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Title: Dwelling Place of Light, the — Volume 1
Author: Churchill, Winston, 1871-1947
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dwelling Place of Light, the — Volume 1" ***

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THE DWELLING-PLACE OF LIGHT

By WINSTON CHURCHILL


Volume 1.


1917



CHAPTER I

In this modern industrial civilization of which we are sometimes wont to
boast, a certain glacier-like process may be observed. The bewildered,
the helpless--and there are many--are torn from the parent rock, crushed,
rolled smooth, and left stranded in strange places. Thus was Edward
Bumpus severed and rolled from the ancestral ledge, from the firm granite
of seemingly stable and lasting things, into shifting shale; surrounded
by fragments of cliffs from distant lands he had never seen. Thus, at
five and fifty, he found himself gate-keeper of the leviathan Chippering
Mill in the city of Hampton.

That the polyglot, smoky settlement sprawling on both sides of an
historic river should be a part of his native New England seemed at times
to be a hideous dream; nor could he comprehend what had happened to him,
and to the world of order and standards and religious sanctions into
which he had been born. His had been a life of relinquishments. For a
long time he had clung to the institution he had been taught to believe
was the rock of ages, the Congregational Church, finally to abandon it;
even that assuming a form fantastic and unreal, as embodied in the
edifice three blocks distant from Fillmore Street which he had attended
for a brief time, some ten years before, after his arrival in Hampton.
The building, indeed, was symbolic of a decadent and bewildered
Puritanism in its pathetic attempt to keep abreast with the age, to
compromise with anarchy, merely achieving a nondescript medley of
rounded, knob-like towers covered with mulberry-stained shingles. And the
minister was sensational and dramatic. He looked like an actor, he
aroused in Edward Bumpus an inherent prejudice that condemned the stage.
Half a block from this tabernacle stood a Roman Catholic Church,
prosperous, brazen, serene, flaunting an eternal permanence amidst the
chaos which had succeeded permanence!

There were, to be sure, other Protestant churches where Edward Bumpus and
his wife might have gone. One in particular, which he passed on his way
to the mill, with its terraced steeple and classic facade, preserved all
the outward semblance of the old Order that once had seemed so enduring
and secure. He hesitated to join the decorous and dwindling
congregation,--the remains of a social stratum from which he had been
pried loose; and--more irony--this street, called Warren, of arching elms
and white-gabled houses, was now the abiding place of those prosperous
Irish who had moved thither from the tenements and ruled the city.

On just such a street in the once thriving New England village of Dolton
had Edward been born. In Dolton Bumpus was once a name of names, rooted
there since the seventeenth century, and if you had cared to listen he
would have told you, in a dialect precise but colloquial, the history of
a family that by right of priority and service should have been destined
to inherit the land, but whose descendants were preserved to see it
delivered to the alien. The God of Cotton Mather and Jonathan Edwards had
been tried in the balance and found wanting. Edward could never
understand this; or why the Universe, so long static and immutable, had
suddenly begun to move. He had always been prudent, but in spite of
youthful "advantages," of an education, so called, from a sectarian
college on a hill, he had never been taught that, while prudence may
prosper in a static world, it is a futile virtue in a dynamic one.
Experience even had been powerless to impress this upon him. For more
than twenty years after leaving college he had clung to a clerkship in a
Dolton mercantile establishment before he felt justified in marrying
Hannah, the daughter of Elmer Wench, when the mercantile establishment
amalgamated with a rival--and Edward's services were no longer required.
During the succession of precarious places with decreasing salaries he
had subsequently held a terrified sense of economic pressure had
gradually crept over him, presently growing strong enough, after two
girls had arrived, to compel the abridgment of the family ....It would be
painful to record in detail the cracking-off process, the slipping into
shale, the rolling, the ending up in Hampton, where Edward had now for
some dozen years been keeper of one of the gates in the frowning brick
wall bordering the canal,--a position obtained for him by a compassionate
but not too prudent childhood friend who had risen in life and knew the
agent of the Chippering Mill, Mr. Claude Ditmar. Thus had virtue failed
to hold its own.

One might have thought in all these years he had sat within the gates
staring at the brick row of the company's boarding houses on the opposite
bank of the canal that reflection might have brought a certain degree of
enlightenment. It was not so. The fog of Edward's bewilderment never
cleared, and the unformed question was ever clamouring for an answer--how
had it happened? Job's cry. How had it happened to an honest and virtuous
man, the days of whose forebears had been long in the land which the Lord
their God had given them? Inherently American, though lacking the saving
quality of push that had been the making of men like Ditmar, he never
ceased to regard with resentment and distrust the hordes of foreigners
trooping between the pillars, though he refrained from expressing these
sentiments in public; a bent, broad shouldered, silent man of that
unmistakable physiognomy which, in the seventeenth century, almost wholly
deserted the old England for the new. The ancestral features were there,
the lips--covered by a grizzled moustache moulded for the precise
formation that emphasizes such syllables as el, the hooked nose and
sallow cheeks, the grizzled brows and grey eyes drawn down at the
corners. But for all its ancestral strength of feature, it was a face
from which will had been extracted, and lacked the fire and fanaticism,
the indomitable hardness it should have proclaimed, and which have been
so characteristically embodied in Mr. St. Gaudens's statue of the
Puritan. His clothes were slightly shabby, but always neat.

Little as one might have guessed it, however, what may be called a
certain transmuted enthusiasm was alive in him. He had a hobby almost
amounting to an obsession, not uncommon amongst Americans who have
slipped downward in the social scale. It was the Bumpus Family in
America. He collected documents about his ancestors and relations, he
wrote letters with a fine, painful penmanship on a ruled block he bought
at Hartshorne's drug store to distant Bumpuses in Kansas and Illinois and
Michigan, common descendants of Ebenezer, the original immigrant, of
Dolton. Many of these western kinsmen answered: not so the magisterial
Bumpus who lived in Boston on the water side of Beacon, whom likewise he
had ventured to address,--to the indignation and disgust of his elder
daughter, Janet.

"Why are you so proud of Ebenezer?" she demanded once, scornfully.

"Why? Aren't we descended from him?"

"How many generations?"

"Seven," said Edward, promptly, emphasizing the last syllable.

Janet was quick at figures. She made a mental calculation.

"Well, you've got one hundred and twenty-seven other ancestors of
Ebenezer's time, haven't you?"

Edward was a little surprised. He had never thought of this, but his
ardour for Ebenezer remained undampened. Genealogy--his own--had become
his religion, and instead of going to church he spent his Sunday mornings
poring over papers of various degrees of discolouration, making careful
notes on the ruled block.

This consciousness of his descent from good American stock that had
somehow been deprived of its heritage, while a grievance to him, was also
a comfort. It had a compensating side, in spite of the lack of sympathy
of his daughters and his wife. Hannah Bumpus took the situation more
grimly: she was a logical projection in a new environment of the
religious fatalism of ancestors whose God was a God of vengeance. She did
not concern herself as to what all this vengeance was about; life was a
trap into which all mortals walked sooner or later, and her particular
trap had a treadmill,--a round of household duties she kept whirling with
an energy that might have made their fortunes if she had been the head of
the family. It is bad to be a fatalist unless one has an incontrovertible
belief in one's destiny,--which Hannah had not. But she kept the little
flat with its worn furniture,--which had known so many journeys--as clean
as a merchant ship of old Salem, and when it was scoured and dusted to
her satisfaction she would sally forth to Bonnaccossi's grocery and
provision store on the corner to do her bargaining in competition with
the Italian housewives of the neighborhood. She was wont, indeed, to
pause outside for a moment, her quick eye encompassing the coloured
prints of red and yellow jellies cast in rounded moulds, decked with
slices of orange, the gaudy boxes of cereals and buckwheat flour, the
"Brookfield" eggs in packages. Significant, this modern package system,
of an era of flats with little storage space. She took in at a glance the
blue lettered placard announcing the current price of butterine, and
walked around to the other side of the store, on Holmes Street, where the
beef and bacon hung, where the sidewalk stands were filled, in the
autumn, with cranberries, apples, cabbages, and spinach.

With little outer complaint she had adapted herself to the constantly
lowering levels to which her husband had dropped, and if she hoped that
in Fillmore Street they had reached bottom, she did not say so. Her
unbetrayed regret was for the loss of what she would have called
"respectability"; and the giving up, long ago, in the little city which
had been their home, of the servant girl had been the first wrench. Until
they came to Hampton they had always lived in houses, and her adaptation
to a flat had been hard--a flat without a parlour. Hannah Bumpus regarded
a parlour as necessary to a respectable family as a wedding ring to a
virtuous woman. Janet and Lise would be growing up, there would be young
men, and no place to see them save the sidewalks. The fear that haunted
her came true, and she never was reconciled. The two girls went to the
public schools, and afterwards, inevitably, to work, and it seemed to be
a part of her punishment for the sins of her forefathers that she had no
more control over them than if they had been boarders; while she looked
on helplessly, they did what they pleased; Janet, whom she never
understood, was almost as much a source of apprehension as Lise, who
became part and parcel of all Hannah deemed reprehensible in this new
America which she refused to recognize and acknowledge as her own
country.

To send them through the public schools had been a struggle. Hannah used
to lie awake nights wondering what would happen if Edward became sick. It
worried her that they never saved any money: try as she would to cut the
expenses down, there was a limit of decency; New England thrift, hitherto
justly celebrated, was put to shame by that which the foreigners
displayed, and which would have delighted the souls of gentlemen of the
Manchester school. Every once in a while there rose up before her
fabulous instances of this thrift, of Italians and Jews who, ignorant
emigrants, had entered the mills only a few years before they, the
Bumpuses, had come to Hampton, and were now independent property owners.
Still rankling in Hannah's memory was a day when Lise had returned from
school, dark and mutinous, with a tale of such a family. One of the
younger children was a classmate.

"They live on Jordan Street in a house, and Laura has roller skates. I
don't see why I can't."

This was one of the occasions on which Hannah had given vent to her
indignation. Lise was fourteen. Her open rebellion was less annoying than
Janet's silent reproach, but at least she had something to take hold of.

"Well, Lise," she said, shifting the saucepan to another part of the
stove, "I guess if your father and I had put both you girls in the mills
and crowded into one room and cooked in a corner, and lived on onions and
macaroni, and put four boarders each in the other rooms, I guess we could
have had a house, too. We can start in right now, if you're willing."

But Lise had only looked darker.

"I don't see why father can't make money--other men do."

"Isn't he working as hard as he can to send you to school, and give you a
chance?"

"I don't want that kind of a chance. There's Sadie Howard at school--she
don't have to work. She liked me before she found out where I lived..."

There was an element of selfishness in Hannah's mania for keeping busy,
for doing all their housework and cooking herself. She could not bear to
have her daughters interfere; perhaps she did not want to give herself
time to think. Her affection for Edward, such as it was, her loyalty to
him, was the logical result of a conviction ingrained in early youth that
marriage was an indissoluble bond; a point of views once having a
religious sanction, no less powerful now that--all unconsciously--it had
deteriorated into a superstition. Hannah, being a fatalist, was not
religious. The beliefs of other days, when she had donned her best dress
and gone to church on Sundays, had simply lapsed and left--habits. No new
beliefs had taken their place....

Even after Janet and Lise had gone to work the household never seemed to
gain that margin of safety for which Hannah yearned. Always, when they
were on the verge of putting something by, some untoward need or accident
seemed to arise on purpose to swallow it up: Edward, for instance, had
been forced to buy a new overcoat, the linoleum on the dining-room floor
must be renewed, and Lise had had a spell of sickness, losing her
position in a flower shop. Afterwards, when she became a saleslady in the
Bagatelle, that flamboyant department store in Faber Street, she earned
four dollars and a half a week. Two of these were supposed to go into the
common fund, but there were clothes to buy; Lise loved finery, and Hannah
had not every week the heart to insist. Even when, on an occasional
Saturday night the girl somewhat consciously and defiantly flung down the
money on the dining-room table she pretended not to notice it. But Janet,
who was earning six dollars as a stenographer in the office of the
Chippering Mill, regularly gave half of hers.

The girls could have made more money as operatives, but strangely enough
in the Bumpus family social hopes were not yet extinct.

Sharply, rudely, the cold stillness of the winter mornings was broken by
agitating waves of sound, penetrating the souls of sleepers. Janet would
stir, her mind still lingering on some dream, soon to fade into the
inexpressible, in which she had been near to the fulfilment of a heart's
desire. Each morning, as the clamour grew louder, there was an interval
of bewilderment, of revulsion, until the realization came of mill bells
swinging in high cupolas above the river,--one rousing another. She could
even distinguish the bells: the deep-toned, penetrating one belonged to
the Patuxent Mill, over on the west side, while the Arundel had a high,
ominous reverberation like a fire bell. When at last the clangings had
ceased she would lie listening to the overtones throbbing in the air,
high and low, high and low; lie shrinking, awaiting the second summons
that never failed to terrify, the siren of the Chippering Mill,--to her
the cry of an insistent, hungry monster demanding its daily food, the
symbol of a stern, ugly, and unrelenting necessity.

Beside her in the bed she could feel the soft body of her younger sister
cuddling up to her in fright. In such rare moments as this her heart
melted towards Lise, and she would fling a protecting arm about her. A
sense of Lise's need of protection invaded her, a sharp conviction, like
a pang, that Lise was destined to wander: Janet was never so conscious of
the feeling as in this dark hour, though it came to her at other times,
when they were not quarreling. Quarreling seemed to be the normal
reaction between them.

It was Janet, presently, who would get up, shivering, close the window,
and light the gas, revealing the room which the two girls shared
together. Against the middle of one wall was the bed, opposite this a
travel-dented walnut bureau with a marble top, with an oval mirror into
which were stuck numerous magazine portraits of the masculine and
feminine talent adorning the American stage, a preponderance of the music
hall variety. There were pictures of other artists whom the recondite
would have recognized as "movie" stars, amazing yet veridic stories of
whose wealth Lise read in the daily press: all possessed limousines--an
infallible proof, to Lise, of the measure of artistic greatness. Between
one of these movie millionaires and an ex-legitimate lady who now found
vaudeville profitable was wedged the likeness of a popular idol whose
connection with the footlights would doubtless be contingent upon a
triumphant acquittal at the hands of a jury of her countrymen, and whose
trial for murder, in Chicago, was chronicled daily in thousands of
newspapers and followed by Lise with breathless interest and sympathy.
She was wont to stare at this lady while dressing and exclaim:--"Say, I
hope they put it all over that district attorney!"

To such sentiments, though deeply felt by her sister, Janet remained
cold, though she was, as will be seen, capable of enthusiasms. Lise was a
truer daughter of her time and country in that she had the national
contempt for law, was imbued with the American hero-worship of criminals
that caused the bombardment of Cora Wellman's jail with candy, fruit and
flowers and impassioned letters. Janet recalled there had been others
before Mrs. Wellman, caught within the meshes of the law, who had incited
in her sister a similar partisanship.

It was Lise who had given the note of ornamentation to the bedroom.
Against the cheap faded lilac and gold wall-paper were tacked
photo-engravings that had taken the younger sister's fancy: a young man
and woman, clad in scanty bathing suits, seated side by side in a
careening sail boat,--the work of a popular illustrator whose manly and
womanly "types" had become national ideals.

There were other drawings, if not all by the same hand, at least by the
same school; one, sketched in bold strokes, of a dinner party in a
stately neo-classic dining-room, the table laden with flowers and silver,
the bare-throated women with jewels. A more critical eye than Lise's,
gazing upon this portrayal of the Valhalla of success, might have
detected in the young men, immaculate in evening dress, a certain effort
to feel at home, to converse naturally, which their square jaws and
square shoulders belied. This was no doubt the fault of the artist's
models, who had failed to live up to the part. At any rate, the sight of
these young gods of leisure, the contemplation of the stolid butler and
plush footmen in the background never failed to make Lise's heart beat
faster.

On the marble of the bureau amidst a litter of toilet articles, and
bought by Lise for a quarter at the Bagatelle bargain counter, was an
oval photograph frame from which the silver wash had begun to rub off,
and the band of purple velvet inside the metal had whitened. The frame
always contained the current object of Lise's affections, though the
exhibits--as Janet said--were subject to change without notice. The
Adonis who now reigned had black hair cut in the prevailing Hampton
fashion, very long in front and hanging down over his eyes like a
Scottish terrier's; very long behind, too, but ending suddenly, shaved in
a careful curve at the neck and around the ears. It had almost the
appearance of a Japanese wig. The manly beauty of Mr. Max Wylie was of
the lantern-jawed order, and in his photograph he conveyed the astonished
and pained air of one who has been suddenly seized by an invisible
officer of the law from behind. This effect, one presently perceived, was
due to the high, stiff collar, the "Torture Brand," Janet called it, when
she and her sister were engaged in one of their frequent controversies
about life in general: the obvious retort to this remark, which Lise
never failed to make, was that Janet could boast of no beaux at all.

It is only fair to add that the photograph scarcely did Mr. Wylie
justice. In real life he did not wear the collar, he was free and easy in
his manners, sure of his powers of conquest. As Lise observed, he had
made a home-run with her at Slattery's Riverside Park. "Sadie Hartmann
was sure sore when I tangoed off with him," she would observe
reminiscently....

It was Lise's habit to slight her morning toilet, to linger until the
last minute in bed, which she left in reluctant haste to stand before the
bureau frantically combing out kinks of the brown hair falling over her
shoulders before jamming it down across her forehead in the latest mode.
Thus occupied, she revealed a certain petulant beauty. Like the majority
of shop-girls, she was small, but her figure was good, her skin white;
her discontented mouth gave her the touch of piquancy apt to play havoc
with the work of the world. In winter breakfast was eaten by the light of
a rococo metal lamp set in the centre of the table. This was to save gas.
There was usually a rump steak and potatoes, bread and "creamery"
butterine, and the inevitable New England doughnuts. At six thirty the
whistles screeched again,--a warning note, the signal for Edward's
departure; and presently, after a brief respite, the heavy bells once
more began their clamour, not to die down until ten minutes of seven,
when the last of the stragglers had hurried through the mill gates.

The Bumpus flat included the second floor of a small wooden house whose
owner had once been evilly inspired to paint it a livid clay-yellow--as
though insisting that ugliness were an essential attribute of
domesticity. A bay ran up the two stories, and at the left were two
narrow doorways, one for each flat. On the right the house was separated
from its neighbour by a narrow interval, giving but a precarious light to
the two middle rooms, the diningroom and kitchen. The very
unattractiveness of such a home, however, had certain compensations for
Janet, after the effort of early rising had been surmounted, felt a real
relief in leaving it; a relief, too, in leaving Fillmore Street, every
feature of which was indelibly fixed in her mind, opposite was the blind
brick face of a warehouse, and next to that the converted dwelling house
that held the shop of A. Bauer, with the familiar replica of a green
ten-cent trading stamp painted above it and the somewhat ironical
announcement--when boar frost whitened the pavement--that ice-cold soda
was to be had within, as well as cigars and tobacco, fruit and candy.
Then came a tenement, under which two enterprising Greeks by the name of
Pappas--spelled Papas lower down--conducted a business called "The
Gentleman," a tailoring, pressing, and dyeing establishment. Janet could
see the brilliantined black heads of the two proprietors bending over
their boards, and sometimes they would be lifted to smile at her as she
passed. The Pappas Brothers were evidently as happy in this drab
environment as they had ever been on the sunny mountain slopes of Hellas,
and Janet sometimes wondered at this, for she had gathered from her
education in the Charming public school that Greece was beautiful.

She was one of the unfortunate who love beauty, who are condemned to
dwell in exile, unacquainted with what they love. Desire was incandescent
within her breast. Desire for what? It would have been some relief to
know. She could not, like Lise, find joy and forgetfulness at dance
halls, at the "movies," at Slattery's Riverside Park in summer, in "joy
rides" with the Max Wylies of Hampton. And beside, the Max Wylies were
afraid of her. If at times she wished for wealth, it was because wealth
held the magic of emancipation from surroundings against which her soul
revolted. Vividly idealized but unconfided was the memory of a seaside
village, the scene of one of the brief sojourns of her childhood, where
the air was fragrant with the breath of salt marshes, where she recalled,
through the vines of a porch, a shining glimpse of the sea at the end of
a little street....

Next to Pappas Brothers was the grey wooden building of Mule Spinners'
Hall, that elite organization of skilled labour, and underneath it the
store of Johnny Tiernan, its windows piled up with stoves and stovepipes,
sheet iron and cooking utensils. Mr. Tiernan, like the Greeks, was happy,
too: unlike the Greeks, he never appeared to be busy, and yet he throve.
He was very proud of the business in which he had invested his savings,
but he seemed to have other affairs lying blithely on his mind, affairs
of moment to the community, as the frequent presence of the huge
policemen, aldermen, and other important looking persons bore witness. He
hailed by name Italians, Greeks, Belgians, Syrians, and "French"; he
hailed Janet, too, with respectful cheerfulness, taking off his hat. He
possessed the rare, warm vitality that is irresistible. A native of
Hampton, still in his thirties, his sharp little nose and twinkling blue
eyes proclaimed the wisdom that is born and not made; his stiff hair had
a twist like the bristles in the cleaning rod of a gun.

He gave Janet the odd impression that he understood her. And she did not
understand herself!

By the time she reached the Common the winter sun, as though red from
exertion, had begun to dispel the smoke and heavy morning mists. She
disliked winter, the lumpy brown turf mildewed by the frost, but one day
she was moved by a quality, hitherto unsuspected, in the delicate tracery
against the sky made by the slender branches of the great elms and
maples. She halted on the pavement, her eyes raised, heedless of
passers-by, feeling within her a throb of the longing that could be so
oddly and unexpectedly aroused.

Her way lay along Faber Street, the main artery of Hampton, a wide strip
of asphalt threaded with car tracks, lined on both sides with incongruous
edifices indicative of a rapid, undiscriminating, and artless prosperity.
There were long stretches of "ten foot" buildings, so called on account
of the single story, their height deceptively enhanced by the
superimposition of huge and gaudy signs, one on top of another,
announcing the merits of "Stewart's Amberine Ale," of "Cooley's Oats, the
Digestible Breakfast Food," of graphophones and "spring heeled" shoes,
tobacco, and naphtha soaps. "No, We don't give Trading Stamps, Our
Products are Worth all You Pay." These "ten foot" stores were the
repositories of pianos, automobiles, hardware, and millinery, and
interspersed amongst them were buildings of various heights; The
Bagatelle, where Lise worked, the Wilmot Hotel, office buildings, and an
occasional relic of old Hampton, like that housing the Banner. Here,
during those months when the sun made the asphalt soft, on a scaffolding
spanning the window of the store, might be seen a perspiring young man in
his shirt sleeves chalking up baseball scores for the benefit of a crowd
below. Then came the funereal, liver-coloured, long-windowed Hinckley
Block (1872), and on the corner a modern, glorified drugstore thrusting
forth plate glass bays--two on Faber Street and three on Stanley--filled
with cameras and candy, hot water bags, throat sprays, catarrh and kidney
cures, calendars, fountain pens, stationery, and handy alcohol lamps.
Flanking the sidewalks, symbolizing and completing the heterogeneous and
bewildering effect of the street were long rows of heavy hemlock trunks,
unpainted and stripped of bark, with crosstrees bearing webs of wires.
Trolley cars rattled along, banging their gongs, trucks rumbled across
the tracks, automobiles uttered frenzied screeches behind startled
pedestrians. Janet was always galvanized into alertness here, Faber
Street being no place to dream. By night an endless procession moved up
one sidewalk and down another, staring hypnotically at the flash-in and
flash-out electric, signs that kept the breakfast foods and ales, the
safety razors, soaps, and soups incessantly in the minds of a fickle
public.

Two blocks from Faber Street was the North Canal, with a granite-paved
roadway between it and the monotonous row of company boarding houses.
Even in bright weather Janet felt a sense of oppression here; on dark,
misty mornings the stern, huge battlements of the mills lining the
farther bank were menacing indeed, bristling with projections, towers,
and chimneys, flanked by heavy walls. Had her experience included Europe,
her imagination might have seized the medieval parallel,--the arched
bridges flung at intervals across the water, lacking only chains to raise
them in case of siege. The place was always ominously suggestive of
impending strife. Janet's soul was a sensitive instrument, but she
suffered from an inability to find parallels, and thus to translate her
impressions intellectually. Her feeling about the mills was that they
were at once fortress and prison, and she a slave driven thither day
after day by an all-compelling power; as much a slave as those who
trooped in through the gates in the winter dawn, and wore down, four
times a day, the oak treads of the circular tower stairs.

The sound of the looms was like heavy rain hissing on the waters of the
canal.

The administrative offices of a giant mill such as the Chippering in
Hampton are labyrinthine. Janet did not enter by the great gates her
father kept, but walked through an open courtyard into a vestibule where,
day and night, a watchman stood; she climbed iron-shod stairs, passed the
doorway leading to the paymaster's suite, to catch a glimpse, behind the
grill, of numerous young men settling down at those mysterious and
complicated machines that kept so unerring a record, in dollars and
cents, of the human labour of the operatives. There were other suites for
the superintendents, for the purchasing agent; and at the end of the
corridor, on the south side of the mill, she entered the outer of the two
rooms reserved for Mr. Claude Ditmar, the Agent and general-in-chief
himself of this vast establishment. In this outer office, behind the rail
that ran the length of it, Janet worked; from the window where her
typewriter stood was a sheer drop of eighty feet or so to the river,
which ran here swiftly through a wide canon whose sides were formed by
miles and miles of mills, built on buttressed stone walls to retain the
banks. The prison-like buildings on the farther shore were also of
colossal size, casting their shadows far out into the waters; while in
the distance, up and down the stream, could be seen the delicate web of
the Stanley and Warren Street bridges, with trolley cars like toys
gliding over them, with insect pedestrians creeping along the footpaths.

Mr. Ditmar's immediate staff consisted of Mr. Price, an elderly bachelor
of tried efficiency whose peculiar genius lay in computation, of a young
Mr. Caldwell who, during the four years since he had left Harvard, had
been learning the textile industry, of Miss Ottway, and Janet. Miss
Ottway was the agent's private stenographer, a strongly built, capable
woman with immense reserves seemingly inexhaustible. She had a deep,
masculine voice, not unmusical, the hint of a masculine moustache, a
masculine manner of taking to any job that came to hand. Nerves were
things unknown to her: she was granite, Janet tempered steel. Janet was
the second stenographer, and performed, besides, any odd tasks that might
be assigned.

There were, in the various offices of the superintendents, the paymaster
and purchasing agent, other young women stenographers whose companionship
Janet, had she been differently organized, might have found congenial,
but something in her refused to dissolve to their proffered friendship.
She had but one friend,--if Eda Rawle, who worked in a bank, and whom she
had met at a lunch counter by accident, may be called so. As has been
admirably said in another language, one kisses, the other offers a cheek:
Janet offered the cheek. All unconsciously she sought a relationship
rarely to be found in banks and business offices; would yield herself to
none other. The young women stenographers in the Chippering Mill,
respectable, industrious girls, were attracted by a certain indefinable
quality, but finding they made no progress in their advances, presently
desisted they were somewhat afraid of her; as one of them remarked, "You
always knew she was there." Miss Lottie Meyers, who worked in the office
of Mr. Orcutt, the superintendent across the hall, experienced a brief
infatuation that turned to hate. She chewed gum incessantly, Janet found
her cheap perfume insupportable; Miss Meyers, for her part, declared that
Janet was "queer" and "stuck up," thought herself better than the rest of
them. Lottie Meyers was the leader of a group of four or five which
gathered in the hallway at the end of the noon hour to enter animatedly
into a discussion of waists, hats, and lingerie, to ogle and exchange
persiflages with the young men of the paymaster's corps, to giggle, to
relate, sotto voce, certain stories that ended invariably in hysterical
laughter. Janet detested these conversations. And the sex question,
subtly suggested if not openly dealt with, to her was a mystery over
which she did not dare to ponder, terrible, yet too sacred to be
degraded. Her feelings, concealed under an exterior of self-possession,
deceptive to the casual observer, sometimes became molten, and she was
frightened by a passion that made her tremble--a passion by no means
always consciously identified with men, embodying all the fierce
unexpressed and unsatisfied desires of her life.

These emotions, often suggested by some hint of beauty, as of the sun
glinting on the river on a bright blue day, had a sudden way of
possessing her, and the longing they induced was pain. Longing for what?
For some unimagined existence where beauty dwelt, and light, where the
ecstasy induced by these was neither moiled nor degraded; where shame, as
now, might not assail her. Why should she feel her body hot with shame,
her cheeks afire? At such moments she would turn to the typewriter, her
fingers striking the keys with amazing rapidity, with extraordinary
accuracy and force,--force vaguely disturbing to Mr. Claude Ditmar as he
entered the office one morning and involuntarily paused to watch her. She
was unaware of his gaze, but her colour was like a crimson signal that
flashed to him and was gone. Why had he never noticed her before? All
these months, for more than a year, perhaps,--she had been in his office,
and he had not so much as looked at her twice. The unguessed answer was
that he had never surprised her in a vivid moment. He had a flair for
women, though he had never encountered any possessing the higher values,
and it was characteristic of the plane of his mental processes that this
one should remind him now of a dark, lithe panther, tensely strung,
capable of fierceness. The pain of having her scratch him would be
delectable.

When he measured her it was to discover that she was not so little, and
the shoulder-curve of her uplifted arms, as her fingers played over the
keys, seemed to belie that apparent slimness. And had he not been
unacquainted with the subtleties of the French mind and language, he
might have classed her as a fausse maigre. Her head was small, her hair
like a dark, blurred shadow clinging round it. He wanted to examine her
hair, to see whether it would not betray, at closer range, an
imperceptible wave,--but not daring to linger he went into his office,
closed the door, and sat down with a sensation akin to weakness, somewhat
appalled by his discovery, considerably amazed at his previous stupidity.
He had thought of Janet--when she had entered his mind at all--as
unobtrusive, demure; now he recognized this demureness as repression. Her
qualities needed illumination, and he, Claude Ditmar, had seen them
struck with fire. He wondered whether any other man had been as
fortunate.

Later in the morning, quite casually, he made inquiries of Miss Ottway,
who liked Janet and was willing to do her a good turn.

"Why, she's a clever girl, Mr. Ditmar, a good stenographer, and
conscientious in her work. She's very quick, too.

"Yes, I've noticed that," Ditmar replied, who was quite willing to have
it thought that his inquiry was concerned with Janet's aptitude for
business.

"She keeps to herself and minds her own affairs. You can see she comes of
good stock." Miss Ottway herself was proud of her New England blood. "Her
father, you know, is the gatekeeper down there. He's been unfortunate."

"You don't say--I didn't connect her with him. Fine looking old man. A
friend of mine who recommended him told me he'd seen better days ...."



CHAPTER II

In spite of the surprising discovery in his office of a young woman of
such a disquieting, galvanic quality, it must not be supposed that Mr.
Claude Ditmar intended to infringe upon a fixed principle. He had
principles. For him, as for the patriarchs and householders of Israel,
the seventh commandment was only relative, yet hitherto he had held
rigidly to that relativity, laying down the sound doctrine that women and
business would not mix: or, as he put it to his intimates, no sensible
man would fool with a girl in his office. Hence it may be implied that
Mr. Ditmar's experiences with the opposite sex had been on a property
basis. He was one of those busy and successful persons who had never
appreciated or acquired the art of quasi-platonic amenities, whose idea
of a good time was limited to discreet excursions with cronies, likewise
busy and successful persons who, by reason of having married early and
unwisely, are strangers to the delights of that higher social intercourse
chronicled in novels and the public prints. If one may conveniently
overlook the joys of a companionship of the soul, it is quite as possible
to have a taste in women as in champagne or cigars. Mr. Ditmar preferred
blondes, and he liked them rather stout, a predilection that had led him
into matrimony with a lady of this description: a somewhat sticky,
candy-eating lady with a mania for card parties, who undoubtedly would
have dyed her hair if she had lived. He was not inconsolable, but he had
had enough of marriage to learn that it demands a somewhat exorbitant
price for joys otherwise more reasonably to be obtained.

He was left a widower with two children, a girl of thirteen and a boy of
twelve, both somewhat large for their ages. Amy attended the only private
institution for the instruction of her sex of which Hampton could boast;
George continued at a public school. The late Mrs. Ditmar for some years
before her demise had begun to give evidence of certain restless
aspirations to which American ladies of her type and situation seem
peculiarly liable, and with a view to their ultimate realization she had
inaugurated a Jericho-like campaign. Death had released Ditmar from its
increasing pressure. For his wife had possessed that admirable substitute
for character, persistence, had been expert in the use of importunity,
often an efficient weapon in the hands of the female economically
dependent. The daughter of a defunct cashier of the Hampton National
Bank, when she had married Ditmar, then one of the superintendents of the
Chippering and already a marked man, she had deemed herself fortunate
among women, looking forward to a life of ease and idleness and candy in
great abundance,--a dream temporarily shattered by the unforeseen
discomfort of bringing two children into the world, with an interval of
scarcely a year between them. Her parents from an excess of native
modesty having failed to enlighten her on this subject, her feelings were
those of outraged astonishment, and she was quite determined not to
repeat the experience a third time. Knowledge thus belatedly acquired,
for a while she abandoned herself to the satisfaction afforded by the
ability to take a commanding position in Hampton society, gradually to
become aware of the need of a more commodious residence. In a certain
kind of intuition she was rich. Her husband had meanwhile become Agent of
the Chippering Mill, and she strongly suspected that his prudent
reticence on the state of his finances was the best indication of an
increasing prosperity. He had indeed made money, been given many
opportunities for profitable investments; but the argument for social
pre-eminence did not appeal to him: tears and reproaches, recriminations,
when frequently applied, succeeded better; like many married men, what he
most desired was to be let alone; but in some unaccountable way she had
come to suspect that his preference for blondes was of a more liberal
nature than at first, in her innocence, she had realized. She was
jealous, too, of his cronies, in spite of the fact that these gentlemen,
when they met her, treated her with an elaborate politeness; and she
accused him with entire justice of being more intimate with them than
with her, with whom he was united in holy bonds. The inevitable result of
these tactics was the modern mansion in the upper part of Warren Street,
known as the "residential" district. Built on a wide lot, with a garage
on one side to the rear, with a cement driveway divided into squares, and
a wall of democratic height separating its lawn from the sidewalk, the
house may for the present be better imagined than described.

A pious chronicler of a more orthodox age would doubtless have deemed it
a judgment that Cora Ditmar survived but two years to enjoy the glories
of the Warren Street house. For a while her husband indulged in a foolish
optimism, only to learn that the habit of matrimonial blackmail, once
acquired, is not easily shed. Scarcely had he settled down to the belief
that by the gratification of her supreme desire he had achieved
comparative peace, than he began to suspect her native self-confidence of
cherishing visions of a career contemplating nothing less than the
eventual abandonment of Hampton itself as a field too limited for her
social talents and his business ability and bank account--at which she
was pleased to hint. Hampton suited Ditmar, his passion was the
Chippering Mill; and he was in process of steeling himself to resist,
whatever the costs, this preposterous plan when he was mercifully
released by death. Her intention of sending the children away to acquire
a culture and finish Hampton did not afford,--George to Silliston
Academy, Amy to a fashionable boarding school,--he had not opposed, yet
he did not take the idea with sufficient seriousness to carry it out. The
children remained at home, more or less--increasingly less--in the charge
of an elderly woman who acted as housekeeper.

Ditmar had miraculously regained his freedom. And now, when he made trips
to New York and Boston, combining business with pleasure, there were no
questions asked, no troublesome fictions to be composed. More frequently
he was in Boston, where he belonged to a large and comfortable club, not
too exacting in regard to membership, and here he met his cronies and
sometimes planned excursions with them, automobile trips in summer to the
White Mountains or choice little resorts to spend Sundays and holidays,
generally taking with them a case of champagne and several bags of golf
sticks. He was fond of shooting, and belonged to a duck club on the Cape,
where poker and bridge were not tabooed. To his intimates he was known as
"Dit." Nor is it surprising that his attitude toward women had become in
general one of resentment; matrimony he now regarded as unmitigated
folly. At five and forty he was a vital, dominating, dust-coloured man
six feet and half an inch in height, weighing a hundred and ninety
pounds, and thus a trifle fleshy. When relaxed, and in congenial company,
he looked rather boyish, an aspect characteristic of many American
business men of to-day.

His head was large, he wore his hair short, his features also proclaimed
him as belonging to a modern American type in that they were not
clear-cut, but rather indefinable; a bristling, short-cropped moustache
gave him a certain efficient, military look which, when introduced to
strangers as "Colonel," was apt to deceive them into thinking him an army
officer. The title he had once received as a member of the staff of the
governor of the state, and was a tribute to a gregariousness and
political influence rather than to a genius for the art of war. Ex
officio, as the agent of the Chippering Mill and a man of substance to
boot, he was "in" politics, hail fellow well met with and an individual
to be taken into account by politicians from the governor and member of
congress down. He was efficient, of course; he had efficient hands and
shrewd, efficient eyes, and the military impression was deepened by his
manner of dealing with people, his conversation being yea, yea and nay,
nay,--save with his cronies and those of the other sex from whom he had
something to gain. His clothes always looked new, of pronounced patterns
and light colours set aside for him by an obsequious tailor in Boston.

If a human being in such an enviable position as that of agent of the
Chippering Mill can be regarded as property, it might be said that Mr.
Claude Ditmar belonged to the Chipperings of Boston, a family still
owning a controlling interest in the company. His loyalty to them and to
the mill he so ably conducted was the great loyalty of his life. For
Ditmar, a Chippering could do no wrong. It had been the keen eye of Mr.
Stephen Chippering that first had marked him, questioned him, recognized
his ability, and from the moment of that encounter his advance had been
rapid. When old Stephen had been called to his fathers, Ditmar's
allegiance was automatically, as it were, transferred to the two sons,
George and Worthington, already members of the board of directors.
Sometimes Ditmar called on them at their homes, which stood overlooking
the waters of the Charles River Basin. The attitude toward him of the
Chipperings and their wives was one of an interesting adjustment of
feudalism to democracy. They were fond of him, grateful to him, treating
him with a frank camaraderie that had in it not the slightest touch of
condescension, but Ditmar would have been the first to recognize that
there were limits to the intimacy. They did not, for instance--no doubt
out of consideration--invite him to their dinner parties or take him to
their club, which was not the same as that to which he himself belonged.
He felt no animus. Nor would he, surprising though it may seem, have
changed places with the Chipperings. At an early age, and quite
unconsciously, he had accepted property as the ruling power of the
universe, and when family was added thereto the combination was nothing
less than divine.

There were times, especially during the long winters, when life became
almost unbearable for Janet, and she was seized by a desire to run away
from Fillmore Street, from the mills, from Hampton itself. Only she did
not know where to go, or how to get away. She was convinced of the
existence in the world of delightful spots where might be found congenial
people with whom it would be a joy to talk. Fillmore Street, certainly,
did not contain any such. The office was not so bad. It is true that in
the mornings, as she entered West Street, the sight of the dark facade of
the fortress-like structure, emblematic of the captivity in which she
passed her days, rarely failed to arouse in her sensations of oppression
and revolt; but here, at least, she discovered an outlet for her
energies; she was often too busy to reflect, and at odd moments she could
find a certain solace and companionship in the river, so intent, so
purposeful, so beautiful, so undisturbed by the inconcinnity, the clatter
and confusion of Hampton as it flowed serenely under the bridges and
between the mills toward the sea. Toward the sea!

It was when, at night, she went back to Fillmore Street--when she thought
of the monotony, yes, and the sordidness of home, when she let herself in
at the door and climbed the dark and narrow stairway, that her feet grew
leaden. In spite of the fact that Hannah was a good housekeeper and
prided herself on cleanliness, the tiny flat reeked with the smell of
cooking, and Janet, from the upper hall, had a glimpse of a thin, angular
woman with a scrawny neck, with scant grey hair tightly drawn into a
knot, in a gingham apron covering an old dress bending over the kitchen
stove. And occasionally, despite a resentment that fate should have dealt
thus inconsiderately with the family, Janet felt pity welling within her.
After supper, when Lise had departed with her best young man, Hannah
would occasionally, though grudgingly, permit Janet to help her with the
dishes.

"You work all day, you have a right to rest."

"But I don't want to rest," Janet would declare, and rub the dishes the
harder. With the spirit underlying this protest, Hannah sympathized.
Mother and daughter were alike in that both were inarticulate, but Janet
had a secret contempt for Hannah's uncomplaining stoicism. She loved her
mother, in a way, especially at certain times,--though she often wondered
why she was unable to realize more fully the filial affection of
tradition; but in moments of softening, such as these, she was filled
with rage at the thought of any woman endowed with energy permitting
herself to be overtaken and overwhelmed by such a fate as Hannah's:
divorce, desertion, anything, she thought, would have been
better--anything but to be cheated out of life. Feeling the fires of
rebellion burning hotly within her,--rebellion against environment and
driving necessity she would glance at her mother and ask herself whether
it were possible that Hannah had ever known longings, had ever been wrung
by inexpressible desires,--desires in which the undiscovered spiritual
was so alarmingly compounded with the undiscovered physical. She would
have died rather than speak to Hannah of these unfulfilled experiences,
and the mere thought of confiding them to any person appalled her. Even
if there existed some wonderful, understanding being to whom she might be
able thus to empty her soul, the thought of the ecstasy of that kenosis
was too troubling to be dwelt upon.

She had tried reading, with unfortunate results,--perhaps because no
Virgil had as yet appeared to guide her through the mysteries of that
realm. Her schooling had failed to instil into her a discriminating taste
for literature; and when, on occasions, she had entered the Public
Library opposite the Common it had been to stare hopelessly at rows of
books whose authors and titles offered no clue to their contents. Her few
choices had not been happy, they had failed to interest and thrill...

Of the Bumpus family Lise alone found refuge, distraction, and excitement
in the vulgar modern world by which they were surrounded, and of whose
heedlessness and remorselessness they were the victims. Lise went out
into it, became a part of it, returning only to sleep and eat,--a
tendency Hannah found unaccountable, and against which even her stoicism
was not wholly proof. Scarce an evening went by without an expression of
uneasiness from Hannah.

"She didn't happen to mention where she was going, did she, Janet?"
Hannah would query, when she had finished her work and put on her
spectacles to read the Banner.

"To the movies, I suppose," Janet would reply. Although well aware that
her sister indulged in other distractions, she thought it useless to add
to Hannah's disquietude. And if she had little patience with Lise, she
had less with the helpless attitude of her parents.

"Well," Hannah would add, "I never can get used to her going out nights
the way she does, and with young men and women I don't know anything
about. I wasn't brought up that way. But as long as she's got to work for
a living I guess there's no help for it."

And she would glance at Edward. It was obviously due to his inability
adequately to cope with modern conditions that his daughters were forced
to toil, but this was the nearest she ever came to reproaching him. If he
heard, he acquiesced humbly, and in silence: more often than not he was
oblivious, buried in the mazes of the Bumpus family history, his papers
spread out on the red cloth of the dining-room table, under the lamp.
Sometimes in his simplicity and with the enthusiasm that demands
listeners he would read aloud to them a letter, recently received from a
distant kinsman, an Alpheus Bumpus, let us say, who had migrated to
California in search of wealth and fame, and who had found neither. In
spite of age and misfortunes, the liberal attitude of these western
members of the family was always a matter of perplexity to Edward.

"He tells me they're going to give women the ballot,--doesn't appear to
be much concerned about his own womenfolks going to the polls."

"Why shouldn't they, if they want to?" Janet would exclaim, though she
had given little thought to the question.

Edward would mildly ignore this challenge.

"He has a house on what they call Russian Hill, and he can watch the
vessels as they come in from Japan," he would continue in his precise
voice, emphasizing admirably the last syllables of the words "Russian,"
"vessels," and "Japan." "Wouldn't you like to see the letter?"

To do Hannah justice, although she was quite incapable of sharing his
passion, she frequently feigned an interest, took the letter, presently
handing it on to Janet who, in deciphering Alpheus's trembling
calligraphy, pondered over his manifold woes. Alpheus's son, who had had
a good position in a sporting goods establishment on Market Street, was
sick and in danger of losing it, the son's wife expecting an addition to
the family, the house on Russian Hill mortgaged. Alpheus, a veteran of
the Civil War, had been for many years preparing his reminiscences, but
the newspapers nowadays seemed to care nothing for matters of solid
worth, and so far had refused to publish them.... Janet, as she read,
reflected that these letters invariably had to relate tales of failures,
of disappointed hopes; she wondered at her father's perennial interest in
failures,--provided they were those of his family; and the next evening,
as he wrote painfully on his ruled paper, she knew that he in turn was
pouring out his soul to Alpheus, recounting, with an emotion by no means
unpleasurable, to this sympathetic but remote relative the story of his
own failure!

If the city of Hampton was emblematic of our modern world in which
haphazardness has replaced order, Fillmore Street may be likened to a
back eddy of the muddy and troubled waters, in which all sorts of flotsam
and jetsam had collected. Or, to find perhaps an even more striking
illustration of the process that made Hampton in general and Fillmore
Street in particular, one had only to take the trolley to Glendale, the
Italian settlement on the road leading to the old New England village of
Shrewsbury. Janet sometimes walked there, alone or with her friend Eda
Rawle. Disintegration itself--in a paradoxically pathetic attempt at
reconstruction--had built Glendale. Human hands, Italian hands. Nor,
surprising though it may seem, were these descendants of the people of
the Renaissance in the least offended by their handiwork. When the
southern European migration had begun and real estate became valuable,
one by one the more decorous edifices of the old American order had been
torn down and carried piecemeal by sons of Italy to the bare hills of
Glendale, there to enter into new combinations representing, to an eye
craving harmony, the last word of a chaos, of a mental indigestion, of a
colour scheme crying aloud to heaven for retribution. Standing alone and
bare amidst its truck gardens, hideous, extreme, though typical of the
entire settlement, composed of fragments ripped from once-appropriate
settings, is a house with a tiny body painted strawberry-red, with
scroll-work shutters a tender green; surmounting the structure and almost
equalling it in size is a sky-blue cupola, once the white crown of the
Sutter mansion, the pride of old Hampton. The walls of this dwelling were
wrested from the sides of Mackey's Tavern, while the shutters for many
years adorned the parsonage of the old First Church. Similarly, in
Hampton and in Fillmore Street, lived in enforced neighbourliness human
fragments once having their places in crystallized communities where
existence had been regarded as solved. Here there was but one order,--if
such it may be called,--one relationship, direct, or indirect, one
necessity claiming them all--the mills.

Like the boards forming the walls of the shacks at Glendale, these human
planks torn from an earlier social structure were likewise warped, which
is to say they were dominated by obsessions. Edward's was the Bumpus
family; and Chris Auermann, who lived in the flat below, was convinced
that the history of mankind is a deplorable record of havoc caused by
women. Perhaps he was right, but the conviction was none the less an
obsession. He came from a little village near Wittenburg that has
scarcely changed since Luther's time. Like most residents of Hampton who
did not work in the mills, he ministered to those who did, or to those
who sold merchandise to the workers, cutting their hair in his barber
shop on Faber Street.

The Bumpuses, save Lise, clinging to a native individualism and pride,
preferred isolation to companionship with the other pieces of driftwood
by which they were surrounded, and with which the summer season compelled
a certain enforced contact. When the heat in the little dining-room grew
unbearable, they were driven to take refuge on the front steps shared in
common with the household of the barber. It is true that the barber's
wife was a mild hausfrau who had little to say, and that their lodgers,
two young Germans who worked in the mills, spent most of their evenings
at a bowling club; but Auermann himself, exhaling a strong odour of bay
rum, would arrive promptly at quarter past eight, take off his coat, and
thus, as it were stripped for action, would turn upon the defenceless
Edward.

"Vill you mention one great man--yoost one--who is not greater if the
vimmen leave him alone?" he would demand. "Is it Anthony, the conqueror
of Egypt and the East? I vill show you Cleopatra. Und Burns, and
Napoleon, the greatest man what ever lived--vimmen again. I tell you
there is no Elba, no St. Helena if it is not for the vimmen. Und vat vill
you say of Goethe?"

Poor Edward could think of nothing to say of Goethe.

"He is great, I grant you," Chris would admit, "but vat is he if the
vimmen leave him alone? Divine yoost that." And he would proceed to cite
endless examples of generals and statesmen whose wives or mistresses had
been their bane. Futile Edward's attempts to shift the conversation to
the subject of his own obsession; the German was by far the more
aggressive, he would have none of it. Perhaps if Edward had been willing
to concede that the Bumpuses had been brought to their present lowly
estate by the sinister agency of the fair sex Chris might conditionally
have accepted the theme. Hannah, contemptuously waving a tattered palm
leaf fan, was silent; but on one occasion Janet took away the barber's
breath by suddenly observing:--"You never seem to think of the women
whose lives are ruined by men, Mr. Auermann."

It was unheard-of, this invasion of a man's argument by a woman, and by a
young woman at that. He glared at her through his spectacles, took them
off, wiped them, replaced them, and glared at her again. He did not like
Janet; she was capable of what may be called a speaking silence, and he
had never been wholly unaware of her disapproval and ridicule. Perhaps he
recognized in her, instinctively, the potential qualities of that
emerging modern woman who to him was anathema.

"It is somethings I don't think about," he said.

He was a wizened little man with faience-blue eyes, and sat habitually
hunched up with his hands folded across his shins.

"Nam fuit ante Helenam"--as Darwin quotes. Toward all the masculine
residents of Fillmore Street, save one, the barber's attitude was one of
unconcealed scorn for an inability to recognize female perfidy. With
Johnny Tiernan alone he refused to enter the lists. When the popular
proprietor of the tin shop came sauntering along the sidewalk with nose
uptilted, waving genial greetings to the various groups on the steps,
Chris Auermann's expression would suddenly change to one of fatuous
playfulness.

"What's this I hear about giving the girls the vote, Chris?" Johnny would
innocently inquire, winking at Janet, invariably running his hand through
the wiry red hair that resumed its corkscrew twist as soon as he released
it. And Chris would as invariably reply:--"You have the dandruffs--yes?
You come to my shop, I give you somethings...."

Sometimes the barber, in search of a more aggressive adversary than
Edward, would pay visits, when as likely as not another neighbour with
profound convictions and a craving for proselytes would swoop down on the
defenceless Bumpuses: Joe Shivers, for instance, who lived in one of the
tenements above the cleaning and dyeing establishment kept by the Pappas
Bros., and known as "The Gentleman." In the daytime Mr. Shivers was a
model of acquiescence in a system he would have designated as one of
industrial feudalism, his duty being to examine the rolls of cloth as
they came from the looms of the Arundel Mill, in case of imperfections
handing them over to the women menders: at night, to borrow a vivid
expression from Lise, he was "batty in the belfry" on the subject of
socialism. Unlike the barber, whom he could not abide, for him the
cleavage of the world was between labour and capital instead of man and
woman; his philosophy was stern and naturalistic; the universe--the
origin of which he did not discuss--just an accidental assemblage of
capricious forces over which human intelligence was one day to triumph.
Squatting on the lowest step, his face upturned, by the light of the arc
sputtering above the street he looked like a yellow frog, his eager eyes
directed toward Janet, whom he suspected of intelligence.

"If there was a God, a nice, kind, all-powerful God, would he permit what
happened in one of the loom-rooms last week? A Polak girl gets her hair
caught in the belt pfff!" He had a marvellously realistic gift when it
came to horrors: Janet felt her hair coming out by the roots. Although
she never went to church, she did not like to think that no God existed.
Of this Mr. Shivers was very positive. Edward, too, listened uneasily,
hemmed and hawed, making ineffectual attempts to combat Mr. Shivers's
socialism with a deeply-rooted native individualism that Shivers declared
as defunct as Christianity.

"If it is possible for the workingman to rise under a capitalistic
system, why do you not rise, then? Why do I not rise? I'm as good as
Ditmar, I'm better educated, but we're all slaves. What right has a man
to make you and me work for him just because he has capital?"

"Why, the right of capital," Edward would reply.

Mr. Shivers, with the manner of one dealing with an incurable romanticism
and sentimentality, would lift his hands in despair. And in spite of the
fact that Janet detested him, he sometimes exercised over her a
paradoxical fascination, suggesting as he did unexplored intellectual
realms. She despised her father for not being able to crush the little
man. Edward would make pathetic attempts to capture the role Shivers had
appropriated, to be the practical party himself, to convict Shivers of
idealism. Socialism scandalized him, outraged, even more than atheism,
something within him he held sacred, and he was greatly annoyed because
he was unable adequately to express this feeling.

"You can't change human nature, Mr. Shivers," Edward would insist in his
precise but ineffectual manner. "We all want property, you would accept a
fortune if it was offered to you, and so should I. Americans will never
become socialists."

"But look at me, wasn't I born in Meriden, Connecticut? Ain't that Yankee
enough for you?" Thus Mr. Shivers sought blandly to confound him.

A Yankee Shades of the Pilgrim fathers, of seven, generations of
Bumpuses! A Yankee who used his hands in that way, a Yankee with a nose
like that, a Yankee with a bald swathe down the middle of his crown and
bunches of black, moth-eaten hair on either side! But Edward, too polite
to descend to personalities, was silent....

In brief, this very politeness of Edward's, which his ancestors would
have scorned, this consideration and lack of self-assertion made him the
favourite prey of the many "characters" in Fillmore Street whose sanity
had been disturbed by pressure from above, in whose systems had lodged
the germs of those exotic social doctrines floating so freely in the air
of our modern industrial communities .... Chester Glenn remains for a
passing mention. A Yankee of Yankees, this, born on a New Hampshire farm,
and to the ordinary traveller on the Wigmore branch of the railroad just
a good-natured, round-faced, tobacco-chewing brakeman who would take a
seat beside ladies of his acquaintance aid make himself agreeable until
it was time to rise and bawl out, in the approved manner of his
profession, the name of the next station. Fillmore Street knew that the
flat visored cap which his corporation compelled him to wear covered a
brain into which had penetrated the maggot of the Single Tax. When he
encountered Mr. Shivers or Auermann the talk became coruscating..

Eda Rawle, Janet's solitary friend of these days, must also be mentioned,
though the friendship was merely an episode in Janet's life. Their first
meeting was at Grady's quick-lunch counter in Faber Street, which they
both frequented at one time, and the fact that each had ordered a ham
sandwich, a cup of coffee, and a confection--new to Grady's--known as a
Napoleon had led to conversation.

Eda, of course, was the aggressor; she was irresistibly drawn, she would
not be repulsed. A stenographer in the Wessex National Bank, she boarded
with a Welsh family in Spruce Street; matter-of-fact, plodding,
commonplace, resembling--as Janet thought--a horse, possessing, indeed
many of the noble qualities of that animal, she might have been thought
the last person in the world to discern and appreciate in Janet the
hidden elements of a mysterious fire. In appearance Miss Rawle was of a
type not infrequent in Anglo-Saxon lands, strikingly blonde, with high
malar bones, white eyelashes, and eyes of a metallic blue, cheeks of an
amazing elasticity that worked rather painfully as she talked or smiled,
drawing back inadequate lips, revealing long, white teeth and vivid gums.
It was the craving in her for romance Janet assuaged; Eda's was the love
content to pour out, that demands little. She was capable of immolation.
Janet was by no means ungrateful for the warmth of such affection, though
in moments conscious of a certain perplexity and sadness because she was
able to give such a meagre return for the wealth of its offering.

In other moments, when the world seemed all disorder and chaos,--as Mr.
Shivers described it,--or when she felt within her, like demons, those
inexpressible longings and desires, leaping and straining, pulling her,
almost irresistibly, she knew not whither, Eda shone forth like a light
in the darkness, like the beacon of a refuge and a shelter. Eda had faith
in her, even when Janet had lost faith in herself: she went to Eda in the
same spirit that Marguerite went to church; though she, Janet, more
resembled Faust, being--save in these hours of lowered vitality--of the
forth-faring kind .... Unable to confess the need that drove her, she
arrived in Eda's little bedroom to be taken into Eda's arms. Janet was
immeasurably the stronger of the two, but Eda possessed the masculine
trait of protectiveness, the universe never bothered her, she was one of
those persons--called fortunate--to whom the orthodox Christian virtues
come as naturally as sun or air. Passion, when sanctified by matrimony,
was her ideal, and now it was always in terms of Janet she dreamed of it,
having read about it in volumes her friend would not touch, and never
having experienced deeply its discomforts. Sanctified or unsanctified,
Janet regarded it with terror, and whenever Eda innocently broached the
subject she recoiled. Once Eda exclaimed:--"When you do fall in love,
Janet, you must tell me all about it, every word!"

Janet blushed hotly, and was silent. In Eda's mind such an affair was a
kind of glorified fireworks ending in a cluster of stars, in Janet's a
volcanic eruption to turn the world red. Such was the difference between
them.

Their dissipations together consisted of "sundaes" at a drug-store, or
sometimes of movie shows at the Star or the Alhambra. Stereotyped on
Eda's face during the legitimately tender passages of these dramas was an
expression of rapture, a smile made peculiarly infatuate by that vertical
line in her cheeks, that inadequacy of lip and preponderance of white
teeth and red gums. It irritated, almost infuriated Janet, to whom it
appeared as the logical reflection of what was passing on the screen; she
averted her glance from both, staring into her lap, filled with shame
that the relation between the sexes should be thus exposed to public
gaze, parodied, sentimentalized, degraded.... There were, however,
marvels to stir her, strange landscapes, cities, seas, and ships,--once a
fire in the forest of a western reserve with gigantic tongues of orange
flame leaping from tree to tree. The movies brought the world to Hampton,
the great world into which she longed to fare, brought the world to her!
Remote mountain hamlets from Japan, minarets and muezzins from the
Orient, pyramids from Egypt, domes from Moscow resembling gilded beets
turned upside down; grey houses of parliament by the Thames, the Tower of
London, the Palaces of Potsdam, the Tai Mahal. Strange lands indeed, and
stranger peoples! booted Russians in blouses, naked Equatorial savages
tattooed and amazingly adorned, soldiers and sailors, presidents, princes
and emperors brought into such startling proximity one could easily
imagine one's self exchanging the time of day! Incredible to Janet how
the audiences, how even Eda accepted with American complacency what were
to her never-ending miracles; the yearning to see more, to know more,
became acute, like a pain, but even as she sought to devour these scenes,
to drink in every detail, with tantalizing swiftness they were whisked
away. They were peepholes in the walls of her prison; and at night she
often charmed herself to sleep with remembered visions of wide, empty,
treeshaded terraces reserved for kings.

But Eda, however complacent her interest in the scenes themselves, was
thrilled to the marrow by their effect on Janet, who was her medium.
Emerging from the vestibule of the theatre, Janet seemed not to see the
slushy street, her eyes shone with a silver light like that of a mountain
lake in a stormy sunset. And they walked in silence until Janet would
exclaim:

"Oh Eda, wouldn't you love to travel!"

Thus Eda Rawle was brought in contact with values she herself was
powerless to detect, and which did not become values until they had
passed through Janet. One "educative" reel they had seen had begun with
scenes in a lumber camp high in the mountains of Galicia, where grow
forests of the priceless pine that becomes, after years of drying and
seasoning, the sounding board of the Stradivarius and the harp. Even then
it must respond to a Player. Eda, though failing to apply this poetic
parallel, when alone in her little room in the Welsh boarding-house often
indulged in an ecstasy of speculation as to that man, hidden in the mists
of the future, whose destiny it would be to awaken her friend. Hampton
did not contain him,--of this she was sure; and in her efforts to
visualize him she had recourse to the movies, seeking him amongst that
brilliant company of personages who stood so haughtily or walked so
indifferently across the ephemeral brightness of the screen.

By virtue of these marvels of the movies: Hampton ugly and sordid
Hampton!--actually began for Janet to take on a romantic tinge. Were not
the strange peoples of the earth flocking to Hampton? She saw them
arriving at the station, straight from Ellis Island, bewildered, ticketed
like dumb animals, the women draped in the soft, exotic colours many of
them were presently to exchange for the cheap and gaudy apparel of Faber
Street. She sought to summon up in her mind the glimpses she had had of
the wonderful lands from which they had come, to imagine their lives in
that earlier environment. Sometimes she wandered, alone or with Eda,
through the various quarters of the city. Each quarter had a flavour of
its own, a synthetic flavour belonging neither to the old nor to the new,
yet partaking of both: a difference in atmosphere to which Janet was
keenly sensitive. In the German quarter, to the north, one felt a sort of
ornamental bleakness--if the expression may be permitted: the tenements
here were clean and not too crowded, the scroll-work on their
superimposed porches, like that decorating the Turnverein and the stem
Lutheran Church, was eloquent of a Teutonic inheritance: The Belgians
were to the west, beyond the base-ball park and the car barns, their grey
houses scattered among new streets beside the scarred and frowning face
of Torrey's hill. Almost under the hill itself, which threatened to roll
down on it, and facing a bottomless, muddy street, was the quaint little
building giving the note of foreign thrift, of socialism and shrewdness,
of joie de vivre to the settlement, the Franco-Belgian co-operative
store, with its salle de reunion above and a stage for amateur
theatricals. Standing in the mud outside, Janet would gaze through the
tiny windows in the stucco wall at the baskets prepared for each
household laid in neat rows beside the counter; at the old man with the
watery blue eyes and lacing of red in his withered cheeks who spoke no
English, whose duty it was to distribute the baskets to the women and
children as they called.

Turning eastward again, one came to Dey Street, in the heart of Hampton,
where Hibernian Hall stood alone and grim, sole testimony of the departed
Hibernian glories of a district where the present Irish rulers of the
city had once lived and gossiped and fought in the days when the mill
bells had roused the boarding-house keepers at half past four of a winter
morning. Beside the hall was a corner lot, heaped high with hills of
ashes and rubbish like the vomitings of some filthy volcano; the
unsightliness of which was half concealed by huge signs announcing the
merits of chewing gums, tobaccos, and cereals. But why had the departure
of the Irish, the coming of the Syrians made Dey Street dark, narrow,
mysterious, oriental? changed the very aspect of its architecture? Was it
the coffee-houses? One of these, in front of which Janet liked to linger,
was set weirdly into an old New England cottage, and had, apparently,
fathomless depths. In summer the whole front of it lay open to the
street, and here all day long, beside the table where the charcoal
squares were set to dry, could be seen saffron-coloured Armenians
absorbed in a Turkish game played on a backgammon board, their gentleness
and that of the loiterers looking on in strange contrast with their
hawk-like profiles and burning eyes. Behind this group, in the half light
of the middle interior, could be discerned an American soda-water
fountain of a bygone fashion, on its marble counter oddly shaped bottles
containing rose and violet syrups; there was a bottle-shaped stove, and
on the walls, in gilt frames, pictures evidently dating from the period
in American art that flourished when Franklin Pierce was President; and
there was an array of marble topped tables extending far back into the
shadows. Behind the fountain was a sort of cupboard--suggestive of the
Arabian Nights, which Janet had never read--from which, occasionally, the
fat proprietor emerged bearing Turkish coffee or long Turkish pipes.

When not thus occupied the proprietor carried a baby. The street swarmed
with babies, and mothers nursed them on the door-steps. And in this
teeming, prolific street one could scarcely move without stepping on a
fat, almond eyed child, though some, indeed, were wheeled; wheeled in all
sorts of queer contrivances by one another, by fathers with ragged black
moustaches and eagle noses who, to the despair of mill superintendents,
had decided in the morning that three days' wages would since to support
their families for the week .... In the midst of the throng might be seen
occasionally the stout and comfortable and not too immaculate figure of a
shovel bearded Syrian priest, in a frock coat and square-topped "Derby"
hat, sailing along serenely, heedless of the children who scattered out
of his path.

Nearby was the quarter of the Canadian French, scarcely now to be called
foreigners, though still somewhat reminiscent of the cramped little towns
in the northern wilderness of water and forest. On one corner stood
almost invariably a "Pharmacie Francaise"; the signs were in French, and
the elders spoke the patois. These, despite the mill pallor, retained in
their faces, in their eyes, a suggestion of the outdoor look of their
ancestors, the coureurs des bois, but the children spoke English, and the
young men, as they played baseball in the street or in the corner lots
might be heard shouting out derisively the cry of the section hands so
familiar in mill cities, "Doff, you beggars you, doff!"

Occasionally the two girls strayed into that wide thoroughfare not far
from the canal, known by the classic name of Hawthorne, which the
Italians had appropriated to themselves. This street, too, in spite of
the telegraph poles flaunting crude arms in front of its windows, in
spite of the trolley running down its middle, had acquired a character, a
unity all its own, a warmth and picturesqueness that in the lingering
light of summer evenings assumed an indefinable significance. It was not
Italy, but it was something--something proclaimed in the ornate, leaning
lines of the pillared balconies of the yellow tenement on the second
block, in the stone-vaulted entrance of the low house next door, in
fantastically coloured walls, in curtained windows out of which leaned
swarthy, earringed women. Blocking the end of the street, in stern
contrast, was the huge Clarendon Mill with its sinister brick pillars
running up the six stories between the glass. Here likewise the sidewalks
overflowed with children, large-headed, with great, lustrous eyes, mute,
appealing, the eyes of cattle. Unlike American children, they never
seemed to be playing. Among the groups of elders gathered for gossip were
piratical Calabrians in sombre clothes, descended from Greek ancestors,
once the terrors of the Adriatic Sea. The women, lingering in the
doorways, hemmed in by more children, were for the most part squat and
plump, but once in a while Janet's glance was caught and held by a
strange, sharp beauty worthy of a cameo.

Opposite the Clarendon Mill on the corner of East Street was a provision
store with stands of fruit and vegetables encroaching on the pavement.
Janet's eye was attracted by a box of olives.

"Oh Eda," she cried, "do you remember, we saw them being picked--in the
movies? All those old trees on the side of a hill?"

"Why, that's so," said Eda. "You never would have thought anything'd grow
on those trees."

The young Italian who kept the store gave them a friendly grin.

"You lika the olives?" he asked, putting some of the shining black fruit
into their hands. Eda bit one dubiously with her long, white teeth, and
giggled.

"Don't they taste funny!" she exclaimed.

"Good--very good," he asserted gravely, and it was to Janet he turned, as
though recognizing a discrimination not to be found in her companion. She
nodded affirmatively. The strange taste of the fruit enhanced her sense
of adventure, she tried to imagine herself among the gatherers in the
grove; she glanced at the young man to perceive that he was tall and well
formed, with remarkably expressive eyes almost the colour of the olives
themselves. It surprised her that she liked him, though he was an Italian
and a foreigner: a certain debonnair dignity in him appealed to her--a
quality lacking in many of her own countrymen.

And she wanted to talk to him about Italy,--only she did not know how to
begin,--when a customer appeared, an Italian woman who conversed with him
in soft, liquid tones that moved her ....

Sometimes on these walks--especially if the day were grey and
sombre--Janet's sense of romance and adventure deepened, became more
poignant, charged with presage. These feelings, vague and unaccountable,
she was utterly unable to confide to Eda, yet the very fear they inspired
was fascinating; a fear and a hope that some day, in all this Babel of
peoples, something would happen! It was as though the conflicting soul of
the city and her own soul were one....



CHAPTER III

Lise was the only member of the Bumpus family who did not find
uncongenial such distractions and companionships as were offered by the
civilization that surrounded them. The Bagatelle she despised; that was
slavery--but slavery out of which she might any day be snatched, like
Leila Hawtrey, by a prince charming who had made a success in life.
Success to Lise meant money. Although what some sentimental sociologists
might call a victim of our civilization, Lise would not have changed it,
since it produced not only Lise herself, but also those fabulous
financiers with yachts and motors and town and country houses she read
about in the supplements of the Sunday newspapers. It contained her
purgatory, which she regarded in good conventional fashion as a mere
temporary place of detention, and likewise the heaven toward which she
strained, the dwelling-place of light. In short, her philosophy was that
of the modern, orthodox American, tinged by a somewhat commercialized
Sunday school tradition of an earlier day, and highly approved by the
censors of the movies. The peculiar kind of abstinence once
euphemistically known as "virtue," particularly if it were combined with
beauty, never failed of its reward. Lise, in this sense, was indeed
virtuous, and her mirror told her she was beautiful. Almost anything
could happen to such a lady: any day she might be carried up into heaven
by that modern chariot of fire, the motor car, driven by a celestial
chauffeur.

One man's meat being another's poison, Lise absorbed from the movies an
element by which her sister Janet was repelled. A popular production
known as "Leila of Hawtrey's" contained her creed,--Hawtrey's being a
glittering metropolitan restaurant where men of the world are wont to
gather and discuss the stock market, and Leila a beautiful, blonde and
orphaned waitress upon whom several of the fashionable frequenters had
exercised seductive powers in vain. They lay in wait for her at the side
entrance, followed her, while one dissipated and desperate person,
married, and said to move in the most exclusive circles, sent her an
offer of a yearly income in five figures, the note being reproduced on
the screen, and Leila pictured reading it in her frigid hall-bedroom.
There are complications; she is in debt, and the proprietor of Hawtrey's
has threatened to discharge her and in order that the magnitude of the
temptation may be most effectively realized the vision appears of Leila
herself, wrapped in furs, stepping out of a limousine and into an
elevator lifting her to an apartment containing silk curtains, a Canet
bed, a French maid, and a Pomeranian. Virtue totters, but triumphs, being
reinforced by two more visions the first of these portrays Leila,
prematurely old, dragging herself along pavements under the metallic
Broadway lights accosting gentlemen in evening dress; and the second
reveals her in the country, kneeling beside a dying mother's bed, giving
her promise to remain true to the Christian teachings of her childhood.

And virtue is rewarded, lavishly, as virtue should be, in dollars and
cents, in stocks and bonds, in pearls and diamonds. Popular fancy takes
kindly to rough but honest westerners who have begun life in flannel
shirts, who have struck gold and come to New York with a fortune but
despising effeteness; such a one, tanned by the mountain sun, embarrassed
in raiment supplied by a Fifth Avenue tailor, takes a table one evening
at Hawtrey's and of course falls desperately in love. He means marriage
from the first, and his faith in Leila is great enough to survive what
appears to be an almost total eclipse of her virtue. Through the
machinations of the influential villain, and lured by the false pretence
that one of her girl friends is ill, she is enticed into a mysterious
house of a sinister elegance, and apparently irretrievably compromised.
The westerner follows, forces his way through the portals, engages the
villain, and vanquishes him. Leila becomes a Bride. We behold her, at the
end, mistress of one of those magnificent stone mansions with grilled
vestibules and negro butlers into whose sacred precincts we are
occasionally, in the movies, somewhat breathlessly ushered--a long way
from Hawtrey's restaurant and a hall-bedroom. A long way, too, from the
Bagatelle and Fillmore Street--but to Lise a way not impossible, nor even
improbable.

This work of art, conveying the moral that virtue is an economic asset,
made a great impression on Lise. Good Old Testament doctrine, set forth
in the Book of Job itself. And Leila, pictured as holding out for a
higher price and getting it, encouraged Lise to hold out also. Mr. Wiley,
in whose company she had seen this play, and whose likeness filled the
plush and silver-plated frame on her bureau, remained ironically ignorant
of the fact that he had paid out his money to make definite an ambition,
an ideal hitherto nebulous in the mind of the lady whom he adored. Nor
did Lise enlighten him, being gifted with a certain inscrutableness. As a
matter of fact it had never been her intention to accept him, but now
that she was able concretely to visualize her Lochinvar of the future,
Mr. Whey's lack of qualifications became the more apparent. In the first
place, he had been born in Lowell and had never been west of Worcester;
in the second, his salary was sixteen dollars a week: it is true she had
once fancied the Scottish terrier style of hair-cut abruptly ending in
the rounded line of the shaven neck, but Lochinvar had been
close-cropped. Mr. Wiley, close-cropped, would have resembled a convict.

Mr. Wiley was in love, there could be no doubt about that, and if he had
not always meant marriage, he meant it now, having reached a state where
no folly seems preposterous. The manner of their meeting had had just the
adventurous and romantic touch that Lise liked, one of her favourite
amusements in the intervals between "steadies" being to walk up and down
Faber Street of an evening after supper, arm in arm with two or three
other young ladies, all chewing gum, wheeling into store windows and
wheeling out again, pretending the utmost indifference to melting glances
cast in their direction. An exciting sport, though incomprehensible to
masculine intelligence. It was a principle with Lise to pay no attention
to any young man who was not "presented," those venturing to approach her
with the ready formula "Haven't we met before?" being instantly
congealed. She was strict as to etiquette. But Mr. Wiley, it seemed,
could claim acquaintance with Miss Schuler, one of the ladies to whose
arm Lise's was linked, and he had the further advantage of appearing in a
large and seductive touring car, painted green, with an eagle poised
above the hood and its name, Wizard, in a handwriting rounded and bold,
written in nickel across the radiator. He greeted Miss Schuler
effusively, but his eye was on Lise from the first, and it was she he
took with, him in the front seat, indifferent to the giggling behind.
Ever since then Lise had had a motor at her disposal, and on Sundays they
took long "joy rides" beyond the borders of the state. But it must not be
imagined that Mr. Whey was the proprietor of the vehicle; nor was he a
chauffeur,--her American pride would not have permitted her to keep
company with a chauffeur: he was the demonstrator for the Wizard,
something of a wizard himself, as Lise had to admit when they whizzed
over the tarvia of the Riverside Boulevard at fifty or sixty miles an
hour with the miner cut out--a favourite diversion of Mr. Whey's, who did
not feel he was going unless he was accompanied by a noise like that of a
mitrailleuse in action. Lise, experiencing a ravishing terror, hung on to
her hat with one hand and to Mr. Wiley with the other, her code
permitting this; permitting him also, occasionally, when they found
themselves in tenebrous portions of Slattery's Riverside Park, to put his
arm around her waist and kiss her. So much did Lise's virtue allow, and
no more, the result being that he existed in a tantalizing state of hope
and excitement most detrimental to the nerves.

He never lost, however,--in public at least, or before Lise's
family,--the fine careless, jaunty air of the demonstrator, of the
free-lance for whom seventy miles an hour has no terrors; the automobile,
apparently, like the ship, sets a stamp upon its votaries. No Elizabethan
buccaneer swooping down on defenceless coasts ever exceeded in audacity
Mr. Wiley's invasion of quiet Fillmore Street. He would draw up with an
ear-splitting screaming of brakes in front of the clay-yellow house, and
sometimes the muffler, as though unable to repress its approval of the
performance, would let out a belated pop that never failed to jar the
innermost being of Auermann, who had been shot at, or rather shot past,
by an Italian, and knew what it was. He hated automobiles, he hated Mr.
Wiley.

"Vat you do?" he would demand, glaring.

And Mr. Wiley would laugh insolently.

"You think I done it, do you, Dutchie--huh!"

He would saunter past, up the stairs, and into the Bumpus dining-room,
often before the family had finished their evening meal. Lise alone made
him welcome, albeit demurely; but Mr. Wiley, not having sensibilities,
was proof against Hannah's coldness and Janet's hostility. With unerring
instinct he singled out Edward as his victim.

"How's Mr. Bumpus this evening?" he would genially inquire.

Edward invariably assured Mr. Wiley that he was well, invariably took a
drink of coffee to emphasize the fact, as though the act of lifting his
cup had in it some magic to ward off the contempt of his wife and elder
daughter.

"Well, I've got it pretty straight that the Arundel's going to run
nights, starting next week," Lise's suitor would continue.

And to save his soul Edward could not refrain from answering, "You don't
say so!" He feigned interest in the information that the Hampton Ball
Team, owing to an unsatisfactory season, was to change managers next
year. Mr. Wiley possessed the gift of gathering recondite bits of news,
he had confidence in his topics and in his manner of dealing with them;
and Edward, pretending to be entertained, went so far in his politeness
as to ask Mr. Wiley if he had had supper.

"I don't care if I sample one of Mis' Bumpus's doughnuts," Mr. Wiley
would reply politely, reaching out a large hand that gave evidence, in
spite of Sapolio, of an intimacy with grease cups and splash pans. "I
guess there's nobody in this burg can make doughnuts to beat yours, Miss
Bumpus."

If she had only known which doughnut he would take; Hannah sometimes
thought she might have been capable of putting arsenic in it. Her icy
silence did not detract from the delights of his gestation.

Occasionally, somewhat to Edward's alarm, Hannah demanded: "Where are you
taking Lise this evening?"

Mr. Wiley's wisdom led him to be vague.

"Oh, just for a little spin up the boulevard. Maybe we'll pick up Ella
Schuler and one or two other young ladies."

Hannah and Janet knew very well he had no intention of doing this, and
Hannah did not attempt to conceal her incredulity. As a matter of fact,
Lise sometimes did insist on a "party."

"I want you should bring her back by ten o'clock. That's late enough for
a girl who works to be out. It's late enough for any girl."

"Sure, Mis' Bumpus," Wiley would respond easily.

Hannah chafed because she had no power to enforce this, because Mr. Wiley
and Lise understood she had no power. Lise went to put on her hat; if she
skimped her toilet in the morning, she made up for it in the evening when
she came home from the store, and was often late for supper. In the
meantime, while Lise was in the bedroom adding these last touches, Edward
would contemptibly continue the conversation, fingering the Evening
Banner as it lay in his lap, while Mr. Wiley helped himself boldly to
another doughnut, taking--as Janet observed--elaborate precautions to
spill none of the crumbs on a brown suit, supposed to be the last
creation in male attire. Behind a plate glass window in Faber Street,
belonging to a firm of "custom" tailors whose stores had invaded every
important city in the country, and who made clothes for "college" men,
only the week before Mr. Wiley had seen this same suit artistically
folded, combined with a coloured shirt, brown socks, and tie and
"torture" collar--lures for the discriminating. Owing to certain expenses
connected with Lise, he had been unable to acquire the shirt and the tie,
but he had bought the suit in the hope and belief that she would find him
irresistible therein. It pleased him, too, to be taken for a "college"
man, and on beholding in the mirror his broadened shoulders and
diminished waist he was quite convinced his money had not been spent in
vain; that strange young ladies--to whom, despite his infatuation for the
younger Miss Bumpus, he was not wholly indifferent--would mistake him for
an undergraduate of Harvard,--an imposition concerning which he had no
scruples. But Lise, though shaken, had not capitulated.....

When she returned to the dining-room, arrayed in her own finery, demure,
triumphant, and had carried off Mr. Whey there would ensue an interval of
silence broken only by the clattering together of the dishes Hannah
snatched up.

"I guess he's the kind of son-in-law would suit you," she threw over her
shoulder once to Edward.

"Why?" he inquired, letting down his newspaper nervously.

"Well, you seem to favour him, to make things as pleasant for him as you
can."

Edward would grow warm with a sense of injustice, the inference being
that he was to blame for Mr. Wiley; if he had been a different kind of
father another sort of suitor would be courting Lise.

"I have to be civil," he protested. He pronounced that, word "civil"
exquisitely, giving equal value to both syllables.

"Civil!" Hannah scoffed, as she left the room; and to Janet, who had
followed her into the kitchen, she added: "That's the trouble with your
father, he's always be'n a little too civil. Edward Bumpus is just as
simple as a child, he's afraid of offending folks' feelings .... Think of
being polite to that Whey!" In those two words Hannah announced
eloquently her utter condemnation of the demonstrator of the Wizard. It
was characteristic of her, however, when she went back for another load
of dishes and perceived that Edward was only pretending to read his
Banner, to attempt to ease her husband's feelings. She thought it queer
because she was still fond of Edward Bumpus, after all he had "brought on
her."

"It's Lise," she said, as though speaking to Janet, "she attracts 'em.
Sometimes I just can't get used to it that she's my daughter. I don't
know who she takes after. She's not like any of my kin, nor any of the
Bumpuses."

"What can you do?" asked Edward. "You can't order him out of the house.
It's better for him to come here. And you can't stop Lise from going with
him--she's earning her own money...."

They had talked over the predicament before, and always came to the same
impasse. In the privacy of the kitchen Hannah paused suddenly in her
energetic rubbing of a plate and with supreme courage uttered a question.

"Janet, do you calculate he means anything wrong?"

"I don't know what he means," Janet replied, unwilling to give Mr. Wiley
credit for anything, "but I know this, that Lise is too smart to let him
take advantage of her."

Hannah ruminated. Cleverness as the modern substitute for feminine virtue
did not appeal to her, but she let it pass. She was in no mood to quarrel
with any quality that would ward off disgrace.

"I don't know what to make of Lise--she don't appear to have any
principles...."

If the Wiley affair lasted longer than those preceding it, this was
because former suitors had not commanded automobiles. When Mr. Wiley lost
his automobile he lost his luck--if it may be called such. One April
evening, after a stroll with Eda, Janet reached home about nine o'clock
to find Lise already in their room, to remark upon the absence of Mr.
Wiley's picture from the frame.

"I'm through with him," Lise declared briefly, tugging at her hair.

"Through with him?" Janet repeated.

Lise paused in her labours and looked at her sister steadily. "I handed
him the mit--do you get me?"

"But why?"

"Why? I was sick of him--ain't that enough? And then he got mixed up with
a Glendale trolley and smashed his radiator, and the Wizard people sacked
him. I always told him he was too fly. It's lucky for him I wasn't in the
car."

"It's lucky for you," said Janet. Presently she inquired curiously:
"Aren't you sorry?"

"Nix." Lise shook her head, which was now bowed, her face hidden by hair.
"Didn't I tell you I was sick of him? But he sure was some spender," she
added, as though in justice bound to give him his due.

Janet was shocked by the ruthlessness of it, for Lise appeared relieved,
almost gay. She handed Janet a box containing five peppermint creams--all
that remained of Mr. Wiley's last gift.

One morning in the late spring Janet crossed the Warren Street bridge,
the upper of the two spider-like structures to be seen from her office
window, spanning the river beside the great Hampton dam. The day,
dedicated to the memory of heroes fallen in the Civil War, the thirtieth
of May, was a legal holiday. Gradually Janet had acquired a dread of
holidays as opportunities never realized, as intervals that should have
been filled with unmitigated joys, and yet were invariably wasted,
usually in walks with Eda Rawle. To-day, feeling an irresistible longing
for freedom, for beauty, for adventure, for quest and discovery of she
knew not what, she avoided Eda, and after gazing awhile at the sunlight
dancing in the white mist below the falls, she walked on, southward,
until she had left behind her the last straggling houses of the city and
found herself on a wide, tarvia road that led, ultimately, to Boston. So
read the sign.

Great maples, heavy with leaves, stood out against the soft blue of the
sky, and the sunlight poured over everything, bathing the stone walls,
the thatches of the farmhouses, extracting from the copses of stunted
pine a pungent, reviving perfume. Sometimes she stopped to rest on the
pine needles, and walked on again, aimlessly, following the road because
it was the easiest way. There were spring flowers in the farmhouse yards,
masses of lilacs whose purple she drank in eagerly; the air, which had
just a tang of New England sharpness, was filled with tender sounds, the
clucking of hens, snatches of the songs of birds, the rustling of maple
leaves in the fitful breeze. A chipmunk ran down an elm and stood staring
at her with beady, inquisitive eyes, motionless save for his quivering
tail, and she put forth her hand, shyly, beseechingly, as though he held
the secret of life she craved. But he darted away.

She looked around her unceasingly, at the sky, at the trees, at the
flowers and ferns and fields, at the vireos and thrushes, the robins and
tanagers gashing in and out amidst the foliage, and she was filled with a
strange yearning to expand and expand until she should become a part of
all nature, be absorbed into it, cease to be herself. Never before had
she known just that feeling, that degree of ecstasy mingled with divine
discontent .... Occasionally, intruding faintly upon the countryside
peace, she was aware of a distant humming sound that grew louder and
louder until there shot roaring past her an automobile filled with noisy
folk, leaving behind it a suffocating cloud of dust. Even these
intrusions, reminders of the city she had left, were powerless to destroy
her mood, and she began to skip, like a schoolgirl, pausing once in a
while to look around her fearfully, lest she was observed; and it pleased
her to think that she had escaped forever, that she would never go back:
she cried aloud, as she skipped, "I won't go back, I won't go back,"
keeping time with her feet until she was out of breath and almost
intoxicated, delirious, casting herself down, her heart beating wildly,
on a bank of ferns, burying her face in them. She had really stopped
because a pebble had got into her shoe, and as she took it out she looked
at her bare heel and remarked ruefully:--"Those twenty-five cent
stockings aren't worth buying!"

Economic problems, however, were powerless to worry her to-day, when the
sun shone and the wind blew and the ferns, washed by the rill running
through the culvert under the road, gave forth a delicious moist odour
reminding her of the flower store where her sister Lise had once been
employed. But at length she arose, and after an hour or more of
sauntering the farming landscape was left behind, the crumbling stone
fences were replaced by a well-kept retaining wall capped by a privet
hedge, through which, between stone pillars, a driveway entered and
mounted the shaded slope, turning and twisting until lost to view. But
afar, standing on the distant crest, through the tree trunks and foliage
Janet saw one end of the mansion to which it led, and ventured timidly
but eagerly in among the trees in the hope of satisfying her new-born
curiosity. Try as she would, she never could get any but disappointing
and partial glimpses of a house which, because of the mystery of its
setting, fired her imagination, started her to wondering why it was that
some were permitted to live in the midst of such beauty while she was
condemned to spend her days in Fillmore Street and the prison of the
mill. She was not even allowed to look at it! The thought was like a
cloud across the sun.

However, when she had regained the tarvia road and walked a little way
the shadow suddenly passed, and she stood surprised. The sight of a long
common with its ancient trees in the fullness of glory, dense maples,
sturdy oaks, strong, graceful elms that cast flickering, lacy shadows
across the road filled her with satisfaction, with a sense of peace
deepened by the awareness, in the background, ranged along the common on
either side, of stately, dignified buildings, each in an appropriate
frame of foliage. With the essence rather than the detail of all this her
consciousness became steeped; she was naturally ignorant of the great
good fortune of Silliston Academy of having been spared with one or two
exceptions--donations during those artistically lean years of the
nineteenth century when American architecture affected the Gothic, the
Mansard, and the subsequent hybrid. She knew this must be Silliston, the
seat of that famous academy of which she had heard.

The older school buildings and instructors' houses, most of them white or
creamy yellow, were native Colonial, with tall, graceful chimneys and
classic pillars and delicate balustrades, eloquent at once of the racial
inheritance of the Republic and of a bygone individuality, dignity, and
pride. And the modern architect, of whose work there was an abundance,
had graciously and intuitively held this earlier note and developed it.
He was an American, but an American who had been trained. The result was
harmony, life as it should proceed, the new growing out of the old. And
no greater tribute can be paid to Janet Bumpus than that it pleased her,
struck and set exquisitely vibrating within her responsive chords. For
the first time in her adult life she stood in the presence of tradition,
of a tradition inherently if unconsciously the innermost reality of her
being a tradition that miraculously was not dead, since after all the
years it had begun to put forth these vigorous shoots....

What Janet chiefly realized was the delicious, contented sense of having
come, visually at least, to the home for which she had longed. But her
humour was that of a child who has strayed, to find its true dwelling
place in a region of beauty hitherto unexplored and unexperienced,
tinged, therefore, with unreality, with mystery,--an effect enhanced by
the chance stillness and emptiness of the place. She wandered up and down
the Common, whose vivid green was starred with golden dandelions; and
then, spying the arched and shady vista of a lane, entered it, bent on
new discoveries. It led past one of the newer buildings, the library--as
she read in a carved inscription over the door--plunged into shade again
presently to emerge at a square farmhouse, ancient and weathered, with a
great square chimney thrust out of the very middle of the ridge-pole,--a
landmark left by one of the earliest of Silliston's settlers. Presiding
over it, embracing and protecting it, was a splendid tree. The place was
evidently in process of reconstruction and repair, the roof had been
newly shingled, new frames, with old-fashioned, tiny panes had been put
in the windows; a little garden was being laid out under the sheltering
branches of the tree, and between the lane and the garden, half finished,
was a fence of an original and pleasing design, consisting of pillars
placed at intervals with upright pickets between, the pickets sawed in
curves, making a line that drooped in the middle. Janet did not perceive
the workman engaged in building this fence until the sound of his hammer
attracted her attention. His back was bent, he was absorbed in his task.

"Are there any stores near here?" she inquired.

He straightened up. "Why yes," he replied, "come to think of it, I have
seen stores, I'm sure I have."

Janet laughed; his expression, his manner of speech were so delightfully
whimsical, so in keeping with the spirit of her day, and he seemed to
accept her sudden appearance in the precise make-believe humour she could
have wished. And yet she stood a little struck with timidity, puzzled by
the contradictions he presented of youth and age, of shrewdness,
experience and candour, of gentility and manual toil. He must have been
about thirty-five; he was hatless, and his hair, uncombed but not
unkempt, was greying at the temples; his eyes--which she noticed
particularly--were keen yet kindly, the irises delicately stencilled in a
remarkable blue; his speech was colloquial yet cultivated, his workman's
clothes belied his bearing.

"Yes, there are stores, in the village," he went on, "but isn't it a
holiday, or Sunday--perhaps--or something of the kind?"

"It's Decoration Day," she reminded him, with deepening surprise.

"So it is! And all the storekeepers have gone on picnics in their
automobiles, or else they're playing golf. Nobody's working today."

"But you--aren't you working?" she inquired.

"Working?" he repeated. "I suppose some people would call it work. I--I
hadn't thought of it in that way."

"You mean--you like it," Janet was inspired to say.

"Well, yes," he confessed. "I suppose I do."

Her cheeks dimpled. If her wonder had increased, her embarrassment had
flown, and he seemed suddenly an old acquaintance. She had, however,
profound doubts now of his being a carpenter.

"Were you thinking of going shopping?" he asked, and at the very
ludicrousness of the notion she laughed again. She discovered a keen
relish for this kind of humour, but it was new to her experience, and she
could not cope with it.

"Only to buy some crackers, or a sandwich," she replied, and blushed.

"Oh," he said. "Down in the village, on the corner where the cars stop,
is a restaurant. It's not as good as the Parker House in Boston, I
believe, but they do have sandwiches, yes, and coffee. At least they call
it coffee."

"Oh, thank you," she said.

"You'd better wait till you try it," he warned her.

"Oh, I don't mind, I don't want much." And she was impelled to add: "It's
such a beautiful day."

"It's absurd to get hungry on such a day--absurd," he agreed.

"Yes, it is," she laughed. "I'm not really hungry, but I haven't time to
get back to Hampton for dinner." Suddenly she grew hot at the thought
that he might suspect her of hinting. "You see, I live in Hampton," she
went on hurriedly, "I'm a stenographer there, in the Chippering Mill, and
I was just out for a walk, and--I came farther than I intended." She had
made it worse.

But he said, "Oh, you came from Hampton!" with an intonation of surprise,
of incredulity even, that soothed and even amused while it did not
deceive her. Not that the superior intelligence of which she had begun to
suspect him had been put to any real test by the discovery of her home,
and she was quite sure her modest suit of blue serge and her $2.99 pongee
blouse proclaimed her as a working girl of the mill city. "I've been to
Hampton," he declared, just as though it were four thousand miles away
instead of four.

"But I've never been here before, to Silliston," she responded in the
same spirit: and she added wistfully, "it must be nice to live in such a
beautiful place as this!"

"Yes, it is nice," he agreed. "We have our troubles, too,--but it's
nice."

She ventured a second, appraising glance. His head, which he carried a
little flung back, his voice, his easy and confident bearing--all these
contradicted the saw and the hammer, the flannel shirt, open at the neck,
the khaki trousers still bearing the price tag. And curiosity beginning
to get the better of her, she was emboldened to pay a compliment to the
fence. If one had to work, it must be a pleasure to work on things
pleasing to the eye--such was her inference.

"Why, I'm glad you like it," he said heartily. "I was just hoping some
one would come along here and admire it. Now--what colour would you paint
it?"

"Are you a painter, too?"

"After a fashion. I'm a sort of man of all work--I thought of painting it
white, with the pillars green."

"I think that would be pretty," she answered, judicially, after a
moment's thought. "What else can you do?"

He appeared to be pondering his accomplishments.

"Well, I can doctor trees," he said, pointing an efficient finger at the
magnificent maple sheltering, like a guardian deity, the old farmhouse.
"I put in those patches."

"They're cement," she exclaimed. "I never heard of putting cement in
trees."

"They don't seem to mind."

"Are the holes very deep?"

"Pretty deep."

"But I should think the tree would be dead."

"Well, you see the life of a tree is right under the bark. If you can
keep the outer covering intact, the tree will live."

"Why did you let the holes get so deep?"

"I've just come here. The house was like the tree the shingles all
rotten, but the beams were sound. Those beams were hewn out of the forest
two hundred and fifty years ago."

"Gracious!" said Janet. "And how old is the tree?"

"I should say about a hundred. I suppose it wouldn't care to admit it."

"How do you know?" she inquired.

"Oh, I'm very intimate with trees. I find out their secrets."

"It's your house!" she exclaimed, somewhat appalled by the discovery.

"Yes--yes it is," he answered, looking around at it and then in an
indescribably comical manner down at his clothes. His gesture, his
expression implied that her mistake was a most natural one.

"Excuse me, I thought--" she began, blushing hotly, yet wanting to laugh
again.

"I don't blame you--why shouldn't you?" he interrupted her. "I haven't
got used to it yet, and there is something amusing about--my owning a
house. When the parlour's finished I'll have to wear a stiff collar, I
suppose, in order to live up to it."

Her laughter broke forth, and she tried to imagine him in a stiff
collar.... But she was more perplexed than ever. She stood balancing on
one foot, poised for departure.

"I ought to be going," she said, as though she had been paying him a
formal visit.

"Don't hurry," he protested cordially. "Why hurry back to Hampton?"

"I never want to go back!" she cried with a vehemence that caused him to
contemplate her anew, suddenly revealing the intense, passionate quality
which had so disturbed Mr. Ditmar. She stood transformed. "I hate it!"
she declared. "It's so ugly, I never want to see it again."

"Yes, it is ugly," he confessed. "Since you admit it, I don't mind saying
so. But it's interesting, in a way." Though his humorous moods had
delighted her, she felt subtly flattered because he had grown more
serious.

"It is interesting," she agreed. She was almost impelled to tell him why,
in her excursions to the various quarters, she had found Hampton
interesting, but a shyness born of respect for the store of knowledge she
divined in him restrained her. She was curious to know what this man saw
in Hampton. His opinion would be worth something. Unlike her neighbours
in Fillmore Street, he was not what her sister Lise would call "nutty";
he had an air of fine sanity, of freedom, of detachment,--though the word
did not occur to her; he betrayed no bitter sense of injustice, and his
beliefs were uncoloured by the obsession of a single panacea. "Why do you
think it's interesting?" she demanded.

"Well, I'm always expecting to hear that it's blown up. It reminds me of
nitro-glycerine," he added, smiling.

She repeated the word.

"An explosive, you know--they put it in dynamite. They say a man once
made it by accident, and locked up his laboratory and ran home--and never
went back."

"I know what you mean!" she cried, her eyes alight with excitement. "All
those foreigners! I've felt it that something would happen, some day, it
frightened me, and yet I wished that something would happen. Only, I
never would have thought of--nitro-glycerine."

She was unaware of the added interest in his regard. But he answered
lightly enough:--"Oh, not only the foreigners. Human chemicals--you
can't play with human chemicals any more than you can play with real
ones--you've got to know something about chemistry."

This remark was beyond her depth.

"Who is playing with them?" she asked.

"Everybody--no one in particular. Nobody seems to know much about them,
yet," he replied, and seemed disinclined to pursue the subject. A robin
with a worm in its bill was hopping across the grass; he whistled softly,
the bird stopped, cocking its head and regarding them. Suddenly, in
conflict with her desire to remain indefinitely talking with this strange
man, Janet felt an intense impulse to leave. She could bear the
conversation no longer, she might burst into tears--such was the
extraordinary effect he had produced on her.

"I must go,--I'm ever so much obliged to you," she said.

"Drop in again," he said, as he took her trembling hand .... When she had
walked a little way she looked back over her shoulder to see him leaning
idly against the post, gazing after her, and waving his hammer in
friendly fashion.

For a while her feet fairly flew, and her heart beat tumultuously,
keeping time with her racing thoughts. She walked about the Common,
seeing nothing, paying no attention to the passers-by, who glanced at her
curiously. But at length as she grew calmer the needs of a youthful and
vigorous body became imperative, and realizing suddenly that she was
tired and hungry, sought and found the little restaurant in the village
below. She journeyed back to Hampton pondering what this man had said to
her; speculating, rather breathlessly, whether he had been impelled to
conversation by a natural kindness and courtesy, or whether he really had
discovered something in her worthy of addressing, as he implied.
Resentment burned in her breast, she became suddenly blinded by tears:
she might never see him again, and if only she were "educated" she might
know him, become his friend. Even in this desire she was not
conventional, and in the few moments of their contact he had developed
rather than transformed what she meant by "education." She thought of it
not as knowledge reeking of books and schools, but as the acquirement of
the freemasonry which he so evidently possessed, existence on terms of
understanding, confidence, and freedom with nature; as having the world
open up to one like a flower filled with colour and life. She thought of
the robin, of the tree whose secrets he had learned, of a mental range
including even that medley of human beings amongst whom she lived. And
the fact that something of his meaning had eluded her grasp made her
rebel all the more bitterly against the lack of a greater knowledge ....

Often during the weeks that followed he dwelt in her mind as she sat at
her desk and stared out across the river, and several times that summer
she started to walk to Silliston. But always she turned back. Perhaps she
feared to break the charm of that memory....



CHAPTER IV

Our American climate is notoriously capricious. Even as Janet trudged
homeward on that Memorial Day afternoon from her Cinderella-like
adventure in Silliston the sun grew hot, the air lost its tonic, becoming
moist and tepid, white clouds with dark edges were piled up in the
western sky. The automobiles of the holiday makers swarmed ceaselessly
over the tarvia. Valiantly as she strove to cling to her dream,
remorseless reality was at work dragging her back, reclaiming her;
excitement and physical exercise drained her vitality, her feet were
sore, sadness invaded her as she came in view of the ragged outline of
the city she had left so joyfully in the morning. Summer, that most
depressing of seasons in an environment of drab houses and grey
pavements, was at hand, listless householders and their families were
already, seeking refuge on front steps she passed on her way to Fillmore
Street.

It was about half past five when she arrived. Lise, her waist removed,
was seated in a rocking chair at the window overlooking the littered
yards and the backs of the tenements on Rutger Street. And Lise, despite
the heaviness of the air, was dreaming. Of such delicate texture was the
fabric of Janet's dreams that not only sordid reality, but contact with
other dreams of a different nature, such as her sister's, often sufficed
to dissolve them. She resented, for instance, the presence in the plush
oval of Mr. Eustace Arlington; the movie star whose likeness had replaced
Mr. Wiley's, and who had played the part of the western hero in "Leila of
Hawtrey's." With his burning eyes and sensual face betraying the
puffiness that comes from over-indulgence, he was not Janet's ideal of a
hero, western or otherwise. And now Lise was holding a newspaper: not
the Banner, whose provinciality she scorned, but a popular Boston sheet
to be had for a cent, printed at ten in the morning and labelled "Three
O'clock Edition," with huge red headlines stretched across the top of the
page:--

        "JURY FINDS IN MISS NEALY'S FAVOR."

As Janet entered Lise looked up and exclaimed:--"Say, that Nealy girl's
won out!"

"Who is she?" Janet inquired listlessly.

"You are from the country, all right," was her sister's rejoinder. "I
would have bet there wasn't a Reub in the state that wasn't wise to the
Ferris breach of promise case, and here you blow in after the show's over
and want to know who Nelly Nealy is. If that doesn't beat the band!"

"This woman sued a man named Ferris--is that it?"

"A man named Ferris!" Lise repeated, with the air of being appalled by
her sister's ignorance. "I guess you never heard of Ferris, either--the
biggest copper man in Boston. He could buy Hampton, and never feel it,
and they say his house in Brighton cost half a million dollars. Nelly
Nealy put her damages at one hundred and fifty thousand and stung him for
seventy five. I wish I'd been in court when that jury came back! There's
her picture."

To Janet, especially in the mood of reaction in which she found herself
that evening, Lise's intense excitement, passionate partisanship and
approval of Miss Nealy were incomprehensible, repellent. However, she
took the sheet, gazing at the image of the lady who, recently an obscure
stenographer, had suddenly leaped into fame and become a "headliner," the
envied of thousands of working girls all over New England. Miss Nealy, in
spite of the "glare of publicity" she deplored, had borne up admirably
under the strain, and evidently had been able to consume three meals a
day and give some thought to her costumes. Her smile under the picture
hat was coquettish, if not bold. The special article, signed by a lady
reporter whose sympathies were by no means concealed and whose talents
were given free rein, related how the white-haired mother had wept tears
of joy; how Miss Nealy herself had been awhile too overcome to speak, and
then had recovered sufficiently to express her gratitude to the twelve
gentlemen who had vindicated the honour of American womanhood. Mr.
Ferris, she reiterated, was a brute; never as long as she lived would she
be able to forget how she had loved and believed in him, and how, when at
length she unwillingly became convinces of his perfidy, she had been
"prostrated," unable to support her old mother. She had not, naturally,
yet decided how she would invest her fortune; as for going on the stage,
that had been suggested, but she had made no plans. "Scores of women
sympathizers" had escorted her to a waiting automobile....

Janet, impelled by the fascination akin to disgust, read thus far, and
flinging the newspaper on the floor, began to tidy herself for supper.
But presently, when she heard Lise sigh, she could contain herself no
longer.

"I don't see how you can read such stuff as that," she exclaimed.
"It's--it's horrible."

"Horrible?" Lise repeated.

Janet swung round from the washbasin, her hands dripping.

"Instead of getting seventy five thousand dollars she ought to be tarred
and feathered. She's nothing but a blackmailer."

Lise, aroused from her visions, demanded vehemently "Ain't he a
millionaire?"

"What difference does that make?" Janet retorted. "And you can't tell me
she didn't know what she was up to all along--with that face."

"I'd have sued him, all right," declared Lise, defiantly.

"Then you'd be a blackmailer, too. I'd sooner scrub floors, I'd sooner
starve than do such a thing--take money for my affections. In the first
place, I'd have more pride, and in the second place, if I really loved a
man, seventy five thousand or seventy five million dollars wouldn't help
me any. Where do you get such ideas? Decent people don't have them."

Janet turned to the basin again and began rubbing her face
vigorously--ceasing for an instance to make sure of the identity of a
sound reaching her ears despite the splashing of water. Lise was sobbing.
Janet dried her face and hands, arranged her hair, and sat down on the
windowsill; the scorn and anger, which had been so intense as completely
to possess her, melting into a pity and contempt not unmixed with
bewilderment. Ordinarily Lise was hard, impervious to such reproaches,
holding her own in the passionate quarrels that occasionally took place
between them yet there were times, such as this, when her resistance
broke down unexpectedly, and she lost all self control. She rocked to and
fro in the chair, her shoulders bowed, her face hidden in her hands.
Janet reached out and touched her.

"Don't be silly," she began, rather sharply, "just because I said it was
a disgrace to have such ideas. Well, it is."

"I'm not silly," said Lise. "I'm sick of that job at the Bagatelle"
--sob--"there's nothing in it--I'm going to quit--I wish to God I was
dead! Standing on your feet all day till you're wore out for six dollars
a week--what's there in it?"--sob--"With that guy Walters who walks the
floor never lettin' up on you. He come up to me yesterday and says, `I
didn't know you was near sighted, Miss Bumpus' just because there was a
customer Annie Hatch was too lazy to wait on"--sob--"That's his line of
dope--thinks he's sarcastic--and he's sweet on Annie. Tomorrow I'm going
to tell him to go to hell. I'm through I'm sick of it, I tell
you"--sob--"I'd rather be dead than slave like that for six dollars."

"Where are you going?" asked Janet.

"I don't know--I don't care. What's the difference? any place'd be better
than this." For awhile she continued to cry on a ridiculously high,
though subdued, whining note, her breath catching at intervals. A feeling
of helplessness, of utter desolation crept over Janet; powerless to
comfort herself, how could she comfort her sister? She glanced around the
familiar, sordid room, at the magazine pages against the faded
wall-paper, at the littered bureau and the littered bed, over which
Lise's clothes were flung. It was hot and close even now, in summer it
would be stifling. Suddenly a flash of sympathy revealed to her a glimpse
of the truth that Lise, too, after her own nature, sought beauty and
freedom! Never did she come as near comprehending Lise as in such moments
as this, and when, on dark winter mornings, her sister clung to her,
terrified by the siren. Lise was a child, and the thought that she,
Janet, was powerless to change her was a part of the tragic tenderness.
What would become of Lise? And what would become of her, Janet?... So she
clung, desperately, to her sister's hand until at last Lise roused
herself, her hair awry, her face puckered and wet with tears and
perspiration.

"I can't stand it any more--I've just got to go away anywhere," she said,
and the cry found an echo in Janet's heart....

But the next morning Lise went back to the Bagatelle, and Janet to the
mill....

The fact that Lise's love affairs had not been prospering undoubtedly had
something to do with the fit of depression into which she had fallen that
evening. A month or so before she had acquired another beau. It was
understood by Lise's friends and Lise's family, though not by the
gentleman himself, that his position was only temporary or at most
probationary; he had not even succeeded to the rights, title, and
privileges of the late Mr. Wiley, though occupying a higher position in
the social scale--being the agent of a patent lawn sprinkler with an
office in Faber Street.

"Stick to him and you'll wear diamonds--that's what he tries to put
across," was Lise's comment on Mr. Frear's method, and thus Janet gained
the impression that her sister's feelings were not deeply involved. "If I
thought he'd make good with the sprinkler I might talk business. But say,
he's one of those ginks that's always tryin' to beat the bank. He's never
done a day's work in his life. Last year he was passing around Foley's
magazine, and before that he was with the race track that went out of
business because the ministers got nutty over it. Well, he may win out,"
she added reflectively, "those guys sometimes do put the game on the
blink. He sure is a good spender when the orders come in, with a line of
talk to make you holler for mercy."

Mr. Frear's "line of talk" came wholly, astonishingly, from one side of
his mouth--the left side. As a muscular feat it was a triumph. A deaf
person on his right side would not have known he was speaking. The effect
was secretive, extraordinarily confidential; enabling him to sell
sprinklers, it ought to have helped him to make love, so distinctly
personal was it, implying as it did that the individual addressed was
alone of all the world worthy of consideration. Among his friends it was
regarded as an accomplishment, but Lise was critical, especially since he
did not look into one's eyes, but gazed off into space, as though he
weren't talking at all.

She had once inquired if the right side of his face was paralyzed.

She permitted him to take her, however, to Gruber's Cafe, to the movies,
and one or two select dance halls, and to Slattery's Riverside Park,
where one evening she had encountered the rejected Mr. Wiley.

"Say, he was sore!" she told Janet the next morning, relating the
incident with relish, "for two cents he would have knocked Charlie over
the ropes. I guess he could do it, too, all right."

Janet found it curious that Lise should display such vindictiveness
toward Mr. Wiley, who was more sinned against than sinning. She was moved
to inquire after his welfare.

"He's got one of them red motorcycles," said Lise. "He was gay with it
too--when we was waiting for the boulevard trolley he opened her up and
went right between Charlie and me. I had to laugh. He's got a job over in
Haverhill you can't hold that guy under water long."

Apparently Lise had no regrets. But her premonitions concerning Mr. Frear
proved to be justified. He did not "make good." One morning the little
office on Faber Street where the sprinklers were displayed was closed,
Hampton knew him no more, and the police alone were sincerely regretful.
It seemed that of late he had been keeping all the money for the
sprinklers, and spending a good deal of it on Lise. At the time she
accepted the affair with stoical pessimism, as one who has learned what
to expect of the world, though her moral sense was not profoundly
disturbed by the reflection that she had indulged in the delights of
Slattery's and Gruber's and a Sunday at "the Beach" at the expense of the
Cascade Sprinkler Company of Boston. Mr. Frear inconsiderately neglected
to prepare her for his departure, the news of which was conveyed to her
in a singular manner, and by none other than Mr. Johnny Tiernan of the
tin shop,--their conversation throwing some light, not only on Lise's
sophistication, but on the admirable and intricate operation of Hampton's
city government. About five o'clock Lise was coming home along Fillmore
Street after an uneventful, tedious and manless holiday spent in the
company of Miss Schuler and other friends when she perceived Mr. Tiernan
seated on his steps, grinning and waving a tattered palm-leaf fan.

"The mercury is sure on the jump," he observed. "You'd think it was
July."

And Lise agreed.

"I suppose you'll be going to Tim Slattery's place tonight," he went on.
"It's the coolest spot this side of the Atlantic Ocean."

There was, apparently, nothing cryptic in this remark, yet it is worth
noting that Lise instantly became suspicious.

"Why would I be going out there?" she inquired innocently, darting at him
a dark, coquettish glance.

Mr. Tiernan regarded her guilelessly, but there was admiration in his
soul; not because of her unquestioned feminine attractions,--he being
somewhat amazingly proof against such things,--but because it was
conveyed to him in some unaccountable way that her suspicions were
aroused. The brain beneath that corkscrew hair was worthy of a Richelieu.
Mr. Tiernan's estimate of Miss Lise Bumpus, if he could have been induced
to reveal it, would have been worth listening to.

"And why wouldn't you?" he replied heartily. "Don't I see all the pretty
young ladies out there, including yourself, and you dancing with the
Cascade man. Why is it you'll never give me a dance?"

"Why is it you never ask me?" demanded Lise.

"What chance have I got, against him?"

"He don't own me," said Lise.

Mr. Tiernan threw back his head, and laughed.

"Well, if you're there to-night, tangoin' with him and I come up and
says, `Miss Bumpus, the pleasure is mine,' I'm wondering what would
happen."

"I'm not going to Slattery's to-night," she declared having that instant
arrived at this conclusion.

"And where then? I'll come along, if there's a chance for me."

"Quit your kidding," Lise reproved him.

Mr. Tiernan suddenly looked very solemn:

"Kidding, is it? Me kiddin' you? Give me a chance, that's all I'm asking.
Where will you be, now?"

"Is Frear wanted?" she demanded.

Mr. Tiernan's expression changed. His nose seemed to become more pointed,
his eyes to twinkle more merrily than ever. He didn't take the trouble,
now, to conceal his admiration.

"Sure, Miss Bumpus," he said, "if you was a man, we'd have you on the
force to-morrow."

"What's he wanted for?"

"Well," said Johnny, "a little matter of sprinklin'. He's been sprinklin'
his company's water without a license."

She was silent a moment before she exclaimed:--"I ought to have been
wise that he was a crook!"

"Well," said Johnny consolingly, "there's others that ought to have been
wise, too. The Cascade people had no business takin' on a man that
couldn't use but half of his mouth."

This seemed to Lise a reflection on her judgment. She proceeded to clear
herself.

"He was nothing to me. He never gave me no rest. He used to come 'round
and pester me to go out with him--"

"Sure!" interrupted Mr. Tiernan. "Don't I know how it is with the likes
of him! A good time's a good time, and no harm in it. But the point is"
and here he cocked his nose--"the point is, where is he? Where will he be
tonight?"

All at once Lise grew vehement, almost tearful.

"I don't know--honest to God, I don't. If I did I'd tell you. Last night
he said he might be out of town. He didn't say where he was going." She
fumbled in her bag, drawing out an imitation lace handkerchief and
pressing it to her eyes.

"There now!" exclaimed Mr. Tiernan, soothingly. "How would you know? And
he deceivin' you like he did the company--"

"He didn't deceive me," cried Lise.

"Listen," said Mr. Tiernan, who had risen and laid his hand on her arm.
"It's not young ladies like you that works and are self-respecting that
any one would be troublin', and you the daughter of such a fine man as
your father. Run along, now, I won't be detaining you, Miss Bumpus, and
you'll accept my apology. I guess we'll never see him in Hampton
again...."

Some twenty minutes later he sauntered down the street, saluting
acquaintances, and threading his way across the Common entered a grimy
brick building where a huge policeman with an insignia on his arm was
seated behind a desk. Mr. Tiernan leaned on the desk, and reflectively
lighted a Thomas-Jefferson-Five-Cent Cigar, Union Label, the excellencies
of which were set forth on large signs above the "ten foot" buildings on
Faber Street.

"She don't know nothing, Mike," he remarked. "I guess he got wise this
morning."

The sergeant nodded....



CHAPTER V

To feel potential within one's self the capacity to live and yet to have
no means of realizing this capacity is doubtless one of the least
comfortable and agreeable of human experiences. Such, as summer came on,
was Janet's case. The memory of that visit to Silliston lingered in her
mind, sometimes to flare up so vividly as to make her existence seem
unbearable. How wonderful, she thought, to be able to dwell in such a
beautiful place, to have as friends and companions such amusing and
intelligent people as the stranger with whom she had talked! Were all the
inhabitants of Silliston like him? They must be, since it was a seat of
learning. Lise's cry, "I've just got to go away, anywhere," found an echo
in Janet's soul. Why shouldn't she go away? She was capable of taking
care of herself, she was a good stenographer, her salary had been raised
twice in two years,--why should she allow consideration for her family to
stand in the way of what she felt would be self realization?
Unconsciously she was a true modern in that the virtues known as duty and
self sacrifice did not appeal to her,--she got from them neither benefit
nor satisfaction, she understood instinctively that they were impeding to
growth. Unlike Lise, she was able to see life as it is, she did not
expect of it miracles, economic or matrimonial. Nothing would happen
unless she made it happen. She was twenty-one, earning nine dollars a
week, of which she now contributed five to the household,--her father,
with characteristic incompetence, having taken out a larger insurance
policy than he could reasonably carry. Of the remaining four dollars she
spent more than one on lunches, there were dresses and underclothing,
shoes and stockings to buy, in spite of darning and mending; little
treats with Eda that mounted up; and occasionally the dentist--for Janet
would not neglect her teeth as Lise neglected hers. She managed to save
something, but it was very little. And she was desperately unhappy when
she contemplated the grey and monotonous vista of the years ahead, saw
herself growing older and older, driven always by the stern necessity of
accumulating a margin against possible disasters; little by little drying
up, losing, by withering disuse, those rich faculties of enjoyment with
which she was endowed, and which at once fascinated and frightened her.
Marriage, in such an environment, offered no solution; marriage meant
dependence, from which her very nature revolted: and in her existence,
drab and necessitous though it were, was still a remnant of freedom that
marriage would compel her to surrender....

One warm evening, oppressed by such reflections, she had started home
when she remembered having left her bag in the office, and retraced her
steps. As she turned the corner of West Street, she saw, beside the canal
and directly in front of the bridge, a new and smart-looking automobile,
painted crimson and black, of the type known as a runabout, which she
recognized as belonging to Mr. Ditmar. Indeed, at that moment Mr. Ditmar
himself was stepping off the end of the bridge and about to start the
engine when, dropping the crank, he walked to the dashboard and
apparently became absorbed in some mechanisms there. Was it the glance
cast in her direction that had caused him to delay his departure? Janet
was seized by a sudden and rather absurd desire to retreat, but Canal
Street being empty, such an action would appear eccentric, and she came
slowly forward, pretending not to see her employer, ridiculing to herself
the idea that he had noticed her. Much to her annoyance, however, her
embarrassment persisted, and she knew it was due to the memory of certain
incidents, each in itself almost negligible, but cumulatively amounting
to a suspicion that for some months he had been aware of her: many times
when he had passed through the outer office she had felt his eyes upon
her, had been impelled to look up from her work to surprise in them a
certain glow to make her bow her head again in warm confusion. Now, as
she approached him, she was pleasantly but rather guiltily conscious of
the more rapid beating of the blood that precedes an adventure, yet
sufficiently self-possessed to note the becoming nature of the light
flannel suit axed rather rakish Panama he had pushed back from his
forehead. It was not until she had almost passed him that he straightened
up, lifted the Panama, tentatively, and not too far, startling her.

"Good afternoon, Miss Bumpus," he said. "I thought you had gone."

"I left my bag in the office," she replied, with the outward calmness
that rarely deserted her--the calmness, indeed, that had piqued him and
was leading him on to rashness.

"Oh," he said. "Simmons will get it for you." Simmons was the watchman
who stood in the vestibule of the office entrance.

"Thanks. I can get it myself," she told him, and would have gone on had
he not addressed her again. "I was just starting out for a spin. What do
you think of the car? It's good looking, isn't it?" He stood off and
surveyed it, laughing a little, and in his laugh she detected a note
apologetic, at variance with the conception she had formed of his
character, though not alien, indeed, to the dust-coloured vigour of the
man. She scarcely recognized Ditmar as he stood there, yet he excited
her, she felt from him an undercurrent of something that caused her
inwardly to tremble. "See how the lines are carried through." He
indicated this by a wave of his hand, but his eyes were now on her.

"It is pretty," she agreed.

In contrast to the defensive tactics which other ladies of his
acquaintance had adopted, tactics of a patently coy and coquettish
nature, this self-collected manner was new and spicy, challenging to
powers never as yet fully exerted while beneath her manner he felt
throbbing that rare and dangerous thing in women, a temperament, for
which men have given their souls. This conviction of her possession of a
temperament,--he could not have defined the word, emotional rather than
intellectual, produced the apologetic attitude she was quick to sense. He
had never been, at least during his maturity, at a loss with the other
sex, and he found the experience delicious.

"You like pretty things, I'm sure of that," he hazarded. But she did not
ask him how he knew, she simply assented. He raised the hood, revealing
the engine. "Isn't that pretty? See how nicely everything is adjusted in
that little space to do the particular work for which it is designed."

Thus appealed to, she came forward and stopped, still standing off a
little way, but near enough to see, gazing at the shining copper caps on
the cylinders, at the bright rods and gears.

"It looks intricate," said Mr. Ditmar, "but really it's very simple. The
gasoline comes in here from the tank behind--this is called the
carburetor, it has a jet to vaporize the gasoline, and the vapour is
sucked into each of these cylinders in turn when the piston moves--like
this." He sought to explain the action of the piston. "That compresses
it, and then a tiny electric spark comes just at the right moment to
explode it, and the explosion sends the piston down again, and turns the
shaft. Well, all four cylinders have an explosion one right after
another, and that keeps the shaft going." Whereupon the most important
personage in Hampton, the head of the great Chippering Mill proceeded,
for the benefit of a humble assistant stenographer, to remove the floor
boards behind the dash. "There's the shaft, come here and look at it."
She obeyed, standing beside him, almost touching him, his arm, indeed,
brushing her sleeve, and into his voice crept a tremor. "The shaft turns
the rear wheels by means of a gear at right angles on the axle, and the
rear wheels drive the car. Do you see?"

"Yes," she answered faintly, honesty compelling her to add: "a little."

He was looking, now, not at the machinery, but intently at her, and she
could feel the blood flooding into her cheeks and temples. She was even
compelled for an instant to return his glance, and from his eyes into
hers leaped a flame that ran scorching through her body. Then she knew
with conviction that the explanation of the automobile had been an
excuse; she had comprehended almost nothing of it, but she had been
impressed by the facility with which he described it, by his evident
mastery over it. She had noticed his hands, how thick his fingers were
and close together; yet how deftly he had used them, without smearing the
cuffs of his silk shirt or the sleeves of his coat with the oil that
glistened everywhere.

"I like machinery," he told her as he replaced the boards. "I like to
take care of it myself."

"It must be interesting," she assented, aware of the inadequacy of the
remark, and resenting in herself an inarticulateness seemingly imposed by
inhibition connected with his nearness. Fascination and antagonism were
struggling within her. Her desire to get away grew desperate.

"Thank you for showing it to me." With an effort of will she moved toward
the bridge, but was impelled by a consciousness of the abruptness of her
departure to look back at him once--and smile, to experience again the
thrill of the current he sped after her. By lifting his hat, a little
higher, a little more confidently than in the first instance, he made her
leaving seem more gracious, the act somehow conveying an acknowledgment
on his part that their relationship had changed.

Once across the bridge and in the mill, she fairly ran up the stairs and
into the empty office, to perceive her bag lying on the desk where she
had left it, and sat down for a few minutes beside the window, her heart
pounding in her breast as though she had barely escaped an accident
threatening her with physical annihilation. Something had happened to her
at last! But what did it mean? Where would it lead? Her fear, her
antagonism, of which she was still conscious, her resentment that Ditmar
had thus surreptitiously chosen to approach her in a moment when they
were unobserved were mingled with a throbbing exultation in that he had
noticed her, that there was something in her to attract him in that way,
to make his voice thicker and his smile apologetic when he spoke to her.
Of that "something-in-her" she had been aware before, but never had it
been so unmistakably recognized and beckoned to from without. She was at
once terrified, excited--and flattered.

At length, growing calmer, she made her way out of the building. When she
reached the vestibule she had a moment of sharp apprehension, of
paradoxical hope, that Ditmar might still be there, awaiting her. But he
had gone....

In spite of her efforts to dismiss the matter from her mind, to persuade
herself there had been no significance in the encounter, when she was
seated at her typewriter the next morning she experienced a renewal of
the palpitation of the evening before, and at the sound of every step in
the corridor she started. Of this tendency she was profoundly ashamed.
And when at last Ditmar arrived, though the blood rose to her temples,
she kept her eyes fixed on the keys. He went quickly into his room: she
was convinced he had not so much as glanced at her.... As the days went
by, however, she was annoyed by the discovery that his continued ignoring
of her presence brought more resentment than relief, she detected in it a
deliberation implying between them a guilty secret: she hated secrecy,
though secrecy contained a thrill. Then, one morning when she was alone
in the office with young Caldwell, who was absorbed in some reports,
Ditmar entered unexpectedly and looked her full in the eyes, surprising
her into answering his glance before she could turn away, hating herself
and hating him. Hate, she determined, was her prevailing sentiment in
regard to Mr. Ditmar.

The following Monday Miss Ottway overtook her, at noon, on the stairs.

"Janet, I wanted to speak to you, to tell you I'm leaving," she said.

"Leaving!" repeated Janet, who had regarded Miss Ottway as a fixture.

"I'm going to Boston," Miss Ottway explained, in her deep, musical voice.
"I've always wanted to go, I have an unmarried sister there of whom I'm
very fond, and Mr. Ditmar knows that. He's got me a place with the
Treasurer, Mr. Semple."

"Oh, I'm sorry you're going, though of course I'm glad for you," Janet
said sincerely, for she liked and respected Miss Ottway, and was
conscious in the older woman of a certain kindly interest.

"Janet, I've recommended you to Mr. Ditmar for my place."

"Oh!" cried Janet, faintly.

"It was he who asked about you, he thinks you are reliable and quick and
clever, and I was very glad to say a good word for you, my dear, since I
could honestly do so." Miss Ottway drew Janet's arm through hers and
patted it affectionately. "Of course you'll have to expect some jealousy,
there are older women in the other offices who will think they ought to
have the place, but if you attend to your own affairs, as you always have
done, there won't be any trouble."

"Oh, I won't take the place, I can't!" Janet cried, so passionately that
Miss Ottway looked at her in surprise. "I'm awfully grateful to you," she
added, flushing crimson, "I--I'm afraid I'm not equal to it."

"Nonsense," said the other with decision. "You'd be very foolish not to
try it. You won't get as much as I do, at first, at any rate, but a
little more money won't be unwelcome, I guess. Mr. Ditmar will speak to
you this afternoon. I leave on Saturday. I'm real glad to do you a good
turn, Janet, and I know you'll get along," Miss Ottway added impulsively
as they parted at the corner of Faber Street. "I've always thought a good
deal of you."

For awhile Janet stood still, staring after the sturdy figure of her
friend, heedless of the noonday crowd that bumped her. Then she went to
Grady's Quick Lunch Counter and ordered a sandwich and a glass of milk,
which she consumed slowly, profoundly sunk in thought. Presently Eda
Rawle arrived, and noticing her preoccupation, inquired what was the
matter.

"Nothing," said Janet....

At two o'clock, when Ditmar returned to the office, he called Miss
Ottway, who presently came out to summon Janet to his presence. Fresh,
immaculate, yet virile in his light suit and silk shirt with red stripes,
he was seated at his desk engaged in turning over some papers in a
drawer. He kept her waiting a moment, and then said, with apparent
casualness:--"Is that you, Miss Bumpus? Would you mind closing the
door?"

Janet obeyed, and again stood before him. He looked up. A suggestion of
tenseness in her pose betraying an inner attitude of alertness, of
defiance, conveyed to him sharply and deliciously once more the
panther-like impression he had received when first, as a woman, she had
come to his notice. The renewed and heightened perception of this feral
quality in her aroused a sense of danger by no means unpleasurable,
though warning him that he was about to take an unprecedented step, being
drawn beyond the limits of caution he had previously set for himself in
divorcing business and sex. Though he was by no means self-convinced of
an intention to push the adventure, preferring to leave its possibilities
open, he strove in voice and manner to be business-like; and instinct,
perhaps, whispered that she might take alarm.

"Sit down, Miss Bumpus," he said pleasantly, as he closed the drawer.

She seated herself on an office chair.

"Do you like your work here?" he inquired.

"No," said Janet.

"Why not?" he demanded, staring at her.

"Why should I?" she retorted.

"Well--what's the trouble with it? It isn't as hard as it would be in
some other places, is it?"

"I'm not saying anything against the place."

"What, then?"

"You asked me if I liked my work. I don't."

"Then why do you do it?" he demanded.

"To live," she replied.

He smiled, but his gesture as he stroked his moustache implied a slight
annoyance at her composure. He found it difficult with this dark,
self-contained young woman to sustain the role of benefactor.

"What kind of work would you like to do?" he demanded.

"I don't know. I haven't got the choice, anyway," she said.

He observed that she did her work well, to which she made no answer. She
refused to help him, although Miss Ottway must have warned her. She acted
as though she were conferring the favour. And yet, clearing his throat,
he was impelled to say:--"Miss Ottway's leaving me, she's going into the
Boston office with Mr. Semple, the treasurer of the corporation. I shall
miss her, she's an able and reliable woman, and she knows my ways." He
paused, fingering his paper knife. "The fact is, Miss Bumpus, she's
spoken highly of you, she tells me you're quick and accurate and
painstaking--I've noticed that for myself. She seems to think you could
do her work, and recommends that I give you a trial. You understand, of
course, that the position is in a way confidential, and that you could
not expect at first, at any rate, the salary Miss Ottway has had, but I'm
willing to offer you fourteen dollars a week to begin with, and
afterwards, if we get along together, to give you more. What do you say?"

"I'd like to try it, Mr. Ditmar," Janet said, and added nothing, no word
of gratitude or of appreciation to that consent.

"Very well then," he replied, "that's settled. Miss Ottway will explain
things to you, and tell you about my peculiarities. And when she goes you
can take her desk, by the window nearest my door."

Ditmar sat idle for some minutes after she had gone, staring through the
open doorway into the outer office....

To Ditmar she had given no evidence of the storm his offer had created in
her breast, and it was characteristic also that she waited until supper
was nearly over to inform her family, making the announcement in a
matter-of-fact tone, just as though it were not the unique piece of good
fortune that had come to the Bumpuses since Edward had been eliminated
from the mercantile establishment at Dolton. The news was received with
something like consternation. For the moment Hannah was incapable of
speech, and her hand trembled as she resumed the cutting of the pie: but
hope surged within her despite her effort to keep it down, her
determination to remain true to the fatalism from which she had
paradoxically derived so much comfort. The effect on Edward, while
somewhat less violent, was temporarily to take away his appetite. Hope,
to flower in him, needed but little watering. Great was his faith in the
Bumpus blood, and secretly he had always regarded his eldest daughter as
the chosen vessel for their redemption.

"Well, I swan!" he exclaimed, staring at her in admiration and neglecting
his pie, "I've always thought you had it in you to get on, Janet. I guess
I've told you you've always put me in mind of Eliza Bumpus--the one that
held out against the Indians till her husband came back with the
neighbours. I was just reading about her again the other night."

"Yes, you've told us, Edward," said Hannah.

"She had gumption," he went on, undismayed. "And from what I can gather
of her looks I calculate you favour her--she was dark and not so very
tall--not so tall as you, I guess. So you're goin'" (he pronounced it
very slowly) "you're goin' to be Mr. Ditmar's private stenographer! He's
a smart man, Mr. Ditmar, he's a good man, too. All you've got to do is to
behave right by him. He always speaks to me when he passes by the gate. I
was sorry for him when his wife died--a young woman, too. And he's never
married again! Well, I swan!"

"You'd better quit swanning," exclaimed Hannah. "And what's Mr. Ditmar's
goodness got to do with it? He's found-out Janet has sense, she's willing
and hard working, he won't" (pronounced want) "he won't be the loser by
it, and he's not giving her what he gave Miss Ottway. It's just like you,
thinking he's doing her a good turn."

"I'm not saying Janet isn't smart," he protested, "but I know it's hard
to get work with so many folks after every job."

"Maybe it ain't so hard when you've got some get-up and go," Hannah
retorted rather cruelly. It was thus characteristically and with
unintentional sharpness she expressed her maternal pride by a reflection
not only upon Edward, but Lise also. Janet had grown warm at the mention
of Ditmar's name.

"It was Miss Ottway who recommended me," she said, glancing at her
sister, who during this conversation had sat in silence. Lise's
expression, normally suggestive of a discontent not unbecoming to her
type, had grown almost sullen. Hannah's brisk gathering up of the dishes
was suddenly arrested.

"Lise, why don't you say something to your sister? Ain't you glad she's
got the place?"

"Sure, I'm glad," said Lise, and began to unscrew the top of the salt
shaker. "I don't see why I couldn't get a raise, too. I work just as hard
as she does."

Edward, who had never got a "raise" in his life, was smitten with
compunction and sympathy.

"Give 'em time, Lise," he said consolingly. "You ain't so old as Janet."

"Time!" she cried, flaring up and suddenly losing her control. "I've got
a picture of Waiters giving me a raise I know the girls that get raises
from him."

"You ought to be ashamed of yourself," Hannah declared. "There--you've
spilled the salt!"

But Lise, suddenly bursting into tears, got up and left the room. Edward
picked up the Banner and pretended to read it, while Janet collected the
salt and put it back into the shaker. Hannah, gathering up the rest of
the dishes, disappeared into the kitchen, but presently returned, as
though she had forgotten something.

"Hadn't you better go after her?" she said to Janet.

"I'm afraid it won't be any use. She's got sort of queer, lately--she
thinks they're down on her."

"I'm sorry I spoke so sharp. But then--" Hannah shook her head, and her
sentence remained unfinished.

Janet sought her sister, but returned after a brief interval, with the
news that Lise had gone out.

One of the delights of friendship, as is well known, is the exchange of
confidences of joy or sorrow, but there was, in Janet's promotion,
something intensely personal to increase her natural reserve. Her
feelings toward Ditmar were so mingled as to defy analysis, and several
days went by before she could bring herself to inform Eda Rawle of the
new business relationship in which she stood to the agent of the
Chippering Mill. The sky was still bright as they walked out Warren
Street after supper, Eda bewailing the trials of the day just ended: Mr.
Frye, the cashier of the bank, had had one of his cantankerous fits, had
found fault with her punctuation, nothing she had done had pleased him.
But presently, when they had come to what the Banner called the
"residential district," she was cheered by the sight of the green lawns,
the flowerbeds and shrubbery, the mansions of those inhabitants of
Hampton unfamiliar with boardinghouses and tenements. Before one of these
she paused, retaining Janet by the arm, exclaiming wistfully:

"Wouldn't you like to live there? That belongs to your boss."

Janet, who had been dreaming as she gazed at the facade of rough stucco
that once had sufficed to fill the ambitions of the late Mrs. Ditmar,
recognized it as soon as Eda spoke, and dragged her friend hastily,
almost roughly along the sidewalk until they had reached the end of the
block. Janet was red.

"What's the matter?" demanded Eda, as soon as she had recovered from her
surprise.

"Nothing," said Janet. "Only--I'm in his office."

"But what of it? You've got a right to look at his house, haven't you?"

"Why yes,--a right," Janet assented. Knowing Eda's ambitions for her were
not those of a business career, she was in terror lest her friend should
scent a romance, and for this reason she had never spoken of the symptoms
Ditmar had betrayed. She attempted to convey to Eda the doubtful taste of
staring point-blank at the house of one's employer, especially when he
might be concealed behind a curtain.

"You see," she added, "Miss Ottway's recommended me for her place--she's
going away."

"Janet!" cried Eda. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Well," said Janet guiltily, "it's only a trial. I don't know whether
he'll keep me or not."

"Of course he'll keep you," said Eda, warmly. "If that isn't just like
you, not saying a word about it. Gee, if I'd had a raise like that I just
couldn't wait to tell you. But then, I'm not smart like you."

"Don't be silly," said Janet, out of humour with herself, and annoyed
because she could not then appreciate Eda's generosity.

"We've just got to celebrate!" declared Eda, who had the gift, which
Janet lacked, of taking her joys vicariously; and her romantic and
somewhat medieval proclivities would permit no such momentous occasion to
pass without an appropriate festal symbol. "We'll have a spree on
Saturday--the circus is coming then."

"It'll be my spree," insisted Janet, her heart warming. "I've got the
raise...."

On Saturday, accordingly, they met at Grady's for lunch, Eda attired in
her best blouse of pale blue, and when they emerged from the restaurant,
despite the torrid heat, she beheld Faber Street as in holiday garb as
they made their way to the cool recesses of Winterhalter's to complete
the feast. That glorified drug-store with the five bays included in its
manifold functions a department rivalling Delmonico's, with electric fans
and marble-topped tables and white-clad waiters who took one's order and
filled it at the soda fountain. It mattered little to Eda that the young
man awaiting their commands had pimples and long hair and grinned
affectionately as he greeted them.

"Hello, girls!" he said. "What strikes you to-day?"

"Me for a raspberry nut sundae," announced Eda, and Janet, being unable
to imagine any more delectable confection, assented. The penetrating
odour peculiar to drugstores, dominated by menthol and some unnamable but
ancient remedy for catarrh, was powerless to interfere with their
enjoyment.

The circus began at two. Rather than cling to the straps of a crowded car
they chose to walk, following the familiar route of the trolley past the
car barns and the base-ball park to the bare field under the seared face
of Torrey's Hill, where circuses were wont to settle. A sirocco-like
breeze from the southwest whirled into eddies the clouds of germ-laden
dust stirred up by the automobiles, blowing their skirts against their
legs, and sometimes they were forced to turn, clinging to their hats,
confused and giggling, conscious of male glances. The crowd, increasing
as they proceeded, was in holiday mood; young men with a newly-washed
aspect, in Faber Street suits, chaffed boisterously groups of girls, who
retorted with shrill cries and shrieks of laughter; amorous couples
strolled, arm in arm, oblivious, as though the place were as empty as
Eden; lady-killers with exaggerated square shoulders, wearing bright
neckties, their predatory instincts alert, hovered about in eager search
of adventure. There were men-killers, too, usually to be found in pairs,
in startling costumes they had been persuaded were the latest Paris
models,--imitations of French cocottes in Hampton, proof of the smallness
of our modern world. Eda regarded them superciliously.

"They'd like you to think they'd never been near a loom or a bobbin!" she
exclaimed.

In addition to these more conspicuous elements, the crowd contained sober
operatives of the skilled sort possessed of sufficient means to bring
hither their families, including the baby; there were section-hands and
foremen, slashers, mule spinners, beamers, French-Canadians, Irish,
Scotch, Welsh and English, Germans, with only an occasional Italian,
Lithuanian, or Jew. Peanut and popcorn men, venders of tamales and
Chile-con-carne hoarsely shouted their wares, while from afar could be
heard the muffled booming of a band. Janet's heart beat faster. She
regarded with a tinge of awe the vast expanse of tent that rose before
her eyes, the wind sending ripples along the heavy canvas from
circumference to tent pole. She bought the tickets; they entered the
circular enclosure where the animals were kept; where the strong beams of
the sun, in trying to force their way through the canvas roof, created an
unnatural, jaundiced twilight, the weirdness of which was somehow
enhanced by the hoarse, amazingly penetrating growls of beasts. Suddenly
a lion near them raised a shaggy head, emitting a series of undulating,
soul-shaking roars.

"Ah, what's eatin' you?" demanded a thick-necked youth, pretending not to
be awestricken by this demonstration.

"Suppose he'd get out!" cried Eda, drawing Janet away.

"I wouldn't let him hurt you, dearie," the young man assured her.

"You!" she retorted contemptuously, but grinned in spite of herself,
showing her gums.

The vague feeling of terror inspired by this tent was a part of its
fascination, for it seemed pregnant with potential tragedies suggested by
the juxtaposition of helpless babies and wild beasts, the babies crying
or staring in blank amazement at padding tigers whose phosphorescent eyes
never left these morsels beyond the bars. The two girls wandered about,
their arms closely locked, but the strange atmosphere, the roars of the
beasts, the ineffable, pungent odour of the circus, of sawdust mingled
with the effluvia of animals, had aroused an excitement that was slow in
subsiding. Some time elapsed before they were capable of taking a normal
interest in the various exhibits.

"`Adjutant Bird,'" Janet read presently from a legend on one of the
compartments of a cage devoted to birds, and surveying the somewhat
dissolute occupant. "Why, he's just like one of those tall mashers who
stay at the Wilmot and stand on the sidewalk,--travelling men, you know."

"Say-isn't he?" Eda agreed. "Isn't he pleased with himself, and his feet
crossed!"

"And see this one, Eda--he's a 'Harpy Eagle.' There's somebody we know
looks just like that. Wait a minute--I'll tell you--it's the woman who
sits in the cashier's cage at Grady's."

"If it sure isn't!" said Eda.

"She has the same fluffy, light hair--hairpins can't keep it down, and
she looks at you in that same sort of surprised way with her head on one
side when you hand in your check."

"Why, it's true to the life!" cried Eda enthusiastically. "She thinks
she's got all the men cinched,--she does and she's forty if she's a day."

These comparisons brought them to a pitch of risible enjoyment amply
sustained by the spectacle in the monkey cage, to which presently they
turned. A chimpanzee, with a solicitation more than human, was solemnly
searching a friend for fleas in the midst of a pandemonium of chattering
and screeching and chasing, of rattling of bars and trapezes carried on
by their companions.

"Well, young ladies," said a voice, "come to pay a call on your
relations--have ye?"

Eda giggled hysterically. An elderly man was standing beside them. He was
shabbily dressed, his own features were wizened, almost simian, and by
his friendly and fatuous smile Janet recognized one of the harmless
obsessed in which Hampton abounded.

"Relations!" Eda exclaimed.

"You and me, yes, and her," he answered, looking at Janet, though at
first he had apparently entertained some doubt as to this inclusion,
"we're all descended from them." His gesture triumphantly indicated the
denizens of the cage.

"What are you giving us?" said Eda.

"Ain't you never read Darwin?" he demanded. "If you had, you'd know
they're our ancestors, you'd know we came from them instead of Adam and
Eve. That there's a fable."

"I'll never believe I came from them," cried Eda, vehement in her
disgust.

But Janet laughed. "What's the difference? Some of us aren't any better
than monkeys, anyway."

"That's so," said the man approvingly. "That's so." He wanted to continue
the conversation, but they left him rather ruthlessly. And when, from the
entrance to the performance tent, they glanced back over their shoulders,
he was still gazing at his cousins behind the bars, seemingly deriving an
acute pleasure from his consciousness of the connection....



CHAPTER VI

Modern business, by reason of the mingling of the sexes it involves, for
the playwright and the novelist and the sociologist is full of
interesting and dramatic situations, and in it may be studied,
undoubtedly, one phase of the evolution tending to transform if not
disintegrate certain institutions hitherto the corner-stones of society.
Our stage is set. A young woman, conscious of ability, owes her promotion
primarily to certain dynamic feminine qualities with which she is
endowed. And though she may make an elaborate pretense of ignoring the
fact, in her heart she knows and resents it, while at the same time,
paradoxically, she gets a thrill from it,--a sustaining and inspiring
thrill of power! On its face it is a business arrangement;
secretly,--attempt to repudiate this as one may,--it is tinged with the
colours of high adventure. When Janet entered into the intimate
relationship with Mr. Claude Ditmar necessitated by her new duties as his
private stenographer her attitude, slightly defiant, was the
irreproachable one of a strict attention to duty. All unconsciously she
was a true daughter of the twentieth century, and probably a feminist at
heart, which is to say that her conduct was determined by no preconceived
or handed-down notions of what was proper and lady-like. For feminism, in
a sense, is a return to atavism, and sex antagonism and sex attraction
are functions of the same thing. There were moments when she believed
herself to hate Mr. Ditmar, when she treated him with an aloofness, an
impersonality unsurpassed; moments when he paused in his dictation to
stare at her in astonishment. He, who flattered himself that he
understood women!

She would show him!--such was her dominating determination. Her promotion
assumed the guise of a challenge, of a gauntlet flung down at the feet of
her sex. In a certain way, an insult, though incredibly stimulating. If
he flattered himself that he had done her a favour, if he entertained the
notion that he could presently take advantage of the contact with her now
achieved to make unbusinesslike advances--well, he would find out. He had
proclaimed his desire for an able assistant in Miss Ottway's place--he
would get one, and nothing more. She watched narrowly, a l'affut, as the
French say, for any signs of sentiment, and indeed this awareness of her
being on guard may have had some influence on Mr. Ditmar's own attitude,
likewise irreproachable.... A rather anaemic young woman, a Miss Annie
James, was hired for Janet's old place.

In spite of this aloofness and alertness, for the first time in her life
Janet felt the exuberance of being in touch with affairs of import.
Hitherto the mill had been merely a greedy monster claiming her freedom
and draining her energies in tasks routine, such as the copying of
meaningless documents and rows of figures; now, supplied with stimulus
and a motive, the Corporation began to take on significance, and she
flung herself into the work with an ardour hitherto unknown, determined
to make herself so valuable to Ditmar that the time would come when he
could not do without her. She strove to memorize certain names and
addresses, lest time be lost in looking them up, to familiarize herself
with the ordinary run of his correspondence, to recall what letters were
to be marked "personal," to anticipate matters of routine, in order that
he might not have the tedium of repeating instructions; she acquired the
faculty of keeping his engagements in her head; she came early to the
office, remaining after hours, going through the files, becoming familiar
with his system; and she learned to sort out his correspondence, sifting
the important from the unimportant, to protect him, more and more, from
numerous visitors who called only to waste his time. Her instinct for the
detection of book-agents, no matter how brisk and businesslike they might
appear, was unerring--she remembered faces and the names belonging to
them: an individual once observed to be persona non grata never succeeded
in passing her twice. On one occasion Ditmar came out of his office to
see the back of one of these visitors disappearing into the corridor.

"Who was that?" he asked.

"His name is McCalla," she said. "I thought you didn't want to be
bothered."

"But how in thunder did you get rid of him?" he demanded.

"Oh, I just wouldn't let him in," she replied demurely.

And Ditmar went away, wondering.... Thus she studied him, without
permitting him to suspect it, learning his idiosyncrasies, his attitude
toward all those with whom daily he came in contact, only to find herself
approving. She was forced to admit that he was a judge of men, compelled
to admire his adroitness in dealing with them. He could be democratic or
autocratic as occasion demanded; he knew when to yield, and when to
remain inflexible. One morning, for instance, there arrived from New York
a dapper salesman whose jauntily tied bow, whose thin hair--carefully
parted to conceal an incipient baldness--whose wary and slightly weary
eyes all impressively suggested the metropolitan atmosphere of high
pressure and sophistication from which he had emerged. He had a machine
to sell; an amazing machine, endowed with human intelligence and more
than human infallibility; for when it made a mistake it stopped. It was
designed for the express purpose of eliminating from the payroll the
skilled and sharp-eyed women who are known as "drawers-in," who sit all
day long under a north light patiently threading the ends of the warp
through the heddles of the loom harness. Janet's imagination was
gradually fired as she listened to the visitor's eloquence; and the
textile industry, which hitherto had seemed to her uninteresting and
sordid, took on the colours of romance.

"Now I've made up my mind we'll place one with you, Mr. Ditmar," the
salesman concluded. "I don't object to telling you we'd rather have one
in the Chippering than in any mill in New England."

Janet was surprised, almost shocked to see Ditmar shake his head, yet she
felt a certain reluctant admiration because he had not been swayed by
blandishments. At such moments, when he was bent on refusing a request,
he seemed physically to acquire massiveness,--and he had a dogged way of
chewing his cigar.

"I don't want it, yet," he replied, "not until you improve it." And she
was impressed by the fact that he seemed to know as much about the
machine as the salesman himself. In spite of protests, denials, appeals,
he remained firm. "When you get rid of the defects I've mentioned come
back, Mr. Hicks--but don't come back until then."

And Mr. Hicks departed, discomfited....

Ditmar knew what he wanted. Of the mill he was the absolute master,
familiar with every process, carrying constantly in his mind how many
spindles, how many looms were at work; and if anything untoward happened,
becoming aware of it by what seemed to Janet a subconscious process,
sending for the superintendent of the department: for Mr. Orcutt,
perhaps, whose office was across the hall--a tall, lean, spectacled man
of fifty who looked like a schoolmaster.

"Orcutt, what's the matter with the opener in Cooney's room?"

"Why, the blower's out of order."

"Well, whose fault is it?"....

He knew every watchman and foreman in the mill, and many of the second
hands. The old workers, men and women who had been in the Chippering
employ through good and bad times for years, had a place in his
affections, but toward the labour force in general his attitude was
impersonal. The mill had to be run, and people to be got to run it. With
him, first and last and always it was the mill, and little by little what
had been for Janet a heterogeneous mass of machinery and human beings
became unified and personified in Claude Ditmar. It was odd how the
essence and quality of that great building had changed for her; how the
very roaring of the looms, as she drew near the canal in the mornings,
had ceased to be sinister and depressing, but bore now a burden like a
great battle song to excite and inspire, to remind her that she had been
snatched as by a miracle from the commonplace. And all this was a
function of Ditmar.

Life had become portentous. And she was troubled by no qualms of logic,
but gloried, womanlike, in her lack of it. She did not ask herself why
she had deliberately enlarged upon Miss Ottway's duties, invaded
debatable ground in part inevitably personal, flung herself with such
abandon into the enterprise of his life's passion, at the same time
maintaining a deceptive attitude of detachment, half deceiving herself
that it was zeal for the work by which she was actuated. In her soul she
knew better. She was really pouring fuel on the flames. She read him, up
to a certain point--as far as was necessary; and beneath his attempts at
self-control she was conscious of a dynamic desire that betrayed itself
in many acts and signs,--as when he brushed against her; and occasionally
when he gave evidence with his subordinates of a certain shortness of
temper unusual with him she experienced a vaguely alarming but delicious
thrill of power. And this, of all men, was the great Mr. Ditmar! Was she
in love with him? That question did not trouble her either. She continued
to experience in his presence waves of antagonism and attraction,
revealing to her depths and possibilities of her nature that frightened
while they fascinated. It never occurred to her to desist. That craving
in her for high adventure was not to be denied.

On summer evenings it had been Ditmar's habit when in Hampton to stroll
about his lawn, from time to time changing the position of the sprinkler,
smoking a cigar, and reflecting pleasantly upon his existence. His house,
as he gazed at it against the whitening sky, was an eminently
satisfactory abode, his wife was dead, his children gave him no trouble;
he felt a glow of paternal pride in his son as the boy raced up and down
the sidewalk on a bicycle; George was manly, large and strong for his
age, and had a domineering way with other boys that gave Ditmar secret
pleasure. Of Amy, who was showing a tendency to stoutness, and who had
inherited her mother's liking for candy and romances, Ditmar thought
scarcely at all: he would glance at her as she lounged, reading, in a
chair on the porch, but she did not come within his range of problems. He
had, in short, everything to make a reasonable man content, a life nicely
compounded of sustenance, pleasure, and business,--business naturally
being the greatest of these. He was--though he did not know it--ethically
and philosophically right in squaring his morals with his occupation, and
his had been the good fortune to live in a world whose codes and
conventions had been carefully adjusted to the pursuit of that particular
brand of happiness he had made his own. Why, then, in the name of that
happiness, of the peace and sanity and pleasurable effort it had brought
him, had he allowed and even encouraged the advent of a new element that
threatened to destroy the equilibrium achieved? an element refusing to be
classified under the head of property, since it involved something he
desired and could not buy? A woman who was not property, who resisted the
attempt to be turned into property, was an anomaly in Ditmar's universe.
He had not, of course, existed for more than forty years without having
heard and read of and even encountered in an acquaintance or two the
species of sex attraction sentimentally called love that sometimes made
fools of men and played havoc with more important affairs, but in his
experience it had never interfered with his sanity or his appetite or the
Chippering Mill: it had never made his cigars taste bitter; it had never
caused a deterioration in the appreciation of what he had achieved and
held. But now he was experiencing strange symptoms of an intensity out of
all proportion to that of former relations with the other sex. What was
most unusual for him, he was alarmed and depressed, at moments irritable.
He regretted the capricious and apparently accidental impulse that had
made him pretend to tinker with his automobile that day by the canal,
that had led him to the incomparable idiocy of getting rid of Miss Ottway
and installing the disturber of his peace as his private stenographer.

What the devil was it in her that made him so uncomfortable? When in his
office he had difficulty in keeping his mind on matters of import; he
would watch her furtively as she went about the room with the lithe and
noiseless movements that excited him the more because he suspected
beneath her outward and restrained demeanour a fierceness he craved yet
feared. He thought of her continually as a panther, a panther he had
caught and could not tame; he hadn't even caught her, since she might
escape at any time. He took precautions not to alarm her. When she
brushed against him he trembled. Continually she baffled and puzzled him,
and he never could tell of what she was thinking. She represented a whole
set of new and undetermined values for which he had no precedents, and
unlike every woman he had known--including his wife--she had an integrity
of her own, seemingly beyond the reach of all influences economic and
social. All the more exasperating, therefore, was a propinquity creating
an intimacy without substance, or without the substance he craved for she
had magically become for him a sort of enveloping, protecting atmosphere.
In an astonishingly brief time he had fallen into the habit of talking
things over with her; naturally not affairs of the first importance, but
matters such as the economy of his time: when, for instance, it was most
convenient for him to go to Boston; and he would find that she had
telephoned, without being told, to the office there when to expect him,
to his chauffeur to be on hand. He never had to tell her a thing twice,
nor did she interrupt--as Miss Ottway sometimes had done--the processes
of his thought. Without realizing it he fell into the habit of listening
for the inflections of her voice, and though he had never lacked the
power of making decisions, she somehow made these easier for him
especially if, a human equation were involved.

He had, at least, the consolation--if it were one--of reflecting that his
reputation was safe, that there would be no scandal, since two are
necessary to make the kind of scandal he had always feared, and Miss
Bumpus, apparently, had no intention of being the second party. Yet she
was not virtuous, as he had hitherto defined the word. Of this he was
sure. No woman who moved about as she did, who had such an effect on him,
who had on occasions, though inadvertently, returned the lightning of his
glances, whose rare laughter resembled grace notes, and in whose hair was
that almost imperceptible kink, could be virtuous. This instinctive
conviction inflamed him. For the first time in his life he began to doubt
the universal conquering quality of his own charms,--and when such a
thing happens to a man like Ditmar he is in danger of hell-fire. He
indulged less and less in the convivial meetings and excursions that
hitherto had given him relaxation and enjoyment, and if his cronies
inquired as to the reasons for his neglect of them he failed to answer
with his usual geniality.

"Everything going all right up at the mills, Colonel?" he was asked one
day by Mr. Madden, the treasurer of a large shoe company, when they met
on the marble tiles of the hall in their Boston club.

"All right. Why?"

"Well," replied Madden, conciliatingly, "you seem kind of preoccupied,
that's all. I didn't know but what the fifty-four hour bill the
legislature's just put through might be worrying you."

"We'll handle that situation when the time comes," said Ditmar. He
accepted a gin rickey, but declined rather curtly the suggestion of a
little spree over Sunday to a resort on the Cape which formerly he would
have found enticing. On another occasion he encountered in the lobby of
the Parker House a more intimate friend, Chester Sprole, sallow,
self-made, somewhat corpulent, one of those lawyers hail fellows well met
in business circles and looked upon askance by the Brahmins of their
profession; more than half politician, he had been in Congress, and from
time to time was retained by large business interests because of his
persuasive gifts with committees of the legislature--though these had
been powerless to avert the recent calamity of the women and children's
fifty-four hour bill. Mr. Sprole's hair was prematurely white, and the
crow's-feet at the corners of his eyes were not the result of legal
worries.

"Hullo, Dit," he said jovially.

"Hullo, Ches," said Ditmar.

"Now you're the very chap I wanted to see. Where have you been keeping
yourself lately? Come out to the farm to-night,--same of the boys'll be
there." Mr. Sprole, like many a self-made man, was proud of his farm,
though he did not lead a wholly bucolic existence.

"I can't, Ches," answered Ditmar. "I've got to go back to Hampton."

This statement Mr. Sprole unwisely accepted as a fiction. He took hold of
Ditmar's arm.

"A lady--eh--what?"

"I've got to go back to Hampton," repeated Ditmar, with a suggestion of
truculence that took his friend aback. Not for worlds would Mr. Sprole
have offended the agent of the Chippering Mill.

"I was only joking, Claude," he hastened to explain. Ditmar, somewhat
mollified but still dejected, sought the dining-room when the lawyer had
gone.

"All alone to-night, Colonel?" asked the coloured head waiter,
obsequiously.

Ditmar demanded a table in the corner, and consumed a solitary meal.

Very naturally Janet was aware of the change in Ditmar, and knew the
cause of it. Her feelings were complicated. He, the most important man in
Hampton, the self-sufficient, the powerful, the hitherto distant and
unattainable head of the vast organization known as the Chippering Mill,
of which she was an insignificant unit, at times became for her just a
man--a man for whom she had achieved a delicious contempt. And the
knowledge that she, if she chose, could sway and dominate him by the mere
exercise of that strange feminine force within her was intoxicating and
terrifying. She read this in a thousand signs; in his glances; in his
movements revealing a desire to touch her; in little things he said,
apparently insignificant, yet fraught with meaning; in a constant
recurrence of the apologetic attitude--so alien to the Ditmar formerly
conceived--of which he had given evidence that day by the canal: and from
this attitude emanated, paradoxically, a virile and galvanic current
profoundly disturbing. Sometimes when he bent over her she experienced a
commingled ecstasy and fear that he would seize her in his arms. Yet the
tension was not constant, rising and falling with his moods and
struggles, all of which she read--unguessed by him--as easily as a
printed page by the gift that dispenses with laborious processes of the
intellect. On the other hand, a resentment boiled within her his
masculine mind failed to fathom. Stevenson said of John Knox that many
women had come to learn from him, but he had never condescended to become
a learner in return--a remark more or less applicable to Ditmar. She was,
perforce, thrilled that he was virile and wanted her, but because he
wanted her clandestinely her pride revolted, divining his fear of scandal
and hating him for it like a thoroughbred. To do her justice, marriage
never occurred to her. She was not so commonplace.

There were times, however, when the tension between them would relax,
when some incident occurred to focus Ditmar's interest on the enterprise
that had absorbed and unified his life, the Chippering Mill. One day in
September, for instance, after an absence in New York, he returned to the
office late in the afternoon, and she was quick to sense his elation, to
recognize in him the restored presence of the quality of elan, of
command, of singleness of purpose that had characterized him before she
had become his stenographer. At first, as he read his mail, he seemed
scarcely conscious of her presence. She stood by the window, awaiting his
pleasure, watching the white mist as it rolled over the floor of the
river, catching glimpses in vivid, saffron blurs of the lights of the
Arundel Mill on the farther shore. Autumn was at hand. Suddenly she heard
Ditmar speaking.

"Would you mind staying a little while longer this evening, Miss Bumpus?"

"Not at all," she replied, turning.

On his face was a smile, almost boyish.

"The fact is, I think I've got hold of the biggest single order that ever
came into any mill in New England," he declared.

"Oh, I'm glad," she said quickly.

"The cotton cards--?" he demanded.

She knew he referred to the schedules, based on the current prices of
cotton, made out in the agent's office and sent in duplicate to the
selling house, in Boston. She got them from the shelf; and as he went
over them she heard him repeating the names of various goods now become
familiar, pongees, poplins, percales and voiles, garbardines and
galateas, lawns, organdies, crepes, and Madras shirtings, while he wrote
down figures on a sheet of paper. So complete was his absorption in this
task that Janet, although she had resented the insinuating pressure of
his former attitude toward her, felt a paradoxical sensation of jealousy.
Presently, without looking up, he told her to call up the Boston office
and ask for Mr. Fraile, the cotton buyer; and she learned from the talk
over the telephone though it was mostly about "futures"--that Ditmar had
lingered for a conference in Boston on his way back from New York.
Afterwards, having dictated two telegrams which she wrote out on her
machine, he leaned back in his chair; and though the business for the day
was ended, showed a desire to detain her. His mood became communicative.

"I've been on the trail of that order for a month," he declared. "Of
course it isn't my business to get orders, but to manage this mill, and
that's enough for one man, God knows. But I heard the Bradlaughs were in
the market for these goods, and I told the selling house to lie low, that
I'd go after it. I knew I could get away with it, if anybody could. I
went to the Bradlaughs and sat down on 'em, I lived with 'em, ate with
'em, brought 'em home at night. I didn't let 'em alone a minute until
they handed it over. I wasn't going to give any other mill in New England
or any of those southern concerns a chance to walk off with it--not on
your life! Why, we have the facilities. There isn't another mill in the
country can turn it out in the time they ask, and even we will have to go
some to do it. But we'll do it, by George, unless I'm struck by
lightning."

He leaned forward, hitting the desk with his fist, and Janet, standing
beside him, smiled. She had the tempting gift of silence. Forgetting her
twinge of jealousy, she was drawn toward him now, and in this mood of
boyish exuberance, of self-confidence and pride in his powers and success
she liked him better than ever before. She had, for the first time, the
curious feeling of being years older than he, yet this did not detract
from a new-born admiration.

"I made this mill, and I'm proud of it," he went on. "When old Stephen
Chippering put me in charge he was losing money, he'd had three agents in
four years. The old man knew I had it in me, and I knew it, if I do say
it myself. All this union labour talk about shorter hours makes me
sick--why, there was a time when I worked ten and twelve hours a day, and
I'm man enough to do it yet, if I have to. When the last agent--that was
Cort--was sacked I went to Boston on my own hook and tackled the old
gentleman--that's the only way to get anywhere. I couldn't bear to see
the mill going to scrap, and I told him a thing or two,--I had the facts
and the figures. Stephen Chippering was a big man, but he had a streak of
obstinacy in him, he was conservative, you bet. I had to get it across to
him there was a lot of dead wood in this plant, I had to wake him up to
the fact that the twentieth century was here. He had to be shown--he was
from Boston, you know--" Ditmar laughed--"but he was all wool and a yard
wide, and he liked me and trusted me.

"That was in nineteen hundred. I can remember the interview as well as if
it had happened last night--we sat up until two o'clock in the morning in
that library of his with the marble busts and the leather-bound books and
the double windows looking out over the Charles, where the wind was
blowing a gale. And at last he said, `All right, Claude, go ahead. I'll
put you in as agent, and stand behind you.' And by thunder, he did stand
behind me. He was quiet, the finest looking old man I ever saw in my
life, straight as a ramrod, with a little white goatee and a red,
weathered face full of creases, and a skin that looked as if it had been
pricked all over with needles--the old Boston sort. They don't seem to
turn 'em out any more. Why, I have a picture of him here."

He opened a drawer in his desk and drew out a photograph. Janet gazed at
it sympathetically.

"It doesn't give you any notion of those eyes of his," Ditmar said,
reminiscently. "They looked right through a man's skull, no matter how
thick it was. If anything went wrong, I never wasted any time in telling
him about it, and I guess it was one reason he liked me. Some of the
people up here didn't understand him, kow-towed to him, they were scared
of him, and if he thought they had something up their sleeves he looked
as if he were going to eat 'em alive. Regular fighting eyes, the kind
that get inside of a man and turn the light on. And he sat so still--made
you ashamed of yourself. Well, he was a born fighter, went from Harvard
into the Rebellion and was left for dead at Seven Oaks, where one of the
company found him and saved him. He set that may up for life, and never
talked about it, either. See what he wrote on the bottom--'To my friend,
Claude Ditmar, Stephen Chippering.' And believe me, when he once called a
man a friend he never took it back. I know one thing, I'll never get
another friend like him."

With a gesture that gave her a new insight into Ditmar, reverently he
took the picture from her hand and placed it back in the drawer. She was
stirred, almost to tears, and moved away from him a little, as though to
lessen by distance the sudden attraction he had begun to exert: yet she
lingered, half leaning, half sitting on the corner of the big desk, her
head bent toward him, her eyes filled with light. She was wondering
whether he could ever love a woman as he loved this man of whom he had
spoken, whether he could be as true to a woman. His own attitude seemed
never to have been more impersonal, but she had ceased to resent it;
something within her whispered that she was the conductor, the inspirer..

"I wish Stephen Chippering could have lived to see this order," he
exclaimed, "to see the Chippering Mill to-day! I guess he'd be proud of
it, I guess he wouldn't regret having put me in as agent."

Janet did not reply. She could not. She sat regarding him intently, and
when he raised his eyes and caught her luminous glance, his expression
changed, she knew Stephen Chippering had passed from his mind.

"I hope you like it here," he said. His voice had become vibrant,
ingratiating, he had changed from the master to the suppliant--and yet
she was not displeased. Power had suddenly flowed back into her, and with
it an exhilarating self-command.

"I do like it," she answered.

"But you said, when I asked you to be my stenographer, that you didn't
care for your work."

"Oh, this is different."

"How?"

"I'm interested, the mill means something to me now you see, I'm not just
copying things I don't know anything about."

"I'm glad you're interested," he said, in the same odd, awkward tone.
"I've never had any one in the office who did my work as well. Now Miss
Ottway was a good stenographer, she was capable, and a fine woman, but
she never got the idea, the spirit of the mill in her as you've got it,
and she wasn't able to save me trouble, as you do. It's remarkable how
you've come to understand, and in such a short time."

Janet coloured. She did not look at him, but had risen and begun to
straighten out the papers beside her.

"There are lots of other things I'd like to understand," she said.

"What?" he demanded.

"Well--about the mill. I never thought much about it before, I always
hated it," she cried, dropping the papers and suddenly facing him. "It
was just drudgery. But now I want to learn everything, all I can, I'd
like to see the machinery."

"I'll take you through myself--to-morrow," he declared.

His evident agitation made her pause. They were alone, the outer office
deserted, and the Ditmar she saw now, whom she had summoned up with
ridiculous ease by virtue of that mysterious power within her, was no
longer the agent of the Chippering Mill, a boy filled with enthusiasm by
a business achievement, but a man, the incarnation and expression of
masculine desire desire for her. She knew she could compel him, if she
chose, to throw caution to the winds.

"Oh no!" she exclaimed. She was afraid of him, she shrank from such a
conspicuous sign of his favour.

"Why not?" he asked.

"Because I don't want you to," she said, and realized, as soon as she had
spoken, that her words might imply the existence of a something between
them never before hinted at by her. "I'll get Mr. Caldwell to take me
through." She moved toward the door, and turned; though still on fire
within, her manner had become demure, repressed. "Did you wish anything
more this evening?" she inquired.

"That's all," he said, and she saw that he was gripping the arms of his
chair....



CHAPTER VII

Autumn was at hand. All day it had rained, but now, as night fell and
Janet went homeward, the white mist from the river was creeping
stealthily over the city, disguising the familiar and sordid landmarks.
These had become beautiful, mysterious, somehow appealing. The electric
arcs, splotches in the veil, revealed on the Common phantom trees; and in
the distance, against the blurred lights from the Warren Street stores
skirting the park could be seen phantom vehicles, phantom people moving
to and fro. Thus, it seemed to Janet, invaded by a pearly mist was her
own soul, in which she walked in wonder,--a mist shot through and through
with soft, exhilarating lights half disclosing yet transforming and
etherealizing certain landmark's there on which, formerly, she had not
cared to gaze. She was thinking of Ditmar as she had left him gripping
his chair, as he had dismissed her for the day, curtly, almost savagely.
She had wounded and repelled him, and lingering in her was that exquisite
touch of fear--a fear now not so much inspired by Ditmar as by the
semi-acknowledged recognition of certain tendencies and capacities within
herself. Yet she rejoiced in them, she was glad she had hurt Ditmar, she
would hurt him again. Still palpitating, she reached the house in
Fillmore Street, halting a moment with her hand on the door, knowing her
face was flushed, anxious lest her mother or Lise might notice something
unusual in her manner. But, when she had slowly mounted the stairs and
lighted the gas in the bedroom the sight of her sister's clothes cast
over the chairs was proof that Lise had already donned her evening finery
and departed. The room was filled with the stale smell of clothes, which
Janet detested. She flung open the windows. She took off her hat and
swiftly tidied herself, yet the relief she felt at Lise's absence was
modified by a sudden, vehement protest against sordidness. Why should she
not live by herself amidst clean and tidy surroundings? She had begun to
earn enough, and somehow a vista had been opened up--a vista whose end
she could not see, alluring, enticing.... In the dining-room, by the
cleared table, her father was reading the Banner; her mother appeared in
the kitchen door.

"What in the world happened to you, Janet?" she exclaimed.

"Nothing," said Janet. "Mr. Ditmar asked me to stay--that was all. He'd
been away."

"I was worried, I was going to make your father go down to the mill. I've
saved you some supper."

"I don't want much," Janet told her, "I'm not hungry."

"I guess you have to work too hard in that new place," said Hannah, as
she brought in the filled plate from the oven.

"Well, it seems to agree with her, mother," declared Edward, who could
always be counted on to say the wrong thing with the best of intentions.
"I never saw her looking as well--why, I swan, she's getting real
pretty!"

Hannah darted at him a glance, but restrained herself, and Janet reddened
as she tried to eat the beans placed before her. The pork had browned and
hardened at the edges, the gravy had spread, a crust covered the
potatoes. When her father resumed his reading of the Banner and her
mother went back into the kitchen she began to speculate rather
resentfully and yet excitedly why it was that this adventure with a man,
with Ditmar, made her look better, feel better,--more alive. She was too
honest to disguise from herself that it was an adventure, a high one,
fraught with all sorts of possibilities, dangers, and delights. Her
promotion had been merely incidental. Both her mother and father, did
they know the true circumstances,--that Mr. Ditmar desired her, was
perhaps in love with her--would be disturbed. Undoubtedly they would have
believed that she could "take care" of herself. She knew that matters
could not go on as they were, that she would either have to leave Mr.
Ditmar or--and here she baulked at being logical. She had no intention of
leaving him: to remain, according to the notions of her parents, would be
wrong. Why was it that doing wrong agreed with her, energized her, made
her more alert, cleverer, keying up her faculties? turned life from a
dull affair into a momentous one? To abandon Ditmar would be to slump
back into the humdrum, into something from which she had magically been
emancipated, symbolized by the home in which she sat; by the red-checked
tablecloth, the ugly metal lamp, the cherry chairs with the frayed seats,
the horsehair sofa from which the stuffing protruded, the tawdry pillow
with its colours, once gay, that Lise had bought at a bargain at the
Bagatelle.... The wooden clock with the round face and quaint landscape
below--the family's most cherished heirloom--though long familiar, was
not so bad; but the two yellowed engravings on the wall offended her.
They had been wedding presents to Edward's father. One represented a
stupid German peasant woman holding a baby, and standing in front of a
thatched cottage; its companion was a sylvan scene in which certain
wooden rustics were supposed to be enjoying themselves. Between the two,
and dotted with flyspecks, hung an insurance calendar on which was a huge
head of a lady, florid, fluffy-haired, flirtatious. Lise thought her
beautiful.

The room was ugly. She had long known that, but tonight the realization
came to her that what she chiefly resented in it was the note it
proclaimed--the note of a mute acquiescence, without protest or struggle,
in what life might send. It reflected accurately the attitude of her
parents, particularly of her father. With an odd sense of detachment, of
critical remoteness and contempt she glanced at him as he sat stupidly
absorbed in his newspaper, his face puckered, his lips pursed, and Ditmar
rose before her--Ditmar, the embodiment of an indomitableness that
refused to be beaten and crushed. She thought of the story he had told
her, how by self-assertion and persistence he had become agent of the
Chippering Mill, how he had convinced Mr. Stephen Chippering of his
ability. She could not think of the mill as belonging to the Chipperings
and the other stockholders, but to Ditmar, who had shaped it into an
expression of himself, since it was his ideal. And now it seemed that he
had made it hers also. She regretted having repulsed him, pushed her
plate away from her, and rose.

"You haven't eaten anything," said Hannah, who had come into the room.
"Where are you going?"

"Out--to Eda's," Janet answered....

"It's late," Hannah objected. But Janet departed. Instead of going to
Eda's she walked alone, seeking the quieter streets that her thoughts
might flow undisturbed. At ten o'clock, when she returned, the light was
out in the diningroom, her sister had not come in, and she began slowly
to undress, pausing every now and then to sit on the bed and dream; once
she surprised herself gazing into the glass with a rapt expression that
was almost a smile. What was it about her that had attracted Ditmar? No
other man had ever noticed it. She had never thought herself good
looking, and now--it was astonishing!--she seemed to have changed, and
she saw with pride that her arms and neck were shapely, that her dark
hair fell down in a cascade over her white shoulders to her waist. She
caressed it; it was fine. When she looked again, a radiancy seemed to
envelop her. She braided her hair slowly, in two long plaits, looking
shyly in the mirror and always seeing that radiancy....

Suddenly it occurred to her with a shock that she was doing exactly what
she had despised Lise for doing, and leaving the mirror she hurried her
toilet, put out the light, and got into bed. For a long time, however,
she remained wakeful, turning first on one side and then on the other,
trying to banish from her mind the episode that had excited her. But
always it came back again. She saw Ditmar before her, virile, vital,
electric with desire. At last she fell asleep.

Gradually she was awakened by something penetrating her consciousness,
something insistent, pervasive, unescapable, which in drowsiness she
could not define. The gas was burning, Lise had come in, and was moving
peculiarly about the room. Janet watched her. She stood in front of the
bureau, just as Janet herself had done, her hands at her throat. At last
she let them fall, her head turning slowly, as though drawn, by some
irresistible, hypnotic power, and their eyes met. Lise's were filmed,
like those of a dog whose head is being stroked, expressing a luxuriant
dreaminess uncomprehending, passionate.

"Say, did I wake you?" she asked. "I did my best not to make any
noise--honest to God."

"It wasn't the noise that woke me up," said Janet.

"It couldn't have been."

"You've been drinking!" said Janet, slowly.

Lise giggled.

"What's it to you, angel face!" she inquired. "Quiet down, now, and go
bye-bye."

Janet sprang from the bed, seized her by the shoulders, and shook her.
She was limp. She began to whimper.

"Cut it out--leave me go. It ain't nothing to you what I do--I just had a
highball."

Janet released her and drew back.

"I just had a highball--honest to God!"

"Don't say that again!" whispered Janet, fiercely.

"Oh, very well. For God's sake, go to bed and leave me alone--I can take
care of myself, I guess--I ain't nutty enough to hit the booze. But I
ain't like you--I've got to have a little fun to keep alive."

"A little fun!" Janet exclaimed. The phrase struck her sharply. A little
fun to keep alive!

With that same peculiar, cautious movement she had observed, Lise
approached a chair, and sank into it,--jerking her head in the direction
of the room where Hannah and Edward slept.

"D'you want to wake 'em up? Is that your game?" she asked, and began to
fumble at her belt. Overcoming with an effort a disgust amounting to
nausea, Janet approached her sister again, little by little undressing
her, and finally getting her into bed, when she immediately fell into a
profound slumber. Janet, too, got into bed, but sleep was impossible: the
odour lurked like a foul spirit in the darkness, mingling with the
stagnant, damp air that came in at the open window, fairly saturating her
with horror: it seemed the very essence of degradation. But as she lay on
the edge of the bed, shrinking from contamination, in the throes of
excitement inspired by an unnamed fear, she grew hot, she could feel and
almost hear the pounding of her heart. She rose, felt around in the
clammy darkness for her wrapper and slippers, gained the door, crept
through the dark hall to the dining-room, where she stealthily lit the
lamp; darkness had become a terror. A cockroach scurried across the
linoleum. The room was warm and close, it reeked with the smell of stale
food, but at least she found relief from that other odour. She sank down
on the sofa.

Her sister was drunk. That in itself was terrible enough, yet it was not
the drunkenness alone that had sickened Janet, but the suggestion of
something else. Where had Lise been? In whose company had she become
drunk? Of late, in contrast to a former communicativeness, Lise had been
singularly secretive as to her companions, and the manner in which her
evenings were spent; and she, Janet, had grown too self-absorbed to be
curious. Lise, with her shopgirl's cynical knowledge of life and its
pitfalls and the high valuation at which she held her charms, had seemed
secure from danger; but Janet recalled her discouragement, her threat to
leave the Bagatelle. Since then there had been something furtive about
her. Now, because that odour of alcohol Lise exhaled had destroyed in
Janet the sense of exhilaration, of life on a higher plane she had begun
to feel, and filled her with degradation, she hated Lise, felt for her
sister no strain of pity. A proof, had she recognized it, that immorality
is not a matter of laws and decrees, but of individual emotions. A few
hours before she had seen nothing wrong in her relationship with Ditmar:
now she beheld him selfish, ruthless, pursuing her for one end, his own
gratification. As a man, he had become an enemy. Ditmar was like all
other men who exploited her sex without compunction, but the thought that
she was like Lise, asleep in a drunken stupor, that their cases differed
only in degree, was insupportable.

At last she fell asleep from sheer weariness, to dream she was with
Ditmar at some place in the country under spreading trees, Silliston,
perhaps--Silliston Common, cleverly disguised: nor was she quite sure,
always, that the man was Ditmar; he had a way of changing, of resembling
the man she had met in Silliston whom she had mistaken for a carpenter.
He was pleading with her, in his voice was the peculiar vibrancy that
thrilled her, that summoned some answering thing out of the depths of
her, and she felt herself yielding with a strange ecstasy in which were
mingled joy and terror. The terror was conquering the joy, and suddenly
he stood transformed before her eyes, caricatured, become a shrieking
monster from whom she sought in agony to escape.... In this paralysis of
fear she awoke, staring with wide eyes at the flickering flame of the
lamp, to a world filled with excruciating sound--the siren of the
Chippering Mill! She lay trembling with the horror of the dream-spell upon
her, still more than half convinced that the siren was Ditmar's voice,
his true expression. He was waiting to devour her. Would the sound never
end?...

Then, remembering where she was, alarmed lest her mother might come in
and find her there, she left the sofa, turned out the sputtering lamp,
and ran into the bedroom. Rain was splashing on the bricks of the
passage-way outside, the shadows of the night still lurked in the
corners; by the grey light she gazed at Lise, who breathed loudly and
stirred uneasily, her mouth open, her lips parched. Janet touched her.

"Lise--get up!" she said. "It's time to get up." She shook her.

"Leave me alone--can't you?"

"It's time to get up. The whistle has sounded."

Lise heavily opened her eyes. They were bloodshot.

"I don't want to get up. I won't get up."

"But you must," insisted Janet, tightening her hold. "You've got
to--you've got to eat breakfast and go to work."

"I don't want any breakfast, I ain't going to work any more."

A gust of wind blew inward the cheap lace curtains, and the physical
effect of it emphasized the chill that struck Janet's heart. She got up
and closed the window, lit the gas, and returning to the bed, shook Lise
again.

"Listen," she said, "if you don't get up I'll tell mother what happened
last night."

"Say, you wouldn't--!" exclaimed Lise, angrily.

"Get up!" Janet commanded, and watched her rather anxiously, uncertain as
to the after effects of drunkenness. But Lise got up. She sat on the edge
of the bed and yawned, putting her hand to her forehead.

"I've sure got a head on me," she remarked.

Janet was silent, angrier than ever, shocked that tragedy, degradation,
could be accepted thus circumstantially. Lise proceeded to put up her
hair. She seemed to be mistress of herself; only tired, gaping
frequently. Once she remarked:--"I don't see the good of getting nutty
over a highball."

Seeing that Janet was not to be led into controversy, she grew morose.

Breakfast in Fillmore Street, never a lively meal, was more dismal than
usual that morning, eaten to the accompaniment of slopping water from the
roofs on the pavement of the passage. The indisposition of Lise passed
unobserved by both Hannah and Edward; and at twenty minutes to eight the
two girls, with rubbers and umbrellas, left the house together, though it
was Janet's custom to depart earlier, since she had farther to go. Lise,
suspicious, maintained an obstinate silence, keeping close to the curb.
They reached the corner by the provision shop with the pink and orange
chromos of jellies in the window.

"Lise, has anything happened to you?" demanded Janet suddenly. "I want
you to tell me."

"Anything happened--what do you mean? Anything happened?"

"You know very well what I mean."

"Well, suppose something has happened?" Lise's reply was pert, defiant.
"What's it to you? If anything's happened, it's happened to me--hasn't
it?"

Janet approached her.

"What are you trying to do?" said Lise. "Push me into the gutter?"

"I guess you're there already," said Janet.

Lise was roused to a sudden pitch of fury. She turned on Janet and thrust
her back.

"Well, if I am who's going to blame me?" she cried. "If you had to work
all day in that hole, standing on your feet, picked on by yaps for six a
week, I guess you wouldn't talk virtuous, either. It's easy for you to
shoot off your mouth, you've got a soft snap with Ditmar."

Janet was outraged. She could not restrain her anger.

"How dare you say that?" she demanded.

Lise was cowed.

"Well, you drove me to it--you make me mad enough to say anything. Just
because I went to Gruber's with Neva Lorrie and a couple of
gentlemen--they were gentlemen all right, as much gentlemen as
Ditmar--you come at me and tell me I'm all to the bad." She began to sob.
"I'm as straight as you are. How was I to know the highball was stiff?
Maybe I was tired--anyhow, it put me on the queer, and everything in the
joint began to tango 'round me--and Neva came home with me."

Janet felt a surge of relief, in which were mingled anxiety and
resentment: relief because she was convinced that Lise was telling the
truth, anxiety because she feared for Lise's future, resentment because
Ditmar had been mentioned. Still, what she had feared most had not come
to pass. Lise left her abruptly, darting down a street that led to a back
entrance of the Bagatelle, and Janet pursued her way. Where, she
wondered, would it all end? Lise had escaped so far, but drunkenness was
an ominous sign. And "gentlemen"? What kind of gentlemen had taken her
sister to Gruber's? Would Ditmar do that sort of thing if he had a
chance?

The pavement in front of the company boarding-houses by the canal was
plastered with sodden leaves whipped from the maples by the driving rain
in the night. The sky above the mills was sepia. White lights were
burning in the loom rooms. When she reached the vestibule Simmons, the
watchman, informed her that Mr. Ditmar had already been there, and left
for Boston.

Janet did not like to acknowledge to herself her disappointment on
learning that Ditmar had gone to Boston. She knew he had had no such
intention the night before; an accumulated mail and many matters
demanding decisions were awaiting him; and his sudden departure seemed an
act directed personally against her, in the nature of a retaliation,
since she had offended and repulsed him. Through Lise's degrading act she
had arrived at the conclusion that all adventure and consequent suffering
had to do with Man--a conviction peculiarly maddening to such
temperaments as Janet's. Therefore she interpreted her suffering in terms
of Ditmar, she had looked forward to tormenting him again, and by
departing he had deliberately balked and cheated her. The rain fell
ceaselessly out of black skies, night seemed ever ready to descend on the
river, a darkness--according to young Mr. Caldwell--due not to the clouds
alone, but to forest fires many hundreds of miles away, in Canada. As the
day wore on, however, her anger gradually gave place to an extreme
weariness and depression, and yet she dreaded going home, inventing
things for herself to do; arranging and rearranging Ditmar's papers that
he might have less trouble in sorting them, putting those uppermost which
she thought he would deem the most important. Perhaps he would come in,
late! In a world of impending chaos the brilliantly lighted office was a
tiny refuge to which she clung. At last she put on her coat and rubbers,
faring forth reluctantly into the wet.

At first when she entered the bedroom she thought it empty, though the
gas was burning, and them she saw Lise lying face downward on the bed.
For a moment she stood still, then closed the door softly.

"Lise," she said.

"What?"

Janet sat down on the bed, putting out her hand. Unconsciously she began
to stroke Lise's hand, and presently it turned and tightened on her own.

"Lise," she said, "I understand why you--" she could not bring herself to
pronounce the words "got drunk,"--"I understand why you did it. I
oughtn't to have talked to you that way. But it was terrible to wake up
and see you."

For awhile Lise did not reply. Then she raised herself, feeling her hair
with an involuntary gesture, regarding her sister with a bewildered look,
her face puckered. Her eyes burned, and under them were black shadows.

"How do you mean--you understand?" she asked slowly. "You never hit the
booze."

Even Lise's language, which ordinarily offended her, failed to change her
sudden impassioned and repentant mood. She was astonished at herself for
this sudden softening, since she did not really love Lise, and all day
she had hated her, wished never to see her again.

"No, but I can understand how it would be to want to," Janet said. "Lise,
I guess we're searching--both of us for something we'll never find."

Lise stared at her with a contracted, puzzled expression, as of a person
awaking from sleep, all of whose faculties are being strained toward
comprehension.

"What do you mean?" she demanded. "You and me? You're all right--you've
got no kick coming."

"Life is hard, it's hard on girls like us--we want things we can't have."
Janet was at a loss to express herself.

 "Well, it ain't any pipe dream," Lise agreed. Her glance turned
involuntarily toward the picture of the Olympian dinner party pinned on
the wall. "Swells have a good time," she added.

"Maybe they pay for it, too," said Janet.

"I wouldn't holler about paying--it's paying and not getting the goods,"
declared Lise.

"You'll pay, and you won't get it. That kind of life is--hell," Janet
cried.

Self-centered as Lise was, absorbed in her own trouble and present
physical discomfort, this unaccustomed word from her sister and the
vehemence with which it was spoken surprised and frightened her, brought
home to her some hint of the terror in Janet's soul.

"Me for the water wagon," she said.

Janet was not convinced. She had hoped to discover the identity of the
man who had taken Lise to Gruber's, but she did not attempt to continue
the conversation. She rose and took off her hat.

"Why don't you go to bed?" she asked. "I'll tell mother you have a
headache and bring in your supper."

"Well, I don't care if I do," replied Lise, gratefully.

Perhaps the most disconcerting characteristic of that complex affair, the
human organism, is the lack of continuity of its moods. The soul, so
called, is as sensitive to physical conditions as a barometer: affected
by lack of sleep, by smells and sounds, by food, by the weather--whether
a day be sapphire or obsidian. And the resolutions arising from one mood
are thwarted by the actions of the next. Janet had observed this
phenomenon, and sometimes, when it troubled her, she thought herself the
most inconsistent and vacillating of creatures. She had resolved, far
instance, before she fell asleep, to leave the Chippering Mill, to banish
Ditmar from her life, to get a position in Boston, whence she could send
some of her wages home: and in the morning, as she made her way to the
office, the determination gave her a sense of peace and unity. But the
northwest wind was blowing. It had chased away the mist and the clouds,
the smoke from Canada. The sun shone with a high brilliancy, the elms of
the Common cast sharp, black shadow-patterns on the pavements, and when
she reached the office and looked out of his window she saw the blue
river covered with quicksilver waves chasing one another across the
current. Ditmar had not yet returned to Hampton. About ten o'clock, as
she was copying out some figures for Mr. Price, young Mr. Caldwell
approached her. He had a Boston newspaper in his hand.

"Have you seen this article about Mr. Ditmar?" he asked.

"About Mr. Ditmar? No."

"It's quite a send-off for the Colonel," said Caldwell, who was wont at
times to use the title facetiously. "Listen; `One of the most notable
figures in the Textile industry of the United States, Claude Ditmar,
Agent of the Chippering Mill.'" Caldwell spread out the page and pointed
to a picture. "There he is, as large as life."

A little larger than life, Janet thought. Ditmar was one of those men
who, as the expression goes, "take" well, a valuable asset in semi-public
careers; and as he stood in the sunlight on the steps of the building
where they had "snap-shotted" him he appeared even more massive,
forceful, and preponderant than she had known him. Beholding him thus set
forth and praised in a public print, he seemed suddenly to have been
distantly removed from her, to have reacquired at a bound the dizzy
importance he had possessed for her before she became his stenographer.
She found it impossible to realize that this was the Ditmar who had
pursued and desired her; at times supplicating, apologetic, abject; and
again revealed by the light in his eyes and the trembling of his hand as
the sinister and ruthless predatory male from whom--since the revelation
in her sister Lise she had determined to flee, and whom she had persuaded
herself she despised. He was a bigger man than she had thought, and as
she read rapidly down the column the fascination that crept over her was
mingled with disquieting doubt of her own powers: it was now difficult to
believe she had dominated or could ever dominate this self-sufficient,
successful person, the list of whose achievements and qualities was so
alluringly set forth by an interviewer who himself had fallen a victim.

The article carried the implication that the modern, practical, American
business man was the highest type as yet evolved by civilization: and
Ditmar, referred to as "a wizard of the textile industry," was
emphatically one who had earned the gratitude of the grand old
Commonwealth. By the efforts of such sons she continued to maintain her
commanding position among her sister states. Prominent among the
qualities contributing to his success was open-mindedness, "a willingness
to be shown," to scrap machinery when his competitors still clung to
older methods. The Chippering Mill had never had a serious strike,
--indication of an ability to deal with labour; and Mr. Ditmar's views on
labour followed: if his people had a grievance, let them come to him, and
settle it between them. No unions. He had consistently refused to
recognize them. There was mention of the Bradlaugh order as being the
largest commission ever given to a single mill, a reference to the
excitement and speculation it had aroused in trade circles. Claude
Ditmar's ability to put it through was unquestioned; one had only to look
at him,--tenacity, forcefulness, executiveness were written all over
him.... In addition, the article contained much material of an
autobiographical nature that must--Janet thought--have been supplied by
Ditmar himself, whose modesty had evidently shrunk from the cruder
self-eulogy of an interview. But she recognized several characteristic
phrases.

Caldwell, watching her as she read, was suddenly fascinated. During a
trip abroad, while still an undergraduate, he had once seen the face of
an actress, a really good Parisian actress, light up in that way; and it
had revealed to him, in a flash, the meaning of enthusiasm. Now Janet
became vivid for him. There must be something unusual in a person whose
feelings could be so intense, whose emotions rang so true. He was not
unsophisticated. He had sometimes wondered why Ditmar had promoted her,
though acknowledging her ability. He admired Ditmar, but had no illusions
about him. Harvard, and birth in a social stratum where emphasis is
superfluous, enabled him to smile at the reporter's exuberance; and he
was the more drawn toward her to see on Janet's flushed face the hint of
a smile as she looked up at him when she had finished.

"The Colonel hypnotized that reporter," he said, as he took the paper;
and her laugh, despite its little tremor, betrayed in her an unsuspected,
humorous sense of proportion. "Well, I'll take off my hat to him,"
Caldwell went on. "He is a wonder, he's got the mill right up to capacity
in a week. He's agreed to deliver those goods to the Bradlaughs by the
first of April, you know, and Holster, of the Clarendon, swears it can't
be done, he says Ditmar's crazy. Well, I stand to lose twenty-five
dollars on him."

This loyalty pleased Janet, it had the strange effect of reviving loyalty
in her. She liked this evidence of Dick Caldwell's confidence. He was a
self-contained and industrious young man, with crisp curly hair, cordial
and friendly yet never intimate with the other employer; liked by
them--but it was tacitly understood his footing differed from theirs. He
was a cousin of the Chipperings, and destined for rapid promotion. He
went away every Saturday, it was known that he spent Sundays and holidays
in delightful places, to return reddened and tanned; and though he never
spoke about these excursions, and put on no airs of superiority, there
was that in his manner and even in the cut of his well-worn suits
proclaiming him as belonging to a sphere not theirs, to a category of
fortunate beings whose stumbles are not fatal, who are sustained from
above. Even Ditmar was not of these.

"I've just been showing a lot of highbrows through the mill," he told
Janet. "They asked questions enough to swamp a professor of economics."

And Janet was suddenly impelled to ask:--"Will you take me through
sometime, Mr. Caldwell?"

"You've never been through?" he exclaimed. "Why, we'll go now, if you can
spare the time."

Her face had become scarlet.

"Don't tell Mr. Ditmar," she begged. "You see--he wanted to take me
himself."

"Not a word," Caldwell promised as they left the office together and went
downstairs to the strong iron doors that led to the Cotton Department.
The showing through of occasional visitors had grown rather tiresome; but
now his curiosity and interest were aroused, he was conscious of a keen
stimulation when he glanced at Janet's face. Its illumination perplexed
him. The effect was that of a picture obscurely hung and hitherto
scarcely noticed on which the light had suddenly been turned. It glowed
with a strange and disturbing radiance....

As for Janet, she was as one brought suddenly to the realization of a
miracle in whose presence she had lived for many years and never before
suspected; the miracle of machinery, of the triumph of man over nature.
In the brief space of an hour she beheld the dirty bales flung off the
freight cars on the sidings transformed into delicate fabrics wound from
the looms; cotton that only last summer, perhaps, while she sat
typewriting at her window, had been growing in the fields of the South.
She had seen it torn by the bale-breakers, blown into the openers,
loosened, cleansed, and dried; taken up by the lappers, pressed into
batting, and passed on to the carding machines, to emerge like a wisp of
white smoke in a sliver and coil automatically in a can. Once more it was
flattened into a lap, given to a comber that felt out its fibres,
removing with superhuman precision those for the finer fabric too short,
thrusting it forth again in another filmy sliver ready for the drawing
frames. Six of these gossamer ropes were taken up, and again six. Then
came the Blubbers and the roving frames, twisting and winding, the while
maintaining the most delicate of tensions lest the rope break, running
the strands together into a thread constantly growing stronger and finer,
until it was ready for spinning.

Caldwell stood close to her, shouting his explanations in her ear, while
she strained to follow them. But she was bewildered and entranced by the
marvellous swiftness, accuracy and ease with which each of the complex
machines, fed by human hands, performed its function. These human hands
were swift, too, as when they thrust the bobbins of roving on the
ring-spinning frames to be twisted into yarn. She saw a woman, in the
space of an instant, mend a broken thread. Women and boys were here,
doffer boys to lift off the full bobbins of yarn with one hand and set on
the empty bobbins with the other: while skilled workmen, alert for the
first sign of trouble, followed up and down in its travels the long frame
of the mule-spinner. After the spinning, the heavy spools of yarn were
carried to a beam-warper, standing alone like a huge spider's web, where
hundreds of threads were stretched symmetrically and wound evenly, side
by side, on a large cylinder, forming the warp of the fabric to be woven
on the loom. First, however, this warp must be stiffened or "slashed" in
starch and tallow, dried over heated drums, and finally wound around one
great beam from which the multitude of threads are taken up, one by one,
and slipped through the eyes of the loom harnesses by women who sit all
day under the north windows overlooking the canal--the "drawers-in" of
whom Ditmar had spoken. Then the harnesses are put on the loom, the
threads attached to the cylinder on which the cloth is to be wound. The
looms absorbed and fascinated Janet above all else. It seemed as if she
would never tire of watching the rhythmic rise and fall of the
harnesses,--each rapid movement making a V in the warp, within the angle
of which the tiny shuttles darted to and fro, to and fro, carrying the
thread that filled the cloth with a swiftness so great the eye could
scarcely follow it; to be caught on the other side when the angle closed,
and flung back, and back again! And in the elaborate patterns not one,
but several harnesses were used, each awaiting its turn for the impulse
bidding it rise and fall!... Abruptly, as she gazed, one of the machines
halted, a weaver hurried up, searched the warp for the broken thread,
tied it, and started the loom again.

"That's intelligent of it," said Caldwell, in her ear. But she could only
nod in reply.

The noise in the weaving rooms was deafening, the heat oppressive. She
began to wonder how these men and women, boys and girls bore the strain
all day long. She had never thought much about them before save to
compare vaguely their drudgery with that from which now she had been
emancipated; but she began to feel a new respect, a new concern, a new
curiosity and interest as she watched them passing from place to place
with indifference between the whirling belts, up and down the narrow
aisles, flanked on either side by that bewildering, clattering machinery
whose polished surfaces continually caught and flung back the light of
the electric bulbs on the ceiling. How was it possible to live for hours
at a time in this bedlam without losing presence of mind and thrusting
hand or body in the wrong place, or becoming deaf? She had never before
realized what mill work meant, though she had read of the accidents. But
these people--even the children--seemed oblivious to the din and the
danger, intent on their tasks, unconscious of the presence of a visitor,
save occasionally when she caught a swift glance from a woman or girl a
glance, perhaps, of envy or even of hostility. The dark, foreign faces
glowed, and instantly grew dull again, and then she was aware of lurking
terrors, despite her exaltation, her sense now of belonging to another
world, a world somehow associated with Ditmar. Was it not he who had
lifted her farther above all this? Was it not by grace of her association
with him she was there, a spectator of the toil beneath? Yet the terror
persisted. She, presently, would step out of the noise, the oppressive
moist heat of the drawing and spinning rooms, the constant, remorseless
menace of whirling wheels and cogs and belts. But they?... She drew
closer to Caldwell's side.

"I never knew--" she said. "It must be hard to work here."

He smiled at her, reassuringly.

"Oh, they don't mind it," he replied. "It's like a health resort compared
to the conditions most of them live in at home. Why, there's plenty of
ventilation here, and you've got to have a certain amount of heat and
moisture, because when cotton is cold and dry it can't be drawn or spin,
and when it's hot and dry the electricity is troublesome. If you think
this moisture is bad you ought to see a mill with the old vapour-pot
system with the steam shooting out into the room. Look here!" He led
Janet to the apparatus in which the pure air is forced through wet
cloths, removing the dust, explaining how the ventilation and humidity
were regulated automatically, how the temperature of the room was
controlled by a thermostat.

"There isn't an agent in the country who's more concerned about the
welfare of his operatives than Mr. Ditmar. He's made a study of it, he's
spent thousands of dollars, and as soon as these machines became
practical he put 'em in. The other day when I was going through the room
one of these shuttles flew off, as they sometimes do when the looms are
running at high speed. A woman was pretty badly hurt. Ditmar came right
down."

"He really cares about them," said Janet. She liked Caldwell's praise of
Ditmar, yet she spoke a little doubtfully.

"Of course he cares. But it's common sense to make 'em as comfortable and
happy as possible--isn't it? He won't stand for being held up, and he'd
be stiff enough if it came to a strike. I don't blame him for that. Do
you?"

Janet was wondering how ruthless Ditmar could be if his will were
crossed.... They had left the room with its noise and heat behind them
and were descending the worn, oaken treads of the spiral stairway of a
neighbouring tower. Janet shivered a little, and her face seemed almost
feverish as she turned to Caldwell and thanked him.

"Oh, it was a pleasure, Miss Bumpus," he declared. "And sometime, when
you want to see the Print Works or the Worsted Department, let me
know--I'm your man. And--I won't mention it."

She did not answer. As they made their way back to the office he glanced
at her covertly, astonished at the emotional effect in her their tour had
produced. Though not of an inflammable temperament, he himself was
stirred, and it was she who, unaccountably, had stirred him: suggested,
in these processes he saw every day, and in which he was indeed
interested, something deeper, more significant and human than he had
guessed, and which he was unable to define....

Janet herself did not know why this intimate view of the mills, of the
people who worked in them had so greatly moved her. All day she thought
of them. And the distant throb of the machinery she felt when her
typewriter was silent meant something to her now--she could not say what.
When she found herself listening for it, her heart beat faster. She had
lived and worked beside it, and it had not existed for her, it had had no
meaning, the mills might have been empty. She had, indeed, many, many
times seen these men and women, boys and girls trooping away from work,
she had strolled through the quarters in which they lived, speculated on
the lands from which they had come; but she had never really thought of
them as human beings, individuals, with problems and joys and sorrows and
hopes and fears like her own. Some such discovery was borne in upon her.
And always an essential function of this revelation, looming larger than
ever in her consciousness, was Ditmar. It was for Ditmar they toiled, in
Ditmar's hands were their very existences, his was the stupendous
responsibility and power.

As the afternoon wore, desire to see these toilers once more took
possession of her. From the white cupola perched above the huge mass of
the Clarendon Mill across the water sounded the single stroke of a bell,
and suddenly the air was pulsing with sounds flung back and forth by the
walls lining the river. Seizing her hat and coat, she ran down the stairs
and through the vestibule and along the track by the canal to the great
gates, which her father was in the act of unbarring. She took a stand
beside him, by the gatehouse. Edward showed a mild surprise.

"There ain't anything troubling you--is there, Janet?" he asked.

She shook her head.

"I wanted to see the hands come out," she said.

Sometimes, as at present, he found Janet's whims unaccountable.

"Well, I should have presumed you'd know what they look like by this
time. You'd better stay right close to me, they're a rough lot, with no
respect or consideration for decent folks--these foreigners. I never
could see why the government lets 'em all come over here." He put on the
word "foreigners" an emphasis of contempt and indignation, pathetic
because of its peculiar note of futility. Janet paid no attention to him.
Her ears were strained to catch the rumble of feet descending the tower
stairs, her eyes to see the vanguard as it came from the doorway--the
first tricklings of a flood that instantly filled the yard and swept
onward and outward, irresistibly, through the narrow gorge of the gates.
Impossible to realize this as the force which, when distributed over the
great spaces of the mills, performed an orderly and useful task! for it
was now a turbid and lawless torrent unconscious of its swollen powers,
menacing, breathlessly exciting to behold. It seemed to Janet indeed a
torrent as she clung to the side of the gatehouse as one might cling to
the steep bank of a mountain brook after a cloud-burst. And suddenly she
had plunged into it. The desire was absurd, perhaps, but not to be
denied,--the desire to mix with it, feel it, be submerged and swept away
by it, losing all sense of identity. She heard her father call after her,
faintly--the thought crossed her mind that his appeals were always
faint,--and then she was being carried along the canal, eastward, the
pressure relaxing somewhat when the draining of the side streets began.

She remembered, oddly, the Stanley Street bridge where the many streams
met and mingled, streams from the Arundel, the Patuxent, the Arlington
and the Clarendon; and, eager to prolong and intensify her sensations,
hurried thither, reaching it at last and thrusting her way outward until
she had gained the middle, where she stood grasping the rail. The great
structure was a-tremble from the assault, its footpaths and its roadway
overrun with workers, dodging between trolleys and trucks,--some darting
nimbly, dinner pails in hand, along the steel girders. Doffer boys romped
and whistled, young girls in jaunty, Faber Street clothes and flowered
hats, linked to one another for protection, chewed gum and joked, but for
the most part these workers were silent, the apathy of their faces making
a strange contrast with the hurry, hurry of their feet and set intentness
of their bodies as they sped homeward to the tenements. And the clothes
of these were drab, save when the occasional colour of a hooded peasant's
shawl, like the slightly faded tints of an old master, lit up a group of
women. Here, going home to their children, were Italian mothers bred
through centuries to endurance and patience; sallow Jewesses, gaunt,
bearded Jews with shadowy, half-closed eyes and wrinkled brows,
broad-faced Lithuanians, flat-headed Russians; swarthy Italian men and
pale, blond Germans mingled with muddy Syrians and nondescript Canadians.
And suddenly the bridge was empty, the army vanished as swiftly as it
came!

Janet turned. Through the haze of smoke she saw the sun drop like a ball
of fire cooled to redness, whose course is spent. The delicate lines of
the upper bridge were drawn in sepia against crimson-gilt; for an instant
the cupola of the Clarendon became jasper, and far, far above floated in
the azure a cloud of pink jeweller's cotton. Even as she strove to fix
these colours in her mind they vanished, the western sky faded to
magenta, to purple-mauve; the corridor of the river darkened, on either
side pale lights sparkled from the windows of the mills, while down the
deepened blue of the waters came floating iridescent suds from the
washing of the wools. It was given to her to know that which an artist of
living memory has called the incommunicable thrill of things....



CHAPTER VIII

The after-effects of this experience of Janet's were not what ordinarily
are called "spiritual," though we may some day arrive at a saner meaning
of the term, include within it the impulses and needs of the entire
organism. It left her with a renewed sense of energy and restlessness,
brought her nearer to high discoveries of mysterious joys which a voice
out of the past called upon her to forego, a voice somehow identified
with her father! It was faint, ineffectual. In obeying it, would she not
lose all life had to give? When she came in to supper her father was
concerned about her because, instead of walking home with him she had
left him without explanation to plunge into the crowd of workers. Her
evident state of excitement had worried him, her caprice was beyond his
comprehension. And how could she explain the motives that led to it? She
was sure he had never felt like that; and as she evaded his questions the
something within her demanding life and expression grew stronger and more
rebellious, more contemptuous of the fear-precepts congenial to a nature
timorous and less vitalized.

After supper, unable to sit still, she went out, and, filled with the
spirit of adventure, hurried toward Faber Street, which was already
thronging with people. It was bright here and gay, the shops glittered,
and she wandered from window to window until she found herself staring at
a suit of blue cloth hung on a form, beneath which was a card that read,
"Marked down to $20." And suddenly the suggestion flashed into her mind,
why shouldn't she buy it? She had the money, she needed a new suit for
the winter, the one she possessed was getting shabby...but behind the
excuse of necessity was the real reason triumphantly proclaiming
itself--she would look pretty in it, she would be transformed, she would
be buying a new character to which she would have to live up. The old
Janet would be cast off with the old raiment; the new suit would announce
to herself and to the world a Janet in whom were released all those
longings hitherto disguised and suppressed, and now become insupportable!
This was what the purchase meant, a change of existence as complete as
that between the moth and the butterfly; and the realization of this
fact, of the audacity she was resolved to commit made her hot as she
gazed at the suit. It was modest enough, yet it had a certain distinction
of cut, it looked expensive: twenty dollars was not cheap, to be sure,
but as the placard announced, it had the air of being much more
costly--even more costly than thirty dollars, which seemed fabulous.
Though she strove to remain outwardly calm, her heart beat rapidly as she
entered the store and asked for the costume, and was somewhat reassured
by the comportment of the saleswoman, who did not appear to think the
request preposterous, to regard her as a spendthrift and a profligate.
She took down the suit from the form and led Janet to a cabinet in the
back of the shop, where it was tried on.

"It's worth every bit of thirty dollars," she heard the woman say, "but
we've had it here for some time, and it's no use for our trade. You can't
sell anything like that in Hampton, there's no taste here, it's too good,
it ain't showy enough. My, it fits you like it was made for you, and it's
just your style--and you can see it wants a lady to wear it. Your old
suit is too tight--I guess you've filled out some since you bought it."

She turned Janet around and around, patting the skirt here and there, and
then stood off a little way, with clasped hands, her expression almost
rapturous. Janet's breath came fast as she gazed into the mirror and
buttoned up the coat. Was the woman's admiration cleverly feigned? this
image she beheld an illusion? or did she really look different,
distinguished? and if not beautiful--alluring? She had had a momentary
apprehension, almost sickening, that she would be too conspicuous, but
the saleswoman had anticipated that objection with the magical word
"lady."

"I'll take it," she announced.

"Well, you couldn't have done better if you'd gone to Boston," declared
the woman. "It's one chance in a thousand. Will you wear it?"

"Yes," said Janet faintly.... "Just put my old suit in a box, and I'll
call for it in an hour."

The woman's sympathetic smile followed her as she left the shop. She had
an instant of hesitation, of an almost panicky desire to go back and
repair her folly, ere it was too late. Why had she taken her money with
her that evening, if not with some deliberate though undefined purpose?
But she was ashamed to face the saleswoman again, and her elation was not
to be repressed--an elation optically presented by a huge electric sign
on the farther side of the street that flashed through all the colours of
the spectrum, surrounded by running fire like the running fire in her
soul. Deliciously self-conscious, her gaze fixed ahead, she pressed
through the Wednesday night crowds, young mill men and women in their
best clothes, housewives and fathers of families with children and
bundles. In front of the Banner office a group blocked the pavement
staring up at the news bulletin, which she paused to read. "Five
Millionaire Directors Indicted in New York," "State Treasurer Accused of
Graft," "Murdock Fortune Contested by Heirs." The phrases seemed
meaningless, and she hurried on again.... She was being noticed! A man
looked at her, twice, the first glance accidental, the second arresting,
appealing, subtly flattering, agitating--she was sure he had turned and
was following her. She hastened her steps. It was wicked, what she was
doing, but she gloried in it; and even the sight, in burning red letters,
of Gruber's Cafe failed to bring on a revulsion by its association with
her sister Lise. The fact that Lise had got drunk there meant nothing to
her now. She gazed curiously at the illuminated, orange-coloured panes
separated by curving leads, at the design of a harp in green, at the sign
"Ladies' Entrance"; listened eagerly to the sounds of voices and laughter
that came from within. She looked cautiously over her shoulder, a shadow
appeared, she heard a voice, low, insinuating....

Four blocks farther down she stopped. The man was no longer following
her. She had been almost self-convinced of an intention to go to
Eda's--not quite. Of late her conscience had reproached her about Eda,
Janet had neglected her. She told herself she was afraid of Eda's uncanny
and somewhat nauseating flair for romance; and to show Eda the new suit,
though she would relish her friend's praise, would be the equivalent of
announcing an affair of the heart which she, Janet, would have
indignantly to deny. She was not going to Eda's. She knew now where she
was going. A prepared but hitherto undisclosed decree of fate had bade
her put money in her bag that evening, directed her to the shop to buy
the dress, and would presently impel her to go to West Street--nay, was
even now so impelling her. Ahead of her were the lights of the Chippering
Mill, in her ears was the rhythmic sound of the looms working of nights
on the Bradlaugh order. She reached the canal. The white arc above the
end of the bridge cast sharp, black shadows of the branches of the trees
on the granite, the thousand windows of the mill shone yellow, reflected
in the black water. Twice she started to go, twice she paused, held by
the presage of a coming event, a presage that robbed her of complete
surprise when she heard footsteps on the bridge, saw the figure of a man
halting at the crown of the arch to look back at the building he had
left, his shoulders squared, his hand firmly clasping the rail. Her heart
was throbbing with the looms, and yet she stood motionless, until he
turned and came rapidly down the slope of the arch and stopped in front
of her. Under the arc lamp it was almost as bright as day.

"Miss Bumpus!" he exclaimed.

"Mr. Ditmar" she said.

"Were you--were you coming to the office?"

"I was just out walking," she told him. "I thought you were in Boston."

"I came home," he informed her, somewhat superfluously, his eyes never
leaving her, wandering hungrily from her face to her new suit, and back
again to her face. "I got here on the seven o'clock train, I wanted to
see about those new Blubbers."

"They finished setting them up this afternoon," she said.

"How did you know?"

"I asked Mr. Orcutt about it--I thought you might telephone."

"You're a wonder," was his comment. "Well, we've got a running start on
that order," and he threw a glance over his shoulder at the mill.
"Everything going full speed ahead. When we put it through I guess I'll
have to give you some of the credit."

"Oh, I haven't done anything," she protested.

"More than you think. You've taken so much off my shoulders I couldn't
get along without you." His voice vibrated, reminding her of the voices
of those who made sentimental recitations for the graphophone. It sounded
absurd, yet it did not repel her: something within her responded to it.
"Which way were you going?" he inquired.

"Home," she said.

"Where do you live?"

"In Fillmore Street." And she added with a touch of defiance: "It's a
little street, three blocks above Hawthorne, off East Street."

"Oh yes," he said vaguely, as though he had not understood. "I'll come
with you as far as the bridge--along the canal. I've got so much to say
to you."

"Can't you say it to-morrow?"

"No, I can't; there are so many people in the office--so many
interruptions, I mean. And then, you never give me a chance."

She stood hesitating, a struggle going on within her. He had proposed the
route along the canal because nobody would be likely to recognize them,
and her pride resented this. On the other hand, there was the sweet
allurement of the adventure she craved, which indeed she had come out to
seek and by a strange fatality found--since he had appeared on the bridge
almost as soon as she reached it. The sense of fate was strong upon her.
Curiosity urged her, and, thanks to the eulogy she had read of him that
day, to the added impression of his power conveyed by the trip through
the mills, Ditmar loomed larger than ever in her consciousness.

"What do you want to say?" she asked.

"Oh, lots of things."

She felt his hand slipping under her arm, his fingers pressing gently but
firmly into her flesh, and the experience of being impelled by a power
stronger than herself, a masculine power, was delicious. Her arm seemed
to burn where he touched her.

"Have I done something to offend you?" she heard him say. "Or is it
because you don't like me?"

"I'm not sure whether I like you or not," she told him. "I don't like
seeing you--this way. And why should you want to know me and see me
outside of the office? I'm only your stenographer."

"Because you're you--because you're different from any woman I ever met.
You don't understand what you are--you don't see yourself."

"I made up my mind last night I wouldn't stay in your office any longer,"
she informed him.

"For God's sake, why?" he exclaimed. "I've been afraid of that. Don't
go--I don't know what I'd do. I'll be careful--I won't get you talked
about."

"Talked about!" She tore herself away from him. "Why should you get me
talked about?" she cried.

He was frightened. "No, no," he stammered, "I didn't mean--"

"What did you mean?"

"Well--as you say, you're my stenographer, but that's no reason why we
shouldn't be friends. I only meant--I wouldn't do anything to make our
friendship the subject of gossip."

Suddenly she began to find a certain amusement in his confusion and
penitence, she achieved a pleasurable sense of advantage, of power over
him.

"Why should you want me? I don't know anything, I've never had any
advantages--and you have so much. I read an article in the newspaper
about you today--Mr. Caldwell gave it to me--"

"Did you like it?" he interrupted, naively.

"Well, in some places it was rather funny."

"Funny? How?"

"Oh, I don't know." She had been quick to grasp in it the journalistic
lack of restraint hinted at by Caldwell. "I liked it, but I thought it
praised you too much, it didn't criticize you enough."

He laughed. In spite of his discomfort, he found her candour refreshing.
From the women to whom he had hitherto made love he had never got
anything but flattery.

"I want you to criticize me," he said.

But she went on relentlessly:--"When I read in that article how
successful you were, and how you'd got everything you'd started out to
get, and how some day you might be treasurer and president of the
Chippering Mill, well--" Despairing of giving adequate expression to her
meaning, she added, "I didn't see how we could be friends."

"You wanted me for a friend?" he interrupted eagerly.

"I couldn't help knowing you wanted me--you've shown it so plainly. But I
didn't see how it could be. You asked me where I lived--in a little flat
that's no better than a tenement. I suppose you would call it a tenement.
It's dark and ugly, it only has four rooms, and it smells of cooking. You
couldn't come there--don't you see how impossible it is? And you wouldn't
care to be talked about yourself, either," she added vehemently.

This defiant sincerity took him aback. He groped for words.

"Listen!" he urged. "I don't want to do anything you wouldn't like, and
honestly I don't know what I'd do if you left me. I've come to depend on
you. And you may not believe it, but when I got that Bradlaugh order I
thought of you, I said to myself 'She'll be pleased, she'll help me to
put it over.'"

She thrilled at this, she even suffered him, for some reason unknown to
herself, to take her arm again.

"How could I help you?"

"Oh, in a thousand ways--you ought to know, you do a good deal of
thinking for me, and you can help me by just being there. I can't explain
it, but I feel somehow that things will go right. I've come to depend on
you."

He was a little surprised to find himself saying these things he had not
intended to say, and the lighter touch he had always possessed in dealing
with the other sex, making him the envied of his friends, had apparently
abandoned him. He was appalled at the possibility of losing her.

"I've never met a woman like you," he went on, as she remained silent.
"You're different--I don't know what it is about you, but you are." His
voice was low, caressing, his head was bent down to her, his shoulder
pressed against her shoulder. "I've never had a woman friend before, I've
never wanted one until now."

She wondered about his wife.

"You've got brains--I've never met a woman with brains."

"Oh, is that why?" she exclaimed.

"You're beautiful," he whispered. "It's queer, but I didn't know it at
first. You're more beautiful to-night than I've ever seen you."

They had come almost to Warren Street. Suddenly realizing that they were
standing in the light, that people were passing to and fro over the end
of the bridge, she drew away from him once more, this time more gently.

"Let's walk back a little way," he proposed.

"I must go home--it's late."

"It's only nine o'clock."

"I have an errand to do, and they'll expect me. Good night."

"Just one more turn!" he pleaded.

But she shook her head, backing away from him.

"You'll see me to-morrow," she told him. She didn't know why she said
that. She hurried along Warren Street without once looking over her
shoulder; her feet seemed scarcely to touch the ground, the sound of
music was in her ears, the lights sparkled. She had had an adventure, at
last, an adventure that magically had transformed her life! She was
beautiful! No one had ever told her that before. And he had said that he
needed her. She smiled as, with an access of tenderness, in spite of his
experience and power she suddenly felt years older than Ditmar. She could
help him!...

She was breathless when she reached the shop in Faber Street.

"I hope I haven't kept you waiting," she said.

"Oh no, we don't close until ten," answered the saleswoman. She was
seated quietly sewing under the lamp.

"I wonder whether you'd mind if I put on my old suit again, and carried
this?" Janet asked.

The expression of sympathy and understanding in the woman's eyes, as she
rose, brought the blood swiftly to Janet's face. She felt that her secret
had been guessed. The change effected, Janet went homeward swiftly, to
encounter, on the corner of Faber Street, her sister Lise, whose
attention was immediately attracted by the bundle.

"What have you got there, angel face?" she demanded.

"A new suit," said Janet.

"You don't tell me--where'd you get it? at the Paris?"

"No, at Dowling's."

"Say, I'll bet it was that plain blue thing marked down to twenty!"

"Well, what if it was?"

Lise, when surprised or scornful, had a peculiarly irritating way of
whistling through her teeth.

"Twenty bucks! Gee, you'll be getting your clothes in Boston next. Well,
as sure as I live when I went by that window the other day when they
first knocked it down I said to Sadie, `those are the rags Janet would
buy if she had the ready.' Have you got another raise out of Ditmar?"

"If I have, it isn't any business of yours," Janet retorted. "I've got a
right to do as I please with my own money."

"Oh sure," said Lise, and added darkly: "I guess Ditmar likes to see you
look well."

After this Janet refused obstinately to speak to Lise, to answer, when
they reached home, her pleadings and complaints to their mother that
Janet had bought a new suit and refused to exhibit it. And finally, when
they had got to bed, Janet lay long awake in passionate revolt against
this new expression of the sordidness and lack of privacy in which she
was forced to live, made the more intolerable by the close, sultry
darkness of the room and the snoring of Lise.

In the morning, however, after a groping period of semiconsciousness
during the ringing of the bells, the siren startled her into awareness
and alertness. It had not wholly lost its note of terror, but the note
had somehow become exhilarating, an invitation to adventure and to life;
and Lise's sarcastic comments as to the probable reasons why she did not
put on the new suit had host their power of exasperation. Janet
compromised, wearing a blouse of china silk hitherto reserved for "best."
The day was bright, and she went rapidly toward the mill, glorying in the
sunshine and the autumn sharpness of the air; and her thoughts were not
so much of Ditmar as of something beyond him, of which he was the medium.
She was going, not to meet him, but to meet that. When she reached the
office she felt weak, her fingers trembled as she took off her hat and
jacket and began to sort out the mail. And she had to calm herself with
the assurance that her relationship with Ditmar had undergone no change.
She had merely met him by the canal, and he had talked to her. That was
all. He had, of course, taken her arm: it tingled when she remembered it.
But when he suddenly entered the room her heart gave a bound. He closed
the door, he took off his hat, and stood gazing at her--while she
continued arranging letters. Presently she was forced to glance at him.
His bearing, his look, his confident smile all proclaimed that he, at
least, believed things to be changed. He glowed with health and vigour,
with an aggressiveness from which she shrank, yet found delicious.

"How are you this morning?" he said at last--this morning as
distinguished from all other mornings.

"I'm well, as usual," she answered. She herself was sometimes surprised
by her ability to remain outwardly calm.

"Why did you run away from me last night?"

"I didn't run away, I had to go home," she said, still arranging the
letters.

"We could have had a little walk. I don't believe you had to go home at
all. You just wanted an excuse to get away from me."

"I didn't need an excuse," she told him. He moved toward her, but she
took a paper from the desk and carried it to a file across the room.

"I thought we were going to be friends," he said.

"Being friends doesn't mean being foolish," she retorted. "And Mr.
Orcutt's waiting to see you."

"Let him wait."

He sat down at his desk, but his blood was warm, and he read the
typewritten words of the topmost letter of the pile without so much as
grasping the meaning of them. From time to time he glanced up at Janet as
she flitted about the room. By George, she was more desirable than he had
ever dared to imagine! He felt temporarily balked, but hopeful. On his
way to the mill he had dwelt with Epicurean indulgence on this sight of
her, and he had not been disappointed. He had also thought that he might
venture upon more than the mere feasting of his eyes, yet found an
inspiring alleviation in the fact that she by no means absolutely
repulsed him. Her attitude toward him had undergone a subtle
transformation. There could be no doubt of that. She was almost
coquettish. His eyes lingered. The china silk blouse was slightly open at
the neck, suggesting the fullness of her throat; it clung to the outline
of her shoulders. Overcome by an impulse he could not control, he got up
and went toward her, but she avoided him.

"I'll tell Mr. Orcutt you've come," she said, rather breathlessly, as she
reached the door and opened it. Ditmar halted in his steps at the sight
of the tall, spectacled figure of the superintendent on the threshold.

Orcutt hesitated, looking from one to the other.

"I've been waiting for you," he said, after a moment, "the rest of that
lot didn't come in this morning. I've telephoned to the freight agent."

Ditmar stared at him uncomprehendingly. Orcutt repeated the information.

"Oh well, keep after him, get him to trace them."

"I'm doing that," replied the conscientious Orcutt.

"How's everything else going?" Ditmar demanded, with unlooked-for
geniality. "You mustn't take things too hard, Orcutt, don't wear yourself
out."

Mr. Orcutt was relieved. He had expected an outburst of the exasperation
that lately had characterized his superior. They began to chat. Janet had
escaped.

"Miss Bumpus told me you wanted to see me. I was just going to ring you
up," Ditmar informed him.

"She's a clever young woman, seems to take such an interest in things,"
Orcutt observed. "And she's always on the job. Only yesterday I saw her
going through the mill with young Caldwell."

Ditmar dropped the paper-weight he held.

"Oh, she went through, did she?"

After Orcutt departed he sat for awhile whistling a tune, from a popular
musical play, keeping time by drumming with his fingers on the desk.

That Mr. Semple, the mill treasurer, came down from Boston that morning
to confer with Ditmar was for Janet in the nature of a reprieve. She sat
by her window, and as her fingers flew over the typewriter keys she was
swept by surges of heat in which ecstasy and shame and terror were
strangely commingled. A voice within her said, "This can't go on, this
can't go on! It's too terrible! Everyone in the office will notice
it--there will be a scandal. I ought to go away while there is yet
time--to-day." Though the instinct of flight was strong within her, she
was filled with rebellion at the thought of leaving when Adventure was
flooding her drab world with light, even as the mill across the waters
was transfigured by the heavy golden wash of the autumn sun. She had made
at length the discovery that Adventure had to do with Man, was
inconceivable without him.

Racked by these conflicting impulses of self-preservation on the one hand
and what seemed self-realization on the other, she started when, toward
the middle of the afternoon, she heard Ditmar's voice summoning her to
take his letters; and went palpitating, leaving the door open behind her,
seating herself on the far side of the desk, her head bent over her book.
Her neck, where her hair grew in wisps behind her ear, seemed to burn:
Ditmar's glance was focussed there. Her hands were cold as she wrote....
Then, like a deliverer, she saw young Caldwell coming in from the outer
office, holding a card in his hand which he gave to Ditmar, who sat
staring at it.

"Siddons?" he said. "Who's Siddons?"

Janet, who had risen, spoke up.

"Why, he's been making the Hampton `survey.' You wrote him you'd see
him--don't you remember, Mr. Ditmar?"

"Don't go!" exclaimed Ditmar. "You can't tell what those confounded
reformers will accuse you of if you don't have a witness."

Janet sat down again. The sharpness of Ditmar's tone was an exhilarating
reminder of the fact that, in dealing with strangers, he had come more or
less to rely on her instinctive judgment; while the implied appeal of his
manner on such occasions emphasized the pleasurable sense of his
dependence, of her own usefulness. Besides, she had been curious about
the `survey' at the time it was first mentioned, she wished to hear
Ditmar's views concerning it. Mr. Siddons proved to be a small and sallow
young man with a pointed nose and bright, bulbous brown eyes like a
chipmunk's. Indeed, he reminded one of a chipmunk. As he whisked himself
in and seized Ditmar's hand he gave a confused impression of polite
self-effacement as well as of dignity and self-assertion; he had the air
of one who expects opposition, and though by no means desiring it, is
prepared to deal with it. Janet smiled. She had a sudden impulse to drop
the heavy book that lay on the corner of the desk to see if he would
jump.

"How do you do, Mr. Ditmar?" he said. "I've been hoping to have this
pleasure."

"My secretary, Miss Bumpus," said Ditmar.

Mr. Siddons quivered and bowed. Ditmar, sinking ponderously into his
chair, seemed suddenly, ironically amused, grinning at Janet as he opened
a drawer of his desk and offered the visitor a cigar.

"Thanks, I don't smoke," said Mr. Siddons.

Ditmar lit one for himself.

"Now, what can I do for you?" he asked.

"Well, as I wrote you in my letter, I was engaged to make as thorough an
examination as possible of the living conditions and housing of the
operatives in the city of Hampton. I'm sure you'd be interested in
hearing something of the situation we found."

"I suppose you've been through our mills," said Ditmar.

"No, the fact is--"

"You ought to go through. I think it might interest you," Ditmar put a
slight emphasis on the pronoun. "We rather pride ourselves on making
things comfortable and healthy for our people."

"I've no doubt of it--in fact, I've been so informed. It's because of
your concern for the welfare of your workers in the mills that I ventured
to come and talk to you of how most of them live when they're at home,"
replied Siddons, as Janet thought, rather neatly. "Perhaps, though living
in Hampton, you don't quite realize what the conditions are. I know a man
who has lived in Boston ten years and who hasn't ever seen the Bunker
Hill monument."

"The Bunker Hill monument's a public affair," retorted Ditmar, "anybody
can go there who has enough curiosity and interest. But I don't see how
you can expect me to follow these people home and make them clean up
their garbage and wash their babies. I shouldn't want anybody to
interfere with my private affairs."

"But when you get to a point where private affairs become a public
menace?" Siddons objected. "Mr. Ditmar, I've seen block after block of
tenements ready to crumble. There are no provisions for foundations,
thickness of walls, size of timbers and columns, and if these houses had
been deliberately erected to make a bonfire they couldn't have answered
the purpose better. If it were not for the danger to life and the pity of
making thousands of families homeless, a conflagration would be a
blessing, although I believe the entire north or south side of the city
would go under certain conditions. The best thing you could do would be
to burn whole rows of these tenements, they are ideal breeding grounds
for disease. In the older sections of the city you've got hundreds of
rear houses here, houses moved back on the lots, in some extreme cases
with only four-foot courts littered with refuse,--houses without light,
without ventilation, and many of the rooms where these people are cooking
and eating and sleeping are so damp and foul they're not fit to put dogs
in. You've got some blocks with a density of over five hundred to the
acre, and your average density is considerably over a hundred."

"Are things any worse than in any other manufacturing city?" asked
Ditmar.

"That isn't the point," said Siddons. "The point is that they're bad,
they're dangerous, they're inhuman. If you could go into these tenements
as I have done and see the way some of these people live, it would make
you sick the Poles and Lithuanians and Italians especially. You wouldn't
treat cattle that way. In some households of five rooms, including the
kitchen, I found as many as fourteen, fifteen, and once seventeen people
living. You've got an alarming infant death-rate."

"Isn't it because these people want to live that way?" Ditmar inquired.
"They actually like it, they wouldn't be happy in anything but a
pig-sty--they had 'em in Europe. And what do you expect us to do? Buy
land and build flats for them? Inside of a month they'd have all the
woodwork stripped off for kindling, the drainage stopped up, the bathtubs
filled with ashes. I know, because it's been tried."

Tilted back in his chair, he blew a cloud of smoke toward the ceiling,
and his eyes sought Janet's. She avoided them, resenting a little the
assumption of approval she read in them. Her mind, sensitive to new
ideas, had been keenly stimulated as she listened to Siddons, who began
patiently to dwell once more on the ill effect of the conditions he had
discovered on the welfare of the entire community. She had never thought
of this. She was surprised that Ditmar should seem to belittle it.
Siddons was a new type in her experience. She could understand and to a
certain extent maliciously enjoy Ditmar's growing exasperation with him;
he had a formal, precise manner of talking, as though he spent most of
his time presenting cases in committees: and in warding off Ditmar's
objections he was forever indulging in such maddening phrases as, "Before
we come to that, let me say a word just here." Ditmar hated words. His
outbursts, his efforts to stop the flow of them were not unlike the
futile charges of a large and powerful animal harassed by a smaller and
more agile one. With nimble politeness, with an exasperating air of
deference to Ditmar's opinions, Mr. Siddons gave ground, only to return
to the charge; yet, despite a manner and method which, when contrasted to
Ditmar's, verged on the ludicrous, Mr. Siddons had a force and fire of
his own, nervous, almost fanatical: when he dwelt on the misery he had
seen, and his voice trembled from the intensity of his feeling, Janet
began to be moved. It was odd, considering the struggle for existence of
her own family, that these foreigners had remained outside the range of
her sympathy.

"I guess you'll find," Ditmar had interrupted peremptorily, "I guess
you'll find, if you look up the savings banks statistics, these people
have got millions tucked away. And they send a lot of it to the other
side, they go back themselves, and though they live like cattle, they
manage to buy land. Ask the real estate men. Why, I could show you a
dozen who worked in the mills a few years ago and are capitalists
to-day."

"I don't doubt it, Mr. Ditmar," Siddons gracefully conceded. "But what
does it prove? Merely the cruelty of an economic system based on ruthless
competition. The great majority who are unable to survive the test pay
the price. And the community also pays the price, the state and nation
pay it. And we have this misery on our consciences. I've no doubt you
could show me some who have grown rich, but if you would let me I could
take you to families in desperate want, living in rooms too dark to read
in at midday in clear weather, where the husband doesn't get more than
seven dollars a week when the mills are running full time, where the
woman has to look out for the children and work for the lodgers, and even
with lodgers they get into debt, and the woman has to go into the mills
to earn money for winter clothing. I've seen enough instances of this
kind to offset the savings bank argument. And even then, when you have a
family where the wife and older children work, where the babies are put
out to board, where there are three and four lodgers in a room, why do
you suppose they live that way? Isn't it in the hope of freeing
themselves ultimately from these very conditions? And aren't these
conditions a disgrace to Hampton and America?"

"Well, what am I to do about it?" Ditmar demanded.

"I see that these operatives have comfortable and healthful surroundings
in the mill, I've spent money to put in the latest appliances. That's
more than a good many mills I could mention attempt."

"You are a person of influence, Mr. Ditmar, you have more influence than
any man in Hampton. You can bring pressure to bear on the city council to
enforce and improve the building ordinances, you can organize a campaign
of public opinion against certain property owners."

"Yes," retorted Ditmar, "and what then? You raise the rents, and you
won't get anybody to live in the houses. They'll move out to settlements
like Glendale full of dirt and vermin and disease and live as they're
accustomed to. What you reformers are actually driving at is that we
should raise wages--isn't it? If we raised wages they'd live like rats
anyway. I give you credit for sincerity, Mr. Siddons, but I don't want
you to think I'm not as much interested in the welfare of these people as
you and the men behind you. The trouble is, you only see one side of this
question. When you're in my position, you're up against hard facts. We
can't pay a dubber or a drawing tender any more than he's worth, whether
he has a wife or children in the mills or whether he hasn't. We're in
competition with other mills, we're in competition with the South. We
can't regulate the cost of living. We do our best to make things right in
the mills, and that's all we can do. We can't afford to be sentimental
about life. Competition's got to be the rule, the world's made that way.
Some are efficient and some aren't. Good God, any man who's had anything
to do with hiring labour and running a plant has that drummed into him
hard. You talk about ordinances, laws--there are enough laws and
ordinances in this city and in this state right now. If we have any more
the mills will have to shut down, and these people will starve--all of
'em." Ditmar's chair came down on its four legs, and he flung his cigar
away. "Send me a copy of your survey when it's published. I'll look it
over."

"Well, what do you think of the nerve of a man like that?" Ditmar
exploded, when Mr. Siddons had bowed himself out. "Comes in here to
advise me that it's my business to look out for the whole city of
Hampton. I'd like to see him up against this low-class European labour
trying to run a mill with them. They're here one day and there the next,
they don't know what loyalty is. You've got to drive 'em--if you give 'em
an inch they'll jump at your throat, dynamite your property. Why, there's
nothing I wouldn't do for them if I could depend on them, I'd build 'em
houses, I'd have automobiles to take 'em home. As it is, I do my best,
though they don't deserve it,--in slack seasons I run half time when I
oughtn't to be running at all."

His tone betrayed an effort of self-justification, and his irritation had
been increased by the suspicion in Janet of a certain lack of the
sympathy on which he had counted. She sat silent, gazing searchingly at
his face.

"What's the matter?" he demanded. "You don't mean to say you agree with
that kind of talk?"

"I was wondering--" she began.

"What?"

"If you were--if you could really understand those who are driven to work
in order to keep alive?"

"Understand them! Why not?" he asked.

"Because--because you're on top, you've always been successful, you're
pretty much your own master--and that makes it different. I'm not blaming
you--in your place I'd be the same, I'm sure. But this man, Siddons, made
me think. I've lived like that, you see, I know what it is, in a way."

"Not like these foreigners!" he protested.

"Oh, almost as bad," she cried with vehemence, and Ditmar, stopped
suddenly in his pacing as by a physical force, looked at her with the
startled air of the male who has inadvertently touched off one of the
many hidden springs in the feminine emotional mechanism. "How do you know
what it is to live in a squalid, ugly street, in dark little rooms that
smell of cooking, and not be able to have any of the finer, beautiful
things in life? Unless you'd wanted these things as I've wanted them, you
couldn't know. Oh, I can understand what it would feel like to strike, to
wish to dynamite men like you!"

"You can!" he exclaimed in amazement. "You!"

"Yes, me. You don't understand these people, you couldn't feel sorry for
them any more than you could feel sorry for me. You want them to run your
mills for you, you don't want to know how they feel or how they live, and
you just want me--for your pleasure."

He was indeed momentarily taken aback by this taunt, which no woman in
his experience had had the wit and spirit to fling at him, but he was not
the type of man to be shocked by it. On the contrary, it swept away his
irritation, and as a revelation of her inner moltenness stirred him to a
fever heat as he approached and stood over her.

"You little--panther!" he whispered. "You want beautiful things, do you?
Well, I'll give 'em to you. I'll take care of you."

"Do you think I want them from you?" she retorted, almost in tears. "Do
you think I want anybody to take care of me? That shows how little you
know me. I want to be independent, to do my work and pay for what I get."

Janet herself was far from comprehending the complexity of her feelings.
Ditmar had not apologized or feigned an altruism for which she would
indeed have despised him. The ruthlessness of his laugh--the laugh of the
red-blooded man who makes laws that he himself may be lawless shook her
with a wild appeal. "What do I care about any others--I want you!" such
was its message. And against this paradoxical wish to be conquered,
intensified by the magnetic field of his passion, battled her
self-assertion, her pride, her innate desire to be free, to escape now
from a domination the thought of which filled her with terror. She felt
his cheek brushing against her hair, his fingers straying along her arm;
for the moment she was hideously yet deliciously powerless. Then the
emotion of terror conquered--terror of the unknown--and she sprang away,
dropping her note-book and running to the window, where she stood
swaying.

"Janet, you're killing me," she heard him say. "For God's sake, why can't
you trust me?"

She did not answer, but gazed out at the primrose lights beginning to
twinkle fantastically in the distant mills. Presently she turned. Ditmar
was in his chair. She crossed the room to the electric switch, turning on
the flood of light, picked up her tote-book and sat down again.

"Don't you intend to answer your letters?" she asked.

He reached out gropingly toward the pile of his correspondence, seized
the topmost letter, and began to dictate, savagely. She experienced a
certain exultation, a renewed and pleasurable sense of power as she took
down his words.





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