"What DO you mean, Vic?" lamented Mrs. Templeton. "I have only the very vaguest idea of what you have been saying all this time."
"So sorry, Mrs. Templeton. What I mean is the Padre delivered a most effective speech."
"And did they settle anything?" inquired Patricia.
"I regret to say, Patricia, that your friend Rupert—"
"My friend, indeed!" cried Patricia.
"Who comforts you with bonbons," continued Vic, ignoring her words, "and stays you with joy rides, interposed at this second psychological crisis. He very cleverly moves a vote of thanks, bows out the deputation, thanking them for their touching addresses, and promising consideration. Thereupon, as the door closed, he proceeded to sound the alarm once more, collected the scattered forces, flung the gage of battle in the teeth of the enemy, dared them to do their worst, and there you are."
"And nothing done?" cried Adrien. "What a shame."
"What I cannot understand is," said Hugh, "why the unions do not invoke the Lemieux Act?"
"Aha!" said Vic. "Why? The same question rose to my lips."
"The Lemieux Act?" inquired Mrs. Templeton.
"Yes. You know, Mrs. Templeton, either party in dispute can ask for a Board of Conciliation, not Arbitration, you understand. This Board has power to investigate—bring out all the facts—and failing to effect conciliation, makes public its decision in the case, leaving both parties at the bar of public opinion."
"But I cannot understand why the unions do not ask for this Conciliation Board."
"I fear, Hugh," said Victor in an awed and solemn voice, "that there is an Ethiopian in the coal bin."
"What DOES he mean, Patricia?"
"He means that there is something very dark and mysterious, Mamma."
"So there is," said Hugh. "The unions will take an Arbitration Committee, which the employers decline to give, but they will not ask for a Conciliation Board."
"My governor says it's a bluff," said Vic. "The unions know quite well that McGinnis et hoc genus omne will have nothing to do with an Arbitration Committee. Hence they are all for an Arbitration Committee. On the other hand, neither the unions nor McGinnis are greatly in love with the prying methods of the Conciliation Board, and hence reject the aid of the Lemieux Act."
"But why should they all be dominated by a man like McGinnis?" demanded Adrien. "Why doesn't some employer demand a Conciliation Board? He can get it, you know."
"They naturally stand together," said Hugh.
"But they won't long. Maitland declares that he will take either board, and that if the committee cannot agree which to choose, he will withdraw and make terms on his own. He furthermore gave them warning that if any strike-breakers were employed, of which he had heard rumours, he would have nothing to do with the bunch."
"Strike-breakers?" said Adrien. "That would certainly mean serious trouble."
"Indeed, you are jolly well right," said Vic. "We will all be in it then. Civic guard! Special police! 'Shun! Fix bayonets! Prepare for cavalry! Eh?"
"Oh, how terrible it all is," said Mrs. Templeton.
"Nonsense, Vic," said Hugh. "Don't listen to him, Mrs. Templeton. We will have nothing of that sort."
"Well, it is all very sad," said Mrs. Templeton. "But here is Rupert. He will give us the latest."
But Rupert appeared unwilling to talk about the meeting of the morning. He was quite certain, however, that the strike was about to break. He had inside information that the resources of the unions were almost exhausted. The employers were tightening up all along the line, credits were being refused at the stores, the unions were torn with dissension, the end was at hand.
"It would be a great mercy if it would end soon," said Mrs. Templeton. "It is a sad pity that these poor people are so misguided."
"It is a cruel shame, Mrs. Templeton," said Rupert indignantly. "I have it from scores of them that they didn't want to strike at all. They were getting good wages—the wage scale has gone up steadily during the war to the present extravagant height."
"The cost of living has gone up much more rapidly, I believe," said Adrien. "The men are working ten hours a day, the conditions under which they labour are in some cases deplorable; that McGinnis foundry is a ghastly place, terribly unhealthy; the girls in many of the factories are paid wages so shamefully low that they can hardly maintain themselves in decency, and they are continually being told that they are about to be dismissed. The wrong's not all on one side, by any means. To my mind, men like McGinnis who are unwilling to negotiate are a menace to the country."
"You are quite right, Adrien," replied Hugh. "I consider him a most dangerous man. That sort of pig-headed, bull-headed employer of labour does more to promote strife than a dozen 'walking delegates.' I am not terribly strong for the unions, but the point of vantage is always with the employers. And they have a lot to learn. Oh, you may look at me, Adrien! I am no bolshevist, but I see a lot of these men in our office."
Slowly the evening was deepening into night, but still the glow from the setting sun lingered in the western sky. The brave little songster had gone from the top of the elm tree, but from the shrubbery behind the church a whippoorwill was beginning to tune his pipe.
"Oh, listen to the darling!" cried Patricia. "I haven't heard one for a long, long time."
"There used to be a great many in the shrubbery here, and in the old days the woods nearby were full of them in the evenings," said Mrs. Templeton.
As they sat listening for the whippoorwill's voice, they became aware of other sounds floating up to their ears from the town. The hum of passing motors, the high, shrill laughter of children playing in the streets, the clang of the locomotive bell from the railroad station, all softened by distance. But as they listened there came another sound like nothing they had ever heard in that place before. A strange, confused rumbling, with cries jutting out through the dull, rolling noise. A little later came the faint clash of rhythmic, tumultuous cheering. Patricia's quick ears were the first to catch the sound.
"Hush!" she cried. "What is that noise?"
Again came the rumbling sound, punctuated with quick volleys of cheering. The men glanced at each other. They knew well that sound, a sound they had often heard during the stirring days of the war, in the streets of the great cities across the seas, and in other places, too, where men were wont to crowd. As they listened in tense silence, there came the throbbing of a drum.
"My dear," said Mrs. Templeton faintly to her eldest daughter, "I think I shall go in."
At once Hugh offered her his arm, while Adrien took the other, and together they led her slowly into the house.
Meanwhile the others tumbled into Rupert's car and motored down to the gate, and there waited the approach of what seemed to be a procession of some sort or other.
At the gate Dr. Templeton, returning from his pastor visitations, found them standing.
"Come here, Papa!" cried Patricia. "Let us wait here. There is something coming up the street."
"But what is it?" asked Dr. Templeton. "Does anybody know?"
"I guess it is a strikers' parade, sir. I heard that they were to organise a march-out to-night. It is rather a ridiculous thing."
Through the deepening twilight they could see at the head of the column and immediately before the band, a double platoon of young girls dressed in white, under the command of an officer distinguished from the others by her red sash, all marching with a beautiful precision to the tap of the drum. As the head of the column drew opposite, Patricia touched Vic's arm.
"Vic!" she cried. "Look! Look at that girl! It is Annette!"
"My aunt! So it is!" cried Vic. "Jove! What a picture she makes! What a swing!"
Behind that swinging company of girls came the band, marching to the tapping of the drum only. Then after a space came a figure, pathetic, arresting, moving—a woman, obviously a workman's wife, of middle age, grey, workworn, and carrying a babe of a few months in her arms, marched alone. Plainly dressed, her grey head bare, she walked proudly erect but with evident signs of weariness. The appearance of that lone, weary, grey-haired woman and her helpless babe struck hard upon the heart with its poignant appeal, choking men's throats and bringing hot tears to women's eyes. Following that lonely figure came one who was apparently the officer in command of the column. As he came opposite the gate, his eye fell upon the group there. Swiftly he turned about, and, like a trumpet, his voice rang out in command:
"Ba-t-t-a-a-lion, halt!! R-r-r-i-g-h-t turn!"
Immediately the whole column came to a halt and faced toward the side of the street where stood the group within the shadow of the gate.
"I am going to get Annette," said Patricia to her father, and she darted off, returning almost immediately with the leader of the girls' squad.
"What does this mean, Annette? What are you doing? It is a great lark!" cried Patricia.
"Well, it is not exactly a lark," answered Annette, with a slight laugh. "You see, we girls want to help out the boys. We are strikers, too, you know. They asked us to take part in the parade, and here we are. But it's got away past being a lark," she continued, her voice and face growing stern. "There is a lot of suffering among the workers. I know all my money has gone," she added, after a moment, with a gay laugh.
Meantime, the officer commanding the column had spoken a few words to the leader of the band, and in response, to the surprise and dismay of the venerable Doctor, the band struck up that rollicking air associated with the time-honoured chorus, "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow." Then all stood silent, gazing at the Doctor, who, much embarrassed, could only gaze back in return.
"Papa, dear," said Adrien, who with Hugh Maynard had joined them at the gate, "you will have to speak to them."
"Speak to them, my dear? What in the world could I say? I have nothing to say to them."
"Oh, but you must, Papa! Just thank them."
"And tell them you are all for them, Daddy!" added Patricia impulsively.
Then the old Doctor, buttoning his coat tightly about him and drawing himself erect, said:
"Rupert, please run your car out to the road. Thank you." Mounting the car, he stood waiting quietly till the cheering had died down into silence, his beautiful, noble, saintly face lit with the faint glow that still came from the western sky but more with the inner light that shines from a soul filled with high faith in God and compassion for man.
"Gentlemen—" he began.
"Ladies, too, Papa," said Patricia in a clear undertone.
"Ah!" corrected the Doctor. "Ladies and Gentlemen:" while a laugh ran down the line. "One generally begins a speech with the words 'I am glad to see you here.' These words I cannot say this evening. I regret more deeply than you can understand the occasion of your being here at all. And in this regret I know that you all share. But I am glad that I can say from my heart that I feel honoured by and deeply moved by the compliment you have just paid me through your band. I could wish, indeed, that I was the 'jolly good fellow' you have said, but as I look at you I confess I am anything but 'jolly.' I have been in too many of your homes during the last three weeks to be jolly. The simple truth is, I am deeply saddened and, whatever be the rights or wrongs, and all fair-minded men will agree that there are rights and wrongs on both sides, my heart goes out in sympathy to all who are suffering and anxious and fearful for the future. I will try to do my best to bring about a better understanding."
"We know that, sir," shouted a voice. "Ye done yer best."
"But so far I and those labouring with me have failed. But surely, surely, wise and reasonable men can find before many days a solution for these problems. And now let me beg your leaders to be patient a little longer, to banish angry and suspicious feelings and to be willing to follow the light. I see that many of you are soldiers. To you my heart goes out with a love as true as if you were my own sons, for you were the comrades of my son. Let me appeal to you to preserve unbroken that fine spirit of comradeship that made the Canadian Army what it was. And let me assure you all that, however our weak and erring human hearts may fail and come short, the great heart of the Eternal Father is unchanging in Its love and pity for us all. Meantime, believe me, I shall never cease to labour and pray that very soon peace may come to us again." Then, lifting his hands over them while the men uncovered, he said a brief prayer, closing with the apostolic blessing.
Startled at the burst of cheering which followed shortly after the conclusion of the prayer, the babe broke into loud crying. Vainly the weary mother sought to quiet her child, she herself well-nigh exhausted with her march, being hardly able to stand erect. Swiftly Adrien sprang from the car and ran out to her.
"Let me carry the babe," she cried, taking the child in her arms. "Come into the car with me."
"No," said the woman fiercely. "I will go through with it." But even as she spoke she swayed upon her feet.
With gentle insistence, however, Adrien caught her arm and forced her toward the car.
"I will not leave them," said the woman stubbornly.
"Speak to her, Annette," said Adrien. "She cannot walk."
"Mrs. Egan," said Annette, coming to her, "it will be quite all right to go in the car. It will be all the better. Think of the fine parade it will make."
But, still protesting, the old woman hung back, crying, "Let me go! I will go through!"
"Sure thing!" cried Patricia. "We will take you along. Where's Rupert?"
But Rupert, furious and disgusted, hung back in the shadow.
"Here, Vic!" cried Patricia. "You take the wheel!"
"Delighted, I am sure!" cried Vic, climbing into the seat. "Get in here, Patsy. All set, Colonel," he added, saluting to the officer in command of the parade, and again the column broke into cheering as they moved off to the tap of the drum, Rupert's elegant Hudson Six taking a place immediately following the band.
"All my life I have longed for the spotlight," murmured Vic to his companion, a delighted grin on his face. "But one can have too much of a good thing. And, with Wellington, I am praying that night may come before I reach the haunts of my comrades in arms."
"Why, Vic, do you care?" cried Patricia. "Not I! And I think it was just splendid of Adrien!"
"Oh, topping! But did you see the gentle Rupert's face? Oh, it was simply priceless! Fancy this sacred car leading a strikers' parade." And Vic's body shook with delighted chuckles.
"Don't laugh, Vic!" said Patricia, laying her hand upon his arm. "The lady behind will see you."
"Steady it is," said Vic. "But I feel as if I were the elephant in the circus. I say, can we execute a flank movement, or must we go through to the bitter end?"
"Adrien," said Patricia, "do you think this night air is good for the baby?"
"We shall go on a bit yet," said Adrien. "Mrs. Egan is very tired and I am sure will want to go home presently."
But Mrs. Egan was beginning to recover her strength and, indeed, to enjoy the new distinction of riding in a car, and in this high company.
"No," she said, "I must go through." She had the look and tone of a martyr. "They chose me, you see, and I must go through!"
"Oh, very well," said Adrien cheerfully. "We shall just go along, Vic."
Through the main streets of the town the parade marched and countermarched till, in a sudden, they found themselves in front of the McGinnis foundry. Before the gate in the high board fence which enclosed the property, a small crowd had gathered, which greeted the marching column with uproarious cheers. From the company at the gate a man rushed forward and spoke eagerly to the officer in command.
"By Jove, there's Tony!" said Vic. "And that chap McDonough. What does this mean?"
After a brief conversation with Tony, who apparently was passionately pressing his opinion, the officer shook his head and marched steadily forward. Suddenly Tony, climbing upon the fence, threw up his hand and, pointing toward the foundry, shouted forth the single word, "Scabs!" Instantly the column halted. Again Tony, in a yell, uttered the same word, "Scabs!" From hundreds of throats there was an answering roar, savage, bloodthirsty as from a pack of wild beasts. Tony waved his hand for silence.
"Scabs!" he cried again. "McGinnis strike-breakers! They came to-night. They are in there!" He swung his arm around and pointed to the foundry. "Shall we give them a welcome? What do you say, boys?" Again and more fiercely than before, more terribly cruel, came the answering roar.
"Here, this is no place for you!" cried Vic. "Let's get out." At his touch the machine leaped forward, clear of the crowd.
"Annette!" cried Adrien, her hand on Vic's shoulder. "Go and get her!"
Halting the car, Vic leaped from the wheel, ran to where the girls' squad was halted and caught Annette by the arm.
"Annette," he said, "get your girls away from here quick! Come with us!"
But Annette laughed scornfully at him.
"Go with you? Not I! But," she added in a breathless undertone, "for God's sake, get your ladies and the baby away. These people won't know who you are. Move quick!"
"Come with us, Annette!" implored Vic. "If you come, the rest will follow."
"Go! Go!" cried Annette, pushing him. Already the crowd were tearing the fence to pieces with their hands, and rocks were beginning to fly.
Failing to move the girl, Vic sprang to the wheel again.
"I will get you away from this, anyway," he said.
"But Annette!" cried Patricia. "We can't leave her!"
But Vic made no reply, and at his touch the machine leaped forward, and none too soon, for already men were crowding about the car on every side.
"We are well out of that!" said Vic coolly. "And now I will take you all home. Hello! They're messing up McGinnis's things a bit," he added, as the sound of crashing glass came to their ears.
Through the quiet streets the car flew like a hunted thing, and in a very few minutes they were at the Rectory door.
"No fuss, now, Patricia," said Adrien, "we must not alarm Mamma. All steady."
"Right you are! Steady it is!" said Patricia springing from the car. Quietly but swiftly they got the woman and the child indoors.
"Hugh! Rupert!" said Adrien, speaking in a quiet voice. "Vic needs you out there. That is a wild car of yours, Rupert," she added with a laugh. "It fairly flies." Gathering in her hands the men's hats and sticks, she hurried them out of the door.
"Cheerio!" cried Vic. "A lovely war is going on down at the McGinnis plant. Get in and let us plan a campaign. First, to Police Headquarters, I suppose." As they flew through the streets Vic gave them in a few words a picture of the scenes he had just witnessed.
They found the Chief of Police in his office. At their first word he was on the move.
"I was afraid of this thing when that fool parade started," he said. "Sergeant, send out the general alarm!"
"How many men have you, Chief?" inquired Hugh.
"About twenty-five, all told. But they are all over the town. How many men are down there?"
"There are five hundred, at least; possibly a thousand, raging like wild bulls of Bashan."
As he spoke, another car came tearing up and Jack Maitland sprang from the wheel.
"Are you in need of help, Chief?" he asked quietly.
"All the good men we can get," said the Chief curtly. "But first we must get the Mayor here. Sergeant, get him on the phone."
"You go for him, Vic," said Jack.
"Righto!" cried Vic. "But count me in on this."
In fifteen minutes Vic was back with the Mayor, helpless with nervous excitement.
"Get your men out, Chief!" he shouted, as he sprang from the car. "Get them out quick, arrest those devils and lock 'em up! We'll show them a thing or two! Hurry up! What are you waiting for?"
"Mr. Mayor," Jack's clear, firm, cool voice arrested the Mayor's attention. "May I suggest that you swear in some special constables? The Chief will need help and some of us here would be glad to assist."
"Yes! Yes! For God's sake, hurry up! Here's the clerk. How do you swear them in, clerk?"
"The Chief of Police has all the necessary authority."
"All right, Chief. Swear them! Swear them! For heaven's sake, swear them! Here, you, Maitland—and you, Maynard—and Stillwell—"
With cool, swift efficiency born of his experience in the war, the Chief went on with his arrangements. In his hands the process of swearing in a number of special constables was speedily accomplished. Meantime many cars and a considerable number of men had gathered about the Police Headquarters.
"What is that light?" cried the Mayor suddenly, pointing in the direction of the foundry. "It's a fire! My God, Chief, do you see that fire? Hurry up! Why don't you hurry up? They will burn the town down."
"All right, Mr. Mayor," said the Chief. "We shall be there in a few minutes now. Captain Maitland," said the Chief, "I will take the men I have with me. Will you swear in all you can get within the next fifteen or twenty minutes, and report to me at the foundry? Sergeant, you come along with me! I'm off!" So saying, the Chief commandeered as many cars as were necessary, packed them with the members of his police force available and with the specials he had secured, and hurried away.
After the Chief had retired, Jack stood up in his car. "Any of you chaps want to get into this?" he said, addressing the crowd. His voice was cheery and cool. At once a dozen voices responded. "Righto!" "Here you are!" "Put me down!" In less than fifteen minutes, he had secured between forty and fifty men.
"I want all these cars," he said. "Get in, men. Hold on!" he shouted at a driver who had thrown in his clutch. "Let no man move without orders! Any man disobeying orders will be arrested at once! Remember that no guns are to be used, no matter what provocation may be given. Even if you are fired on, don't fire in return! Does any man know where we can get anything in the shape of clubs?"
"Hundreds of axe handles in our store," said Rupert.
"Right you are! Drivers, fall in line. Keep close up. Now, Mr. Mayor, if you please."
Armed with axe handles from Stillwell & Son's store, they set off for the scene of action. Arrived at the foundry they found the maddest, wildest confusion raging along the street in front of the foundry, and in the foundry yard which was crowded with men. The board fence along the front of the grounds had been torn down and used as fagots to fire the foundry, which was blazing merrily in a dozen places. Everywhere about the blazing building parties of men like hounds on the trail were hunting down strike-breakers and, on finding them, were brutally battering them into insensibility.
Driving his car through the crowd, Maitland found his way to the Chief. In a few short, sharp sentences, the Chief explained his plan of operations. "Clear the street in front, and hold it so! Then come and assist me in clearing this yard."
"All right, sir!" replied Maitland, touching his hat as to a superior officer, and, wheeling his car, he led his men back to the thronging street.
Meantime, the Fire Department had arrived upon the scene with a couple of engines, a hose reel and other fire-fighting apparatus, the firemen greatly hampered in their operations.
Swinging his car back through the crowd, Maitland made his way to the street, and set to work to clear the space immediately in front of the foundry. Parking his cars at one end of the street, and forming his men up in a single line, he began slowly to press back the crowd. It was slow and difficult work, for the crowd, unable to recognise his ununiformed special constables, resented their attack.
He called Victor to his side. "Get a man with you," he said, "and bring up two cars here."
"Come along, Rupert," cried Victor, seizing Stillwell, and together they darted back to where the cars stood. Mounting one of the cars, Maitland shouted in a loud voice:
"The Chief of Police wants this street cleared. So get back, please! We don't wish to hurt anyone. Now, get back!" And lining up level with the cars, the special constables again began to press forward, using their axe handles as bayonets and seeking to prod their way through.
High up on a telegraph pole, his foot on one of the climbing spikes, was a man directing and encouraging the attack. As he drew near, Maitland discovered this man to be no other than Tony, wildly excited and vastly enjoying himself.
"Come down, Tony!" he said. "Hurry up!"
"Cheerio, Captain!" shouted Tony. "What about Festubert?"
"Come down, Tony," said Maitland, "and be quick about it!"
"Sorry, can't do it, Captain. I am a fixture here."
Like a cat, Maitland swarmed up the pole and coming to a level with Tony, struck him swiftly and unexpectedly a single blow. It caught Tony on the chin. He swung off from the post, hung a moment, then dropped quietly to the ground. As he fell, a woman's shriek rang out from the crowd and tearing her way through the line came Annette, who flung herself upon her brother.
"Here you," said Jack, seizing a couple of men from the crowd, "get this man in my car. Now, Annette," he continued, "don't make a fuss. Tony isn't hurt. We'll send him quietly home. Now then, men, let's have no nonsense," he shouted. "I want this street cleared, and quick!"
As he spoke, a huge man ran out from the crowd and, with an oath, flung himself at Maitland. But before he came within striking distance, an axe handle flashed and the man went down like a log.
"Axe handles!" shouted Maitland. "But steady, men!"
Over the heads of the advancing line, the axe handles swung, men dropping before them at every step. At once the crowd began a hasty retreat, till the pressure upon the back lines made it impossible for those in front to escape. From over the heads of the crowd rocks began to fly. A number of his specials were wounded and for a moment the advance hung fire. Down through the crowd came a fireman, dragging with him a hose preparatory to getting into action.
"Hello, there!" called Maitland. The fireman looked up at him. Jack sprang down to his side. "I want to clear this street," he said. "You can do it for me."
"Well, I can try," said the fireman with a grin, and turning his hose toward the crowd, gave the signal for the water, holding the nozzle at an angle slightly off the perpendicular. In a very few moments the crowd in the rear found themselves under a deluge of falling water, and immediately they took to their heels, followed as rapidly as possible by those in front. Then, levelling his nozzle, the fireman proceeded to wash back from either side of the street those who had sought refuge there, and before many minutes had elapsed, the street was cleared, and in command of Maitland's specials.
Leaving the street under guard, Maitland and his specials went to the help of the Chief, who was hampered more or less by His Worship, the Mayor, and very considerably by Mr. McGinnis, who had meantime arrived, mad with rage and demanding blood, and proceeded to clear up the foundry yard, and rescue the strike-breakers who had taken refuge within the burning building and in holes and corners about the premises. It was no light matter, but under the patient, good-natured but resolute direction of the Chief, they finally completed their job, rounding up the strike-breakers in a corner of the yard and driving off their assailants to a safe distance.
There remained still the most difficult part of their task. The strike-breakers must be got to the Police Headquarters, the nearest available place of safety. For, on the street beyond the water line, the crowd was still waiting in wrathful mood. The foundry was a wreck, but even this did not satisfy the fury of the strikers, which had been excited by the presence of the strike-breakers imported by McGinnis. For the more seriously injured, ambulances were called, and these were safely got off under police guard to the General Hospital.
The Chief entered into consultation with the Mayor:
"The only safe place within reach," he said, "is Police Headquarters. And the shortest and best route is up the hill to the left. But unfortunately, that is where the big crowd is gathered. There are not so many if we take the route to the right, but that is a longer way round."
"Put the men in your cars, Chief," said McGinnis, "and smash your way through. They can't stop you."
"Yes, and kill a dozen or so," said the Chief.
"Why not? Aren't they breaking the law?"
"Oh, well, Mr. McGinnis," said the Chief, "it is easy to kill men. The trouble is they are no use to anybody after they are dead. No, we must have no killing to-night. To-morrow we'd be sorry for it."
"Let us drive up and see them," suggested the Mayor. "Let me talk to the boys. The boys know me."
The Chief did not appear to be greatly in love with the suggestion of the Mayor.
"Well," he said, "it would do no harm to drive up and have a look at them. We'll see how they are fixed, anyway. I think, Mr. McGinnis, you had better remain on guard here. The Mayor and Captain Maitland will come with me."
Commandeering Rupert and his car, the Chief took his party at a moderate pace up the street, at the top of which the crowd stood waiting in compact masses. Into these masses Rupert recklessly drove his car.
"Steady there, Stillwell," warned the Chief. "You'll hurt someone."
"Hurt them?" said Rupert. "What do you want?"
"Certainly not to hurt anyone," replied the Chief quietly. "The function of my police force is the protection of citizens. Halt there!"
The Chief stepped out among the strikers and stood in the glare of the headlights.
"Well, boys," he said pleasantly, "don't you think it is time to get home? I think you have done enough damage to-night already. I am going to give you a chance to get away. We don't want to hurt anyone and we don't want to have any of you down for five years or so."
Then the Mayor spoke up. "Men, this is a most disgraceful thing. Most deplorable. Think of the stain upon the good name of our fair city."
Howls of derision drowned his further speech for a time.
"Now, boys," he continued, "can't we end this thing right here? Why can't you disperse quietly and go to your homes? What do you want here, anyway?"
"Scabs!" yelled a voice, followed by a savage yell from the crowd.
"Men," said the Chief sharply, "you know me. I want this street cleared. I shall return here in five minutes and anyone seeking to stop me will do so at his own risk. I have a hundred men down there and this time they won't give you the soft end of the club."
"We want them sulphurously described scabs," yelled a voice. "We ain't goin' to kill them, Chief. They're lousy. We want to give 'em a bath." And a savage yell of laughter greeted the remark. On every hand the word was taken up: "A bath! A bath! The river! The river!" The savage laughter of the crowd was even more horrible than their rage.
"All right, boys. We are coming back and we are going through. Leave this street clear or take your chances! It's up to you!" So saying, the car was turned about and the party proceeded back to the foundry.
"What are you going to do, Chief?" inquired the Mayor anxiously.
"There are a lot of soldiers in that crowd," said the Chief. "I don't like the looks of them. They are too steady. I hate to smash through them."
Arrived at the foundry, the Chief paced up and down, pondering his problem. He called Maitland to his side.
"How many cars have we here, Maitland?" he inquired.
"Some fifteen, I think. And there are five or six more parked down on the street."
"That would be enough," said the Chief. "I hate the idea of smashing through that crowd. You see, some of those boys went through hell with me and I hate to hurt them."
"Why not try a ruse?" suggested Maitland. "Divide your party. You take five or six cars with constables up the hill to that crowd there. Let me take the strikebreakers and the rest of the cars and make a dash to the right. It's a longer way round but with the streets clear, we can arrive at Headquarters in a very few minutes."
The Chief considered the plan for a few minutes in silence.
"It's a good plan, Maitland," he said at length. "It's a good plan. And we'll put it through. I'll make the feint on the left; you run them through on the right. I believe we can pull it off. Give me a few minutes to engage their attention before you set out."
Everything came off according to plan. As the Chief's detachment of cars approached the solid mass of strikers, they slowly gave back before them.
"Clear the way there!" said the Chief. "We are going through!"
Step by step the crowd gave way, pressed by the approaching cars. Suddenly, at a word of command, the mass opened ranks and the Chief saw before him a barrier across the street, constructed of fencing torn from neighbouring gardens, an upturned delivery wagon, a very ugly and very savage-looking field harrow commandeered from a neighbouring market garden, with wicked-looking, protruding teeth and other debris of varied material, but all helping to produce a most effective barricade. Silently the Chief stood for a few moments, gazing at the obstruction. A curious, ominous growl of laughter ran through the mob. Then came a sharp word of command:
As with one movement his party of constables were on the ground and lined up in front of their cars, with their clubs and axe handles ready for service. Still the mob waited in ominous silence. The Chief drew his gun and said in a loud, clear voice:
"I am going to clear away this barricade. The first man that offers to prevent me I shall shoot on the spot."
"I wouldn't do that, Chief," said a voice quietly from the rear. "There are others, you know. Listen."
Three shots rang out in rapid succession, and again silence fell.
Meantime from the corner of the barricade a man had been peering into the cars.
"Boys!" he shouted. "They ain't there! There ain't no scabs."
The Chief laughed quietly.
"Who said there were?" he asked.
"Sold, by thunder!" said the man. Then he yelled: "We'll get 'em yet. Come on, boys, to the main street."
Like a deer, he doubled down a side street, followed by the crowd, yelling, cursing, swearing deep oaths.
"Let 'em go," said the Chief. "Maitland's got through by this time." As he spoke, two shots rang out, followed by the crash of glass, and the headlights of the first car went black.
"Just as well you didn't get through, Chief," said the voice of the previous speaker. "Might've got hurt, eh?"
"Give it to him, Chief," said Rupert savagely.
"No use," said the Chief. "Let him go."
Meanwhile, Maitland, with little or no opposition, had got his cars through the crowd, which as a matter of fact were unaware of the identity of the party until after they had broken through.
Their way led by a circuitous route through quiet back streets, approaching Police Headquarters from the rear. A ten-minute run brought them to a short side street which led past the Maitland Mills, at the entrance to which they saw under the glare of the arc lights over the gateway a crowd blocking their way.
"Now, what in thunder is this? Hold up a minute," said Maitland to his driver. "Let me take a look." He ran forward to the main entrance. There he found the gateway, which stood a little above the street level, blocked by a number of his own men, some of whom he recognised as members of his hockey team, and among them, McNish. Out in the street among the crowd stood Simmons, standing on a barrel, lashing himself into a frenzy and demanding blood, fire, revolution, and what not.
"McNish, you here?" said Maitland sharply. "What is it, peace or war? Speak quick!"
"A'm haudden these fules back fra the mill," answered McNish with a scowl. Then, dropping into his book English, he continued bitterly: "They have done enough to-night already. They have wrecked our cause for us!"
"You are dead right, McNish," answered Maitland. "And what do they want here?"
"They are some of McGinnis's men and they are mad at the way you handled them over yonder. They are bound to get in here. They are only waiting for the rest of the crowd. Yon eejit doesn't know what he is saying. They are all half-drunk."
Maitland's mind worked swiftly. "McNish, listen!" he said. "I am in a deuce of a fix. I have the scabs in those cars there with me. The crowd are following me up. What shall I do?"
"My God, man, you're lost. They'll tear ye tae bits."
"McNish, listen. I'll run them into the office by the side gate down the street. Keep them busy here. Let that fool Simmons spout all he wants. He'll help to make a row."
His eyes fell upon a crouching figure at his feet.
"Who is this? It's Sam, by all that's holy! Why, Sam, you are the very chap I want. Listen, boy. Slip around to the side door and open it wide till I bring in some cars. Then shut and bar it quick." Carefully he repeated his instructions. "Can you do it, Sam?"
"I'm awful scared, Captain," replied the boy, his teeth chattering, "but I'll try it."
"Good boy," said Maitland. "Don't fail me, Sam. They might kill me."
"All right, Captain. I'll do it!" And Sam disappeared, crawling under the gate, while Maitland slipped back to his cars and passed the word among the drivers. "Keep close up and stop for nothing!"
They had almost made the entry when some man hanging on the rear of the crowd caught sight of them.
"Scabs! Scabs!" cried the man, dashing after the cars. But Sam was equal to his task, and as the last car passed through the gateway he slammed and bolted the door in their faces.
Disposing of the strike-breakers in the office, Maitland and his guard of specials passed outside to the main gate and took their places beside McNish and his guard. Before them the mob had become a mad, yelling, frenzied thing, bereft of power of thought, swaying under the fury of their passion like tree tops blown by storm, reiterating in hoarse and broken cries the single word "Scabs! Scabs!"
"Keep them going somehow, McNish," said Maitland. "The Chief won't be long now."
McNish climbed up upon the fence and, held in place there by two specials, lifted his hand for silence. But Simmons, who all too obviously had fallen under the spell of the bootleggers, knew too well the peril of his cause. Shrill and savage rose his voice:
"Don't listen to 'im. 'E's a traitor, a blank and double-blank traitor. 'E sold us (h)up, 'e 'as. Don't listen to 'im."
Like a maniac he spat out the words from his foam-flecked lips, waving his arms madly about his head. Relief came from an unexpected source. Sam Wigglesworth, annoyed at Simmons's persistence and observing that McNish, to whom as a labour leader he felt himself bound, regarded the orating and gesticulating Simmons with disfavour, reached down and, pulling a sizable club from beneath the bottom of a fence, took careful aim and, with the accuracy of the baseball pitcher that he was, hurled it at the swaying figure upon the barrel. The club caught Simmons fair in the mouth, who, being, none too firmly set upon his pedestal, itself affording a wobbling foothold, landed spatting and swearing in the arms of his friends below. With the mercurial temper characteristic of a crowd, they burst into a yell of laughter.
"Go to it now, McNish!" said Maitland.
Echoing the laughter, McNish once more held up his hand. "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes," he said in his deepest and most solemn tone. The phenomenal absurdity of a joke from the solemn Scotchman again tickled the uncertain temperament of the crowd into boisterous laughter.
"Men, listen tae me!" cried McNish. "Ye mad a bad mistake the nicht. In fact, ye're a lot of fules. And those who led ye are worse, for they have lost us the strike, if that is any satisfaction tae ye. And now ye want to do another fule thing. Ye're mad just because ye didn't know enough to keep out of the wet."
But at this point, a man fighting his way from the rear of the crowd, once more raised the cry "Scabs!"
"Keep that fool quiet," said McNish sharply.
"Keep quiet yourself, McNish," replied the man, still pushing his way toward the front.
"Heaven help us now," said Maitland. "It's Tony, and drunk at that!"
It was indeed Tony, without hat, coat or vest.
"McNish, we want those scabs," said Tony, in drunken gravity.
"There are nae scabs here. Haud ye're drunken tongue," said McNish savagely.
"McNish," persisted Tony in a grave and perfectly courteous tone, "you're a liar. The scabs are in that office." A roar again swept the crowd.
"Men, listen to me," pleaded McNish. "A'll tell ye about the scabs. They are in the office yonder. But I have Captain Maitland's word o' honour that they will be shipped out of town by the first train."
A savage yell answered him.
"McNish, we'll do the shipping," said Tony, moving still nearer the speaker.
"Officer," said Maitland sharply to a uniformed policeman standing by his side, "arrest that man!" pointing to Tony.
The policeman drew his baton, took two strides forward, seized Tony by the back of the neck and drew him in. An angry yell went up from the mob. Maitland felt a hand upon his arm. Looking down, he saw to his horror and dismay Annette, her face white and stricken with grief and terror.
"Oh, Jack," she pleaded, "don't let Tony be arrested. He broke away from us. Let me take him. He will come with me. Oh, let me take him!"
"Rescue! Rescue!" shouted the crowd, rushing the cordon of police lining the street.
"Kill him! Kill the traitor!" yelled Simmons, struggling through and waving unsteadily the revolver in his hand. "Down with that tyrant, Maitland! Kill him!" he shrieked.
He raised his arm, holding his gun with both hands.
"Look out, Jack," shrieked Annette, flinging herself on him.
Simultaneously with the shot, a woman's scream rang out and Annette fell back into Maitland's arms. A silence deep as death fell upon the mob.
With a groan McNish dropped from the fence beside the girl.
Annette opened her eyes and, looking up into Maitland's face, whispered: "He didn't get you, Jack. I'm so glad."
"Oh, Annette, dear girl! He's killed you!"
"It's—all—right—Jack," she whispered. "I—saved—you."
Meanwhile McNish, with her hand caught in his, was sobbing: "God, have mercy! She's deed! She's deed!"
Annette again opened her eyes. "Poor Malcolm," she whispered. "Dear Malcolm." Then, closing her eyes again, quietly as a tired child, she sank into unconsciousness. The big Scotchman, still kissing her hand, sobbed:
"Puir lassie, puir lassie! Ma God! Ma God! What now? What now?"
"She is dead. The girl is dead." The word passed from lip to lip among the crowd, which still held motionless and silent.
"We'll get her into the office," said Maitland.
"A'll tak her," said McNish, and, stopping down, he lifted her tenderly in his arms, stood for a moment facing the crowd, and then in a voice of unutterable sadness that told of a broken heart, he said: "Ye've killed her. Ye've killed the puir lassie. Are ye content?" And passed in through the gate, holding the motionless form close to his heart.
As he passed with his pathetic burden, the men on guard at the gate bared their heads. Immediately on every hand throughout the crowd men took off their hats and stood silent till he had disappeared from their sight. In the presence of that poignant grief their rage against him ceased, swept out of their hearts by an overwhelming pity.
In one swift instant a door had opened from another and unknown world, and through the open door a Presence, majestic, imperious, had moved in upon them, withering with His icy breath their hot passions, smiting their noisy clamour to guilty silence.
A GALLANT FIGHT
In the Rectory the night was one long agony of fear and anxiety. Adrien had taken Mrs. Egan and her babe home in a taxi as soon as circumstances would warrant, and then, lest they should alarm their mother, they made pretense of retiring for the night.
After seeing their mother safely bestowed, they slipped downstairs, and, muffling the telephone, sat waiting for news, slipping out now and then to the street, one at a time, to watch the glare of the fire in the sky and to listen for the sounds of rioting from the town.
At length from Victor came news of the tragedy. With whitening face, Adrien took the message. Not for nothing had she walked the wards in France.
"Listen, Victor," she said, speaking in a quick, firm voice. "It is almost impossible to get a nurse in time and quite impossible to get one skilled in this sort of case. Come for me. I shall be ready and shall take charge. Tell Dr. Meredith I am quite free."
"All right. Lose no time."
"Oh, what is it, Adrien?" said Patricia, wringing her hands. "Is it Jack? Or Victor?"
Adrien caught her by the shoulders: "Patricia, I want your help. No talk! Come with me. I will tell you as I dress."
Swiftly, with no hurry or flurry, Adrien changed into her uniform, packed her bag, giving Patricia meantime the story of the tragedy which she had heard over the telephone.
"And to think it might have been Jack," said Patricia, wringing her hands. "Oh, dear, dear Annette. Can't I help in some way, Adrien?"
"Patricia, listen to me, child. The first thing is keep your head. You can help me greatly. You will take charge here and later, perhaps, you can help me in other ways. Meantime you must assume full responsibility for them all here. Much depends on you!"
The girl stood gazing with wide-open blue eyes at her sister. Then quietly she answered:
"I'll do my best, Adrien. There's Vic." She rushed swiftly downstairs. Suddenly she stopped, steadied her pace, and received him with a calm that surprised that young man beyond measure.
"Adrien is quite ready, Vic," she said.
"Topping," said Vic. "What a brick she is! Dr. Meredith didn't know where to turn for a nurse. The hospital is full. Every nurse is engaged. So much sickness, you know, in town. Ah, here she is. You are a lightning-change artist, Adrien."
"How is Annette, Vic? Is she still living?" asked Patricia.
"I don't know," replied Vic, wondering at the change in the girl before him.
"Darling," said Adrien, "I will let you know at once. I hate to leave you."
"Leave me!" cried Patricia. "Nonsense, Adrien, I shall be quite all right. Only," she added, clasping her hands, "let me know when you can."
When the ambulance arrived at the Maitland home, Adrien was at the door. All was in readiness—hot water, bandages, and everything needful to the doctor's hand.
McNish carried Annette up to the room prepared for her, laid her down and stood in dumb grief looking down upon her.
Adrien touched him on the arm.
"Come," she said. And, taking his arm, led him downstairs. "Stay here," she said. "I will bring you word as soon as possible."
An hour later she returned, and found him sitting in the exact position in which she had left him. He apparently had not moved hand or foot. At her entrance he looked up, eager, voiceless.
"She is resting," said Adrien. "The bullet is extracted. It had gone quite through to the outer skin—a clean wound."
"How long," said McNish, passing his tongue over his dry lips, "how long does the doctor say—"
"The doctor says nothing. She asked for you."
McNish started up and went toward the door.
"But you cannot go to her now."
"She asked for me?" said McNish.
"Yes. But she must be kept quite quiet. The very least excitement might hurt her."
"Hurt her?" said McNish, and sat down quietly.
After a moment's silence, he said:
"You will let me see her—once more—before she—she—" He paused, his lips quivering, his great blue eyes pitifully beseeching her.
"Mr. McNish," said Adrien, "she may not die."
"Ma God!" he whispered, falling on his knees and catching her hand in both of his. "Ma God! Dinna lee tae me."
"Believe me, I would not," said Adrien, while the great eyes seemed to drag the truth from her very soul. "The doctor says nothing, but I have seen many cases of bullet wounds, and I have hope."
"Hope," he whispered. "Hope! Ma God! hope!" His hands went to his face and his great frame shook with silent sobbing.
"But you must be very quiet and steady."
Immediately he was on his feet and standing like a soldier at attention.
"Ay, A wull," he whispered eagerly. "Tell me what tae do?"
"First of all," said Adrien, "we must have something to eat."
A shudder passed through him. "Eat?" he said, as if he had never heard the word.
"Yes," said Adrien. "Remember, you promised."
"Ay. A'll eat." Like a man under a mesmeric spell, he went through the motions of eating. His mind was far away, his eyes eager, alert, forever upon her face.
When they had finished their meal, Adrien said:
"Now, Mr. McNish, is there anything I can do for you?"
"A would like to send word to ma mither," he said. "She disna ken onything—aboot—aboot Annette—aboot Annette an' me," a faint touch of red coming slowly up in his grey face.
"I shall get word to her. I know the very man. I shall phone the Reverend Murdo Matheson."
"Ay," said McNish, "he is the man."
"Now, then," said Adrien, placing him in an easy chair, "you must rest there. Remember, I am keeping watch."
With the promise that he would do his best to rest, she left him sitting bolt upright in his chair.
Toward morning, Maitland appeared, weary and haggard. Adrien greeted him with tender solicitude; it was almost maternal in its tone.
"Oh, Adrien," said Maitland, with a great sight of relief, "you don't know how good it is to see you here. It bucks one tremendously to feel that you are on this job."
"I shall get you some breakfast immediately," she answered in a calm, matter-of-fact voice. "You are done out. Your father has come in and has gone to lie down. McNish is in the library."
"And Annette?" said Maitland. He was biting his lips to keep them from quivering. "Is she still—"
"She is resting. The maid is watching beside her. Dear Jack," she uttered with a quick rush of sympathy, "I know how hard this is for you. But I am not without hope for Annette."
A quick light leaped into his eyes. "Hope, did you say? Oh, thank the good Lord." His voice broke and he turned away from her. "You know," he said, coming back, "she gave her life for me. Oh, Adrien, think of it! She threw herself in the way of death for me. She covered me with her own body." He sat down suddenly as if almost in collapse, and buried his head in his arms, struggling for control.
Adrien went to him and put her arm round his shoulder—she might have been his mother. "Dear Jack," she said, "it was a wonderful thing she did. God will surely spare her to you."
He rose wearily from his chair and put his arms around her.
"Oh, Adrien," he said, "it is good to have you here. I do need, we all need you so."
Gently she put his arms away from her. "And now," she said briskly, "I am going to take charge of you, Jack, of you all, and you must obey orders."
"Only give me a chance to do anything for you," he said, "or for anyone you care for."
There was a puzzled expression on Adrien's face as she turned away. But she asked no explanation.
"My first order, then," she said, "is this: you must have your breakfast and then go to bed for an hour or two."
"I shall be glad to breakfast, but I have a lot of things to do."
"Can't they wait? And won't you do them better after a good sleep?"
"Some of them can't wait," he replied. "I have just got Tony to bed. The doctor has sent him to sleep. His father and mother are watching him. Oh, Adrien, that is a sad home. It was a terrible experience for me. Tony I must see when he wakes and the poor old father and mother will be over here early. I must be ready for them."
"Very well, Jack," said Adrien in a prompt, businesslike tone. "You have two clear hours for sleep. You must sleep for the sake of others, you understand. I promise to wake you in good time."
"And what about yourself, Adrien?"
"Oh, this is my job," she said lightly. "I shall be relieved in the afternoon, the doctor has promised."
When the Employers' Defence Committee met next morning there were many haggard faces among its members. In the large hall outside the committee room a considerable number of citizens, young and old, had gathered and with them the Mayor, conversing in voices tinged with various emotions, anxiety, pity, wrath, according to the temper and disposition of each.
In the committee room Mr. Farrington was in the chair. No sooner had the meeting been called to order than Mr. Maitland arose, and, speaking under deep but controlled feeling, he said:
"Gentlemen, I felt sure none of us would wish to transact ordinary business this morning. I was sure, too, that in the very distressing circumstances under which we meet you would feel as I do the need of guidance and help. I therefore took the liberty of inviting the deputation from the Ministerial Association which waited on us the other day to join us in our deliberation. Mr. Haynes is away from town, but Dr. Templeton and Mr. Matheson have kindly consented to be present. They will be here in half an hour's time."
A general and hearty approval of his action was expressed, after which the Chairman invited suggestions as to the course to be pursued. But no one was ready with a suggestion. Somehow the outlook upon life was different this morning, and readjustment of vision appeared to be necessary. No man felt himself qualified to offer advice.
From this dilemma they were relieved by a knock upon the door and the Mayor appeared.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I have no wish to intrude, but a great many of our citizens are in the larger hall. They are anxious to be advised upon the present trying situation. It has been suggested that your committee might join with us in a general public meeting."
After a few moments' consideration, the Mayor's proposition was accepted and the committee adjourned to the larger hall, Mr. Farrington resigning the chair to His Worship, the Mayor.
The Mayor's tongue was not so ready this morning. He explained the circumstances of the meeting and thanked the committee for yielding to his request. He was ready to receive any suggestions as to what the next step should be.
The silence which followed was broken by Mr. McGinnis, who arose and, in a voice much shaken, he inquired:
"Can anyone tell us just what is the last word concerning the young girl this morning?"
Mr. Maitland replied: "Before I left the house, the last report was that she was resting quietly and, while the doctor was not able to offer any hope of her recovery, he ventured to say that he did not quite despair. And that from Dr. Meredith, as we know, means something."
"Thank God for that," said McGinnis, and leaning his head upon his hand, he sat with his eyes fixed upon the floor.
Again the Mayor asked for suggestions, but no one in the audience appeared willing to assume the responsibility of offering guidance.
At length Rupert Stillwell arose. He apologised for speaking in the presence of older men, but something had to be done and he ventured to offer one suggestion at least.
"It occurs to me," he said, "that one thing at least should be immediately done. Those responsible for the disgraceful riot of last evening, and I mean more than the actual ringleaders in the affair, should be brought to justice." He proceeded to elaborate upon the enormity of the crime, the danger to the State of mob rule, the necessity for stern measures to prevent the recurrence of such disorders. He suggested a special citizens' committee for the preservation of public order.
His words appeared to meet the approval of a large number of those present, especially of the younger men.
While he was speaking, the audience appeared to be greatly relieved to see Dr. Templeton and the Reverend Murdo Matheson walk in and quietly take their seats. They remembered, many of them, how at a recent similar gathering these gentlemen had advised a procedure which, if followed, would have undoubtedly prevented the disasters of the previous night.
Giving a brief account of the proceedings of the meeting to the present point, the Mayor suggested that Dr. Templeton might offer them a word of advice.
Courteously thanking the Mayor for his invitation, the Doctor said:
"As I came in this room, I caught the words of my young friend, who suggested a committee for the preservation of public order. May I suggested that the preservation of public order in the community is something that can be entrusted to no committee? It rests with the whole community. We have all made mistakes, we are constantly making mistakes. We have yielded to passion, and always to our sorrow and hurt. We have vainly imagined that by the exercise of force we can settle strife. No question of right or justice is settled by fighting, for, after the fighting is done, the matter in dispute remains to be settled. We have tried that way and to-day we are fronted with disastrous failure. I have come from a home over which the shadow of death hangs low. There a father and mother lie prostrate with sorrow, agonising for the life of their child. But a deeper shadow lies there, a shadow of sin, for the sting of death is sin. A brother torn with self-condemnation, his heart broken with grief for his sister, who loved him better than her own life, lies under that shadow of sin. But, gentlemen, can any of us escape from that shadow? Do we not all share in that sin? For we all have a part in the determining of our environment. Can we not, by God's grace, lift that shadow at least from our lives? Let us turn our faces from the path of strife toward the path of peace, for the pathway of right doing and of brotherly kindness is the only path to peace in this world."
The Chairman then called upon the Reverend Murdo Matheson to express his mind. But at this point, the whole audience were galvanised into an intensity of confused emotion by the entrance of the Executive of the Allied Unions, led by McNish himself. Simmons alone was absent, being at that moment, with some half dozen others, in the care of the police. Silently the Executive Committee walked to the front and found seats, McNish alone remaining standing. Grey, gaunt, hollow-eyed, he met with steady gaze the eyes of the audience, some of them aflame with hostile wrath, for in him they recognised the responsible head of the labour movement that had wrought such disaster and grief in the community.
Without apology or preface McNish began: "I am here seeking peace," he said, in his hoarse, hard, guttural voice. "I have made mistakes. Would I could suffer for them alone, but no, others must suffer with me. I have only condemnation for the outrages of last night. We repudiate them, we lament them. We tried to prevent them, but human passion and circumstances were too strong for us. We would undo the ill—would to God could undo the ill. How gladly would I suffer all that has come to others." His deep, harsh voice shook under the stress of his emotion. He lifted his head: "I cannot deny my cause," he continued, his voice ringing out clear. "Our cause was right, but the spirit was wrong." He paused a few moments, evidently gathering strength to hold his voice steady. "Yes, the spirit was wrong and this day is a black day to me. We come to ask for peace. God knows I have no heart for war."
Again he paused, his strong stern face working strangely under the stress of the emotions which he was fighting to subdue. "We suggest a committee of three, with powers to arbitrate, and we name as our man one who till recently was one of our Union, a man of fair and honest mind, a man without fear and with a heart for his comrades. Our man is Captain Maitland."
His words, and especially the name of the representative of the labour unions produced an overwhelming effect upon the audience. No sooner had he finished than the Reverend Murdo Matheson took the floor. He spoke no economics. He offered no elaborate argument for peace. In plain, simple words he told of experiences through which he had recently passed:
"Like one whom I feel it an honour to call my father," he began, bowing toward Dr. Templeton, "I, too, have made a visit this morning. Not to a home, but to a place the most unlike a home of any spot in this sad world, a jail. Seven of our fellow-citizens are confined there, six of them boys, mere boys, dazed and penetrated with sorrow for their folly—they meant no crime—I am not relieving them of the blame—the other, a man, embittered with a long, hard fight against poverty, injustice and cruel circumstance in another land, with distorted views of life, crazed by drink, committed a crime which this morning fills him with horror and grief. Late last night I was sent to the home of one of my people. There I found an aged lady, carrying with a brave heart the sorrows and burdens of nearly seventy years, waiting in anxiety and grief and fear for her son, who was keeping vigil at what may well be the deathbed of the girl he loves. You have just heard his plea for peace. Some of you are inclined to lay the blame for the ills that have fallen upon us upon certain classes and individuals in this community. They have their blame and they must bear the responsibility. But, gentlemen, a juster estimate of the causes of these ills will convince us that they are the product of our civilisation and for these things we must all accept our share of responsibility. More, we must seek to remove them from among us. They are an affront to our intelligence, an insult to our holy religion, an outrage upon the love of our brother man and our Father, God. Let us humbly, resolutely seek the better way, the way we have set before us this morning, the way of right doing, of brotherly kindness and of brotherly love which is the way of peace."
It was a subdued company of men that listened to his appeal. In silence they sat looking straight before them with faces grave and frowning, as is the way with men of our race when deeply stirred.
It was a morning of dramatic surprises, but none were so startling, none so dramatic as the speech of McGinnis that followed.
"This is a day for confessions," he said, "and I am here to make one for myself. I have been a fighter, too much of a fighter, all my life, and I have often suffered for it. I suffered a heavy loss last night and to-day I am sick of fighting. But I have found this: that you can't fight men in this world without fighting women and children, too. God knows I have no war with the old, grey-haired lady the Padre has just told us about. I have no war with that broken-hearted father and mother. And I have no war with Annette Perrotte, dear girl, God preserve her." At this point, McGinnis's command quite forsook him. His voice utterly broke down, while the tears ran down his rugged fighting face. "I am done with fighting," he cried. "They have named Captain Maitland. We know him for a straight man and a white man. Let me talk with Captain Jack Maitland, and let us get together with the Padre there," pointing to the Reverend Murdo Matheson, "and in an hour we will settle this matter."
In a tumult of approval the suggestion was accepted. It was considered a perfectly fitting thing, though afterwards men spoke of it with something of wonder, that the Mayor should have called upon the Reverend Doctor to close the meeting with prayer, and that he should do so without making a speech.
That same afternoon the three men met to consider the matter submitted to them. Captain Jack Maitland laid before the committee his figures and his charts setting forth the facts in regard to the cost of living and the wage scale during the past five years. In less than an hour they had agreed upon a settlement. There was to be an increase of wages in keeping with the rise of the cost of living, with the pledge that the wage scale should follow the curb of the cost of living should any change occur within the year. The hours of labour were shortened from ten to nine for a day's work, with the pledge that they should be governed by the effect of the change upon production and general conditions. And further, that a Committee of Reference should be appointed for each shop and craft, to which all differences should be submitted. To this committee also were referred the other demands by the Allied Unions.
It was a simple solution of the difficulty and upon its submission to the public meeting called for its consideration, it was felt that the comment of the irrepressible Victor Forsythe was not entirely unfitting:
"Of course!" said Victor, cheerfully. "It is the only thing. Why didn't the Johnnies think of it before, or why didn't they ask me?"
The committee, however, did more than settle the dispute immediately before them. They laid before the public meeting and obtained its approval for the creation of a General Board of Industry, under whose guidance the whole question of the industrial life of the community should be submitted to intelligent study and control.
SHALL BE GIVEN
For one long week of seven long days and seven long nights Annette fought out her gallant fight for life, fought and won. Throughout the week at her side Adrien waited day and night, except for a few hours snatched for rest, when Patricia took her place, for there was not a nurse to be had in all that time and Patricia begged for the privilege of sharing her vigil with her.
Every day and in the darkest days all day long, it seemed to Adrien, McNish haunted the Maitland home—for he had abandoned all pretence of work—his gaunt, grey face and hollow eyes imploring a word of hope.
But it was chiefly to Jack throughout that week that Adrien's heart went out in compassionate pity, for in his face there dwelt a misery so complete, so voiceless that no comfort of hers appeared to be able to bring relief. Often through those days did Annette ask to see him, but the old doctor was relentless. There must be absolute quiet and utter absence of all excitement. No visitors were to be permitted, especially no men visitors.
But the day came when the ban was lifted and with smiling face, Adrien came for Jack.
"You have been such a good boy," she cried gaily, "that I am going to give you a great treat. You are to come in with me."
With face all alight Jack followed her into the sick room.
"Here he is, Annette," cried Adrien. "Now, remember, no fussing, no excitement, and just one quarter of an hour—or perhaps a little longer," she added.
For a moment or two Jack stood looking at the girl lying upon the bed.
"Oh, Annette, my dear, dear girl," he cried in a breaking voice as he knelt down by her side and took her hand in his.
So much reached Adrien's ears as she closed the door and passed to her room with step weary and lifeless.
"Why, Adrien," cried her sister, who was waiting to relieve her, "you are like a ghost! You poor dear. You are horribly done out."
"I believe I am, Patricia," said Adrien. "I believe I shall rest awhile." She lay down on the bed, her face turned toward the wall, and so remained till Patricia went softly away, leaving her, as she thought, to sleep.
Downstairs Patricia found Victor Forsythe awaiting her.
"Poor Adrien is really used up," she said. "She has a deathly look in her face. Just the same look as she had that night of the hockey match. Do you remember?"
"The night of the hockey dance? Do I remember? A ghastly night—a horrid night—a night of unspeakable wretchedness."
As Vic was speaking, Patricia kept her eyes steadily upon him with a pondering, puzzled look.
"What is it, Patricia? I know you want to ask me something. Is it about that night?"
"I wonder if you would really mind very much, Vic, if I asked you?"
"Not in the very least. I shall doubtless enjoy it after it's out. Painless dentistry effect. Go to it, Patsy."
"It is very serious, Vic. I always think people in books are so stupid. They come near to the truth and then just miss getting it."
"The truth. Ah! Go on, Pat."
"Well, Vic," said Patricia with an air of one taking a desperate venture, "why did you not give Adrien her note that night? It would have saved her and me such pain. I cried all night long. I had so counted on a dance with Jack—and then never a word from him. But he did send a note. He told me so. I never told Adrien that, for she forbade me, oh, so terribly, never to speak of it again. Why didn't you give her or me the note, Vic?" Patricia's voice was very pathetic and her eyes very gentle but very piercing.
All the laughter died out of Victor's face. "Pat, I lied to you once, only once, and that lie has cost me many an hour's misery. But now I shall tell you the truth and the whole truth." And he proceeded to recount the tribulations which he endured on the night of the hockey dance. "I did it to help you both out, Pat. I thought I could make it easy for you. It was all a sheer guess, but it turned out to be pretty well right."
Patricia nodded her head. "But you received no note?"
"Not a scrap, Patricia, so help me. Not a scrap. Patricia, you believe me?"
The girl looked straight into Vic's honest eyes. "Yes, Vic," she said, "I believe you. But Jack sent a note."
Vic sprang to his feet. "Good-bye, Watson. You shall hear from me within an hour."
"Whatever do you mean? Where are you going?"
"Dear lady, ask no questions. I am about to Sherlock. Farewell."
At the door he overtook Jack. "Aha! The first link in the chain. Hello, old chap, a word with you. May I get into your car?"
"Certainly. Get in."
"Now then, about that note. Nothing like diplomacy. The night of the hockey dance you sent a note to a lady?"
Jack glanced at him in amazement.
"Don't be an ass, Vic. I don't feel like that stuff just now."
"This is serious. Did you send a note by me that night of the hockey dance?"
"By you? No. Who said I did?"
"Aha! The mystery deepens. By whom? Nothing like finesse."
"It is none of your business," said Jack crossly.
"Check," cried Vic.
"What are you talking about, anyway?" inquired Jack.
"A note was sent by you," said Vic impressively, "through some agency at present unknown. So far, so good."
"Unknown? What rubbish. I sent a note by Sam Wigglesworth, who gave it to some of you for Adrien. What about it?"
As they approached the entrance to the Maitland Mills Vic saw a stream of employees issue from the gate.
"Nothing more at present," he said. "This is my corner. Let me out. I am in an awful hurry, Jack."
"Will you tell me, please, what all this means?" said Jack angrily.
"Sorry, old chap. Awfully hurried just now. See you later."
"You are a vast idiot," grumbled Jack, as Vic ran down the street.
He took his place at the corner which commanded the entrance to the Maitland works. "Here I shall wait, abstractedly gazing at the passers-by, until the unhappy Sam makes his appearance," mused Vic to himself. "And by the powers, here Sam is now."
From among the employees as they poured from the gate Victor pounced upon his victim and bore him away down a side street.
"Sam," he said, "it may be you are about to die, so tell me the truth. I hate to take your young life." Sam grinned at his captor, unafraid. "Cast your mind back to the occasion of the hockey dance. You remember that?"
"You bet I do, Mister. I made a dollar that night."
"Ah! A dollar. Yes, you did, for delivering a note given you by Captain Jack Maitland," hissed Vic, gripping his arm.
"Huh-huh," said Sam. "Look out, Mister, that's me."
"Villain!" cried Vic. "Boy, I mean. Now, Sam, did you deliver that note?"
"Of course I did. Didn't Captain Jack give me a dollar for it? I didn't want his dollar."
"The last question, Sam," said Vic solemnly, "to whom did you deliver the note?"
"To that chap, the son of the storekeeper."
"Rupert Stillwell?" suggested Vic.
"Huh-huh, that's his name. That's him now," cried Sam. "In that Hudson car—see—there—quick!"
"Boy," said Vic solemnly, "you have saved your life. Here's a dollar. Now, remember, not a word about this."
"All right, sir," grinned Sam delightedly, as he made off down the street.
"Now then, what?" said Vic to himself. "This thing has got past the joke stage. I must do some thinking. Shall I tell Pat or not? By Jove, by Jove, that's not the question. When that young lady gets those big eyes of hers on me the truth will flow in a limpid stream. I must make sure of my ground. Meantime I shall do the Kamerad act."
That afternoon Annette had another visitor. Her nurse, though somewhat dubious as to the wisdom of this indulgence, could not bring herself to refuse her request that McNish should be allowed to see her.
"But you must be tired. Didn't Jack tire you?" inquired Adrien.
A soft and tender light stole into the girl's dark eyes.
"Ah, Jack. He could not tire me," she murmured. "He makes so much of what I did. How gladly would I do it again. Jack is wonderful to me. Wonderful to me," she repeated softly. Her lip trembled and she lay back upon her pillow and from her closed eyes two tears ran down her cheek.
"Now," said Adrien briskly, "you are too tired. We shall wait till to-morrow."
"No, no, please," cried Annette. "Jack didn't tire me. He comforts me."
"But Malcolm will tire you," said Adrien. "Do you really want to see him?"
A faint colour came up into the beautiful face of her patient.
"Yes, Adrien, I really want to see him. I am sure he will do me good. You will let him come, please?" The dark eyes were shining with another light, more wistful, more tender.
"Is he here, Adrien?"
"Is he here?" echoed Adrien scornfully. "Has he been anywhere else the last seven days?"
"Poor Malcolm," said the girl, the tenderness in her voice becoming protective. "I have been very bad to him, and he loves me so. Oh, he is just mad about me!" A little smile stole round the corners of her mouth.
"Oh, you needn't tell me that, Annette," said Adrien. "It is easy for you to make men mad about you."
"Not many," said the girl, still softly smiling.
McNish went toward the door of the sick room as if approaching a holy shrine, walking softly and reverently.
"Go in, lucky man," said Adrien. "Go in, and thank God for your good fortune."
He paused at the door, turned about and looked at her with grave eyes. "Miss Templeton," he said in slow, reverent tones, "all my life shall I thank God for His great mercy tae me."
"Don't keep her waiting, man," said Adrien, waving him in. Then McNish went in and she closed the door softly upon them.
"There are only a few great moments given to men," she said, "and this is one of them for those two happy people."
In ten days Annette was pronounced quite fit to return to her family. But Patricia resolved that they should have a grand fete in the Maitland home before Annette should leave it. She planned a motor drive in the cool of the day, and in the evening all their special friends who had been brought together through the tragic events of the past weeks should come to bring congratulations and mutual felicitations for the recovery of the patient.
Patricia was arranging the guest list, in collaboration with Mr. Maitland and the assistance of Annette and Victor.
"We will have our boys, of course," she began.
"Old and young, I hope?" suggested Mr. Maitland.
"Of course!" she cried. "Although I don't know any old ones. That will mean all the fathers and Vic, Jack, Hugh and Rupert, and Malcolm—"
"Ah! It has come to Malcolm, then?" murmured Vic. "Certainly, why not? He loves me to call him Malcolm. And then we will have Mr. Matheson. And we must have Mr. McGinnis—they have become such great friends. And I should like to have the Mayor, he is so funny. But perhaps he wouldn't fit. He DOES take up a lot of attention."
"Cut him out!" said Victor with decision.
"And for ladies," continued Patricia, "just the relatives—all the mothers and the sisters. That's enough."
"How lovely!" murmured Vic.
"Oh, if you want any other ladies, Vic," said Patricia severely, "we shall be delighted to invite them for you."
"Me? Other ladies? What could I do with other ladies? Is not my young life one long problem as it is? Ah! Speaking of problems, that reminds me. I have a communication to make to you young lady." Vic's manner suggested a profound and deadly mystery. He led Patricia away from the others. "I have something to tell you, Patricia," he said, abandoning all badinage. "I hate to do it but it is right for you, for myself, for Adrien, and by Jove for poor old Jack, too. Though, perhaps—well, let that go."
"Oh, Vic!" cried Patricia. "It is about the note!"
"Yes, Patricia. That note was given by Jack to Sam Wigglesworth, who gave it to Rupert Stillwell."
"And he forgot?" gasped Patricia.
"Ah—ah—at least, he didn't deliver it. No, Patricia, we are telling the whole truth. He didn't forget. You remember he asked about Jack. There, I have given you all I know. Make of it what you like."
"Shall I tell Adrien?" asked Patricia.
"I think certainly Adrien ought to know."
"Then I'll tell her to-night," said Patricia. "I want it all over before our fete, which is day after to-morrow."
Rupert Stillwell had been in almost daily attendance upon Adrien during the past two weeks, calling for her almost every afternoon with his car. The day following he came for her according to his custom. Upon Adrien's face there dwelt a gentle, tender, happy look as if her heart were singing for very joy. That look upon her face drove from Rupert all the hesitation and fear which had fallen upon him during these days of her ministry to the wounded girl. He took a sudden and desperate resolve that he would put his fate to the test.
Adrien's answer was short and decisive.
"No, Rupert," she said. "I cannot. I thought for a little while, long ago, that perhaps I might, but now I know that I never could have loved you."
"You were thinking of that note of Jack Maitland's which I sent you last night?"
"Oh, no," she said gently. "Not that."
"I felt awfully mean about that, Adrien. I feel mean still. I thought that as you had learned all about it from Victor, it was of no importance."
"Yes," she replied gently, "but I was the best judge of that."
"Adrien, tell me," Rupert's voice shook with the intensity of his passion, "is there no hope?"
"No," she said, "there is no hope, Rupert."
"There is someone else," he said, savagely.
"Yes," she said, happily, "I think so."
"Someone," continued Rupert, his voice trembling with rage, "someone who distributes his affections."
"No," she said, a happy smile in her eyes, "I think not."
"You love him?" he asked.
"Oh, yes," she whispered, with a little catch in her breath, "I love him."
At the door on their return Jack met them. A shadow fell upon his face, but with a quick resolve, he shouted a loud welcome to them.
"Hello, Adrien," he cried, as she came running up the steps. "You apparently have had a lovely drive."
"Oh, wonderful, Jack. A wonderful drive," she replied.
"Yes, you do look happy."
"Oh, so happy. I was never so happy."
"Then," said Jack, dropping his voice, "may I congratulate you?"
"Yes, I think so," she said. "I hope so." And then laughed aloud for very glee.
Jack turned from her with a quick sharp movement, went down the steps and offering his hand to Rupert, said:
"Good luck, old chap. I wish you good luck."
"Eh? What? Oh, all right," said Rupert in a dazed sort of way. But he didn't come into the house.
Never was there such a day in June, never such a fete. The park never looked so lovely and never a party so gay disported themselves in it and gayest of them all was Adrien. All day long it seemed as if her very soul were laughing for joy. And all day long she kept close beside Jack, chaffing him, laughing at him, rallying him on his solemn face and driving him half-mad with her gay witchery.
Then home they all came to supper, where waited them McNish and his mother with Mr. McGinnis, for they had been unable to join in the motor drive.
"Ma certie, lassie! But ye're a sight for sare een. What hae ye bin daein tae her, Mr. Jack," said Mrs. McNish, as she welcomed them at the door.
"The Lord only knows," said Jack.
"But, man, look at her!" exclaimed the old lady.
"I have been, all day long," replied Jack with a gallant attempt at gaiety.
"Oh, Mrs. McNish," cried the girl, rippling with joyous laughter, "he won't even look at me. He just—what do you say—glowers, that's it—glowers at me. And we have had such a wonderful day. Come, Jack, get yourself ready for supper. You have only a few minutes."
She caught her arm through his and laughing shamelessly into his eyes, drew him away.
"I say, Adrien," said Jack, driven finally to desperation and drawing her into the quiet of the library, "I am awfully glad you are so happy and all that, but I don't see the necessity of rubbing it into a fellow. You know how I feel. I am glad for you and—I am glad for Rupert. Or, at least I told him so."
"But, Jack," said the girl, her eyes burning with a deep inner glow, "Rupert has nothing to do with it. Rupert, indeed," and she laughed scornfully. "Oh, Jack, why can't you see?"
"See what?" he said crossly.
"Jack," she said softly, turning toward him and standing very near him, "you remember the note you sent me?"
"The note you sent the night of the hockey dance?"
"Yes," said Jack bitterly, "I remember."
"And you remember, too, how horrid I was to you the next time I saw you? How horrid? Oh, Jack, it broke my heart." Her voice faltered a moment and her shining eyes grew dim. "I was so horrid to you."
"Oh, no," said Jack coolly, "you were kind. You were very kind and sisterly, as I remember."
"Jack," she said and her breath began to come hurriedly, "I got that note yesterday. Only yesterday, Jack."
"Yes, only yesterday. And I read it, Jack," she added with a happy laugh. "And in that note, Jack, you said—do you remember—"
But Jack stood gazing stupidly at her. She pulled the note from her bosom.
"Oh, Jack, you said—"
Still Jack gazed at her.
"Jack, you will kill me. Won't you hurry? Oh, I can't wait a moment longer. You said you were going to tell me something, Jack." She stood radiant, breathless and madly alluring. "And oh, Jack, won't you tell me?"
"Adrien," said Jack, his voice husky and uncontrolled. "Do you mean that you—"
"Oh, Jack, tell me quick," she said, swaying toward him. And while she clung to him taking his kisses on her lips, Jack told her.