Part 3 out of 5
"The drinks are on me," murmured Michael.
They stepped into the saloon at the corner--a bright, mirrory place,
whose tiled floor was covered with sawdust, and whose bar shone like
"Two beers, Donovan."
"Dark or light, Mike?"
They drank. Michael pounded the bar.
"Joe Blaine, the times are hard."
"How so, Michael?"
"The rich are too rich, and the poor too poor. I'm tired of it!"
"Then look this over."
Michael looked it over, and bubbled with joy.
"That's great. Did you spiel it out? Did you say this little piece? Joe,
I want to join your union!"
Joe laughed; he sized up the little man, with his sparkling eyes, his
open face, his fiery, musical voice, his golden hair. And he had an
"Mike," he said, "I'm getting out this paper up the street. Have a press
there and an office. Run in and see my mother. If you like her, tell me,
and you can join the Stove Circle."
"And what may the Stove Circle be?"
"The get-together club--my advisory board."
"See here, you," said a blunt, biting, deep-chested voice at their side.
"Let me get a look."
Joe turned and met Oscar Heming, delicatessen man, stumpy, bull-necked,
with fierce bristling mustache, and clothes much too big for him. He was
made a member at once of the Stove Circle.
That same evening Joe went down three steps into a little, low, cigar
store, whose gas-blazing atmosphere reeked with raw and damp tobacco. He
stepped up to the dusty counter.
"What's your best?"
The proprietor, a wise little owl of a man, with thin black hair, and
untidy spade beard, and big round glasses enlarging his big brown eyes,
placed a box before him.
"My own make--Underdogs--clear Havana--six cents apiece."
"I like the name. Give me ten. But explain!"
"Well"--Nathan Latsky (for so he proved to be) shrugged his
shoulders--"I'm one myself. But--what's in a name?"
"He's a red revolutionist!" said a voice, and Joe, turning, noticed two
men leaning beside him at the counter; one, a fine and fiery Jew,
handsome, dark, young; the other, a large and gentle Italian, with
pallid features, dark hair sprinkled with gray, and a general air of
largeness and leadership about him. The Jew had spoken.
"Why a red?" asked Joe.
"Oh," said Latsky, quietly, "I come from Russia, you know!"
"Well, I'm a revolutionist myself," said Joe. "But I haven't any color
"Union man?" asked the Italian.
"Not exactly. I run a radical newspaper."
"What's the name of it?" asked the Jew.
The words worked magic. They were all eagerness, and exchanged names.
Thus Joe came to know Jacob Izon and Salvatore Giotto and Nathan Latsky.
He was greatly interested in Izon, the facts of whose life he soon came
to know. Izon was a designer, working at Marrin's, the shirtwaist
manufacturer; he made thirty dollars a week, had a wife and two
children, and was studying engineering in a night school. He and his
wife had come from Russia, where they had been revolutionists.
The three men examined the paper closely.
"That's what we need," said Izon. "You must let us help to spread it!"
Joe added the three to the Stove Circle.
He went to Giotto's house with him, up to the sixth floor of a tenement,
and met the Italian's neat, dark-eyed wife, and looked in on the three
sleeping children. Then under the blazing gas in the crowded room, with
its cheap, frail, shiny furniture, its crayons on the wall, its crockery
and cheap clocks, and with the noise of the city's night rising all
about them, the two big men talked together. Joe was immensely
interested. The Italian was large-hearted, open-minded, big in body and
soul, and spoke quaintly, but thoughtfully.
"Tell me about yourself," said Joe.
Giotto spread out the palms of his hands.
"What to tell? I get a good education in the old country--but not much
spik English--better read, better write it. I try hard to learn. Come
over here, and education no good. Nobody want Italian educated man. So
worked on Italian paper--go round and see the poor--many tragedies,
many--like the theater. Write a novel, a romance, about the poor. Wish I
could write it in English."
"Good work," cried Joe. "Then what did you do?"
"Imported the wine--got broke--open the saloon. Toughs come there,
thieves, to swindle the immigrants. Awfully slick. No good to warn
immigrants--they lose all their money. Come in crying. What can I do? I
get after the bums and they say, 'Giotto no good; we will kill him.'
Then I get broke again. Go to West Virginia and work in the
coal-mine--break my leg. And that was the baddest place in the world."
"And the town. Laborers--Italian, nigger; saloons and politics--Jews;
bosses all Irish--nothing but the saloons and the women to spenda the
money. Company own everything--stores, saloons, women. Pay you the money
and get it all back. Every day a man killed. Hell!"
"Then where did you go?"
"Chicago--printing--anything to do I could get. Sometimes make forty
cents a day. Little. Have to feed and work for wife and three children.
I try and try. Hod-carrier"--Giotto laughed at the memory--"press
coats--anything. Then come back here."
"And what are you doing now?"
"I try to make labor union with Italians. Hard work. Italians live like
pigs--ignorant--not--not _social_. Down-stairs live a Calabria man,
makes ice-cream--got four rooms--in the four rooms man, wife, mother,
five children, fifteen boarders--"
"Go on!" cried Joe. "Why do you stop?"
"So maybe your paper help. Many Italians read English. I make them read
your paper, Mr. Joe."
* * * * *
It was not until nearly the end of the week that Joe sought out Sally
Heffer. Though every day he meditated stepping down that narrow red side
street, each time he had felt unprepared, throbbingly incapable; but
this evening as he finished his work and was on the way home it seemed
that beyond his own volition he suddenly swerved at her corner, hurried
down the lamp-lit pave, searched out the faded number in the meager
light, mounted the stoop, and pushed open the unlocked door.
He was very weary--heart-sick and foot-sore--as he climbed the dark
steps of the three-story house. He felt pent in the vast pulsations of
life about him--a feeling of impossibility, of a task greater than he
could bear. He simply had to see the young woman who was responsible for
sending him here. He had a vivid mental image of her tragic loveliness,
of how she had stepped back and forth before him and suddenly put her
hands to her face and wept, of how she had divined his suffering, and
impulsively seized his hand, and whispered, "I have faith in you." He
expected a sort of self-illumined Joan of Arc with eyes that saw
visions, with spirit flaming. And even in the dark top-floor hallway he
was awed, and almost afraid.
Then in the blackness, his eyes on the thread of light beneath the rear
door, he advanced, reached up his hand, and knocked.
There came, somehow surprising him, a definite, clear-edged voice:
He opened the door, which swung just free of the narrow cot. Just
beyond, Sally Heffer was writing at a little table, and the globed gas
burned above her, lighting the thin gold of her sparse hair. She turned
her face to him quite casually, the same pallid, rounded face, the same
broad forehead and gray eyes, of remarkable clarity--eyes that were as
clear windows allowing one to peer in. And she was dressed in a white
shirtwaist and the same brown skirt, and over a hook, behind her, hung
the same brown coat. Yet Joe was shocked. This was not the Sally Heffer
of his dreams--but rather a refreshing, forceful, dynamic young woman,
brimming over with the joy of life. And even in that flash of
strangeness he sensed the fact that at the time he had met her she was
merely the voice of a vast insurgent spirit, merely the instrument of a
great event. This was the everyday Sally, a quite livable, lovable human
being, healthy, free in her actions, pulsing with the life about her.
The very words she used were of a different order.
And as she casually glanced around she began to stare, her eyes lit with
wonder, and she arose, exclaiming:
At the sound of her voice the tension snapped within him; he felt common
and homely again; he felt comfortable and warm; and he smiled wearily.
"Yes," he said, "I'm here."
She came close to him, more and more incredulous, and the air became
"But what brings you here?"
"I live here--West Tenth."
"_Live_ here? Why?"
Her eyes seemed to search through his.
"You made me," he murmured.
She smiled strangely.
Impulsively her hand went out, and he clasped it ... her hand seemed
almost frozen. Tears of humility sprang to her eyes.
"I was high and mighty that night,... but I couldn't help it.... But
you ... do you realize what a wonderful thing you've done?"
He laughed awkwardly.
"Yes, here's what I've done"--he handed her a copy of _The
Nine-Tenths_--"and it's very wonderful."
She gave a strange, short laugh again--excitement, exultation--and held
the paper as if it were a living thing.
"This ... _The Nine-Tenths_ ... oh!... for the working people.... Let me
She went to the light, spread the paper and eagerly read. Then she
glanced back a moment and saw his worn face and the weary droop of his
"Say--you're dead tired. Sit down. You don't mind the bed, do you?"
He smiled softly.
"I don't! I am pretty much done up." And he sank down, and let his hands
droop between his knees.
Sally read, and then suddenly turned to him.
"This editorial is--it's just a ripper."
The author felt the thrill of a creator. She went on:
"I wish every working-girl in New York could read this."
"So do I."
She turned and looked at him, more and more excited.
"So _this_ is what you're doing. I must pinch myself--it's all a dream!
Too good to be true."
Suddenly there seemed to be a reversal in their relationships. Before,
his end of the beam was down, hers up. But subtly in her voice he felt
the swing to the other extreme. She had set him in a realm above
"Tell me," she said, "just how you came to go into this."
He told her a little, and as he spoke he became thoroughly at his ease
with her, as if she were a man, and in the pleasure of their swift
comradeship they could laugh at each other.
"Mr. Blaine," she said, suddenly, "if I got you into this, it's up to me
to help you win. I'm going to turn into an agent for you--I'll make 'em
subscribe right and left."
Joe laughed at her.
"Lordy, if you knew how good it is to hear this--after tramping up three
miles of stairs and more and nabbing a tawdry twenty subscriptions."
"Is that all you got?"
"People don't understand."
"We'll _make_ them!" cried Sally, clenching her fist.
Joe laughed warmly; he was delighted with her.
"Are you working here?" he asked.
"Yes--you know I used to be in Newark--I was the president of the
Newark Hat-Trimmers' Union."
"I'm trying to organize the girls here."
"Well," he muttered, grimly. "I wouldn't like to be your boss, Miss
She laughed in her low voice.
"Let me tell you what sort I am!" And she sat down, crossed her legs,
and clasped her hands on her raised knee. "I was working in that Newark
factory, and the girls told me to ask the boss, Mr. Plump, for a half
holiday. So I went into his office and said: 'Mr. Plump, the girls want
a half holiday.' He was very angry. He said: 'You won't get it. Mind
your own business.' So I said, quietly: 'All right, Mr. Plump, we'll
take a _whole_ holiday. We won't show up Monday.' Then he said to me,
'Sally Heffer, go to hell!' He was the first man to say such a thing to
my face. Well, one of the girls found me in the hall drying my eyes, and
when she got the facts she went back and told the others, and the bunch
walked out, leaving this message: 'Mr. Plump, we won't come back till
you apologize to Sally.' Well, we were out a week, and what do you
think?" Sally laughed with quiet joy. "Plump took it to the
Manufacturers Association, and they--backed him? Not a bit! _Made him
"Oh, I'm doing things all the time," said Sally. "Organized the Jewish
hat-trimmers in Newark, and all my friends went back on me for sticking
up for the Jews. Did I care? Ten years ago every time the men got a
raise through their union, the girls had their salaries cut. Different
now. We've enough sense to give the easy jobs to the old ladies--and
there's lots of old ones trimming hats."
"What's trimming hats?"
Sally plucked up Joe's gray hat, and then looked at Joe, her eyes
"It's a little hard to show you on this. But see the sweat-band? It has
a lot of needle holes in it, and the trimmer has to stitch through those
holes and then sew the band on to the hat, and all the odds and ends. It
kills eyes. What do you think?" she went on. "The girls used to drink
beer--bosses let 'em do it to keep them stimulated--and it's ruined
lots. I stopped that."
Joe looked at Sally. And he had a wild impulse then, a crazy thought.
"How much do you get a week?"
"Well," said Joe, "I want a woman's department in the paper. Will you
handle it for fifteen a week?"
"But you don't know me!"
"Well," said Joe, "I'm willing to gamble on you."
Sally's low voice loosed exultation.
"You're a wonder, Mr. Blaine. I'll _do it_! But we're both plumb crazy."
"I know it," said Joe, "and I like it!"
They shook hands.
"Come over to-morrow and meet my mother!" He gave her the address.
"Good-by," she said. "And let me tell you, I'm simply primed for woman
stuff. It is the women"--she repeated the phrase slowly--"it is the
women, as you'll find, who bear the burden of the world! Good-by!"
He went down into the open air exulting.
He could not overcome his astonishment. She was so different than he had
anticipated, so much more human and simple; so much more easy to fit
into the every-day shake-up of life, and full of that divine allowance
for other people's shortcomings. It was impossible to act the tragedian
before her. And, most wondrous of all, she was a "live wire." He had
gone to her abasing himself; he came away as her employer, subtly
cheered, encouraged, and lifted to new heights of vivid enterprise.
"Sally Heffer!" he kept repeating. "Isn't she a marvel! And, miracle of
miracles, she is going to swing the great work with me!"
And so the Stove Circle was founded with Sally Heffer, Michael Dunan,
Oscar Heming, Nathan Latsky, Salvatore Giotto, and Jacob Izon. Its
members met together a fortnight later on a cold wintry night. The
stove was red-hot, the circle drew about it on their kitchen chairs, and
Joe spent the first meeting in going over his plans for the paper. There
were many invaluable practical comments--especially on how to get news
and what news to get--and each member was delegated to see to one
department. Latsky and Giotto took immigration, Dunan took politics and
the Irish, Heming took the East Side, Izon, foreign news, and Sally
Heffer took workwomen. Thereafter each one in his way visited labor
unions, clubs, and societies and got each group to pledge itself to send
in news. They helped, too, to get subscriptions--both among their
friends and in the unions. In this way Joe founded his paper. He never
repeated the personal struggle of that first week, for he now had an
enthusiastic following to spread the work for him--men and a woman,
every one of whom had access to large bodies of people and was an
authority in his own world.
But that wonderful week was never forgotten by Joe. Each day he had
risen early and gone forth and worked till late at night, making a
canvass in good earnest. House after house he penetrated, knocking at
doors, inquiring for a mythical Mrs. (or Mr.) Parsons (this to hush the
almost universal fear that he had come to collect the rent or the
instalment on the furniture or clothes of the family). In this way he
started conversation. He found first that the immediate neighborhood
knew him already. And he found many other things. He found rooms tidy,
exquisite in their cleanliness and good taste of arrangement; and then
other rooms slovenly and filthy. He found young wives just risen from
bed, chewing gum and reading the department-store advertisements in the
paper, their hair in curl-papers. He found fat women hanging out of
windows, their dishes unwashed, their beds unmade, their floors unswept.
He found men sick in bed, and managed to sit down at their side and give
them an interesting twenty minutes. He found other men, out of work,
smoking and reading. He found one Italian family making "willow plumes"
in two narrow rooms--one a bedroom, the other a kitchen--every one at
work, twisting the strands of feathers to make a swaying plume--every
one, including the grandmother and little dirty tots of four and
six--and every one of them cross-eyed as a result of the terrific work.
He found one dark cellar full of girls twisting flowers; and one attic
where, in foul, steaming air, a Jewish family were "finishing"
garments--the whole place stacked with huge bundles which had been given
out to them by the manufacturer. He found one home where an Italian
"count" was the husband of an Irish girl, and the girl told him how she
had been led into the marriage by the man's promise of title and castle
in Venice, only to bring her from Chicago to New York and confess that
he was a poor laborer.
"But I made the best of it," she cried. "I put down my foot, hustled him
out to work, and we've done well ever since. I've been knocking the dago
out of him as hard as I can hit!"
"You're ambitious," said Joe.
"My! I'd give my hands for education!"
Joe prescribed _The Nine-Tenths_.
Everywhere he invited people to call--"drop over"--and see his plant and
meet his mother. Even the strange specimen of white woman who had
married a negro and was proud of it.
"Daniel's black outside, but there's many stuck-up women I know whose
white man is black _inside_."
Absorbingly interesting was the quest--opening up one vista of life
after another. Joe gained a moving-picture knowledge of life--saw
flashed before him dramatic scene after scene, destiny after
destiny--squalor, ignorance, crime, neatness, ambition, thrift,
respectability. He never forgot the shabby dark back room where under
gas-light a frail, fine woman was sewing ceaselessly, one child sick in
a tumble-down bed, and two others playing on the floor.
"I'm all alone in the world," she said. "And all I make is two hundred
and fifty dollars a year--less than five dollars a week--to keep four
Joe put her on the free list.
He learned many facts, vital elements in his history.
For instance, that on less than eight hundred dollars a year no family
of five (the average family) could live decently, and that nearly half
the people he met had less, and the rest not much more. That, as a rule,
there were three rooms for five people; and many of the families
gathered their fuel on the street; that many had no gas--used oil and
wood; that many families spent about twenty-five cents a day for food;
that few clothes were bought, and these mainly from the instalment man
and second hand at that; that many were recipients of help; and that
recreation and education were everywhere reduced to the lowest terms.
That is, boys and girls were hustled to work at twelve by giving their
age as fourteen, and recreation meant an outing a year to Coney Island,
and beer, and, once in a while, the nickel theater; that there were
practically no savings. And there was one conclusion he could not
evade--namely, that while overcrowding, improvidence, extravagance, and
vice explained the misery of some families, yet there were limits. For
On Manhattan Island no adequate housing can be obtained at less than
twelve or fourteen dollars a month.
That there is no health in a diet of bread and tea.
That--curious facts!--coal burns up, coats and shoes wear out in spite
That the average housewife cannot take time to go bargain-hunting or
experimenting with new food combinations, or in making or mending
garments, and neither has she the ability nor training to do so.
That, in fact, the poor, largely speaking, were between the upper and
nether millstones of low wages and high prices.
Of course there was the vice, but while drink causes poverty, poverty
causes drink. Joe found intemperance among women; he found little
children running to the saloon for cans of beer; he found plenty of men
drunkards. But what things to offset these! The woman who bought three
bushels of coal a week for seventy-five cents, watched her fires, picked
out the half-burned pieces, reused them, and wasted no heat; the
children foraging the streets for kindling-wood; the family in bed to
keep warm; the wife whose husband had pawned her wedding-ring for drink,
and who had bought a ten-cent brass one, "to keep the respect of her
children"; the man working for ten dollars a week, who once had owned
his own saloon, but, so he said, "it was impossible to make money out of
a saloon unless I put in gambling-machines or women, and I wouldn't
stand for it"; the woman whose husband was a drunkard, and who,
therefore, went to the Battery 5 A.M. to 10, then 5 P.M. to 7, every day
to do scrubbing for twenty dollars a month; the wonderful Jewish family
whose income was seven hundred and ninety-seven dollars and who yet
contrived to save one hundred and twenty-three dollars a year to later
send their two boys to Columbia University.
And everywhere he found the miracle of miracles: the spirit of charity
and mutual helpfulness--the poor aiding the poorer; the exquisite
devotion of mothers to children; the courage that braved a terrible
For a week the canvass went on. Joe worked feverishly, and came home
late at night too tired almost to undress himself. Again and again he
exclaimed to his mother:
"I never dreamed of such things! I never dreamed of such poverty! I
never dreamed of such human nature!"
Greenwich Village, hitherto a shabby red clutter of streets, uninviting,
forbidding, dull, squalid, became for Joe the very swarm and drama and
warm-blooded life of humanity. He began to sense the fact that he was in
the center of a human whirlpool, in the center of beauty and ugliness,
love and bitterness, misery and joy. The whole neighborhood began to
palpitate for him; the stone walls seemed bloody with struggling souls;
the pavements stamped with the steps of a battle.
"What can I do," he kept thinking, "with these people?"
And to his amazement he began to see that just as up-town offered the
rivals of luxury, pleasure, and ease, so down-town offered the rivals of
intemperance, grinding poverty, ignorance. His theories were beginning
to meet the shock of facts.
"How move them? How touch them off?" he asked himself.
But the absorbing interest--the faces--the shadowy scenes--the gas-lit
interiors--everywhere human beings, everywhere life, packed, crowded,
At the end of the week he stopped, though the fever was still on him. He
had gained two hundred and fifty subscribers; he had distributed twelve
hundred copies of the paper. He now felt that he could delay no longer
in bringing out the next number. So he sat down, and, with Sally
Heffer's words ringing in his mind, he wrote his famous editorial, "It
is the Women":
It is the women who bear the burden of this world--the poor women.
Perhaps they have beauty when they marry. Then they plunge into
drudgery. All day and night they are in dark and damp rooms, scrubbing,
washing, cooking, cleaning, sewing. They wear the cheapest clothes--thin
calico wrappers. They take their husbands' thin pay-envelopes, and
manage the finances. They stint and save--they buy one carrot at a time,
one egg. When rent-week comes--and it comes twice a month--they cut the
food by half to pay for housing. They are underfed, they are denied
everything but toil--save _love_. Child after child they bear. The toil
increases, the stint is sharper, the worry infinite. Now they must
clothe their children, feed them, dress them, wash them, amuse them.
They must endure the heart-sickness of seeing a child underfed. They
must fight the demons of disease. Possibly they must stop a moment in
the speed of their labor and face death. Only for a moment! Need calls
them: mouths ask for food, floors for the broom, and the pay-envelope
for keen reckonings. Possibly then the husband will begin to
drink--possibly he will come home and beat his wife, drag her about the
floor, blacken her eyes, break a rib. The next day the task is taken up
again--the man is fed, the children clothed, the food marketed, the
floor scrubbed, the dress sewn. And then as the family grows there come
hard times. The man is out of work--he wants to work but cannot. Rent
and the butcher and grocer must be paid, but there are no wages brought
home. The woman takes in washing. She goes through the streets to the
more prosperous and drags home a basket of soiled clothes. The burden of
life grows heavier--the husband becomes accustomed to the changed
relationships. Very often he ceases to be a wage-earner and loafs about
saloons. From then on the woman wrestles with worlds of
trouble--unimaginable difficulties. Truly, running a state may be easier
than running a family. And yet the woman toils on; she does not
complain; she sets three meals each day before husband and children; she
sees that they have clothes; she gives the man his drink money; she
endures his cruelty; she plans ambitiously for her children. Or possibly
the man begins to work again, and then one day is killed in an accident.
There is danger of the family breaking up. But the woman rises to the
crisis and works miracles. She keeps her head; she takes charge; she
toils late into the night; she goes without food, without sleep. Somehow
she manages. There was a seamstress in Greenwich Village who pulled her
family of three and herself along on two hundred and fifty dollars a
year--less than five dollars a week! If luck is with the woman the
children grow up, go to work, and for a time ease the burden. But then,
what is left? The woman is prematurely old--her hair is gray, her face
drawn and wrinkled, or flabby and soiled, her back bent, her hands raw
and red and big. Beauty has gone, and with the years of drudgery, much
of the over-glory, much of the finer elements of love and joy, have
vanished. Her mind is absorbed by little things--details of the day. She
has ceased to attend church, she has not stepped beyond the street
corner for years, she has not read or played or rested. Much is dead in
her. Love only is left. Love of a man, love of children. She is a fierce
mother and wife, as of old. And she knows the depth of sorrow and the
truth of pain.
He repeated his programme. Perhaps--he afterward thought so
himself--this editorial was a bit too pessimistic. But he had to write
it--had to ease his soul. He set it off, however, by a lovely little
paragraph which he printed boxed. Here it is:
Possibly much of the laughter heard on this planet comes from
the mothers and fathers who are thinking or talking of the children.
In this way, then, Joe entered into the life of the people.
OTHERS: AND THEODORE MARRIN
Joe became a familiar figure in Greenwich Village. As time went on, and
issue after issue of _The Nine-Tenths_ appeared, he became known to the
whole district. Whenever he went out people nodded right and left,
passed the time of day with him, or stopped him for a hand-shake and a
question. He would, when matters were not pressing, pause at a stoop to
speak with mothers, and people in trouble soon began to acquire a habit
of dropping in at his office to talk things over with the "Old Man."
If it was a matter of employment, he turned the case over to some member
of the Stove Circle; if it was a question of honest want, he drew on the
"sinking-fund" and took a note payable in sixty days--a most elastic
note, always secretly renewable; if it was an idle beggar, a vagrant, he
made short work of his visitor. Such a visitor was Lady Hickory. Billy
was at his little table next the door; over in the corner the
still-despondent Slate was still collapsing; at the east window sat
Editor Sally Heffer, digging into a mass of notes; and near the west,
at the roll-top desk, a visitor's chair set out invitingly beside him,
Joe was writing--weird exercise of muttering softly, so as not to
disturb the rest, and then scratching down a sentence.
Billy leaped up to receive her ladyship, who fatly rolled in, her
tarnished hat askew, her torn thrice-dingy silks clutched up in one fat
Lady Hickory gave one cry:
"There he is!"
She pushed Billy aside and rolled over into the visitor's chair.
"Oh, Mr. Joe!"
"What's up?" he asked.
"Everything's up--I'm dying, Mr. Joe--I need help--I must get to the
"It doesn't smell like consumption," he said with a sigh. "It smells
He hustled her out rather roughly, Nathan Slate regarding him with
mournful round eyes. Twenty minutes later Nathan came over and sat down.
"There's something troubles my conscience, Mr. Joe."
"Let her rip!"
Nathan cleared his throat.
"You say you're a democrat, Mr. Joe, and you're always saying, 'Love thy
neighbor,' Mr. Joe."
"Has _that_ hit you, Nathan?"
Nathan unburdened, evading this thrust.
"Why, then, Mr. Joe, did you turn that woman away?"
Joe was delighted.
"Why? I'll tell you! Suppose that I know that the cucumber is inherently
as good as any other vegetable, does that say I can digest it? Cucumbers
aren't for me, Nathan--especially decayed ones."
Nathan stared at him disconsolately, shook his head, and went back to
puzzle it out. It is doubtful, however, that he ever did so.
Besides such visitors, there were still others who came to him to
arbitrate family disputes--which constituted him a sort of Domestic
Relations Court--and gave him an insight into a condition that surprised
him. Namely, the not uncommon cases of secret polygamy and polyandry.
In short, Joe was busy. His work was established in a flexible
routine--mornings for writing; afternoons for callers, for circulation
work, and for special trips to centers of labor trouble; evenings for
going about with Giotto to see the Italians, or paying a visit, say, to
the Ranns, or some others, or meeting at Latsky's cigar store with a
group of revolutionists who filled the air with their war of the
classes, their socialist state, their dreams of millennium.
He gave time, too, to his mother--evening walks, evening talks, and
old-fashioned quiet hours in the kitchen, his mother at her needlework,
and he reading beside her. One such night, when his mother seemed
somewhat fatigued, he said to her:
"Don't sew any more, mother."
"But it soothes me, Joe."
Joe spoke awkwardly.
"Are you perfectly satisfied down here? Did we do the right thing?"
His mother's eyes flashed, as of old.
"We did," she cried in her youthful voice. "It's real--it's absorbing.
And I'm very proud of myself."
"Yes, proud!" she laughed. "Joe, when a woman reaches my age she has a
right to be proud if young folks seek her out and talk with her and make
her their confidante. It shows she's not a useless incumbrance, but
Joe sat up.
"Have they found you out? Do they come to you?"
"They do--especially the young wives with their troubles. All of them
troubled over their husbands and their children. We have the finest
talks together. They're a splendid lot!"
"Who's come, in particular?"
"Well, there's one who isn't married--one of the best of them."
"Not Sally Heffer!"
"That girl," said Joe's mother, "has all sorts of possibilities--and
she's brave and strong and true. Sally's a wonder! a new kind of woman!"
A new kind of woman! Joe remembered the phrase, and in the end admitted
that it was true. Sally was of the new breed; she represented the new
emancipation; the exodus of woman from the home to the battle-fields of
the world; the willingness to fight in the open, shoulder to shoulder
with men; the advance of a sex that now demanded a broader, freer life,
a new health, a home built up on comradeship and economic freedom. In
all of these things she contrasted sharply with Myra, and Joe always
thought of the two together.
But unconsciously Sally was always the fellow-worker--Myra--what Myra
meant he could feel but not explain; yet these crowded days left little
time for thoughts sweet but often intense with pain. He wrote to her
rarely--mere jottings of business and health; he rarely heard from her.
Her message was invariably the same--the richness and quiet of country
life, the depth and peace of rest, the hope that he was well and happy.
She never mentioned his paper--though she received every number--and
when Joe inquired once whether it came, she answered in a postscript:
"The paper? It's in every Monday's mail." This neglect irritated Joe,
and he would doubly enjoy Sally's heart-and-soul passion for _The
Sally was growing into his working life, day by day. Her presence was
stimulating, refreshing. If he felt blue and discouraged, or dried up
and in want of inspiration, he merely called her over, and her quiet
talk, her sane views, her quick thinking, her never-failing good humor
and faith, acted upon him as a tonic.
"Miss Sally," he said once, "what would I ever do without you?"
Sally looked at him with her clear eyes.
"Oh," she said, "I guess you'd manage to stagger along somehow."
But after that she hovered about him like a guardian angel. What
bothered her chiefly, when she thought of Joe's work, was her lack of
education, and she set about to make this up by good reading, and by
attending lectures at night, and by hard study in such time as she could
snatch from her work. She and Joe were comrades in the best sense. They
could always depend upon each other. It was in some ways as if they
were in partnership. And then there was that old tie of the fire to
draw them together.
She was of great help in setting him right about the poor.
"People are happy," she would say--"most people are happy. Human nature
is bigger than environment--it bubbles up through mud. That's almost the
trouble with it. If the poor were only thoroughly unhappy, they'd change
things to-morrow. No, Mr. Joe, it's not a question of happiness; it's a
question of justice, of right, of progress, of developing people's
possibilities. It's all the question of a better life, a richer life.
People are sacred--they mustn't be reduced to animals."
And with her aid he gained a truer perspective of the life about
him--learned better how to touch it, how to "work" it. The paper became
more and more adapted to its audience, and began to spread rapidly. Here
and there a labor union would subscribe for it in bulk for all its
members, and the Stove Circle soon had many a raw recruit drumming up
trade, making house-to-house canvasses. In this way, the circulation
finally reached the five-thousand mark. There were certain unions, such
as that of the cloak-makers, that regarded the paper as their special
oracle--swore by it, used it in their arguments, made it a vital part of
their mental life.
This enlarged circulation brought some curious and unlooked-for results.
Some of the magazine writers in the district got hold of a copy, had a
peep at Joe, heard of his fame, and then took copies up-town to the
respectable editors and others, and spread a rumor of "that idiot, Joe
Blaine, who runs an underground paper down on Tenth Street." As a
passion of the day was slumming, and as nothing could be more piquant
than the West Tenth Street establishment, Joe was amused to find
automobiles drawing up at his door, and the whole neighborhood watching
breathlessly the attack of some flouncy woman or some tailor-made man.
"How perfectly lovely!" one fair visitor announced, while the office
force watched her pose in the center of the room. "Mr. Blaine, how
dreadful it must be to live with the poor!"
"It's pretty hard," said Joe, "to live with any human being for any
length of time."
"Oh, but the poor! They aren't clean, you know; and such manners!"
Sally spoke coldly.
"I guess bad manners aren't monopolized by any particular class."
The flouncy one flounced out.
These visits finally became very obnoxious, though they could not be
stopped. Even a sign, over the door-bell, "No begging; no slumming," was
quite ineffective in shutting out either class.
There were, however, other visitors of a more interesting
type--professional men, even business men, who were drawn by curiosity,
or by social unrest, or by an ardent desire to be convinced. Professor
Harraman, the sociologist, came, and made quite a dispassionate study of
Joe, put him (so he told his mother) on the dissecting-table and
vivisected his social organs. Then there was Blakesly, the corporation
lawyer, who enjoyed the discussion that arose so thoroughly that he
stayed for supper and behaved like a gentleman in the little kitchen,
even insisting on throwing off his coat, rolling up his sleeves, and
helping to dry the dishes.
"You're all wrong," he told Joe when he left, "and some day possibly
we'll hang you or electrocute you; but it's refreshing to rub one's mind
against a going dynamo. I'm coming again. And don't forget that your
mother is the First Lady of the Island! Good-by!"
Then there was, one important day, the great ex-trust man, whose name is
inscribed on granite buildings over half the earth. This man--so the
legend runs--is on the lookout for unusual personalities. The first hint
of a new one puts him on the trail, and he sends out a detective to
gather facts, all of which are card-indexed under the personality's
name. Then, if the report is attractive, this man goes out himself and
meets the oddity face to face. He came in on Joe jovial, happy,
sparkling, and fired a broadside of well-chosen questions. Joe was
delighted, and said anything he pleased, and his visitor shrewdly went
on. In the end Joe was stunned to hear this comment:
"Mr. Blaine, you're on the right track, though you don't know it. You
think you want one thing, but you're after another. Still--keep it up.
The world is coming to wonderful things."
"That's queer talk," said Joe, "coming from a multimillionaire."
The multimillionaire laughed.
"But I'm getting rid of the multi, Mr. Blaine. What more would you have
me do? Each his own way. Besides"--he screwed up his eye shrewdly--"come
now, aren't you hanging on to some capital?"
"Yes--in a way!"
"So are we all! You're a wise man! Keep free, and then you can help
The most interesting caller, however, judged from the standpoint of
Joe's life, was Theodore Marrin, Izon's boss, manufacturer of high-class
shirtwaists, whose Fifth Avenue store is one of the most luxurious in
New York. He came to Joe while the great cloak-makers' strike was still
on, at a time when families were reduced almost to starvation, and when
the cause seemed quite hopeless.
Theodore Marrin came in a beautiful heavy automobile. He was a short
man, with a stout stomach; his face was a deep red, with large, slightly
bulging black eyes, tiny mustache over his full lips; and he was dressed
immaculately and in good taste--a sort of Parisian-New Yorker,
hail-fellow-well-met, a mixer, a cynic, a man about town. He swung his
cane lightly as he tripped up the steps, sniffed the air, and knocked on
the door of the editorial office.
"Mr. Blaine in?"
"I should hope he was! There, my boy." He deftly waved Billy aside and
stepped in. "Well! well! Mr. Blaine!"
Joe turned about, and arose, and accepted Mr. Marrin's extended hand.
"Who do you think I am?"
"I'm ready for anything."
"Well, Mr. Blaine, I'm the employer of one of your men. You know Jacob
"Oh, you're Mr. Marrin! Sit down."
Marrin gazed about.
"Unique! unique!" He sat down, and pulled off his gloves. "I've been
wanting to meet you for a long time. Izon's been talking, handing me
your paper. It's a delightful little sheet--I enjoy it immensely."
"You agree with its views?"
"Oh no, no, no! I read it the way I read fiction! It's damned
"Well, what can I do for you?"
"What can I do for _you_!" corrected Marrin.
"See here, Mr. Blaine, I'm interested. How about taking a little ad.
from me, just for fun, to help the game along?"
"We don't accept ads."
"Oh, I know! But if I contribute handsomely! I'd like to show it around
to my friends a bit. Come, come, don't be unreasonable, Mr. Blaine."
Sally shuffled about, coughed, arose, sat down again, and Joe laughed.
"Can't do it. Not even Rockefeller could buy a line of my paper."
"Do you _mean_ it?"
"Well, what a shame! But never mind. Some other time. Tell me, Mr.
Blaine"--he leaned forward--"what are you? One of these bloody
"No, I'm not a socialist."
"What d'ye call yourself, then--Republican?"
Marrin was horror-stricken.
"Not a blooming anarchist?"
"No, not an anarchist."
"What are you, then? Nothing?"
"I can tell you what I'm not," said Joe.
"I'm not any kind of an _ist_."
"A fine fellow!" cried Marrin. "Why, a man's got to stand for
"I do," said Joe, "I stand for human beings--and sometimes," he
chuckled, "I stand for a whole lot!"
Marrin laughed, so did Sally.
"Clever!" cried Marrin. "Damned clever! You're cleverer than I
thought--hide your scheme up, don't you? Well! well! Let me see your
Joe showed him about, and Marrin kept patting him on the back:
"Delightful! Fine! You're my style, Mr. Blaine--everything done to a
nicety, no frills and feathers. Isn't New York a great town? There are
things happening in it you'd never dream of."
And when he left he said:
"Now, if there's anything I can do for you, Mr. Blaine, don't hesitate
to call on me. And say, step up and see my shop. It's the finest this
side of Paris. I'll show you something you've never seen yet! Good-by!"
And he was whisked away, a quite self-satisfied human being.
That very evening Marrin's name came up again. It was closing-up time,
Billy and Slate had already gone, and the room was dark save for the
shaded lights over Joe's desk and Sally's table. The two were working
quietly, and outside a soft fall of snow was muffling the noise of the
city. There only arose the mellowed thunder of a passing car, the far
blowing of a boat-whistle, the thin pulse of voices. Otherwise the city
was lost in the beautiful storm, which went over the gas-lamps like a
black-dotted halo. In the rear room there was a soft clatter of dishes.
The silence was rich and full of thought. Joe scratched on, Sally
puzzled over reports.
Then softly the door opened, and a hoarse voice said:
"Joe? You there?"
Sally and Joe turned around. It was Izon, dark, handsome, fiery, muffled
up to his neck, his hat drawn low on his face, and the thin snow
scattering from his shoulders and sleeves.
"Yes, I'm here," Joe said in a low voice. "What is it?"
Izon came over.
"Joe!"--his voice was passionate--"there's trouble brewing at Marrin's."
"Marrin? Why, he was here only to-day!"
Izon clutched the back of a chair and leaned over.
"Marrin is a dirty scoundrel!"
His voice was hoarse with helplessness and passion.
"Tell me about this! Put it in a word!"
Tears sprang to Izon's eyes.
"You know the cloak-makers' strike--well! Some manufacturer has asked
Marrin to help him out--to fill an order of cloaks for him."
"And Marrin--" Joe felt himself getting hot.
"Has given the job to us men."
"How many are there?"
"And the women?"
"They're busy on shirtwaists."
"And what did the men do?"
"As they were told."
"So you fellows are cutting under the strikers--you're scabs."
Izon clutched the chair harder.
"I told them so--I said, 'For God's sake, be men--strike, if this isn't
"And what did they say?"
"They'd think it over!"
Sally arose and spoke quietly.
"Make them meet here. _I'll_ talk to them!"
Izon muttered darkly:
"Marrin's a dirty scoundrel!"
Joe smote his hands together.
"We'll fix him. You get the men down here! You just get the men!"
And then Joe understood that his work was not child's play; that the
fight was man-size; that it had its dangers, its perils, its fierce
struggles. He felt a new power rise within him--a warrior strength. He
was ready to plunge in and give battle--ready for a hand-to-hand
conflict. Now he was to be tested in the fires; now he was to meet and
make or be broken by a great moment. An electricity of conflict filled
the air, a foreboding of disaster. His theories at last were to meet the
crucial test of reality, and he realized that up to that moment he had
been hardly more than a dreamer.
FORTY-FIVE TREACHEROUS MEN
Out of the white, frosty street the next night, when every lamp up and
down shone like a starry jewel beneath the tingling stars, forty-five
men emerged, crowding, pushing in the hall, wedging through the doorway,
and filling the not-too-large editorial office. Joe had provided
camp-stools, and the room was soon packed with sitting and standing men,
circles of shadowy beings, carelessly clothed, with rough black cheeks
and dark eyes--a bunch of jabbering aliens, excited, unfriendly,
curious, absorbed in their problem--an ill-kempt lot and quite unlovely.
At the center stove, a little way off from its red heart, sat Joe and
Sally and Izon. The men began to smoke cigarettes and little cigars, and
with the rank tobacco smell was mingled the sweaty human odor. The room
grew densely hot, and a window had to be thrown open. A vapor of smoke
filled the atmosphere, shot golden with the lights, and in the smoke the
many heads, bent this way and that, leaning forward or tilted up, showed
strange and a little unreal. Joe could see faces that fascinated him by
their vivid lines, their starting dark eyes and the white eye-balls,
their bulging noses and big mouths. Hands fluttered in lively gestures
and a storm of Yiddish words broke loose.
Joe arose, lifting his hand for silence. Men pulled each other by the
sleeve, and a strident "'Ssh!" ran round the room.
"Silence!" cried Joe. His voice came from the depths of his big chest,
and was masterful, ringing with determination.
An expectant hush followed. And then Joe spoke.
"I want to welcome you to this room. It belongs to you as much as to
anybody, for in this room is published a paper that works for your good.
But I not only want to welcome you: I want to ask your permission to
speak at this meeting."
There were cries of: "Speak! Go on! Say it!"
Joe went on. Behind his words was a menace.
"Then I want to say this to you. Your boss, Mr. Marrin, has done a
cowardly and treacherous thing. He has made scabs of you all. You are no
better than strike-breakers. If you do this work, if you make these
cloaks, you are traitors to your fellow-workers, the cloak-makers. You
are crippling other workmen. You are selling them to their bosses. But
I'm sure you won't stand for this. You are men enough to fight for the
cause of all working people. You belong to a race that has been
persecuted through the ages, a brave race, a race that has triumphed
through hunger and cold and massacres. You are great enough to make this
sacrifice. If this is so, I call on you to resist your boss, to refuse
to do his dirty work, and I ask you--if he persists in his orders--to
lay down your work and _strike_."
He sat down, and there was a miserable pause. He had not stirred them at
all, and felt his failure keenly. It was as if he had not reached over
the fence of race. He told himself he must school himself in the future,
must broaden out. As a matter of fact, it was the menace in his tone
that hushed the meeting. The men rather feared what lay behind Joe's
At once, however, one of the men leaped to his feet, and began a fiery
speech in Yiddish, speaking gaspingly, passionately, hotly, shaking his
fist, fluttering his hands, tearing a passion to tatters. Joe understood
not a word, but the burden of the speech was:
"Why should we strike? What for? For the cloak-makers? What have we to
do with cloak-makers? We have troubles enough of our own. We have our
families to support--our wives and children and relations. Shall they
starve for some foolish cloak--makers? Comrades, don't listen to such
humbug. Do your work--get done with it. You have good jobs--don't lose
them. These revolutionists! They would break up the whole world for
their nonsense! It's not they who have to suffer; it's us working
people. We do the starving, we do the fighting. Have sense; bethink
yourselves; don't make fools out of yourselves!"
A buzz of talk arose with many gesticulations.
"He's right! Why should we strike--Och, Gott, such nonsense!--No more
Then Sally arose, pale, eyes blazing. She shook a stanch little fist at
the crowd. But how different was her speech from the one in Carnegie
Hall--that time when she had been truly inspired.
"Shame on all of you! You're a lot of cowards! You're a lot of traitors!
You can't think of anything but your bellies! Shame on you all! Women
would never stand for such things--young girls, your sisters or your
daughters, would strike at once! Let me tell you what will happen to
you. Some day there will be a strike of shirt-waist-makers, and then
your boss will go to the cloak-house and say, 'Now you make shirtwaists
for me,' and the cloak-makers will make the shirtwaists, saying, 'When
we were striking, the shirtwaist-makers made cloaks; now we'll make
waists.' And that will ruin your strike, and ruin you all. Working
people must unite! Working people must stand by each other! That's your
only power. The boss has money, land, machinery, friends. What have you?
You only have each other, and if you don't stand by each other, you
have nothing at all. Strike! I tell you! Strike and show 'em! Show 'em!
Rise and resist! You have the power! You are bound to win! Strike! I
Then a man shouted: "Shall a woman tell us what to do?" and tumult broke
loose, angry arguments, words flying. The air seemed to tingle with
excitement, expectation, and that sharp feeling of human crisis. Joe
could feel the circle of human nature fighting about him. He leaned
forward, strangely shaken.
Izon had arisen, and was trying to speak. The dark, handsome young man
was gesturing eloquently. His voice poured like a fire, swept the crowd,
and he reached them with their own language.
"Comrades! Comrades! Comrades!" and then his voice rose and stilled the
tumult, and all leaned forward, hanging on his words. "You must"--he was
appealing to them with arms outstretched--"you must! You will strike;
you will not be cowards! Not for yourselves, O comrades, but for your
children--_your children_! Do I not know you? Do I not know how you toil
and slave and go hungry and wear out your bodies and souls? Have I not
toiled with you? Have I not shared your struggles and your pain? Do I
not know that you are doing all, all for your children--that the little
ones may grow up to a better life than yours--that your little ones may
be happier, and healthier, and richer, and finer? Have I not seen it a
thousand times? But what sort of a world will your children find when
they grow up if you do not fight these battles for them? If you let the
bosses enslave you--if you are cowards and slaves--will not your
children be slaves? Oh, we that belong to Israel, have we not fought for
freedom these bloody thousand years? Are we to cease now? Can't you see?
Can't you open your hearts and minds?" His voice came with a passionate
sob. "Won't you see that this is a fight for the future--a fight for all
who work for wages--a fight for freedom? Not care for the cloak-makers?
They are your brothers. Care for them, lest the day come when you are
uncared for! Strike! You must--you _must_! Strike, comrades! We will
hang by each other! We will suffer together! And it will not be the
first time! No, not the first time--or the last!"
He sank exhausted on his chair, crumpled up. Sweat was running down his
white face. There was a moment's hush--snuffling, and a few coarse
sobs--and then a young man arose, and spoke in trembling voice:
"I move--we send Jacob Izon to-morrow to our boss--and tell him--either
no cloaks, or--we strike!"
Joe put the motion.
"All in favor, say aye."
There was a wild shout of ayes. The motion was carried. Then the air
was charged with excitement, with fiery talk, with denunciation and
"Now we're in for it!" said Joe, as the room was emptied, and the
aroused groups trudged east on the crunching snow.
And so it was. Next morning, when Theodore Marrin made the rounds of the
vast loft where two hundred girls and forty-five men were busily
working--the machines racing--the air pulsing with noise--Jacob Izon
arose, trembling, and confronted him.
"I want to tell you something."
"The men have asked me to ask you not to have us make the cloaks."
Marrin's red face seemed to grow redder.
"So, that's it!" he snapped. "Well, here's my answer. Go back to your
The men had stopped working and were listening. The air was electric,
Izon spoke tremblingly.
"I am very sorry then. I must announce that the men have struck!"
Marrin glared at him.
"Very well! And get out--quick!"
He turned and walked away, flaming with rage. The men quickly put their
work away, got their hats and coats, and followed Izon. When they
reached the street--a strange spectacle on flashing, brilliant Fifth
Avenue--Izon suggested that they go down to Tenth Street, for they stood
about like a lot of lost sheep.
"No," cried one of the men, "we've had enough of Tenth Street. There's a
hall we can use right over on Eighteenth Street. Come on."
The rest followed. Izon reported to Joe, and Joe asked:
"Do you think they'll fight it out?"
"I don't know!" Izon shrugged his shoulders.
This doubt was justifiable, for he soon found that he was leading a
forlorn hope. As morning after morning the men assembled in the dark
meeting-room behind a saloon, and sat about in their overcoats
complaining and whining, quoting their wives and relatives, more and
more they grew disconsolate and discouraged. There were murmurs of
rebellion, words of antagonism. Finally on the fifth morning a messenger
arrived with a letter. Izon took it.
"It's from Marrin," he murmured.
"Read it! Read it out loud!"
He opened it and read:
TO MY MEN,--I have thought matters over. I do not like to sever
connections with men who have been so long in my employ. If you return
to work this morning, you may go on at the old salaries, and we will
consider the matter closed. If, however, you listen to advice calculated
to ruin your future, and do not return, please remember that I will not
be responsible. I shall then secure new men, and your places will be
occupied by others.
_P.S._--Naturally, it is understood that under no circumstance will your
leader--Jacob Izon--the cause of this trouble between us--be
re-employed. Such men are a disgrace to the world.
Izon's cheeks flushed hot. He looked up.
"Shall I write to him that we will not consider his offer, and tell him
we refuse to compromise?"
There was a silence a little while, and then one of the older men
shuffled to his feet.
"Tell you what we do--we get up a collection for Izon. Then everything
will be all right!"
Izon's eyes blazed.
"Charity? Not for me! I don't want you to think of me! I want you to
think of what this strike means!"
Then some one muttered:
"We've listened long enough to Izon."
And another: "I'm going to work!"
"So am I! So am I!"
They began to rise, to shamefacedly shamble toward the door. Izon rose
to his feet, tried to intercept them, stretched out his arms to them.
"For God's sake," he cried, "leave me out, but get something. Don't go
back like this! Get something! Don't you see that Marrin is ready to
give in? Are you going back like weak slaves?"
They did not heed him; but one old man paused and put a hand on his
"This will teach you not to be so rash next time. You will learn yet."
And they were gone. Izon was dazed, heart-broken. He hurried home to his
wife and wept upon her shoulder.
Late that afternoon Joe and Sally were again alone in the office, their
lights lit, their pens scratching, working in a sweet unspoken sympathy
in the quiet, shadowy place. There was a turning of the knob, and Izon
came in. Joe and Sally arose and faced him. He came slowly, his face
drawn and haggard.
"What is it?" Joe drew the boy near.
"They've gone back--the men have gone back!"
"Gone back?" cried Joe.
"Read this letter!"
Joe read it, and spoke angrily.
"Then I'll do something!"
Izon pleaded with him.
"Be careful, Joe--don't do anything foolish for my sake. I'll get
"But your wife! How does she take it?"
Izon's face brightened.
"Oh, she's a Comrade! That's why I married her!"
"Good!" said Joe. "Then I'll go ahead. I'll speak my mind!"
"Not for me, though," cried Izon. "I'll get something else."
"Are you _sure_ of that?" asked Joe.
"Are you sure," Joe went on, "that you won't be blacklisted?"
Izon stared at him.
"Well--I suppose--I will."
"You'll have to leave the city, Jacob."
"I can't. I'm right in my course of engineering. I can't go."
"Well, we'll see!" Joe's voice softened. "Now you go home and rest.
There's a good fellow. And everything will be all right!"
And he saw Izon out.
Joe began again to feel the tragic undercurrents of life, the first time
since the dark days following the fire. He came back, and stood
brooding, his homely face darkened with sorrow. Sally stood watching
him, her pale face flushing, her eyes darting sympathy and daring.
"Yes, Miss Sally."
"I want to do something."
"I want to go up to Marrin's to-morrow and get the girls out on strike."
"I've done it before; I can do it again."
Joe laughed softly.
"Miss Sally, what would I do without you? I'd go stale on life, I
She made an impulsive movement toward him.
"I want to help you--every way."
"I know you do." His voice was a little husky, and he looked up and met
her fine, clear eyes.
Then she turned away, sadly.
"You'll let me do it?"
"Oh, no!" he said firmly. "The idea's appealing, but you mustn't think
of it, Miss Sally. It will only stir up trouble."
"We ought to."
"Not for this."
"But the shirtwaist-makers are working in intolerable conditions;
they're just ready to strike; a spark would blow 'em all up."
He shook his head.
"Wait--wait till we see what my next number does!"
Sally said no more; but her heart nursed her desire until it grew to an
overmastering passion. She left for the night, and Joe sat down, burning
with the fires of righteousness. And he wrote an editorial that altered
the current of his life. He wrote:
FORTY-FIVE TREACHEROUS MEN
Theodore Marrin and the forty-four who went back to work for him:
Every one of you is a traitor to American citizenship.
Let us use blunt words and call a spade a spade.
Theodore Marrin, you have betrayed your employees.
You forty-four men, you have betrayed yourselves and your leader.
And so it went, sharp, incisive, plain-spoken--words that were hot
brands and burned.
He was sitting at this task (twice his mother had called him to supper
and he had waved her away) when an exquisite black-eyed little woman
"I'm Mrs. Izon."
Joe wheeled about and seized her hand.
"Tell me to do something for you! You and your brave husband!"
Mrs. Izon spoke quietly:
"I came here because Jacob is so worried. He is afraid you will harm
yourself for us."
Joe laughed softly.
"Tell him not to worry any longer. It's you who are suffering--not I. I?
I am only having fun."
She was not satisfied.
"We oughtn't to get others mixed up in our troubles."
"It's hard for you, isn't it?" Joe murmured.
"Yes." She smiled sadly. "I suppose it isn't right when you are in the
struggle to get married. Not right to the children."
Joe spoke courageously.
"Never you mind, Mrs. Izon--but just wait. Wait three--four days. We'll
They did wait, and they did see.
A FIGHT IN GOOD EARNEST
Sally hesitated before going into Marrin's that Monday morning. A
blinding snow-storm was being released over the city, and the fierce
gusts eddied about the corner of Fifth Avenue, blew into drifts, lodged
on sill and cornice and lintel, and blotted out the sky and the world.
Through the wild whiteness a few desolate people ploughed their way,
buffeted, blown, hanging on to their hats, and quite unable to see
ahead. Sally shoved her red little hands into her coat pockets, and
stood, a careless soul, in the white welter.
From her shoulder, some hundred feet to the south, ran the plate-glass
of Marrin's, spotted and clotted and stringy with snow and ice, and
right before her was the entrance for deliveries and employees. A last
consideration held her back. She had been lying awake nights arguing
with her conscience. Joe had told her not to do it--that it would only
stir up trouble--but Joe was too kindly. In the battles of the working
people a time must come for cruelty, blows, and swift victory. Marrin
was an out-and-out enemy to be met and overthrown; he had made traitors
of the men; he had annihilated Izon; she would fight him with the women.
Nor was this the only reason. Sally felt that her supreme task was to
organize the women in industry, to take this trampled class and make of
it a powerful engine for self-betterment, and no women were more
prepared, she felt, than the shirtwaist-makers. She knew that at
Marrin's the conditions were fairly good, though, even there, women and
young girls worked sometimes twelve hours and more a day, and earned,
many of them, but four or five dollars a week. What tempted Sally,
however, was the knowledge that a strike at Marrin's would be the spark
to set off the city and bring out the women by the thousands. It would
be the uprising of the women; the first upward step from sheer
wage-slavery; the first advance toward the ideal of that coming woman,
who should be a man in her freedom and her strength and her power, and
yet woman of woman in her love and her motherhood and wife-hood.
Industry, so Sally knew, was taking the young girls by the million,
overworking them, sapping them of body and soul, and casting them out
unfit to bear children, untrained to keep house, undisciplined to meet
life and to be a comrade of a man. And Sally knew, moreover, what could
be done. She knew what she had accomplished with the hat-trimmers.
Nevertheless, she hesitated, not quite sure that the moment had come.
Joe's words detained her in a way no man's words had ever done before.
But she thought: "I do this for him. I sharpen the edge of his editorial
and drive it home. Words could never hurt Marrin--but I can." She got
under the shelter of the doorway and with numb hand pulled a copy of
_The Nine-Tenths_ from her pocket, unfolded it, and reread the burning
words of: "Forty-five Treacherous Men." They roused all her fighting
blood; they angered her; they incited her.
"Joe! Joe!" she murmured. "It's you driving me on--it's you! Here goes!"
It was in some ways a desperate undertaking. Once, in Newark, a rough of
an employer had almost thrown her down the stairs, man-handling her, and
while Marrin or his men would not do this, yet what method could she use
to brave the two hundred and fifty people in the loft? She was quite
alone, quite without any weapon save her tongue. To fail would be
ridiculous and ignominious. Yet Sally was quite calm; her heart did not
seem to miss a beat; her brain was not confused by a rush of blood. She
knew what she was doing.
She climbed that first flight of semi-circular stairs without hindrance,
secretly hoping that by no mischance either Marrin or one of his
sub-bosses might emerge. There was a door at the first landing. She
passed it quickly and started up the second flight. Then there was a
turning of a knob, a rustling of skirts, and a voice came sharp:
"Where are you going?"
Sally turned. The forelady stood below her--large, eagle-eyed woman,
with square and wrinkled face, quite a mustache on her upper lip. Sally
"To see one of the girls. Her mother's sick."
The forelady eyed Sally suspiciously.
"Did you get a permit from the office?"
Sally seemed surprised.
"Permit? No! Do you have to get a permit?"
The forelady spoke roughly.
"You get a permit, or you don't go up."
"Where's the office?"
"Thanks for telling me!"
Sally came down, and, as she entered the doorway, the forelady proceeded
up-stairs. Sally delayed a second, until the forelady disappeared around
the bend, and then quickly, quietly she followed, taking the steps two
at a time. The forelady had hardly entered the doorway on the next
landing when Sally was in with her, and treading softly in her
This was the loft, vast, lit by windows east and west, and hung, this
snow-darkened morning, with many glittering lights. Through all the
space girls and women, close together, bent over power-machines which
seemed to race at intolerable speed. There was such a din and clatter,
such a whizzing, thumping racket, that voices or steps would well be
lost. Then suddenly, in the very center of the place, the forelady,
stopping to speak to a girl, while all the girls of the neighborhood
ceased work to listen, thus producing a space of calm--the forelady,
slightly turning and bending, spied Sally.
She came up indignantly.
"Why did you follow me? Go down to the office!"
Many more machines stopped, many more pale faces lifted and watched.
Sally gave a quick glance around, and was a trifle upset by seeing Mr.
Marrin coming straight toward her. He came with his easy, tripping
stride, self-satisfied, red-faced, tastefully dressed, an orchid in his
buttonhole. Sally spoke quickly.
"I was only looking for Mr. Marrin, and here he is!"
As Mr. Marrin came up, more and more machines stopped, as if by
contagion, and the place grew strangely hushed.
The forelady turned to her boss.
"This woman's sneaked in here without a permit!"
Marrin spoke sharply.
"What do you want?"
Then in the quiet Sally spoke in a loud, exultant voice.
"I only wanted to tell the girls to strike!"
A sudden electricity charged the air.
"What!" cried Marrin, the vein on his forehead swelling. "You come in
"To tell the girls to strike," Sally spoke louder. "For you've made the
men traitors and you've blacklisted Izon."
Marrin sensed the danger in the shop's quiet.
"For God's sake," he cried, "lower your voice--speak to me--tell me in
"I am," shrieked Sally. "I'm telling you I want the girls to strike!"
"Come in my private office, quick! I'll talk with you!"
Sally followed his hurried steps.
"Yes, I'll tell you there," she fairly shrieked, "that I want the girls
"Can't you shut up?"
And then Sally wheeled about and spoke to the two hundred.
"Girls! come on out! We'll tie him up! We're not like the men! _We_
won't stand for such things, will we?"
Then, in the stillness, Jewish girls here and there rose from their
machines. It was like the appearance of apparitions. How did it come
that these girls were more ready than any one could have guessed, and
were but waiting the call? More and more arose, and low murmurs spread,
words, "It's about time! I won't slave any more! He had no right to put
out Izon! The men are afraid! Mr. Blaine is right!"
Marrin tried to shout:
"I order you to get to work!"
But a tumult drowned his voice, a busy clamor, an exultant jabber of
tongues, a rising, a shuffling, a moving about.
Sally marched down the aisle.
"Follow me, girls! We're going to have a union!"
It might have been the Pied Piper of Hamelin whistling up the
rats--there was a hurrying, a scurrying, a weird laughter, a blowing
about of words, and the two hundred, first swallowing up Sally, crowded
the doorway, moved slowly, pushed, shoved, wedged through, and
disappeared, thundering, shouting and laughing, down the steps. The two
hundred, always so subdued, so easily bossed, so obedient and
submissive, had risen and gone.
Marrin looked apoplectic. He rushed over to where the forty-four men
were sitting like frightened animals. He spoke to the one nearest him.
"Who was that girl? I've seen her somewhere!"
"She?" the man stammered. "That's Joe Blaine's girl."
"_Joe Blaine_!" cried Marrin.
"Look," said the man, handing Marrin a copy of _The Nine-Tenths_, "the
girls read this this morning. That's why they struck."
Marrin seized the paper. He saw the title:
FORTY-FIVE TREACHEROUS MEN
and he read beneath it:
Theodore Marrin, and the forty-four who went back to
work for him:
Every one of you is a traitor to American citizenship.
Let us use blunt words and call a spade a spade.
Theodore Marrin, you have betrayed your employees.
And then farther down:
No decent human being would work for such a man.
He has no right to be an employer--not in such hands
should be placed the sacred welfare of men and women.
If I were one of Marrin's employees I would prefer the
streets to his shop.
Marrin looked up at the forty-four. And he saw that they were more than
frightened--they were in an ugly humor, almost ferocious. The article
had goaded them into a senseless fury.
Marrin spoke more easily.
"So that's your friend of labor, that's your Joe Blaine. Well, here is
what your Joe Blaine has done for you. You're no good to me without the
girls. You're all discharged!"
He left them and made madly for the door. The men were chaotic with
rage; they arose; their voices went sharp and wild.
"What does that Joe Blaine mean? He takes the bread out of our mouths!
He makes fools of us! He ought to be shot! I spit on him! Curse him!"
One man arose on a chair.
"You fools--you listened to that man, and went on strike--and now you
come back, and he makes you lose your jobs. Are you going to be fools
now? Are you going to let him get the best of you? He is laughing at
you, the pig. The girls are laughing at you. Come on! We will go down
and show him--we will assemble before his place and speak to him!"
The men were insane with rage and demon-hate. Vehemently shouting, they
made for the stairs, rushed pell-mell down, and sought the street, and
turned south through the snow. There were few about to notice them, none
to stop them. Policemen were in doorways and odd shelters. And so,
unimpeded, the crazed mob made its way.
In the mean time Marrin had come out in his heavy fur coat and stepped
into his closed automobile. It went through the storm, easily gliding,
turned up West Tenth Street, and stopped before Joe's windows. Marrin
hurried in and boldly opened the office door. Billy jumped up to
"Mr. Blaine--" he began.
"Get out of my way!" snapped Marrin, and stepped up to Joe.
Joe was brooding at his desk, brooding and writing, his dark face
troubled, his big form quite stoop-shouldered.
"Well," said Joe, "what's the matter, Mr. Marrin?"
Marrin tried to contain his rage. He pointed his cane at Joe.
"You've made a mistake, Mr. Blaine."
"It isn't the first one."
"Let me tell you something--"
"I will let you."
Marrin spoke with repression.
"Next time--don't attack both the boss and the men. It's bad policy.
"Oh, I did take sides," said Joe, lightly. "I'm against anything
"Well, you'll get yours! And let me tell you something! I've a good mind
to sue you for libel and shut up your shop."
Joe rose, and there was a dangerous light in his eyes. His hands were
open at his sides, but they twitched a little.
"Then," said Joe, "I'll make it worth your while. If you don't want to
be helped out, _get out_!"
"Very well," sputtered Marrin, and turned, twirling his cane, and made
an upright exit.
The sad Slate was paralyzed; Billy was joyous.
But Joe strode into the kitchen, where his mother was quietly reading at
"What is it, Joe?"
"Mother," he said, "that fellow Marrin was in threatening to sue me for
"Could it hurt you?"
"It might. Speaking the truth is always libelous."
Joe's mother spoke softly.
"Your father lost an arm in the war. You can't expect to fight without
facing danger. And besides," she laughed easily, "you can always get a
job as a printer, Joe."
Joe paced up and down moodily, his hands clasped behind his back.
"If it was only myself--" he murmured, greatly troubled. "I wonder where
Sally is this morning."
"Didn't she come, Joe?"
"No. Not a word from her. I'd hate her to be sick."
"Hadn't you better send over and see?"
"I'll wait a bit yet. And yet--" he sighed, "I just need Sally now."
His mother glanced at him keenly.
"Sally's a wonder," she murmured.
"She is--" He spoke a little irritably. "Why couldn't she have come this
There were quick steps, and Billy rushed in, his eyes large, his cheeks
"Mr. Joe!" he said breathlessly.
"There's a lot of men out on the street, and they're beginning to fire
Nathan Slate came in, a scarecrow of fear, teeth chattering.
"Oh, Mr. Joe," he wailed. "Oh, Mr. Joe!"
Joe's mother rose, and spoke under her breath.
"Mr. Slate, sit down at once!"
Slate collapsed on a chair, trembling.
Joe felt as if a fork of lightning had transfixed him--a sharp white
fire darting from head and feet and arms to his heart, and whirling
there in a spinning ball. He spoke quietly:
"I'll go and see."
It seemed long before he got to the front window. Looking out through
the snow-dim pane, he saw the street filled with gesticulating men. He
saw some of the faces of the forty-four, but mingled with these were
other faces--the faces of toughs and thugs, ominous, brutal, menacing.
In a flash he realized that he had been making enemies in the district
as well as friends, and it struck him that these were the criminal
element in the political gang, hangers-on, floaters, the saloon
contingent, who were maddened by his attempt to lead the people away
from the rotten bosses. As if by magic they had emerged from the
underworld, as they always do in times of trouble, and he knew that the
excited East Side group was now flavored with mob-anarchy--that he had
to deal, not with men whose worst weapon was words, but with brutes who
lusted for broken heads. Some of the faces he knew--he had seen them
hanging about saloons. And he saw, too, in that swift scrutiny, that
many of the men had weapons; some had seized crowbars and sledges from a
near-by street tool-chest which was being used by laborers; others had
sticks; some had stones. An ominous sound came from the mob, something
winged with doom and death, like the rattling of a venomous snake, with
head raised to strike, ready fangs and glittering eyes. He could catch
in that paralyzing hum words tossed here and there: "Smash his presses!
Clean him out! Lynch him, lynch him! Kill--kill--kill!--"
A human beast had coiled at his door, myriad-headed, insane,
bloodthirsty, all-powerful--the mob, that terror of civilization, that
sudden reversion in mass to a state of savagery. It boded ill for Joe
Blaine. He had a bitter, cynical thought:
"So this is what comes of spreading the truth--of really trying to
help--of living out an ideal!"
A snowball hit the window before him, a soft crash and spread of drip,
and there rose from the mob a fiendish yell that seemed itself a power,
making the heart pound, dizzying the brain.
Joe turned. His mother was standing close to him, white as paper, but
her eyes flashing. She had not dared speak to Joe, knowing that this
fight was his and that he had passed out of her hands.
He spoke in a low, pulsing voice.