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The Cup of Fury - A Novel of Cities and Shipyards
by Rupert Hughes
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He grew so fervent in his vision of the new creation that he hardly saw the riders as they stormed the hurdles. Marie Louise took fire from his glow and forgot the petty motive that had impelled her to bring him to this place. Suddenly he realized how shamelessly eloquent he had been, and subsided with a slump.

"What a bore I am to tell all this to a woman!"

She rose at that. "The day has passed when a man can apologize for talking business to a woman. I've been in England for years, you know, and the women over there are doing all the men's work and getting better wages at it than the men ever did. After the war they'll never go back to their tatting and prattle. I'm going to your shipyard and have a look-in, but not the way a pink debutante follows a naval officer over a battle-ship, staring at him and not at the works. I'm going on business, and if I like ship-building, I may take it up."

"Great!" he laughed, and slapped her hand where it lay on the wheel. He apologized again for his roughness.

"I'll forgive anything except an apology," she said.

As she looked proudly down at the hand he had honored with a blow as with an accolade she saw by her watch that it was after six.

"Great Heavens! it's six and more!" she cried. "Lady Clifton-Wyatt will never forgive you—or me. I'll take you to her at once."

"Never mind Lady Clifton-Wyatt," he said. "But I've got another engagement for dinner—with a man, at half past six. I wish I hadn't."

They were drifting with the twilight into an elegiac mood, suffering the sweet sorrow of parting.

The gloaming steeped the dense woods, and the romance of sunset and gathering night saddened the business man's soul, but wakened a new and unsuspected woman in Marie Louise.

Her fierce imaginations were suddenly concerned with conquests of ambition, not of love. So fresh a realm was opened to her that she was herself renewed and restored to that boyish-girlish estate of young womanhood before love has educated it to desire and the slaveries of desire. The Aphrodite that lurks in every woman had been put to flight by the Diana that is also there.

Davidge on the other hand had warmed toward Marie Louise suddenly, as he saw how ardent she could be. He had known her till now only in her dejected and terrified, distracted humors. Now he saw her on fire, and love began to blaze within him.

He felt his first impulse to throw an arm about her and draw her to his breast, but though the solitude was complete and the opportunity perfect, he saw that she was in no spirit for dalliance. There is no colder chaperon for a woman than a new ambition to accomplish something worth while.

As they drew up at the New Willard she was saying:

"Telephone the minute you come to town again. Good-by. I'm late to dinner."

She meant that she was late to life, late to a career.

Davidge stared at her in wonderment as she bent to throw the lever into first speed. She roughed it in her impatience, and the growl of the gear drowned the sound of another man's voice calling her name. This man ran toward her, but she did not notice him and got away before he could overtake her.

Davidge was jostled by him as he ran, and noted that he called Miss Webling "Mees Vapelink." The Teutonic intonation did not fall pleasantly on the American ear at that time. Washington was a forbidden city to Germanic men and soon would banish the enemy women, too.

The stranger took refuge on the sidewalk, and his curses were snarly with the Teutonic r. Davidge studied him and began to remember him. He had seen him with Marie Louise somewhere. Suddenly his mind, ransacking the filing-cabinet of his memory, turned up a picture of Nicky Easton at the side of Marie Louise at the dinner in Sir Joseph's home. He could not remember the name, but a man has a ready label for anybody he hates.

He began to worry now. Who was this spick foreigner who ran hooting after her? It was not like Davidge to be either curious or suspicious. But love was beginning its usual hocus-pocus with character and turning a tired business man into a restless swain.

Davidge resented Easton's claim on Marie Louise, whatever it was, as an invasion of some imagined property right of his own, or at least of some option he had secured somehow. He was alarmed at the Teutonic accent of the interloper. He began to take heed of how little he knew of Marie Louise, after all. He recalled Sir Joseph Webling's German accent. An icy fear chilled him.

His important business parley was conducted with an absent-mindedness that puzzled his host, the eminent iron-master, Jacob Cruit, who had exchanged an income of a million a year and dictatorial powers for a governmental wage of one dollar per annum, no authority, no gratitude, and endless trouble.

Davidge's head was buzzing with thoughts in which Cruit had no part:

"Can she be one of those horrible women who have many lovers? Is she a woman of affairs? What is all this mystery about her? What was she so afraid of the night she would not stop at Mrs. Widdicombe's? Why was she so upset by the appearance of Lady Clifton-Wyatt? Why was she in such a hurry to get me away from Mrs. Prothero's dinner, and to keep me from keeping my engagement with Lady Clifton-Wyatt? Why so much German association?"

He thought of dozens of explanations, most of them wild, but none of them so wild as the truth—that Marie Louise was cowering under the accusation of being a German agent.

He resolved that he would forget Marie Louise, discharge her from the employment of his thoughts. Yet that night as he lay cooking in his hot berth he thought of Marie Louise instead of ships. None of his riot of thoughts was so fantastic as the fact that she was even then thinking of ships and not of him.

That night Marie Louise ransacked the library that the owner of Grinden Hall had left with the other furniture. Some member of the family had been a cadet at Annapolis, and his old text-books littered the shelves. Marie Louise selected and bore away an armload, not of novels, but of books whose very backs had repelled her before. They were the very latest romance to her now.

The authors of An Elementary Manual for the Deviation of the Compass in Iron Ships, The Marine Steam-engine, and An Outline of Ship-building, Theoretical and Practical, could hardly have dreamed that their works would one night go up-stairs in the embrace of a young woman's arms. The books would have struck a naval architect as quaintly old-fashioned, but to Marie Louise they were as full of news as the latest evening extra. The only one she could understand with ease was Captain Samuels's From the Forecastle to the Cabin, and she was thrilled by his account of the struggles of his youth, his mutinies, his champion of the Atlantic, the semi-clipper Dreadnaught, but most of all, by his glowing picture of the decay of American marine glory.

She read till she could sit up no longer. Then she undressed and dressed for sleep, snapped on the reading-lamp, and took up another book, Bowditch's American Navigation. It was the "Revised Edition of 1883," but it was fresh sensation to her. She lay prone like the reading Magdalen in the picture, her hair pouring down over her shoulders, her bosom pillowed on the volume beneath her eyes.



CHAPTER IX

Passengers arriving at Washington in the early morning may keep their cubbyholes until seven, no later. By half past seven they must be off the car. Jake Nuddle was an ugly riser. He had always regarded the alarm-clock as the most hateful of all the inventions of capitalists to enslave the poor. Jake had strange ideas of capitalists, none stranger than that they are luxurious persons who sleep late and knock off work early.

Waking Jake was one of the most dangerous of his wife's prerogatives. On this morning, if he had been awaker he would have bitten off the black hand that reached into his berth and twitched the sheet at seven of a non-working day. The voice that murmured appealingly through the curtains, "S'em o'clock, please!" did not please Jake at all.

He cursed his annoying and nudging wife a few times heartily, then began to make his acutely unbeautiful toilet. In the same small wheeled hotel capitalists, statesmen, matrons, and misses were dressing in quarters just as strait. Jake and his wife had always got in each other's way, but never more cumbersomely than now. Jake found his wife's stockings when he sought his socks. Her corset-strings seemed to be everywhere. Whatever he laid hold of brought along her corset. He thrust his head and arms into something white and came out of it sputtering:

"That's your damned shimmy. Where's my damned shirt?"

Somehow they made it at last, got dressed and washed somehow and left the caravansary. Mrs. Nuddle carried the heavier baggage. They had breakfast at the lunch-counter; then they went out and looked at the Capitol. It inspired in Jake's heart no national reverence. He said to his awestruck wife:

"There's where that gang of robbers, the Congersmen, meet and agree on their hold-ups. They're all the hirelings of the capitalists.

"They voted for this rotten war without consulting the people. They didn't dare consult 'em. They knew the people wasn't in favor of no such crime. But the Congersmen get their orders from Wall Street, and them brokers wanted the war because they owned so much stock that wouldn't be worth the paper it was printed on unless the United States joined the Allies and collected for 'em off Germany."

It was thus that Jake and his kind regarded the avalanche of horrific woe that German ambition spilled upon the world and kept rolling down from the mountain-tops of heaped-up munitions. It was thus that they contemplated the mangled villages of innocent Belgium, the slavery-drives in the French towns, the windrows of British dead, the increasing lust of conquest, which grew by what it fed on, till at last America, driven frantic by the endless carnage, took up belatedly the gigantic task of throwing back the avalanche across the mountain to the other side before it engulfed and ruined the world. While Europe agonized in torments unthinkable, immeasurable, and yet mysteriously endurable only because there was no escape visible, the Jake Nuddles, illiterate and literate, croaked their batrachian protest against capital, bewailed the lot of imaginary working-men, and belied the life of real working-men.

Staring at the Capitol, which means so much nobility to him who has the nobility to understand the dream that raised it, he burlesqued its ideals. Cruel, corrupt, lazy, and sloven of soul, he found there what he knew best because it was his own. Aping a sympathy he could not feel, he grew maudlin:

"So they drag our poor boys from their homes in droves and send 'em off to the slaughter-house in France—all for money! Anything to grind down the honest workman into the dust, no matter how many mothers' hearts they break!"

Jake was one of those who never express sympathy for anybody except in the course of a tirade against somebody else. He had small use for wives, mothers, or children except as clubs to pound rich men with. His wife, who knew him all too well, was not impressed by his eloquence. Her typical answer to his typical tirade was, "I wonder how on earth we're goin' to find Mamise."

Jake groaned at the anticlimax to his lofty flight, but he realized that the main business before the house was what his wife propounded.

He remembered seeing an Information Bureau sign in the station. He had learned from the newspaper in which he had seen Mamise's picture that she was visiting Major Widdicombe. He had written the name down on the tablets of his memory, and his first plan was to find Major Widdicombe. Jake had a sort of wolfish cunning in tracing people he wanted to meet. He could always find anybody who might lend him money. He had mysterious difficulties in tracing some one who could give him work.

He left his wife to simmer in the station while he set forth on a scouting expedition. After much travel he found at last the office of the Ordnance Department, in which Major Widdicombe toiled, and he appeared at length at Major Widdicombe's desk.

Jake was cautious. He would not state his purpose. He hardly dared to claim relationship with Miss Webling until he was positive that she was his sister-in-law. Noting Jake's evasiveness, the Major discreetly evaded the request for his guest's address. He would say no more than:

"Miss Webling is coming down to lunch with me at the—that is with my wife. I'll tell her you're looking for her; if she wants to meet you, I'll tell you, if you come back here."

"All right, mucher bliged," said Jake. Baffled and without further recourse, he left the Major's presence, since there seemed to be nothing else to do. But once outside, he felt that there had been something highly unsatisfactory about the parley. He decided to imitate Mary's little lamb and to hang about the building till the Major should appear. In an hour or two he was rewarded by seeing Widdicombe leave the door and step into an automobile. Jake heard him tell the driver, "The Shoreham."

Jake walked to the hotel and saw Marie Louise seated at a table by a window. He recognized her by her picture and was duly triumphant. He was ready to advance and demand recognition. Then he realized that he could make no claim on her without his awful wife's corroboration. He took a street-car back to the station and found his nominal helpmeet sitting just where he had left her.

Abbie had bought no newspaper, book, or magazine to while away the time with. She was not impatient of idleness. It was luxury enough just not to be warshin' clo'es, cookin' vittles, or wrastlin' dishes. She took a dreamy content in studying the majesty of the architecture, but her interest in it was about that of a lizard basking on a fallen column in a Greek peristyle. It was warm and spacious and nobody disturbed her drowsy beatitude.

When Jake came and summoned her she rose like a rheumatic old househound and obeyed her master's voice.

Jake gave her such a vote of confidence as was implied in letting her lug the luggage. It was cheaper for her to carry it than for him to store it in the parcel-room. It caused the fellow-passengers in the street-car acute inconvenience, but Jake was superior to public opinion of his wife. In such a homely guise did the fates approach Miss Webling.



CHAPTER X

The best place for a view is in one's back yard; then it is one's own. If it is in the front yard, then the house is only part of the public's view.

In London Marie Louise had lived at Sir Joseph Webling's home, its gray, fog-stained, smoked-begrimed front flush with the pavement. But back of the house was a high-walled garden with a fountain that never played. There was a great rug of English-green grass, very green all winter and still greener all summer. At an appropriate spot was a tree; a tea-table sat under it; in blossom-time it sprinkled pink petals on the garden hats of the women; and on the grass they fell, to twist Tennyson, softlier than tired eyelids on tired eyes.

So Marie Louise adored her new home with its unpromising entrance and its superb surprise from the rear windows. When she broke the news to Polly Widdicombe, that she was leaving her, they had a good fight over it. Yet Polly could hardly insist that Marie Louise stay with her forever, especially when Marie Louise had a perfectly good home of her own.

Polly went along for a morning of reconstruction work. There were pictures, chairs, cushions, and knickknacks that simply had to be hidden away. The original tenants evidently had the theory that a bare space on a wall or a table was as indecent as on a person's person.

They had taken crude little chromos and boxed them in gaudy frames, many of whose atrocities were aggravated by panels of plush of a color that could hardly be described by any other name than fermented prune. Over the corner of these they had thrown "throws" or drapes of malicious magenta horribly figured in ruthless incompatibilities.

Chairs of unexplainable framework were upholstered with fabrics of studied delirium. Every mantel was an exhibit of models of what not to do. When Henry James said that Americans had no end of taste, but most of it was bad, he must have based his conclusions on such a conglomerate as this.

Polly and Marie Louise found some of the furniture bad enough to be amusing. But they toted a vanload of it into closets and storerooms. Where the pictures came away they left staring spaces of unfaded wall-paper. Still, they were preferable to the pictures.

By noon the women were exhausted. They washed their dust-smutted hands and faces and exclaimed upon the black water they left. But the exercise had given them appetite, and when Marie Louise locked the front door she felt all the comfort of a householder. She had a home of her very own to lock up, and though she had roamed through pleasures and palaces, she agreed that, be it ever so horrible, there's no place like home.

She and Polly were early to their luncheon engagement with Major Widdicombe. Their appetites disputed the clock. Polly decided to telephone her husband for Heaven's sake to come at once to her rescue.

While Polly was telephoning Marie Louise sat waiting on a divan. Her muscles were so tired that she grew nearly as placidly animal as her sister in the Pennsylvania Station. She was as different in every other way as possible. Her life, her environment, her ambitions, had been completely alien to anything Mrs. Nuddle had known. She had been educated and evolved by entirely different joys and sorrows, fears and successes.

Mrs. Nuddle had been afraid that her husband would beat her again, or kill one of the children in his rage, or get himself sent to prison or to the chair; Mrs. Nuddle had been afraid that the children would be run over in the street, would pull a boilerful of boiling water over onto them, or steal, or go wrong in any of the myriad ways that children have of going wrong. Mrs. Nuddle's ecstasies were a job well done, a word of praise from a customer, a chance to sit down, an interval without pain or worry when her children were asleep, or when her husband was working and treating her as well as one treats an old horse.

Of such was the kingdom of Mrs. Nuddle.

Marie Louise had dwelt in a world no more and no less harrowing, but infinitely unlike. The two sisters were no longer related to each other by any ties except blood kinship. Mrs. Nuddle was a good woman gone wrong, Marie Louise a goodish woman gone variously; Mrs. Nuddle a poor advertisement of a life spent in honest toil, early rising, early bedding, churchgoing, and rigid economy; Marie Louise a most attractive evidence of how much depends on a careful carriage, a cultivated taste in clothes, and an elegant acquaintance.

At last, after years of groping toward each other, the sisters were to be brought together. But there was to be an intervention. Even while Marie Louise sat relaxed in a fatigue that she would have called contentment trouble was stealing toward her.

The spider who came and sat beside this Miss Muffet was Nicky Easton. He frightened her, but he would not let her run away.

As he dropped to her side she rose with a gasp, but he pressed her back with a hasty grip on her arm and a mandatory prayer:

"Wait once, pleass."

The men who had shadowed Marie Louise had months before given her up as hopelessly correct. But guardian angels were still provided for Nicky Easton; and one of them, seeing this meeting, took Marie Louise back into the select coterie of the suspects.

There's no cure for your bodily aches and pains like terror. It lifts the paralytic from his bed, makes the lame scurry, and gives the blind eyes enough for running. Marie Louise's fatigue fell from her like a burden whose straps are slit.

When Nicky said: "I could not find you in New York. Now we are here we can have a little talkink," she stammered: "Not here! Not now!"

"Why not, pleass?"

"I have an engagement—a friend—she has just gone to telephone a moment."

"You are ashamed of me, then?"

She let him have it. "Yes!"

He winced at the slap in the face.

She went on: "Besides, she knows you. Her husband is an officer in the army. I can't talk to you here."

"Where, then, and when?"

"Any time—any place—but here."

"Any time is no time. You tell me, or I stay now."

"Come to—to my house."

"You have a howiss, then?"

"Yes. I just took it to-day. I shall be there this afternoon—at three, if you will go."

"Very goot. The address is—"

She gave it; he repeated it, mumbled, "At sree o'clock I am there," and glided away just as Polly returned.

They were eating a consomme madrilene when the Major arrived. He dutifully ate what his wife had selected for him, and listened amiably to what she had to tell him about her morning, though he was bursting to tell her about his. Polly made a vivid picture of Marie Louise's new home, ending with:

"Everything on God's earth in it except a piano and a book."

This reminded Marie Louise of the books she had read on ship-building, and she asked if she might borrow them. Polly made a woeful face at this.

"My dear! When a woman starts to reading up on a subject a man is interested in, she's lost—and so is he. Beware of it, my dear."

Tom demurred: "Go right on, Marie Louise, so that you can take an intelligent interest in what your husband is working on."

"My husband!" said Marie Louise. "Aren't you both a trifle premature?"

Polly went glibly on: "Don't listen to Tom, my dear. What does he know about what a man wants his wife to take an intelligent interest in? Once a woman knows about her husband's business, he's finished with her and ready for the next. Tom's been trying to tell me for ten years what he's working at, and I haven't the faintest idea yet. It always gives him something to hope for. When he comes home of evenings he can always say, 'Perhaps to-night's the night when she'll listen.' But once you listen intelligently and really understand, he's through with you, and he'll quit you for some pink-cheeked ignoramus who hasn't heard about it yet."

Marie Louise, being a woman, knew how to get her message to another woman; the way seems to be to talk right through her talk. The acute creatures have ears to hear with and mouths to talk with, and they apparently find no difficulty in using both at the same time. Somewhere along about the middle of Polly's discourse Marie Louise began to answer it before it was finished. Why should she wait when she knew what was coming? So she said contemporaneously and covocally:

"But I'm not going to marry a ship-builder, my dear. Don't be absurd! I'm not planning to take an intelligent interest in Mr. Davidge's business. I'm planning to take an intelligent interest in my own. I'm going to be a ship-builder myself, and I want to learn the A B C's."

They finished that argument at the same time and went on together down the next stretch in a perfect team:

"Oh, well of course, if "Mr. Davidge tells me," that's the case," asserted Marie Louise explained, "that Polly, "then you're quite women are needed in ship- crazy—unless you're simply building, and that anybody hunting for a new sensation. can learn. In fact, every- And on that score I'll admit body has to, anyway; so that it sounds rather interest- I've got as good a chance as ing. I may take a whack at a man. I'm as strong as a it myself. I'm quite fed up horse. Fine! Come along, on bandages and that sort of and we'll build a U-boat thing. Get me a job in the chaser together. Mr. Davidge same factory or whatever would be delighted to they call it. Will you?" have you, I'm sure."

This was arrant hubbub to the mere man who was not capable of carrying on a conversation except by the slow, primitive methods of Greek drama, strophe and antistrophe, one talking while the other listened, then vice versa.

So he had time to remember that he had something to remember, and to dig it up. He broke in on the dialogue:

"By the way, that reminds me, Marie Louise. There's a man in town looking for you."

"Looking for me!" Marie Louise gasped, alert as an antelope at once. "What was his name?"

"I can't seem to recall it. I'll have it in a minute. He didn't impress me very favorably, so I didn't tell him you were living with us."

Polly turned on Tom: "Come along, you poor nut! I hate riddles, and so does Marie Louise."

"That's it!" Tom cried. "Riddle—Nuddle. His name is Nuddle. Do you know a man named Nuddle?"

The name conveyed nothing to Marie Louise except a suspicion that Mr. Verrinder had chosen some pseudonym.

"What was his nationality?" she asked. "English?"

"I should say not! He was as Amurrican as a piece of pungkin pie."

Marie Louise felt a little relieved, but still at sea. When Widdicombe asked what message he should take back her curiosity led her to brave her fate and know the worst:

"Tell him to come to my house at any time this afternoon—no, not before five. I have some shopping to do, and the servants to engage."

She did not ask Polly to go with her, and Polly took the hint conveyed in Marie Louise's remark as they left the dining-room, "I've a little telephoning to do."

Polly went her way, and Marie Louise made a pretext of telephoning.

Major Widdicombe did not see Jake Nuddle as he went down the steps, for the reason that Jake saw him first and drew his wife aside. He wondered what had become of Marie Louise.

Jake and his wife hung about nonplussed for a few minutes, till Marie Louise came out. She had waited only to make sure that Tom and Polly got away. When she came down the steps she cast a casual glance at Jake and her sister, who came toward her eagerly. But she assumed that they were looking at some one else, for they meant nothing to her eyes.

She had indeed never seen this sister before. The sister who waddled toward her was not the sister she had left in Wakefield years before. That sister was young and lean and a maid. Marriage and hard work and children had swaddled this sister in bundles of strange flesh and drawn the face in new lines.

Marie Louise turned her back on her, but heard across her shoulder the poignant call:

"Mamise!"

That voice was the same. It had not lost its own peculiar cry, and it reverted the years and altered the scene like a magician's "Abracadabra!"

Marie Louise swung round just in time to receive the full brunt of her sister's charge. The repeated name identified the strange-looking matron as the girl grown old, and Marie Louise gathered her into her arms with a fierce homesickness. Her loneliness had found what it needed. She had kinfolk now, and she sobbed: "Abbie darling! My darling Abbie!" while Abbie wept: "Mamise! Oh, my poor little Mamise!"

A cluster of cab-drivers wondered what it was all about, but Jake Nuddle felt triumphant. Marie Louise looked good to him as he looked her over, and for the nonce he was content to have the slim, round fashionable creature enveloped in his wife's arms for a sister-in-law.

Abbie, a little homelier than ever with her face blubbery and tear-drenched, turned to introduce what she had drawn in the matrimonial lottery.

"Mamise!" she said. "I want you should meet my husbin'."

"I'm delighted!" said Mamise, before she saw her sister's fate. She was thorough-trained if not thorough-born, and she took the shock without reeling.

Jake's hand was not as rough so it ought to have been, and his cordiality was sincere as he growled:

"Pleaster meecher, Mamise."

He was ready already with her first name, but she had nothing to call him by. It never occurred to Abbie that her sister would not instinctively know a name so familiar to Mrs. Nuddle as Mr. Nuddle, and it was a long while before Marie Louise managed to pick it up and piece it together.

Her embarrassment at meeting Jake was complete. She asked:

"Where are you living—here in Washington?"

"Laws, no!" said Abbie; and that reminded her of the bundles she had dropped at the sight of Mamise. They had played havoc with the sidewalk traffic, but she hurried to regain them.

Jake could be the gentleman when there was somebody looking who counted. So he checked his wife with amazement at the preposterousness of her carrying bundles while Sir Walter Raleigh was at hand. He picked them up and brought them to Marie Louise's feet, disgusted at the stupid amazement of his wife, who did not have sense enough to conceal it. Marie Louise was growing alarmed at the perfect plebeiance of her kith. She was unutterably ashamed of herself for noticing such things, but the eye is not to blame for what it can't help seeing, nor the ear for what is forced upon it. She had a feeling that the first thing to do was to get her sister in out of the rain of glances from the passers-by.

"You must come to me at once," she said. "I've just taken a house. I've got no servants in yet, and you'll have to put up with it as it is."

Abbie gasped at the "servants." She noted the authority with which Marie Louise beckoned a chauffeur and pointed to the bundles, which he hastened to seize.

Abbie was overawed by the grandeur of her first automobile and showed it on her face. She saw many palaces on the way and expected Marie Louise to stop at any of them. When the car drew up at Marie Louise's home Abbie was bitterly disappointed; but when she got inside she found her dream of paradise. Marie Louise was distressed at Abbie's loud praise of the general effect and her unfailing instinct for picking out the worst things on the walls or the floors. This distress caused a counter-distress of self-rebuke.

Jake was on his dignity at first, but finally he unbent enough to take off his coat, hang it over a chair, and stretch himself out on a divan whose ulterior maroon did not disturb his repose in the least.

"This is what I call something like," he said; and then, "And now, Mamise, set in and tell us all about yourself."

This was the last thing Mamise wanted to do, and she evaded with a plea:

"I can wait. I want to hear all about you, Abbie darling. How are you, and how long have you been married, and where do you live?"

"Goin' on eight years come next October, and we got three childern. I been right poorly lately. Don't seem to take as much interest in worshin' as I useter."

"Washing!" Marie Louise exclaimed. "You don't wash, do you? That is, I mean to say—professionally?"

"Yes, I worsh. Do right smart of work, too."

Marie Louise was overwhelmed. She had a hundred thousand dollars, and her sister was a—washerwoman! It was intolerable. She glanced at Jake.

"But Mr.—your husband—"

"Oh, Jake, he works—off and on. But he ain't got what you might call a hankerin' for it. He can take work or let it alone. I can't say as much for him when it comes to licker. Fact is, some the women say, 'Why, Mrs. Nuddle, how do you ever—'"

"Your name isn't—it isn't Nuddle, is it?" Marie Louise broke in.

"Sure it is. What did you think it was?"

So the sleeping brother-in-law was the mysterious inquirer. That solved one of her day's puzzles and solved it very tamely. So many of life's mysteries, like so many of fiction's, peter out at the end. They don't sustain.

Marie Louise still belonged to the obsolescent generation that believed it a husband's duty to support his wife by his own labor. The thought of her sister supporting a worthless husband by her own toil was odious. The first task was to get Jake to work. It was only natural that she should think of her own new mania.

She spoke so eagerly that she woke Jake when she said: "I have it! Why doesn't your husband go in for ship-building?"

Marie Louise told him about Davidge and what Davidge had said of the need of men. She was sure that she could get him a splendid job, and that Mr. Davidge would do anything for her.

Jake was about to rebuke such impudence as it deserved, but a thought struck him, and he chewed it over. Among the gang of idealists he consorted with, or at least salooned with, the dearest ambition of all was to turn America's dream of a vast fleet of ships into a nightmare of failure. In order to secure "just recognition" for the workman they would cause him to be recognized as both a loafer and a traitor—that was their ideal of labor.

As Marie Louise with unwitting enthusiasm rhapsodized over the shipyard Jake's interest kindled. To get into a shipyard just growing, and spread his doctrines among the men as they came in, to bring off strikes and to play tricks with machinery everywhere, to wreck launching-ways so that hulls that escaped all other attacks would crack through and stick—it was a Golconda of opportunities for this modern conquistador. He could hardly keep his face straight till he heard Marie Louise out. He fooled her entirely with his ardor; and when he asked, "Do you think your gentleman friend, this man Davidge, would really give me a job?" she cried, with more enthusiasm than tact:

"I know he would. He'd give anybody a job. Besides, I'm going to take one myself. And, Abbie honey, what would you say to your becoming a ship-builder, too? It would be immensely easier and pleasanter than washing clothes."

Before Abbie could recover the breath she lost at the picture of herself as a builder of ships the door-bell rang. Abbie peeked and whispered:

"It's a man."

"Do you suppose it's that feller Davidge?" said Jake.

"No, it's—it's—somebody else," said Marie Louise, who knew who it was without looking.

She was at her wit's end now. Nicky Easton was at the door, and a sister and a brother-in-law whose existence she had not suspected were in the parlor.



CHAPTER XI

If anything is anybody's very own, it is surely his past, or hers—particularly hers. But Nicky Easton was bringing one of the most wretched chapters of Marie Louise's past to her very door. She did not want to reopen it, especially not before her new-found family. One likes to have a few illusions left for these reunions. So she said:

"Abbie darling, would you forgive me if I saw this—person alone? Besides, you'll be wanting to get settled in your room, if Mr.—Ja—your husband doesn't mind taking your things up."

Abbie had not been used to taking dismissals graciously. She had never been to court and been permitted to retire. Besides, people who know how to take an eviction gracefully usually know enough to get out before they are put out. But Abbie had to be pushed, and she went, heartbroken, disgraced, resentful. Jake sulked after her. They moved like a couple of old flea-bitten mongrels spoken to sharply.

And of course they stole back to the head of the stairs and listened.

Nicky had his face made up for a butler, or at least a maid. When he saw Marie Louise he had to undo his features, change his opening oration, and begin all over again.

"It is zhoo yourself, then," he said.

"Yes. Come in, do. I have no servants yet."

"Ah!" he cooed, encouraged at once.

She squelched his hopes. "My sister and her husband are here, however."

This astounded him so that he spoke in two languages at once: "Your schwister! Since how long do you have a sester? And where did you get?"

"I have always had her, but we haven't seen each other for years."

He gasped, "Was Sie nicht sagen!"

"And if you wouldn't mind not talking German—"

"Recht so. Excuse. Do I come in—no?"

She stepped back, and he went into the drawing-room. He smiled at what he saw, and was polite, if cynical.

"You rent foornished?"

"Yes."

He waved her to a chair so that he might sit down.

"Was giebt's neues—er—what is the noose?"

"I have none. What is yours?"

"You mean you do not wish to tell. If I should commence once, I should never stop. But we are both alife yet. That is always somethink. I was never so nearly not."

Marie Louise could not withhold the protest:

"You saved yourself by betraying your friends."

"Well, I telled—I told only what the English knew already. If they let me go for it, it was no use to kill everybody, should I?"

He was rather miserable about it, for he could see that she despised him more for being an informer than for having something to inform. He pleaded in extenuation:

"But I shall show how usefool I can be to my country. Those English shall be sorry to let me go, and my people glad. And so shall you."

She studied him, and dreaded him, loathing his claim on her, longing to order him never to speak again to her, yet strangely interested in his future power for evil. The thought occurred to her that if she could learn his new schemes she might thwart them. That would be some atonement for what she had not prevented before. This inspiration brightened her so suddenly and gave such an eagerness to her manner that he saw the light and grew suspicious—a spy has to be, for he carries a weapon that has only one cartridge in it.

Marie Louise waited for him to explain his purpose till the suspense began to show; then she said, bluntly:

"What mischief are you up to now?"

"Mitschief—me?" he asked, all innocently.

"You said you wanted to see me."

"I always want to see you. You interest—my eyes—my heart—"

"Please don't." She said it with the effect of slamming a door.

She looked him full in the eyes angrily, then remembered her curiosity. He saw her gaze waver with a double motive.

It is strange how people can fence with their glances, as if they were emanations from the eyes instead of mere reflections of light back and forth. But however it is managed, this man and this woman played their stares like two foils feeling for an opening. At length he surrendered and resolved to appeal:

"How do you feel about—about us?"

"Who are us?"

"We Germans."

"We are not Germans. I'm American."

"Then England is your greater enemy than Germany."

She wanted to smile at that, but she said:

"Perhaps."

He pleaded for his cause. "America ought not to have joined the war against the Vaterland. It is only a few Americans—bankers who lended money to England—who wish to fight us."

Up-stairs Jake's heart bounded. Here was a fellow-spirit. He listened for Marie Louise's response; he caught the doubt in her tone. She could not stomach such an absurdity:

"Bosh!" she said.

It sounded like "Boche!" And Nicky flushed.

"You have been in this Washington town too long. I think I shall go now."

Marie Louise made no objection. She had not found out what he was up to, but she was sick of duplicity, sick of the sight of him and all he stood for. She did not even ask him to come again. She went to the door with him and stood there a moment, long enough for the man who was shadowing Nicky to identify her. She watched Nicky go and hoped that she had seen the last of him. But up-stairs the great heart of Jake Nuddle was seething with excitement. He ran to the front window, caught a glimpse of Nicky, and hurried back down the stairs.

Abbie called out, "Where you goin'?"

Jake did not answer such a meddlesome question, but he said to Marie Louise, as he brushed past her on the stairs:

"I'm going to the drug-store to git me some cigars."

Nicky paused on the curb, looking for a cab. He had dismissed his own, hoping to spend a long while with Marie Louise. He saw that he was not likely to pick up a cab in such a side-street, and so he walked on briskly.

He was furious with Marie Louise. He had had hopes of her, and she had fooled him. These Americans were no longer dependable.

And then he heard footsteps on the walk, quick footsteps that spelled hurry. Nicky drew aside to let the speeder pass; but instead he heard a constabular "Hay!" and his shoulder-blades winced.

It was only Jake Nuddle. Jake had no newspaper to sell, but he had an idea for a collaboration which would bring him some of that easy money the Germans were squandering like drunken sailors.

"You was just talkin' to my sister-in-law," said Jake.

"Ah, you are then the brother of Marie Louise?"

"Yep, and I couldn't help hearin' a little of what passed between you."

Jake's slyness had a detective-like air in Nicky's anxious eyes. He warned himself to be on guard. Jake said:

"I'm for Germany unanimous. I think it's a rotten shame for America to go into this war. And some of us Americans are sayin' we won't stand for it. We don't own no Congersmen; we're only the protelarriat, as the feller says; but we're goin' to put this country on the bum, and that's what old Kaiser Bill wants we should do, or I miss my guess, hay?"

Nicky was cautious:

"How do you propose to help the All Highest?"

"Sabotodge."

"You interest me," said Nicky.

They had come to one of the circles that moon the plan of Washington. Nicky motioned Jake to a bench, where they could command the approach and be, like good children, seen and not heard. Jake outlined his plan.

When Nicky Easton had rung Marie Louise's bell he had not imagined how much help Marie Louise would render him in giving him the precious privilege of meeting her unprepossessing brother-in-law; nor had she dreamed what peril she was preparing for Davidge in planning to secure for him and his shipyard the services of this same Jake, as lazy and as amiable as any side-winder rattlesnake that ever basked in the sunlit sand.



BOOK IV

AT THE SHIPYARD



CHAPTER I

Davidge despised a man who broke his contracts. He broke one with himself and despised himself. He broke his contract to ignore the existence of Marie Louise. The next time he came to Washington he sought her out. He called up the Widdicombe home and learned that she had moved. She had no telephone yet, for it took a vast amount of time to get any but a governmental telephone installed. So he noted her address, and after some hesitation decided to call. If she did not want to see him, her butler could tell him that she was out.

He called. Marie Louise had tried in vain to get in servants who would stay. Abbie talked to them familiarly—and so did Jake. The virtuous ones left because of Jake, and the others left because of Abbie.

So Abbie went to the door when Davidge called. He supposed that the butler was having a day off and the cook was answering the bell. He offered his card to Abbie.

She wiped her hand on her apron and took it, then handed it back to him, saying:

"You'll have to read it. I ain't my specs."

Davidge said, "Please ask Miss Webling if she can see Mr. Davidge."

"You're not Mr. Davidge!" Abbie gasped, remembering the importance Marie Louise gave him.

"Yes," said Davidge, with proper modesty.

"Well, I want to know!"

Abbie wiped her hand again and thrust it forward, seizing his questioning fingers in a practised clench, and saying, "Come right on in and seddown." She haled the befuddled Davidge to a chair and regarded him with beaming eyes. He regarded her with the eyes of astonishment—and the ears, too, for the amazing servant, forever wiping her hands, went to the stairs and shrieked:

"Mamee-eese! Oh, Ma-mee-uz! Mist' Davidge is shere."

Poor Mamise! She had to come down upon such a scene, and without having had any chance to break the news that she had a sister she had to introduce the sister. She had no chance to explain her till a fortunate whiff of burning pastry led Abbie to groan, "My Lord, them pies!" and flee.

If ever Marie Louise had been guilty of snobbery, she was doing penance for it now. She was too loyal to what her family ought to have been and was not to apologize for Abbie, but she suffered in a social purgatory.

Worse yet, she had to ask Davidge to give her brother-in-law a job. And Davidge said he would. He said it before he saw Jake. And when he saw him, though he did not like him, he did not guess what treachery the fellow planned. He invited him to come to the shipyard—by train.

He invited Mamise to ride thither in her own car the next day to see his laboratory for ships, never dreaming that the German menace was already planning its destruction.

* * * * *

Not only in cheap plays and farces do people continue in perplexities that one question and one answer would put an end to. In real life we incessantly dread to ask the answers to conundrums that we cannot solve, and persist in misery for lack of a little frankness.

For many a smiling mile, on the morrow, Davidge rode in a torment. So stout a man, to be fretted by so little a matter! Yet he was unable to bring himself to the point of solving his curiosity. The car had covered forty miles, perhaps, while his thoughts ran back and forth, lacing the road like a dog accompanying a carriage. A mental speedometer would have run up a hundred miles before he made the plunge and popped the subject.

"Mamise is an unusual name," he remarked.

Marie Louise was pleasantly startled by the realization that his long silence had been devoted to her.

"Like it?" she asked.

"You bet." The youthfulness of this embarrassed him and made her laugh. He grew solemn for about eleven hundred yards of road that went up and down and up and down in huge billows. Then he broke out again:

"It's an unusual name."

She laughed patiently. "So I've heard."

The road shot up a swirling hill into an old, cool grove.

"I only knew one other—er—Mamise."

This sobered her. It was unpleasant not to be unique. The chill woods seemed to be rather glum about it, too. The road abandoned them and flung into a sun-bathed plain.

"Really? You really knew another—er—Mamise?"

"Yes. Years ago."

"Was she nice?"

"Very."

"Oh!" She was sorry about that, too. The road slipped across a loose-planked, bone-racking bridge. With some jealousy she asked, "What was she like?"

"You."

"That's odd." A little shabby, topply-tombed graveyard glided by, reverting to oblivion. "Tell me about her."

A big motor charged past so fast that the passengers were only blurs, a grim chauffeur-effect with blobs of fat womankind trailing snapping veils. The car trailed a long streamer of dust that tasted of the road. When this was penetrated they entered upon a stretch of pleasant travel for eyes and wheels, on a long, long channel through a fruitful prairie, a very allegory of placid opulence.

"It was funny," said Davidge. "I was younger than I am. I went to a show one night. A musical team played that everlasting 'Poet and Peasant' on the xylophones. They played nearly everything on nearly everything—same old stuff, accordions, horns, bells; same old jokes by the same fool clown and the solemn dubs. But they had a girl with 'em—a young thing. She didn't play very well. She had a way with her, though—seemed kind of disgusted with life and the rest of the troupe and the audience. And she had a right to be disgusted, for she was as pretty as—I don't know what. She was just beautiful—slim and limber and long—what you might imagine a nymph would look like if she got loose in a music-hall.

"I was crazy about her. If I could ever have written a poem about anybody, it would have been about her. She struck me as something sort of—well, divine. She wore the usual, and not much of it—low neck, bare arms, and—tights. But I kind of revered her; she was so dog-on pretty.

"When the drop fell on that act I was lost. I was an orphan for true. I couldn't rest till I saw the manager and asked him to take me back and introduce me to her. He gave me a nasty grin and said he didn't run that kind of a theater, and I said I'd knock his face off if he thought I thought he did. Well, he gave in finally and took me back. I fell down the side-aisle steps and sprawled along the back of the boxes and stumbled up the steps to the stage.

"And then I met Mamise—that was her name on the program—Mamise. She was pretty and young as ever, but she wasn't a nymph any longer. She was just a young, painted thing, a sulky, disgusted girl. And she was feeding a big monkey—a chimpanzee or something. It was sitting on a bicycle and smoking a cigar—getting ready to go on the stage.

"It was so human and so unhuman and so ugly, and she was so graceful, that it seemed like a sort of satire on humanity. The manager said, 'Say, Mamise, this gentleman here wants to pays his respecks.' She looked up in a sullen way, and the chimpanzee showed his teeth at me, and I mumbled something about expecting to see the name Mamise up in the big electric lights.

"She gave me a look that showed she thought I was a darned fool, and I agreed with her then—and since. She said, 'Much obliged' in a contemptuous contralto and—and turned to the other monkey.

"The interview was finished. I backed over a scene-prop, knocked down a stand of Indian-clubs, and got out into the alley. I was mad at her at first, but afterward I always respected her for snubbing me. I never saw her again, never saw her name again. As for the big electric lights, I was a punk prophet. But her name has stood out in electric lights in my—my memory. I suppose she left the stage soon after. She may be dead now.

"It hurt me a lot to have her wither me with that one big, slow glance of hers, but I was glad of it afterward. It made me feel more comfortable about her. If she had welcomed every stranger that came along she—well, as she didn't, she must have been a good girl, don't you suppose?"

The road still pierced the golden scene, a monotony of plenty, an endless-seeming treasure of sheaves of wheat and stacks of corn, with pumpkins of yellow metal and twisted ingots of squash; but an autumnal sorrow clouded the landscape for Marie Louise.

"What do you call a good girl?" she asked.

"That's a hard question to answer nowadays."

"Why nowadays?"

"Oh, because our ideas of good are so much more merciful and our ideas of girls are so much more—complicated. Anyway, as the fellow said, that's my story. And now you know all about Mamise that I know. Can you forgive her for wearing your name?"

"I could forgive that Mamise anything," she sighed. "But this Mamise I can't forgive at all."

This puzzled him. "I don't quite get that."

She let him simmer in his own perplexity through a furlong of what helpless writers call "a shady dell"; its tenderness won from him a timid confession.

"You reminded me of her when I first met you. You are as different as can be, and yet somehow you remind me of each other."

"Somehow we are each other."

He leaned forward and stared at her, and she spared him a hasty glance from the road. She was blushing.

He was so childishly happy that he nearly said, "It's a small world, after all." He nearly swung to the other extreme. "Well, I'll be—" He settled like a dying pendulum on, "Well—well!" They both laughed, and he put out his hand. "Pleased to meet you again."

She let go the wheel and pressed his hand an instant.

The plateau was ended, and the road went overboard in a long, steep cascade. She pushed out the clutch and coasted. The whir of the engine stopped. The car sailed softly.

He was eager for news of the years between then and now. It was so wonderful that the surly young beginner in vaudeville should have evolved into this orchid of the salons. He was interested in the working of such social machinery. He urged:

"Tell me all about yourself."

"No, thanks."

"But what happened to you after I saw you? You don't remember me, of course."

"I remember the monkey."

They both laughed at the unconscious brutality of this. He turned solemn and asked:

"You mean that so many men came back to call on you?"

"No, not so many—too many, but not many. But—well, the monkey was more unusual, I suppose. He traveled with us several weeks. He was very jealous. He had a fight with a big trained dog that I petted once. They nearly killed each other before they could be separated. And such noises as they made! I can hear them yet. The manager of the monkey wanted to marry me. I was unhappy with my team, but I hated that man—he was such a cruel beast with the monkey that supported him. He'd have beaten me, too, I suppose, and made me support him."

Davidge sighed with relief as if her escape had been just a moment before instead of years ago.

"Lord! I'm glad you didn't marry him! But tell me what did happen after I saw you."

The road led them into a sizable town, street-car tracks, bad pavements, stupid shops, workmen's little homes in rows like chicken-houses, then better streets, better homes, business blocks well paved, a hotel, a post-office, a Carnegie library, a gawky Civil War statue, then poorer shops, rickety pavements, shanties, and the country again.

Davidge noted that she had not answered his question. He repeated it:

"What happened after you and the monkey-trainer parted?"

"Oh, years later I was in Berlin with a team called the Musical Mokes, and Sir Joseph and Lady Webling saw me and thought I looked like their daughter, and they adopted me—that's all."

She had grown a bit weary of her autobiography. Abbie had made her tell it over and over, but had tried in vain to find out what went on between her stage-beginnings and her last appearance in Berlin.

Davidge was fascinated by her careless summary of such great events; for to one in love, all biography of the beloved becomes important history. But having seen her as a member of Sir Joseph's household, he was more interested in the interregnum.

"But between your reaching Berlin and the time I saw you what happened?"

"That's my business."

She saw him wince at the abrupt discourtesy of this. She apologized:

"I don't mean to be rude, but—well, it wouldn't interest you."

"Oh yes, it would. Don't tell me if you don't want to, but—"

"But—"

"Oh, nothing!"

"You mean you'll think that if I don't tell you it's because I'm ashamed to."

"Oh no, not at all."

"Oh yes, at all. Well, what if I were?"

"I can't imagine your having done anything to be ashamed of."

"O Lord! Am I as stupid as that comes to?"

"No! But I mean, you couldn't have done anything to be really ashamed of."

"That's what I mean. I've done numberless things I'd give my right arm not to have done."

"I mean really wicked things."

"Such as—"

"Oh—well, I mean being bad."

"Woman-bad or man-bad?"

"Bad for a woman."

"So what's bad for one is not bad for another."

"Well, not exactly, but there is a difference."

"If I told you that I had been very, very wicked in those mysterious years, would it seem important to you?"

"Of course! Horribly! It couldn't help it, if a man cared much for a woman."

"And if a woman cared a lot for a man, ought it to make a difference what he had done before he met her?"

"Well, of course—but that's different."

"Why?"

"Oh, because it is."

"Men say 'Because!' too, I see."

"It's just shorthand with us. It means you know it so well there's no need of explaining."

"Oh! Well, if you—I say, if you were very much in love with me—"

"Which I—"

"Don't be odiously polite. I'm arguing, not fishing. If you were deeply in love with me, would it make a good deal of difference to you if several years ago I had been—oh, loose?"

"It would break my heart."

Marie Louise liked him the better for this, but she held to her argument.

"All right. Now, still supposing that we loved each other, ought I to inquire of you if the man of my possible choice had been perfectly—well, spotless, all that time? Ought I expect that he was saving himself up for me, feeling himself engaged to me, you might say, long before he met me, and keeping perfectly true to his future fiancee—ought I to expect that?"

He flushed a little as he mumbled:

"Hardly!"

She laughed a trifle bitterly:

"So we're there already?"

"Where?"

"At the double standard. What's crime for the goose is pastime for the gander."

He did not intend to give up man's ancient prerogative.

"Well, it's better to have almost any standard than none, isn't it?"

"I wonder."

"The single standard is better than the sixteen to one—silver for men and gold for women."

"Perhaps! But you men seem to believe in a sixteen to none. Mind you, I'm not saying I've been bad."

"I knew you couldn't have been."

"Oh yes, I could have been—I'm not saying I wasn't. I'm not saying anything at all. I'm saying that it's nobody's business but my own."

"Even your future husband has no right to know?"

"None whatever. He has the least right of all, and he'd better not try to find out."

"You women are changing things!"

"We have to, if we're going to live among men. When you're in Rome—"

"You're going to turn the world upside down, I suppose?"

"We've always done that more or less, and nobody ever could stop us, from the Garden of Eden on. In the future, one thing is sure: a lot of women will go wrong, as the saying is, under the new conditions, with liberty and their own money and all. But, good Lord! millions of women went wrong in the old days! The first books of the Bible tell about all the kinds of wickedness that we know to-day. Somebody complained that with all our modern science we hadn't invented one new deadly sin. We go on using the same old seven—well, indecencies. It will be the same with women. It's bound to be. You can't keep women unfree. You've simply got to let them loose. The old ways were hideous; and it's dishonest and vicious to pretend that people used to be better than they were, just as an argument in favor of slavery, for fear they will be worse than the imaginary woman they put up for an argument. I fancy women were just about as good and just about as bad in old Turkey, in the jails they call harems, as they are in a three-ringed circus to-day.

"When the old-fashioned woman went wrong she lied or cried or committed suicide or took to the streets or went on with her social success, as the case might be. She'll go on doing much the same—just as men do. Some men repent, some cheat, some kill themselves; others go right along about their business, whether it's in a bank, a church, a factory, a city or a village or anywhere.

"But in the new marriage—for marriage is really changing, though the marrying people are the same old folks—in the new marriage a man must do what a woman has had to do all along: take the partner for better or worse and no questions asked."

He humored her heresy because he found it too insane to reason with. "In other words, we'll take our women as is."

"That's the expression—as is. A man will take his sweetheart 'as is' or leave her. And whichever he does, as you always say, oh, she'll get along somehow."

"The old-fashioned home goes overboard, then?"

"That depends on what you mean by the old-fashioned home. I had one, and it could well be spared. There were all kinds of homes in old times and the Middle Ages and nowadays, and there'll be all kinds forever. But we're wrangling like a pair of lovers instead of getting along beautifully like a pair of casual acquaintances."

"Aren't we going to be more than that?"

"I hope not. I want a place on your pay-roll; I'm not asking for a job as your wife."

"You can have it."

"Thanks, but I have another engagement. When I have made my way in the world and can support you in the style you're accustomed to, I may come and ask for your hand."

Her flippancy irked him worse than her appalling ideas, but she grew more desirable as she grew more infuriating, for the love-game has some resemblances to the fascinating-sickening game of golf. She did not often argue abstrusely, and she was already fagged out mentally. She broke off the debate.

"Now let's think of something else, if you don't mind."

They talked of everything else, but his soul was chiefly engaged in alternating vows to give her up and vows to make her his own in spite of herself; and he kept on trying to guess the conundrum she posed him in refusing to enlighten him as to those unmentionable years between his first sight of her and his second.

In making love, as in other popular forms of fiction, the element of mystery is an invaluable adjunct to the property value. He was still pondering her and wondering what she was pondering when they reached the town where his shipyard lay.



CHAPTER II

From a hilltop Marie Louise saw below her in panorama an ugly mess of land and riverscape—a large steel shed, a bewilderment of scaffolding, then a far stretch of muddy flats spotted with flies that were probably human beings, among a litter of timber, of girders, of machine-shanties, of railroad tracks, all spread out along a dirty water.

A high wire fence surrounded what seemed to need no protection. In the neighborhood were numbers of workmen's huts—some finished, and long rows of them in building, as much alike and as graceful as a pan of raw biscuits.

She saw it all as it was, with a stranger's eyes. Davidge saw it with the eyes a father sees a son through, blind to evident faults, vividly accepting future possibilities as realities.

Davidge said, with repressed pride:

"Well, thar she blows!"

"What?"

"My shipyard!" This with depressed pride.

"Oh, rilly! So it is! How wonderful!" This with forced enthusiasm.

"You don't like it," he groaned.

"I'm crazy about it."

"If you could have seen it when it was only marsh and weeds and mud-holes and sluices you'd appreciate what we've reclaimed and the work that has been done."

The motor pitched down a badly bruised road.

"Where's the ship that's nearly done—your mother's ship?"

"Behind the shed, in among all that scaffolding."

"Don't tell me there's a ship in there!"

"Yep, and she's just bursting to come out."

They entered the yard, past a guardian who looked as if a bottle of beer would buy him, and a breath strong enough to blow off the froth would blow him over.

Within a great cage of falsework Marie Louise could see the ship that Davidge had dedicated to his mother. But he did not believe Marie Louise ready to understand it.

"Let's begin at the beginning," he said. "See those railroad tracks over there? Well, that's where the timber comes from the forests and the steel from the mills. Now we'll see what happens to 'em in the shop."

He took her into the shed and showed her the traveling-cranes that could pick up a locomotive between their long fingers and carry it across the long room like a captured beetle.

"Up-stairs is the mold-loft. It's our dressmaking-shop. We lay down the design on the floor, and mark out every piece of the ship in exact size, and then make templates of wood to match—those are the patterns. It's something like making a gown, I suppose."

"I see," said Marie Louise. "Then you fit the dress together out in the yard."

"Exactly," said Davidge. "You've mastered the whole thing already. It's a long climb up there. Will you try it?"

"Later, perhaps. I want to see these delightful what-you-may-call-'ems first."

She watched the men at work, each group about its own machine, like priests at their various altars. Davidge explained to her the cruncher that manicured thick plates of steel sheets as if they were finger-nails, or beveled their edges; the puncher that needled rivet-holes through them as if they were silk, the ingenious Lysholm tables with rollers for tops.

Marie Louise was like a child in a wholesale toy-shop, understanding nothing, ecstatic over everything, forbidden to touch anything. In her ignorance of technical matters, the simplest device was miraculous. The whole place was a vast laboratory of mysteries and magic.

There was a something hallowed and awesome about it all. It had a cathedral grandeur, even though it was a temple builded with hands for the sake of the things builded with hands. The robes of the votaries were grimy and greasy, and the prayer they poured out was sweat. They chewed tobacco and spat regardless. They eyed her as curiously as she them. They swaggered each his own way, one by extra obliviousness, another with a flourish of gesture. They seemed to want to speak, and so did she, but embarrassment caused a common silence.

On the ground they had cleared and under the roof they had established they had fashioned vessels that should carry not myrrh and nard to make a sweet smell or to end in a delicate smoke, but wheat, milk and coal, clothes and shoes and shells, for the feeding and warming of people in need, and for the destruction of the god of destruction.

Marie Louise's response to the mood of the place was conversion, a passion to take vows of eternal industry, to put on the holy vestments of toil and wield the—she did not even know the names of the tools. She only knew that they were sacred implements.

She was in an almost trancelike state when Davidge led her from this world with its own sky of glass to the outer world with the same old space-colored sky. He conducted her among heaps of material waiting to be assembled, the raw stuffs of creation.

As they drew near the almost finished ship the noise of the riveting which had been but a vague palpitation of the air became a well-nigh intolerable staccato.

Men were at work everywhere, Lilliputian against the bulk of the hull they were contriving. Davidge escorted Marie Louise with caution across tremulous planks, through dark caverns into the hold of the ship.

In these grottoes of steel the clamor of the riveters grew maddening in her ears. They were everywhere, holding their machine-guns against reverberant metal and hammering steel against steel with a superhuman velocity; for man had made himself more than man by his own inventions, had multiplied himself by his own machineries.

"That's the great Sutton," Davidge remarked, presently. "He's our prima donna. He's the champion riveter of this part of the country. Like to meet him?"

Marie Louise nodded yes before she noted that the man was stripped to the waist. Runnels of sweat ran down his flesh and shot from the muscles leaping beneath his swart hide.

Davidge went up to him and, after howling in vain, tapped his brawn. Sutton looked up, shut off his noise, and turned to Davidge with the impatience of a great tenor interrupted in a cadenza by a mere manager.

Davidge yelled, with unnecessary voltage:

"Sutton, I want to present you to Miss Webling."

Sutton realized his nakedness like another Adam, and his confusion confused Marie Louise. She nodded. He nodded. Perhaps he made his muscles a little tauter.

Davidge had planned to ask Sutton to let Marie Louise try to drive a rivet, just to show her how hopeless her ambition was, but he dared not loiter. Marie Louise, feeling silly in the silence, asked, stupidly:

"So that's a riveter?"

"Yes, ma'am," Sutton confessed, "this is a riveter."

"Oh!" said Marie Louise.

"Well, I guess we'll move on," said Davidge. As conversation, it was as unimportant as possible, but it had a negative historical value, since it left Marie Louise unconvinced of her inability to be a rivetress.

She said, "Thank you," and moved on. Davidge followed. Sutton took up his work again, as a man does after a woman has passed by, pretending to be indignant, trying by an added ferocity to conceal his delight.

At a distance Davidge paused to say: "He's a great card, Sutton. He gets a lot of money, but he earns it before he spends it, and he's my ideal of a workman. His work comes first. He hogs all the pay the traffic will bear, but he goes on working and he takes a pride in being better than anybody else in his line. So many of these infernal laborers have only one ideal—to do the least possible work and earn enough to loaf most of the time."

Marie Louise thought of some of Jake Nuddle's principles and wondered if she had done right in recommending him for a place on Davidge's pay-roll. She was afraid he would be a slacker, never dreaming that he would be industrious in all forms of destruction. Jake never demanded short hours for his conspiracies.

At the top of the unfinished deck Marie Louise forgot Jake and gave her mind up to admiring Davidge as the father of all this factory. He led her down, out and along the bottom-land, through bogs, among heaps of rusty iron, to a concrete building-slip. He seemed to be very important about something, but she could not imagine what it was. She saw nothing but a long girder made up of sections. It lay along a flat sheet of perforated steel—the homeliest contraption imaginable.

"Whatever is all this," she asked,—"the beginning of a bridge?"

"Yes and no. It's the beginning of part of the bridge we're building across the Atlantic."

"I don't believe that I quite follow you."

"This is the keel of a ship."

"No!"

"Yep!"

"And was the Clara like this once?"

"No. Clara's an old-fashioned creature like mother. This is a newfangled thing like—like you."

"Like me! This isn't—"

"This is to be the Mamise."

She could not hide her disappointment in her namesake.

"I must confess she's not very beautiful to start with."

"Neither were you at first, I suppose. I—I beg your pardon. I mean—"

He tried to tell her about the new principles of fabricated ships, the standardizing of the parts, and their manufacture at distances by various steel plants, the absence of curved lines, the advantage of all the sacrifice of the old art for the new speed.

In spite of what she had read she could not make his information her own. And yet it was thrilling to look at. She broke out:

"I've just got to learn how to build ships. It's the one thing on earth that will make me happy."

"Then I'll have to get it for you."

"You mean it?"

"If anything I could do could make you happy—cutting off my right arm, or—"

"That's no end nice of you. But I am in earnest. I'm wretchedly unhappy, doing nothing. We women, I fancy, are most of us just where boys are when they have outgrown boyhood and haven't reached manhood—when they are crazy to be at something, and can't even decide where to begin. Women have got to come out in the world and get to work. Here's my job, and I want it!"

He looked at the delicate hands she fluttered before him, and he smiled. She protested:

"I always loved physical exercise. In England I did the roughest sort of farmwork. I'm stronger than I look. I think I'd rather play one of those rat-tat-tat instruments than—than a harp in New Jerusalem."

Davidge shook his head. "I'm afraid you're not quite strong enough. It takes a lot of power to hold the gun against the hull. The compressed air kicks and shoves so hard that even men tire quickly. Sutton himself has all he can do to keep alive."

"Give me a hammer, then, and let me—smite something."

"Don't you think you'd rather begin in the office? You could learn the business there first. Besides, I don't like the thought of your roughing up those beautiful hands of yours."

"If men would only quit trying to keep women's hands soft and clean, the world would be the better for it."

"Well, come down and learn the business first—you'd be nearer me."

She sidestepped this sentimental jab and countered with a practical left hook:

"But you'd teach me ship-building?"

"I'd rather teach you home-building."

"If you mean a home on the bounding main, I'll get right to work."

He was stubborn about beginning with office tasks, and he took her to the mold-loft. She was fascinated but appalled by her own ignorance of what had come to be the most important of all knowledge.

She sighed. "I've always been such a smatterer. I never have really known anything about anything. Most women are so astonishingly ignorant and indifferent about the essentials of men's life."

She secretly resolved that she would study some of the basic principles of male existence—bookkeeping, drafting, letter-writing, filing, trading. It amused her as a kind of new mischief to take a course of business instruction on the sly and report for duty not as an ignoramus, but as a past-mistress in office practice. It was at least a refreshing novelty in duplicity.

She giggled a little at the quaintness of her conspiracy. The old song, "Trust Her Not—She Is Fooling Thee," occurred to her in a fantastic parody: "Trust her not—she is fooling thee; she is clandestine at the business college; she is leading a double-entry life. She writes you in longhand, but she is studying shorthand. She is getting to be very fast—on the typewriter."

Davidge asked her why she snickered, but she would not divulge her plot. She was impatient to spring it. She wondered if in a week she could learn all she had to learn—if she worked hard. It would be rather pleasant to sit at his desk-leaf and take dictation from him—confidential letters that he would intrust to no one else, letters written in a whisper and full of dark references. She hoped she could learn stenographic velocity in a few days.

As she and Davidge walked back to the car she noted the workmen's shanties.

"If I come here, may I live in one of those cunning new bungalettes?"

"Indeed not! There are some nice houses in town."

"I'm sick of nice houses. I want to rough it. In the next war millions of women will live in tents the way the men do. Those shanties would be considered palaces in Belgium and northern France. In fact, any number of women are over there now building huts for the poor souls."

Davidge grew more and more wretched. He could not understand such a twisted courtship. His sweetheart did not want jewels and luxuries and a life of wealthy ease. Her only interest in him seemed to be that he would let her live in a shanty, wear overalls, and pound steel all day for union wages.



CHAPTER III

An eloquent contrast with Marie Louise was furnished by Jake Nuddle. He was of the ebb type. He was degenerating into a shirker, a destroyer, a money-maniac, a complainer of other men's successes. His labor was hardly more than a foundation for blackmailing. He loved no country, had not even a sense of following the crowd. He called the Star-spangled Banner a dirty rag, and he wanted to wipe his feet on it. He was useless, baneful, doomed.

Marie Louise was coming into a new Canaan. What she wanted was work for the work's sake, to be building something and thereby building herself, to be helping her country forward, to be helping mankind, poor and rich. The sight of the flag made her heart ache with a rapture of patriotism. She had the urge to march with an army.

Marie Louise was on the up grade, Jake on the down. They met at the gate of the shipyard.

Jake and Abbie had come over by train. Jake was surly in his tone to Davidge. His first question was, "Where do we live?"

Marie Louise answered, "In one of those quaint little cottages."

Jake frowned before he looked. He was one of those who hate before they see, feel nausea before they taste, condemn the unknown, the unheard, the unoffending.

By the time Jake's eyes had found the row of shanties his frown was a splendid thing.

"Quaint little hog-pens!" he growled. "Is this company the same as all the rest—treatin' its slaves like swine?"

Davidge knew the type. For the sake of Marie Louise he restrained his first impulses and spoke with amiable acidity:

"There are better houses in town, some of them very handsome."

"Yah—but what rent?"

"Rather expensive. Rather distant, too, but you can make it easily in an automobile."

"Where would I git a nautomobile?"

"I can introduce you to the man who sold me mine."

"How would I get the price?"

"Just where I did."

"Whurr's that?"

"Oh, all over the place. I used to be a common unskilled laborer like you. And now I own a good part of this business. Thousands of men who began poorer than I did are richer than I am. The road's just as open to you as to me."

Jake had plenty of answers for this. He had memorized numbers of them from the tracts; but also he had plans that would not be furthered by quarreling with Davidge the first day. He could do Davidge most harm by obeying him and outwardly catering to him. He solaced his pride with a thought of what Davidge's business would look like when he got through with it.

He laughed: "All right, boss. I was just beefin', for the fun of beefin'. Them shanties suit me elegant."

Then his fool wife had to go and bust in, "Oh, Jake, if you would do like Mr. Davidge done, and git rich and live easy!"

Jake gave her a pantomimic rebuke that reduced her to a pulpy silence.

Marie Louise thought to restore Abbie's spirits a little by saying that she herself was coming down to work and to live in one of those very shanties. But Abbie gave her up as hopeless. Why any one should want to leave a house like what Mamise had, and money in the bank, and no call to lift her hand for nothing except to ring a bell and get somebody to fetch anything, and leave all that and live like a squatter and actually work—well, it did beat all how foolish some folks could be in the world nowadays.

Marie Louise left Abbie and Jake to establish themselves. She had to get back to Washington. Davidge had planned to go with her, but a long-distance telephone-call, and a visit from a group of prospective strikers, and a warning that a consignment of long-expected machinery had not yet arrived, took him out of the car. He was tempted to go with Marie Louise, anyway, but she begged him not to neglect his business for her unimportant self, and bade him good-by in an old Wakefield phrase, "If I don't see you again, hello!"

She returned to Washington alone, but not lonely. Her thoughts smoked through her brain like a dust-cloud of shining particles, each radiant atom a great idea. The road home was through the sky; the villages and groves were vague pink clouds; the long downward slopes were shafts of sunlight, the ridges rainbows.

It would take her hardly any time to conquer the mysteries of stenography. Surely they must be easy, considering some of the people that practised the art. She would study ship-building, and drafting, too. Her water-color landscapes had been highly praised by certain young men and old ladies in England. She would learn how to keep her own bank-account and revamp her arithmetic. She would take up light bookkeeping; and she would build up her strength in a gymnasium so that she could swing a sledge as well as the next one. She would offer her home in Washington for rent. With the mobs pouring in, it would not be untenanted long.

Her last expectation was realized first. The morning after she reached home she visited Mr. Hailstorks and told him she would sublet her mansion. Now that she wanted to collect rent from it instead of paying rent for it her description of its advantages was inevitably altered. With perfect sincerity she described its very faults as attractions.

Thereafter her life was made miserable by the calls of people who wanted to look the place over. She had incessant offers, but she would not surrender her nest till she was ready to go back to the shipyard, and that was always to-morrow—the movable to-morrow which like the horizon is always just beyond.

She sent herself to school and was dazed by her ignorance. In arithmetic she had forgotten what she had gained at the age of ten, and it was not easy to recapture it.

On the typewriter she had to learn the alphabet all over again in a new order, and this was fiendishly hard. She studied the touch-system with the keyboard covered, and her blunders were disheartening. Her deft fingers seemed hardly to be her own. They would not obey her will at all.

Shorthand was baffling. It took her five times as long to write in shorthand as in longhand such thrilling literature as: "Dear customer,—Letter received and contents noted. In reply to same would say—"

At first she was a trifle snobbish and stand-offish with some of the pert young fellow-pupils, but before long her opinion of them increased to a respect verging on awe.

They could take dictation, chew gum, and fix their back hair with the free hand all at once. Their fingers pattered the keyboard like rain, and their letters were exquisitely neat. They had studied for a long time, and had acquired proficiency. And it is no easy thing to acquire proficiency in any task, from cobbling shoes to polishing sonnets or moving armies.

Marie Louise was humiliated to find that she really did not know how to spell some of the simplest words. When she wrote with running pen she never stopped to spell. She just sketched the words and let them go. She wrote, "I beleive I recieved," so that nobody could tell e from i; and she put the dot where it might apply to either. Her punctuation was all dashes.

The typewriter would not permit anything vague. A word stood out in its stark reality, howling "Illiterate!" at her. Her punctuation simply would not do.

Pert young misses who were honored by a wink from an ice-cream-soda-counter keeper or by an invitation to a street-car conductors' dance turned out work of a Grecian perfection, while Marie Louise bit her lips and blushed with shame under the criticisms of her teacher. She was back in school again, the dunce of the class, and abject discouragements alternated with spurts of zeal.

In the mean while the United States was also learning the rudiments of war and the enormous office-practice it required. Before the war was over the army of 118,000 men and 5,000 officers in February, 1917, would be an army of over 3,000,000, and of these over 2,000,000 would have been carried to Europe, half of them in British ships; 50,000 of these would be killed to Russia's 1,700,000 dead, Germany's 1,600,000, France's 1,385,000, England's 706,200, Italy's 406,000, and Belgium's 102,000. The wounded Americans would be three times the total present army. Everybody was ignorant, blunderful. Externally and internally the United States was as busy as a trampled ant-hill.

Everything in those days was done in drives. The armies made drives; the financiers made drives; the charities made drives. The world-heart was never so driven. And this was all on top of the ordinary human suffering, which did not abate one jot for all its overload. Teeth ached just as fiercely; jealousy was just as sickly green; empires crackled; people starved in herds; cities were pounded to gravel; army after army was taken prisoner or slaughtered; yet each agitated atom in the chaos was still the center of the tormented universe.

Marie Louise suffered for mankind and for herself. She was lonely, love-famished, inept, dissatisfied, and abysmally ashamed of her general ineffectiveness. Then one of Washington's infamous hot weeks supervened. In the daytime the heat stung like a cat-o'-nine-tails. The nights were suffocation. She "slept," gasping as a fish flounders on dry land. After the long strain of fighting for peace, toiling for rest, the mornings would find Marie Louise as wrecked as if she had come in from a prolonged spree. Then followed a day of drudgery at the loathly necessities of her stupid work.

Detail and delay are the tests of ambition. Ambition sees the mountain-peak blessed with sunlight and cries, "That is my goal!" But the feet must cross every ditch, wade every swamp, scramble across every ledge. The peak is the harder to see the nearer it comes; the last cliffs hide it altogether, and when it is reached it is only a rough crag surrounded by higher crags. The glory that lights it is glory in distant eyes alone.

So for poor Mamise. She had run away from a squalid home to the gorgeous freedom of stage-life, only to find that the stage also is squalid and slavish, and that the will-o'-the-wisp of gorgeous freedom had jumped back to home life. She left the cheap theaters for the expensive luxury of Sir Joseph's mansion. But that had its squalors and slaveries, too. She had fled from troubled England to joyous America, only to find in America a thousand distresses.

Then her eyes had been caught with the glitter of true freedom. She would be a builder of ships—cast off the restraint of womanhood and be a magnificent builder of ships! And now she was finding that this dream was also a nightmare.

Everywhere she looked was dismay, futility, failure. The hot wave found her an easy victim. A frightened servant who did not know the difference between sunstroke and heat prostration nearly killed her before a doctor came.

The doctor sent Marie Louise to bed, and in bed she stayed. It was her trained nurse who wrote a letter to Mr. Davidge regretting that she could not come to the launching of the Clara. Abbie was not present, either. She came up to be with Marie Louise. This was not the least of Marie Louise's woes.

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