E B B and FLOW
C. W. STEPHENS
Who wrote “Man and Wife,” etc.
As the end of the year was drawing near there came a bad slump in business. Sales had seen poor for some re and much of the duct of the mines being stocked in warehouses. Buywere holding off contracts on the that there had over-production that prices would sure to be cut in order to clear off the large stock accumulations. On the other hand the Company
was not disposed to lower its figures, knowing that sooner or later their customers would have to buy. And so, in the meantime, purchasers were taking just enough to keep them going.
So serious was the situation that the mines were put on short time and the men began to feel the pinch as they had rarely felt it before. The next step was the allround cut in wages, and that precipitated trouble. Orators drifted into the place, the stormy petrels of trade. On street corners speeches were delivered on the usual themes, the tyranny of masters and capital, and the serfdom of the wage-earner. The twenty-five cents a day drop in the laborer’s wages, they declared, was the thin edge of the wedge that would be driven further and further in as time went by.
The new company was an inhuman, soulss, conscienceless monster, using the iwer of its purse, and its grip on the .ecessaries of life to crush life out of the toilers.
It was because of this that it could afford to pay its chief slave-driver the big salary he got. There was only one way to meet the tyranny—to organize, stand shoulder to shoulder, and resist.
The throngs that gathered round the speakers were sullenly non-commital at first. They did not understand much of the figurative language used by the orators, but they did know that when the pay envelopes were distributed, the sums they received had shrunk noticeably. That argument had more force than all the fiery language used. A few days later a deputation of the men waited on Christie at his office. Edith, from her own room, could hear all that was said.
The men, it seemed to her, put their case reasonably enough, and Christie listened to them patiently. He pointed out to them that trade was bad, the sheds crammed with stock, and that the depression might conceivably last till Spring.
ON the other hand the men dwelt on the fact that there bad been good times recently during which the mines had paid well, and that wages had not been raised on that account. Now that a temporary slump had come it did not seem fair that the earner’s money should be cut. They dwelt on the fact that winter was an especially expensive time, that the prices of food and fuel were high, and that they had been hardly hit by the new arrangement for renting the houses. In course of the discussion some of the men began to threaten a strike.
“And what good will that do?” asked Christie. “It would pay us better to close up the place till things right themselves and the stock gets worked down.” They did not believe him and hammered away at their points. When they left they were disappointed iind irritable. The situation had been hurt rather than helped by the coming together. The strike threat had stiffened Christie.
, “A pack of fools,” he said to Edith. “Strike! I would be as well satisfied if they did. We could then close up for the bad weather season, and open up when the men showed some äigns of returning to their senses.”
In her own mind Edith thought he might have been a little more sympathetic and diplomatic.
“They are good, simple-minded people,” she replied. “They can often be led a long way where they won’t be driven an inch.”
“You think I am wrong then?” he asked sharply. “Well, I suppose from the strict standpoint, you
have reason on your side,” she said. “But if the trade depression is likely to last only a few months, it would seem the wiser way to lighten the burden as much as possible for the men during the time of stress, especially the married ones. The depression is an unavoidable calamity and its weight should be shared by both parties, masters and men. Certainly the latter, being the weaker, should not have to bear it all.”
“What authority would I have in future if now, at the first serious clash, I should back down? One has either to ride or be ridden. The men listen to streetcorner claptrap and get crazy notions about their power. If they were encouraged there would be no living with them. Democracy’s all right, but it can be as unreasoning a tyranny as the most absolute autocracy. This struggle has come to be a trial of strength, and, since it had to come, it couldn’t have come at a better time for us.”
“I don’t see that it need have come, but having come,
I cannot see any necessity for its continuance,” she replied.
“No, I don’t think you do,” he smiled. “Because you forget what the fight implies, the great principle back of it, in the incidental features of the fight. I come from the people myself, I worked in the pits all the way up from a water-bucket boy. I hate this fighting, but there are times when you have to do what you hate to do. Don’t you suppose I understand what it means to go cold and hungry, to see the bare necessaries of life just out of reach? I’ve gone through it,
when supper time has meant a tightening of the belt, and the cold has seemed to freeze the very soul of you. When I go down into the town and see the diminishing piles of firewood in the yards, the smokeless chimneys, I know what it means, but if you will go to war you must learn what war is.”
SHE said no more and they turned to other work they had on hand. From the window could be seen the men who had just left the office. They were talking matters over in the road. John Barnsley came along and theÿ stopped him and they spoke to him with much gesticulation. He was well liked by them, and no doubt they were laying before him their grievances. Edith saw the lines of Christie’s mouth harden as he glanced at them. Presently Barnsley left them and came into the office, being followed by the boss of the pits and Chipperfield.
“I’ll see you again in a few minutes,” Christie said to Edith, and she withdrew to her room. She could hear the four of them talking over the situation.
“They say they won’t go back into the pits,” said the pit man. “I guess the others will be coming out. What am I to do, Mr. Christie?”
“What can you do? Just let them go. If they go when they want to, they’ll stay out till I bid them come back,” replied Christie. “If they’re putting up a wage-boosting bluff it is going to be called. What’s your notion, Barnsley?”
“I think they mean it,” Edith heard her father speak. “They’re obstinate as mules when they set themselves. They want handling.”
“They’ll get handling all right,” said Christie.
“There’s one matter to consider,” went on the ex-chief. “It’s easy to scatter the help of a camp like this and hard to collect it again.”
“You’d advise eating humble pie, then— back down before a threat?” asked Christie.
“No, I wouldn’t look at it that way,” replied Barnsley. “There might be some concession made on each side, you reserving the strict justice of your position, but conceding something to the men as a kind of evening of the burden of the trouble caused by the hard times. I think the men could be reasoned with in this way, and what the concession cost for a few weeks would be much less than the loss entailed by lack of help when the good time comes again with the spring. I think by this means the ground could be cut from under the feet of the outside trouble-makers, and men and masters be brought into closer union. In the time of the independent companies, attempts from outside to make mischief were started now and again, but they never came to anything.”
“Thanks to the astute management of those in charge of affairs, I suppose,” said Christie sharply. Edith could have boxed his ears for his rudeness to her father.
“I wouldn’t put it just that way,” said Mr. Barnslêy evenly. “We all belonged to one place, and were, in a sense, one Crowd. Friendship with the men paid in the long run.”
“Probably paid the men better than it did the masters,” snapped the chief. “What had those fellows out there to say to you, if it wasn’t private?”
“They told me what they had asked, and what you had answered. When they spoke, of quitting, I told them they were a pack of fools to think about such a tiling, and advised them to take the loaf with the slice cut off rather than be without bread,” said Barnsley.
“I am inclined to hold with you, Mr. Christie,” interposed Chipperfield. “You have to be either master or man. If you give way now, you may make up your mind this isn’t going to be the end of the trouble. They'll blaze it all over the place as a victory of t.he workers over tl >■ company and its chief, and next thing will be a no w lot of demands.’ Christie looked at him and nodded his agreement.
“I would say, if it is not taking too muchon myself,” continued Richard, encouraged by the apparent approval of his chief, “that if they want to strike and think they can get anything out of it, now’s the time, let them go ahead and strike. They don’t know what a strike means. They think the company’s rolling in money, making it hand over fist, and.too greedy of gain to want to shut down for a day. I’d let them go just as far as they want. They’re in no position to fight. They have only an infant organization at back of them, and it couldn’t pay two weeks’ strike money. The men, generally, have nothing put by. As long as they are in steady -work their credit at the stores is good from one pay-day to another, but let them be out for a few weeks and the shopkeepers will be shy about their trade. Then again they live in the company’s houses, and winter is a bad time to strike if you’ve nothing laid by.”
“Pretty sound reasoning,” rejoined Christie. Edith thought she could detect something of sarcasm in the words. Chipperfield put the matter very baldly, for he was a consistent disciple of the school believed to be Christie’s. Then the chief summed up the situation.
“The pits will open as usual to-morrow. The men can go down if they want, and they can stay above ground if that’s their fancy. The decision is theirs, not ours. There’s work for them if they wish to have it, there is idleness if they prefer that. If they don’t come to W'ork to-morrow, we shut down everything and wait for the clouds to roll by. We couldn’t have a better time for a stand-up fight. I tell you I hate it, for I’ve seen what it means. Those at the root of the trouble will not suffer. The out-of-town mischief makers will have their three meals a day in a comfortable, warmed hotel, and sufficient left over from their board and lodging bills to buy drinks and cigars. I’m sorry for the women and the children—yes, and for the men too. As for concession on our side, we are making it in offering any kind of employment when it would be money in the directors’ pockets to close everything down for a few months. I hope it won’t come to a shut-down, but that’s in the hands of the men, not in ours.”
WHEN Edith came back again, Christie was standing near the window alone, looking out into the gathering darkness. He turned as she entered.
“You heard the discussion?” he inquired.
“Yes,” she replied, seating herself by the side of the desk, and facing him.
“Your father’s views seem to coincide with yours,” he said. “Sympathetic slant.
The commonsense view is that of Chipperfield. He has a straightforward, logical way of regarding a situation.”
“I think his views are brutal,” she said sharply.
A smile flickered over his mouth.
“All business has its brutal side,” he answered. “It’s a fight, and chivalry went out of fighting long since. The main thing is to pound the other fellow into subjection and win. You haven’t time to sit down and mope over what his knocking-out may mean to his family. If he has a wife and children, so much the worse for him and them. He’s given hostages to fortune, and if he forgets or ignores the fact, that is his lookout. Why should a man expect sympathy from others when he hasn’t any for his own dependents? Chipperfield’s got the right notion in his mind.”
He thought that she did not seem overpleased by his commendation of the man to whom, according to Eleanor’s talk, she was practically engaged to be married.
Some mischievous impulse made him greatly daring.
“You should be gratified by praise of him,” he said.
Though the room was darkening, he fancied he could see the deepening of the pretty color in her face, and a spark of belligerency in her eyes.
“I’m afraid I don’t understand you,” she replied. “I don’t know why I should be pleased by praise of opinions that are exactly contrary to my own.”
He did not speak for a few moments, but turned to the window again. Presently he switched on the light and faced her.
“Nor do I understand,” he answered. “I referred to what I happened to hear the other day. The tale ran that it was very probable that I might lose my secretary be-
fore long. It was further suggested that my loss— the office’s loss—would be Mr. Chipperfield’s gain.”
He thought he could catch the glint of amusement in her eyes, but she was very grave of feature. As she made no response, he went on with his explanation.
“My great objection against employing women, especially in confidential important positions, is their habit of getting married just when they’re becoming of some real use and value. I ought to have asked that important question about a matrimonial engagement when I engaged you. It really was of much more importance than the deafness, the gum, or the spelling. It’s less curable, they say. I should have asked for a bond to cover the risk. When you’ve positively decided to leave, I wish you would give me as long notice as possible, as I hate to have my work thrown into confusion by lapses of the kind.”
“I don’t know where you obtained your information,” she replied. “When you have been longer in Ste. Brunhilde, you’ll probably pay less attention to gossip.” “You mean that you’re not engaged to Richard Chipperfield, and that there is no immediate danger of my —I mean, of our losing you?” he asked.
“I certainly am not engaged to anyone, and I’ve no intention of giving up my position,” she replied.
He heaved a mighty sigh as he dropped into his chair, and there came a look of relief to his face, that was a compliment to her office value in itself.
“That’s one mighty consolation,” he said. “I hate to have the routine of the office interfered with by domestic affairs. You’re getting so accustomed to my way of doing things, my temper, and my other defects. There’s a great deal more you can take off my shoulders, for the less I have to do in the offices the more I can do in the pits and mills. We’ll be able to make it worth your while to hold on here. However, we can talk about that later. I take it you like the work?” “Yes, very much,” she said.
“I doubted whether you could make good when I hired you that day,” he smiled. “But you dropped into the run of things wonderfully. Any woman can get married, but it takes a special kind of woman to do the work you’re doing; and they are only created once in a long while.”
She laughed and got busy with her note book. Where could he have heard the chatter about Richard Chipperfield and herself? It was like an old sealed memory suddenly released from prison and returned to the wrorld of real things. In almost daily contact with Chipperfield, he was as remote from her now as if he stcod at one Pole and she at the other. He belonged to the neutral-tinted world had once lived in. To-day she despised him not only for h i s shrinking from herself in her time of sorrow and need—though she
regarded this absolutely impersonally and without reference to herself in particular—but also for his readiness to be the moon to the big sun of the corporation that employed him.
They finished their work quickly. He waited to sign the letters, and they left the office together. The snow was falling heavily, and she had no heavy wraps with her. His car was at the door.
“Jump in,” he said. “I’m going to take you dow home. Here let me wrap this coat about you. You be frozen, child. Now that I’ve escaped losing you the disease of matrimony, you don’t think I’m tak chances on pneumonia?”
She sat at'his side as they sped over the white c try. He did not speak a half-dozen words beA the office door and the gate of her home. He op the snow-blocked gate for her, and held her hand ^ an instant.
“Good-night, Edith,” he said. It was the first time he had called her by her Christian name, and as if he had made a most apalling advance, he turned, got into his car and whisked himself away. Her face was bright with smiles as she walked up the drive to the front door. He was a never-failing source of astonishment that did not lack pleasure to her.
ApHE days of December dragged wearily away in Ste. -®Brunhilde. Heavy snow fell earlier than usual, and on the heels of it came a spell of bitter weather. There are few places more dismal than a mine town in the throes of a winter strike.
The wreaths of smoke and steam that ordinarily crowned the hilltops were no longer to be seen. The whistles by which the more important hours of day and night were announced -were silent. The long, hurrying processions of men and boys going up and down the hill slopes to and from work travelled the upland road no more. The snow upon the ascent was sc»' broken. No longer the houses of the camp at the blasts in the workings. Men gaP stores and at the street corners, s’ ^
hungering for work. Complaining won.^n and îA Au children drove them out of their homes. All the cheerful light and gaiety appeared to have vanished from the town, yielding place to gloom and grim dulness.
There was no strike pay, for the labor organization was too young and feeble to afford it. As the men saw the situation, they were opposed by two enemies—_ the Company, passive, powerful, able to wait without inconvenience until the other foe, the wolf of poverty, baying at the door of the poor, should have done his work.
It was not now a question of twenty-five cents a day, but of principle. The loser would be the under-dog permanently. So the men held on, dour and resentful, each pang of suffering in themselves or those dear to them intensifying the bitterness against those whom they regarded as responsible for the situation. They felt that the big chief up in the mine offices could, with a word, end all the misery. They could see only one side of the question; there must be no reduction in wages. To accept this until times bettered would be to encourage employers to lessen the toiler’s money whenever they felt inclined to do so.
The men long since had singled out Ewan Christie as the incarnation of the tyranny under which they suffered. It was not the Corporation, not the Directors, but Christie who was their foe, and he waited there in his office on the hill, looking down on the stricken town until the time should come when, wearied out, spent and hungry, the men would crawl back to his feet clamoring humbly for bread.
All this distress meant nothing to him. What he had said to the deputation was right to a certain extent. The sheds were full and any contracts that might come in for the next three months or so could easily be filled from stock. To close dow-n the plant meant a check on production that would relieve the congestion and stiffen prices. Reasonable men admitted that, so far, the Manager was right.
Christie had shown the books of the Company to some of the more intelligent of the local leaders of the men, and none disputed his contention. The whole case, whittled down to its skeleton, was that a time of stress had come, that someone must lose, and neither master nor man wished to be martyred by circumstances. Christie said that the wage reduction would still leave the Company saddled with a certain los? for some time to come; the men held that the /^•HRISTIli^ was the great foe. He O lacked nothing whether the men worked or not. There was always a bigpay envelope for him whether the pits worked or not. He ate well, slept warmly, wore good clothes, and, as the days went by, suffered from no discomforts. So forcefully were the contrasts between master and man emphasized that everything that touched the well-being of Christie became so much fuel for the fires of hate. He walked the streets, back and forth from hotel to office, as if unconscious of the knots of men whose eyes followed him with deep bitterness in them.
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Ebb and Flow
Continued from page 34
wealthy corporation was better able to stand that than they were.
He was willing at all times to reason with them, try to induce them to see the situation in his light, but with the aliens he would have no intercourse whatever. For the men who were being led by some oily-tongued leader lately come out of Central Europe or Russia, he had the deepest sympathy; for those whom he regarded as the common enemy of white master and man he had the bitterest hatred and sharpest antagonism. The greatest offence the men were guilty of, in his eyes, was that they would suffer themselves to be led by a crafty cult, half educated, with just enough knowledge of the catch-words of social philosophy to make a showing before an ignorant crowd.
In the mine offices the staff woi'ked as usual. The pit and mill chiefs had still plenty on their hands, keeping everything in shape for the resumption of work when the battle should be over. Edith Barnsley was kept busily occupied.
During these days she studied the problem of Christie with deep interest. Her sympathies were with the men, or rather with their dependents. As she regarded it the fight was not equal, for the handicap of women and children and poverty took from it any semblance of fairness. It seemed to her that it was like civil war, two sections of one big interest that should be undivided, taking each other by the throat and seeking to choke the other by brute force.
Christie mentioned the trouble to her very rarely now. He had been advised, she knew, to take measures for his own protection, but he ignored the advice and made no change in the routine of his life, rubbing shoulders on the street daily with men who would have cheered the tidings of his death. There was a harder set to his jaw, a straighter line on his lips, and yet, Edith saw real suffering in his eyes. He was not as heedless as his foes declared him to be of the miseries of the camp. Christmas was a little more than a week away and already it was a desperate struggle with many of the people to get bread and fuel.
“MPHEY can’t last much longer,” said Chipperfield to his chief one evening at the beginning of Christmas week. “Starvation will force them back. The women are growing more and more bitter every day about the helding-out. When those in a man’s home who should be back of him are weakening, he can’t make much more of a fight. The women don’t figure much on the fine talk of the trouble-makers, it’s the cry of the children that counts more with them. The nunger pinch will bring them in on our terms before long.”
Christie said nothing for some moments. The two men were sitting in the cosy room of the Chipperfield house, Eleanor with them, listening and busy with her sewing. The Chief looked round the place. It was well furnished, with good pictures on the wall, well lighted and warmed. Outside the cold was keen, a sharp searching wind sweeping, snow-laden, through the streets. Never did the cheap philosophy that was Chipperfield’s seem meaner and tawdrier than in this snug room on so bitter a night. Eleanor appeared to notice the visitor’s silence and glanced up. His face was unchanged and from its cold severity she could gather nothing. Then he caught her glance and smiled across at her.
“This all must sound very brutal to you,” he said.
“In a way, yes, I suppose it does,” she replied. “Still, it is difficult to see any other way. - Those who make war should understand what war means first. The greater the suffering the sooner it will be over.”
He did not respond. What she said was an echo of one view he sometimes took of the situation, and yet it did not please him. He felt that womanhood should have something higher than man’s logic. It would have pleased him better, if the well-dressed, well-fed woman sitting in her easy chair under the warm lamplight had said something that would have revealed womanly thought for those who had no comforts in their cold, dingy homes.
He did not stay long. As he walked along the streets he found a deep pathos in the sights, the empty though still lighted shop windows. Usually during Christmas week they were crowded. Though the night was so cold there were men lounging around, as if preferring the keen air of the open to the colder atmosphere of the home. Here and there a woman went by, huddled up in her shawl, out to make some small purchase. At a windy corner he saw two children, pinched, ill-clad little things of some ten or twelve years, boy and girl. They were taking alternate bites at a thick hunk of bread, eating it wolfishly. So busy were they that they bumped against Christie. He laughed down at them.
“Dry kind of a supper, isn’t it? Go into the Greek’s and get something hot to go with the bread,” he said, thrusting half a dollar into the lad’s hand. The boy clutched the coin eagerly, mumbling hearty thanks.
“It’s Christie!” the girl whispered loudly to her brother. “Give me that money.” The boy tried to keep it but she wrenched it from him.
“Take your damn money!” she spat at the big chief. “We vrant fair play not charity.” He recognized the men’s slogan. The coin struck him and fell to the snowy path. Christie did not mind the hatred of men, nor, so much, that of woman, but the bitterness of the child, the hatred flashing in the little spitfire’s eyes, the color that blazed in her pinched cheeks struck home to him.
“Guess you’re not very hungry,” he said to her.
“Indeed and I am,” she replied. “Then don’t be silly,” he told her. “Come on and I’ll stand treat. You don’t think I like to see little folks hungry, do you? I was a kid like you once and know what it was to go short. Where’s your coat?”
“Pop-shop,” she answered. “And it's all on account of you. I’m not feared of you.”
“I wouldn’t like you to be,” he said. "I like boys and girls. Now the money’s there on the sidewalk. It doesn’t belong to me, and it won’t hurt you to find it. If vou don’t pick it up somebody else will.”
HE walked on, sad at heart. It was all absurdly sentimental, but there was a deep well of that kind of sentiment in his heart. To-night he felt that all war was hell, red war or grey war, the war of the battlefield or that on the fields of industry. Men say there will always be war, that it is part and parcel of the law of progress. Christie felt this night that to believe that would
mean to doubt the existence of the divine in man and the human in God.
Near the hotel he met Edith Barnsley, walking home. She had stopped to do seme shopping on her way from a meeting that had been held at the Church. He thought she looked particularly pretty as they paused under one of the street lamps. The frosty night had put color into her cheeks and her eyes had the sparkle of diamonds in them. She was burdened with several packages.
“Let me take the parcels,” he said, seeking to remove them from her hands. “I’d like to walk down with you, if I may. I am company hungry to-night.” “There is no need of you to accompany me,” she replied. “I often go up and down alone at later hours than this.”
“I said I was company-hungry,” he smiled. . .
“Very well,” she laughed, letting him take the packages.
As they went along the snowy road he told her of the incident of the children to whom he had offered the money. She saw how deeply it had struck home to him.
“Poor little things!” she said. “I’m afraid there’s a great deal of suffering in the place. No, I don’t blame you. I believe you wish it ended as much as the neediest does. It’s like a family quarrel, the nearer the disputants are to each other, the more bitter the quarrel is, and the harder to heal.”
“It’s not the people with whom one is kin who present the difficulty,” he said. “I believe if they were let alone all the trouble could be settled in half an hour’s talk, but I won’t recognize the outsiders, the trouble-makers. With me that’s really the only question involved. To me the foreign interlopers, wlio’ve been allowed to enter the country and who’ve profited vastly _by their coming, are as dangerous to its interests as an alien foe in arms would be, even more so, because their warfare is more insidiously evil. Had they landed with arms the very men they are leading would stand in line against them. Equipped with their anarchistic principles they make the men believe they are their friends and saviours. If we were to yield now it would mean the triumph of everything that is equally opposed to masters and men. It’s not now a fight between the company and the workers, but between the company and those whose aim is to exploit both for their own profit.”
“Then is there no hope of a speedy settlement?” she asked.
“I don’t know, but I hope there is. You may be sure I’ll leave no stone unturned. It’s possible there may be a solution that will lift the whole dispute on to firmer ground, and if there is any chance of that I’ll bring the bona-fide leaders of the men into consultation, and trust to win them over. It’s a fight now between the company and the aliens for the good of the men and the camp. But we won’t talk any more about that now. It’s very painful kind of shop. Been doing some extensive shopping, I see.” .
“Yes, Christmas shopping,” she said. “That’s one of my greatest pleasures of the year. We’re very old-fashioned people at home. We have a Christmas tree, we believe firmly in Santa Claus, and thei-e would be no real Christmas without turkey and plum pudding. From now till Christmas morning we’ll all be as mysterious and secretive as conspirators, preparing our presents that have to be the most tremendous surprises. I think if there were no Christmas one would have to be invented. It seems to be a clearing-up time for everything disagreeable, and it gives a fresh, clean start for the coming year.”
“If one could only have a kind of community Christmas,” he replied. “If we could give the Camp a collective present, wipe out everything disagreeable and give the place a clean, fresh start, that would be wonderful. The joys of Christmas to me have always been confined to those one reads about in books. The day has always been a dull one to me, perhaps because I wasn’t brought up to its traditions as most youngsters are. I never had a real home, and was reared by distant relatives who hadn’t much opinion of the pretty frills of life. I never hung up my stocking and I never saw Santa Claus.”
“Then life cheated you badly,” she said, sympathetically.
“I suppose it did,” he agreed.
“Of course it did,” she insisted. “Did you never notice that the bells ring differently at Christmas than at any other time, that there is something in the very atmosphere you don’t find in it on any other clay, and that the people you meet are quite different? Even those you had thought most disagreeable are much pleasanter. I suppose it all springs from the thought of peace and good-will that comes to one on that day.”
“I never noticed it,” he confessed smilingly. “I suppose it’s pleasant for children with all its make-believe and play.”
“Did you never play?” she asked him.
“I think 1 hardly ever did,” he replied. “It was always hustling on the dollar hunt. An hour spent that did not bring in some money was regarded as wasted.”
“You poor unfortunate creature,” she laughed. “It must be like being born blind. There’s so much of the pleasant side of life you’ve missed.”
“I suppose so,” he admitted. “I wonder if it is too late to sit down at the table now.”
“It’s never too late if the Christmas spirit is within you. You know it’s the time of the return of the prodigal, the union or reunion of those who have been away from its gladness and pleasure.”
rpHEY had come to the gate of the Barnsley home. The hour was still early—only half past eight. He had never been nearer the place than the gate. The blinds were not drawn, and through the windows Christie could see a snug, homey-looking room. Someone was playing rather well on the piano. A woman, whom he knew to be Mrs. Barnsley, was seated by the side of an open fire, busy with needlework. John Barnsley sat on the opposite side of the hearth with Iris newspaper.
At the table a boy was playing with a box of construction materials. The scene framed in the window was a very attractive one to Christie. He contrasted the place with his own dingy hotel quarters. Loneliness and bachelorhood might have their points, but there was another side to the question. He wished Edith would ask him in for a few minutes. He had an impulse to frame up an errand to her father, but it would Icok too artificial to spring it at this late moment.
The Barnslcys had never invited him to the house. That was his own fault, he knew, but it was the one house he would like to visit. They were not offering hospitality to one who had made it known that he did not care to receive 1 it. He approved their independent H"ide, though it robbed him of a great pleasux*e. Reluctantly he bade Edith farewell.
“You are late, Edie,” Mrs. Barnsley remarked as lier daughter came into the room after secreting her parcel upstairs. “I don’t like you to come home alone on the lake road now there ax-e so many idlers about.”
“I didn’t come alone. Mr. Christie met me as I was passing the hotel and insisted that he be allowed to hein me carry some packages I had,” Edith x-eplied.
“Why didn’t you ask him in?” said Nancy. “I don’t see why he can’t come here as well as go to the Chipperfields.
1 wonder if thex-e’s anything in the tales aboxxt him and Eleanor.”
“You inveterate little gossip!” interposed her father. “Jxxst leave the Ste. Brunhilde chatterings outside this house. Anything particular going on in town. Edith?”
“Nothing out of the ordinary,” she replied. “Everything at its dreariest. We had a meeting at the Church and decided to raise a fuxxd, a Christmas fund, for the destitute people. We want to get up a Christmas dinner for the women and children, to provide a Christmas tree with px’esents, and send some fuel and food to the worst-off families. I’m Secretary and Treasurer.
“An excellent plan,” said Mrs.
Barnsley, much interested.
“Did you happen to say anything about it to Mr. Christie?” John Barnsley inquired.
“Why no,” Edith answered. “I didn’t think of it. But—you don’t imagiixe he would object, surely?”
“I don’t know. He has strong views about meddling. I heard him say something the other day about outsiders interfering in the struggle,” he said. “He looks on aid that might extend the men’s resistance as foolish intcx'ference that can only pi-olong the fight needlessly. Still I’m not finding fault with your taking part in the relief work. We’re not chained fast to every bit of the policy of the Company’s chief.”
Presently the subject dropped. Nancy returned to the piano, Mrs. Barnsley and Edith busied themselves with sewing, Mr. Barnsley took up his paper again, and Jack, junior went off to bed. Before the pianist could decide what selection from her repertoire to play there came from over tlxe lake the sound of a shot, followed by a second— clear, ominoxxs.
“Gracious! who can be shooting tonight?” said Nancy, her book of music falling from her hands to the floor. Mr. Barnsley rose to his feet, listening, then went out to the veranda. The color fled from Edith’s face. Mrs. Barnsley got up and went out to her husband. The night was still. There came no further sounds. The two came indoors again.
“Somebody amusing himself,” said Baxmsley, picking up his paper again. He did not read, though, and in a few íxxinutes he went over to the telephone in the hall and called up the hotel, asking for Mr. Christie.
“He has just come in. Here he is,” came the response from the clerk. Baxmsley asked some unimportant question about business and got his reply.
“We heard shots just now. Nothing special happening?” he inquired further.
“No, nothing special. Some crazy idiot, likely er.ougli, with more Christmas gin inside him than he could carry conveniently,” came Christie’s reply.
Edith remaiixed in the room after her mother had gone to bed. She had noted something unusual in her father’s manner when he returned from the telephone.
“What were those shots, father?” she asked, when they were alone.
“I don’t know exactly,” he said. “Somebody out skylax-king, I guess.”
“Mr. Christie is not hurt?” she pursued.
“No. I was talking to him a moment or two ago. He’s all right,” he answered.
But both of them gxxessed that there had been an attempt to cari-y out the threats that had been launched against the Company’s chief.
IT seemed to Edith that Ewan Christie was grimmer and more silent than ever when he appeared at the office in the morning. On her way through town Edith had heard the rumor that two shots had been fired at him in the neck of the woods by the lakeside the previous night, but he said nothing of them. In the middle of the morning a deputation came up from town to interview him. He received them, and they brought a compromise proposal. Instead of a twenty-five ceixt a day reduction they would consent to half that, the pits and mills to be opened at once, none of the strikers to be discriminated against, and the new organization back of the men to be x'ecognized. The negotiations split on the last item. The old-time labor unioix he was willing to recognize, but against this the new trouble-makers were as bitter as they were against the Company. He was willing to split the reduction difference with the men, and to accede to their other requirements, which were in full accord with his intentions, but with the alien conspirators, as he regarded them, he would have no dealings whatever. They were the common enemy, in his sight, and to confirm their influence would be nothing short of disastrous. He laid down his views firmly and the men were just as insistent on recognition of their new organization. The discussion became heated before it terminated.
“They’ll be back again before New Year’s Day,” he said to Edith after the deputation had departed. “They’re weakening and the quitting stage is not far off. If only maudlin people inside and outside the camp will keep their hands off the dispute, and let the combatants settle their differences, the thing is as good as over. We’ll have the alien riff-raff discredited.”
She gave no answer, as none was required, but went on with her work.
“I notice the local paper is moralizing a bit to-day,” he went on presently. “Here’s a kind of lay sermon on seasonable goodwill, which the writer seems to imagine must be exclusively displayed by one side. Labor the innocent lamb, capital the ravening lion. The whole thing smells of sauerkraut. I see there is a subscription opened for relief. The best relief is to let the thing alone, then the men will need no charity. Philanthropic meddlers are the very worst mischief-makers at a time like this.”
“But even in war the civilized peoples pay some regard to innocent sufferers. They don’t war on women and children,” she said. Her back was turned to him as she sat before her typewriter. He faniced there was protest in the set of her slim shoulders. There was hardly a single article of general policy in this strike matter on which she agreed with him, and, oddly enough, he was content that it should be so. He knew very little of women, but she conformed to his idea, an old-fashioned idea, of what a woman should be.
“I think-” she began, swinging
round her chair and rising. Then she hesitated.
“Yes, what do you think?” he asked.
“That if I had your power and influence and ability I would put them all to work to settle the trouble here and right-off. I wouldn’t think of beating the men, for that will only make them the more bitter. I’d meet them and talk to them as if they were reasonable men, show them that I sympathized with them ¡n their difficulties and their needs, and that I was willing to strain a point t# help them, I believe I could make them my friends.”
“I am sure you could, but, you see, I am not you,” he laughed.
“They can’t live on the short hours and low wage? you offer them,” she went on. “Just try to keep a wife and family on the sum they would get.”
“No, I don’t think I will. But I’d sooner make the experiment on that sum than on nothing.”
HE remained in the office for some time after she had gone. He called up the head office over the long distance telephone and wai in consultation with the President and some of the directors for a considerable period. When he had finished his talk, he left the place. On his way home he dropped in at the Chipperfield’s. Supper was on the table and he accepted an invitation to join the family. Richard was full of the news of the weakening of the men. They all spoke indignantly of the shooting tale that all the town was talking about.
“They deserve to be beaten, thoroughly beaten,” saul Eleanor. “Any sympathy they have been entitled to before they have forfeited by their violence. I have no patience whatever with the movement to furnish relief, as it can only prolong the struggle. To-day the appeal was sent here as to all the other houses. Fuel and provisions to be bought for some of the families, A Christmas dinner, with Tree and presents to be provided. Of course you’ve Seen the appeal?”
‘^No, they didn’t send it to me. I’d like to have a look at it.”
Eleanor fetched the printed appeal. The statement of the situation wras unobjectionable. There were the names of some of the church leaders appended to the appeal, and at the foot that of Edith Barnsley as Secretary and Treasurer.” “I am surprised at Edith,” said Richard. “But often theykindliness of her heart gets the better of her judgment.” “How much did they get out of you, Richard?” asked Christie, smilingly.
“Not a cent from this house, you may be sure,” the other replied.
After supper Christie did not stay long. He had an out of town engagement and caught the night train. As he was leaving he called Edith up on the telephone to tell her of his absence for the next day or so.
“You needn’t go up to the office while I’m away,” he said. “I suppose you’ll have your hands pretty full till Christmas is over. I saw your appeal for the strikers this evening.”
She stood for some moments at the telephone after he had hung up. She was not in the least regretful for what she had done, but it occurred to her that she ought to have told him of it. He had been very curt in his reference to the matter on the ’phone. Possibly he was ar.g-ry. Well, if he was. She dismissed the Company, and—as far as possible—Ewan Christie from her mind. Christmas day was less than forty-eight hours off and there was much to do. Money was coming in very slowly, and much hustling would have to be done inside a few hours. So far she had less than a hundred dollars.
She was going to put in a month’s wages herself, and her father had promised her a liberal subscription. In the morning she was greatly cheered by a call from the Bank. Some anonymous contributor had instructed the Manager to pay two hundred dollars to her on account of the Fund. That would help mightily. She wondered who it could be. Somebody afraid of the wrath of the Company, and so concealing his name. She invoked large blessings on his unknown head äs! she bustled out on her money-quest. :
It was hard work. Most of the gifts were bestowed with earnest requests that the names of the givers be withheld, so great was the fear of rousing the wrath of the Company’s big chief, Christie. He seemed to be a fearsome kind of ogre in the general esteem. Enough money finally was raised to give a big dinner to the women and children, to furnish a Christmas tree, or several of them, loaded with small presents for the youngsters, and to distribute fuel and food through the homes of the needy. The biggest hall in Ste. Brunhilde had been granted for the occasion, and an attempt was made to banish, for the time being, the gloom that had settled over the place.
EDITH was busy at work on the preparations in the afternoon, when, to her amazement, Christie entered the room. He had just come from' the train and was on his way up to the office. He was very brusque with her.
No, he didn’t wont her at the office. Later on he’d like to have a talk with her. There was something ominous in his manner and tone. He walked round the room, as one of the women said, like the devil inspecting the preparations of a festival in Paradise. Edith courteously accompanied him, explaining just what was being done. It would do r.o harm to be independently diplomatic. He was told how many they expected to feed, and what they intended to give them; how the trees were to be decorated and the kinds of presents to be given, chiefly useful things; how much money had been raised and the kind of gifts that were being sent round to ,the houses.
He made little comment on what she told him, and presently went off. She bad half hoped that he would be big enough to dip into his pocket and show that he had some kind of a heart about his person. But he didn’t. As he was leaving she was bold enough to invite him to come down and see the distribution of presents at night, but he doubted if that would be possible. He was surly as a bear when he went out. Well, never mind, if he was utterly impossible she had independence enough to place her resignation in his hands. She went back to her work trying to put him out of her mind. It was impossible to understand a man who could be so grouchy over Christmas cheer for needy women and children.
An hour later she heard that another deputation was in session with Christie up at the mines. All kinds of rumors were flying round ; the mines were going to be shut down till May; even the last offer made by the Company was withdrawn; Christie had come back from a meeting with his Directors with full power to do just what he thought should be done. So the tales flew round. Mrs. Barnsley with Nancy came up to help presently and her mother told Edith that Mr. Barnsley had been sent for and was in consultation with Christie and the men. Apparently it was a long conference.
The dinner was over before there were any signs of its breaking up. The children were forgetting their miseries in games and the expectation of the stripping of the trees. Women, for the time being, forgot the cares of the coming day. It was near the time for the presentation of the gifts, when a young man from the mines, one of the guards, entered with a note for Miss Barnsley.
“Not to be opened until the presents are distributed,” was the endorsement upon it. The messenger vanished, leaving Edith in a state' of agitation. Perhaps it was his way of emphasizing his displeasure. She should finish heiwerk that had been done in defiance of the Company’s interests, and then hear the sentence pronounced on herself. It was hardly believable of him, and yet she knew his strictness where the interests of the Company were affected. She thrust the letter into her pocket and went on with her work.
The hall was crowded, a great many of the men having come in to see the distribution. The services of half a dozen people had been enlisted to hand out the presents to the little ones. The last was being taken off the tree. Edith, unable to restrain her anxious curiosity any longer, tore open the envelope, eager to know the worst, she read the message in Christie’s own handwriting. For a moment she leaned against the wall for support, for she felt very faint and overcome. Then she stepped upon the platform and there was silence.
“There is just one more present,” she said. “It has been sent to me to give to you—to you all, this time, the men especially. Mr. Christie has sent it to me for you. He has been in consultation with the Directors of the Company, and is now in session with a deputation of the men. The offer of the men to return to work at the twenty-five cent a day reduction has been repeated, but it has not been accepted.” There was an angrv groan that swept over the eager throng. “Wait a minute,” said Edith.
--“Mr. Christie has succeeded in closing ur. certain contracts that will clean out the accumulated stock, and he has advised the Company to open up immediately, pits and mills, at the old rate of payment. Listen!”
A hush fell upon the cheering mob that was half wild with delight and relief.
The piercing blast of the great steam siren that had been for weeks silent on the hill top seemed to split the skies, and when it at last ceased, the bells of church and convent took up the joyous theme. The clouds had lifted. Theva was no victor, no vanquished, but blessed work for all.
“Quite a triumph for you, Edith.” And, turning round, Edith saw Eleanor Chipperfield with Richard standing near.
“I don’t know,” Edith replied. “It was sent to me, I suppose, because of n»y office position. But isn’t it fine?”
“Great,” agreed Richard. “I’d like to walk down home with you, Edith, if I may.”
“Oh, never mind about that, Richard. I’ll have lots to do, and we’ll all be going down together when father comes along from the office,” she replied. And he understood that this night she was not very anxious to see him.
SHE had a great deal to do, and it was late when she finished. Her father came, and drove her mother and Nancy down home. It was arranged that he should come back for her at eleven. Most-of the work was done by half past ten. and by that time nearly all the workers had gone home, tired and happy. Edith resolved that she would walk home alone and save her father the
trip. It was a clear, beautiful night, and she had no fear of the lonely two miles. It would give her time to think things over. So she dressed for the street, and went out. There was a man standing a little distance away. She did not need a second glance to recognize him.
“May I walk down with you?” said Ewan Christie.
“Yes, if you wish,” she replied. “I want to thank you, Mr. Christie. It was the most beautiful gift ever given to me in all my life.”
She was rarely enthusiastic in speech. “Well, you were the secretary and treasurer,” he said. “Who else could I send it to?”
“Why do you want to spoil it all?” she asked. “You know that wasn’t the reason. You wanted to do something really nice for me, something I would appreciate, and— you did it.”
“If a man must be candid, that’s the truth—I did,” he admitted. “I like people to get what they earn, and you earned all that, and a lot more.”
“You know what I thought it was?” she asked with a laugh. “I thought it
was an intimation that I was-fired.”
“Well, I guess you ought to have been,” he replied grimly. “It was a kind of disloyalty, in a way, and then you never told me about it. I had to find out from outsiders, who, I suppose, were glad enough to show it to me. I think I might fire you but for one reason.”
“And what’s that?” she laughed. “Because I don’t know that I ought to as things stand,” he said. “You see, I’ve handed in my resignation. Practically I’m out of it now, but it doesn’t take formal effect till the end of the year, one week off.”
“You’ve resigned?” she whispered, stunned by the news.
“Guess you aren’t sorry to get rid of the old grouch,” he answered.
“Oh, why have they done it, why have you resigned?” she asked bewilderedly. “You’ve done much for the place, and could do so much more. I knew jrou would do the right thing by the men when the chance came, and make them your friends.”
“That’s about the nicest compliment ever paid to me,” he replied.
“And what are you going to do? Where are you going?” she wanted to know, rather eagerly.
“Oh, I’ll get another job of some kind, I guess, but I don’t think I’ll ever get another stenographer, typewriter, and secretary, like you, Ed— I mean Miss Barnsley. You’re not deaf, don’t chew gum, can spell, and—what was the other?—oh, you’re not engaged to be married. Got it right, have I?” he asked.
“Yes, quite right,” she laughed. And by this time they were getting near the gate. The two miles appeared to have shrunk at least two-thirds.
“I wish I could take you away with me,” he said, and it was said so impetuously that she could not make out whether it was just a joke, a compliment on her ability, or—well, she couldn't make out what he meant, so she didn’t say anything, waiting for him to elucidate himself. In order to do this he laid his hand on her arm, and they stopped in a sheltered little copse that kept out the wind, and let in silver arrows nf moonlight.
“Edith—I mean it—terribly,” he said, putting his hands on her shoulders. “I just want to take you away with me, for always and everywhere, and—everlastingly. I know I’m a bear, a grouch, a crank, but— don’t you think I’m improving, and that, under proper training I might go quite a way?”
“I think you might,” she answered. “There are possibilities.” “There are possibilities.” “Then, will you come, Edith? I’m a clumsy kind of a lover, I guess, but I’m new at the position. This I do know, that I love you and every bit of you, everything that goes to make up the sweet woman I know you to be. I want to have you with me. I can’t boar to be away from you. My wonderful little girl, my love, will you come with me?” “Anywhere, everywhere,” she answered, and his arms closed about her, and he held her tightly to him, his kisses raining on her face. How long they would have remained there is purely conjectural, had not Edith heard her father come out of the house, on his way to the stable. He was en route to fetch her home. She called to him, and he stood on the walk before the house waiting for her to emerge from the shadows. The two, however, did not hurry, for it was not a hurrying occasion.
“About that new position of mine, honey girl,” Christie observed. “Perhaps I did not explain quite fully. I am leaving here but not getting away from the Company. In fact they’ve given me something of a lift. They’ve made me President. It’s a good sort of position, with quite a respectable salary, though we won’t be able to live here in Ste. Brunhilde except perhaps for the summers.”
“And you are sure, Ewan, in a big position like that, you’ll really want me?” she inquired.
“Want you? More than ever before. You’re the indispensable. Oh, Edith, it’s a wonderful time, this Christmastide. Got the presidency, and got my girl.”
MR. BARNSLEY, now on the steps before the bouse, wondered what was keeping the girl. However, she appeared presently, and not alone. He walked indoors.
“You will come in, Ewan?” Edith asked, when they came to the gate, and, of course he went in. The family was very cordial in their quiet, hospitable way. Something was in the wind, everybody seemed to know, for Edith’s cheeks were redder than usual and
there was a prettier light in her eyes. Then the truth came out, and the hours sped very happily. Christie did not say anything about his departure.
“You can teli them about my leaving,” he said to Edith when she walked down with him to the gate. “And there’s just a little bit more you can hand to your dad as a Christmas present. He’s the new general manager of the company here. He was the only man thought of, and the appointment came from men who have been watching him since the day he stepped down and took a twothirds reduction of salary. Some said a man couldn’t swallow that medicine at past fifty and get over it, but he’s done it. Got all the cash you wanted for tonight’s feast?”
“Yes,” she replied. “It was you, Ewan, who sent that two hundred anonymously? she asked, when she recovered from the shock of the good tidings for her father.
“A man’s got to back his own girl, hasn’t he?” he replied. “Well, I suppose I must go. It’s a terribly long time till nine in the morning. If you have a few minutes to spare just try to fix the wedding day. I might be able to wait a month, but think of me away from here, without you, just the loneliest man in the wide world.”
So Ste. Brunhilde got more shocks— pleasant ones, with the coming of light. Eleanor Chipperfield observed that she wasn’t very much surprised, for these little, quiet, homey girls were terribly dangerous to rough diamond men. Richard was silent. He thought, privately, that there were times when a man might overdo prudence.