A Poor Wise Man
A Poor Wise Man
Not all the mills would go down. A careful canvass of some of the other independent concerns had shown the men eighty, ninety, even one hundred per cent, loyal. Those were the smaller plants, where there had always been a reciprocal good feeling between the owners and the men; there the men knew the owners, and the owners knew the men, who had been with them for years.
But the Cardew Mills would go down. There had been no liaison between the Cardews and the workmen. The very magnitude of the business forbade that. And for many years, too, the Cardews had shown a gross callousness to the welfare of the laborers. Long ago he had urged on his father the progressive attitude of other steel men, but Anthony had jeered, and when Howard had forced the issue and gained concessions, it was too late. The old grievances remained in too many minds. To hate the Cardews bad become a habit. Their past sins would damn them now. The strike was wrong, a wicked thing. It was without reason and without aim. The men were knocking a hole in the boat that floated them. But-
There was a tap at his door, and he called "Come in." From her babyhood Lily had had her own peculiar method of signaling that she stood without, a delicate rapid tattoo of finger nails on the panel. He watched smilingly for her entrance.
"Well!" she said. "Thank goodness you haven't started to dress. I tried to get here earlier, but my hair wouldn't go up, I want to make a good impression to-night."
"Is there a dinner on? TI didn't know it."
"Not a dinner. A young man. I came to see what you are going to wear."
"Really! Well, I haven't a great variety. The ordinary dinner dress of a gentleman doesn't lend itself to any extraordinary ornamentation. If you like, I'll pin on that medal from the Iron and Steel - Who's coming, Lily?"
"Grayson says grandfather's dining out."
"I believe so."
"What a piece of luck! I mean - you know what he'd say if I asked him not to dress for dinner."
"Am I to gather that you are asking me?"
"You wouldn't mind, would you? He hasn't any evening clothes."
"Look here, Lily," said her father, sitting upright. "Who is coming here to-night? And why should he upset the habits of the entire family?"
"Willy Cameron. You know, father. And he has the queerest ideas about us. Honestly. And I want him to like us, and it's such a good chance, with grandfather out."
He ignored that.
"How about our liking him?"
"Oh, you'll like him. Everybody does. You will try to make a good impression, won't you, father?"
He got up, and resting his hands on her shoulders, smiled down into her upturned face. "I will," he said. "But I think I should tell you that your anxiety arouses deep and black suspicions in my mind. Am I to understand that you have fixed your young affections on this Willy Cameron, and that you want your family to help you in your dark designs?"
"I love him," she said. "I really do. I could listen to him for hours. But people don't want to marry Willy Cameron. They just love him."
There was born in Howard's mind a vision of a nice pink and white young man, quite sexless, whom people loved but did not dream of marrying.
"I see," he said slowly. "Like a puppy."
"Not at all like a puppy."
"I'm afraid I'm not subtle, my dear. Well, ring for Adams