records. For one week, two weeks, three weeks, the famous Spencer
bearings rolled out of the final inspection room and into their wooden
cases as fast as man had ever rolled them. And when Mary saw that at last
the first part of her vision had come true, she did a feminine thing,
that is to say a human thing. She simultaneously said, "I told you so,"
and sprung her secret by sending the following message to the newspapers:

"The three thousand women at this factory are daily turning out the same
number of bearings that three thousand men once turned out.

"The new bearings are identical with the old ones in every detail but
one, namely: they are one thousandth of an inch more accurate than
Spencer bearings were ever made before.

"Our customers appreciate this improvement and know what it means.

"Our unfriendly critics, I think, will also appreciate it and know what
it means."

Upon consideration, Mary had that last paragraph taken out.

"I'll leave that to their imaginations," she said, and after she had
signed each letter, she did another feminine thing.

She had a gentle little cry all by herself, and then through her tears
she smiled at her silent forbears who seemed to be watching her more
attentively than ever from their frames of tarnished gilt upon the walls.

"It hasn't been all roses and lilies," she told them, "but--that's us!"




CHAPTER XXVII


Meanwhile, as you will guess, it hadn't been "all roses and lilies"
either, for the men who had gone on strike.

"Didn't you say you expected trouble?" Mary asked Archey one morning just
after the big strike was declared.

"Yes," he told her. "They were talking that way. But they are so sure now
that we'll have to give in, that they are quite good natured about it."

Mary said nothing, but her back grew stiff, something like Mrs. Ridge's;
and when she saw Uncle Stanley in the outer office a few minutes later
and he smiled without looking at her--smiled and shook his head to
himself as though he were thinking of something droll--Mary went back to
her room in a hurry, and stayed there until she felt tranquil again.

"What are the men saying now?" she asked Archey the following week.

"They are still taking it as a sort of a joke," he told her, "but here
and there you catch a few who are looking thoughtful--especially those
who have wives or daughters working here."

That pleased her.

The next time the subject was mentioned, Archey brought it up himself.

"There was quite a fight on Jay Street yesterday," he said.

As Mary knew, Jay Street was the headquarters of the strikers, and
suddenly she became all attention.

"Those out-of-town agitators are beginning to feel anxious, I guess. Two
of them went around yesterday whispering that the women at the factory
needed a few good scares, so they'd stay home where they belonged. They
tackled Jimmy Kelly, not knowing his wife works here. 'What do you mean:
good scares?' he asked. 'Rough stuff,' they told him, on the quiet.
'What do you mean, rough stuff?' he asked them. They whispered
something--nobody knows what it was--but they say Jimmy fell on them both
like a ton of bricks on two bad eggs. 'Try a little rough stuff,
yourself,' he said, 'and maybe you'll stay home where you belong.'"

Mary's eyes shone. It may be that blood called to blood, for if you
remember one of those Josiah Spencers on the walls had married a Mary
McMillan.

"It's things like that," she said, "that sometimes make me wish I was a
man," and straightway went and interviewed Mrs. James Kelly, and gave her
a message of thanks to be conveyed to her double-fisted husband.

The next week Mary didn't have to ask Archey what the men were doing,
because one of the Sunday papers had made a special story of the subject.

Some of the men were getting work elsewhere, she read.

Others were on holidays, or visiting friends out of town.

Some were grumpy, some were merry, one had been caught red-handed--or at
least blue-aproned--cooking his own dinner. All who could be reached had
been asked how they thought the strike would end, and the reply which I
am quoting is typical of many.

"They may bungle through with a few bearings for a while," said Mr.
Reisinger, "but they won't last long. It stands to reason that a woman
can't do man's work and get away with it."

Mary was walking through the factory the next day when she heard two
women discussing that article.

"I told Sam Reisinger what I thought about him last night," said the
younger. "He was over to our house for supper.

"'So it stands to reason, does it?' I said to him, 'that a woman can't do
a man's work and get away with it? Well, I like your nerve! What do you
understand by a man's work?' I said to him.

"'Do you think she ought to have all the meanest, hardest work in the
world, and get paid nothing for it, working from the time she gets up in
the morning till she goes to bed at night? Is that your idea of woman's
work?' I said to him. 'But any nice, easy job that only has to be worked
at four hours in the morning, and four hours in the afternoon, and has a
pay envelope attached to it: I suppose you think that's a man's work!' I
said to him.

"'Listen to me, Sam Reisinger, there's no such thing as man's work, and
there's no such thing as woman's work,' I said to him. 'Work's work, and
it makes no difference who does it, as long as it gets done!

"'Take dressmaking,' I said to him. 'I suppose you call that woman's
work. Then how about Worth, and those other big men dressmakers?

"'Maybe you think cooking is woman's work. Then how about the chefs at
the big hotels?' I said to him.

"'Maybe you think washing is woman's work. Then how about the steam
laundries where nearly all the shirt ironers are men?' I said to him.

"'Maybe you think that working in somebody else's house is woman's work.
Then how about that butler up at Miss Spencer's?' I said to him.

"'And maybe we can bungle through with a few bearings for a while, can
we?' I said to him, very polite. 'Well, let me tell you one thing, Sam
Reisinger, if that's the way you think of women, you can bungle over to
the movies with yourself tomorrow night. I'm not going with you!'"

For a long time after that when things went wrong, Mary only had to
recall some of the remarks which had been made to a certain Mr. Sam
Reisinger on a certain Sunday afternoon, and she always felt better for
it.

"What are the men saying now?" she asked Archey at the end of their first
good week.

"They're not saying much, but I think they're up to something. They've
called a special meeting for tonight."

The next morning was Sunday. Mary was hardly downstairs when Archey
called.

"I've found out about their meeting last night," he said. "They have
appointed a committee to try to have a boycott declared on our bearings."

It didn't take Mary long to see that this might be a mortal thrust unless
it were parried.

"But how can they?" she asked.

"They are going to try labour headquarters first. 'Unfair to
labour'--that's what they are going to claim it is--to allow women to do
what they're doing here. They're going to try to have a boycott declared,
so that no union man will handle Spencer bearings, the teamsters won't
truck them, the railways won't ship them, the metal workers and mechanics
won't install them, and no union man will use a tool or a machine that
has a Spencer bearing in it. That's their program. That's what they are
going to try to do."

From over the distance came the memory of Ma'm Maynard's words:

"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!"

"No, sir!" said Mary to herself, as resolutely as ever, "I don't believe
it. They're trying to gain their point--that's all--the same as I'm
trying to gain mine.... But aren't they fighting hard when they do a
thing like that...!"

It came to her then with a sharp sense of relief that no organization--no
union--could well afford to boycott products simply because they were
made by women. "Because then," she thought, "women could boycott things
that were made by unions, and I'm sure the unions wouldn't want that."

She mentioned this to Archey and it was decided that Judge Cutler should
follow the strikers' committee to Washington and present the women's side
of the case.

Archey went, but the atmosphere of worry which he had brought with him
stayed behind. Mary seemed to breathe it all day and to feel its
oppression every time she awoke in the night.

"What a thing it would be," she thought, "if they did declare a boycott!
All the work we've done would go for nothing--all our hopes and
plans--everything wiped right out--and every woman pushed right back in
her trap--and a man sitting on the lid--with a boycott in his hand...!"

The next day after a bad night, she was listlessly turning over the pages
of a production report, when Mrs. Kelly came in glowing with enthusiasm,
holding in her hand a book from the rest room library.

"Miss Spencer," she said, "it's in this book that over on the other side
the women in the factories had orchestras. I wonder if we couldn't have
an orchestra now!"

Mary's listlessness vanished.

"I've talked it over with a lot of the women," continued Mrs. Kelly, "and
they think it's great. I've come to quite a few that play different
instruments. I only wish I knew my notes, so I could play something,
too."

Mary thought that over. It didn't seem right to her that the originator
of the idea couldn't take part in it.

"Couldn't you play the drum?" she suddenly asked.

"Why, so I could!" beamed Mrs. Kelly in rare delight. "Do you mind then
if I start a subscription for the instruments?"

"No; I'll do that, if you'll promise to play the drum."

"It's a promise," agreed Mrs. Kelly, and when she reached the hall
outside and saw the size of Mary's subscription she joyfully smote an
imaginary sheepskin, "Boom.... Boom.... Boom-boom-boom...!"

That is the week that Wally was married--with a ceremony that Helen had
determined should be the social event of the year.

She was busy with her plans for weeks, making frequent trips to New York
and Boston in the building up of her trousseau, arranging the details of
the breakfast, making preparations for the decorations at the church and
at the house on the hill, preparing and revising her list of those to be
invited, ordering the cake and the boxes, attending to the engraving,
choosing the music, keeping in touch with the bridesmaids and their
dresses.

"Why, she's as busy as I am," thought Mary one day, in growing surprise
at Helen's knowledge and ability; and dimly she began to see that in
herself and Helen were embodied two opposite ideas of feminine activity.

"Of course she believes her way is the best," continued Mary
thoughtfully, "just the same as I believe mine is. But I can't help
thinking that it's best to be doing something useful, something that
really makes a difference in the world--so that at the end of every week
we can say to ourselves, 'Well, I did this' or 'I did that'--'I haven't
lived this week for nothing....'"

Mary started dreaming then, and the next day when she accompanied Helen
up the aisle of St. Thomas's as maid of honour, her eyes went dreamier
still. And yet if you had been there I think you might have seen the
least trace of a shadow in their depths--just the least suspicion of a
wavering, unguessed doubt.

But when Wally, with his wife at his side, started his car an hour later
and rolled smoothly on his wedding tour in search of the great adventure,
in search of the sweetest story--Mary changed her dress and hurried back
to the factory where she made a tour of her own. And as she walked
through the workshops with their long lines of contented women, passing
up one aisle and down another--nearly every face turning for a moment and
flashing her a smile--the shadows vanished from her eyes and her doubts
went with them.

"This is the best," she told herself, "I'm sure I did right, choosing
this instead of Wally. It's best for me, and best for these three
thousand women--" Her imagination caught fire. She saw her three thousand
pioneers growing into three hundred thousand, into three million. A
moment of greatness fell upon her and in fancy she thus addressed her
unsuspecting workers:

"You are doing something useful--something that you can be proud of. Your
daily labour isn't wasted. There isn't a country in the world that won't
profit by it.

"Because of these bearings which you are making, automobiles and trucks
will carry their loads more easily, tractors will plough better, engines
will run longer, water will be pumped more quickly, electric light will
be sold for less money.

"You are helping transportation--agriculture--commerce. And if that isn't
better, nobler work than washing, ironing, getting your own meals,
washing your own dishes, and doing the same old round of profitless
chores day after day, and year after year, from the hour you are old
enough to work, till the hour you are old enough to die--well, then, I'm
wrong and Helen's right; and I ought to have married Wally--and not one
of you women ought to be here today!"

A whisper arose in her mind. "....Somebody's got to do the housework...."

"Yes, but it needn't take up a woman's whole life," she shortly told
herself, "any more than it does a man's. I'm sure there must be some
way...some way...."

She stopped, a sudden flush striking along her cheek as she caught the
first glimpse of her golden vision--that vision which may some day change
the history of the human race. "Oh, if I only could!" she breathed to
herself. "If I only could!"

She slowly returned to the office. Judge Cutler was waiting to see her,
just back from his visit to Washington.

"Well?" she asked eagerly, shutting the door. "Are they going to boycott
us?"

"I don't think so," he answered. "I told them how it started. As far as I
can find out, the strike here is a local affair. The men I saw disclaimed
any knowledge or responsibility for it.

"Of course, I pointed out that women had the vote now, and that boycotts
were catching.... But I don't think you need worry.

"They're splendid men--all of them. I'm sure you'd like them, Mary. They
are all interested in what you are doing, but I think they are marking
time a little--waiting to see how things turn out before they commit
themselves one way or the other."

Mary thrilled at that.

"More than ever now it depends on me," she thought, and another surge of
greatness seemed to lift her like a flood.

The judge's voice recalled her.

"On my way back," he was saying, "I stopped in New York and engaged a
firm of accountants to come and look over the books. They are busy now,
but I told them there was no hurry--that we only wanted their
suggestions--"

"I had forgotten about that," said Mary.

"So had I. What do you suppose reminded me of it?"

She shook her head.

"One of the first men I saw in Washington was Burdon Woodward."

"I think it just happened that way," said Mary uneasily. "He told me he
was going away for a few days, but I'm sure he only did it to get out of
going to Helen's wedding."

"Well, anyhow, no harm done. It was the sight of him down there that
reminded me: that's all.... How has everything been running here?
Smoothly, I hope?"

Smoothly, yes. That was the week when Mary sent her letters to the
papers, announcing that the women at Spencer & Son's had not only
equalled past outputs, but were working within a closer degree of
accuracy.

And all that month, and the next month, and the next, the work at Spencer
& Son's kept rolling out as smoothly as though it were moving on its own
bearings--not only the mechanical, but the welfare work as well.

The dining room was re-modelled, as you will presently see. The band
progressed, as you will presently hear. The women were proud and happy in
the work they were doing, and Mary was proud because they were proud,
happy because they were happy, and all the time she was nursing another
secret, no one dreaming what was in her mind.

Along in the third month, Wally and Helen came back from their wedding
tour. Mary looked once, and she saw there was something wrong with Wally.
A shadow of depression hung over him--a shadow which he tried to hide
with bursts of cheerfulness. But his old air of eagerness was gone--that
air with which he had once looked at the future as a child might stare
with delighted eyes at a conjurer drawing rabbits and roses out of old
hats and empty vases.

In a word, he looked disenchanted, as though he had seen how the illusion
was produced, how the trick was done, and was simultaneously abating his
applause for the performer and his interest in the show.

"He's found her out," thought Mary, and with that terrible frankness
which sometimes comes unbidden to our minds she added with a sigh, "I was
always afraid he would."

Wally had taken a house near the country club--one of those brick
mansions surrounded by trees and lawns which are somehow reminiscent of
titled society and fox hunters in buckskin and scarlet. There Helen was
soon working her way to the leadership of the younger set.

She seldom called at the house on the hill.

"I'm generally dated up for the evening, and you're never there in the
daytime. So I have to drop in and see you here," she said one afternoon,
giving Mary a surprise visit at the office. "Do you, know you're getting
to be fashionable?" she continued.

"Who? Me?"

"Yes. You. Nearly everywhere we went, they began quizzing us as soon as
they found Miss Spencer was a cousin of mine."

Mary noted Helen's self-promotion to the head of the cousinship, but she
kept her usual tranquil expression.

"It's because she's Mrs. Cabot now," she thought. "Perhaps she wouldn't
have called at all if these people hadn't mentioned me!"

But when Helen arose to go, Mary revised her opinion of the reason for
her cousin's call.

"Well, I must be going," said Helen, rising. "I'll drop in and see Burdon
for a few minutes on my way out."

"That's it," thought Mary, and her reflections again taking upon
themselves that terrible frankness which can seldom be put in words, she
added to herself, "Poor Wally.... I was always afraid of it...."

She was still looking out of the window in troubled meditation when the
arrival of the afternoon mail turned her thoughts into another track. As
Helen had said, the New Bethel experiment had become fashionable. Taking
it as their text, the women's clubs throughout the country were giving
much of their time to a discussion of the changed industrial relations
due to the war. Increasingly often, visitors appeared at the factory,
asking if they could see for themselves--well-known, even famous figures
among them. But on the afternoon when Helen Cabot made her first call,
Mary received a letter which took her breath away, so distinguished, so
illustrious were the names of those who were asking if they could pay a
visit on the following day.

Mary sent a telegram and then, her cheeks coloured with pride, she made a
tour through the factory to make sure that everything would be in order,
whispering the news here and there, and knowing that every woman would
hear it as unmistakably as though it had been pealed from the heavens in
tones of thunder.

The visitors arrived at ten o'clock the next morning.

There were four in the party--two men and two women. Mary recognized
three of them at the first glance and felt a glow of pride warm her as
they seated themselves in her office.

"Not even you," she thought with a glance at the attentive figures on the
walls, "not even you ever had visitors like these." And in some subtle
manner which I simply cannot describe to you, she felt that the portrayed
figures were proud of the visitors, too--and prouder yet of the
dreamy-eyed girl who had brought it about, flesh of their flesh, blood of
their blood, who was looking so queenly and chatting so quietly to the
elect of the earth.

The fourth caller was introduced as Professor Marsh, and Mary soon
perceived that he was a hostile critic.

"I shall have to be careful of him," she thought, "or I shall be giving
him some good, hard bouncers before I know it--and that would never do
today." So putting the temptation behind her she presently said, "We'll
start at the nursery, if you like--any time you're ready."

You have already seen something of that nursery, its long row of windows
facing the south, its awnings, toys, sand-piles and white-robed nurses.
Since then Mary had had time to elaborate the original theme with a
kitchen for preparing their majesties' food, linen closets and a
rest-room for the nurses.

The chief glory of the nursery, however, was its noble line of
play-rooms, each in charge of two nurses.

"Let's look in here," said Mary, opening a door.

They came upon an interesting scene. In this room were twelve children,
about two years old. The nurses were feeding them. Each nurse sat on the
inside of a kidney shaped table, large enough to accommodate six
children, but low enough to avoid the necessity for high chairs with the
consequent dangling between earth and heaven.

In front of each child was a plate set in a recess in the table--this to
guard against overturning in the excitement of the moment--and in each
plate was a generous portion of chicken broth poured over broken bread.

It was evidently good. Approval shone on each pink face. A brisk play of
spoons and the smacking of lips seemed to be the order of the day.

"Each play room has its own wash room--" said Mary.

She opened another door belonging to this particular suite and disclosed
a bathroom with special fixtures for babies. Large bowls, with hot and
cold water, were set in porcelain tables.

"What's the use of having so many bath-bowls in this table," asked
Professor Marsh, "when you only have two nurses to do the bathing?"

"Every woman with a baby has half an hour off in the morning, and another
half hour in the afternoon," he was told. "In the morning, she bathes her
baby. In the afternoon she loves it."

In the next play-room which they visited, the babies were of the bottle
age, and were proving this to the satisfaction of every one concerned.

In the next, refreshments were over; and some of the youngsters slept
while others were starting large engineering projects upon the sand pile.

"I never saw such nurseries," said the most distinguished visitor. He
looked at the artistic miniature furniture, the decorations, the low
padded seat which ran around the walls--at once a seat and a cupboard for
toys. He looked at the sunlight, the screened verandah, the awning, the
flowers, the birds hopping over the lawn, the river gleaming through the
trees.

"Miss Spencer," he said, "I congratulate you. If they could understand
me, I would congratulate these happy youngsters, too."

"But don't you think it's altogether wrong," said Professor Marsh, "to
deprive a child of the advantages of home life?"

"I read and hear that so often," said Mary, "that I have adopted my own
method of replying to it."

She led her visitors into a small room with a low ceiling. It was
furnished with a cookstove, a table, a small side-board, an old conch and
a few chairs. The floor was splintery and only partly covered by frayed
rugs and worn oil cloth. The paper on the walls was a dark mottled green.
The ceiling was discoloured by smoke.

"This is the kitchen of an average wage-earner," said Mary. "Some are
better. Some are worse. I bought the furniture out of a room, just as it
stood, and had the whole place copied in detail."

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
breakfast."

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
spell.

"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....
See?"

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
distant buildings.

"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
last!"

Mary let him look and then she beamed with pleasure at his glance of
appreciation.

"Our own orchestra--one hundred pieces," she said. "This is their first
public appearance."

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
partition.

"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
auditors entered.

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
the heavens.

"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...."




CHAPTER XXVIII


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.




CHAPTER XXIX


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
one concerned."

"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
home."

"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
him.

"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:
that's all."

"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
 False altogether
 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
months--"

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
speak.

"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
Wally.

"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
lake.

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
kitchen.

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
the walls.

"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
many years--

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
else--"

"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
good--"

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...."




CHAPTER XXX


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
figures.

"How interesting he makes it!" she thought again. "Why, it's almost like
a novel."

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
again--

"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
report again.

She was still gloating over the table of women's efficiency when Hutchins
appeared.

"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
Washington."

"What for?"

"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
Uncle Stanley.

"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
women.

The first result of this is a finer degree of accuracy than had ever been
attained before.

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
day.

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
public announcement:

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?"




CHAPTER XXXI


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
third.

"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
ladies!"

"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
Bethel?"

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
headquarters.

"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--!"

"Who?"

"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
shoulder.

"But, Helen--don't you think it's just possible--that you've been
worrying him?"

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
looked.

"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
before.

"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
you--!"

"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
nothing."

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...."




CHAPTER XXXII


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 same."

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
together.

"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.

"Eleven-thirty-four."

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
heads."

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
impressed.

"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
tomorrow...."

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...."




CHAPTER XXXIII


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
this...!"

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
is--"

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
bearings?"

"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
woman's labour!

"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
respect.

"I have the report here," she said--and showed them the table of
comparative efficiency.

"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
for yourselves."

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
shipping room.

"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
woman."

"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
away."

"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
thousand women!"

"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
women's work!"

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
farther.

"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
progress--develop--

"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
could do....

"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:
that's all...

"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
awe.

"If that wouldn't make labour happy," said the second, "I don't know what
would."

"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
the leaders.

"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
the week."

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
standing up...!"




CHAPTER XXXIV


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
telephoned Helen.

Wally was still improving.

"I'll be over as soon as I've had dinner," said Mary, "but don't expect
me early."

She was hanging up the receiver when the senior accountant entered, a
little more detached, a little more impersonal than she had ever seen
him.

"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
there...."

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
heard it.

"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
station.

"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
asked aloud.

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
yesterday."

"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
home."

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
tension.

"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,
batuchka?"

"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..."




CHAPTER XXXV


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
stare.

"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
over, too?"

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
know which--

"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
slow."

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....




CHAPTER XXXVI


The next morning ushered in one of those days in June which make the
spirit rejoice.

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
treasurer's department."

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
had found herself connecting it with the auditors' work upon the books.

"I would have asked Mr. Woodward for an explanation," continued the
accountant, "but he has been absent yesterday and today. However, as you
will see, no explanation can possibly cover the facts disclosed. There is
a clear case for criminal action against him."

"I don't think there will be any action," said Mary, looking up after a
pause. "I'm sure his father will make good the shortage." But when she
looked at the total she couldn't help thinking, "It will be a tight
squeeze, though, even for Uncle Stanley."

Now that it was over, she felt relieved, as though a load had lifted from
her mind. "He'll never bother Helen again," she found herself thinking.
"Perhaps I had better telephone Judge Cutler and let him handle it--"

The judge promised to be down at once, and Mary turned to her mail. Near
the bottom she found a letter addressed in Burdon's writing. It was
unstamped and had evidently been left at the office. The date-line simply
said "Midnight."

It was a long letter, some of it clear enough and some of it obscure.
Mary was puzzling over it when Judge Cutler and Hutchins entered. As far
as she could remember, it was the first time that the butler had ever
appeared at the factory.

"Anything wrong?" she asked in alarm.

"He was in my office when you telephoned," said the judge. "I'll let him
tell his story as he told it to me.... I think I ought to ask you
something first, though.... Did any one ever tell you that you had a
brother Paul? ..."

"Yes," said Mary, her heart contracting.

Throughout the recital she sat breathless. Now and then the colour rose
to her cheeks, and more than once the tears came to her eyes, especially
when Hutchins' voice broke, and when he said in tones of pride, "Before
we could stop him, Master Paul was over the rail and in the water--"

More than once Mary looked away to hide her emotion, glancing around the
room at her forebears who had never seemed so attentive as then. "You may
well listen," thought Mary. "He may have been the black sheep of the
family, but you see what he did in the end...."

Hutchins told them about the search which he and Archey had made up and
down the banks, aided with a flashlight, climbing, calling, and sometimes
all but falling in the stream themselves. "But it was no use, Miss Mary,"
he concluded. "Master Paul is past all finding, I'm afraid."

For a long time Mary sat silent, her handkerchief to her eyes.

"Archey is still looking," said the judge, rising. "I'll start another
searching party at once. And telephone the towns below, too. We are bound
to find him if we keep on looking, you know--"

They found him sooner than they expected, in the grassy basin at the bend
of the river, where the high water of the night before had borne him--in
the place where he had loved to dream his dreams of youth and adventure
when life was young and the future full of promise. He was lying on his
side, his head on his arm, his face turned to the whispering river, and
there perhaps he was dreaming again--those eternal dreams which only
those who have gone to their rest can know.




CHAPTER XXXVII


Time, quickly passing, brought Mary to another wonderful morning in the
Story of her life. Even as her father's death had broadened her outlook,
so now Paul's heroism gave her a deeper glance at the future, a more
tolerant view of the past.

On the morning in question, Helen brought Wally to the office. He was now
entirely recovered, but Helen still mothered him, every touch a caress,
every glance a look of love. Mary grew very thoughtful as she watched
them. The next morning they were leaving for a tour of the Maine woods.

When they left, an architect called.

Under his arm he had a portfolio of plans for a Welfare Building which he
had drawn exactly according to Mary's suggestions. As long as the idea
had been a nebulous one--drawn only in fancy and coloured with nothing
stronger than conversation, she had liked it immensely; but seeing now
precisely how the building would look--how the space would be divided,
she found herself shaking her head.

"It's my own fault," she said. "You have followed out every one of my
ideas--but somehow--well, I don't like it: that's all. If you'll leave
these drawings, I'll think them over and call you up again in a few
days."

At Judge Cutler's suggestion, Archey had been elected treasurer to take
Burdon's place. Mary took the plans into his office and showed them to
him. They were still discussing them, sitting at opposite sides of his
flat-top desk, when the twelve o'clock whistle blew. A few minutes later,
the four-hour workers passed through the gate, the men walking with their
wives, the children playing between.

"I wonder how it's going to turn out," said Archey.

"I wonder ..." said Mary. "Of course it's too early to tell yet. I don't
know.... Time will tell."

"It was the only solution," he told her.

"I wonder ..." she mused again. "Anyhow it was something definite. If
women are really going to take up men's trades, it's only right that they
should know what it means. As long as we just keep talking on general
lines about a thing, we can make it sound as nice as we like. But when we
try to put theory into practice ... it doesn't always seem the same.

"Take these plans, for instance," she ruefully remarked. "I thought I
knew exactly what I wanted. But now that I see it drawn out to scale, I
don't like it. And that, perhaps, is what we've been doing here in the
factory. We have taken a view of woman's possible future and we have
drawn it out to scale. Everybody can see what it looks like now--they can
think about it--and talk about it--and then they can decide whether they
want it or not...."

He caught a note in her voice that had a touch of emptiness in it.

"Do you know what I would do if I were you?" he gently asked.

She looked at him, his eyes eager with sympathy, his smile tender and
touched with an admiration so deep that it might be called devotion.
Never before had Archey seemed so restful to her--never before with him
had she felt so much at home.

"If I smile at him, he'll blush," she caught herself thinking--and
experienced a rising sense of elation at the thought.

"What would you do!" she asked.

"I'd go away for a few weeks.... I believe the change would do you good."

She smiled at him and watched his responding colour with satisfaction.

"If Vera was right," she thought, "that's Chapter One the way he just
spoke. Now next--he'll try to touch me."

Her eyes ever so dreamy, she reached her hand over the desk and began
playing with, the blotter.

"Why, he's trembling a little," she thought. "And he's looking at it....
But, oh, isn't he shy!"

She tried to hum then and lightly beat time with her hand. "No, it isn't
the only thing in life," she repeated to herself, "but--just as I said
before--sooner or later--it becomes awfully important--" She caught
Archey's glance and smilingly led it back to her waiting fingers.

"How dark your hand is by the side of mine," she said.

He rose to his feet.

"Mary!"

"Yes ... Archey?"

"If I were a rich man--or you were a poor girl...."

Mary, too, arose.

"Well," she laughed unsteadily, "we may be ... some day...."

Ten minutes later Sir Joseph of the Plumed Crest opened the door with a
handful of mail. He suddenly stopped ... stared ... smiled ... and
silently withdrew.

THE END





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This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext13034, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext13034



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