The Dwelling Place of Light, V1
by Winston Churchill
NOTE: This author is a cousin of Sir Winston Churchill the Prime Minister
of England during World War II.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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 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
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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,
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 FrancoBelgian 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
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....
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
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
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 inserutableness. 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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
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?"
"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 bas 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
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
"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
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
"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
"They don't seem to mind."
"Are the holes very 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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?"
"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
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 ....
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
"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
"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.
"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
"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
"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 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
"The mercury is sure on the jump," he observed. "You'd think it
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
"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
"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
The sergeant nodded....
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,
"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
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
"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
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
"Janet, I wanted to speak to you, to tell you I'm leaving," she
"Leaving!" repeated Janet, who had regarded Miss Ottway as a
"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
"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
"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
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."
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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 fagade 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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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 germladen 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
"`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
"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
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
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
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
"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 gtudied 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
"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
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
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
"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
This statement Mr. Sprole unwisely accepted as a fiction. He took
hold of Ditmar's arm.
"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,
Ditmar demanded a table in the corner, and consumed a solitary
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
"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
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
"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."
"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
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
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
"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,
"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.
"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
"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
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 singuarly 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
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 dreamspell 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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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.
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
"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
Lise stared at her with a contracted, puzzled expression, as of a
person awaking from sleep, all of whose faculties are being strained
"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,"
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
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 openmindedness, "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
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
"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
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 balebreakers, 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 ringspinning 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
"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
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....
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
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
"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
"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!" 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
"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."
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
Ditmar stared at him uncomprehendingly. Orcutt repeated the
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
"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.