Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Street-Car Strike
By William Dean Howells (1837–1920)
From ‘A Hazard of New Fortunes’

THE TIDE of his confused and aimless revery had carried him far down-town, he thought; but when he looked up from it to see where he was, he found himself on Sixth Avenue, only a little below Thirty-ninth Street, very hot and blown,—that idiotic fur overcoat was stifling. He could not possibly walk down to Eleventh; he did not want to walk even to the Elevated station at Thirty-fourth; he stopped at the corner to wait for a surface car, and fell again into his bitter fancies. After a while he roused himself and looked up the track, but there was no car coming. He found himself beside a policeman, who was lazily swinging his club by its thong from his wrist.  1
  “When do you suppose a car will be along?” he asked, rather in a general sarcasm of the absence of the cars than in any special belief that the policeman could tell him.  2
  The policeman waited to discharge his tobacco juice into the gutter. “In about a week,” he said, nonchalantly.  3
  “What’s the matter?” asked Beaton, wondering what the joke could be.  4
  “Strike,” said the policeman. His interest in Beaton’s ignorance seemed to overcome his contempt of it. “Knocked off everywhere this morning except Third Avenue and one or two cross-town lines.” He spat again, and kept his bulk at its incline over the gutter to glance at a group of men on the corner below. They were neatly dressed, and looked like something better than workingmen, and they had a holiday air of being in their best clothes.  5
  “Some of the strikers?” asked Beaton.  6
  The policeman nodded.  7
  “Any trouble yet?”  8
  “There won’t be any trouble till we begin to move the cars,” said the policeman.  9
  Beaton felt a sudden turn of his rage toward the men whose action would now force him to walk five blocks and mount the stairs of the Elevated station. “If you’d take out eight or ten of those fellows,” he said ferociously, “and set them up against a wall and shoot them, you’d save a great deal of bother.”  10
  “I guess we shan’t have to shoot much,” said the policeman, still swinging his locust. “Anyway, we shan’t begin it. If it comes to a fight, though,” he said, with a look at the men under the scooping rim of his helmet, “we can drive the whole six thousand of ’em into the East River without pullin’ a trigger.”  11
  “Are there six thousand in it?”  12
  “About.”  13
  “What do the infernal fools expect to live on?”  14
  “The interest of their money, I suppose,” said the officer, with a grin of satisfaction in his irony. “It’s got to run its course. Then they’ll come back with their heads tied up and their tails between their legs, and plead to be taken on again.”  15
  “If I was a manager of the roads,” said Beaton, thinking of how much he was already inconvenienced by the strike, and obscurely connecting it as one of the series with the wrongs he had suffered at the hands of Mrs. Horn and Mrs. Mandel, “I would see them starve before I’d take them back—every one of them.”  16
  “Well,” said the policeman, impartially, as a man might whom the companies allowed to ride free, but who had made friends with a good many drivers and conductors in the course of his free riding, “I guess that’s what the roads would like to do if they could; but the men are too many for them, and there ain’t enough other men to take their places.”  17
  “No matter,” said Beaton, severely. “They can bring in men from other places.”  18
  “Oh, they’ll do that fast enough,” said the policeman.  19
  A man came out of the saloon on the corner where the strikers were standing, noisy drunk, and they began, as they would have said, to have some fun with him. The policeman left Beaton, and sauntered slowly down toward the group as if in the natural course of an afternoon ramble. On the other side of the street Beaton could see another officer sauntering up from the block below. Looking up and down the avenue, so silent of its horse-car bells, he saw a policeman at every corner. It was rather impressive.  20
  THE STRIKE made a good deal of talk in the office of Every Other Week—that is, it made Fulkerson talk a good deal. He congratulated himself that he was not personally incommoded by it, like some of the fellows who lived up-town and had not everything under one roof, as it were. He enjoyed the excitement of it, and he kept the office-boy running out to buy the extras which the newsmen came crying through the street almost every hour with a lamentable, unintelligible noise. He read not only the latest intelligence of the strike, but the editorial comments on it, which praised the firm attitude of both parties, and the admirable measures taken by the police to preserve order. Fulkerson enjoyed the interviews with the police captains and the leaders of the strike; he equally enjoyed the attempts of the reporters to interview the road managers, which were so graphically detailed, and with such a fine feeling for the right use of scare-heads, as to have almost the value of direct expression from them, though it seemed that they had resolutely refused to speak. He said, at second-hand from the papers, that if the men behaved themselves and respected the rights of property, they would have public sympathy with them every time; but just as soon as they began to interfere with the roads’ right to manage their own affairs in their own way, they must be put down with an iron hand: the phrase “iron hand” did Fulkerson almost as much good as if it had never been used before. News began to come of fighting between the police and the strikers when the roads tried to move their cars with men imported from Philadelphia, and then Fulkerson rejoiced at the splendid courage of the police. At the same time he believed what the strikers said, and that the trouble was not made by them, but by gangs of roughs acting without their approval.  21
  In this juncture he was relieved by the arrival of the State Board of Arbitration, which took up its quarters with a great many scare-heads, at one of the principal hotels, and invited the roads and the strikers to lay the matter in dispute before them; he said that now we should see the working of the greatest piece of social machinery in modern times. But it appeared to work only in the alacrity of the strikers to submit their grievance. The roads were as one road in declaring that there was nothing to arbitrate, and that they were merely asserting their right to manage their own affairs in their own way. One of the presidents was reported to have told a member of the Board, who personally summoned him, to get out and to go about his business. Then, to Fulkerson’s extreme disappointment, the august tribunal, acting on behalf of the sovereign people in the interest of peace, declared itself powerless and got out, and would no doubt have gone about its business if it had had any. Fulkerson did not know what to say, perhaps because the extras did not; but March laughed at this result.  22
  “It’s a good deal like the military manœuvre of the King of France and his forty thousand men. I suppose somebody told him at the top of the hill that there was nothing to arbitrate, and to get out and go about his business, and that was the reason he marched down after he had marched up with all that ceremony. What amuses me is to find that in an affair of this kind the roads have rights and the strikers have rights, but the public has no rights at all. The roads and the strikers are allowed to fight out a private war in our midst,—as thoroughly and precisely a private war as any we despise the Middle Ages for having tolerated, as any street war in Florence or Verona,—and to fight it out at our pains and expense; and we stand by like sheep and wait till they get tired. It’s a funny attitude for a city of fifteen hundred thousand inhabitants.”  23
  “What would you do?” asked Fulkerson, a good deal daunted by this view of the case.  24
  “Do? Nothing. Hasn’t the State Board of Arbitration declared itself powerless? We have no hold upon the strikers; and we’re so used to being snubbed and disobliged by common carriers that we have forgotten our hold on the roads, and always allow them to manage their own affairs in their own way, quite as if we had nothing to do with them, and they owed us no services in return for their privileges.”  25
  “That’s a good deal so,” said Fulkerson, disordering his hair. “Well, it’s nuts for the Colonel nowadays. He says if he was boss of this town he would seize the roads on behalf of the people, and man ’em with policemen, and run ’em till the managers had come to terms with the strikers; and he’d do that every time there was a strike.”  26
  “Doesn’t that rather savor of the paternalism he condemned in Lindau?” asked March.  27
  “I don’t know. It savors of horse-sense.”  28
  “You are pretty far gone, Fulkerson. I thought you were the most engaged man I ever saw; but I guess you’re more father-in-lawed. And before you’re married too.”  29
  “Well, the Colonel’s a glorious old fellow, March. I wish he had the power to do that thing, just for the fun of looking on while he waltzed in. He’s on the keen jump from morning till night, and he’s up late and early to see the row. I’m afraid he’ll get shot at some of the fights; he sees them all: I can’t get any show at them; haven’t seen a brickbat shied or a club swung yet. Have you?”  30
  “No: I find I can philosophize the situation about as well from the papers, and that’s what I really want to do, I suppose. Besides, I’m solemnly pledged by Mrs. March not to go near any sort of crowd, under penalty of having her bring the children and go with me. Her theory is that we must all die together; the children haven’t been at school since the strike began. There’s no precaution that Mrs. March hasn’t used. She watches me whenever I go out, and sees that I start straight for this office.”  31
  Fulkerson laughed, and said, “Well, it’s probably the only thing that’s saved your life. Have you seen anything of Beaton lately?”  32
  “No. You don’t mean to say he’s killed!”  33
  “Not if he knows it. But I don’t know— What do you say, March? What’s the reason you couldn’t get us up a paper on the strike?”  34
  “I knew it would fetch round to Every Other Week somehow.”  35
  “No, but seriously. There’ll be plenty of newspaper accounts. But you could treat it in the historical spirit—like something that happened several centuries ago; Defoe’s ‘Plague of London’ style. Heigh? What made me think of it was Beaton. If I could get hold of him, you two could go round together and take down its æsthetic aspects. It’s a big thing, March, this strike is. I tell you it’s imposing to have a private war, as you say, fought out this way, in the heart of New York, and New York not minding it a bit. See? Might take that view of it. With your descriptions and Beaton’s sketches—well, it would be just the greatest card! Come! What do you say?”  36
  “Will you undertake to make it right with Mrs. March if I’m killed, and she and the children are not killed with me?”  37
  “Well, it would be difficult. I wonder how it would do to get Kendricks to do the literary part?”  38
  “I’ve no doubt he’d jump at the chance. I’ve yet to see the form of literature that Kendricks wouldn’t lay down his life for.”  39
  “Say!” March perceived that Fulkerson was about to vent another inspiration, and smiled patiently. “Look here! What’s the reason we couldn’t get one of the strikers to write it up for us?”  40
  “Might have a symposium of strikers and presidents,” March suggested.  41
  “No: I’m in earnest. They say some of those fellows—especially the foreigners—are educated men. I know one fellow, a Bohemian, that used to edit a Bohemian newspaper here. He could write it out in his kind of Dutch, and we could get Lindau to translate it.”  42
  “I guess not,” said March, dryly.  43
  “Why not? He’d do it for the cause, wouldn’t he? Suppose you put it up on him, the next time you see him.”  44
  “I don’t see Lindau any more,” said March. He added, “I guess he’s renounced me along with Mr. Dryfoos’s money.”  45
  “Pshaw! You don’t mean he hasn’t been round since?”  46
  “He came for a while, but he’s left off coming now.—I don’t feel particularly gay about it,” March said, with some resentment of Fulkerson’s grin. “He’s left me in debt to him for lessons to the children.”  47
  Fulkerson laughed out. “Well, he is the greatest old fool! Who’d ’a’ thought he’d ’a’ been in earnest with those ‘brincibles’ of his? But I suppose there have to be just such cranks; it takes all kinds to make a world.”  48
  “There has to be one such crank, it seems,” March partially assented. “One’s enough for me.”  49
  “I reckon this thing is nuts for Lindau, too,” said Fulkerson. “Why, it must act like a schooner of beer on him all the while, to see ‘gabidal’ embarrassed like it is by this strike. It must make old Lindau feel like he was back behind those barricades at Berlin. Well, he’s a splendid old fellow; pity he drinks, as I remarked once before.”  50
  When March left the office he did not go home so directly as he came, perhaps because Mrs. March’s eye was not on him. He was very curious about some aspects of the strike, whose importance as a great social convulsion he felt people did not recognize; and with his temperance in everything, he found its negative expressions as significant as its more violent phases. He had promised his wife solemnly that he would keep away from these and he had a natural inclination to keep his promise; he had no wish to be that peaceful spectator who always gets shot when there is any firing on a mob. He interested himself in the apparent indifference of the mighty city, which kept on about its business as tranquilly as if the private war being fought out in its midst were a vague rumor of Indian troubles on the frontier; and he realized how there might once have been a street feud of forty years in Florence without interfering materially with the industry and prosperity of the city. On Broadway there was a silence where a jangle and clatter of horse-car bells and hoofs had been, but it was not very noticeable; and on the avenues roofed by the elevated roads this silence of the surface tracks was not noticeable at all, in the roar of the trains overhead. Some of the cross-town cars were beginning to run again, with a policeman on the rear of each; on the Third Avenue line, operated by non-union men, who had not struck, there were two policemen beside the driver of every car, and two beside the conductor, to protect them from the strikers. But there were no strikers in sight, and on Second Avenue they stood quietly about in groups on the corners. While March watched them at a safe distance, a car laden with policemen came down the track, but none of the strikers offered to molest it. In their simple Sunday test, March thought them very quiet, decent-looking people, and he could well believe that they had nothing to do with the riotous outbreaks in other parts of the city. He could hardly believe that there were any such outbreaks; he began more and more to think them mere newspaper exaggerations, in the absence of any disturbance or the disposition to it that he could see. He walked on to the East River: Avenues A, B, and C presented the same quiet aspect as Second Avenue; groups of men stood on the corners, and now and then a police-laden car was brought unmolested down the tracks before them; they looked at it and talked together, and some laughed, but there was no trouble.  51
  March got a cross-town car, and came back to the west side. A policeman, looking very sleepy and tired, lounged on the platform.  52
  “I suppose you’ll be glad when this cruel war is over,” March suggested as he got in.  53
  The officer gave him a surly glance and made him no answer.  54
  His behavior, from a man born to the joking give-and-take of our life, impressed March. It gave him a fine sense of the ferocity of the French troops’ putting on toward the populace just before the coup d’état: he began to feel like populace; but he struggled with himself and regained his character of philosophical observer. In this character he remained in the car, and let it carry him by the corner where he ought to have got out and gone home, and let it keep on with him to one of the furthermost tracks westward, where so much of the fighting was reported to have taken place. But everything on the way was as quiet as on the east side.  55
  Suddenly the car stopped with so quick a turn of the brake that he was half thrown from his seat, and the policeman jumped down from the platform and ran forward.  56
  DRYFOOS sat at breakfast that morning, with Mrs. Mandel as usual to pour out his coffee. Conrad had already gone downtown; the two girls lay abed much later than their father breakfasted, and their mother had gradually grown too feeble to come down till lunch. Suddenly Christine appeared at the door. Her face was white to the edges of her lips, and her eyes were blazing.  57
  “Look here, father! Have you been saying anything to Mr. Beaton?”  58
  The old man looked up at her across his coffee-cup through his frowning brows. “No.”  59
  Mrs. Mandel dropped her eyes, and the spoon shook in her hand.  60
  “Then what’s the reason he don’t come here any more?” demanded the girl; and her glance darted from her father to Mrs. Mandel.—“Oh, it’s you, is it? I’d like to know who told you to meddle in other people’s business?”  61
  “I did,” said Dryfoos savagely. “I told her to ask him what he wanted here, and he said he didn’t want anything, and he’s stopped coming. That’s all. I did it myself.”  62
  “Oh, you did, did you?” said the girl, scarcely less insolently than she had spoken to Mrs. Mandel. “I should like to know what you did it for? I’d like to know what made you think I wasn’t able to take care of myself? I just knew somebody had been meddling, but I didn’t suppose it was you. I can manage my own affairs in my own way, if you please, and I’ll thank you after this to leave me to myself in what don’t concern you.”  63
  “Don’t concern me? You impudent jade!” her father began.  64
  Christine advanced from the doorway toward the table; she had her hands closed upon what seemed trinkets, some of which glittered and dangled from them. She said, “Will you go to him and tell him that this meddlesome minx here had no business to say anything about me to him, and you take it all back?”  65
  “No!” shouted the old man. “And if—”  66
  “That’s all I want of you!” the girl shouted in her turn. “Here are your presents.” With both hands she flung the jewels—pins and rings and earrings and bracelets—among the breakfast dishes, from which some of them sprang to the floor. She stood a moment to pull the intaglio ring from the finger where Beaton put it a year ago, and dashed that at her father’s plate. Then she whirled out of the room, and they heard her running up-stairs.  67
  The old man made a start toward her, but he fell back in his chair before she was gone, and with a fierce, grinding movement of his jaws controlled himself. “Take—take those things up,” he gasped to Mrs. Mandel. He seemed unable to rise again from his chair; but when she asked him if he were unwell, he said no with an air of offense, and got quickly to his feet. He mechanically picked up the intaglio ring from the table while he stood there, and put it on his little finger; his hand was not much bigger than Christine’s. “How do you suppose she found it out?” he asked after a moment.  68
  “She seems to have merely suspected it,” said Mrs. Mandel in a tremor, and with the fright in her eyes which Christine’s violence had brought there.  69
  “Well, it don’t make any difference. She had to know somehow, and now she knows.” He started toward the door of the library, as if to go into the hall, where his hat and coat always hung.  70
  “Mr. Dryfoos,” palpitated Mrs. Mandel, “I can’t remain here, after the language your daughter has used to me—I can’t let you leave me—I—I’m afraid of her—”  71
  “Lock yourself up, then,” said the old man rudely. He added, from the hall before he went out, “I reckon she’ll quiet down now.”  72
  He took the Elevated road. The strike seemed a very far-off thing, though the paper he bought to look up the stock market was full of noisy typography about yesterday’s troubles on the surface lines. Among the millionaires in Wall Street there was some joking and some swearing, but not much thinking about the six thousand men who had taken such chances in their attempt to better their condition. Dryfoos heard nothing of the strike in the lobby of the Stock Exchange, where he spent two or three hours watching a favorite stock of his go up and go down under the betting. By the time the exchange closed it had risen eight points, and on this and some other investments he was five thousand dollars richer than he had been in the morning. But he had expected to be richer still, and he was by no means satisfied with his luck. All through the excitement of his winning and losing had played the dull, murderous rage he felt toward the child who had defied him, and when the game was over and he started home, his rage mounted into a sort of frenzy: he would teach her, he would break her. He walked a long way without thinking, and then waited for a car. None came, and he hailed a passing coupé.  73
  “What has got all the cars?” he demanded of the driver, who jumped down from his box to open the door for him and get his direction.  74
  “Been away?” asked the driver. “Hasn’t been any car along for a week. Strike.”  75
  “Oh yes,” said Dryfoos. He felt suddenly giddy, and he remained staring at the driver after he had taken his seat.  76
  The man asked, “Where to?”  77
  Dryfoos could not think of his street or number, and he said with uncontrollable fury, “I told you once! Go up to West Eleventh, and drive along slow on the south side; I’ll show you the place.”  78
  He could not remember the number of Every Other Week office, where he suddenly decided to stop before he went home. He wished to see Fulkerson, and ask him something about Beaton: whether he had been about lately, and whether he had dropped any hint of what had happened concerning Christine; Dryfoos believed that Fulkerson was in the fellow’s confidence.  79
  There was nobody but Conrad in the counting-room, whither Dryfoos returned after glancing into Fulkerson’s empty office. “Where’s Fulkerson?” he asked, sitting down with his hat on.  80
  “He went out a few moments ago,” said Conrad, glancing at the clock. “I’m afraid he isn’t coming back again to-day, if you wanted to see him.”  81
  Dryfoos twisted his head sidewise and upward to indicate March’s room. “That other fellow out, too?”  82
  “He went just before Mr. Fulkerson,” answered Conrad.  83
  “Do you generally knock off here in the middle of the afternoon?” asked the old man.  84
  “No,” said Conrad, as patiently as if his father had not been there a score of times, and found the whole staff of Every Other Week at work between four and five. “Mr. March, you know, takes a good deal of his work home with him, and I suppose Mr. Fulkerson went out so early because there isn’t much doing to-day. Perhaps it’s the strike that makes it dull.”  85
  “The strike—yes! It’s a pretty piece of business to have everything thrown out because a parcel of lazy hounds want a chance to lay off and get drunk.” Dryfoos seemed to think that Conrad would make some answer to this, but the young man’s mild face merely saddened, and he said nothing. “I’ve got a coupé out there now that I had to take because I couldn’t get a car. If I had my way I’d have a lot of those vagabonds hung. They’re waiting to get the city into a snarl, and then rob the houses—pack of dirty, worthless whelps. They ought to call out the militia and fire into ’em. Clubbing is too good for them.”  86
  Conrad was still silent; and his father sneered, “But I reckon you don’t think so.”  87
  “I think the strike is useless,” said Conrad.  88
  “Oh, you do, do you? Comin’ to your senses a little. Gettin’ tired walkin’ so much. I should like to know what your gentlemen over there on the east side think about the strike, anyway.”  89
  The young fellow dropped his eyes. “I am not authorized to speak for them.”  90
  “Oh, indeed! And perhaps you’re not authorized to speak for yourself?”  91
  “Father, you know we don’t agree about these things. I’d rather not talk—”  92
  “But I’m goin’ to make you talk this time!” cried Dryfoos, striking the arm of the chair he sat in with the side of his fist. A maddening thought of Christine came over him. “As long as you eat my bread, you have got to do as I say. I won’t have my children telling me what I shall do and shan’t do, or take on airs of being holier than me. Now you just speak up! Do you think those loafers are right, or don’t you? Come!”  93
  Conrad apparently judged it best to speak. “I think they were very foolish to strike—at this time, when the elevated roads can do the work.”  94
  “Oh, at this time, heigh! And I suppose they think over there on the east side that it ’d been wise to strike before we got the Elevated?”  95
  Conrad again refused to answer; and his father roared, “What do you think?”  96
  “I think a strike is always bad business. It’s war; but sometimes there don’t seem any other way for the workingmen to get justice. They say that sometimes strikes do raise the wages, after a while.”  97
  “Those lazy devils were paid enough already,” shrieked the old man. “They got two dollars a day. How much do you think they ought to ’a’ got? Twenty?”  98
  Conrad hesitated, with a beseeching look at his father. But he decided to answer. “The men say that with partial work, and fines, and other things, they get sometimes a dollar, and sometimes ninety cents a day.”  99
  “They lie, and you know they lie,” said his father, rising and coming toward him. “And what do you think the upshot of it all will be, after they’ve ruined business for another week, and made people hire hacks, and stolen the money of honest men? How is it going to end?”  100
  “They will have to give in.”  101
  “Oh, give in, heigh! And what will you say then, I should like to know? How will you feel about it then? Speak!”  102
  “I shall feel as I do now. I know you don’t think that way, and I don’t blame you—or anybody. But if I have got to say how I shall feel, why, I shall feel sorry they didn’t succeed; for I believe they have a righteous cause, though they go the wrong way to help themselves.”  103
  His father came close to him, his eyes blazing, his teeth set. “Do you dare to say that to me?”  104
  “Yes. I can’t help it. I pity them; my whole heart is with those poor men.”  105
  “You impudent puppy!” shouted the old man. He lifted his hand and struck his son in the face. Conrad caught his hand with his own left, and while the blood began to trickle from a wound that Christine’s intaglio ring had made in his temple, he looked at him with a kind of grieving wonder, and said, “Father!”  106
  The old man wrenched his fist away, and ran out of the house. He remembered his address now, and he gave it as he plunged into the coupé. He trembled with his evil passion, and glared out of the windows at the passers as he drove home; he only saw Conrad’s mild, grieving, wondering eyes, and the blood slowly trickling from the wound in his temple.  107
  Conrad went to the neat set bowl in Fulkerson’s comfortable room and washed the blood away, and kept bathing the wound with the cold water till it stopped bleeding. The cut was not deep, and he thought he would not put anything on it. After a while he locked up the office, and started out, he hardly knew where. But he walked on, in the direction he had taken, till he found himself in Union Square, on the pavement in front of Brentano’s. It seemed to him that he heard some one calling gently to him, “Mr. Dryfoos!”  108
  CONRAD looked confusedly around, and the same voice said again, “Mr. Dryfoos!” and he saw that it was a lady speaking to him from a coupé beside the curbing, and then he saw that it was Miss Vance.  109
  She smiled when he gave signs of having discovered her, and came up to the door of her carriage. “I am so glad to meet you. I have been longing to talk to somebody; nobody seems to feel about it as I do. Oh, isn’t it horrible? Must they fail? I saw cars running on all the lines as I came across; it made me sick at heart. Must those brave fellows give in? And everybody seems to hate them so—I can’t bear it.” Her face was estranged with excitement, and there were traces of tears on it. “You must think me almost crazy to stop you in the street this way; but when I caught sight of you I had to speak. I knew you would sympathize. I knew you would feel as I do. Oh, how can anybody help honoring those poor men for standing by one another as they do? They are risking all they have in the world for the sake of justice! Oh, they are true heroes! They are staking the bread of their wives and children on the chance they’ve taken! But no one seems to understand it. No one seems to see that they are willing to suffer more now, that other poor men may suffer less hereafter. And those wretched creatures that are coming in to take their places—those traitors!”  110
  “We can’t blame them for wanting to earn a living, Miss Vance,” said Conrad.  111
  “No, no! I don’t blame them. Who am I, to do such a thing? It’s we—people like me, of my class—who make the poor betray one another. But this dreadful fighting—this hideous paper is full of it!” She held up an extra, crumpled with her nervous reading. “Can’t something be done to stop it? Don’t you think that if some one went among them, and tried to make them see how perfectly hopeless it was to resist the companies and drive off the new men, he might do some good? I have wanted to go and try it; but I am a woman, and I mustn’t! I shouldn’t be afraid of the strikers, but I’m afraid of what people would say!” Conrad kept pressing his handkerchief to the cut in his temple, which he thought might be bleeding, and now she noticed this. “Are you hurt, Mr. Dryfoos? You look so pale.”  112
  “No, it’s nothing—a little scratch I’ve got.”  113
  “Indeed you look pale. Have you a carriage? How will you get home? Will you get in here with me, and let me drive you?”  114
  “No, no,” said Conrad, smiling at her excitement. “I’m perfectly well—”  115
  “And you don’t think I’m foolish and wicked for stopping you here, and talking in this way? But I know you feel as I do!”  116
  “Yes, I feel as you do. You are right—right in every way. I mustn’t keep you. Good-by.” He stepped back to bow, but she put her beautiful hand out of the window, and when he took it she wrung his hand hard.  117
  “Thank you, thank you! You are good, and you are just! But no one can do anything. It’s useless!”  118
  The type of irreproachable coachman on the box, whose respectability had suffered through the strange behavior of his mistress in this interview, drove quickly off at her signal, and Conrad stood a moment looking after the carriage. His heart was full of joy; it leaped; he thought it would burst. As he turned to walk away, it seemed to him as if he mounted upon the air. The trust she had shown him, the praise she had given him, that crush of the hand—he hoped nothing, he formed no idea from it, but it all filled him with love, and cast out the pain and shame he had been suffering. He believed that he could never be unhappy any more; the hardness that was in his mind toward his father went out of it: he saw how sorely he had tried him; he grieved that he had done it: but the means, the difference of his feeling about the cause of their quarrel,—he was solemnly glad of that since she shared it. He was only sorry for his father. “Poor father!” he said under his breath as he went along. He explained to her about his father in his revery, and she pitied his father too.  119
  He was walking over toward the west side, aimlessly at first, and then at times with the longing to do something to save those mistaken men from themselves, forming itself into a purpose. Was not that what she meant, when she bewailed her woman’s helplessness? She must have wished him to try if he, being a man, could not do something: or if she did not, still he would try; and if she heard of it, she would recall what she had said, and would be glad he had understood her so. Thinking of her pleasure in what he was going to do, he forgot almost what it was; but when he came to a street-car track he remembered it, and looked up and down to see if there were any turbulent gathering of men, whom he might mingle with and help to keep from violence. He saw none anywhere; and then suddenly, as if at the same moment,—for in his exalted mood all events had a dream-like simultaneity,—he stood at the corner of an avenue, and in the middle of it, a little way off, was a street car, and around the car a tumult of shouting, cursing, struggling men. The driver was lashing his horses forward, and a policeman was at their heads, with the conductor, pulling them; stones, clubs, brickbats hailed upon the car, the horses, the men trying to move them. The mob closed upon them in a body; and then a patrol wagon whirled up from the other side, and a squad of policemen leaped out and began to club the rioters. Conrad could see how they struck them under the rims of their hats; the blows on their skulls sounded as if they had fallen on stone; the rioters ran in all directions.  120
  One of the officers rushed up toward the corner where Conrad stood, and then he saw at his side a tall old man with a long white beard. He was calling out at the policeman: “Ah yes! Glup the strikerss—gif it to them! Why don’t you co and glup the bresidents that insoalt your lawss, and gick your Boart of Arpidration out of toors? Glup the strikerss—they cot no friendts! They cot no money to pribe you, to dreat you!”  121
  The officer whirled his club, and the old man threw his left arm up to shield his head. Conrad recognized Lindau, and now he saw the empty sleeve dangle in the air, over the stump of his wrist. He heard a shot in that turmoil beside the car, and something seemed to strike him in the breast. He was going to say to the policeman, “Don’t strike him! He’s an old soldier! You see he has no hand!” but he could not speak, he could not move his tongue. The policeman stood there; he saw his face: it was not bad, not cruel; it was like the face of a statue, fixed, perdurable; a mere image of irresponsible and involuntary authority. Then Conrad fell forward, pierced through the heart by that shot fired from the car.  122
  March heard the shot as he scrambled out of his car, and at the same moment he saw Lindau drop under the club of the policeman, who left him where he fell, and joined the rest of the squad in pursuing the rioters. The fighting round the car in the avenue ceased; the driver whipped his horses into a gallop, and the place was left empty.  123
  March would have liked to run; he thought how his wife had implored him to keep away from the rioting; but he could not have left Lindau lying there if he would. Something stronger than his will drew him to the spot, and there he saw Conrad dead beside the old man.  124
  IN the cares which Mrs. March shared with her husband that night she was supported partly by principle, but mainly by the potent excitement which bewildered Conrad’s family and took all reality from what had happened. It was nearly midnight when the Marches left them and walked away toward the Elevated station with Fulkerson. Everything had been done by that time that could be done; and Fulkerson was not without that satisfaction in the business-like dispatch of all the details which attends each step in such an affair, and helps to make death tolerable even to the most sorely stricken. We are creatures of the moment; we live from one little space to another, and only one interest at a time fills these. Fulkerson was cheerful when they got into the street, almost gay; and Mrs. March experienced a rebound from her depression which she felt that she ought not to have experienced. But she condoned the offense a little in herself, because her husband remained so constant in his gravity; and pending the final accounting he must make her for having been where he could be of so much use from the first instant of the calamity, she was tenderly, gratefully proud of all the use he had been to Conrad’s family, and especially his miserable old father. To her mind March was the principal actor in the whole affair, and much more important in having seen it than those who had suffered in it. In fact, he had suffered incomparably.  125
  “Well, well,” said Fulkerson, “they’ll get along now. We’ve done all we could, and there’s nothing left but for them to bear it. Of course it’s awful, but I guess it’ll come out all right. I mean,” he added, “they’ll pull through now.”  126
  “I suppose,” said March, “that nothing is put on us that we can’t bear. But I should think,” he went on musingly, “that when God sees what we poor finite creatures can bear, hemmed round with this eternal darkness of death, he must respect us.”  127
  “Basil!” said his wife. But in her heart she drew nearer to him for the words she thought she ought to rebuke him for.  128
  “Oh, I know,” he said, “we school ourselves to despise human nature. But God did not make us despicable; and I say, whatever end he meant us for, he must have some such thrill of joy in our adequacy to fate as a father feels when his son shows himself a man. When I think what we can be if we must, I can’t believe the least of us shall finally perish.”  129
  “Oh, I reckon the Almighty won’t scoop any of us,” said Fulkerson, with a piety of his own.  130
  “That poor boy’s father!” sighed Mrs. March. “I can’t get his face out of my sight. He looked so much worse than death.”  131
  “Oh, death doesn’t look bad,” said March. “It’s life that looks so in its presence. Death is peace and pardon. I only wish poor, poor old Lindau was as well out of it as Conrad there.”  132
  “Ah, Lindau! He has done harm enough,” said Mrs. March. “I hope he will be careful after this.”  133
  March did not try to defend Lindau against her theory of the case, which inexorably held him responsible for Conrad’s death.  134
  “Lindau’s going to come out all right, I guess,” said Fulkerson. “He was first-rate when I saw him at the hospital to-night.” He whispered in March’s ear, at a chance he got in mounting the station stairs: “I didn’t like to tell you there at the house, but I guess you’d better know: they had to take Lindau’s arm off near the shoulder. Smashed all to pieces by the clubbing.”  135
  In the house, vainly rich and foolishly unfit for them, the bereaved family whom the Marches had just left lingered together, and tried to get strength to part for the night. They were all spent with the fatigue that comes from heaven to such misery as theirs, and they sat in a torpor in which each waited for the other to move, to speak.  136
  Christine moved, and Mela spoke. Christine rose and went out of the room without saying a word, and they heard her going up-stairs. Then Mela said, “I reckon the rest of us better be goun’ too, father. Here, let’s git mother started.”  137
  She put her arm round her mother, to lift her from her chair; but the old man did not stir, and Mela called Mrs. Mandel from the next room. Between them they raised her to her feet.  138
  “Ain’t there anybody a-goin’ to set up with it?” she asked, in her hoarse pipe. “It appears like folks hain’t got any feelin’s in New York. Woon’t some o’ the neighbors come and offer to set up, without waitin’ to be asked?”  139
  “Oh, that’s all right, mother. The men’ll attend to that. Don’t you bother any,” Mela coaxed, and she kept her arm round her mother with tender patience.  140
  “Why, Mely, child! I can’t feel right to have it left to hirelin’s, so. But there ain’t anybody any more to see things done as they ought. If Coonrod was on’y here—”  141
  “Well, mother, you are pretty mixed!” said Mela, with a strong tendency to break into her large guffaw. But she checked herself and said, “I know just how you feel, though. It keeps a-comun’ and a-goun’; and it’s so and it ain’t so, all at once; that’s the plague of it. Well, father! Ain’t you goun’ to come?”  142
  “I’m goin’ to stay, Mela,” said the old man gently, without moving. “Get your mother to bed, that’s a good girl.”  143
  “You goin’ to set up with him, Jacob?” asked the old woman.  144
  “Yes, ’Liz’beth, I’ll set up. You go to bed.”  145
  “Well, I will, Jacob. And I believe it’ll do you good to set up. I wished I could set up with you; but I don’t seem to have the stren’th I did when the twins died. I must git my sleep, so’s to— I don’t like very well to have you broke of your rest, Jacob, but there don’t appear to be anybody else. You wouldn’t have to do it if Coonrod was here. There I go ag’in! Mercy! mercy!”  146
  “Well, do come along, then, mother,” said Mela; and she got her out of the room, with Mrs. Mandel’s help, and up the stairs.  147
  From the top the old woman called down: “You tell Coonrod—” She stopped, and he heard her groan out, “My Lord! my Lord!”  148
  He sat, one silence, in the dining-room where they had all lingered together; and in the library beyond the hireling watcher sat, another silence. The time passed, but neither moved; and the last noise in the house ceased, so that they heard each other breathe, and the vague, remote rumor of the city invaded the inner stillness. It grew louder toward morning, and then Dryfoos knew from the watcher’s deeper breathing that he had fallen into a doze.  149
  He crept by him to the drawing-room, where his son was; the place was full of the awful sweetness of the flowers that Fulkerson had brought, and that lay above the pulseless breast. The old man turned up a burner in the chandelier, and stood looking on the majestic serenity of the dead face.  150
  He could not move when he saw his wife coming down the stairway in the hall. She was in her long white flannel bed-gown, and the candle she carried shook with her nervous tremor. He thought she might be walking in her sleep; but she said quite simply, “I woke up, and I couldn’t git to sleep ag’in without comin’ to have a look.” She stood beside their dead son with him. “Well, he’s beautiful, Jacob. He was the prettiest baby! And he was always good, Coonrod was; I’ll say that for him. I don’t believe he ever give me a minute’s care in his whole life. I reckon I liked him about the best of all the children; but I don’t know as I ever done much to show it. But you was always good to him, Jacob; you always done the best for him, ever since he was a little feller. I used to be afraid you’d spoil him sometimes in them days; but I guess you’re glad now for every time you didn’t cross him. I don’t suppose since the twins died you ever hit him a lick.” She stooped and peered closer at the face. “Why, Jacob, what’s that there by his pore eye?”  151
  Dryfoos saw it too,—the wound that he had feared to look for, and that now seemed to redden on his sight. He broke into a low wavering cry, like a child’s in despair, like an animal’s in terror, like a soul’s in the anguish of remorse.  152

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