Puslapio vaizdai

be sharply criticized, but would probably pass without much change. The second part contained the famous clause by which it became penal to practise certain trades, such as tailoring, boot-finishing, and shirt-making, in a man's or woman's own home-in the same place, that is to say, as the worker uses for eating and sleeping. This clause, which represented the climax of a long series of restrictions upon the right of a man to stitch even his own life away, still more upon his right to force his children or bribe his neighbor to a like waste of the nation's force, was by now stirring the industrial mind of England far and wide.

And not the mind of England only. Ireland and Scotland, town and country, talked of it, seethed with it. The new law, if it passed, was to be tried, indeed, at first in London only. But every provincial town and every country district knew that, if it succeeded, there was not a corner of the land that would not ultimately feel the yoke or the deliverance of it. Every workman's club, every trade-union meeting, every mechanics' institute was ringing with it. Organized labor, dragged down at every point-in London, at any rate-by the competition of the starving and struggling crew of home-workers, clamored for the bill. The starving and struggling crew themselves were partly voiceless, partly bewildered; now drawn by the eloquence of their trade-union fellows to shout for the revolution that threatened them, now surging tumultuously against it.

On this vital clause, in Fontenoy's belief, the government would go down. But if, by amazing good fortune and good generalship, they should get through with it, then the fight would but rage the more fiercely round the last two sections of the bill.

The third section dealt with the hours of labor in the new workshops that were to be. For the first time it became directly penal for a man, as well as a woman, to work more than the accepted factory day of ten and a half hours, with a few exceptions and exemptions in the matter of overtime. On this clause, if it ever were reached, the Socialist vote, were it given solidly for the government, might, no doubt, pull them through. «But if we have any luck-damn it! they won't get the chance,» Fontenoy would say, with that grim, sudden reddening which revealed from moment to moment the feverish tension of the man.

In the last section of the bill the government, having made its revolution, looked round for a class on which to lay the burden

of carrying it into action, and found it in the landlords. The landlords were to be the policemen of the new act. To every owner of every tenement or other house in London the bill said: You are responsible. If, after a certain date, you allow certain trades to be carried on within your walls at all, even by the single man or the single woman working in their own rooms, penalty and punishment shall follow.

Of this clause in the bill Fontenoy could never speak with calmness. One might see his heart thumping in his breast as he denounced it. At bottom it was to him the last and vilest step in a long and slanderous campaign against the class to which he belonged against property-against the existing social order.

He fell upon the subject to-night apropos of a Socialist letter in the morning papers; and George, who was mostly conscious at the moment of a sick fatigue with Fontenoy and Fontenoy's arguments, had to bear it as best he might. Presently he interrupted:

« One assumption you make I should like to contest. You imagine, I think, that if they carry the (prohibition) and the (hours) clauses we shall be able to whip up a still fiercer attack on the (landlords clause. Now, that is n't my view.»

Fontenoy turned upon him, startled.

Why is n't it your view?» he said ab


«Because there are always waverers who will accept a fait accompli, and you know how opposition always has a trick of cooling toward the end of a bill. Maxwell has carried his main point, they will say; this is a question of machinery. Besides, many of those Liberals who will be with us on the main point don't love the landlords. No; don't flatter yourself that, if we lose the main engagement, there will be any Prussians to bring up. The thing will be done.»>

"Well, thank God!» grumbled Fontenoy, «we don't mean to lose the main engagement. But if one of our men were to argue in that way I should know what to say to him.»

George made no reply.

They walked on in silence, the summer twilight falling softly over the river and the hospital, over the terrace, with its groups, and the towering pile of buildings beside them.

Presently Fontenoy said in another voice:

<<I have really never had the courage to talk to you of the matter, Tressady; but did n't you see something of that lad Ancoats before he went off abroad?»

«Yes, I saw him several times: first at the club, then he came and dined with me here one night.»>

And did he confide in you?»

More or less," said George, smiling rather queerly at the recollection.

Fontenoy made a sound between a growl and a sigh.

Really, it's rather too much to have to think out that young man's affairs as well as one's own. And the situation is so extraordinary. Maxwell and I have to be in constant consultation. I went to see him in his room in the House of Lords the other night, and met a man coming out, who stopped, and stared as though he were shot. Luckily I knew him, and could say a word to him, or there would have been all sorts of cock-andbull stories abroad.»>

« Well, and what are you and Maxwell doing? >>

Trying to get at the young woman. One can't buy her off, of course. Ancoats is his own master, and could outbid us. But Maxwell has found a brother-a decent sort of fellow-a country solicitor. And there is a Ritualist curate, a Father somebody,»-Fontenoy raised his shoulders,—«who seems to have an intermittent hold on the girl. When she has fits of virtue she goes to confess to him. Maxwell has got hold of him.»

And meanwhile Ancoats is at Bad Wildheim?»>

"Ancoats is at Bad Wildheim, and behaving himself, as I hear from his poor mother. Fontenoy sighed. «But the boy was frightened, of course, when they went abroad. Now she is getting better, and one can't tell-⟫

«No, one can't tell,» said George.

"I wish I knew what the thing really meant,» said Fontenoy, presently, in a tone of perplexed reverie. «What do you think? Is it a passion-?»

Or a pose?»

George pondered.

H'm, he said at last; «more of a pose, I think, than a passion. Ancoats always seems to me the jeune premier in his own play. He sees his life in scenes, and plays them according to all the rules.»>

Intolerable!» said Fontenoy, in exasperation. And at least he might refrain from dragging a girl into it! We were n't saints in my day, but we were n't in the habit of choosing well-brought-up maidens of twenty in our own set for our confidantes. You know, I suppose, what broke up the party at Castle Luton? »

« Ancoats told me nothing. I have heard some gossip from Harding Watton,» said George, unwillingly. It was one of his strongest characteristics, this fastidious and even haughty dislike of chatter about other people's private affairs-a dislike which, in the present case, had been strengthened by his growing antipathy to Harding.

«How should he know?» said Fontenoy, angrily. He was glad enough to use Watton as a political tool, but had never yet admitted him to the smallest social intimacy.

Yet with Tressady he felt no difficulty in talking over these private affairs, and he did, in fact, report the whole story-that same story with which Marcella had startled Betty Leven on the night in question: how Ancoats on that Sunday evening had decoyed the handsome, impressionable girl, to whom throughout the winter he had been paying decided and even ostentatious court, into a tête-à-tête; had poured out to her frantic confessions of his attachment to the theatrical lady-a woman he could never marry, whom his mother could never meet, but with whom, nevertheless, come what might, he was determined to live and die. She (Madeleine) was his friend, his good angel. Would she go to his mother and break it to her? Would she understand and forgive him? There must be no opposition, or he would shoot himself. And so on, till the poor girl, worn out with excitement and grief, tottered into Mrs. Allison's room more dead than alive.

But at that point Fontenoy stopped abruptly.

George agreed that the story was almost incredible, and added the inward and natural comment of the public-school man-that if people will keep their boys at home, and defraud them of the kickings that are their due, they may look out for something unwholesome in the finished product. Then, aloud, he said:

«I should imagine that Ancoats was acting through the greater part of that. He had said to himself that such a scene would be effective, and would be new.»

«Good heavens! Why, that makes it ten thousand times more abominable than before!»

«I dare say," said George, coolly. «But it also makes the future, perhaps, a little more hopeful-throws some light on the passion or pose alternative. My impression is that if we can only find an effective exit for Ancoats,— a last act that he would consider worthy of him, he will bow himself out of the business willingly enough.>>

Fontenoy smiled rather gloomily, and the two walked on in silence.

<< I say, Tressady, will you pair till eleven?» cried a man swinging bareheaded along the terrace with his hat in his hand. «I want an hour or two off badly, and there will be no big guns on till eleven or so.>>

George exchanged a word or two with Fontenoy, then stood still and thought a moment. A sudden animation flushed into his face. Why not?

«All right," he said; «till eleven.>>

Then he and Fontenoy went back to dine. As they mounted the dark staircase leading from the terrace another man caught Tressady by the arm.

«The strike notices are out,» he said. «I have just had a wire. Every one leaves work to-night.»

George shrugged his shoulders. He had been expecting the news at any moment, and was glad that the long shilly-shallying on both sides was at last over.

«Good luck to them!» he said. «I'm glad. The fight had to come.»

«Oh, we shall be in the middle of arbitration before a fortnight's up. The men won't stand.»

George shook his head. He himself believed that the struggle would last on through the autumn.

« Well, to be sure, there 's Burrows,» said his informant, himself a large coal-owner in the Ferth district; «if Burrows keeps sober, and if somebody does n't buy him, Burrows will do his worst.»

«That we always knew,» said George, laughing, and passed on. He had only just time to catch his train.

He walked across to the underground station, and by the time he reached it he had clean forgotten his pits and the strike, though as he passed the post-office in the House a sheaf of letters and telegrams had been put into his hands. Rather, he was full of a boy's eagerness and exultation. He had never supposed he could be let off to-night till the offer of Dudley's pair tempted him. And now in half an hour he would be in that queer Mile End room, watching her-quarreling with her.

A little later, however, as he was sitting quietly in the train, quick composite thoughts of Letty, of his miners and his money difficulties, began to clutch at him again. Perhaps, now that the strike was a reality, it might even be a help to him and a bridle to his wife. Preposterous, what she was doing

and planning at Ferth! His face flushed and hardened as he thought of their many wrangles during the past fortnight, her constant drag upon his purse, his own weakness, the annoyance and contempt that made him yield rather than argue.

What was that fellow Harding Watton doing in the house at all hours, beguiling Letty, by his collector's airs, into a hundred foolish wants and whims? And that brute Cathedine! Was it decent, was it bearable, that a bride of three months should take no more notice of her husband's wishes and dislikes in such a matter than Letty had shown with regard to her growing friendship with that disreputable person? It seemed to George that he called most afternoons. Letty laughed, excused herself, or abused her visitor as soon as he had departed; but the rebuff which George's pride would not let him ask of her directly, while yet his whole manner demanded it, was never given.

He sat solitary in the brilliantly lighted carriage, staring at the advertisements opposite, his long chin thrust forward, his head, with its fair curls, thrown moodily back. And all the time his mind was working with an appalling clearness. This cold light in which he was beginning to see his wife and all she did-it was already a tragedy.

What was he flying to, what was he in search of, there in the East End? His whole being flung the answer. A little sympathy, a little heart, a little tenderness and delicacy of soul! Nothing else. He had once taken it for granted that every woman possessed them in some degree; or was it only since he had found them in this unexampled fullness and wealth that he had begun to thirst for them in this way? He made himself face the question. «One need n't lie to one's self!»

At Aldgate, as he was making his way out of the station, he stumbled upon Edward Watton.

«Hullo! You bound for No. 20, too?» «No; there is no function to-night. Lady Maxwell is at a meeting. It has grown rather suddenly from small beginnings, and two days ago they made her promise to speak. I came down because I am afraid of a row. Things are beginning to look ugly down here, and I don't think she has much idea of it. Will you come?»

« Of course.»

Watton looked at him with an amused and friendly eye.

It was another instance of her power-that she had been able to bind even this young enemy to her chariot-wheels. He hoped Letty

had the sense to approve. As a matter of fact, Watton had never, by his own choice, become well acquainted with his cousin Letty, and had always secretly marveled at Tressady's sudden marriage.


BETTER get down here, I think,» said Watton, signaling to the tram-conductor, «and find out whether they have really gone or


They stopped, half-way down the Mile End Road, before a piece of wall with a door in it. A trim maiden of fifteen, in a spotless cotton frock and white apron, opened to them.

Inside was a small flagged courtyard and the old-fashioned house that Marcella Maxwell a year before-some time after their first lodging in Armingford's house had been given up-had rescued from demolition and the builder, to make an East End home out of it. Somewhere about 1750 some City tradesman had built it among fields, and taken his rest there; while, somewhat later, in a time of Evangelical revival, a pious widow had thrown out a low room to one side for class-meetings. In this room Marcella now held her gatherings, and both Tressady and Watton knew it well.

The little handmaid bubbled over with willing talk. Oh, yes; there was a meeting up Manx Road, and her ladyship had gone with Lord Naseby and Lady Madeleine and Mr. Everard the inspector, and, she thought, one or two besides. She expected the ladies back about ten, and they were to stay the night.

And they do say, sir,» she said eagerly, looking up at Watton, whom she knew, «as there'll be a lot o' rough people at the meetin'.»

«Oh, I dare say,» said Watton. «Well, we 're going up, too, to look after her.»>

As they walked on they talked over the general situation in the district, and Watton explained what he knew of this particular meeting. In the first place, he repeated, he could not see that Lady Maxwell understood as yet the sort of opposition that the bill was rousing, especially in these East End districts. The middle-class and parliamentary resistance she had always appreciated; but the sort of rage that might be awakened among a degraded class of workers by proposals that seemed to threaten their immediate means of living he believed she had not yet realized in anything like its full measure and degree; and he feared that this meeting might be a disagreeable experience.

For it was the direct fruit of an agitation that, as Tressady knew, was in particular Fontenoy's agitation. The Free Workers' League, which had called upon the tradeunionists of Mile End to summon the meeting, and to hear therein what both sides had to say, was, in fact, Fontenoy's creation. It had succeeded especially in organizing the women home-workers of Mile End and Poplar. Two or three lady speakers employed by the league had been active to the point of frenzy in denouncing the bill, and shrieking «Liberty!» in the frightened ear of Mile End. Watton could not find a good word for any of them-was sure that what mostly attracted them was the notoriety of the position, involving, as it did, a sort of personal antagonism to Lady Maxwell, who had, so to speak, made Mile End her own. And to be Lady Maxwell's enemy was, Watton opined, the next best thing, from the point of view of advertisement, to being her friend.

« Excellent women, I dare say,» said Tressady, laughing, «talking excellent sense. But tell me, what is this about Naseby-why Naseby-on all these occasions?»

« Why not, indeed?» said Watton. « Ah, you don't know? It seems to be Naseby that 's going to get the egg out of the hat for us.»

And he plunged eagerly into the description of certain schemes wherewith Naseby had lately astonished the Maxwell circle. Tressady listened languidly at first, then with a kind of jealous annoyance that scandalized himself. How well he could understand the attraction of such things for her quick mind! Life was made too easy for these «golden lads.» People attributed too much importance to their fancies.

Naseby, in fact, but so much George already knew, had been for some months now the comrade and helper of both the Maxwells. His friends still supposed him to be merely the agreeable and fashionable idler. In reality, Naseby for some years past had been spending all the varied leisure that his commission in the Life Guards allowed him upon the work of a social and economic student. He had joined the staff of a well-known sociologist who was at the time engaged in an inquiry into certain typical East London trades. The inquiry had made a noise, and the evidence collected under it had already been largely used in the debates on the Maxwell bill. Tressady, for instance, had much of it by heart, although he never knew, until he became a haunter of Lady Maxwell's circle, that Naseby had played any part in the gathering of it.

At the same time, as George had soon observed, Naseby was no blind follower of the Maxwells. In truth, under his young gaiety and coolness he had the temper of the student who is more in love with his problem itself than with any suggested solution of it. As he had told Lady Betty, he had «no opinions >> would himself rather leave the sweated trades alone, and trust to much slower and less violent things than law-making. All this the Maxwells knew perfectly, and liked and trusted him none the less.

Now, however, it seemed there was a new development. If the bill passed, Naseby had a plan. He was already a rich man, independently of the marquisate to come. His grandmother had left him a large preliminary fortune, and through his friends and connections besides he seemed to command as much money as he desired. And of this money, supposing the bill passed, he proposed to make original and startling use. He had worked out the idea of a syndicate, furnished with, say, a quarter of a million of money, which should come down upon a given district of the East End, map it out, buy up all the existing businesses in its typical trade, and start a system of new workshops proportioned to the population, supplying it with work just as the board schools supply it with education. The new scheme was to have a profit-sharing element: the workers were to be represented in the syndicate, and every nerve was to be strained to secure the best business management. The existing middlemen would be either liberally bought out or absorbed into the new machine. It was by no means certain that they would show it any strong resistance.

Tressady made a number of unfriendly comments on the scheme as Watton detailed it. A bit of amateur economics, which would only help the bill to ruin a few more people than would otherwise have gone down.

«Ah, well,» said Watton, «if this thing passes there are bound to be experiments, and Naseby means to be in 'em. So do I, only I haven't got a quarter of a million. Here's our road. We 're late, of course; the meeting 's begun. I say, just look at this!»

For Manx Road, as they turned into it, was already held by another big meeting of its own. The room in the board school which crossed the end of the street must be full, and this crowd represented, apparently, those who had been turned away.

As the two friends pushed their way through, Tressady's quick eye recognized in the throng a number of familiar types. Wellto-do "pressers» and machinists, factory girls

of different sorts, hundreds of sallow women, representing the home-workers of Mile End, Bow, and Stepney,-poor souls, bowed by toil and maternity, whose marred fingers labor day and night to clothe the colonies and the army; their husbands and brothers too, English slop-tailors, for the most part, of the humbler sort, -the short side street was packed with them. It was an anxious, sensitive crowd, Tressady thought, as he elbowed his passage through it. A small thing might inflame it, and he saw a number of rough lads on the skirts of it.

Jews, too, there were in plenty. For the stress of this bill had brought Jew and Gentile together in a new comradeship that amazed the East End. Here were groups representing the thrifty, hard-working London Jew of the second generation, small masters for the most part, pale with the confinement and «drive» of the workshop; men who are expelling and conquering the Gentile EastEnder, because their inherited passion for business is not neutralized by any of the common English passions for spendingabove all, by the passion for drink. Here, too, were men of a far lower type and grade-the waste and refuse of the vast industrial mill. Tressady knew a good many of them by sightsullen, quick-eyed folk, who buy their «greeners» at the docks, and work them day and night at any time of pressure; whose workshops are still flaring at two o'clock in the morning, and alive again by the winter dawn; who fight and flout the law by a hundred arts, and yet, brutal and shifty as many of them are, have a curious way of winning the Gentile inspector's sympathy, even while he fines and harasses them, so clearly are they and their «hands» alike the victims of a huge world-struggle that does but toss them on its surge.

These gentry, however, were hard hit by more than one clause of the Maxwell bill, and they were here to-night to protest, as they had been already protesting at many meetings, large and small, all over the East End. And they had their slaves with them,―ragged, hollow-eyed creatures, newly arrived from Russian Poland, Austria, or Rumania, and ready to shout or howl in Yiddish as they were told,-men whose strange faces and eyes, under their matted shocks of black or reddish hair, suggested every here and there the typical history and tragic destiny of the race which, in other parts of the crowd, was seen under its softer and more cosmopolitan aspects.

As the two men neared the door of the

« AnkstesnisTęsti »