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- Youth Challenges - 8/62 -
dead level of equality--or, perhaps, with labor a bit in the saddle. Probably a remote ancestor of hers had been a member of an ancient guild; perhaps one had risen with Wat Tyler. Not a man of the family, for time beyond which the memory of man runneth not, but had been a whole-souled, single-purposed labor man--trade-union man--extremist-- revolutionist. Her father had been killed in a labor riot--and beatified by her. As the men of her family had been, so were the women--so was she.
Rights of man, tyranny of capital, class consciousness had been taught her with her nursery rhymes. She was a zealot. A charming zealot with a soul that laughed and wanted all mankind to be happy with it--a soul that translated itself by her famous grin.
When she thought of capital, of moneyed aristocracy in the mass and in the abstract, she hated it. It was a thing to be uprooted, plotted against, reviled. When she met a member of it in the body, and face to face, as she was meeting Bonbright Foote, she could not hate. He was a man, an individual. She could not withhold from him the heart- warming flash of her smile, could not wish him harm. Somehow, in the concrete, he became a part of mankind, and so entitled to happiness.
She was sincere. In her heart she prayed for the revolution. Her keen brain could plan for the overthrow of the enemy and her soul could sacrifice her body to help to bring it to pass. She believed. She had faith. Her actions would be true to her faith even at a martyr cost. But to an individual whom she saw face to face, let him be the very head and front of the enemy, and she could not wish him personal harm. To a psychologist this might have presented a complex problem. To Ruth it presented no problem at all. It was a simple condition and she lived it.
She was capable of hero worship, which, after all, is the keystone of aristocracies. But her heroes were not warriors, adventurers, conquerors of the world, conquerors of the world's wealth. They were revolutionists. They were men who gave their lives and their abilities to laboring for labor. ... Already she was inclining to light the fires of her hero worship at the feet of the man Dulac.
Ruth Frazer's grin has been spoken of. It has been described as a grin. That term may offend some sensitive eye as an epithet applicable only to something common, vulgar. To smile is proper, may even be aristocratic; only small boys and persons of slack breeding are guilty of the grin. ... Ruth Frazer's grin was neither common nor vulgar. It was warming, encouraging, bright with the flashing of a quick mind, and withal sweet, womanly, delicious. Yet that it was a grin cannot be denied. Enemies to the grin must make the most of it.
The grin was to be seen, for Dulac had just entered Ruth's mother's parlor, and it glowed for him. The man seemed out of place in that cottage parlor. He seemed out of place in any homelike room, in any room not filled by an eager, sweating, radical crowd of men assembled to hang upon his words. That was the place for him, the place nature had created him to become. To see him standing alone any place, on the street, in a hotel, affected one with the feeling that he was exotic there, misplaced. He must be surrounded by his audience to be RIGHT.
Something of this crossed Ruth's mind. No woman, seeing a possible man, is without her sentimental speculation. She could not conceive of Dulac in a HOME.
"It's been a day!" he said.
"Every skilled mechanic has struck," he said, with pride, as in a personal achievement. "And most of the rest. To-night four thousand out of their five thousand men were with us."
"It came so suddenly. Nobody thought of a strike this morning."
"We were better organized than they thought," he said, running his hand through his thick, black hair, and throwing back his head. "Better than I thought myself. ... I've always said fool employers were the best friends we organizers have. The placard that young booby slapped the men in the face with--that did it. ...That and his spying on us last night."
"I'm sure he wasn't spying last night."
"Bosh! He was mighty quick to try to get our necks under his heel this morning."
"I don't know what happened this morning," she said, slowly. "I'm his secretary, you know. Something happened about that placard. I don't believe he wanted it to go up."
"You're defending him? Of course. You're a girl and you're close to the throne with a soft job. He's a good-looking kid in his namby- pamby Harvard way, too."
"Mr. Dulac!...My job--I was going to ask you what I should do. I want to help the men. I want them to feel that I'm with them, working for them and praying for them. Ought I to quit, too--to join the strike?"
Dulac looked at her sharply, calculatingly. "No," he said, presently, "you can do a lot more good where you are."
"Will there be trouble? I dread to think of rioting and maybe bloodshed. It will be bad enough, anyhow--if it lasts long. The poor women and children!"
"There'll be trouble if they try to turn a wheel or bring in scab labor." He laughed, so that his white teeth showed. "The first thing they did was to telephone for the police. I suppose this kid with a whole day's experience in the business will be calling in strike breakers and strong-arms and gunmen. ...Well, let him bring it down on himself if he wants to. We're in this thing to win. It means unionism breaking into this automobile game. This is just the entering wedge."
"Won't the automobile manufacturers see that, too?" she asked. "Won't the men have all their power and wealth to fight?"
Dulac shrugged his shoulders. "I guess the automobile world knows who Dulac is to-night," he said, with gleaming eyes.
Somehow the boast became the man. It was perfectly in character with his appearance, with his bearing. It did not impress Ruth as a brag; it seemed a natural and ordinary thing for him to say.
"You've been here just two weeks," she said, a trifle breathlessly; for he loomed big to her girlish eyes. "You've done all this in two weeks."
He received the compliment indifferently. Perhaps that was a pose; perhaps the ego of the man made him impervious even to compliments. There are men so confident in their powers that a compliment always falls short of their own estimate of themselves.
"It's a start--but all our work is only a start. It's preliminary," His voice became oratorical. "First we must unionize the world. Now there are strong unions and weak unions--both arrayed against a capital better organized and stronger than ever before in the world's history. Unionism is primary instruction in revolution. We must teach labor its power, and it is slow to learn. We must prepare, prepare, prepare, and when all is ready we shall rise. Not one union, not the unions of a state, of a country, but the unions of the world...hundreds of millions of men who have been ground down by aristocracies and wealth for generations. Then we shall have such an overturning as shall make the French Revolution look like child's play. ...A World's Republic--that's our aim; a World's Republic ruled by labor!"
Her eyes glistened as he talked; she could visualize his vision, could see a united world, cleansed of wars, of boundary lines; a world where every man's chance of happiness was the equal of every other man's chance; where wealth and poverty were abolished, from which slums, degradation, starvation, the sordid wickednesses compelled by poverty, should have vanished. She could see a world of peace, plenty, beauty.
It was for this high aim that Dulac worked. His stature increased. She marveled that such a man could waste his thoughts upon her. She idealized him; her soul prostrated itself before him.
So much of accomplishment lay behind him--and he not yet thirty years old! The confidence reposed in him by labor was eloquently testified to by the sending of him to this important post on the battle line. Already he had justified that confidence. With years and experience what heights might he not climb!...This was Ruth's thought. Beside Dulac's belief in himself and his future it was colorless.
Dulac had been an inmate of the Frazer cottage two weeks. In that time he had not once stepped out of his character. If his attitude toward the world were a pose it had become so habitual as to require no objective prompting or effort to maintain. This character was that of the leader of men, the zealot for the cause of the under dog. It held him aloof from personal concerns. Individual affairs did not touch him, but functioned unnoticed on a plane below his clouds. Not for an instant had he sought the friendship of Ruth and her mother, not to establish relations of friendship with them. He was devoted to a cause, and the cause left no room in his life for smaller matters. He was a man apart.
Now he was awkwardly tugging something from his pocket. Almost diffidently he offered it to Ruth. It was a small box of candy.
"Here..." he said, clumsily.
"For me!" Ruth was overpowered. This demigod had brought HER a gift. He had thought about her--insignificant her! True, she had talked with him, had even taken walks with him, but those things had not been significant. It had seemed he merely condescended to the daughter of a martyr to his cause. He had been paying a tribute to her father. But a gift--a personal gift such as any young man might make to a girl whose favor he sought! Could it mean...?
Then she saw that he was embarrassed, actually embarrassed before her, and she was ashamed of herself for it. But she saw, too, that in him was a human man, a man with fears and sensations and desires and weaknesses like other men. After all, a demigod is only half of Olympus.
"Thank you," she said. "Thank you SO much."
He was recovering himself. In an instant he was back again in
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