Marching Men by Sherwood Anderson - HTML preview
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When McGregor was admitted to the bar and ready to take his place among the thousands of young lawyers scattered over the Chicago loop district he half drew back from beginning the practice of his profession. To spend his life quibbling over trifles with other lawyers was not what he wanted. To have his place in life fixed by his ability in quibbling seemed to him hideous.
Night after night he walked alone in the streets thinking of the matter. He grew angry and swore. Sometimes he was so stirred by the meaninglessness of whatever way of life offered itself that he was tempted to leave the city and become a tramp, one of the hordes of adventurous dissatisfied souls who spend their lives drifting back and forth along the American railroads.
He continued to work in the South State Street restaurant that got its patronage from the underworld. In the evenings from six until twelve trade was quiet and he sat reading books and watching the restless thrashing crowds that passed the window. Sometimes he became so absorbed that one of the guests sidled past and escaped through the door without paying his bill. In State Street the people moved up and down nervously, wandering here and there, going without purpose like cattle confined in a corral. Women in cheap imitations of the gowns worn by their sisters two blocks away in Michigan Avenue and with painted faces leered at the men. In gaudily lighted store-rooms that housed cheap suggestive shows pianos kept up a constant din.
In the eyes of the people who idled away the evenings in South State Street was the vacant purposeless stare of modern life accentuated and made horrible. With the stare went the shuffling walk, the wagging jaw, the saying of words meaning nothing. On the wall of a building opposite the door of the restaurant hung a banner marked "Socialist Headquarters." There where modern life had found well-nigh perfect expression, where there was no discipline and no order, where men did not move, but drifted like sticks on a sea-washed beach, hung the socialist banner with its promise of the co-operative commonwealth.
McGregor looked at the banner and at the moving people and was lost in meditation. Walking from behind the cashier's desk he stood in the street by the door and stared about. A fire began to burn in his eyes and the fists that were thrust into his coat pockets were clenched. Again as when he was a boy in Coal Creek he hated the people. The fine love of mankind that had its basis in a dream of mankind galvanised by some great passion into order and meaning was lost.
In the restaurant after midnight trade briskened Waiters and bartenders from fashionable restaurants of the loop district began to drop in to meet friends from among the women of the town. When a woman came in she walked up to one of these young men. "What kind of a night have you had?" they asked each other.
The visiting waiters stood about and talked in low tones. As they talked they absentmindedly practised the art of withholding money from customers, a source of income to them. They played with coins, pitched them into the air, palmed them, made them appear and disappear with marvellous rapidity. Some of them sat on stools along the counter eating pie and drinking cups of hot coffee.
A cook clad in a long dirty apron came into the room from the kitchen and putting a dish on the counter stood eating its contents. He tried to win the admiration of the idlers by boasting. In a blustering voice he called familiarly to women seated at tables along the wall. At some time in his life the cook had worked for a travelling circus and he talked continually of his adventures on the road, striving to make himself a hero in the eyes of his audience.
McGregor read the book that lay before him on the counter and tried to forget the squalid disorder of his surroundings. Again he read of the great figures of history, the soldiers and statesmen who have been leaders of men. When the cook asked him a question or made some remark intended for his ears he looked up, nodded and read again. When a disturbance started in the room he growled out a command and the disturbance subsided. From time to time well dressed middle-aged men, half gone in drink, came and leaned over the counter to whisper to him. He made a motion with his hand to one of the women sitting at the tables along the wall and idly playing with toothpicks. When she came to him he pointed to the man and said, "He wants to buy you a dinner."
The women of the underworld sat at the tables and talked of McGregor, each secretly wishing he might become her lover. They gossiped like suburban wives, filling their talk with vague reference to things he had said. They commented upon his clothes and his reading. When he looked at them they smiled and stirred uneasily about like timid children.
One of the women of the underworld, a thin woman with hollow red cheeks, sat at a table talking with the other women of the raising of white leghorn chickens. She and her husband, a fat old roan, a waiter in a loop restaurant, had bought a ten-acre farm in the country and she was helping to pay for it with the money made in the streets in the evening. A small black-eyed woman who sat beside the chicken raiser reached up to a raincoat hanging on the wall and taking a piece of white cloth from the pocket began to work out a design in pale blue flowers for the front of a shirtwaist. A youth with unhealthy looking skin sat on a stool by the counter talking to a waiter.
"The reformers have raised hell with business," the youth boasted as he looked about to be sure of listeners. "I used to have four women working for me here in State Street in World's Fair year and now I have only one and she crying and sick half the time."
McGregor stopped reading the book. "In every city there is a vice spot, a place from which diseases go out to poison the people. The best legislative brains in the world have made no progress against this evil," it said.
He closed the book, threw it away from him and looked at his big fist lying on the counter and at the youth talking boastfully to the waiter. A smile played about the corners of his mouth. He opened and closed his fist reflectively. Then taking a law book from a shelf below the counter he began reading again, moving his lips and resting his head upon his hands.
McGregor's law office was upstairs over a secondhand clothing store in Van Buren Street. There he sat at his desk reading and waiting and at night he returned to the State Street restaurant. Now and then he went to the Harrison Street police station to hear a police court trial and through the influence of O'Toole was occasionally given a case that netted him a few dollars. He tried to think that the years spent in Chicago were years of training. In his own mind he knew what he wanted to do but did not know how to begin. Instinctively he waited. He saw the march and countermarch of events in the lives of the people tramping on the sidewalks below his office window, saw in his mind the miners of the Pennsylvania village coming down from the hills to disappear below the ground, looked at the girls hurrying through the swinging doors of department stores in the early morning, wondering which of them would presently sit idling with toothpicks in O'Toole's and waited for the word or the stir on the surface of that sea of humanity that would be a sign to him. To an onlooker he might have seemed but another of the wasted men of modern life, a drifter on the sea of things--but it was not so. The people plunging through the streets afire with earnestness concerning nothing had not succeeded in sucking him into the whirlpool of commercialism in which they struggled and into which year after year the best of America's youth was drawn.
The idea that had come into his mind as he sat on the hill above the mining town grew and grew. Day and night he dreamed of the actual physical phenomena of the men of labour marching their way into power and of the thunder of a million feet rocking the world and driving the great song of order purpose and discipline into the soul of Americans.
Sometimes it seemed to him that the dream would never be more than a dream. In the dusty little office he sat and tears came into his eyes. At such times he was convinced that mankind would go on forever along the old road, that youth would continue always to grow into manhood, become fat, decay and die with the great swing and rhythm of life a meaningless mystery to them. "They will see the seasons and the planets marching through space but they will not march," he muttered, and went to stand by the window and stare down into the dirt and disorder of the street below.
In the office McGregor occupied in Van Buren Street there was another desk besides his own. The desk was owned by a small man with an extraordinary long moustache and with grease spots on the lapel of his coat. In the morning he came in and sat in his chair with his feet on his desk. He smoked long black stogies and read the morning papers. On the glass panel of the door was the inscription, "Henry Hunt, Real Estate Broker." When he had finished with the morning papers he disappeared, returning tired and dejected late in the afternoon.
The real estate business of Henry Hunt was a myth. Although he bought and sold no property he insisted on the title and had in his desk a pile of letterheads setting forth the kind of property in which he specialised. He had a picture of his daughter, a graduate of the Hyde Park High School, in a glass frame on the wall. When he went out at the door in the morning he paused to look at McGregor and said, "If any one comes in about property tend to them for me. I'll be gone for a while."
Henry Hunt was a collector of tithes for the political bosses of the first ward. All day he went from place to place through the ward interviewing women, checking their names off a little red book he carried in his pocket, promising, demanding, making veiled threats. In the evening he sat in his flat overlooking Jackson Park and listened to his daughter play on the piano. With all his heart he hated his place in life and as he rode back and forth to town on the Illinois Central trains he stared at the lake and dreamed of owning a farm and living a free life in the country. In his mind he could see the merchants standing gossiping on the sidewalk before the stores in an Ohio village where he had lived as a boy and in fancy saw himself again a boy, driving cows through the village street in the evening and making a delightful little slap slap with his bare feet in the deep dust.
It was Henry Hunt in his secret office as collector and lieutenant to the "boss" of the first ward who shifted the scenes for McGregor's appearance as a public character in Chicago.
One night a young man--son of one of the city's plunging millionaire wheat speculators--was found dead in a little blind alley back of a resort known as Polk Street Mary's place. He lay crumpled up against a board fence quite dead and with a bruise on the side of his head. A policeman found him and dragged him to the street light at the corner of the alley.
For twenty minutes the policeman had been standing under the light swinging his stick. He had heard nothing. A young man came up, touched him on the arm and whispered to him. When he turned to go down the alley the young man ran away up the street.* * * * *
The powers that rule the first ward in Chicago were furious when the identity of the dead man became known. The "boss," a mild-looking blue-eyed little man in a neat grey suit and with a silky moustache, stood in his office opening and closing his fists convulsively. Then he called a young man and sent for Henry Hunt and a well known police official.
For some weeks the newspapers of Chicago had been conducting a campaign against vice. Swarms of reporters had over-run the ward. Daily they issued word pictures of life in the underworld. On the front pages of the papers with senators and governors and millionaires who had divorced their wives, appeared also the names of Ugly Brown Chophouse Sam and Carolina Kate with descriptions of their places, their hours of closing and the class and quantity of their patronage. A drunken man rolled on the floor at the back of a Twenty-second Street saloon and robbed of his pocketbook had his picture on the front page of the morning papers.Henry Hunt sat in his office on Van Buren Street trembling with fright. He expected to see his name in the paper and his occupation disclosed.
The powers that ruled the First--quiet shrewd men who knew how to make and to take profits, the very flower of commercialism--were frightened. They saw in the prominence of the dead man a real opportunity for their momentary enemies the press. For weeks they had been sitting quietly, weathering the storm of public disapproval. In their minds they thought of the ward as a kingdom in itself, something foreign and apart from the city. Among their followers were men who had not been across the Van Buren Street line into foreign territory for years.
Suddenly through the minds of these men floated a menace. Like the small softspeaking boss the ward gripped its fist conclusively. Through the streets and alleys ran a cry, a warning. Like birds of prey disturbed in their nesting places they fluttered, uttering cries. Throwing his stogie into the gutter Henry Hunt ran through the ward. From house to house he uttered his cry--"Lay low! Pull off nothing."
The little boss in his office at the front of his saloon looked from Henry Hunt to the police official. "It is no time for hesitation," he said. "It will prove a boon if we act quickly. We have got to arrest and try that murderer and do it now. Who is our man? Quick. Let's have action."
Henry Hunt lighted a fresh stogie. He played nervously with the ends of his fingers and wished he were out of the ward and safely out of range of the prying eyes of the press. In fancy he could hear his daughter screaming with horror at the sight of his name spread in glaring letters before the world and thought of her with a flush of abhorrence on her young face turning from him forever. In his terror his mind darted here and there. A name sprang to his lips. "It might have been Andy Brown," he said, puffing at the stogie.
The little boss whirled his chair about. He began picking up the papers scattered about his desk. When he spoke his voice was again soft and mild. "It was Andy Brown," he said. "Whisper the word about. Let a _Tribune_ man locate Brown for you. Handle this right and you will save your own scalp and get the fool papers off the back of the First."* * * * *
The arrest of Brown brought respite to the ward. The prediction of the shrewd little boss made good. The newspapers dropped the clamorous cry for reform and began demanding instead the life of Andrew Brown. Newspaper artists rushed into police headquarters and made hurried sketches to appear an hour later blazoned across the face of extras on the streets. Grave scientific men got their pictures printed at the heads of articles on "Criminal Characteristics of the Head and Face."
An adept and imaginative writer for an afternoon paper spoke of Brown as a Jekyll and Hyde of the Tenderloin and hinted at other murders by the same hand. From the comparatively quiet life of a not markedly industrious yeggman Brown came out of the upper floor of a State Street lodging house to stand stoically before the world of men--a storm centre about which swirled and eddied the wrath of an aroused city.
The thought that had flashed into the mind of Henry Hunt as he sat in the office of the soft-voiced boss was the making of an opportunity for McGregor. For months he and Andrew Brown had been friends. The yeggman, a strongly built slow talking man, looked like a skilled mechanic of a locomotive engineer. Coming into O'Toole's in the quiet hours between eight and twelve he sat eating his evening meal and talking in a half bantering humorous vein to the young lawyer. In his eyes lurked a kind of hard cruelty tempered by indolence. It was he who gave McGregor the name that still clings to him in that strange savage land-"Judge Mac, the Big 'un."
When he was arrested Brown sent for McGregor and offered to give him charge of his case. When the young lawyer refused he was insistent. In a cell at the county jail they talked it over. By the door stood a guard watching them. McGregor peered into the half darkness and said what he thought should be said. "You are in a hole," he began. "You don't want me, you want a big name. They're all set to hang you over there." He waved his hand in the direction of the First. "They're going to hand you over as an answer to a stirred up city. It's a job for the biggest and best criminal lawyer in town. Name the man and I'll get him for you and help raise the money to pay him."
Andrew Brown got up and walked to McGregor. Looking down at him he spoke quickly and determinedly. "You do what I say," he growled. "You take this case. I didn't do the job. I was asleep in my room when it was pulled off. Now you take the case. You won't clear me. It ain't in the cards. But you get the job just the same."
He sat down again upon the iron cot at the corner of the cell. His voice became slow and had in it a touch of cynical humour. "Look here, Big 'un," he said, "the gang's picked my number out of the hat. I'm going across but there's good advertising in the job for some one and you get it."
The trial of Andrew Brown was both an opportunity and a test for McGregor. For a number of years he had lived a lonely life in Chicago. He had made no friends and his mind had not been confused by the endless babble of small talk on which most of us subsist. Evening after evening he had walked alone through the streets and had stood at the door of the State Street restaurant a solitary figure aloof from life. Now he was to be drawn into the maelstrom. In the past he had been let alone by life. The great blessing of isolation had been his and in his isolation he had dreamed a big dream. Now the quality of the dream and the strength of its hold upon him was to be tested.
McGregor was not to escape the influence of the life of his day. Deep human passion lay asleep in his big body. Before the time of his Marching Men he had yet to stand the most confusing of all the modern tests of men, the beauty of meaningless women and the noisy clamour of success that is equally meaningless.
On the day of his conversation with Andrew Brown in the old Cook County jail on Chicago's North Side we are therefore to think of McGregor as facing these tests. After the talk with Brown he walked along the street and came to the bridge that led over the river into the loop district. In his heart he knew that he was facing a fight and the thought thrilled him. With a new lift to his shoulders he walked over the bridge. He looked at the people and again let his heart be filled with contempt for them.
He wished that the fight for Brown were a fight with fists. Boarding a west side car he sat looking out through the car window at the passing crowd and imagined himself among them, striking right and left, gripping throats, demanding the truth that would save Brown and set himself up before the eyes of men.
When McGregor got to the Monroe Street millinery store it was evening and Edith was preparing to go out to the evening meal. He stood looking at her. In his voice rang a note of triumph. Out of his contempt for the men and women of the underworld came boastfulness. "They have given me a job they think I can't do," he said. "I'm to be Brown's counsel in the big murder case." He put his hands on her frail shoulders and pulled her to the light. "I'm going to knock them over and show them," he boasted. "They think they're going to hang Brown-- the oily snakes. Well they didn't count on me. Brown doesn't count on me. I'm going to show them." He laughed noisily in the empty shop.At a little restaurant McGregor and Edith talked of the test he was to go through. As he talked she sat in silence and looked at his red hair. "Find out if your man Brown has a sweetheart," she said, thinking of herself. * * * * *
America is the land of murders. Day after day in cities and towns and on lonely country roads violent death creeps upon men. Undisciplined and disorderly in their way of life the citizens can do nothing. After each murder they cry out for new laws which, when they are written into the books of laws, the very lawmaker himself breaks. Harried through life by clamouring demands, their days leave them no time for the quietude in which thoughts grow. After days of meaningless hurry in the city they jump upon trains or street cars and hurry through their favourite paper to the ball game, the comic pictures and the market reports.
And then something happens. The moment arrives. A murder that might have got a single column on an inner page of yesterday's paper today spreads its terrible details over everything.
Through the streets hurry the restless scurrying newsboys, stirring the crowds with their cries. The men who have passed impatiently the tales of a city's shame snatch the papers and read eagerly and exhaustively the story of a crime.
And into the midst of such a maelstrom of rumours, hideous impossible stories and well-laid plans to defeat the truth, McGregor hurled himself. Day after day he wandered through the vice district south of Van Buren Street. Prostitutes, pimps, thieves and saloon hangers-on looked at him and smiled knowingly. As the days passed and he made no progress he became desperate. One day an idea came to him. "I'll go to the good looking woman at the settlement house," he told himself. "She won't know who killed the boy but she can find out. I'll make her find out."* * * * *
In Margaret Ormsby McGregor was to know what was to him a new kind of womanhood, something sure, reliant, hedged about and prepared as a good soldier is prepared, to have the best of it in the struggle for existence. Something he had not known was yet to make its cry to the man.
Margaret Ormsby like McGregor himself had not been defeated by life. She was the daughter of David Ormsby, head of the great plough trust with headquarters in Chicago, a man who because of a certain fine assurance in his attitude toward life had been called "Ormsby the Prince" by his associates. Her mother Laura Ormsby was small nervous and intense.
With a self-conscious abandonment, lacking just a shade of utter security, Margaret Ormsby, beautiful in body and beautifully clad, went here and there among the outcasts of the First Ward. She like all women was waiting for an opportunity of which she did not talk even to herself. She was something for the single-minded and primitive McGregor to approach with caution.
Hurrying along a narrow street lined with cheap saloons McGregor went in at the door of the settlement house and sat in a chair at a desk facing Margaret Ormsby. He knew something of her work in the First Ward and that she was beautiful and self-possessed. He was determined that she should help him. Sitting in the chair and looking at her across the flat-top desk he choked back into her throat the terse sentences with which she was wont to greet visitors.
"It is all very well for you to sit there dressed up and telling me what women in your position can do and can't do," he said, "but I've come here to tell you what you will do if you are of the kind that want to be useful."
The speech of McGregor was a challenge which Margaret, the modern daughter of one of our modern great men, could not well let pass. Had she not brazened out her timidity to go calmly among prostitutes and sordid muttering drunkards, serene in her consciousness of business- like purpose? "What is it you want?" she asked sharply.
"You have just two things that will help me," said McGregor; "your beauty and your virginity. These things are a kind of magnet, drawing the women of the street to you. I know. I've heard them talk.
"There are women who come in here who know who it was killed that boy in the passageway and why it was done," McGregor went on. "You're a fetish with these women. They are children and they come in here to look at you as children peep around curtains at guests sitting in the parlour of their houses.
"Well I want you to call these children into the room and let them tell you family secrets. The whole ward here knows the story of that killing. The air is filled with it. The men and women keep trying to tell me, but they're afraid. The police have them scared and they half-tell me and then run away like frightened animals.
"I want them to tell you. You don't count with the police down here. They think you're too beautiful and too good to touch the real life of these people. None of them--the bosses or the police--are watching you. I'll keep kicking up dust and you get the information I want. You can do the job if you're any good."
After McGregor's speech the woman sat in silence and looked at him. For the first time she had met a man who overwhelmed her and was in no way diverted by her beauty nor her self--possession. A hot wave, half anger, half admiration, swept over her.
McGregor stared at the woman and waited. "I've got to have facts," he said. "Give me the story and the names of those who know the story and I'll make them tell. I have some facts now--got them by bullying a girl and by choking a bartender in an alley. Now I want you in your way to put me in the way of getting more facts. You make the women talk and tell you and then you tell me."
When McGregor had gone Margaret Ormsby got up from her desk in the settlement house and walked across the city toward her father's office. She was startled and frightened. In a moment and by the speech and manner of this brutal young lawyer she had been made to realise that she was but a child in the hands of the forces that played about her in the First Ward. Her self--possession was shaken. "If they are children--these women of the town--then I am a child, a child swimming with them in a sea of hate and ugliness."A new thought came into her mind. "But he is no child--that McGregor. He is a child of nothing. He stands on a rock unshaken."
She tried to become indignant because of the blunt frankness of the man's speech. "He talked to me as he would have talked to a woman of the streets," she thought. "He was not afraid to assume that at bottom we are alike, just playthings in the hands of the man who dares."
In the street she stopped and looked about. Her body trembled and she realised that the forces about her had become living things ready to pounce upon her. "Anyway, I will do what I can. I will help him. I will have to do that," she whispered to herself.
The clearing of Andrew Brown made a sensation in Chicago. At the trial McGregor was able to introduce one of those breath-taking dramatic climaxes that catch the attention of the mob. At the tense dramatic moment of the trial a frightened hush fell upon the court room and that evening in their houses men turned instinctively from the reading of the papers to look at their beloved sitting about them. A chill of fear ran over the bodies of women. For a moment Beaut McGregor had given them a peep under the crust of civilisation that awoke an age- old trembling in their hearts. In his fervour and impatience McGregor had cried out, not against the incidental enemies of Brown but against all modern society and its formlessness. To the listeners it seemed that he shook mankind by the throat and that by the power and purposefulness of his own solitary figure he revealed the pitiful weakness of his fellows.
In the court room McGregor had sat, grim and silent, letting the State build up its case. In his face was a challenge. His eyes looked out from beneath swollen eyelids. For weeks he had been as tireless as a bloodhound running through the First Ward and building his case. Policemen had seen him emerge from alleyways at three in the morning, the soft spoken boss hearing of his activities had eagerly questioned Henry Hunt, a bartender in a dive on Polk Street had felt the grip of a hand at his throat and a trembling girl of the town had knelt before him in a little dark room begging protection from his wrath. In the court room he sat waiting and watching.
When the special counsel for the State, a man of great name in the courts, had finished his insistent persistent cry for the blood of the silent unemotional Brown, McGregor acted. Springing to his feet he shouted hoarsely across the silent court room to a large woman sitting among the witnesses. "They have tricked you Mary," he roared. "The tale about the pardon after the excitement dies is a lie. They're stringing you. They're going to hang Andy Brown. Get up there and tell the naked truth or his blood be on your hands."
A furor arose in the crowded court room. Lawyers sprang to their feet, objecting, protesting. Above the noise arose a hoarse accusing voice. "Keep Polk Street Mary and every woman from her place in here," he shouted. "They know who killed your man. Put them back there on the stand. They'll tell. Look at them. The truth is coming out of them."
The clamour in the room subsided. The silent red-haired attorney, the joke of the case, had scored. Walking in the streets at night the words of Edith Carson had come back into his brain, and with the help of Margaret Ormsby he had been able to follow a clue given by her suggestion.
"Find out if your man Brown has a sweetheart."
In a moment he saw the message the women of the underworld, patrons of O'Toole's, had been trying to convey to him. Polk Street Mary was the sweetheart of Andy Brown. Now in the silent court room the voice of a woman arose broken with sobs. To the listening crowd in the packed little room came the story of the tragedy in the darkened house before which stood the policeman idly swinging his night stick--the story of a girl from an Illinois village procured and sold to the broker's son --of the desperate struggle in the little room between the eager lustful man and the frightened brave-hearted girl--of the blow with the chair in the hands of the girl that brought death to the man--of the women of the house trembling on the stairs and the body hastily pitched into the passageway."They told me they would get Andy off when this blew over," wailed the woman. * * * * *
McGregor went out of the court room into the street. The glow of victory was on him and he strode along with his heart beating high. His way led over a bridge into the North Side and in his wanderings he passed the apple warehouse where he had made his start in the city and where he had fought with the German. When night came he walked in North Clark Street and heard the newsboys shouting of his victory. Before him danced a new vision, a vision of himself as a big figure in the city. Within himself he felt the power to stand forth among men, to outwit them and outfight them, to get for himself power and place in the world.
The miner's son was half drunk with the new sense of achievement that swept in on him. Out of Clark Street he went and walked east along a residence street to the lake. By the lake he saw a street of great houses surrounded by gardens and the thought came that at some time he might have such a house of his own. The disorderly clatter of modern life seemed very far away. When he came to the lake he stood in the darkness thinking of the useless rowdy of the mining town suddenly become a great lawyer in the city and the blood ran swiftly through his body. "I am to be one of the victors, one of the few who emerge," he whispered to himself and with a jump of the heart thought also of Margaret Ormsby looking at him with her fine questioning eyes as he stood before the men in the court room and by the force of his personality pushed his way through a fog of lies to victory and truth.
Margaret Ormsby was a natural product of her age and of American social life in our times. As an individual she was lovely. Although her father David Ormsby the plough king had come up to his position and his wealth out of obscurity and poverty and had known during his early life what it was to stand face to face with defeat, he had made it his business to see that his daughter had no such experience. The girl had been sent to Vassar, she had been taught to catch the fine distinction between clothes that are quietly and beautifully expensive and clothes that merely look expensive, she knew how to enter a room and how to leave a room and had also a strong well trained body and an active mind. Added to these things she had, without the least knowledge of life, a vigorous and rather high handed confidence in her ability to meet life.
During the years spent in the eastern college Margaret had made up her mind that whatever happened she was not going to let her life be dull or uninteresting. Once when a girl friend from Chicago came to the college to visit her the two went for a day out of doors and sat down upon a hillside to talk things over. "We women have been fools," Margaret had declared. "If Father and Mother think that I am going to come home and marry some stick of a man they are mistaken. I have learned to smoke cigarettes and have had my share of a bottle of wine. That may not mean anything to you. I do not think it amounts to much either but it expresses something. It fairly makes me ill when I think of how men have always patronised women. They want to keep evil things away from us--Bah! I am sick of that idea and a lot of the other girls here feel the same way. What right have they? I suppose some day some little whiffit of a business man will set himself up to take care of me. He had better not. I tell you there is a new kind of women growing up and I am going to be one of them. I am going to adventure, to taste life strongly and deeply. Father and Mother might as well make up their minds to that."
The excited girl had walked up and down before her companion, a mild looking young woman with blue eyes, and had raised her hands above her head as though to strike a blow. Her body was like the body of a fine young animal standing alert to meet an enemy and her eyes reflected the intoxication of her mood. "I want all of life," she cried; "I want the lust and the strength and the evil of it. I want to be one of the new women, the saviours of our sex."
Between David Ormsby and his daughter there was an unusual bond. Six foot three, blue eyed, broad shouldered, his presence had a strength and dignity which marked him out among men and the daughter sensed his strength. She was right in that. In his way the man was inspired. Under his eye the trivialities of plough-making had become the details of a fine art. In the factory he never lost the air of command which inspires confidence. Foremen running into the office filled with excitement because of a break in the machinery or an accident to a workman returned to do his bidding quietly and efficiently. Salesmen going from village to village to sell ploughs became under his influence filled with the zeal of missionaries carrying the gospel to the unenlightened. Stockholders of the plough company rushing to him with rumours of coming business disaster stayed to write checks for new assessments on their stock. He was a man who gave men back their faith in business and their faith in men.
To David plough-making was an end in life. Like other men of his type he had other interests but they were secondary. In secret he thought of himself as capable of a broader culture than most of his daily associates and without letting it interfere with his efficiency tried to keep in touch with the thoughts and movements of the world by reading. After the longest and hardest day in the office he sometimes spent half the night over a book in his room.
As Margaret Ormsby grew into womanhood she was a constant source of anxiety to her father. To him it seemed that she had passed from an awkward and rather jolly girlhood into a peculiarly determined new kind of womanhood over night. Her adventurous spirit worried him. One day he had sat in his office reading a letter announcing her homecoming. The letter seemed no more than a characteristic outburst from an impulsive girl who had but yesterday fallen asleep at evening in his arms. It confused him to think that an honest ploughmaker should have a letter from his little girl talking of the kind of living that he believed could only lead a woman to destruction.
And then the next day there sat beside him at his table a new and commanding figure demanding his attention. David got up from the table and hurried away to his room. He wanted to readjust his thoughts. On his desk was a photograph brought home by the daughter from school. He had the common experience of being told by the photograph what he had been trying to grasp. Instead of a wife and child there were two women in the house with him.
Margaret had come out of college a thing of beauty in face and figure. Her tall straight well-trained body, her coal-black hair, her soft brown eyes, the air she had of being prepared for life's challenge caught and held the attention of men. There was in the girl something of her father's bigness and not a little of the secret blind desires of her mother. To an attentive household on the night of her arrival she announced her intention of living her life fully and vividly. "I am going to know things I can not get from books," she said. "I am going to touch life at many corners, getting the taste of things in my mouth. You thought me a child when I wrote home saying that I wouldn't be cooped up in the house and married to a tenor in the church choir or to an empty-headed young business man but now you are going to see. I am going to pay the price if necessary, but I am going to live."
In Chicago Margaret set about the business of living as though nothing were needed but strength and energy. In a characteristic American way she tried to hustle life. When the men in her own set looked confused and shocked by the opinions she expressed she got out of her set and made the common mistake of supposing that those who do not work and who talk rather glibly of art and of freedom are by that token free men and artists.
Still she loved and respected her father. The strength in him made an appeal to the native strong-thing in her. To a young socialist writer who lived in the settlement house where she presently went to live and who sought her out to sit by her desk berating men of wealth and position she showed the quality of her ideals by pointing to David Ormsby. "My father, the leader of an industrial trust, is a better man than all of the noisy reformers that ever lived," she declared. "He makes ploughs anyway--makes them well--millions of them. He does not spend his time talking and running his ringers through his hair. He works and his work has lightened the labours of millions while the talkers sit thinking noisy thoughts and getting round-shouldered."
In truth Margaret Ormsby was puzzled. Had she been allowed by a common fellowship in living to be a real sister to all other women and to know their common heritage of defeat, had she like her father when he was a boy but known what it was to walk utterly broken and beaten in the face of men and then to rise again and again to battle with life she would have been splendid.
She did not know. To her mind any kind of defeat had in it a touch of something like immorality. When she saw all about her only a vast mob of defeated and confused human beings trying to make headway in the midst of a confused social organisation she was beside herself with impatience.
The distraught girl turned to her father and tried to get hold of the keynote of his life; "I want you to tell me things," she said, but the father not understanding only shook his head. It did not occur to him to talk to her as to a fine man friend and a kind of bantering half serious companionship sprang up between them. The ploughmaker was happy in the thought that the jolly girl he had known before his daughter went to college had come back to live with him.
After Margaret went to the settlement house she lunched with her father almost every day. The hour together in the midst of the din that filled their lives became for them both a treasured privilege. Day after day they sat for an hour in a fashionable down-town eating place renewing and strengthening their comradeship, laughing and talking amid the crowds, delightful in their intimacy. With each other they playfully took on the air of the two men of affairs, each in turn treating the work of the other as something to be passed over lightly. Secretly neither believed as he talked.
In her effort to get hold of and move the sordid human wrecks floating in and out of the door of the settlement house Margaret thought of her father at his desk directing the making of ploughs. "It is clean and important work," she thought. "He is a big and effective man."
At his desk in the office of the plough trust David thought of his daughter in the settlement house at the edge of the First Ward. "She is a white shining thing amid dirt and ugliness," he thought "Her whole life is like the life of her mother during the hours when she once lay bravely facing death for the sake of a new life."
On the day of her meeting with McGregor, father and daughter sat as usual in the restaurant. Men and women passed up and down the long carpeted aisles and looked at them admiringly. A waiter stood at Ormsby's shoulder anxious for the generous tip. Into the air that hung over them, the little secret atmosphere of comradeship they cherished so carefully, was thrust the sense of a new personality. Floating in Margaret's mind beside the quiet noble face of her father, with its stamp of ability and kindliness, was another face--the face of the man who had talked to her in the settlement house, not as Margaret Ormsby daughter of David Ormsby of the plough trust but as a woman who could serve his ends and whom he meant should serve. The vision in her mind haunted her and she listened indifferently to the talk of her father. She felt that the stern face of the young lawyer with its strong mouth and its air of command was as something impending and tried to get back the feeling of dislike she had felt when first he thrust himself in at the settlement house door. She succeeded only in recalling certain firm lines of purpose that offset and tempered the brutality of his face.
Sitting there in the restaurant opposite her father, where day after day they had tried so hard to build a real partnership in existence, Margaret suddenly burst into tears.
"I have met a man who has compelled me to do what I did not want to do," she explained to the astonished man and then smiled at him through the tears that glistened in her eyes.
In Chicago the Ormsbys lived in a large stone house in Drexel Boulevard. The house had a history. It was owned by a banker who was a large stockholder and one of the directors of the plough trust. Like all men who knew him well the banker admired and respected the ability and integrity of David Ormsby. When the ploughmaker came to the city from a town in Wisconsin to be the master of the plough trust he offered him the house to use.
The house had come to the banker from his father, a grim determined old money-making merchant of a past generation who had died hated by half Chicago after toiling sixteen hours daily for sixty years. In his old age the merchant had built the house to express the power wealth had given him. It had floors and woodwork cunningly wrought of expensive woods by workmen sent to Chicago by a firm in Brussels. In the long drawing room at the front of the house hung a chandelier that had cost the merchant ten thousand dollars. The stairway leading to the floor above was from the palace of a prince in Venice and had been bought for the merchant and brought over seas to the house in Chicago.
The banker who inherited the house did not want to live in it. Even before the death of his father and after his own unsuccessful marriage he lived at a down town club. In his old age the merchant, retired from business, lived in the house with another old man, an inventor. He could not rest although he had given up business with that end in view. Digging a trench in the lawn at the back of the house he with his friend spent his days trying to reduce the refuse of one of his factories to something having commercial value. Fires burned in the trench and at night the grim old man, hands covered with tar, sat in the house under the chandelier. After the death of the merchant the house stood empty, staring at passers-by in the street, its walks and paths overgrown with weeds and rank grass.
David Ormsby fitted into his house. Walking through the long halls or sitting smoking his cigar in an easy chair on the wide lawn he looked arrayed and environed. The house became a part of him like a well-made and intelligently worn suit of clothes. Into the drawing room under the ten thousand dollar chandelier he moved a billiard table and the click of ivory balls banished the churchliness of the place.
Up and down the stairway moved American girls, friends of Margaret, their skirts rustling and their voices running through the huge rooms. In the evening after dinner David played billiards. The careful calculation of the angles and the English interested him. Playing in the evening with Margaret or with a man friend the fatigue of the day passed and his honest voice and reverberating laugh brought a smile to the lips of people passing in the street. In the evening David brought his friends to sit in talk with him on the wide verandas. At times he went alone to his room at the top of the house and buried himself in books. On Saturday evenings he had a debauch and with a group of friends from town sat at a card table in the long parlour playing poker and drinking highballs.
Laura Ormsby, Margaret's mother, had never seemed a real part of the life about her. Even as a child the daughter had thought her hopelessly romantic. Life had treated her too well and from every one about her she expected qualities and reactions which in her own person she would not have tried to achieve.
David had already begun to rise when he married her, the slender brown-haired daughter of a village shoemaker, and even in those days the little plough company with its ownership scattered among the merchants and farmers of the vicinity had started under his hand to make progress in the state. People already spoke of its master as a coming man and of Laura as the wife of a coming man.
To Laura this was in some way unsatisfactory. Sitting at home and doing nothing she had still a passionate wish to be known as a character, an individual, a woman of action. On the street as she walked beside her husband, she beamed upon people but when the same people spoke, calling them a handsome couple, a flush rose to her cheeks and a flash of indignation ran through her brain.
Laura Ormsby lay awake in her bed at night thinking of her life. She had a world of fancies in which she at such times lived. In her dream world a thousand stirring adventures came to her. She imagined a letter received through the mail, telling of an intrigue in which David's name was coupled with that of another woman and lay abed quietly hugging the thought. She looked at the face of the sleeping David tenderly. "Poor hard-pressed boy," she muttered. "I shall be resigned and cheerful and lead him gently back to his old place in my heart."
In the morning after a night spent in this dream world Laura looked at David, so cool and efficient, and was irritated by his efficiency. When he playfully dropped his hand upon her shoulder she drew away and sitting opposite him at breakfast watched him reading the morning paper all unconscious of the rebel thoughts in her mind.
Once after she had moved to Chicago and after Margaret's return from college Laura had the faint suggestion of an adventure. Although it turned out tamely it lingered in her mind and in some way sweetened her thoughts.
She was alone on a sleeping car coming from New York. A young man sat in a seat opposite her and the two fell into talk. As she talked Laura imagined herself eloping with the young man and under her lashes looked sharply at his weak and pleasant face. She kept the talk alive as others in the car crawled away for the night behind the green swaying curtains.
With the young man Laura discussed ideas she had got from reading Ibsen and Shaw. She grew bold and daring in the advancing of opinions and tried to stir the young man to some overt speech or action that might arouse her indignation.
The young man did not understand the middle-aged woman who sat beside him and talked so boldly. He knew of but one prominent man named Shaw and that man had been governor of Iowa and later a member of the cabinet of President McKinley. It startled him to think that a prominent member of the Republican party should have such thoughts or express such opinions. He talked of fishing in Canada and of a comic opera he had seen in New York and at eleven o'clock yawned and disappeared behind the green curtains. As the young man lay in his berth he muttered to himself, "Now what did that woman want?" A thought came into his mind and he reached up to where his trousers swung in a little hammock above the window and looked to see that his watch and pocket-book were still there.
At home Laura Ormsby nursed the thought of the talk with the strange man on the train. In her mind he became something romantic and daring, a streak of light across what she was pleased to think of as her sombre life.Sitting at dinner she talked of him describing his charms. "He had a wonderful mind and we sat late into the night talking," she said, watching the face of David.
When she had spoken Margaret looked up and said laughingly, "Have a heart Dad. Here is romance. Do not be blind to it. Mother is trying to scare you about an alleged love affair."
One evening three weeks after the great murder trial McGregor took a long walk in the streets of Chicago and tried to plan out his life. He was troubled and disconcerted by the event that had crowded in upon the heels of his dramatic success in the court room and more than troubled by the fact that his mind constantly played with the dream of having Margaret Ormsby as his wife. In the city he had become a power and instead of the names and the pictures of criminals and keepers of disorderly houses his name and his picture now appeared on the front pages of newspapers. Andrew Leffingwell, the political representative in Chicago of a rich and successful publisher of sensational newspapers, had visited him in his office and had proposed to make him a political figure in the city. Finley a noted criminal lawyer had offered him a partnership. The lawyer, a small smiling man with white teeth, had not asked McGregor for an immediate decision. In a way he had taken the decision for granted. Smiling genially and rolling a cigar across McGregor's desk he had spent an hour telling stories of famous court room triumphs.
"One such triumph is enough to make a man," he declared. "You have no idea how far such a success will carry you. The word of it keeps running through men's minds. A tradition is built up. The remembrance of it acts upon the minds of jurors. Cases are won for you by the mere connection of your name with the case."
McGregor walked slowly and heavily through the streets without seeing the people. In Wabash Avenue near Twenty-third Street he stopped in a saloon and drank beer. The saloon was in a room below the level of the sidewalk and the floor was covered with sawdust. Two half drunken labourers stood by the bar quarrelling. One of the labourers who was a socialist continually cursed the army and his words started McGregor to thinking of the dream he had so long held and that now seemed fading. "I was in the army and I know what I am talking about," declared the socialist. "There is nothing national about the army. It is a privately owned thing. Here it is secretly owned by the capitalists and in Europe by the aristocracy. Don't tell me--I know. The army is made up of bums. If I'm a bum I became one then. You will see fast enough what fellows are in the army if the country is ever caught and drawn into a great war."
Becoming excited the socialist raised his voice and pounded on the bar. "Hell, we don't know ourselves at all," he cried. "We never have been tested. We call ourselves a great nation because we are rich. We are like a fat boy who has had too much pie. Yes sir--that's what we are here in America and as far as our army goes it is a fat boy's plaything. Keep away from it."
McGregor sat in the corner of the saloon and looked about. Men came in and went out at the door. A child carried a pail down the short flight of steps from the street and ran across the sawdust floor. Her voice, thin and sharp, pierced through the babble of men's voices. "Ten cents' worth--give me plenty," she pleaded, raising the pail above her head and putting it on the bar.
The confident smiling face of Finley the lawyer came back into McGregor's mind. Like David Ormsby the successful maker of ploughs the lawyer looked upon men as pawns in a great game and like the ploughmaker his intentions were honourable and his purpose clear. He was intent upon making much of his life, being successful. If he played the game on the side of the criminal that was but a chance. Things had fallen out so. In his mind was something else--the expression of his own purpose.
McGregor rose and went out of the saloon. In the street men stood about in groups. At Thirty-ninth Street a crowd of youths scuffling on the sidewalk pushed against the tall muttering man who passed with his hat in his hand. He began to feel that he was in the midst of something too vast to be moved by the efforts of any one man. The pitiful insignificance of the individual was apparent. As in a long procession the figures of the individuals who had tried to rise out of the ruck of American life passed before him. With a shudder he realised that for the most part the men whose names filled the pages of American history meant nothing. The children who read of their deeds were unmoved. Perhaps they had only increased the disorder. Like the men passing in the street they went across the face of things and disappeared into the darkness.
"Perhaps Finley and Ormsby are right," he whispered. "They get what they can, they have the good sense to know that life runs quickly like a flying bird passing an open window. They know that if a man thinks of anything else he is likely to become another sentimentalist and spend his life being hypnotised by the wagging of his own jaw."
In his wanderings McGregor came to an out-of-door restaurant and garden far out on the south side. The garden had been built for the amusement of the rich and successful. Upon a little platform a band played. Although the garden was walled about it was open to the sky and above the laughing people seated at the tables shone the stars.
McGregor sat alone at a little table on a balcony beneath a shaded light. Below him along a terrace were other tables occupied by men and women. On a platform in the centre of the garden dancers appeared.
McGregor who had ordered a dinner left it untouched. A tall graceful girl, strongly suggestive of Margaret Ormsby, danced upon the platform. With infinite grace her body gave expression to the movements of the dance and like a thing blown by the wind she moved here and there in the arms of her partner, a slender youth with long black hair. In the figure of the dancing woman there was expressed much of the idealism man has sought to materialise in women and McGregor was thrilled by it. A sensualism so delicate that it did not appear to be sensualism began to invade him. With a new hunger he looked forward to the time when he would again see Margaret.
Upon the platform in the garden appeared other dancers. The lights at the tables were turned low. From the darkness laughter arose. McGregor stared about. The people seated at the tables on the terrace caught and held his attention and he began looking sharply at the faces of the men. How cunning they were, these men who had been successful in life. Were they not after all the wise men? Behind the flesh that had grown so thick upon their bones what cunning eyes. There was a game of life and they had played it. The garden was a part of the game. It was beautiful and did not all that was beautiful in the world end by serving them? The arts of men, the thoughts of men, the impulses toward loveliness that came into the minds of men and women, did not all these things work solely to lighten the hours of the successful? The eyes of the men at the tables as they looked at the women who danced were not too greedy. They were filled with assurance. Was it not for them that the dancers turned here and there revealing their grace? If life was a struggle had they not been successful in the struggle?
McGregor arose from the table and left his food untouched. Near the entrance to the gardens he stopped and leaning against a pillar looked again at the scene before him. Upon the platform appeared a whole troupe of women-dancers. They were dressed in many-coloured garments and danced a folk dance. As McGregor watched a light began to creep back into his eyes. The women who now danced were unlike her who had reminded him of Margaret Ormsby. They were short of stature and there was something rugged in their faces. Back and forth across the platform they moved in masses. By their dancing they were striving to convey a message. A thought came to McGregor. "It is the dance of labour," he muttered. "Here in this garden it is corrupted but the note of labour is not lost. There is a hint of it left in these figures who toil even as they dance."
McGregor moved away from the shadows of the pillar and stood, hat in hand, beneath the garden lights waiting as though for a call out of the ranks of the dancers. How furiously they worked. How the bodies twisted and squirmed. Out of sympathy with their efforts sweat appeared on the face of the man who stood watching. "What a storm must be going on just below the surface of labour," he muttered. "Everywhere dumb brutalised men and women must be waiting for something, not knowing what they want. I will stick to my purpose but I will not give up Margaret," he said aloud, turning and half running out of the garden and into the street.
In his sleep that night McGregor dreamed of a new world, a world of soft phrases and gentle hands that stilled the rising brute in man. It was a world-old dream, the dream out of which such women as Margaret Ormsby have been created. The long slender hands he had seen lying on the desk in the settlement house now touched his hands. Uneasily he rolled about in bed and desire came to him so that he awakened. On the Boulevard people still passed up and down. McGregor arose and stood in the darkness by the window of his room watching. A theatre had just spat forth its portion of richly dressed men and women and when he had opened the window the voices of the women came clear and sharp to his ears.
The distracted man stared into the darkness and his blue eyes were troubled. The vision of the disordered and disorganised band of miners marching silently in the wake of his mother's funeral into whose lives he by some supreme effort was to bring order was disturbed and shattered by the more definite and lovely vision that had come to him.
During the days since she had seen McGregor Margaret had thought of him almost constantly. She weighed and balanced her own inclinations and decided that if the opportunity came she would marry the man whose force and courage had so appealed to her. She was half disappointed that the opposition she had seen in her father's face when she had told him of McGregor and had betrayed herself by her tears did not become more active. She wanted to fight, to defend the man she had secretly chosen. When nothing was said of the matter she went to her mother and tried to explain. "We will have him here," the mother said quickly. "I am giving a reception next week. I will make him the chief figure. Let me have his name and address and I will attend to the matter."
Laura arose and went into the house. A shrewd gleam came into her eyes. "He will act like a fool before our people," she told herself. "He is a brute and will be made to look like a brute." She could not restrain her impatience and sought out David. "He is a man to fear," she said; "he would stop at nothing. You must think of some way to put an end to Margaret's interest in him. Do you know of a better plan than to have him here where he will look the fool?"
David took the cigar from his lips. He felt annoyed and irritated that an affair concerning Margaret had been brought forward for discussion. In his heart he also feared McGregor. "Let it alone," he said sharply. "She is a woman grown and has more judgment and good sense than any other woman I know." He got up and threw the cigar over the veranda into the grass. "Women are not understandable," he half shouted. "They do inexplicable things, have inexplicable fancies. Why do they not go forward along straight lines like a sane man? I years ago gave up understanding you and now I am being compelled to give up understanding Margaret."* * * * *
At Mrs. Ormsby's reception McGregor appeared arrayed in the black suit he had purchased for his mother's funeral. His flaming red hair and rude countenance arrested the attention of all. About him on all sides crackled talk and laughter. As Margaret had been alarmed and ill at ease in the crowded court room where a fight for life went on, so he among these people who went about uttering little broken sentences and laughing foolishly at nothing, felt depressed and uncertain. In the midst of the company he occupied much the same position as a new and ferocious animal safely caught and now on caged exhibition. They thought it clever of Mrs. Ormsby to have him and he was, in not quite the accepted sense, the lion of the evening. The rumour that he would be there had induced more than one woman to cut other engagements and come to where she could take the hand of and talk with this hero of the newspapers, and the men shaking his hand, looked at him sharply and wondered what power and what cunning lay in him.
In the newspapers after the murder trial a cry had sprung up about the person of McGregor. Fearing to print in full the substance of his speech on vice, its ownership and its significance, they had filled their columns with talk of the man. The huge Scotch lawyer of the Tenderloin was proclaimed as something new and startling in the grey mass of the city's population. Then as in the brave days that followed the man caught irresistibly the imagination of writing men, himself dumb in written or spoken words except in the heat of an inspired outburst when he expressed perfectly that pure brute force, the lust for which sleeps in the souls of artists.
Unlike the men the beautifully gowned women at the reception had no fear of McGregor. They saw in him something to be tamed and conquered and they gathered in groups to engage him in talk and return the inquiring stare in his eyes. They thought that with such an unconquered soul about, life might take on new fervour and interest. Like the women who sat playing with toothpicks in O'Toole's restaurant, more than one of the women at Mrs. Ormsby's reception had a half unconscious wish that such a man might be her lover.
One after another Margaret brought forward the men and women of her world to couple their names with McGregor's and try to establish him in the atmosphere of assurance and ease that pervaded the house and the people. He stood by the wall bowing and staring boldly about and thought that the confusion and distraction of mind that had followed his first visit to Margaret at the settlement house was being increased immeasurably with every passing moment. He looked at the glittering chandelier on the ceiling and at the people moving about-- the men at ease, comfortable--the women with wonderfully delicate expressive hands and with their round white necks and shoulders showing above their gowns and a feeling of utter helplessness pervaded him. Never before had he been in a company so feminine. He thought of the beautiful women about him, seeing them in his direct crude and forceful way merely as females at work among males, carrying forward some purpose. "With all the softly suggestive sensuality of their dress and their persons they must in some way have sapped the strength and the purpose of these men who move among them so indifferently," he thought. Within himself he knew of nothing to set up as a defence against what he believed such beauty must become to the man who lived with it. Its power he thought must be something monumental and he looked with admiration at the quiet face of Margaret's father, moving among his guests.
McGregor went out of the house and stood in the half darkness on the veranda. When Mrs. Ormsby and Margaret followed he looked at the older woman and sensed her antagonism. The old love of battle swept in on him and he turned and stood in silence looking at her. "The fine lady," he thought, "is no better than the women of the First Ward. She has an idea I will surrender without a fight." Out of his mind went the fear of the assurance and stability of Margaret's people that had almost overcome him in the house. The woman who had all her life thought of herself as one waiting only the opportunity to appear as a commanding figure in affairs made by her presence a failure of the effort to submerge McGregor.
On the veranda stood the three people. McGregor the silent became the talkative. Seized with one of the inspirations that were a part of his nature he threw talk about, sparring and returning thrust for thrust with Mrs. Ormsby. When he thought that the time had come for him to get at the thing that was in his mind he went into the house and presently came out carrying his hat. The quality of harshness that crept into his voice when he was excited or determined startled Laura Ormsby. Looking down at her, he said, "I am going to take your daughter for a walk in the street. I want to talk with her."
Laura hesitated and smiled uncertainly. She determined to speak out, to be like the man crude and direct. When she had her mind fixed and ready Margaret and McGregor were already half way down the gravel walk to the gate and the opportunity to distinguish herself had passed.* * * * *
McGregor walked beside Margaret, absorbed in thoughts of her. "I am engaged in a work here," he said, waving his hand vaguely toward the city. "It is a big work and it takes a lot out of me. I have not come to see you, because I've been uncertain. I've been afraid you would overcome me and drive thoughts of the work out of my head."
By the iron gate at the end of the gravel walk they turned and faced each other. McGregor leaned against the brick wall and looked at her. "I want you to marry me," he said. "I think of you constantly. Thinking of you I can only half do my work. I get to thinking that another man may come and take you and I waste hour after hour being afraid."She put a trembling hand upon his arm and he thinking to check an attempt at an answer before he had finished, hurried on.
"There are things to be said and understood between us before I can come to you as a suitor. I did not think I should feel toward a woman as I feel toward you and I have certain adjustments to make. I thought I could get along without your kind of women. I thought you were not for me--with the work I have thought out to do in the world. If you will not marry me I'll be glad to know now so that I can get my mind straightened out."
Margaret raised her hand and laid it on his shoulder. The act was a kind of acknowledgment of his right to talk to her so directly. She said nothing. Filled with a thousand messages of love and tenderness she longed to pour into his ear she stood in silence on the gravel path with her hand on his shoulder.
And then an absurd thing happened. The fear that Margaret might come to some quick decision that would affect all of their future together made McGregor frantic. He did not want her to speak and wished his own words unsaid. "Wait. Not now," he cried and threw up his hand intending to take her hand. His fist struck the arm that lay on his shoulder and it in turn knocked his hat flying into the road. McGregor started to run after it and then stopped. He put his hand to his head and appeared lost in thought. When he turned again to pursue the hat Margaret, unable longer to control herself, shouted with laughter.
Hatless, McGregor walked up Drexel Boulevard in the soft stillness of the summer night. He was annoyed at the outcome of the evening and in his heart half wished that Margaret had sent him away defeated. His arms ached to have her against his breast but his mind kept presenting one after another the objections to marriage with her. "Men are submerged by such women and forget their work," he told himself. "They sit looking into the soft brown eyes of their beloved, thinking of happiness. A man should go about his work thinking of that. The fire that runs through the veins of his body should light his mind. One wants to take the love of woman as an end in life and the woman accepts that and is made happy by it." He thought with gratitude of Edith in her shop on Monroe Street. "I do not sit in my room at night dreaming of taking her in my arms and pouring kisses on her lips," he whispered.* * * * *
In the door of her house Mrs. Ormsby had stood watching McGregor and Margaret. She had seen them stop at the end of the walk. The figure of the man was lost in shadows and that of Margaret stood alone, outlined against a distant light. She saw Margaret's hand thrust out--was she clutching his sleeve--and heard the murmur of voices. And then the man precipitating himself into the street. His hat catapulted ahead of him and a quick outburst of half-hysterical laughter broke the stillness.
Laura Ormsby was furious. Although she hated McGregor she could not bear the thought that laughter should break the spell of romance. "She is just like her father," she muttered. "At least she might show some spirit and not be like a wooden thing, ending her first talk with a lover with a laugh like that."
As for Margaret she stood in the darkness trembling with happiness. She imagined herself going up the dark stairway to McGregor's office in Van Buren Street where once she had gone to take him news of the murder case--laying her hand upon his shoulder and saying, "Take me in your arms and kiss me. I am your woman. I want to live with you. I am ready to renounce my people and my world and to live your life for your sake." Margaret, standing in the darkness before the huge old house in Drexel Boulevard, imagined herself with Beaut McGregor-- living with him as his wife in a small apartment over a fish market on a West Side street. Why a fish market she could not have said.
Edith Carson was six years older than McGregor and lived entirely within herself. Hers was one of those natures that do not express themselves in words. Although at his coming into the shop her heart beat high no colour came to her cheeks and her pale eyes did not flash back into his a message. Day after day she sat in her shop at work, quiet, strong in her own kind of faith, ready to give her money, her reputation, and if need be her life to the working out of her own dream of womanhood. She did not see in McGregor the making of a man of genius as did Margaret and did not hope to express through him a secret desire for power. She was a working woman and to her he represented all men. In her secret heart she thought of him merely as the man--her man.
And to McGregor Edith was companion and friend. He saw her sitting year after year in her shop, putting money into the savings bank, keeping a cheerful front before the world, never assertive, kindly, in her own way sure of herself. "We could go on forever as we are now and she be none the less pleased," he told himself.
One afternoon after a particularly hard week of work he went out to her place to sit in her little workroom and think out the matter of marrying Margaret Ormsby. It was a quiet season in Edith's trade and she was alone in the shop serving a customer. McGregor lay down upon the little couch in the workroom. For a week he had been speaking to gatherings of workmen night after night and later had sat in his own room thinking of Margaret. Now on the couch with the murmur of voices in his ears he fell asleep.When he awoke it was late in the night and on the floor by the side of the couch sat Edith with her ringers in his hair.
McGregor opened his eyes quietly and looked at her. He could see a tear running down her cheek. She was staring straight ahead at the wall of the room and by the dim light that came through a window he could see the drawn cords of her little neck and the knot of mouse coloured hair on her head.
McGregor closed his eyes quickly. He felt like one who has been aroused out of sleep by a dash of cold water across his breast. It came over him with a rush that Edith Carson had been expecting something from him--something he was not prepared to give.
She got up after a time and crept quietly away into the shop and with a great clatter and bustle he arose also and began calling loudly. He demanded the time and complained about a missed appointment. Turning up the gas, Edith walked with him to the door. On her face sat the old placid smile. McGregor hurried away into the darkness and spent the rest of the night walking in the streets.
The next day he went to Margaret Ormsby at the settlement house. With her he used no art. Driving straight to the point he told her of the undertaker's daughter sitting beside him on the eminence above Coal Creek, of the barber and his talk of women on the park bench and how that had led him to that other woman kneeling on the floor in the little frame house, his fists in her hair and of Edith Carson whose companionship had saved him from all of these.
"If you can't hear all of this and still want life with me," he said, "there is no future for us together. I want you. I'm afraid of you and afraid of my love for you but still I want you. I've been seeing your face floating above the audiences in the halls where I've been at work. I've looked at babies in the arms of workingmen's wives and wanted to see my babe in your arms. I care more for what I am doing than I do for you but I love you."
McGregor arose and stood over her. "I love you with my arms aching to close about you, with my brain planning the triumph of the workers, with all of the old perplexing human love that I had almost thought I would never want.
"I can't bear this waiting. I can't bear this not knowing so that I can tell Edith. I can't have my mind filled with the need of you just as men are beginning to catch the infection of an idea and are looking to me for clear-headed leadership. Take me or let me go and live my life."
Margaret Ormsby looked at McGregor. When she spoke her voice was as quiet as the voice of her father telling a workman in the shop what to do with a broken machine."I am going to marry you," she said simply. "I am full of the thought of it. I want you, want you so blindly that I think you can't understand." She stood up facing him and looked into his eyes. "You must wait," she said. "I must see Edith, I myself must do that. All these years she has served you--she has had that privilege." McGregor looked across the table into the beautiful eyes of the woman he loved. "You belong to me even if I do belong to Edith," he said.
"I will see Edith," Margaret answered again. McGregor left the telling of the story of his love to Margaret. Edith Carson who knew defeat so well and who had in her the courage of defeat was to meet defeat at his hands through the undefeated woman and he let himself forget the whole matter. For a month he had been trying to get workingmen to take up the idea of the Marching Men without success and after the talk with Margaret he kept doggedly at the work.
And then one evening something happened that aroused him. The Marching Men idea that had become more than half intellectualised became again a burning passion and the matter of his life with women got itself cleared up swiftly and finally.
It was night and McGregor stood upon the platform of the Elevated Railroad at State and Van Buren Streets. He had been feeling guilty concerning Edith and had been intending to go out to her place but the scene in the street below fascinated him and he remained standing, looking along the lighted thoroughfare.
For a week there had been a strike of teamsters in the city and that afternoon there had been a riot. Windows had been smashed and several men injured. Now the evening crowds gathered and speakers climbed upon boxes to talk. Everywhere there was a great wagging of jaws and waving of arms. McGregor grew reminiscent. Into his mind came the little mining town and he saw himself again a boy sitting in the darkness on the steps before his mother's bake shop and trying to think. Again in fancy he saw the disorganised miners tumbling out of the saloon to stand on the street swearing and threatening and again he was filled with contempt for them.
And then in the heart of the great western city the same thing happened that had happened when he was a boy in Pennsylvania. The officials of the city, having decided to startle the striking teamsters by a display of force, sent a regiment of state troops marching through the streets. The soldiers were dressed in brown uniforms. They were silent. As McGregor looked down they turned out of Polk Street and came with swinging measured tread up State Street past the disorderly mobs on the sidewalk and the equally disorderly speakers on the curb.
McGregor's heart beat so that he nearly choked. The men in the uniforms, each in himself meaning nothing, had become by their marching together all alive with meaning. Again he wanted to shout, to run down into the street and embrace them. The strength in them seemed to kiss, as with the kiss of a lover, the strength within himself and when they had passed and the disorderly jangle of voices broke out again he got on a car and went out to Edith's with his heart afire with resolution.
Edith Carson's millinery shop was in the hands of a new owner. She had sold out and fled. McGregor stood in the show room looking about him at the cases filled with their feathery finery and at the hats along the wall. The light from a street lamp that came in at the window started millions of tiny motes dancing before his eyes.
Out of the room at the back of the shop--the room where he had seen the tears of suffering in Edith's eyes--came a woman who told him of Edith's having sold the business. She was excited by the message she had to deliver and walked past the waiting man, going to the screen door to stand with her back to him and look up the street.
Out of the corners of her eyes the woman looked at him. She was a small blackhaired woman with two gleaming gold teeth and with glasses on her nose. "There has been a lovers' quarrel here," she told herself."I have bought the store," she said aloud. "She told me to tell you that she had gone." McGregor did not wait for more but hurried past the woman into the street. In his heart was a feeling of dumb aching loss. On an impulse he turned and ran back. Standing in the street by the screen door he shouted hoarsely. "Where did she go?" he demanded.
The woman laughed merrily. She felt that she was getting with the shop a flavour of romance and adventure very attractive to her. Then she walked to the door and smiled through the screen. "She has only just left," she said. "She went to the Burlington station. I think she has gone West. I heard her tell the man about her trunk. She has been around here for two days since I bought the shop. I think she has been waiting for you to come. You did not come and now she has gone and perhaps you won't find her. She did not look like one who would quarrel with a lover."The woman in the shop laughed softly as McGregor hurried away. "Now who would think that quiet little woman would have such a lover?" she asked herself.
Down the street ran McGregor and raising his hand stopped a passing automobile. The woman saw him seated in the automobile talking to a greyhaired man at the wheel and then the machine turned and disappeared up the street at a law-breaking pace.
McGregor had again a new light on the character of Edith Carson. "I can see her doing it," he told himself--"cheerfully telling Margaret that it didn't matter and all the time planning this in the back of her head. Here all of these years she has been leading a life of her own. The secret longings, the desires and the old human hunger for love and happiness and expression have been going on under her placid exterior as they have under my own."
McGregor thought of the busy days behind him and realised with shame how little Edith had seen of him. It was in the days when his big movement of The Marching Men was just coming into the light and on the night before he had been in a conference of labour men who had wanted him to make a public demonstration of the power he had secretly been building up. Every day his office was filled with newspaper men who asked questions and demanded explanations. And in the meantime Edith had been selling her shop to that woman and getting ready to disappear.
In the railroad station McGregor found Edith sitting in a corner with her face buried in the crook of her arm. Gone was the placid exterior. Her shoulders seemed narrower. Her hand, hanging over the back of the seat in front of her, was white and lifeless.
McGregor said nothing but snatched up the brown leather bag that sat beside her on the floor and taking her by the arm led her up a flight of stone steps to the street.
In the Ormsby household father and daughter sat in the darkness on the veranda. After Laura Ormsby's encounter with McGregor there had been another talk between her and David. Now she had gone on a visit to her home-town in Wisconsin and father and daughter sat together.
To his wife David had talked pointedly of Margaret's affair. "It is not a matter of good sense," he had said; "one can not pretend there is a prospect of happiness in such an affair. The man is no fool and may some day be a big man but it will not be the kind of bigness that will bring either happiness or contentment to a woman like Margaret. He may end his life in jail."* * * * *
McGregor and Edith walked up the gravel walk and stood by the front door of the Ormsby house. From the darkness on the veranda came the hearty voice of David. "Come and sit out here," he said.
McGregor stood silently waiting. Edith clung to his arm. Margaret got up and coming forward stood looking at them. With a jump at her heart she sensed the crisis suggested by the presence of these two people. Her voice trembled with alarm. "Come in," she said, turning and leading the way into the house.The man and woman followed Margaret. At the door McGregor stopped and called to David. "We want you in here with us," he said harshly. In the drawing room the four people waited. The great chandelier threw its light down upon them. In her chair Edith sat and looked at the floor.
"I've made a mistake," said McGregor. "I've been going on and on making a mistake." He turned to Margaret. "We didn't count on something here. There is Edith. She isn't what we thought."
Edith said nothing. The weary stoop stayed in her shoulders. She felt that if McGregor had brought her to the house and to this woman he loved to seal their parting she would sit quietly until that was over and then go on to the loneliness she believed must be her portion.
To Margaret the coming of the man and woman was a portent of evil. She also was silent, expecting a shock. When her lover spoke she also looked at the floor. To herself she was saying, "He is going to take himself away and marry this other woman. I must be prepared to hear him say that." In the doorway stood David. "He is going to give me back Margaret," he thought, and his heart danced with happiness.
McGregor walked across the room and stood looking at the two women. His blue eyes were cold and filled with intense curiosity concerning them and himself. He wanted to test them and to test himself. "If I am clear-headed now I shall go on with the dream," he thought. "If I fail in this I shall fail in everything." Turning he took hold of the sleeve of David's coat and pulled him across the room so that the two men stood together. Then he looked hard at Margaret. As he talked to her he continued to stand thus with his hand on her father's arm. The action caught David's fancy and a thrill of admiration ran through him. "Here is a man," he told himself."You thought Edith was ready to see us get married. Well she was. She is now and you see what it has done to her," said McGregor. The daughter of the ploughmaker started to speak. Her face was chalky white. McGregor threw up his hands.
"Wait," he said, "a man and woman can't live together for years and then part like two men friends. Something gets into them to prevent. They find they love each other. I've found out that though I want you, I love Edith. She loves me. Look at her."
Margaret half arose from her chair. McGregor went on. Into his voice came the harsh quality that made men fear and follow him. "Oh, we'll be married, Margaret and I," he said; "her beauty has won me. I follow beauty. I want beautiful children. That is my right."He turned to Edith and stood staring at her.
"You and I could never have the feeling Margaret and I had when we looked into each other's eyes. We ached with it--each wanting the other. You are made to endure. You would get over anything and be cheerful after a while. You know that--don't you?"The eyes of Edith came up level with his own. "Yes I know," she said. Margaret Ormsby jumped up from her chair, her eyes swimming. "Stop," she cried. "I do not want you. I would never marry you now. You belong to her. You are Edith's."
McGregor's voice became soft and quiet. "Oh, I know," he said; "I know! I know! But I want children. Look at Edith. Do you think she could bear children to me?"A change came over Edith Carson. Her eyes hardened and her shoulders straightened.
"That's for me to say," she cried, springing forward and clutching his arm. "That is between me and God. If you intend to marry me come now and do it. I was not afraid to give you up and I'm not afraid that I shall die bearing children."
Dropping McGregor's arm Edith ran across the room and stood before Margaret. "How do you know you are more beautiful or can bear more beautiful children?" she demanded. "What do you mean by beauty anyway? I deny your beauty." She turned to McGregor. "Look," she cried, "she does not stand the test."
Pride swept over the woman that had come to life within the body of the little milliner. With calm eyes she stared at the people in the room and when she looked again toward Margaret there was a challenge in her voice.
"Beauty has to endure," she said swiftly. "It has to be daring. It has to outlive long years of life and many defeats." A hard look came into her eyes as she challenged the daughter of wealth. "I had the courage to be defeated and I have the courage to take what I want," she said. "Have you that courage? If you have take this man. You want him and so do I. Take his arm and walk away with him. Do it now, here before my eyes."
Margaret shook her head. Her body trembled and her eyes looked wildly about. She turned to David Ormsby. "I did not know that life could be like this," she said. "Why didn't you tell me? She is right. I am afraid."
A light came into McGregor's eyes and he turned quickly about. "I see," he said, looking sharply at Edith, "you have also your purpose." Turning again he looked into the eyes of David.
"There is something to be decided here. It is perhaps the supreme test of a man's life. One struggles to keep a thought in mind, to be impersonal, to see that life has a purpose outside his own purpose. You have perhaps made that struggle. You see I'm making it now. I'm going to take Edith and go back to work."At the door McGregor stopped and put out his hand to David who took it and looked at the big lawyer respectfully.
"I'm glad to see you go," said the ploughmaker briefly. "I'm glad to be going," said McGregor, understanding that there was nothing but relief and honest antagonism in the voice and in the mind of David Ormsby.
The Marching Men Movement was never a thing to intellectualise. For years McGregor tried to get it under way by talking. He did not succeed. The rhythm and swing that was at the heart of the movement hung fire. The man passed through long periods of depression and had to drive himself forward. And then after the scene with Margaret and Edith in the Ormsby house came action.
There was a man named Mosby about whose figure the action for a time revolved. He was bartender for Neil Hunt, a notorious character of South State Street, and had once been a lieutenant in the army. Mosby was what in modern society is called a rascal. After West Point and a few years at some isolated army post he began to drink and one night during a debauch and when half crazed by the dullness of his life he shot a private through the shoulder. He was arrested and put on his honour not to escape but did escape. For years he drifted about the world a haggard cynical figure who got drunk whenever money came his way and who would do anything to break the monotony of existence.
Mosby was enthusiastic about the Marching Men idea. He saw in it an opportunity to worry and alarm his fellow men. He talked a union of bartenders and waiters to which he belonged into giving the idea a trial and in the morning they began to march up and down in the strip of parkland that faced the lake at the edge of the First Ward. "Keep your mouths shut," commanded Mosby. "We can worry the officials of this town like the devil if we work this right. When you are asked questions say nothing. If the police try to arrest us we will swear we are only doing it for the sake of exercise."
Mosby's plan worked. Within a week crowds began to gather in the morning to watch the Marching Men and the police started to make inquiry. Mosby was delighted. He threw up his job as bartender and recruited a motley company of young roughs whom he induced to practise the march step during the afternoons. When he was arrested and dragged into court McGregor acted as his lawyer and he was discharged. "I want to get these men out into the open," Mosby declared, looking very innocent and guileless. "You can see for yourself that waiters and bartenders get pale and stoop-shouldered at their work and as for these young roughs isn't it better for society to have them out there marching about than idling in bar rooms and planning God knows what mischief?"
A grin appeared over the face of the First Ward. McGregor and Mosby organised another company of marchers and a young man who had been a sergeant in a company of regulars was induced to help with the drilling. To the men themselves it was all a joke, a game that appealed to the mischievous boy in them. Everybody was curious and that gave the thing tang. They grinned as they marched up and down. For a while they exchanged gibes with the spectators but McGregor put a stop to that. "Be silent," he said, going about among the men during the rest periods. "That's the best thing to do. Be silent and attend to business and your marching will be ten times as effective."
The Marching Men Movement grew. A young Jewish newspaper man, half rascal, half poet, wrote a scare-head story for one of the Sunday papers announcing the birth of the Republic of Labour. The story was illustrated by a drawing showing McGregor leading a vast horde of men across an open plain toward a city whose tall chimneys belched forth clouds of smoke. Beside McGregor in the picture and arrayed in a gaudy uniform was Mosby the ex-army officer. In the article he was called the war lord of "The secret republic growing up within a great capitalistic empire."
It had begun to take form--the movement of the Marching Men. Rumours began to run here and there. There was a question in men's eyes. Slowly at first it began to rumble through their minds. There was the tap of feet clicking sharply on pavements. Groups formed, men laughed, the groups disappeared only to again reappear. In the sun before factory doors men stood talking, half understanding, beginning to sense the fact that there was something big in the wind.
At first the movement did not get anywhere with the ranks of labour. There would be a meeting, perhaps a series of meetings in one of the little halls where labourers gather to attend to the affairs of their unions. McGregor would speak. His voice harsh and commanding could be heard in the streets below. Merchants came out of the stores and stood in the doorways listening. Young fellows who smoked cigarettes stopped looking at passing girls and gathered in crowds below the open windows. The slow working brain of labour was being aroused.
After a time a few young men, fellows who worked at the saws in a box factory and others who ran machines in a factory where bicycles were made, volunteered to follow the lead of the men of the First Ward. On summer evenings they gathered in vacant lots and marched back and forth looking at their feet and laughing.
McGregor insisted upon the training. He never had any intention of letting his Marching Men Movement become merely a disorganised band of walkers such as we have all seen in many a labour parade. He meant that they should learn to march rhythmically, swinging along like veterans. He was determined that the thresh of feet should come finally to sing a great song, carrying the message of a powerful brotherhood into the hearts and brains of the marchers.
McGregor gave all of his time to the movement. He made a scant living by the practice of his profession but gave it no thought. The murder case had brought him other cases and he had taken a partner, a ferret- eyed little man who worked out the details of what cases came to the firm and collected the fees, half of which he gave to the partner who was intent upon something else. Day after day, week after week, month after month, McGregor went up and down the city, talking to workers, learning to talk, striving to make his idea understood.
One evening in September he stood in the shadow of a factory wall watching a group of men who marched in a vacant lot. The movement had become by that time really big. A flame burned in his heart at the thought of what it might become. It was growing dark and the clouds of dust raised by the feet of the men swept across the face of the departing sun. In the field before him marched some two hundred men, the largest company he had been able to get together. For a week they had stayed at the marching evening after evening and were beginning a little to understand the spirit of it. Their leader on the field, a tall square shouldered man, had once been a captain in the State Militia and now worked as engineer in a factory where soap was made. His commands rang out sharp and crisp on the evening air. "Fours right into line," he cried. The words were barked forth. The men straightened their shoulders and swung out vigorously. They had begun to enjoy the marching.
In the shadow of the factory wall McGregor moved uneasily about. He felt that this was the beginning, the real birth of his movement, that these men had really come out of the ranks of labour and that in the breasts of the marching figures there in the open space understanding was growing.
He muttered and walked back and forth. A young man, a reporter on one of the city's great daily papers, leaped from a passing street car and came to stand near him. "What's up here? What's this going on? What's it all about? You better tell me," he said.
In the dim light McGregor raised his fists above his head and talked aloud. "It's creeping in among them," he said. "The thing that can't be put into words is getting itself expressed. Something is being done here in this field. A new force is coming into the world."
Half beside himself McGregor ran up and down swinging his arms. Again turning to the reporter who stood by a factory wall--a rather dandified figure he was with a tiny moustache--he shouted:"Don't you see?" he cried. His voice was harsh. "See how they march! They are finding out what I mean. They have caught the spirit of it!"
McGregor began to explain. He talked hurriedly, his words coming forth in short broken sentences. "For ages there has been talk of brotherhood. Always men have babbled of brotherhood. The words have meant nothing. The words and the talking have but bred a loose-jawed race. The jaws of men wabble about but the legs of these men do not wabble."
He again walked up and down, dragging the half-frightened man along the deepening shadow of the factory wall.
"You see it begins--now in this field it begins. The legs and the feet of men, hundreds of legs and feet make a kind of music. Presently there will be thousands, hundreds of thousands. For a time men will cease to be individuals. They will become a mass, a moving all- powerful mass. They will not put their thoughts into words but nevertheless there will be a thought growing up in them. They will of a sudden begin to realise that they are a part of something vast and mighty, a thing that moves, that is seeking new expression. They have been told of the power of labour but now, you see, they will become the power of labour."
Swept along by his own words and perhaps by something rhythmical in the moving mass of men McGregor became feverishly anxious that the dapper young man should understand. "Do you remember--when you were a boy--some man who had been a soldier telling you that the men who marched had to break step and go in a disorderly mob across a bridge because their orderly stride would have shaken the bridge to pieces?"
A shiver ran over the body of the young man. In his off hours he was a writer of plays and stories and his trained dramatic sense caught quickly the import of McGregor's words. Into his mind came a scene on a village street of his own place in Ohio. In fancy he saw the village fife and drum corps marching past. His mind recalled the swing and the cadence of the tune and again as when he was a boy his legs ached to run out among the men and go marching away.Filled with excitement he began also to talk. "I see," he cried; "you think there is a thought in that, a big thought that men have not understood?" On the field the men, becoming bolder as they became less self- conscious, came sweeping by, their bodies falling into a long swinging stride.
The young man pondered. "I see. I see. Every one who stood watching as I did when the fife and drum corps went past felt what I felt. They were hiding behind a mask. Their legs also tingled and the same wild militant thumping went on in their hearts. You have found that out, eh? You mean to lead labour that way?"
With open mouth the young man stared at the field and at the moving mass of men. He became oratorical in his thoughts. "Here is a big man," he muttered. "Here is a Napoleon, a Caesar of labour come to Chicago. He is not like the little leaders. His mind is not sicklied over with the pale cast of thought. He does not think that the big natural impulses of men are foolish and absurd. He has got hold of something here that will work. The world had better watch this man."
Half beside himself he walked up and down at the edge of the field, his body trembling.
Out of the ranks of the marching men came a workman. In the field words arose. A petulant quality came into the voice of the captain who gave commands. The newspaper man listened anxiously. "That's what will spoil everything. The men will begin to lose heart and will quit," he thought, leaning forward and waiting.
Past the shoulder of the young man went a, shadow. Before his eyes on the field, fronting the waiting ranks of men, stood McGregor. His fist shot out and the complaining workman crumpled to the ground.
"This is no time for words," said the harsh voice. "Get back in there. This is not a game. It's the beginning of men's realisation of themselves. Get in there and say nothing. If you can't march with us get out. The movement we have started can pay no attention to whimperers."
Among the ranks of men a cheer arose. By the factory wall the excited newspaper man danced up and down. At a word of command from the captain the line of marching men again swept down the field and he watched them with tears standing in his eyes. "It's going to work," he cried. "It's bound to work. At last a man has come to lead the men of labor."
John Van Moore a young Chicago advertising man went one afternoon to the offices of the Wheelright Bicycle Company. The company had both its factory and offices far out on the west side. The factory was a huge brick affair fronted by a broad cement sidewalk and a narrow green lawn spotted with flower beds. The building used for offices was smaller and had a veranda facing the street. Up the sides of the office building vines grew.
Like the reporter who had watched the Marching Men in the field by the factory wall John Van Moore was a dapper young man with a moustache. In his leisure hours he played a clarinet. "It gives a man something to cling to," he explained to his friends. "One sees life going past and feels that he is not a mere drifting log in the stream of things. Although as a musician I amount to nothing, it at least makes me dream."
Among the men in the advertising office where he worked Van Moore was known as something of a fool, redeemed by his ability to string words together. He wore a heavy black braided watch chain and carried a cane and he had a wife who after marriage had studied medicine and with whom he did not live. Sometimes on a Saturday evening the two met at some restaurant and sat for hours drinking and laughing. When the wife had gone to her own place the advertising man continued the fun, going from saloon to saloon and making long speeches setting forth his philosophy of life. "I am an individualist," he declared, strutting up and down and swinging the cane about. "I am a dabbler, an experimenter if you will. Before I die it is my dream that I will discover a new quality in existence."
For the bicycle company the advertising man was to write a booklet telling in romantic and readable form the history of the company. When finished the booklet would be sent out to those who had answered advertisements put into magazines and newspapers. The company had a process of manufacture peculiar to Wheelright bicycles and in the booklet this was to be much emphasised.
The manufacturing process in regard to which John Van Moore was to wax eloquent had been conceived in the brain of a workman and was responsible for the company's success. Now the workman was dead and the president of the company had decided that he would take credit for the idea. He had thought a good deal of the matter and had decided that in truth the notion must have been more than a little his own. "It must have been so," he told himself, "otherwise it would not have worked out so well."
In the offices of the bicycle company the president, a grey gross man with tiny eyes, walked up and down a long room heavily carpeted. In reply to questions asked by the advertising man, who sat at a table with a pad of paper before him, he raised himself on his toes, put a thumb in the armhole of his vest and told a long rambling tale of which he was the hero.
The tale concerned a purely imaginary young workman who spent all of the earlier years of his life labouring terribly. At evening he ran quickly from the shop where he was employed and going without sleep toiled for long hours in a little garret. When the workman had discovered the secret that made successful the Wheelright bicycle he opened a shop and began to reap the reward of his efforts.
"That was me. I was that fellow," cried the fat man who in reality had bought his interest in the bicycle company after the age of forty. Tapping himself on the breast he paused as though overcome with feeling. Tears came into his eyes. The young workman had become a reality to him. "All day I ran about the little shop crying 'Quality! Quality!' I do that now. It is a fetish with me. I do not make bicycles for money but because I am a workman with pride in my work. You may put that in the book. You may quote me as saying that. A big point should be made of my pride in my work." The advertising man nodded his head and scribbled upon the pad of paper. Almost he could have written the story without the visit to the factory. When the fat man was not looking he turned his face to one side and listened attentively. With a whole heart he wished the president would go away and leave him alone to wander in the factory.
On the evening before, John Van Moore had taken part in an adventure. With a companion, a fellow who drew cartoons for the daily papers, he had gone into a saloon and there had met another man of the newspapers.
In the saloon the three men had sat until late into the night drinking and talking. The second newspaper man--that same dapper fellow who had watched the marchers by the factory wall--had told over and over the story of McGregor and his Marchers. "I tell you there is something growing up here," he had said. "I have seen this McGregor and I know. You may believe me or not but the fact is that he has found out something. There is an element in men that up to now has not been understood--there is a thought hidden away within the breast of labour, a big unspoken thought--it is a part of men's bodies as well as their minds. Suppose this fellow has figured that out and understands it, eh!"
Becoming more and more excited as he continued to drink the newspaper man had been half wild in his conjectures as to what was to happen in the world. Thumping with his fist upon a table wet with beer he had addressed the writer of advertisements. "There are things that animals know that have not been understood by men," he cried. "Consider the bees. Have you thought that man has not tried to work out a collective intellect? Why should man not try to work that out?"
The newspaper man's voice became low and tense. "When you go into a factory I want you to keep your eyes and your ears open," he said. "Go into one of the great rooms where many men are at work. Stand perfectly still. Don't try to think. Wait."
Jumping out of his seat the excited man had walked up and down before his companions. A group of men standing before the bar listened, their glasses held half way to their lips.
"I tell you there is already a song of labour. It has not got itself expressed and understood but it is in every shop, in every field where men work. In a dim way the men who work are conscious of the song although if you talk of the matter they only laugh. The song is low harsh rhythmical. I tell you it comes out of the very soul of labour. It is akin to the thing that artists understand and that is called form. This McGregor understands something of that. He is the first leader of labour that has understood. The world shall hear from him. One of these days the world shall ring with his name."
In the bicycle factory John Van Moore looked at the pad of paper before him and thought of the words of the half drunken man in the saloon. In the great shop at his back there was the steady grinding roar of many machines. The fat man, hypnotised by his own words, continued to walk up and down telling of the hardship that had once confronted the imaginary young workman and above which he had risen triumphant. "We hear much of the power of labour but there has been a mistake made," he said. "Such men as myself--we are the power. Do you see we have come out of the mass? We stand forth."
Stopping before the advertising man and looking down the fat man winked. "You do not need to say that in the book. There is no need of quoting me there. Our bicycles are being bought by workingmen and it would be foolish to offend them but what I say is nevertheless true. Do not such men as I, with our cunning brains and our power of patience build these great modern organisations?"
The fat man waved his arm toward the shops from which the roar of machinery came. The advertising man absentmindedly nodded his head. He was trying to hear the song of labour talked of by the drunken man. It was quitting time and there was the sound of many feet moving about the floor of the factory. The roar of the machinery stopped.
Again the fat man walked up and down talking of the career of the labourer who had come forth from the ranks of labour. From the factory the men began filing out into the open. There was the sound of feet scuffling along the wide cement sidewalk past the flowerbeds.
Of a sudden the fat man stopped. The advertising man sat with pencil suspended above the paper. From the walk below sharp commands rang out. Again the sound of men moving about came in through the windows.
The president of the bicycle company and the advertising man ran to the window. There on the cement sidewalk stood the men of the company formed into columns of fours and separated into companies. At the head of each company stood a captain. The captains swung the men about. "Forward! March!" they shouted.The fat man stood with his mouth open and looked at the men. "What's going on down there? What do you mean? Quit that!" he bawled. A derisive laugh floated up through the window. "Attention! Forward, guide right!" shouted a captain.
The men went swinging down the broad cement sidewalk past the window and the advertising man. In their faces was something determined and grim. A sickly smile flitted across the face of the grey-haired man and then faded. The advertising man, without knowing just what was going on felt that the older man was afraid. He sensed the terror in his face. In his heart he was glad to see it.
The manufacturer began to talk excitedly. "Now what's this?" he demanded. "What's going on? What kind of a volcano are we men of affairs walking over? Haven't we had enough trouble with labour? What are they doing now?" Again he walked up and down past the table where the advertising man sat looking at him. "We'll let the book go," he said. "Come to-morrow. Come any time. I want to look into this. I want to find out what's going on."
Leaving the office of the bicycle company John Van Moore ran along the street past stores and houses. He did not try to follow the Marching Men but ran forward blindly, filled with excitement. He remembered the words of the newspaper man about the song of labour, and was drunk with the thought that he had caught the swing of it. A hundred times he had seen men pouring out of factory doors at the end of the day. Always before they had been just a mass of individuals. Each had been thinking of his own affairs and each man had shuffled off into his own street and had been lost in the dim alleyways between the tall grimy buildings. Now all of this was changed. The men did not shuffle off alone but marched along the street shoulder to shoulder.
A lump came also into the throat of this man and he like that other by the factory wall began to say words. "The song of labour is here. It has begun to get itself sung!" he cried.
John Van Moore was beside himself. The face of the fat man pale with terror came back into his mind. On the sidewalk before a grocery store he stopped and shouted with delight. Then he began dancing wildly about, startling a group of children who with fingers in their mouths stood with staring eyes watching.
All through the early months of that year in Chicago, rumours of a new and not understandable movement among labourers ran about among men of affairs. In a way the labourers understood the undercurrent of terror their marching together had inspired and like the advertising man dancing on the sidewalk before the grocery were made happy by it. Grim satisfaction dwelt in their hearts. Remembering their boyhoods and the creeping terror that invaded their fathers' houses in times of depression they were glad to spread terror among the homes of the rich and the well-to-do. For years they had been going through life blindly, striving to forget age and poverty. Now they felt that life had a purpose, that they were marching toward some end. When in the past they had been told that power dwelt in them they had not believed. "He is not to be trusted," thought the man at the machine looking at the man at work at the next machine. "I have heard him talk and at bottom he is a fool."
Now the man at the machine did not think of his brother at the next machine. In his dreams at night he was beginning to have a new vision. Power had breathed its message into his brain. Of a sudden he saw himself as a part of a giant walking in the world. "I am like a drop of blood running through the veins of labour," he whispered to himself. "In my own way I am adding strength to the heart and the brain of labour. I have become a part of this thing that has begun to move. I will not talk but will wait. If this marching is the thing then I will march. Though I am weary at the end of the day that shall not stop me. Many times I have been weary and was alone. Now I am a part of something vast. This I know, that a consciousness of power has crept into my brain and although I be persecuted I shall not surrender what I have gained."
In the offices of the plough trust a meeting of men of affairs was called. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the movement going on among the workers. At the plough works it had broken out. No more at evening did the men shuffle along, like a disorderly mob but marched in companies along the brickpaved street that ran by the factory door.
At the meeting David Ormsby had been as always quiet and self- possessed. A halo of kindly intent hung over him and when a banker, one of the directors of the company, had finished a speech he arose and walked up and down, his hands thrust into his trousers pockets. The banker was a fat man with thin brown hair and delicate hands. As he talked he held a pair of yellow gloves and beat with them on a long table at the centre of the room. The soft thump of the gloves upon the table made a chorus to the things he had to say. David motioned for him to be seated. "I will myself go to see this McGregor," he said, walking across the room and putting an arm about the shoulder of the banker. "Perhaps there is as you say a new and terrible danger here but I do not think so. For thousands, no doubt for millions of years, the world has gone on its way and I do not think it is to be stopped now.
"It has been my fortune to see and to know this McGregor," added David smiling at the others in the room. "He is a man and not a Joshua to make the sun stand still."
In the office in Van Buren Street, David, the grey and confident, stood before the desk at which sat McGregor. "We will get out of here if you do not mind," he said. "I want to talk to you and I would not like being interrupted. I have a fancy that we talk out of doors."
The two men went in a street car to Jackson Park and, forgetting to dine, walked for an hour along the paths under the trees. The wind from the lake had chilled the air and the park was deserted.
They went to stand on a pier that ran out into the lake. On the pier David tried to begin the talk that was the object of their being together but felt that the wind and the water that beat against the piling of the pier made talk too difficult. Although he could not have told why, he was relieved by the necessity of delay. Into the park they went again and found a seat upon a bench facing a lagoon.
In the presence of the silent McGregor David felt suddenly embarrassed and awkward. "By what right do I question him?" he asked himself and in his mind could find no answer. A half dozen times he started to say what he had come to say but stopped and his talk ran off into trivialities. "There are men in the world you have not taken into consideration," he said finally, forcing himself to begin. With a laugh he went on, relieved that the silence had been broken. "You see the very inner secret of strong men has been missed by you and others."
David Ormsby looked sharply at McGregor. "I do not believe that you believe we are after money, we men of affairs. I trust you see beyond that. We have our purpose and we keep to our purpose quietly and doggedly."
Again David looked at the silent figure sitting in the dim light and again his mind ran out, striving to penetrate the silence. "I am not a fool and perhaps I know that the movement you have started among the workers is something new. There is power in it as in all great ideas. Perhaps I think there is power in you. Why else should I be here?"
Again David laughed uncertainly. "In a way I am in sympathy with you," he said. "Although all through my life I have served money I have not been owned by it. You are not to suppose that men like me have not something beyond money in mind."
The old plough maker looked away over McGregor's shoulder to where the leaves of the trees shook in the wind from the lake. "There have been men and great leaders who have understood the silent competent servants of wealth," he said half petulantly. "I want you to understand these men. I should like to see you become such a one yourself--not for the wealth it would bring but because in the end you would thus serve all men. You would get at truth thus. The power that is in you would be conserved and used more intelligently."
The plough maker paused. Although McGregor had said nothing the older man felt that the interview was not going as it should. "I should like to know what you have in mind, what in the end you hope to gain for yourself or for these men," he said somewhat sharply. "There is after all no point to our beating about the bush."McGregor said nothing. Arising from the bench he began again to walk along the path with Ormsby at his side.
"The really strong men of the world have had no place in history," declared Ormsby bitterly. "They have not asked that. They were in Rome and in Germany in the time of Martin Luther but nothing is said of them. Although they do not mind the silence of history they would like other strong men to understand. The march of the world is a greater thing than the dust raised by the heels of some few workers walking through the streets and these men are responsible for the march of the world. You are making a mistake. I invite you to become one of us. If you plan to upset things you may get yourself into history but you will not really count. What you are trying to do will not work. You will come to a bad end."
When the two men emerged from the park the older man had again the feeling that the interview had not been a success. He was sorry. The evening he felt had marked for him a failure and he was not accustomed to failures. "There is a wall here that I cannot penetrate," he thought.
Along the front of the park beneath a grove of trees they walked in silence. McGregor seemed not to have heard the words addressed to him. When they came to where a long row of vacant lots faced the park he stopped and stood leaning against a tree to look away into the park, lost in thought.
David Ormsby also became silent. He thought of his youth in the little village plough factory, of his efforts to get on in the world, of the long evenings spent reading books and trying to understand the movements of men.
"Is there an element in nature and in youth that we do not understand or that we lose sight of?" he asked. "Are the efforts of the patient workers of the world always to be abortive? Can some new phase of life arise suddenly upsetting all of our plans? Do you, can you, think of men like me as but part of a vast whole? Do you deny to us individuality, the right to stand forth, the right to work things out and to control?"
The ploughmaker looked at the huge figure standing beside the tree. Again he was irritated and kept lighting cigars which after two or three puffs he threw away. In the bushes at the back of the bench insects began to sing. The wind coming now in gentle gusts swayed slowly the branches of the trees overhead.
"Is there an eternal youth in the world, a state out of which men pass unknowingly, a youth that forever destroys, tearing down what has been built?" he asked. "Are the mature lives of strong men of so little account? Have you like the empty fields that bask in the sun in the summer the right to remain silent in the presence of men who have had thoughts and have tried to put their thoughts into deeds?"
Still saying nothing McGregor pointed with his finger along the road that faced the park. From a side street a body of men swung about a corner, coming with long strides toward the two. As they passed beneath a street lamp that swung gently in the wind their faces flashing in and out of the light seemed to be mocking David Ormsby. For a moment anger burned in him and then something, perhaps the rhythm of the moving mass of men, brought a gentler mood. The men swinging past turned another corner and disappeared beneath the structure of an elevated railroad.
The ploughmaker walked away from McGregor. Something in the interview, terminating thus with, the presence of the marching figures had he felt unmanned him. "After all there is youth and the hope of youth. What he has in mind may work," he thought as he climbed aboard a street car.
In the car David put his head out at the window and looked at the long line of apartment buildings that lined the streets. He thought again of his own youth and of the evenings in the Wisconsin village when, himself a youth, he went with other young men singing and marching in the moonlight.
In a vacant lot he again saw a body of the Marching Men moving back and forth and responding quickly to the commands given by a slender young man who stood on the sidewalk beneath a street lamp and held a stick in his hand.
In the car the grey-haired man of affairs put his head down upon the back of the seat in front. Half unconscious of his own thoughts his mind began to dwell upon the figure of his daughter. "Had I been Margaret I should not have let him go. No matter what the cost I should have clung to the man," he muttered.
It is difficult not to be of two minds about the manifestation now called, and perhaps rightly, "The Madness of the Marching Men." In one mood it comes back to the mind as something unspeakably big and inspiring. We go each of us through the treadmill of our lives caught and caged like little animals in some vast menagerie. In turn we love, marry, breed children, have our moments of blind futile passion and then something happens. All unconsciously a change creeps over us. Youth passes. We become shrewd, careful, submerged in little things. Life, art, great passions, dreams, all of these pass. Under the night sky the suburbanite stands in the moonlight. He is hoeing his radishes and worrying because the laundry has torn one of his white collars. The railroad is to put on an extra morning train. He remembers that fact heard at the store. For him the night becomes more beautiful. For ten minutes longer he can stay with the radishes each morning. There is much of man's life in the figure of the suburbanite standing absorbed in his own thoughts in the midst of his radishes.
And so about the business of our lives we go and then of a sudden there comes again the feeling that crept over us all in the year of the Marching Men. In a moment we are again a part of the moving mass. The old religious exaltation, strange emanation from the man McGregor, returns. In fancy we feel the earth tremble under the feet of the men --the marchers. With a conscious straining of the mind we strive to grasp the processes of the mind of the leader during that year when men sensed his meaning, when they saw as he saw the workers--saw them massed and moving through the world.
My own mind, striving feebly to follow that greater and simpler mind, gropes about. I remember sharply the words of a writer who said that men make their own gods and realise that I myself saw something of the birth of such a god. For he was near to being a god then--our McGregor. The thing he did rumbles in the minds of men yet. His long shadow will fall across men's thoughts for ages. The tantalising effort to understand his meaning will tempt us always into endless speculation.
Only last week I met a man--he was a steward in a club and lingered talking to me by a cigar case in an empty billiard-room--who suddenly turned away to conceal from me two large tears that had jumped into his eyes because of a kind of tenderness in my voice at the mention of the Marching Men.
Another mood comes. It may be the right mood. I see sparrows jumping about in an ordinary roadway as I walk to my office. From the maple trees the little winged seeds come fluttering down before my eyes. A boy goes past sitting in a grocery wagon and over-driving a rather bony horse. As I walk I overtake two workmen shuffling along. They remind me of those other workers and I say to myself that thus men have always shuffled, that never did they swing forward into that worldwide rhythmical march of the workers."You were drunk with youth and a kind of world madness," says my normal self as I go forward again, striving to think things out.
Chicago is still here--Chicago after McGregor and the Marching Men. The elevated trains still clatter over the frogs at the turning into Wabash Avenue; the surface cars clang their bells; the crowds pour up in the morning from the runway leading to the Illinois Central trains; life goes on. And men in their offices sit in their chairs and say that the thing that happened was abortive, a brain storm, a wild outbreak of the rebellious the disorderly and the hunger in the minds of men.
What begging of the question. The very soul of the Marching Men was a sense of order. That was the message of it, the thing that the world has not come up to yet. Men have not learned that we must come to understand the impulse toward order, have that burned into our consciousness, before we move on to other things. There is in us this madness for individual expression. For each of us the little moment of running forward and lifting our thin childish voices in the midst of the great silence. We have not learned that out of us all, walking shoulder to shoulder, there might arise a greater voice, something to make the waters of the very seas to tremble.McGregor knew. He had a mind not sick with much thinking of trifles. When he had a great idea he thought it would work and he meant to see that it did work.
Mightily was he equipped. I have seen the man in halls talking, his huge body swaying back and forth, his great fists in the air, his voice harsh, persistent, insistent--with something of the quality of the drums in it--beating down into the upturned faces of the men crowded into the stuffy little places.
I remember that newspaper men used to sit in their little holes and write saying of him that the times made McGregor. I do not know about that. The city caught fire from the man at the time of that terrible speech of his in the court room when Polk Street Mary grew afraid and told the truth. There he stood, the raw untried red-haired miner from the mines and the Tenderloin, facing an angry court and a swarm of protesting lawyers and uttering that city-shaking philippic against the old rotten first ward and the creeping cowardice in men that lets vice and disease go on and pervade all modern life. It was in a way another "J'Accuse!" from the lips of another Zola. Men who heard it have told me that when he had finished in the whole court no man spoke and no man dared feel guiltless. "For the moment something--a section, a cell, a figment, of men's brains opened--and in that terrible illuminating instant they saw themselves as they were and what they had let life become."
They saw something else, or thought they did, saw McGregor a new force for Chicago to reckon with. After the trial one young newspaper man returned to his office and running from desk to desk yelled in the faces of his brother reporters: "Hell's out for noon. We've got a big red-haired Scotch lawyer up here on Van Buren Street that is a kind of a new scourge of the world. Watch the First Ward get it."
Followed the time of waiting and of patient quiet work. In the evenings McGregor worked at the law cases in the bare room in Van Buren Street. That queer bird Henry Hunt still stayed with him, collecting tithes for the gang and going to his respectable home at night--a strange triumph of the small that had escaped the tongue of McGregor on that day in court when so many men had their names bruited to the world in McGregor's roll call--the roll call of the men who were but merchants, brothers of vice, the men who should have been masters in the city.
And then the movement of the Marching Men began to come to the surface. It got into the blood of men. That harsh drumming voice began to shake their hearts and their legs.Everywhere men began to see and hear of the Marchers. From lip to lip ran the question, "What's going on?"
"What's going on?" How that cry ran over Chicago. Every newspaper man in town got assignments on the story. The papers were loaded with it every day. All over the city they appeared, everywhere--the Marching Men.
There were leaders enough! The Cuban War and the State Militia had taught too many men the swing of the march step for there not to be at least two or three competent drill masters in every little company of men.
And there was the marching song the Russian wrote for McGregor. Who could forget it? Its high pitched harsh feminine strain rang in the brain. How it went pitching and tumbling along in that wailing calling endless high note. It had strange breaks and intervals in the rendering. The men did not sing it. They chanted it. There was in it just the weird haunting something the Russians know how to put into their songs and into the books they write. It isn't the quality of the soil. Some of our own music has that. But in this Russian song there was something else, something world-wide and religious--a soul, a spirit. Perhaps it is just the spirit that broods over that strange land and people. There was something of Russia in McGregor himself.
Anyway the marching song was the most persistently penetrating thing Americans had ever heard. It was in the streets, the shops, the offices, the alleys and in the air overhead--the wail--half shout. No noise could drown it. It swung and pitched and rioted through the air.
And there was the fellow who wrote the music down for McGregor. He was the real thing and he bore the marks of the shackles on his legs. He had remembered the march from hearing the men sing it as they went over the Steppes to Siberia, the men who were going up out of misery to more misery. "It would come out of the air," he explained. "The guards would run down the line of men to shout and strike out with their short whips. 'Stop it!' they cried. And still it went on for hours, defying everything, there on the cold cheerless plains."And he had brought it to America and put it to music for McGregor's marchers.
Of course the police tried to stop the marchers. Into a street they would run crying "Disperse!" The men did disperse only to appear again on some vacant lot working away at the perfection of the marching. Once an excited squad of police captured a company of them. The same men were back in line the next evening. The police could not arrest a hundred thousand men because they marched shoulder to shoulder along the streets and chanted a weird march song as they went.
The whole thing was not an outbreak of labour. It was something different from anything that had come into the world before. The unions were in it but besides the unions there were the Poles, the Russian Jews, the Hunks from the stockyards and the steel works in South Chicago. They had their own leaders, speaking their own languages. And how they could throw their legs into the march! The armies of the old world had for years been training men for the strange demonstration that had broken out in Chicago.
The thing was hypnotic. It was big. It is absurd to sit writing of it now in such majestic terms but you have to go back to the newspapers of that day to realise how the imagination of men was caught and held.
Every train brought writers tumbling into Chicago. In the evening fifty of them would gather in the back room at Weingardner's restaurant where such men congregate.
And then the thing broke out all over the country, in steel towns like Pittsburgh and Johnstown and Lorain and McKeesport and men working in little independent factories in towns down in Indiana began drilling and chanting the march song on summer evenings on the village baseball ground.
How the people, the comfortable well-fed middle class people were afraid! It swept over the country like a religious revival, the creeping dread. The writing men got to McGregor, the brain back of it all, fast enough. Everywhere his influence appeared. In the afternoon there would be a hundred newspaper men standing on the stairway leading up to the big bare office in Van Buren Street. At his desk he sat, big and red and silent. He looked like a man half asleep. I suppose the thing that was in their minds had something to do with the way men looked at him but in any case the crowd in Weingardner's agreed that there was in the man something of the same fear-inspiring bigness there was in the movement he had started and was guiding.
It seems absurdly simple now. There he sat at his desk. The police might have walked in and arrested him. But if you begin figuring that way the whole thing was absurd. What differs it if men march coming from work, swinging along shoulder to shoulder or shuffle aimlessly along, and what harm can come out of the singing of a song?
You see McGregor understood something that all of us had not counted on. He knew that every one has an imagination. He was at war with men's minds. He challenged something in us that we hardly realised was there. He had been sitting there for years thinking it out. He had watched Dr. Dowie and Mrs. Eddy. He knew what he was doing.
A crowd of newspaper men went one night to hear McGregor at a big outdoor meeting up on the North Side. Dr. Cowell was with them--the big English statesman and writer who later was drowned on the _Titanic._ He was a big man, physically and mentally, and was in Chicago to see McGregor and try to understand what he was doing.
And McGregor got him as he had all men. Out there under the sky the men stood silent, Cowell's head sticking up above the sea of faces, and McGregor talked. The newspaper men declared he could not talk. They were wrong about that. McGregor had a way of throwing up his arms and straining and shouting out his sentences, that got to the souls of men.He was a kind of crude artist drawing pictures on the mind.
That night he talked about labour as always--labour personified--huge crude old Labour. How he made the men before him see and feel the blind giant who has lived in the world since time began and who still goes stumbling blindly about, rubbing his eyes and lying down to sleep away centuries in the dust of the fields and the factories.
A man arose in the audience and climbed upon the platform beside McGregor. It was a daring thing to do and men's knees trembled. While the man was crawling up to the platform shouts arose. One has in mind a picture of a bustling little fellow going into the house and into the upper room where Jesus and his followers were having the last supper together, going in there to wrangle about the price to be paid for the wine.The man who got on the platform with McGregor was a socialist. He wanted to argue.
But McGregor did not argue with him. He sprang forward, it was a quick tiger-like movement, and spun the socialist about, making him stand small and blinking and comical before the crowd.
Then McGregor began to talk. He made of the little stuttering arguing socialist a figure representing all labour, made him the personification of the old weary struggle of the world. And the socialist who went to argue stood with tears in his eyes, proud of his position in men's eyes.
All over the city McGregor talked of old Labour and how he was to be built up and put before men's eyes by the movement of the Marching Men. How our legs tingled to fall in step and go marching away with him.Out of the crowds there came the note of that wailing march. Some one always started that.
That night on the North Side Doctor Cowell got hold of the shoulder of a newspaper man and led him to a car. He who knew Bismarck and who had sat in council with kings went walking and babbling half the night through the empty streets.
It is amusing now to think of the things men said under the influence of McGregor. Like old Doctor Johnson and his friend Savage they walked half drunk through the streets swearing that whatever happened they would stick to the movement. Doctor Cowell himself said things just as absurd as that.
And all over the country men were getting the idea--the Marching Men-- old Labour in one mass marching before the eyes of men--old Labour that was going to make the world see--see and feel its bigness at last. Men were to come to the end of strife--men united--Marching! Marching! Marching!
In all of the time of The Marching Men there was but one bit of written matter from the leader McGregor. It had a circulation running into the millions and was printed in every tongue spoken in America. A copy of the little circular lies before me now.
"They ask us what we mean.
Well, here is our answer.
We mean to go on marching.
We mean to march in the morning and in the evening
On Sundays they may sit on their porches or shout at men playing ball in a field
But we will march.
On the hard cobblestones of the city streets and through the dust of country roads we will march.
Our legs may be weary and our throats hot and dry,
But still we will march, shoulder to shoulder.
We will march until the ground shakes and tall buildings tremble.
Shoulder to shoulder we will go--all of us--
On and on forever.
We will not talk nor listen to talk.
We will march and we will teach our sons and our daughters to march.
Their minds are troubled. Our minds are clear.
We do not think and banter words.
Our faces are coarse and there is dust in our hair and beards.
See, the inner parts of our hands are rough.
And still we march--we the workers."
Who will ever forget that Labour Day in Chicago? How they marched!-thousands and thousands and more thousands! They filled the streets. The cars stopped. Men trembled with the import of the impending hour.
Here they come! How the ground trembles! The chant chant chant of that song! It must have been thus that Grant felt at the great review of the veterans in Washington when all day long they marched past him, the men of the Civil War, the whites of their eyes showing in the tan of their faces. McGregor stood on the stone curbing above the tracks in Grant Park. As the men marched they massed in there about him, thousands of them, steel workers and iron workers and great red-necked butchers and teamsters.And in the air wailed the marching song of the workers.
All of the world that was not marching jammed into the buildings facing Michigan Boulevard and waited. Margaret Ormsby was there. She sat with her father in a carriage near where Van Buren Street ends at the Boulevard. As the men kept crowding in about them she clutched nervously at the sleeve of David Ormsby's coat. "He is going to speak," she whispered and pointed. Her tense air of expectancy expressed much of the feeling of the crowd. "See, listen, he is going to speak out."
It must have been five in the afternoon when the men got through marching. They were massed in there clear down to the Twelfth Street Station of the Illinois Central. McGregor lifted his hands. In the hush his harsh voice carried far. "We are at the beginning," he shouted and silence fell upon the people. In the stillness one standing near her might have heard Margaret Ormsby weeping softly. There was the gentle murmur that always prevails where many people stand at attention. The weeping of the woman was scarcely audible but it persisted like the sound of little waves on a beach at the end of the day.
The idea prevalent among men that the woman to be beautiful must be hedged about and protected from the facts of life has done something more than produce a race of women not physically vigorous. It has made them deficient in strength of soul also. After the evening when she stood facing Edith and when she had been unable to arise to the challenge flung at her by the little milliner Margaret Ormsby was forced to stand facing her own soul and there was no strength in her for the test. Her mind insisted on justifying her failure. A woman of the people placed in such a position would have been able to face it calmly. She would have gone soberly and steadily about her work and after a few months of pulling weeds in a field, trimming hats in a shop or instructing children in a schoolroom would have been ready to thrust out again, making another trial at life. Having met many defeats she would have been armed and ready for defeat. Like a little animal in a forest inhabited by other and larger animals she would have known the effectiveness of lying perfectly still for a long period, making her patience a part of her equipment for living.
Margaret had decided that she hated McGregor. After the scene in her house she gave up her work in the settlement house and for a long time went about nursing her hatred. In the street as she walked about her mind kept bringing accusations against him and in her room at night she sat by the window looking at the stars and said strong words. "He is a brute," she declared hotly, "a mere animal untouched by the culture that makes for gentleness. There is something animal-like and horrible in my nature that has made me care for him. I shall pluck it out. In the future I shall make it my business to forget the man and all of the dreadful lower strata of life that he represents."
Filled with this idea Margaret went about among her own people and tried to become interested in the men and women she met at dinners and receptions. It did not work and when, after a few evenings spent in the company of men absorbed in the getting of money, she found them only dull creatures whose mouths were filled with meaningless words, her irritation grew and she blamed McGregor for that also. "He had no right to come into my consciousness and then take himself off," she declared bitterly. "The man is more of a brute than I thought. He no doubt preys upon everyone as he has preyed upon me. He is without tenderness, knows nothing of the meaning of tenderness. The colourless creature he has married will serve his body. That is what he wants. He does not want beauty. He is a coward who dare not stand up to beauty and is afraid of me."
When the Marching Men Movement began to make a stir in Chicago Margaret went on a visit to New York. For a month she lived with two women friends at a big hotel near the sea and then hurried home. "I will see the man and hear him talk," she told herself. "I cannot cure myself of the consciousness of him by running away. Perhaps I am myself a coward. I shall go into his presence. When I hear his brutal words and see again the hard gleam that sometimes comes into his eyes I shall be cured."
Margaret went to hear McGregor talk to a gathering of workingmen in a West Side hall and came away more alive to him than ever. In the hall she sat concealed in deep shadows by the door and waited with trembling eagerness.
On all sides of her were men crowded together. Their faces were washed but the grime of the shops was not quite effaced. Men from the steel mills with the cooked look that follows long exposure to intense artificial heat, men of the building trades with their broad hands, big men and small men, misshapen and straight, labouring men, all sat at attention, waiting.Margaret noticed that as McGregor talked the lips of the working men moved. Fists were clenched. Applause came quick and sharp like the report of guns.
In the shadows at the further side of the hall the black coats of the workers made a blot out of which intense faces looked and across which the flickering gas jets in the centre of the hall threw dancing lights.
The words of the speaker were shot forth. The sentences seemed broken and disconnected. As he talked giant pictures flashed through the minds of the hearers. Men felt themselves big and exalted. A little steel worker sitting near Margaret, who earlier in the evening had been abused by his wife because he wanted to come to the meeting instead of helping with the dishes at home, stared fiercely about. He thought he would like to fight hand in hand with a wild animal in a forest.
Standing on the narrow stage McGregor seemed a giant seeking expression. His mouth worked, the sweat stood upon his forehead and he moved restlessly up and down. At times, with his hands advanced and with the eager forward crouch of his body, he was like a wrestler waiting to grapple with an opponent.
Margaret was deeply moved. Her years of training and of refinement were stripped off and she felt that, like the women of the French Revolution, she would like to go out into the streets and march screaming and fighting in feminine rage for the things of this man's mind.
McGregor had scarcely begun to talk. His personality, the big eager something in him, had caught and held this audience as it had caught and held other audiences in other halls and was to hold them night after night for months.
McGregor was something the men to whom he talked understood. He was themselves become expressive and he moved them as no other leader had ever moved them before. His very lack of glibness, the things in him wanting expression and not getting expressed, made him seem like one of them. He did not confuse their minds but drew for them great scrawling pictures and to them he cried, "March!" and for marching he promised them realisation of themselves.
"I have heard men in colleges and speakers in halls talk of the brotherhood of man," he cried. "They do not want such a brotherhood. They would flee before it. But we will make by our marching such a brotherhood that they will tremble and say to one another, 'See, Old Labour is awake. He has found his strength.' They will hide themselves and eat their words of brotherhood."A clamour of voices will arise, many voices, crying out, 'Disperse! Cease marching! I am afraid!'
"This talk of brotherhood. The words mean nothing. Man cannot love man. We do not know what they mean by such love. They hurt us and underpay us. Sometimes one of us gets an arm torn off. Are we to lie in our beds loving the man who gets rich from the iron machine that ripped the arm from the shoulder?
"On our knees and in our arms we have borne their children. On the streets we see them--the petted children of our madness. See we have let them run about misbehaving. We have given them automobiles and wives with soft clinging dresses. When they have cried we have cared for them.
"And they being children with the minds of children are confused. The noise of affairs alarms them. They run about shaking their ringers and commanding. They speak with pity of us--Labour--their father.
"And now we will show them their father in his might. The little machines they have in their factories are toys we have given them and that for the time we leave in their hands. We do not think of the toys nor the soft-bodied women. We make of ourselves a mighty army, a marching army going along shoulder to shoulder. We can love that.
"When they see us, hundreds of thousands of us, marching into their minds and into their consciousness, then will they be afraid. And at the little meetings they have when three or four of them sit talking, daring to decide what things we shall have from life, there will be in their minds a picture. We will stamp it there.
"They have forgotten our power. Let us reawaken it. See, I shake Old Labour by the shoulder. He arouses. He sits up. He thrusts his huge form up from where he was asleep in the dust and the smoke of the mills. They look at him and are afraid. See, they tremble and run away, falling over each other. The did not know Old Labour was so big.
"But you workers are not afraid. You are the arms and the legs and the hands and the eyes of Labour. You have thought yourself small. You have not got yourself into one mass so that I could shake and arouse you.
"You must get that way. You must march shoulder to shoulder. You must march so that you yourselves shall come to know what a giant you are. If one of your number whines or complains or stands upon a box throwing words about knock him down and keep marching."When you have marched until you are one giant body then will happen a miracle. A brain will grow in the giant you have made. "Will you march with me?" Like a volley from a battery of guns came the sharp reply from the eager upturned faces of the audience. "We will! Let us march!" they shouted.
Margaret Ormsby went out at the door and into the crowds on Madison Street. As she walked in the press she lifted her head in pride that a man possessed of such a brain and of the simple courage to try to express such magnificent ideas through human beings had ever shown favour toward her. Humbleness swept over her and she blamed herself for the petty thoughts concerning him that had been in her mind. "It does not matter," she whispered to herself. "Now I know that nothing matters, nothing but his success. He must do this thing he has set out to do. He must not be denied. I would give the blood out of my body or expose my body to shame if that could bring him success."
Margaret became exalted in her humbleness. When her carriage had taken her to her house she ran quickly upstairs to her own room and knelt by her bed. She started to pray but presently stopped and sprang to her feet. Running to the window she looked off across the city. "He must succeed," she cried again. "I shall myself be one of his marchers. I will do anything for him. He is tearing the veil from my eyes, from all men's eyes. We are children in the hands of this giant and he must not meet defeat at the hands of children."
On the day of the great demonstration, when McGregor's power over the minds and the bodies of the men of labour sent hundreds of thousands marching and singing in the streets, there was one man who was untouched by the song of labour expressed in the threshing of feet. David Ormsby had in his quiet way thought things out. He expected that the new impetus given to solidity in the ranks of labour would make trouble for him and his kind, that it would express itself finally in strikes and in wide-spread industrial disturbance. He was not worried. In the end he thought that the silent patient power of money would bring his people the victory. On that day he did not go to his office but in the morning stayed in his own room thinking of McGregor and of his daughter. Laura Ormsby was out of the city but Margaret was at home. David believed he had measured accurately the power of McGregor over her mind but occasional doubts came to him. "Well the time has come to have it out with her," he decided. "I must reassert my ascendency over her mind. The thing that is going on here is really a struggle of minds. McGregor differs from other leaders of labour as I differ from most leaders of the forces of money. He has brains. Very well. I shall meet him on that level. Then, when I have made Margaret think as I think, she will return to me."* * * * *
When he was still a small manufacturer in the Wisconsin town David had been in the habit of driving out in the evening with his daughter. During the drives he had been almost a lover in his attentions to the child and now when he thought of the forces at work within her he was convinced that she was still a child. Early in the afternoon he had a carriage brought to the door and drove off with her to the city. "She will want to see the man in the height of his power. If I am right in thinking that she is still under the influence of his personality there will be a romantic desire for that.
"I will give her the chance," he thought proudly. "In this struggle I ask no quarter from him and shall not make the common mistake of parents in such cases. She is fascinated by the figure he has made of himself. Showy men who stand out from the crowd have that power. She is still under his influence. Why else her constant distraction and her want of interest in other things? Now I will be with her when the man is most powerful, when he shows to the greatest advantage, and then I will make my fight for her. I will point out to her another road, the road along which the real victors in life must learn to travel."
Together David the quiet efficient representative of wealth and his woman child sat in the carriage on the day of McGregor's triumph. For the moment an impassable gulf seemed to separate them and with intense eyes each watched the hordes of men who massed themselves about the labour leader. At the moment McGregor seemed to have caught all men in the sweep of his movement. Business men had closed their desks, labour was exultant, writers and men given to speculation in thought walked about dreaming of the realisation of the brotherhood of man. In the long narrow treeless park the music made by the steady never-ending thresh of feet arose to something vast and rhythmical. It was like a mighty chorus come up out of the hearts of men. David was unmoved. Occasionally he spoke to the horses and looked from the faces of the men massed about him to his daughter's face. In the coarse faces of the men he thought he saw only a crude sort of intoxication, the result of a new kind of emotionalism. "It will not outlast thirty days of ordinary living in their squalid surroundings," he thought grimly. "It is not the kind of exaltation for Margaret. I can sing her a more wonderful song. I must get myself ready for that."
When McGregor arose to speak Margaret was overcome with emotions. Dropping to her knees in the carriage she put her head down upon her father's arm. For days she had been telling herself that in the future of the man she loved there was no place for failure. Now again she whispered to herself that this great sturdy figure must not be denied the fulfilment of its purpose. When in the hush that followed the massing of the labourers about him the harsh booming voice floated over the heads of the people her body shook as with a chill. Extravagant fancies invaded her mind and she wished it were possible for her to do something heroic, something that would make her live again in the mind of McGregor. She wanted to serve him, to give him something out of herself, and thought wildly that there might yet come a time and a way by which the beauty of her body could be laid like a gift before him. The half mythical figure of Mary the lover of Jesus came into her mind and she aspired to be such another. With her body shaken with emotions she pulled at the sleeve of her father's coat. "Listen! It is going to come now," she murmured. "The brain of labour is going to express the dream of labour. An impulse sweet and lasting is going to come into the world."* * * * *
David Ormsby said nothing. When McGregor had begun to speak he touched the horses with the whip and drove slowly along Van Buren Street past the silent attentive ranks of men. When he had got into one of the streets near the river a vast cheer arose. It seemed to shake the city and the horses reared and leaped forward over the rough cobblestones. With one hand David quieted them while with the other he gripped the hand of his daughter. They drove over a bridge and into the West Side and as they went the marching song of the workers rising up out of thousands of throats rang in their ears. For a time the air seemed to pulsate with it but as they went westward it grew continually less and less distinct. At last when they had turned into a street lined by tall factories it died out altogether. "That is the end of him for me and mine," thought David and again set himself for the task he had to perform.
Through street after street David let the horses wander while he clung to his daughter's hand and thought of what he wanted to say. Not all of the streets were lined with factories. Some, and these in the evening light were the most hideous, were bordered by the homes of workers. The houses of the workers, jammed closely together and black with grime, were filled with noisy life. Women sat in the doorways and children ran screaming and shouting in the road. Dogs barked and howled. Everywhere was dirt and disorder, the terrible evidence of men's failure in the difficult and delicate art of living. In one of the streets a little girl child who sat on the post of a fence made a ludicrous figure. As David and Margaret drove past she beat with her heels against the sides of the post and screamed. Tears ran down her cheeks and her dishevelled hair was black with dirt. "I want a banana! I want a banana!" she howled, staring at the blank walls of one of the houses. In spite of herself Margaret was touched and her mind left the figure of McGregor. By an odd chance the child on the post was the daughter of that socialist orator who one night on the North Side had climbed upon a platform to confront McGregor with the propaganda of the Socialist Party.
David turned the horses into a wide boulevard that ran south through the factory district of the west. As they came out into the boulevard they saw sitting on the sidewalk before a saloon a drunkard with a drum in his hand. The drunkard beat upon the drum and tried to sing the marching song of the workers but succeeded only in making a queer grunting noise like a distressed animal. The sight brought a smile to David's lips. "Already it has begun to disintegrate," he muttered. "I brought you into this part of town on purpose," he said to Margaret. "I wanted you to see with your own eyes how much the world needs the thing he is trying to do. The man is terribly right about the need for discipline and order. He is a big man doing a big thing and I admire his courage. He would be a really big man had he the greater courage."
On the boulevard into which they had turned all was quiet. The summer sun was setting and over the roofs of buildings the west was ablaze with light. They passed a factory surrounded by little patches of garden. Some employer of labour had tried thus feebly to bring beauty into the neighbourhood of the place where his men worked. David pointed with the whip. "Life is a husk," he said, "and we men of affairs who take ourselves so seriously because the fates have been good to us have odd silly little fancies. See what this fellow has been at, patching away, striving to create beauty on the shell of things. He is like McGregor you see. I wonder if the man has made himself beautiful, if either he or McGregor has seen to it that there is something lovely inside the husk he wears around and that he calls his body, if he has seen through life to the spirit of life. I do not believe in patching nor do I believe in disturbing the shell of things as McGregor has dared to do. I have my own beliefs and they are the beliefs of my kind. This man here, this maker of little gardens, is like McGregor. He might better let men find their own beauty. That is my way. I have, I want to think, kept myself for the sweeter and more daring effort."
David turned and looked hard at Margaret who had begun to be influenced by his mood. She waited, looking with averted face at the sky over the roofs of buildings. David began to talk of himself in relation to her and her mother. A note of impatience came into his voice.
"How far you have been carried away, haven't you?" he said sharply. "Listen. I am not talking to you now as your father nor as Laura's daughter. Let us be clear about that I love you and am in a contest to win your love. I am McGregor's rival. I accept the handicap of fatherhood. I love you. You see I have let something within myself alight upon you. McGregor has not done that. He refused what you had to offer but I do not. I have centred my life upon you and have done it quite knowingly and after much thought. The feeling I have is something quite special. I am an individualist but believe in the oneness of man and woman. I would dare venture into but one other life beyond my own and that the life of a woman. I have chosen to ask you to let me venture so into your life. We will talk of it."
Margaret turned and looked at her father. Later she thought that some strange phenomena must have happened at the moment Something like a film was torn from her eyes and she saw the man David, not as a shrewd and calculating man of affairs, but as something magnificently young. Not only was he strong and solid but in his face there was at the moment the deep lines of thought and suffering she had seen on the countenance of McGregor. "It is strange," she thought. "They are so unlike and yet the two men are both beautiful."
"I married your mother when I was a child as you are a child now," David went on. "To be sure I had a passion for her and she had one for me. It passed but it was beautiful enough while it lasted. It did not have depth or meaning. I want to tell you why. Then I am going to make you understand McGregor so that you may take your measure of the man. I am coming to that. I have to begin at the beginning."My factory began to grow and as an employer of labour I became concerned in the lives of a good many men."
His voice again became sharp. "I have been impatient with you," he said. "Do you think this McGregor is the only man who has seen and thought of other men in the mass? I have done that and have been tempted. I also might have become sentimental and destroyed myself. I did not. Loving a woman saved me. Laura did that for me although when it came to the real test of our love, understanding, she failed. I am nevertheless grateful to her that she was once the object of my love. I believe in the beauty of that."
Again David paused and began to tell his story in a new way. The figure of McGregor came back into Margaret's mind and her father began to feel that to take it entirely away would be an accomplishment full of significance. "If I can take her from him, I and my kind can take the world from him also," he thought. "It will be another victory for the aristocracy in the never-ending battle with the mob."
"I came to a turning point," he said aloud. "All men come to that point. To be sure the great mass of people drift quite stupidly but we are not now talking of people in general. There is you and me and there is the thing McGregor might be. We are each in our way something special. We come, people like us, to a place where there are two roads to take. I took one and McGregor has taken another. I know why and perhaps he knows why. I concede to him knowledge of what he has done. But now it is time for you to decide which road you will take. You have seen the crowds moving along the broad way he has chosen and now you will set out on your own way. I want you to look down my road with me."
They came to a bridge over a canal and David stopped the horses. A body of McGregor's marchers passed and Margaret's pulse began to beat high again. When she looked at her father however he was unmoved and she was a little ashamed of her emotions. For a moment David waited, as though for inspiration, and when the horses started on again he began to talk. "A labour leader came to my factory, a miniature McGregor with a crooked twist to him. He was a rascal but the things he said to my men were all true enough. I was making money for my investors, a lot of it. They might have won in a fight with me. One evening I went out into the country to walk alone under the trees and think it over."
David's voice became harsh and Margaret thought it had become strangely like the voice of McGregor talking to workingmen. "I bought the man off," David said. "I used the cruel weapon men like me have to use. I gave him money and told him to get out, to let me alone. I did it because I had to win. My kind of men always have to win. During the walk I took alone I got hold of my dream, my belief. I have the same dream now. It means more to me than the welfare of a million men. For it I would crush whatever opposed me. I am going to tell you of the dream.
"It is too bad one has to talk. Talk kills dreams and talk will also kill all such men as McGregor. Now that he has begun to talk we will get the best of him. I do not worry about McGregor. Time and talk will bring about his destruction."
David's mind ran off in a new direction. "I do not think a man's life is of much importance," he said. "No man is big enough to grasp all of life. That is the foolish fancy of children. The grown man knows he cannot see life at one great sweep. It cannot be comprehended so. One has to realise that he lives in a patchwork of many lives and many impulses.
"The man must strike at beauty. That is the realisation maturity brings and that is where the woman conies in. That is what McGregor was not wise enough to understand. He is a child you see in a land of excitable children."
The quality of David's voice changed. Putting his arm about his daughter he drew her face down beside his own. Night descended upon them. The woman who was tired from much thinking began to feel grateful for the touch of the strong hand on her shoulder. David had accomplished his purpose. He had for the moment made his daughter forget that she was his daughter. There was something hypnotic in the quiet strength of his mood.
"I come now to women, to your part," he said. "We will talk of the thing I want to make you understand. Laura failed as the woman. She never saw the point. As I grew she did not grow with me. Because I did not talk of love she did not understand me as a lover, did not know what I wanted, what I demanded of her.
"I wanted to fit my love down upon her figure as one puts a glove on his hand. You see I was the adventurer, the man mussed and moiled by life and its problems. The struggle to exist, to get money, could not be avoided. I had to make that struggle. She did not. Why could she not understand that I did not want to come into her presence to rest or to say empty words. I wanted her to help me create beauty. We should have been partners in that. Together we should have undertaken the most delicate and difficult of all struggles, the struggle for living beauty in our everyday affairs."
Bitterness swept over the old ploughmaker and he used strong words. "The whole point is in what I am now saying. That was my cry to the woman. It came out of my soul. It was the only cry to another I have ever made. Laura was a little fool. Her mind flitted away to little things. I do not know what she wanted me to be and now I do not care. Perhaps she wanted me to be a poet, a stringer together of words, one to write shrill little songs about her eyes and lips. It does not matter now what she wanted."But you matter."
David's voice cut through the fog of new thoughts that were confusing his daughter's mind and she could feel his body stiffen. A thrill ran through her own body and she forgot McGregor. With all the strength of her spirit she was absorbed in what David was saying. In the challenge that was coming from the lips of her father she began to feel there would be born in her own life a definite purpose.
"Women want to push out into life, to share with men the disorder and mussiness of little things. What a desire! Let them try it if they wish. They will sicken of the attempt. They lose sight of something bigger they might undertake. They have forgotten the old things, Ruth in the corn and Mary with the jar of precious ointment, they have forgotten the beauty they were meant to help men create. "Let them share only in man's attempt to create beauty. That is the big, the delicate task to which they should consecrate themselves. Why attempt instead the cheaper, the secondary task? They are like this McGregor."
The ploughmaker became silent. Taking up the whip he drove the horses rapidly along. He thought that his point was made and was satisfied to let the imagination of his daughter do the rest. They turned off the boulevard and passed through a street of small stores. Before a saloon a troop of street urchins led by a drunken man without a hat gave a grotesque imitation of McGregor's Marchers before a crowd of laughing idlers. With a sinking heart Margaret realised that even at the height of his power the forces that would eventually destroy the impulses back of McGregor's Marchers were at work. She crept closer to David. "I love you," she said. "Some day I may have a lover but always I shall love you. I shall try to be what you want of me."
It was past two o'clock that night when David arose from the chair where he had been for several hours quietly reading. With a smile on his face he went to a window facing north toward the city. All through the evening groups of men had been passing the house. Some had gone scuffling along, a mere disorderly mob, some had gone shoulder to shoulder chanting the marching song of the workers and a few, under the influence of drink, had stopped before the house to roar out threats. Now all was quiet. David lighted a cigar and stood for a long time looking out over the city. He was thinking of McGregor and wondering what excited dream of power the day had brought into the man's head. Then he thought of his daughter and of her escape. A soft light came into his eyes. He was happy but when he had partially undressed a new mood came and he turned out the lights in the room and went again to the window. In the room above Margaret had been unable to sleep and had also crept to the window. She was thinking again of McGregor and was ashamed of her thoughts. By chance both father and daughter began at the same moment to doubt the truth of what David had said during the drive along the boulevard. Margaret could not express her doubts in words but tears came into her eyes.
As for David, he put his hand on the sill of the window and for just a moment his body trembled as with age and weariness. "I wonder," he muttered--"if I had youth--perhaps McGregor knew he would fail and yet had the courage of failure, I wonder if both Margaret and myself lack the greater courage, if that evening long ago when I walked under the trees I made a mistake? What if after all this McGregor and his woman knew both roads. What if they, after looking deliberately along the road toward success in life, went without regret along the road to failure? What if McGregor and not myself knew the road to beauty?"END