"That needn't keep you fellows out," he said, with his whimsical smile. "But the rank and file will have to constitute the big end. We don't want a lot of busybodies, pussy-footing around with guns and looking for trouble. We had enough of that during the war. We would want some men who would answer a riot call if they were needed. That's all."
He had some of the translations Hendricks had brought him in his pocket, and they circulated around the group.
"Do you think they mean to attack the city?"
"That looks like it, doesn't it? And they are getting that sort of stuff all the time. There are a hundred thousand of them in this end of the state."
"Would you make it a secret organization?"
"Yes. I like doing things in the open myself, but you've got to fight a rat in his hole, if he won't come out."
"Would you hold office?" Pink asked.
Willy Cameron smiled.
"I'm a good bit like the boy who dug post holes in the daytime and took in washing at night to support the family. But I'll work, if that's what you mean."
"We'd better have a constitution and all that, don't you think?" Pink asked. "We can draw up a tentative one, and then fix it up at the first meeting. This is going to be a big thing. It'll go like a fire."
But Willy Cameron overruled that.
"We don't need that sort of stuff," he said, "and if we begin that we might as well put it in the newspapers. We want men who can keep their mouths shut, and who will sign some sort of a card agreeing to stand by the government and to preserve law and order. Then an office and a filing case, and their addresses, so we can get at them in a hurry if we need them. Get me a piece of paper, somebody."
Then and there, in twenty words, Willy Cameron wrote the now historic oath of the new Vigilance Committee, on the back of an old envelope. It was a promise, an agreement rather than an oath. There was a little hush as the paper passed from hand to hand. Not a man there but felt a certain solemnity in the occasion. To preserve the Union and the flag, to fight all sedition, to love their country and support it; the very simplicity of the words was impressive. And the mere putting of it into visible form crystallized their hitherto vague anxieties, pointed to a real enemy and a real danger. Yet, as Willy Cameron pointed out, they might never be needed.
"Our job," he said, "is only as a last resort. Only for real trouble. Until the state troops can get here, for instance, and if the constabulary is greatly outnumbered. It's their work up to a certain point. We'll fight if they need us. That's all."
It was very surprising to him to find the enterprise financed immediately. Pink offered an office in the bank building. Some one agreed to pay a clerk who should belong to the committee. It was practical, businesslike, and—done. And, although he had protested, he found himself made the head of the organization.
"—without title and without pay," he stipulated. "If you wish a title on me, I'll resign."
He went home that night very exalted and very humble.
For a time Lily remained hidden in the house on Cardew Way, walking out after nightfall with Louis occasionally, but shrinkingly keeping to quiet back streets. She had a horror of meeting some one she knew, of explanations and of gossip. But after a time the desire to see her mother became overwhelming. She took to making little flying visits home at an hour when her grandfather was certain to be away, going in a taxicab, and reaching the house somewhat breathless and excited. She was driven by an impulse toward the old familiar things; she was homesick for them all, for her mother, for Mademoiselle, for her own rooms, for her little toilet table, for her bed and her reading lamp. For the old house itself.
She was still an alien where she was. Elinor Doyle was a perpetual enigma to her; now and then she thought she had penetrated behind the gentle mask that was Elinor's face, only to find beyond it something inscrutable. There was a dead line in Elinor's life across which Lily never stepped. Whatever Elinor's battles were, she fought them alone, and Lily had begun to realize that there were battles.
The atmosphere of the little house had changed. Sometimes, after she had gone to bed, she heard Doyle's voice from the room across the hall, raised angrily. He was nervous and impatient; at times he dropped the unctuousness of his manner toward her, and she found herself looking into a pair of cold blue eyes which terrified her.
The brilliant little dinners had entirely ceased, with her coming. A sort of early summer lethargy had apparently settled on the house. Doyle wrote for hours, shut in the room with the desk; the group of intellectuals, as he had dubbed them, had dispersed on summer vacations. But she discovered that there were other conferences being held in the house, generally late at night.
She learned to know the nights when those meetings were to occur. On those evenings Elinor always made an early move toward bed, and Lily would repair to her hot low-ceiled room, to sit in the darkness by the window and think long, painful thoughts.
That was how she learned of the conferences. She had no curiosity about them at first. They had something to do with the strike, she considered, and with that her interest died. Strikes were a symptom, and ultimately, through great thinkers like Mr. Doyle, they would discover the cure for the disease that caused them. She was quite content to wait for that time.
Then, one night, she went downstairs for a glass of ice water, and found the lower floor dark, and subdued voices coming from the study. The kitchen door was standing open, and she closed and locked it, placing the key, as was Elinor's custom, in a table drawer. The door was partly glass, and Elinor had a fear of the glass being broken and thus the key turned in the lock by some intruder.
On toward morning there came a violent hammering at her bedroom door, and Doyle's voice outside, a savage voice that she scarcely recognized. When she had thrown on her dressing gown and opened the door he had instantly caught her by the shoulder, and she bore the imprints of his fingers for days.
"Did you lock the kitchen door?" he demanded, his tones thick with fury.
"Yes. Why not?" She tried to shake off his hand, but failed.
"None of your business why not," he said, and gave her an angry shake. "Hereafter, when you find that door open, you leave it that way. That's all."
"Take your hands off me!" She was rather like her grandfather at that moment, and his lost caution came back. He freed her at once and laughed a little.
"Sorry!" he said. "I get a bit emphatic at times. But there are times when a locked door becomes a mighty serious matter."
The next day he removed the key from the door, and substituted a bolt. Elinor made no protest.
Another night Elinor was taken ill, and Lilly had been forced to knock at the study door and call Doyle. She had an instant's impression of the room crowded with strange figures. The heavy odors of sweating bodies, of tobacco, and of stale beer came through the half-open door and revolted her. And Doyle had refused to go upstairs.
She began to feel that she could not remain there very long. The atmosphere was variable. It was either cynical or sinister, and she hated them both. She had a curious feeling, too, that Doyle both wanted her there and did not want her, and that he was changing his attitude toward her Aunt Elinor. Sometimes she saw him watching Elinor from under half-closed eyelids.
But she could not fill her days with anxieties and suspicions, and she turned to Louis Akers as a flower to the open day. He at least was what he appeared to be. There was nothing mysterious about him.
He came in daily, big, dominant and demonstrative, filling the house with his presence, and demanding her in a loud, urgent voice. Hardly had the door slammed before he would call:
"Lily! Where are you?"
Sometimes he lifted her off her feet and held her to him.
"You little whiffet!" he would say. "I could crush you to death in my arms."
Had his wooing all been violent she might have tired sooner, because those phases of his passion for her tired her. But there were times when he put her into a chair and sat on the floor at her feet, his handsome face uplifted to hers in a sort of humble adoration, his arms across her knees. It was not altogether studied. He was a born wooer, but he had his hours of humility, of vague aspirations. His insistent body was always greater than his soul, but now and then, when he was physically weary, he had a spiritual moment.
"I love you, little girl," he would say.
It was in one of those moments that she extracted a promise from him. He had been, from his position on the floor, telling her about the campaign.
"I don't like your running against my father, Louis."
"He couldn't have got it, anyhow. And he doesn't want it. I do, honey. I need it in my business. When the election's over you're going to marry me."
She ignored that.
"I don't like the men who come here, Louis. I wish they were not friends of yours."
"Friends of mine! That bunch?"
"You are always with them."
"I draw a salary for being with them, honey."
"But what do you draw a salary for?" He was immediately on the alert, but her eyes were candid and unsuspicious. "They are strikers, aren't they?"
"Is it legal business?"
"Louis, is there going to be a general strike?"
"There may be some bad times coming, honey." He bent his head and kissed her hands, lying motionless in her lap. "I wish you would marry me soon. I want you. I want to keep you safe."
She drew her hands away.
"Safe from what, Louis?"
He sat back and looked up into her face.
"You must remember, dear, that for all your theories, which are very sweet, this is a man's world, and men have rather brutal methods of settling their differences."
"And you advocate brutality?"
"Well, the war was brutal, wasn't it? And you were in a white heat supporting it, weren't you? How about another war,"—he chose his words carefully—"just as reasonable and just? You've heard Doyle. You know what I mean."
He was amazed at her horror, a horror that made her recoil from him and push his hands away when he tried to touch her. He got up angrily and stood looking down at her, his hands in his pockets.
"What the devil did you think all this talk meant?" he demanded. "You've heard enough of it."
"Does Aunt Elinor know?"
"And she approves?"
"I don't know and I don't care." Suddenly, with one of the quick changes she knew so well, he caught her hands and drawing her to her feet, put his arms around her. "All I know is that I love you, and if you say the word I'll cut the whole business."
He amended his offer somewhat.
"Marry me, honey," he begged. "Marry me now. Do you think I'll let anything in God's world come between us? Marry me, and I'll do more than leave them." He was whispering to her, stroking her hair. "I'll cut the whole outfit. And on the day I go into your house as your husband I'll tell your people some things they want to know. That's a promise."
"What will they do to you?"
He drew himself to his full height, and laughed.
"They'll try to do plenty, old girl," he said, "but I'm not afraid of them, and they know it. Marry me, Lily," he urged. "Marry me now. And we'll beat them out, you and I."
He gave her a sense of power, over him and over evil. She felt suddenly an enormous responsibility, that of a human soul waiting to be uplifted and led aright.
"You can save me, honey," he whispered, and kneeling suddenly, he kissed the toe of her small shoe.
He was strong. But he was weak too. He needed her. "I'll do it, Louis," she said. "You—you will be good to me, won't you?"
"I'm crazy about you."
The mood of exaltation upheld her through the night, and into the next day. Elinor eyed her curiously, and with some anxiety. It was a long time since she had been a girl, going about star-eyed with power over a man, but she remembered that lost time well.
At noon Louis came in for a hasty luncheon, and before he left he drew Lily into the little study and slipped a solitaire diamond on her engagement finger. To Lily the moment was almost a holy one, but he seemed more interested in the quality of the stone and its appearance on her hand than in its symbolism.
"Got you cinched now, honey. Do you like it?"
"It makes me feel that I don't belong to myself any longer."
"Well, you've passed into good hands," he said, and laughed his great, vibrant laugh. "Costing me money already, you mite!"
A little of her exaltation died then. But perhaps men were like that, shyly covering the things they felt deepest.
She was rather surprised when he suggested keeping the engagement a secret.
"Except the Doyles, of course," he said. "I am not taking any chances on losing you, child."
"Not unless you want to be kidnaped and taken home. It's only a matter of a day or two, anyhow."
"I want more time than that. A month, anyhow."
And he found her curiously obstinate and determined. She did not quite know herself why she demanded delay, except that she shrank from delivering herself into hands that were so tender and might be so cruel. It was instinctive, purely.
"A month," she said, and stuck to it.
He was rather sulky when he went away, and he had told her the exact amount he had paid for her ring.
Having forced him to agree to the delay, she found her mood of exaltation returning. As always, it was when he was not with he that she saw him most clearly, and she saw his real need for her. She had a sense of peace, too, now that at last something was decided. Her future, for better or worse, would no longer be that helpless waiting which had been hers for so long. And out of her happiness came a desire to do kind things, to pat children on the head, to give alms to beggars, and—to see Willy Cameron.
She came downstairs that afternoon, dressed for the street.
"I am going out for a little while, Aunt Nellie," she said, "and when I come back I want to tell you something."
"Perhaps. I can guess."
"Perhaps you can."
She was singing to herself as she went out the door.
Elinor went back heavy-hearted to her knitting. It was very difficult always to sit by and wait. Never to raise a hand. Just to wait and watch. And pray.
Lily was rather surprised, when she reached the Eagle Pharmacy, to find Pink Denslow coming out. It gave her a little pang, too; he looked so clean and sane and normal, so much a part of her old life. And it hurt her, too, to see him flush with pleasure at the meeting.
"Why, Lily!" he said, and stood there, gazing at her, hat in hand, the sun on his gleaming, carefully brushed hair. He was quite inarticulate with happiness. "I—when did you get back?"
"I have not been away, Pink. I left home—it's a long story. I am staying with my aunt, Mrs. Doyle."
"Mrs. Doyle? You are staying there?"
"Why not? My father's sister."
His young face took on a certain sternness.
"If you knew what I suspect about Doyle, Lily, you wouldn't let the same roof cover you." But he added, rather wistfully, "I wish I might see you sometimes."
Lily's head had gone up a trifle. Why did her old world always try to put her in the wrong? She had had to seek sanctuary, and the Doyle house had been the only sanctuary she knew.
"Since you feel as you do, I'm afraid that's impossible. Mr. Doyle's roof is the only roof I have."
"You have a home," he said, sturdily.
"Not now. I left, and my grandfather won't have me back. You mustn't blame him, Pink. We quarreled and I left. I was as much responsible as he was."
For a moment after she turned and disappeared inside the pharmacy door he stood there, then he put on his hat and strode down the street, unhappy and perplexed. If only she had needed him, if she had not looked so self-possessed and so ever so faintly defiant, as though she dared him to pity her, he would have known what to do. All he needed was to be needed. His open face was full of trouble. It was unthinkable that Lily should be in that center of anarchy; more unthinkable that Doyle might have filled her up with all sorts of wild ideas. Women were queer; they liked theories. A man could have a theory of life and play with it and boast about it, but never dream of living up to it. But give one to a woman, and she chewed on it like a dog on a bone. If those Bolshevists had got hold of Lily—!
The encounter had hurt Lily, too. The fine edge of her exaltation was gone, and it did not return during her brief talk with Willy Cameron. He looked much older and very thin; there were lines around his eyes she had never seen before, and she hated seeing him in his present surroundings. But she liked him for his very unconsciousness of those surroundings. One always had to take Willy Cameron as he was.
"Do you like it, Willy?" she asked. It had dawned on her, with a sort of panic, that there was really very little to talk about. All that they had had in common lay far in the past.
"Well, it's my daily bread, and with bread costing what it does, I cling to it like a limpet to a rock."
"But I thought you were studying, so you could do something else."
"I had to give up the night school. But I'll get back to it sometime."
She was lost again. She glanced around the little shop, where once Edith Boyd had manicured her nails behind the counter, and where now a middle-aged woman stood with listless eyes looking out over the street.
"You still have Jinx, I suppose?"
Lily glanced up as he stopped. She had drawn off her gloves, and his eyes had fallen on her engagement ring. To Lily there had always been a feeling of unreality about his declaration of love for her. He had been so restrained, so careful to ask nothing in exchange, so without expectation of return, that she had put it out of her mind as an impulse. She had not dreamed that he could still care, after these months of silence. But he had gone quite white.
"I am going to be married, Willy," she said, in a low tone. It is doubtful if he could have spoken, just then. And as if to add a finishing touch of burlesque to the meeting, a small boy with a swollen jaw came in just then and demanded something to "make it stop hurting."
He welcomed the interruption, she saw. He was very professional instantly, and so absorbed for a moment in relieving the child's pain that he could ignore his own.
"Let's see it," he said in a businesslike, slightly strained voice. "Better have it out, old chap. But I'll give you something just to ease it up a bit."
Which he proceeded to do. When he came back to Lily he was quite calm and self-possessed. As he had never thought of dramatizing himself, nor thought of himself at all, it did not occur to him that drama requires setting, that tragedy required black velvet rather than tooth-brushes, and that a small boy with an aching tooth was a comedy relief badly introduced.
All he knew was that he had somehow achieved a moment in which to steady himself, and to find that a man can suffer horribly and still smile. He did that, very gravely, when he came back to Lily.
"Can you tell me about it?"
"There is not very much to tell. It is Louis Akers."
The middle-aged clerk had disappeared.
"Of course you have thought over what that means, Lily."
"He wants me to marry him. He wants it very much, Willy. And—I know you don't like him, but he has changed. Women always think they have changed men, I know. But he is very different."
"I am sure of that," he said, steadily.
There was something childish about her, he thought. Childish and infinitely touching. He remembered a night at the camp, when some of the troops had departed for over-seas, and he had found her alone and crying in her hut. "I just can't let them go," she had sobbed. "I just can't. Some of them will never come back."
Wasn't there something of that spirit in her now, the feeling that she could not let Akers go, lest worse befall him? He did not know. All he knew was that she was more like the Lily Cardew he had known then than she had been since her return. And that he worshiped her.
But there was anger in him, too. Anger at Anthony Cardew. Anger at the Doyles. And a smoldering, bitter anger at Louis Akers, that he should take the dregs of his life and offer them to her as new wine. That he should dare to link his scheming, plotting days to this girl, so wise and yet so ignorant, so clear-eyed and yet so blind.
"Do they know at home?"
"I am going to tell mother to-day."
"Lily," he said, slowly, "there is one thing you ought to do. Go home, make your peace there, and get all this on the right footing. Then have him there. You have never seen him in that environment, yet that is the world he will have to live in, if you marry him. See how he fits there."
"What has that got to do with it?"
"Think a minute. Am I quite the same to you here, as I was in the camp?"
He saw her honest answer in her eyes.
The new movement was growing rapidly, and with a surprising catholicity of range. Already it included lawyers and doctors, chauffeurs, butchers, clergymen, clerks of all sorts, truck gardeners from the surrounding county, railroad employees, and some of the strikers from the mills, men who had obeyed their union order to quit work, but had obeyed it unwillingly; men who resented bitterly the invasion of the ranks of labor by the lawless element which was fomenting trouble.
Dan had joined.
On the day that Lily received her engagement ring from Louis Akers, one of the cards of the new Vigilance Committee was being inspected with cynical amusement by two clerks in a certain suite of offices in the Searing Building. They studied it with interest, while the man who had brought it stood by.
"Where'd you pick it up, Cusick?"
"One of our men brought it into the store. Said you might want to see it."
The three men bent over it.
The Myers Housecleaning Company had a suite of three rooms. During the day two stenographers, both men, sat before machines and made a pretense of business at such times as the door opened, or when an occasional client, seeing the name, came in to inquire for rates. At such times the clerks were politely regretful. The firm's contracts were all they could handle for months ahead.
There was a constant ebb and flow of men in the office, presumably professional cleaners. They came and went, or sat along the walls, waiting. A large percentage were foreigners but the clerks proved to be accomplished linguists. They talked, with more or less fluency, with Croats, Serbs, Poles and Slavs.
There was a supply room off the office, a room filled with pails and brushes, soap and ladders. But there was a great safe also, and its compartments were filled with pamphlets in many tongues, a supply constantly depleted and yet never diminishing. Workmen, carrying out the pails of honest labor, carried them loaded down with the literature it was their only business to circulate.
Thus, openly, and yet with infinite caution, was spread the doctrine of no God; of no government, and of no church; of the confiscation of private property; of strikes and unrest; of revolution, rape, arson and pillage.
And around this social cancer the city worked and played. Its theatres were crowded, its expensive shops, its hotels. Two classes of people were spending money prodigally; women with shawls over their heads, women who in all their peasant lives had never owned a hat, drove in automobiles to order their winter supply of coal, and vast amounts of liquors were being bought by the foreign element against the approaching prohibition law, and stored in untidy cellars.
On the other hand, the social life of the city was gay with reaction from war. The newspapers were filled with the summer plans of the wealthy, and with predictions of lavish entertaining in the fall. Among the list of debutantes Lily's name always appeared.
And, in between the upper and the nether millstone, were being ground the professional and salaried men with families, the women clerks, the vast army who asked nothing but the right to work and live. They went through their days doggedly, with little anxious lines around their eyes, suffering a thousand small deprivations, bewildered, tortured with apprehension of to-morrow, and yet patiently believing that, as things could not be worse, they must soon commence to improve.
"It's bound to clear up soon," said Joe Wilkinson over the back fence one night late in June, to Willy Cameron. Joe supported a large family of younger brothers and sisters in the house next door, and was employed in a department store. "I figure it this way—both sides need each other, don't they? Something like marriage, you know. It'll all be over in six months. Only I'm thanking heaven just now it's summer, because our kids are hell on shoes."
"I hope so," said Willy Cameron. "What are you doing over there, anyhow?"
"Wait and see," said Joe, cryptically. "If you think you're going to be the only Central Park in this vicinity you've got to think again." He hesitated and glanced around, but the small Wilkinsons were searching for worms in the overturned garden mold. "How's Edith?" he asked.
"She's all right, Joe."
"Seeing anybody yet?"
"Not yet. In a day or so she'll be downstairs."
"You might tell her I've been asking about her."
There was something in Joel's voice that caught Willy Cameron's attention. He thought about Joe a great deal that night. Joe was another one who must never know about Edith's trouble. The boy had little enough, and if he had built a dream about Edith Boyd he must keep his dream. He was rather discouraged that night, was Willy Cameron, and he began to think that dreams were the best things in life. They were a sort of sanctuary to which one fled to escape realities. Perhaps no reality was ever as beautiful as one's dream of it.
Lily had passed very definitely out of his life. Sometimes during his rare leisure he walked to Cardew Way through the warm night, and past the Doyle house, but he never saw her, and because it did not occur to him that she might want to see him he never made an attempt to call. Always after those futile excursions he was inclined to long silences, and only Jinx could have told how many hours he sat in his room at night, in the second-hand easy chair he had bought, pipe in hand and eyes on nothing in particular, lost in a dream world where the fields bore a strong resemblance to the parade ground of an army camp, and through which field he and Lily wandered like children, hand in hand.
But he had many things to think of. So grave were the immediate problems, of food and rent, of Mrs. Boyd and Edith, that a little of his fine frenzy as to the lurking danger of revolution departed from him. The meetings in the back room at the pharmacy took on a political bearing, and Hendricks was generally the central figure. The ward felt that Mr. Hendricks was already elected, and called him "Mr. Mayor." At the same time the steel strike pursued a course of comparative calm. At Friendship and at Baxter there had been rioting, and a fatality or two, but the state constabulary had the situation well in hand. On a Sunday morning Willy Cameron went out to Baxter on the trolley, and came home greatly comforted. The cool-eyed efficiency of the state police reassured him. He compared them, disciplined, steady, calm with the calmness of their dangerous calling, with the rabble of foreigners who shuffled along the sidewalks, and he felt that his anxiety had been rather absurd.
He was still making speeches, and now and then his name was mentioned in the newspapers. Mrs. Boyd, now mostly confined to her room, spent much time in searching for these notices, and then in painfully cutting them out and pasting them in a book. On those days when there was nothing about him she felt thwarted, and was liable to sharp remarks on newspapers in general, and on those of the city in particular.
Then, just as he began to feel that the strike would pass off like other strikes, and that Doyle and his crowd, having plowed the field for sedition, would find it planted with healthier grain, he had a talk with Edith.
She came downstairs for the first time one Wednesday evening early in July, the scars on her face now only faint red blotches, and he placed her, a blanket over her knees, in the small parlor. Dan had brought her down and had made a real effort to be kind, but his suspicion of the situation made it difficult for him to dissemble, and soon he went out. Ellen was on the doorstep, and through the open window came the shrieks of numerous little Wilkinsons wearing out expensive shoe-leather on the brick pavement.
They sat in the dusk together, Edith very quiet, Willy Cameron talking with a sort of determined optimism. After a time he realized that she was not even listening.
"I wish you'd close the window," she said at last. "Those crazy Wilkinson kids make such a racket. I want to tell you something."
"All right." He closed the window and stood looking down at her. "Are you sure you want me to hear it?" he asked gravely.
"Yes. It is not about myself. I've been reading the newspapers while I've been shut away up there, Willy. It kept me from thinking. And if things are as bad as they say I'd better tell you, even if I get into trouble doing it. I will, probably. Murder's nothing to them."
"Who are 'them'?"
"You get the police to search the Myers Housecleaning Company, in the Searing Building."
"Don't you think you'd better tell me more than that? The police will want something definite to go on."
"I don't know very much. I met somebody there, once or twice, at night. And I know there's a telephone hidden in the drawer of the desk in the back room. I swore not to tell, but that doesn't matter now. Tell them to examine the safe, too. I don't know what's in it. Dynamite, maybe."
"What makes you think the company is wrong? A hidden telephone isn't much to go on."
"When a fellow's had a drink or two, he's likely to talk," she said briefly, and before that sordid picture Willy Cameron was silent. After a time he said:
"You won't tell me the name of the man you met there?"
"No. Don't ask me, Willy. That's between him and me." He got up and took a restless turn or two about the little rooms. Edith's problem had begun to obsess him. Not for long would it be possible to keep her condition from Mrs. Boyd. He was desperately at a loss for some course to pursue.
"Have you ever thought," he said at last, "that this man, whoever he is, ought to marry you?"
Edith's face set like a flint.
"I don't want to marry him," she said. "I wouldn't marry him if he was the last man on earth."
He knew very little of Edith's past. In his own mind he had fixed on Louis Akers, but he could not be sure.
"I won't tell you his name, either," Edith added, shrewishly. Then her voice softened. "I will tell you this, Willy," she said wistfully. "I was a good girl until I knew him. I'm not saying that to let myself out. It's the truth."
"You're a good girl now," he said gravely.
Some time after he got his hat and came in to tell her he was going out.
"I'll tell what you've told me to Mr. Hendricks," he said. "And we may go on and have a talk with the Chief of Police. If you are right it may be important."
After that for an hour or two Edith sat alone, save when Ellen now and then looked in to see if she was comfortable.
Edith's mind was chaotic. She had spoken on impulse, a good impulse at that. But suppose they trapped Louis Akers in the Searing Building?
Ellen went now and then to the Cardew house, and brought back with her the news of the family. At first she had sternly refused to talk about the Cardews to Edith, but the days in the sick room had been long and monotonous, and Edith's jealousy of Lily had taken the form, when she could talk, of incessant questions.
So Edith knew that Louis Akers had been the cause of Lily's leaving home, and called her a poor thing in her heart. Quite lately she had heard that if Lily was not already engaged she probably would be, soon. Now her motives were mixed, and her emotions confused. She had wanted to tell Willy Cameron what she knew, but she wanted Lily to marry Louis Akers. She wanted that terribly. Then Lily would be out of the way, and—Willy was not like Dan; he did not seem to think her forever lost. He had always been thoughtful, but lately he had been very tender with her. Men did strange things sometimes. He might be willing to forget, after a long time. She could board the child out somewhere, if it lived. Sometimes they didn't live.
But if they arrested Louis, Lily Cardew would fling him aside like an old shoe.
She closed her eyes. That opened a vista of possibilities she would not face.
She stopped in her mother's room on her slow progress upstairs, moved to sudden pity for the frail life now wearing to its close. If that were life she did not want it, with its drab days and futile effort, its incessant deprivations, its hands, gnarled with work that got nowhere, its greatest blessing sleep and forgetfulness.
She wondered why her mother did not want to die, to get away.
"I'll soon be able to look after you a bit, mother," she said from the doorway. "How's the pain down your arm?"
"Bring me the mucilage, Edie," requested Mrs. Boyd. She was propped up in bed and surrounded by newspapers. "I've found Willy's name again. I've got fourteen now. Where's the scissors?"
Eternity was such a long time. Did she know? Could she know, and still sit among her pillows, snipping?
"I wonder," said Mrs. Boyd, "did anybody feed Jinx? That Ellen is so saving that she grudges him a bone."
"He looks all right," said Edith, and went on up to bed. Maybe the Lord did that for people, when they reached a certain point. Maybe He took away the fear of death, by showing after years of it that life was not so valuable after all. She remembered her own facing of eternity, and her dread of what lay beyond. She had prayed first, because she wanted to have some place on the other side. She had prayed to be received young and whole and without child. And her mother—
Then she had a flash of intuition. There was something greater than life, and that was love. Her mother was upheld by love. That was what the eternal cutting and pasting meant. She was lavishing all the love of her starved days on Willy Cameron; she was facing death, because his hand was close by to hold to.
For just a moment, sitting on the edge of her bed, Edith Boyd saw what love might be, and might do. She held out both hands in the darkness, but no strong and friendly clasp caught them close. If she could only have him to cling to, to steady her wavering feet along the gray path that stretched ahead, years and years of it. Youth. Middle age. Old age.
"I'd only drag him down," she muttered bitterly.
Willy Cameron, meanwhile, had gone to Mr. Hendricks with Edith's story, and together late that evening they saw the Chief of Police at his house. Both Willy Cameron and Mr. Hendricks advocated putting a watch on the offices of the Myers Housecleaning Company and thus ultimately getting the heads of the organization. But the Chief was unwilling to delay.
"Every day means more of their infernal propaganda," he said, "and if this girl's telling a straight story, the thing to do is to get the outfit now. Those clerks, for instance—we'll get some information out of them. That sort always squeals. They're a cheap lot."
"Going to ball it up, of course," Mr. Hendricks said disgustedly, on the way home. "Won't wait, because if Akers gets in he's out, and he wants to make a big strike first. I'll drop in to-morrow evening and tell you what's happened."
He came into the pharmacy the next evening, with a bundle of red-bound pamphlets under his arm, and a look of disgust on his face.
"What did I tell you, Cameron?" he demanded, breathing heavily. "Yes, they got them all right. Got a safe full of stuff so inflammable that, since I've read some of it, I'm ready to blow up myself. It's worse than that first lot I showed you. They got the two clerks, and a half-dozen foreigners, too. And that's all they got."
"They won't talk?"
"Talk? Sure they'll talk. They say they're employed by the Myers Housecleaning Company, that they never saw the inside of the vault, and they're squealing louder than two pigs under a gate about false arrest. They'll have to let them go, son. Here. You can do most everything. Can you read Croatian? No? Well, here's something in English to cut your wisdom teeth on. Overthrowing the government is where these fellows start."
It was intelligent, that propaganda. Willy Cameron thought he saw behind it Jim Doyle and other men like Doyle, men who knew the discontents of the world, and would fatten by them; men who, secretly envious of the upper classes and unable to attain to them, would pull all men to their own level, or lower. Men who cloaked their own jealousies with the garb of idealism. Intelligent it was, dangerous, and imminent.
The pamphlets spoke of "the day." It was a Prussian phrase. The revolution was Prussian. And like the Germans, they offered loot as a reward. They appealed to the ugliest passions in the world, to lust and greed and idleness.
At a signal the mass was to arise, overthrow its masters and rule itself.
Mr. Hendricks stood in the doorway of the pharmacy and stared out at the city he loved.
"Just how far does that sort of stuff go, Cameron?" he asked. "Will our people take it up? Is the American nation going crazy?"
"Not a bit of it," said Willy Cameron stoutly. "They're about as able to overthrow the government as you are to shove over the Saint Elmo Hotel."
"I could do that, with a bomb."
"No, you couldn't. But you could make a fairly sizeable hole in it. It's the hole we don't want."
Mr. Hendricks went away, vaguely comforted.
To old Anthony the early summer had been full of humiliations, which he carried with an increased arrogance of bearing that alienated even his own special group at his club.
"Confound the man," said Judge Peterson, holding forth on the golf links one Sunday morning while Anthony Cardew, hectic with rage, searched for a lost ball and refused to drop another. "He'll hold us up all morning, for that ball, just as he tries to hold up all progress." He lowered his voice. "What's happened to the granddaughter, anyhow?"
Senator Lovell lighted a cigarette.
"Turned Bolshevist," he said, briefly.
The Judge gazed at him.
"That's a pretty serious indictment, isn't it?"
"Well, that's what I hear. She's living in Jim Doyle's house. I guess that's the answer. Hey, Cardew! D'you want these young cubs behind us to play through, or are you going to show some sense and come on?"
Howard, fighting his father tooth and nail, was compelled to a reluctant admiration of his courage. But there was no cordiality between them. They were in accord again, as to the strike, although from different angles. Both of them knew that they were fighting for very life; both of them felt that the strikers' demands meant the end of industry, meant that the man who risked money in a business would eventually cease to control that business, although if losses came it would be he, and not the workmen, who bore them. Howard had gone as far as he could in concessions, and the result was only the demand for more. The Cardews, father and son, stood now together, their backs against a wall, and fought doggedly.
But only anxiety held them together.
His father was now backing Howard's campaign for the mayoralty, but he was rather late with his support, and in private he retained his cynical attitude. He had not come over at all until he learned that Louis Akers was an opposition candidate. At that his wrath knew no bounds and the next day he presented a large check to the campaign committee.
Mr. Hendricks, hearing of it, was moved to a dry chuckle.
"Can't you hear him?" he demanded. "He'd stalk into headquarters as important as an office boy who's been sent to the bank for money, and he'd slam down his check and say just two words."
"Which would be?" inquired Willy Cameron.
"'Buy 'em'," quoted Mr. Hendricks. "The old boy doesn't know that things have changed since the 80's. This city has changed, my lad. It's voting now the way it thinks, right or wrong. That's why these foreign language papers can play the devil with us. The only knowledge the poor wretches have got of us is what they're given to read. And most of it stinks of sedition. Queer thing, this thinking. A fellow can think himself into murder."
The strike was going along quietly enough. There had been rioting through the country, but not of any great significance. It was in reality a sort of trench warfare, with each side dug in and waiting for the other to show himself in the open. The representatives of the press, gathered in the various steel cities, with automobiles arranged for to take them quickly to any disturbance that might develop, found themselves with little news for the telegraph, and time hung heavy on their hands.
On an evening in July, Howard found Grace dressing for dinner, and realized with a shock that she was looking thin and much older. He kissed her and then held her off and looked at her.
"You've got to keep your courage up, dear," he said. "I don't think it will be long now."
"Have you seen her?"
"No. But something has happened. Don't look like that, Grace. It's not—"
"She hasn't married that man?"
"No. Not that. It only touches her indirectly. But she can't stay there. Even Elinor—" he checked himself. "I'll tell you after dinner."
Dinner was very silent, although Anthony delivered himself of one speech rather at length.
"So far as I can make out, Howard," he said, "this man Hendricks is getting pretty strong. He has a young fellow talking for him who gets over pretty well. It's my judgment that Hendricks had better be bought off. He goes around shouting that he's a plain man, after the support of the plain people. Although I'm damned if I know what he means by that."
Anthony Cardew was no longer comfortable in his own house. He placed the blame for it on Lily, and spent as many evenings away from home as possible. He considered that life was using him rather badly. Tied to the city in summer by a strike, his granddaughter openly gone over to his enemy, his own son, so long his tool and his creature, merely staying in his house to handle him, an income tax law that sent him to his lawyers with new protests almost daily! A man was no longer master even in his own home. His employees would not work for him, his family disobeyed him, his government held him up and shook him. In the good old days—
"I'm going out," he said, as he rose from the table. "Grace, that chef is worse than the last. You'd better send him off."
"I can't get any one else. I have tried for weeks. There are no servants anywhere."
"Try New York."
"I have tried—it is useless."
No cooks, either. No servants. Even Anthony recognized that, with the exception of Grayson, the servants in his house were vaguely hostile to the family. They gave grudging service, worked short hours, and, the only class of labor to which the high cost of food was a negligible matter, demanded wages he considered immoral.
"I don't know what the world's coming to," he snarled. "Well, I'm off. Thank God, there are still clubs for a man to go to."
"I want to have a talk with you, father."
"I don't want to talk."
"You needn't. I want you to listen, and I want Grace to hear, too."
In the end he went unwillingly into the library, and when Grayson had brought liqueurs and coffee and had gone, Howard drew the card from his pocket.
"I met young Denslow to-day," he said. "He came in to see me. As a matter of fact, I signed a card he had brought along, and I brought one for you, sir. Shall I read it?"
"You evidently intend to."
Howard read the card slowly. Its very simplicity was impressive, as impressive as it had been when Willy Cameron scrawled the words on the back of an old envelope. Anthony listened.
"Just what does that mean?"
"That the men behind this movement believe that there is going to be a general strike, with an endeavor to turn it into a revolution. Perhaps only local, but these things have a tendency to spread. Denslow had some literature which referred to an attempt to take over the city. They have other information, too, all pointing the same way."
"Foreign strikers, with the worst of the native born. Their plans are fairly comprehensive; they mean to dynamite the water works, shut down the gas and electric plants, and cut off all food supplies. Then when they have starved and terrorized us into submission, we'll accept their terms."
"Well, the rule of the mob, I suppose. They intend to take over the banks, for one thing."
"I don't believe it. It's incredible."
"They meant to do it in Seattle."
"And didn't. Don't forget that."
"They may have learned some things from Seattle," Howard said quietly.
"We have the state troops."
"What about a half dozen similar movements in the state at the same time? Or rioting in other places, carefully planned to draw the troops and constabulary away?"
In the end old Anthony was impressed, if not entirely convinced. But he had no faith in the plain people, and said so. "They'll see property destroyed and never lift a hand," he said. "Didn't I stand by in Pittsburgh during the railroad riots, and watch them smile while the yards burned? Because the railroads meant capital to them, and they hate capital."
"Precisely," said Howard, "but after twenty-four hours they were fighting like demons to restore law and order. It is"—he fingered the card—"to save that twenty-four hours that this organization is being formed. It is secret. Did I tell you that? And the idea originated with the young man you spoke about as supporting Hendricks—you met him here once, a friend of Lily's. His name is Cameron—William Wallace Cameron."
Old Anthony remained silent, but the small jagged vein on his forehead swelled with anger. After a time:
"I suppose Doyle is behind this?" he asked. "It sounds like him."
"That is the supposition. But they have nothing on him yet; he is too shrewd for that. And that leads to something else. Lily cannot continue to stay there."
"I didn't send her there."
"Actually, no. In effect—but we needn't go into that now. The situation is very serious. I can imagine that nothing could fit better into his plans than to have her there. She gives him a cachet of respectability. Do you want that?"
"She is probably one of them now. God knows how much of his rotten doctrine she has absorbed."
Howard flushed, but he kept his temper.
"His theories, possibly. His practice, no. She certainly has no idea... it has come to this, father. She must have a home somewhere, and if it cannot be here, Grace and I must make one for her elsewhere."
Probably Anthony Cardew had never respected Howard more than at that moment, or liked him less.
"Both you and Grace are free to make a home where you please."
"We prefer it here, but you must see yourself that things cannot go on as they are. We have waited for you to see that, all three of us, and now this new situation makes it imperative to take some action."
"I won't have that fellow Akers coming here."
"He would hardly come, under the circumstances. Besides, her friendship with him is only a part of her revolt. If she comes home it will be with the understanding that she does not see him again."
"Revolt?" said old Anthony, raising his eyebrows.
"That is what it actually was. She found her liberty interfered with, and she staged her own small rebellion. It was very human, I think."
"It was very Cardew," said old Anthony, and smiled faintly. He had, to tell the truth, developed a grudging admiration for his granddaughter in the past two months. He saw in her many of his own qualities, good and bad. And, more than he cared to own, he had missed her and the young life she had brought into the quiet house. Most important of all, she was the last of the Cardews. Although his capitulation when it came was curt, he was happier than he had been for weeks.
"Bring her home," he said, "but tell her about Akers. If she says that is off, I'll forget the rest."
On her way to her room that night Grace Cardew encountered Mademoiselle, a pale, unhappy Mademoiselle, who seemed to spend her time mostly in Lily's empty rooms or wandering about corridors. Whenever the three members of the family were together she would retire to her own quarters, and there feverishly with her rosary would pray for a softening of hearts. She did not comprehend these Americans, who were so kind to those beneath them and so hard to each other.
"I wanted to see you, Mademoiselle," Grace said, not very steadily. "I have good news for you."
Mademoiselle began to tremble. "She is coming? Lily is coming?"
"Yes. Will you have some fresh flowers put in her rooms in the morning?"
Suddenly Mademoiselle forgot her years of repression, and flinging her arms around Grace's neck she kissed her. Grace held her for a moment, patting her shoulder gently.
"We must try to make her very happy, Mademoiselle. I think things will be different now."
Mademoiselle stood back and wiped her eyes.
"But she must be different, too," she said. "She is sweet and good, but she is strong of will, too. The will to do, to achieve, that is one thing, and very good. But the will to go one's own way, that is another."
"The young are always headstrong, Mademoiselle."
But, alone later on, her rosary on her knee, Mademoiselle wondered. If youth were the indictment against Lily, was she not still young? It took years, or suffering, or sometimes both, to break the will of youth and chasten its spirit. God grant Lily might not have suffering.
It was Grace's plan to say nothing to Lily, but to go for her herself, and thus save her the humiliation of coming back alone. All morning housemaids were busy in Lily's rooms. Rugs were shaken, floors waxed and rubbed, the silver frames and vases in her sitting room polished to refulgence. And all morning Mademoiselle scolded and ran suspicious fingers into corners, and arranged and re-arranged great boxes of flowers.
Long before the time she had ordered the car Grace was downstairs, dressed for the street, and clad in cool shining silk, was pacing the shaded hall. There was a vague air of expectation about the old house. In a room off the pantry the second man was polishing the buttons of his livery, using a pasteboard card with a hole in it to save the fabric beneath. Grayson pottered about in the drawing room, alert for the parlor maid's sins of omission.
The telephone in the library rang, and Grayson answered it, while Grace stood in the doorway.
"A message from Miss Lily," he said. "Mrs. Doyle has telephoned that Miss Lily is on her way here."
Grace was vaguely disappointed. She had wanted to go to Lily with her good news, to bring her home bag and baggage, to lead her into the house and to say, in effect, that this was home, her home. She had felt that they, and not Lily, should take the first step.
She went upstairs, and taking off her hat, smoothed her soft dark hair. She did not want Lily to see how she had worried; she eyed herself carefully for lines. Then she went down, to more waiting, and for the first time, to a little doubt.
Yet when Lily came all was as it should have been. There was no doubt about her close embrace of her mother, her happiness at seeing her. She did not remove her gloves, however, and after she had put Grace in a chair and perched herself on the arm of it, there was a little pause. Each was preparing to tell something, each hesitated. Because Grace's task was the easier it was she who spoke first.
"I was about to start over when you telephoned, dear," she said. "I—we want you to come home to us again."
There was a queer, strained silence.
"Who wants me?" Lily asked, unsteadily.
"All of us. Your grandfather, too. He expects to find you here to-night. I can explain to your Aunt Elinor over the telephone, and we can send for your clothes."
Suddenly Lily got up and walked the length of the room. When she came back her eyes were filled with tears, and her left hand was bare.
"It nearly kills me to hurt you," she said, "but—what about this?"
She held out her hand.
Grace seemed frozen in her chair. At the sight of her mother's face Lily flung herself on her knees beside the chair.
"Mother, mother," she said, "you must know how I love you. Love you both. Don't look like that. I can't bear it."
Grace turned away her face.
"You don't love us. You can't. Not if you are going to marry that man."
"Mother," Lily begged, desperately, "let me come home. Let me bring him here. I'll wait, if you'll only do that. He is different; I know all that you want to say about his past. He has never had a real chance in all his life. He won't belong at first, but—he's a man, mother, a strong man. And it's awfully important. He can do so much, if he only will. And he says he will, if I marry him."
"I don't understand you," Grace said coldly. "What can a man like that do, but wreck all our lives?"
Resentment was rising fast in Lily, but she kept it down. "I'll tell you about that later," she said, and slowly got to her feet. "Is that all, mother? You won't see him? I can't bring him here? Isn't there any compromise? Won't you meet me half-way?"
"When you say half-way, you mean all the way, Lily."
"I wanted you so," Lily said, drearily, "I need you so just now. I am going to be married, and I have no one to go to. Aunt Elinor doesn't understand, either. Every way I look I find—I suppose I can't come back at all, then."
"Your grandfather's condition was that you never see this Louis Akers again."
Lily's resentment left her. Anger was a thing for small matters, trivial affairs. This that was happening, an irrevocable break with her family, was as far beyond anger as it was beyond tears. She wondered dully if any man were worth all this. Perhaps she knew, sub-consciously, that Louis Akers was not. All her exaltation was gone, and in its stead was a sort of dogged determination to see the thing through now, at any cost; to re-make Louis into the man he could be, to build her own house of life, and having built it, to live in it as best she could.
"That is a condition I cannot fulfill, mother. I am engaged to him."
"Then you love him more than you do any of us, or all of us."
"I don't know. It is different," she said vaguely.
She kissed her mother very tenderly when she went away, but there was a feeling of finality in them both. Mademoiselle, waiting at the top of the stairs, heard the door close and could not believe her ears. Grace went upstairs, her face a blank before the servants, and shut herself in her room. And in Lily's boudoir the roses spread a heavy, funereal sweetness over the empty room.
The strike had been carried on with comparatively little disorder. In some cities there had been rioting, but half-hearted and easily controlled. Almost without exception it was the foreign and unassimilated element that broke the peace. Alien women spat on the state police, and flung stones at them. Here and there property was destroyed. A few bomb outrages filled the newspapers with great scare-heads, and sent troops and a small army of secret service men here and there.
In the American Federation of Labor a stocky little man grimly fought to oppose the Radical element, which was slowly gaining ground, and at the same time to retain his leadership. The great steel companies, united at last by a common danger and a common fate if they yielded, stood doggedly and courageously together, waiting for a return of sanity to the world. The world seemed to have gone mad. Everywhere in the country production was reduced by the cessation of labor, and as a result the cost of living was mounting.
And every strike lost in the end. Labor had yet to learn that to cease to labor may express a grievance, but that in itself it righted no wrongs. Rather, it turned that great weapon, public opinion, without which no movement may succeed, against it. And that to stand behind the country in war was not enough. It must stand behind the country in peace.
It had to learn, too, that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. The weak link in the labor chain was its Radical element. Rioters were arrested with union cards in their pockets. In vain the unions protested their lack of sympathy with the unruly element. The vast respectable family of union labor found itself accused of the sins of the minority, and lost standing thereby.
At Friendship the unruly element was very strong. For a time it held its meetings in a hall. When that was closed it resorted to the open air.
On the fifteenth of July it held an incendiary meeting on the unused polo field, and the next day awakened to the sound of hammers, and to find a high wooden fence, reenforced with barbed wire, being built around the field, with the state police on guard over the carpenters. In a few days the fence was finished, only to be partly demolished the next night, secretly and noiselessly. But no further attempts were made to hold meetings there. It was rumored that meetings were being secretly held in the woods near the town, but the rendezvous was not located.
On the restored fence around the polo grounds a Red flag was found one morning, and two nights later the guard at the padlocked gate was shot through the heart, from ambush.
Then, about the first of August, out of a clear sky, sporadic riotings began to occur. They seemed to originate without cause, and to end as suddenly as they began. Usually they were in the outlying districts, but one or two took place in the city itself. The rioters were not all foreign strikers from the mills. They were garment workers, hotel waiters, a rabble of the discontented from all trades. The riots were to no end, apparently. They began with a chance word, fought their furious way for an hour or so, and ended, leaving a trail of broken heads and torn clothing behind them.
On toward the end of July one such disturbance grew to considerable size. The police were badly outnumbered, and a surprising majority of the rioters were armed, with revolvers, with wooden bludgeons, lengths of pipe and short, wicked iron bars. Things were rather desperate until the police found themselves suddenly and mysteriously reenforced by a cool-headed number of citizens, led by a tall thin man who limped slightly, and who disposed his heterogeneous support with a few words and considerable skill.
The same thin young man, stopping later in an alley way to investigate an arm badly bruised by an iron bar, overheard a conversation between two roundsmen, met under a lamppost after the battle, for comfort and a little conversation.
"Can you beat that, Henry?" said one. "Where the hell'd they come from?"
"Search me," said Henry. "D'you see the skinny fellow? Limped, too. D'you notice that? Probably hurt in France. But he hasn't forgotten how to fight, I'll tell the world."
The outbreaks puzzled the leaders of the Vigilance Committee. Willy Cameron was inclined to regard them as without direction or intention, purely as manifestations of hate, and as such contrary to the plans of their leaders. And Mr. Hendricks, nursing a black eye at home after the recent outburst, sized up the situation shrewdly.
"You can boil a kettle too hard," he said, "and then the lid pops off. Doyle and that outfit of his have been burning the fire a little high, that's all. They'll quit now, because they want to get us off guard later. You and your committee can take a vacation, unless you can set them to electioneering for me. They've had enough for a while, the devils. They'll wait now for Akers to get in and make things easy for them. Mind my words, boy. That's the game."
And the game it seemed to be. Small violations of order still occurred, but no big ones. To the headquarters in the Denslow Bank came an increasing volume of information, to be duly docketed and filed. Some of it was valueless. Now and then there came in something worth following up. Thus one night Pink and a picked band, following a vague clew, went in automobiles to the state borderline, and held up and captured two trucks loaded with whiskey and destined for Friendship and Baxter. He reported to Willy Cameron late that night.
"Smashed it all up and spilled it in the road," he said. "Hurt like sin to do it, though. Felt like the fellow who shot the last passenger pigeon."
But if the situation in the city was that of armed neutrality, in the Boyd house things were rapidly approaching a climax, and that through Dan. He was on edge, constantly to be placated and watched. The strike was on his nerves; he felt his position keenly, resented Willy Cameron supporting the family, and had developed a curious jealousy of his mother's affection for him.
Toward Edith his suspicions had now become certainty, and an open break came on an evening when she said that she felt able to go to work again. They were at the table, and Ellen was moving to and from the kitchen, carrying in the meal. Her utmost thrift could not make it other than scanty, and finally Dan pushed his plate away.
"Going back to work, are you?" he sneered. "And how long do you think you'll be able to work?"
"You keep quiet," Edith flared at him. "I'm going to work. That's all you need to know. I can't sit here and let a man who doesn't belong to us provide every bite we eat, if you can." Willy Cameron got up and closed the door, for Mrs. Boyd an uncanny ability to hear much that went on below.
"Now," he said when he came back, "we might as well have this out. Dan has a right to be told, Edith, and he can help us plan something." He turned to Dan. "It must be kept from your mother, Dan."
"Plan something!" Dan snarled. "I know what to plan, all right. I'll find the—" he broke into foul, furious language, but suddenly Willy Cameron rose, and there was something threatening in his eyes.
"I know who it is," Dan said, more quietly, "and he's got to marry her, or I'll kill him."
"You know, do you? Well, you don't," Edith said, "and I won't marry him anyhow."
"You will marry him. Do you think I'm going to see mother disgraced, sick as she is, and let you get away with it? Where does Akers live? You know, don't you? You've been there, haven't you?"
All Edith's caution was forgotten in her shame and anger.
"Yes, I know," she said, hysterically, "but I won't tell you. And I won't marry him. I hate him. If you go to him he'll beat you to death." Suddenly the horrible picture of Dan in Akers' brutal hands overwhelmed her. "Dan, you won't go?" she begged. "He'll kill you."
"A lot you'd care," he said, coldly. "As if we didn't have enough already! As if you couldn't have married Joe Wilkinson, next door, and been a decent woman. And instead, you're a—"
"Be quiet, Dan," Willy Cameron interrupted him. "That sort of talk doesn't help any. Edith is right. If you go to Akers there will be a fight. And that's no way to protect her."
"God!" Dan muttered. "With all the men in the world, to choose that rotten anarchist!"
It was sordid, terribly tragic, the three of them sitting there in the badly lighted little room around the disordered table, with Ellen grimly listening in the doorway, and the odors of cooking still heavy in the air. Edith sat there, her hands on the table, staring ahead, and recounted her wrongs. She had never had a chance. Home had always been a place to get away from. Nobody had cared what became of her. And hadn't she tried to get out of the way? Only they all did their best to make her live. She wished she had died.
Dan, huddled low in his chair, his legs sprawling, stared at nothing with hopeless eyes.
Afterwards Willy Cameron could remember nothing of the scene in detail. He remembered its setting, but of all the argument and quarreling only one thing stood out distinctly, and that was Edith's acceptance of Dan's accusation. It was Akers, then. And Lily Cardew was going to marry him. Was in love with him.
"Does he know how things are?" he asked.
She nodded. "Yes."
"Does he offer to do anything?"
"Him? He does not. And don't you go to him and try to get him to marry me. I tell you I'd die first."
He left them there, sitting in the half light, and going out into the hall picked up his hat. Mrs. Boyd heard him and called to him, and before he went out he ran upstairs to her room. It seemed to him, as he bent over her, that her lips were bluer than ever, her breath a little shallower and more difficult. Her untouched supper tray was beside her.
"I wasn't hungry," she explained. "Seems to me, Willy, if you'd let me go downstairs so I could get some of my own cooking I'd eat better. Ellen's all right, but I kind o' crave sweet stuff, and she don't like making desserts."
"You'll be down before long," he assured her. "And making me pies. Remember those pies you used to bake?"
"You always were a great one for my pies," she said, complacently.
He kissed her when he left. He had always marveled at the strange lack of demonstrativeness in the household, and he knew that she valued his small tendernesses.
"Now remember," he said, "light out at ten o'clock, and no going downstairs in the middle of the night because you smell smoke. When you do, it's my pipe."
"I don't think you hardly ever go to bed, Willy."
"Me? Get too much sleep. I'm getting fat with it."
The stale little joke was never stale with her. He left her smiling, and went down the stairs and out into the street.
He had no plan in his mind except to see Louis Akers, and to find out from him if he could what truth there was in Edith Boyd's accusation. He believed Edith, but he must have absolute certainty before he did anything. Girls in trouble sometimes shielded men. If he could get the facts from Louis Akers—but he had no idea of what he would do then. He couldn't very well tell Lily, but her people might do something. Or Mrs. Doyle.
He knew Lily well enough to know that she would far rather die than marry Akers, under the circumstances. That her failure to marry Louis Akers would mean anything as to his own relationship with her he never even considered. All that had been settled long ago, when she said she did not love him.
At the Benedict he found that his man had not come home, and for an hour or two he walked the streets. The city seemed less majestic to him than usual; its quiet by-streets were lined with homes, it is true, but those very streets hid also vice and degradation, and ugly passions. They sheltered, but also they concealed.
At eleven o'clock he went back to the Benedict, and was told that Mr. Akers had come in.
It was Akers himself who opened the door. Because the night was hot he had shed coat and shirt, and his fine torso, bare to the shoulders and at the neck, gleamed in the electric light. Willy Cameron had not seen him since those spring days when he had made his casual, bold-eyed visits to Edith at the pharmacy, and he had a swift insight into the power this man must have over women. He himself was tall; but Akers was taller, fully muscled, his head strongly set on a neck like a column. But he surmised that the man was soft, out of condition. And he had lost the first elasticity of youth.
Akers' expression had changed from one of annoyance to watchfulness when he opened the door.
"Well!" he said. "Making a late call, aren't you?"
"What I had to say wouldn't wait."
Akers had, rather unwillingly, thrown the door wide, and he went in. The room was very hot, for a small fire, littered as to its edges with papers, burned in the grate. Although he knew that Akers had guessed the meaning of his visit at once and was on guard, there was a moment or two when each sparred for an opening.
"Sit down. Have a cigarette?"
"No, thanks." He remained standing.
"Or a high-ball? I still have some fairly good whiskey."
"No. I came to ask you a question, Mr. Akers."
"Well, answering questions is one of the best little things I do."
"You know about Edith Boyd's condition. She says you are responsible. Is that true?"
Louis Akers was not unprepared. Sooner or later he had known that Edith would tell. But what he had not counted on was that she would tell any one who knew Lily. He had felt that her leaving the pharmacy had eliminated that chance. "What do you mean, her condition?"
"You know. She says she has told you."
"You're pretty thick with her yourself, aren't you?"
"I happen to live at the Boyd house."
He was keeping himself well under control, but Akers saw his hand clench, and resorted to other tactics. He was not angry himself, but he was wary now; he considered that life was unnecessarily complicated, and that he had a distinct grievance.
"I have asked you a question, Mr. Akers."
"You don't expect me to answer it, do you?"
"If you have come here to talk to me about marrying her—"
"She won't marry you," Willy Cameron said steadily. "That's not the point I want your own acknowledgment of responsibility, that's all."
Akers was puzzled, suspicious, and yet relieved. He lighted a cigarette and over the match stared at the other man's quiet face.
"No!" he said suddenly. "I'm damned if I'll take the responsibility. She knew her way around long before I ever saw her. Ask her. She can't lie about it. I can produce other men to prove what I say. I played around with her, but I don't know whose child that is, and I don't believe she does."
"I think you are lying."
"All right. But I can produce the goods."
Willy Cameron went very pale. His hands were clenched again, and Akers eyed him warily.
"None of that," he cautioned. "I don't know what interest you've got in this, and I don't give a God-damn. But you'd better not try any funny business with me."
Willy Cameron smiled. Much the sort of smile he had worn during the rioting.
"I don't like to soil my hands on you," he said, "but I don't mind telling you that any man who ruins a girl's life and then tries to get out of it by defaming her, is a skunk."
Akers lunged at him.
Some time later Mr. William Wallace Cameron descended to the street. He wore his coat collar turned up to conceal the absence of certain articles of wearing apparel which he had mysteriously lost. And he wore, too, a somewhat distorted, grim and entirely complacent smile.
The city had taken the rioting with a weary philosophy. It was tired of fighting. For two years it had labored at high tension for the European war. It had paid taxes and bought bonds, for the war. It had saved and skimped and denied itself, for the war. And for the war it had made steel, steel for cannon and for tanks, for ships and for railroads. It had labored hard and well, and now all it wanted was to be allowed to get back to normal things. It wanted peace.
It said, in effect: "I have both fought and labored, sacrificed and endured. Give me now my rest of nights, after a day's work. Give me marriage and children. Give me contentment. Give me the things I have loved long since, and lost awhile."
And because the city craved peace, it was hard to rouse it to its danger. It was war-weary, and its weariness was not of apathy, but of exhaustion. It was not yet ready for new activity.
Then, the same night that had seen Willy Cameron's encounter with Akers, it was roused from its lethargy. A series of bomb outrages shook the downtown district. The Denslow Bank was the first to go. Willy Cameron, inspecting a cut lip in his mirror, heard a dull explosion, and ran down to the street. There he was joined by Joe Wilkinson, in trousers over his night shirt, and as they looked, a dull red glare showed against the sky. Joe went back for more clothing, but Willy Cameron ran down the street. At the first corner he heard a second explosion, further away and to the east, but apparently no fire followed it. That, he learned later, was the City Club, founded by Anthony Cardew years before.
The Denslow Bank was burning. The facade had been shattered and from the interior already poured a steady flow of flame and smoke. He stood among the crowd, while the engines throbbed and the great fire hose lay along the streets, and watched the little upper room where the precious records of the Committee were burning brightly. The front wall gone, the small office stood open to the world, a bright and shameless thing, flaunting its nakedness to the crowd below.
He wondered why Providence should so play into the hands of the enemy.
After a time he happened on Pink Denslow, wandering alone on the outskirts of the crowd.
"Just about kill the governor, this," said Pink, heavily. "Don't suppose the watchmen got out, either. Not that they'd care," he added, savagely.
"How about the vaults? I suppose they are fireproof?"
"Yes. Do you realize that every record we've got has gone? D'you suppose those fellows knew about them?"
Willy Cameron had been asking himself the same question.
"Trouble is," Pink went on, "you don't know who to trust. They're not all foreigners. Let's get away from here; it makes me sick."
They wandered through the night together, almost unconsciously in the direction of the City Club, but within a block of it they realized that something was wrong. A hospital ambulance dashed by, its gong ringing wildly, and a fire engine, not pumping, stood at the curb.
"Come on," Pink said suddenly. "There were two explosions. It's just possible—"
The club was more sinister than the burning bank; it was a mass of grim wreckage, black and gaping, with now and then the sound of settling masonry, and already dotted with the moving flash-lights of men who searched.
To Pink this catastrophe was infinitely greater than that of the bank. Men he knew had lived there. There were old club servants who were like family retainers; one or two employees were ex-service men for whom he had found employment. He stood there, with Willy Cameron's hand on his arm, with a new maturity and a vast suffering in his face.
"Before God," he said solemnly, "I swear never to rest until the fellows behind this are tried, condemned and hanged. You've heard it, Cameron."
The death list for that night numbered thirteen, the two watchmen at the bank and eleven men at the club, two of them members. Willy Cameron, going home at dawn, exhausted and covered with plaster dust, bought an extra and learned that a third bomb, less powerful, had wrecked the mayor's house. It had been placed under the sleeping porch, and but for the accident of a sick baby the entire family would have been wiped out.
Even his high courage began to waver. His records were gone; that was all to do over again. But what seemed to him the impasse was this fighting in the dark. An unseen enemy, always. And an enemy which combined with skill a total lack of any rules of warfare, which killed here, there and everywhere, as though for the sheer joy of killing. It struck at the high but killed the low. And it had only begun.
Dominant family traits have a way of skipping one generation and appearing in the next. Lily Cardew at that stage of her life had a considerable amount of old Anthony's obstinacy and determination, although it was softened by a long line of Cardew women behind her, women who had loved, and suffered dominance because they loved. Her very infatuation for Louis Akers, like Elinor's for Doyle, was possibly an inheritance from her fore-mothers, who had been wont to overlook the evil in a man for the strength in him. Only Lily mistook physical strength for moral fibre, insolence and effrontery for courage.
In both her virtues and her faults, however, irrespective of heredity, Lily represented very fully the girl of her position and period. With no traditions to follow, setting her course by no compass, taught to think but not how to think, resentful of tyranny but unused to freedom, she moved ahead along the path she had elected to follow, blindly and obstinately, yet unhappy and suffering.
Her infatuation for Louis Akers had come to a new phase of its rapid development. She had reached that point where a woman realizes that the man she loves is, not a god of strength and wisdom, but a great child who needs her. It is at that point that one of two things happens: the weak woman abandons him, and follows her dream elsewhere. The woman of character, her maternal instinct roused, marries him, bears him children, is both wife and mother to him, and finds in their united weaknesses such strength as she can.
In her youth and self-sufficiency Lily stood ready to give, rather than to receive. She felt now that he needed her more than she needed him. There was something unconsciously patronizing those days in her attitude toward him, and if he recognized it he did not resent it. Women had always been "easy" for him. Her very aloofness, her faint condescension, her air of a young grande dame, were a part of her attraction for him.
Love sees clearly, and seeing, loves on. But infatuation is blind; when it gains sight, it dies. Already Lily was seeing him with the critical eyes of youth, his loud voice, his over-fastidious dress, his occasional grossnesses. To offset these she placed vast importance on his promise to leave his old associates when she married him.
The time was very close now. She could not hold him off much longer, and she began to feel, too, that she must soon leave the house on Cardew Way. Doyle's attitude to her was increasingly suspicious and ungracious. She knew that he had no knowledge of Louis's promise, but he began to feel that she was working against him, and showed it.
And in Louis Akers too she began to discern an inclination not to pull out until after the election. He was ambitious, and again and again he urged that he would be more useful for the purpose in her mind if he were elected first.
That issue came to a climax the day she had seen her mother and learned the terms on which she might return home. She was alarmed by his noisy anger at the situation.
"Do sit down, Louis, and be quiet," she said. "You have known their attitude all along, haven't you?"
"I'll show them," he said, thickly. "Damned snobs!" He glanced at her then uneasily, and her expression put him on his guard. "I didn't mean that, little girl. Honestly I didn't. I don't care for myself. It's you."
"You must understand that they think they are acting for my good. And I am not sure," she added, her clear eyes on him, "that they are not right. You frighten me sometimes, Louis."
But a little later he broke out again. If he wasn't good enough to enter their house, he'd show them something. The election would show them something. They couldn't refuse to receive the mayor of the city. She saw then that he was bent on remaining with Doyle until after the election.
Lily sat back, listening and thinking. Sometimes she thought that he did not love her at all. He always said he wanted her, but that was different.
"I think you love yourself more than you love me, Louis," she said, when he had exhausted himself. "I don't believe you know what love is."
That brought him to his knees, his arms around her, kissing her hands, begging her not to give him up, and once again her curious sense of responsibility for him triumphed.
"You will marry me soon, dear, won't you?" he implored her. But she thought of Willy Cameron, oddly enough, even while his arms were around her; of the difference in the two men. Louis, big, crouching, suppliant and insistent; Willy Cameron, grave, reserved and steady, taking what she now knew was the blow of her engagement like a gentleman and a soldier.
They represented, although she did not know it, the two divisions of men in love, the men who offer much and give little, the others who, out of a deep humility, offer little and give everything they have.
In the end, nothing was settled. After he had gone Lily, went up to Elinor's room. She had found in Elinor lately a sort of nervous tension that puzzled her, and that tension almost snapped when Lily told her of her visit home, and of her determination to marry Louis within the next few days. Elinor had dropped her sewing and clenched her hands in her lap.
"Not soon, Lily!" she said. "Oh, not soon. Wait a little—wait two months."
"Two months?" Lily said wonderingly. "Why two months?"
"Because, at the end of two months, nothing would make you marry him," Elinor said, almost violently. "I have sat by and waited, because I thought you would surely see your mistake. But now—Lily, do you envy me my life?"
"No," Lily said truthfully; "but you love him."
Elinor sat, her eyes downcast and brooding.
"You are different," she said finally. "You will break, where I have only bent."
But she said no more about a delay. She had been passive too long to be able to take any strong initiative now. And all her moral and physical courage she was saving for a great emergency.
Cardew Way was far from the center of town, and Lily knew nothing of the bomb outrages of that night.
When she went down to breakfast the next morning she found Jim Doyle pacing the floor of the dining room in a frenzy of rage, a newspaper clenched in his hand. By the window stood Elinor, very pale and with slightly reddened eyes. They had not heard her, and Doyle continued a furious harangue.
"The fools!" he said. "Damn such material as I have to work with! This isn't the time, and they know it. I've warned them over and over. The fools!"
Elinor saw her then, and made a gesture of warning. But it was too late. Lily had a certain quality of directness, and it did not occur to her to dissemble.
"Is anything wrong?" she asked, and went at once to Elinor. She had once or twice before this stood between them for Elinor's protection.
"Everything is as happy as a May morning," Doyle sneered. "Your Aunt Elinor has an unpleasant habit of weeping for joy."
Lily stiffened, but Elinor touched her arm.
"Sit down and eat your breakfast, Lily," she said, and left the room.
Doyle stood staring at Lily angrily. He did not know how much she had heard, how much she knew. At the moment he did not care. He had a reckless impulse to tell her the truth, but his habitual caution prevailed. He forced a cold smile.
"Don't bother your pretty head about politics," he said.
Lily was equally cold. Her dislike of him had been growing for weeks, coupled to a new and strange distrust.
"Politics? You seem to take your politics very hard."
"I do," he said urbanely. "Particularly when I am fighting my wife's family. May I pour you some coffee?"
And pour it he did, eyeing her furtively the while, and brought it to her.
"May I give you a word of advice, Lily?" he said. "Don't treat your husband to tears at breakfast—unless you want to see him romping off to some other woman."
"If he cared to do that I shouldn't want him anyhow."
"You're a self-sufficient child, aren't you? Well, the best of us do it, sometimes."
He had successfully changed the trend of her thoughts, and he went out, carrying the newspaper with him.
Nevertheless, he began to feel that her presence in the house was a menace. With all her theories he knew that a word of the truth would send her flying, breathless with outrage, out of his door. He could quite plainly visualize that home-coming of hers. The instant steps that would be taken against him, old Anthony on the wire appealing to the governor, Howard closeted with the Chief of Police, an instant closing of the net. And he was not ready for the clash.
No. She must stay. If only Elinor would play the game, instead of puling and mouthing! In the room across the hall where his desk stood he paced the floor, first angrily, then thoughtfully, his head bent. He saw, and not far away now, himself seated in the city hall, holding the city in the hollow of his hand. From that his dreams ranged far. He saw himself the head, not of the nation—there would be no nation, as such—but of the country. The very incidents of the night before, blundering as they were, showed him the ease with which the new force could be applied.
He was drunk with power.
Lily had an unexpected visitor that afternoon, in the person of Pink Denslow. She had assumed some of Elinor's cares for the day, for Elinor herself had not been visible since breakfast. It soothed the girl to attend to small duties, and she was washing and wiping Elinor's small stock of fine china when the bell rang.
"Mr. Denslow is calling," said Jennie. "I didn't know if you'd see him, so I said I didn't know if you were in."
Lily's surprise at Pink's visit was increased when she saw him. He was covered with plaster dust, even to the brim of his hat, and his hands were scratched and rough.
"Pink!" she said. "Why, what is the matter?"
For the first time he was conscious of his appearance, and for the first time in his life perhaps, entirely indifferent to it.
"I've been digging in the ruins," he said. "Is that man Doyle in the house?"
Her color faded. Suddenly she noticed a certain wildness about Pink's eyes, and the hard strained look of his mouth.
"What ruins, Pink?" she managed to ask.
"All the ruins," he said. "You know, don't you? The bank, our bank, and the club?"
It seemed to her afterwards that she knew before he told her, saw it all, a dreadful picture which had somehow superimposed upon it a vision of Jim Doyle with the morning paper, and the thing that this was not the time for.
"That's all," he finished. "Eleven at the club, two of them my own fellows. In France, you know. I found one of them myself, this morning." He stared past her, over her head. "Killed for nothing, the way the Germans terrorized Belgium. Haven't you seen the papers?"
"No, they wouldn't let you see them, of course. Lily, I want you to leave here. If you don't, if you stay now, you're one of them, whether you believe what they preach or not. Don't you see that?"
She was not listening. Her faith was dying hard, and the mental shock had brought her dizziness and a faint nausea. He stood watching her, and when she glanced up at him it seemed to her that Pink was hard. Hard and suspicious, and the suspicion was for her. It was incredible.
"Do you believe what they preach?" he demanded. "I've got to know, Lily. I've suffered the tortures of the damned all night."
"I didn't know it meant this."
"Do you?" he repeated.
"No. You ought to know me better than that. But I don't believe that it started here, Pink. He was very angry this morning, and he wouldn't let me see the paper."
"He's behind it all right," Pink said grimly. "Maybe he didn't plant the bombs, but his infernal influence did it, just the same. Do you mean to say you've lived here all this time and don't know he is plotting a revolution? What if he didn't authorize these things last night? He is only waiting, to place a hundred bombs instead of three. A thousand, perhaps."
"We've got their own statements. Department of Justice found them. The fools, to think they can overthrow the government! Can you imagine men planning to capture this city and hold it?"
"It wouldn't be possible, Pink?"
"It isn't possible now, but they'll make a try at it."
There was a short pause, with Lily struggling to understand. Pink's set face relaxed somewhat. All that night he had been fighting for his belief in her.
"I never dreamed of it, Pink. I suppose all the talk I've heard meant that, but I never—are you sure? About Jim Doyle, I mean."
"We know he is behind it. We haven't got the goods on him yet, but we know. Cameron knows. You ask him and he'll tell you."
"Yes. He's had some vision, while the rest of us—! He's got a lot of us working now, Lily. We are on the right trail, too, although we lost some records last night that put us back a couple of months. We'll get them, all right. We'll smash their little revolution into a cocked hat." It occurred to him, then, that this house was a poor place for such a confidence. "I'll tell you about it later. Get your things now, and let me take you home."
But Lily's problem was too complex for Pink's simple remedy. She was stricken with sudden conviction; the very mention of Willy Cameron gave Pink's statements authority. But to go like that, to leave Elinor in that house, with all that it implied, was impossible. And there was her own private problem to dispose of.
"I'll go this afternoon, Pink. I'll promise you that. But I can't go with you now. I can't. You'll have to take my word, that's all. And you must believe I didn't know."
"Of course you didn't know," he said, sturdily. "But I hate like thunder to go and leave you here." He picked up his hat, reluctantly. "If I can do anything—"
Lily's mind was working more clearly now. This was the thing Louis Akers had been concerned with, then, a revolution against his country. But it was the thing, too, that he had promised to abandon. He was not a killer. She knew him well, and he was not a killer. He had got to a certain point, and then the thing had sickened him. Even without her he would never have gone through with it. But it would be necessary now to get his information quickly. Very quickly.
"Suppose," she said, hesitatingly, "suppose I tell you that I think I am going to be able to help you before long?"
"Help? I want you safe. This is not work for women."
"But suppose I can bring you a very valuable ally?" she persisted. "Some one who knows all about certain plans, and has changed his views about them?"
"One of them?"
"He has been."
"Is he selling his information?"
"In a way, yes," said Lily, slowly.
"Ware the fellow who sells information," Pink said. "But we'll be glad to have it. We need it, God knows. And—you'll leave?"
"I couldn't stay, could I?"
He kissed her hand when he went away, doing it awkwardly and self-consciously, but withal reverently. She wondered, rather dully, why she could not love Pink. A woman would be so safe with him, so sure.
She had not even then gathered the full force of what he had told her. But little by little things came back to her; the man on guard in the garden; the incident of the locked kitchen door; Jim Doyle once talking angrily over a telephone in his study, although no telephone, so far as she knew, was installed in the room; his recent mysterious absences, and the increasing visits of the hateful Woslosky.
She went back to Louis. This was what he had meant. He had known all along, and plotted with them; even if his stomach had turned now, he had been a party to this infamy. Even then she did not hate him; she saw him, misled as she had been by Doyle's high-sounding phrases, lured on by one of those wild dreams of empire to which men were sometimes given. She did not love him any more; she was sorry for him.
She saw her position with the utmost clearness. To go home was to abandon him, to lose him for those who needed what he could give, to send him back to the enemy. She had told Pink she could secure an ally for a price, and she was the price. There was not an ounce of melodrama in her, as she stood facing the situation. She considered, quite simply, that she had assumed an obligation which she must carry out. Perhaps her pride was dictating to her also. To go crawling home, bowed to the dust, to admit that life had beaten her, to face old Anthony's sneers and her mother's pity—that was hard for any Cardew.
She remembered Elinor's home-comings of years ago, the strained air of the household, the whispering servants, and Elinor herself shut away, or making her rare, almost furtive visits downstairs when her father was out of the house.