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The Cup of Fury - A Novel of Cities and Shipyards
by Rupert Hughes
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Suddenly she was "sawed off." She was moving. The rigid mountain was an avalanche of steel departing down a wooden hill.

Mamise stared, gasped, paralyzed with launch-fright. Davidge nudged her. She hurled the bottle at the vanishing keel. It broke with a loud report. The wine splashed everywhichway. Some of it spattered Mamise's new gown.

Her muscles went to work in womanly fashion to brush off the stain.

When she looked up, ashamed of her homely misbehavior, she cried:

"O Lord! I forgot to say, 'I christen thee Mamise.'"

"Say it now," said Davidge.

She shouted the words down the channel opening like an abyss as the vast hulk diminished toward the river. Far below she could see the water leap back from the shock of the new-comer. Great, circling ripples retreated outward. Waves fought and threw up bouquets of spume.

The chute smoked with the heat of the ship's passage and a white cloud of steam flew up and followed her into the river.

She was launched, beautifully, perfectly. She sailed level. She was water-borne.

People were cheering, the band was pounding all out of time, every eye following the ship, the leader forgetting to lead.

Mamise wept and Davidge's eyes were wet. Something surged in him like the throe of the river where the ship went in. It was good to have built a good ship.

Mamise wrung his hand. She would have kissed him, but she remembered in time. The camera caught the impulse. People laughed at that in the movie theaters. People cheered in distant cities as they assisted weeks after in the debut of Mamise.

The movies took the people everywhere on magic carpets. Yet there were curious people who bewailed them as inartistic!

Mamise's little body and her little soul were almost blasted by the enormity of her emotions. The ship was like a child too big for its mother, and the ending of the long travail left her wrecked.

She tried to enter into the hilarity of the guests, but she was filled with awe and prostrate as if a god had passed by.

The crowd began to trickle down the long steps to the feast in the mess hall. She dreaded the descent, the long walk, the sitting at table. She wanted to go home and cry very hard and be good and sick for a long while.

But she could not desert Davidge at such a time or mar his triumph by her hypochondria. She wavered as she climbed down. She rode with Davidge to the mess-hall in his car and forced herself to voice congratulations too solemn and too fervid for words.

The guests of honor sat at a table disguised with scenery as a ship's deck. A thousand people sat at the other tables and took part in the banquet.

Mamise could not eat the food of human caterers. She had fed on honey-dew and drunk the milk of paradise.

She lived through the long procession of dishes and heard some of the oratory, the glowing praises of Davidge and Uncle Sam, Mr. Schwab, Mr. Hurley, President Wilson, the Allies, and everybody else. She heard it proclaimed that America was going back to the sea, so long neglected. The prodigal was returning home.

Mamise could think of nothing but a wish to be in bed. The room began to blur. People's faces went out of focus. Her teeth began to chatter. Her jaw worked ridiculously like a riveting-gun. She was furious at it.

She heard Davidge whispering: "What's the matter, honey? You're ill again."

"I—I fancy—I—I guess I—I—am," she faltered.

"O God!" he groaned, "why did you come out?"

He rose, lifted her elbow, murmured something to the guests. He would have supported her to the door, but she pleaded:

"Don't! They'll think it's too much ch-ch-champagne. I'm all right!"

She made the door in excellent control, but it cost her her last cent of strength. Outside, she would have fallen, but he huddled her in his arms, lifted her, carried her to his car. He piled robes on her, but those riveters inside her threatened to pound her to death. Burning pains gnawed her chest like cross-cut saws.

When the car stopped she was not in front of her cottage, but before the hospital.

When the doctor finished his inspection she heard him mumble to Davidge:

"Pneumonia! Double pneumonia!"



CHAPTER IX

Once more Mamise had come between Davidge and his work. He did not care what happened to his ships or his shipyard. He watched Mamise fighting for life, if indeed she fought, for he could not get to her through the fog.

She was often delirious and imagined herself back in her cruel times. He learned a few things about that mystic period she would never disclose. And he was glad that she had never told him more. He fled from her, for eavesdropping on a delirium has something of the contemptible quality of peeping at a nakedness.

He supposed that Mamise would die. All the poor women with pasts that he had read about, in what few novels he had read, had died or it had been found out that they had magically retained their innocence through years of evil environment.

He supposed also that Mamise would die, because that was the one thing needful to make his life a perfect failure. He had not gone to war, yet he had lost his arm. He had never really desperately loved before, and now he would lose his heart. It was just as well, because if Mamise lived he would lose her, anyway. He would not tie her to the crippled thing he was.

While the battalions of disease ravaged the poor Belgium of Mamise's body the world outside went on making history. The German Empire kept caving in on all sides. Her armies held nowhere. Her only pride was in saving a defeat from being a disaster. Her confederates were disintegrating. The newspapers mentioned now, not cities that surrendered to the Allies, but nations.

And at last Germany added one more to her unforgivable assaults upon the patience of mankind. Just as the Allies poised for the last tremendous all-satisfying coup de grace the Empire put up her hands and whined the word that had become the world-wide synonym for poltroonery, "Kamerad!"

Foch wept, American soldiers cursed because they could not prove their mettle and drive the boche into the Rhine. Never was so bitter a disappointment mingled with a triumph so magnificent. The world went wild with the news of peace. The nations all made carnival over the premature rumor and would not be denied their rhapsodies because the story was denied. They made another and a wilder carnival when the news was confirmed.

Davidge took the peace without enthusiasm. Mamise had been better, but was worse again. She got still better than before and not quite so worse again. And so in a climbing zigzag she mounted to health at last.

She had missed the carnival and she woke on the morning after. Nearly everybody was surprised to find that ending this one war had brought a dozen new wars, a hundred, a myriad.

The danger that had united the nations into a holy crusade had ended, and the crusaders were men again. They were back in the same old world with the same old sins and sorrows and selfishnesses, and unnumbered new ones. And they had the habit of battle—the gentlest were accustomed to slaughter.

It was not the Central Powers alone that had disintegrated. The Entente Cordiale was turned into a caldron of toil and trouble. No two people in any one nation agreed on the best way to keep the peace. Nobody could accept any other body's theories.

Russia, whose collapse had cost the Allies a glimpse of destruction and a million lives, was a new plague spot, the center of the world's dread. While the people in Russia starved or slew one another their terrible missionaries went about the world preaching chaos as the new gospel and fanning the always smoldering discontent of labor into a prairie fire.

Ships were needed still. Europe must be fed. Hunger was the Bolshevists' blood-brother. Unemployment was the third in the grim fraternity.

Davidge increased his force daily, adding a hundred men or more to his army, choosing mainly from the returning hordes of soldiers.

When Mamise at last had left the hospital she found a new ship growing where the Mamise had dwelt. The Mamise was at the equipping-dock, all but ready for the sea, about to steam out and take on a cargo of food to Poland, the new-old country gathering her three selves together under the spell of Paderewski's patriotic fire.

Mamise wanted to go to work again. Her strength was back and she was not content to return to crochet-hooks and tennis-racquets. She had tasted the joy of machinery, had seen it add to her light muscles a giant's strength. She wanted to build a ship all by herself, especially the riveting.

Davidge opposed her with all his might. He pointed out that the dream of women laboring with men, each at her job, had been postponed, like so many other dreams, lost like so many other benefits that mitigated war.

The horrors of peace were upon the world. Men were driving the women back to the kitchen. There were not jobs enough for all.

But Mamise pleaded to be allowed to work at least till her own ship was finished. So Davidge yielded to quiet her. She put back into her overalls and wielded a monkey-wrench in the engine-room. She took flying trips on the lofty cranes.

One afternoon when the whistle blew she remained aloft alone to revel in the wonder view of the world, the wide and gleaming river, the peaceful hills, the so-called handiwork of God, and everywhere the pitiful beauty of man's efforts to work out his destiny and enslave the forces.

Human power was not the least of these forces. Ingenious men had learned how to use not only wind currents, waterfalls, and lightning and the heat stored up in coal, but to use also the power stored up in the muscles of their more slow-brained fellows. And these forces broke loose at times with the ruinous effect of tornadoes, floods, and thunderbolts.

The laborers needed merciful and intelligent handling, and the better they were the better their work. It was hard to say what was heresy and what was wisdom, what was oppression and what was helpful discipline. Whichever way one turned, there was misunderstanding, protest, revolt.

Mamise thought that everybody ought to be happy and love everybody else. She thought that it ought to be joy enough to go on working in that splendid shop and about the flock of ships on the ways.

And yet people would insist on being miserable. She, the priestess of unalloyed rapture, also sighed.

Hearing a step on the crane, she was startled. After all, she was only a woman, alone up here, and help could never reach her if any one threatened her. She looked over the edge.

There came the man who most of all threatened her—Davidge. He endangered her future most of all, whether he married her or deserted her. He evidently had no intention of marrying her, for she had given him chances enough and hints enough.

He had a telegram in his hand and apologized for following her.

"I didn't know but it might be bad news."

"There's nobody to send me bad news except you and Abbie." She opened the telegram. It was an invitation from Polly to come back to sanity and a big dance at the Hotel Washington. She smiled. "I wonder if I'll ever dance again."

Davidge was tired from the climb. He dropped to the seat occupied by the chauffeur of the crane. He rose at once with an apology and offered his place to Mamise.

She shook her head, then gave a start:

"Great Heavens! that reminds me! That seat of yours I took on the train from New York. I've never paid for it."

"Oh, for the Lord's sake—"

"I'm going to pay it. That's where all the trouble started. How much was it?"

"I don't remember."

"About two dollars now."

"Exactly one then."

She drove her hand down into the pocket of her breeches and dragged up a fistful of small money.

"To-day was pay-day. Here's your dollar."

"Want a receipt?"

"Sure, Mike. I couldn't trust you."

An odd look crossed his face. He did not play easily, but he tried:

"I can't give you a receipt now, because everybody is looking."

"Do you mean that you had an idea of kissing me?" she gasped.

"Yep."

"You reckless devil! Do you think that a plutocrat can kiss every poor goil in the shop?"

"You're the only one here."

"Well, then, do you think you'll take advantage of my womanly helplessness?"

"Yes."

"Never! Overalls is royal raiment when wore for voitue's sake. You'll never kiss me till you put a wedding-ring on me finger."

He looked away, sobered and troubled.

She stared at him. "Good Heavens! Can't you take a hint?"

"Not that one."

"Then I insist on your marrying me. You have compromised me hopelessly. Everybody says I am working here just to be near you, and that's a fact."

He was a caricature of mental and physical awkwardness.

She gasped: "And still he doesn't answer me! Must I get on my knees to you?"

She dropped on her knees, a blue denim angel on a cloud, praying higher.

He stormed: "For Heaven's sake, get up! Somebody will see you."

She did not budge. "I'll not rise from my knees till you promise to marry me."

He started to escape, moved toward the steps. She seized his knees and moaned:

"Oh, pity me! pity me!"

He was excruciated with her burlesque, tried to drag her to her feet, but he had only one hand and he could not manage her.

"Please get up. I can't make you. I've only one arm."

"Let's see if it fits." She rose and, holding his helpless hand, whirled round into his arm. "Perfect!" Then she stood there and called from her eyrie to the sea-gulls that haunted the river, "In the presence of witnesses this man has taken me for his affianced fiancee."

* * * * *

They had a wedding in the village church. Abbie was matron of honor and gave her sister away. Her children were very dressed up and highly uncomfortable. Abbie drew Mamise aside after the signing of the book.

"Oh, thank Gawd you're marrit at last, Mamise! You've been such a worrit to me. I hope you'll be as happy as poor Jake and me was. If he only hadn't 'a' had to gave his life for you, you wouldn't 'a' been. But he's watchin' you from up there and— Oh dear! Oh dear!"

Jake was already a tradition of increasing beauty. So may we all of us be!

Mamise insisted on dragging Davidge away from the shipyard for a brief honeymoon.

"You're such a great executive, they'll never miss you. But I shall. I decline to take my honeymoon or live my married life alone."

They went up to Washington for a while of shopping. The city was already reverting to type. The heart had gone out of the stay-at-home war-workers and the tide was on the ebb save for a new population of returned soldiers, innumerably marked with the proofs of sacrifice, not only by their service chevrons, their wound stripes, but also by the parts of their brave bodies that they had left in France.

They were shy and afraid of themselves and of the world, and especially of their women. But, as Adelaide wrote of the new task of rehabilitation, "a merciful Providence sees to it that we become, in time, used to anything. If we had all been born with one arm or one leg our lives and loves would have gone on just the same."

To many another woman, as to Mamise, was given the privilege of adding herself to her wounded lover to complete him.

Polly Widdicombe, seeing Mamise and Davidge dancing together, smiled through her tears, almost envying her her husband. Davidge danced as well with one arm as with two, but Mamise, as she clasped that blunt shoulder and that pocketed sleeve, was given the final touch of rapture made perfect with regret: she had the aching pride of a soldier's sweetheart, for she could say:

"I am his right arm."

THE END

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