To Him That Hath by Ralph Connor
Chapter XII. Light That is Darkness
At the next monthly meeting of Local 197 of the Woodworkers' Union, the executive had little difficulty in finally shelving the report of its committee appointed to deal with the resignation of Captain Maitland, and as little difficulty in passing by unanimous vote their resolution held up at the last meeting. The allied unions had meantime been extended to include the building trades. Their organization had been perfected and their discipline immensely strengthened. Many causes contributed to this result. A month's time had elapsed and the high emotional tides due to athletic enthusiasm, especially the hockey victory, had had space to subside. The dead season for all outdoor games was upon them and the men, losing touch with each other and with their captain, who was engrossed in studying his new duties, began to spend their leisure hours in loafing about the streets or lounging in the pool rooms.
All over the country the groundswell of unrest was steadily and rapidly rising. The returned soldiers who had failed to readjust themselves to the changed conditions of life and to the changes wrought in themselves by the war, embittered, disillusioned and disappointed, fell an easy prey to unscrupulous leaders and were being exploited in the interests of all sorts of fads and foolish movements. Their government bonuses were long since spent and many of them, through no fault of their own, found themselves facing a situation full of difficulty, hardship, and often of humiliation.
Under the influence of financial inflation and deceived by the abundant flow of currency in every department of business, industries by the score started up all over the land. Few could foresee the approach of dark and stern days. It was in vain that financial leaders began to sound a note of warning, calling for retrenchment and thrift. And now the inevitable results were beginning to appear. The great steel and coal industries began to curtail their operations, while desperately striving to maintain war prices for their products. Other industries followed their example. All the time the cost of living continued to mount. Foodstuffs reached unheard-of prices, which, under the manipulations of unscrupulous dealers, continued to climb.
Small wonder that working men with high wages and plenty of money in their hands cherished exaggerated ideas of their wealth and developed extravagant tastes in dress, amusements and in standard of living. With the rest of the world, they failed to recognise the fact that money was a mere counter in wealth and not wealth itself. To a large extent, thrift was abandoned and while deposits in the savings banks grew in volume, the depositors failed to recognise the fact that the value of the dollar had decreased fifty per cent. Already the reaction from all this had begun to set in. Nervousness paralysed the great financial institutions. The fiat went forth "No more money for industrial enterprises. No more advances on wholesale stocks." The order was issued "Retrench. Take your losses, unload your stocks." This men were slow to do, and while all agreed upon the soundness of the policy, each waited for the other to begin.
Through the month of April anxiety, fear and discontent began to haunt the minds of business men. In the labour world the High Command was quick to sense the approach of a crisis and began to make preparations for the coming storm. The whole industrial and commercial world gradually crystallised into its two opposing classes. A subsidised press began earnestly to demand lower cost in productions retrenchment in expenditure, a cut in labour costs, a general and united effort to meet the inevitable burden of deflation.
On the other hand, an inspired press began to raise an outcry against the increasing cost of living, to point out the effect of the house famine upon the income of the working man, and to sound a warning as to the danger and folly of any sudden reduction in the wage scale.
Increased activity in the ranks of organised labour began to be apparent. Everywhere the wild and radical element was gaining in influence and in numbers, and the spirit of faction and internecine strife became rampant.
It was due to the dominating forcefulness of McNish, the leader of the moderates, that the two factions in the allied unions had been consolidated, and a single policy agreed upon. His whole past had been a preparation for just a crisis as the present. His wide reading, his shrewd practical judgment, his large experience in labour movements in the Old Land, gave him a position of commanding influence which enabled him to dominate the executives and direct their activities. His sudden and unexplained acceptance of the more radical program won for him an enthusiastic following of the element which had hitherto recognised the leadership of Brother Simmons. Day and night, with a zeal that never tired, he laboured at the work of organising and disciplining the various factions and parties in the ranks of labour into a single compact body of fighting men under a single command. McNish was in the grip of one of the mightiest of human passions. Since that day in the Perrotte home, when he had seen the girl that he loved practically offer herself, as he thought, to another man, he had resolutely kept himself away from her. He had done with her forever and he had torn out of his heart the genuine friendship which he had begun to hold toward the man who had deprived him of her love. But deep in his heart he nourished a passion for vengeance that became an obsession, a madness with him. He merely waited the opportunity to gratify his passion.
He learned that the Maitland Mills were in deep water, financially. His keen economic instinct and his deep study of economic movements told him that a serious financial crisis, continent-wide, was inevitable and imminent. It only needed a successful labour war to give the final touch that would bring the whole industrial fabric tumbling into ruin. The desire for immediate revenge upon the man toward whom he had come to cherish an implacable hatred would not suffer him to await the onset of a nation-wide industrial crisis. He fancied that he saw the opportunity for striking an immediate blow here in Blackwater.
He steadily thwarted Maitland's attempts to get into touch with him, whether at the works or in his own home, where Maitland had become a frequent visitor. He was able only partially to allay his mother's anxiety and her suspicion that all was not well with him. That shrewd old lady knew her son well enough to suspect that some untoward circumstance had befallen him, but she knew also that she could do no more than bide her time.
With the workers of the Maitland Mills circumstances favoured the plans of McNish and the Executive of the allied unions. The new manager was beginning to make his hand felt upon the wheel. Checks upon wastage in labour time and in machine time were being instituted; everywhere there was a tightening up of loose screws and a knitting up of loose ends, with the inevitable consequent irritation. This was especially true in the case of Tony Perrotte, to whom discipline was ever an external force and never an inward compulsion. Inexact in everything he did, irregular in his habits, irresponsible in his undertakings, he met at every turn the pressure of the firm, resolute hand of the new manager. Deep down in his heart there was an abiding admiration and affection for Jack Maitland, but he loathed discipline and kicked against it.
The first of May is ever a day of uncertainty and unrest in the world of labour. It is a time for readjustment, for the fixing of wage scales, for the assertion of labour rights and the ventilating of labour wrongs. It is a time favourable to upheaval, and is therefore awaited by all employers of labour with considerable anxiety.
On the surface there was not a ripple to indicate that as far as the Maitland Mills were concerned there was beneath a surging tide of unrest. So undisturbed indeed was the surface that the inexperienced young manager was inclined to make light of the anxieties of his father, and was confident in his assurance that the danger of a labour crisis had, for the present at least, been averted.
Out of the blue heaven fell the bolt. The mails on May Day morning brought to the desk of every manager of every industry in Blackwater, and to every building contractor, a formal document setting forth in terms courteous but firm the demands of the executives of the allied unions of Blackwater.
"Well, it has come, boy," was Maitland's greeting to his son, who came into the office for the usual morning consultation.
"What?" said Jack.
"War," replied his father, tossing him the letter and watching his face as he read it.
Jack handed him the letter without a word.
"Well, what do you think of it?" said his father.
"It might be worse."
"Worse?" roared his father. "Worse? How can it be worse?"
"Well, it is really a demand for an increase in wages. The others, I believe, are mere frills. And between ourselves, sir, though I haven't gone into it very carefully, I am not sure but that an increase in wages is about due."
Maitland glowered at his son in a hurt and hopeless rage.
"An increase in wages due?" he said. "After the increase of six months ago? The thing is preposterous. The ungrateful scoundrels!"
At this point the telephone upon his desk rang. Jack took up the receiver.
"Good morning, Mr. McGinnis. . . . Yes, he is here. Yes. . . . At least, I suppose so. . . . Oh, I don't know. . . . It is rather peremptory. . . . All right, sir, I shall tell him."
"Let me talk to him," said his father, impatiently.
"Never mind just now, Dad," said Jack, with his hand over the receiver. Then through the telephone he said: "All right, sir; he will await you here. Good morning."
". . . The old boy is wild," said Jack with a slight laugh. "The wires are quite hot."
"This is no joke, Jack, I can tell you. McGinnis is coming over, is he?"
"Yes," replied Jack, "but we won't get much help from him."
"Why not?" inquired his father. "He is a very shrewd and able business man."
"He may be all that, sir, but in a case like this, if you really want my opinion, and I have no wish to be disrespectful, he is a hot-headed ass. Just the kind of employer to rejoice the heart of a clever labour leader who is out for trouble. Dad," and Jack's voice became very earnest, "let's work this out by ourselves. We can handle our own men better without the help of McGinnis or any other."
"That is just the trouble. Look at this precious document, 'The Allied Unions.' What have I got to do with them? And signed by Simmons and McDonough. Who is McDonough, pray?"
"McDonough? Oh, I know McDonough. He is a little like McGinnis-- big-hearted, hot-headed, good in a scrap, useless in a conference. But I suggest, sir, that we ignore the slight unpleasant technicalities in the manner and method of negotiation and try to deal with our own people in a reasonable way."
"I am ready always to meet my own people, but I refuse utterly to deal with this committee!" It was not often that Mr. Maitland became profane, but in his description of this particular group of individuals his ordinary English suffered a complete collapse.
"Dad, McGinnis will be here in a few minutes. I should like to suggest one or two things, if you will allow me."
"Go on," said his father quickly.
"Dad, this is war, and I have learned a little about that game 'over there.' And I have learned something about it in my athletic activities. The first essential is to decline to play the enemy's game. Let's discover his plan of campaign. As I read this document, the thing that hits my eye is this: do they really want the things they ask for, or is the whole thing a blind? What I mean is, do they really want war or peace? I say let's feel them out. If they are after peace, the thing is easy. If they want war, this may come to be a very serious thing. Meantime, Dad, let's not commit ourselves to McGinnis. Let's play it alone."
Mr. Maitland's lips had set in a thin, hard line. His face was like a mask of grey steel. He sat thinking silently.
"Here he comes," said Jack, looking out of the window. "Dad, you asked me to come into this with you. Let's play the game together. I found it wise to place the weight on the defence line. Will you play defence in this?"
The lines in his father's face began to relax.
"All right, boy, we'll play it together, and meantime I shall play defence."
"By Jove, Dad," cried Jack, in a tone of exultant confidence, "we'll beat 'em. And now here comes that old Irish fire-eater. I'll go. No alliance, Dad, remember." His father nodded as Jack left the room, to return almost immediately with Mr. McGinnis, evidently quite incoherent with rage.
In the outer office Jack paused beside the desk of the old bookkeeper. From behind the closed door came the sound of high explosives.
"Rough stuff in there, eh, Wickes," said Jack, with a humorous smile. For some moments he stood listening. "War is a terrible thing," he added with a grin.
"What seems to be the matter, Mr. Jack?"
Jack laid before him the document sent out by the Allied Unions.
"Oh, this is terrible, Mr. Jack! And just at this time. I am very much afraid it will ruin us."
"Ruin us? Rot. Don't ever say that word again. We will possibly have a jolly good row. Someone will be hurt and perhaps all of us, more or less, but I don't mean to be beaten, if I know myself," he added, with the smile on his face that his hockey team loved to see before a match. "Now, Wickes," continued Jack, "get that idea of failure out of your mind. We are going to win. And meantime, let us prepare for our campaign. Here's a bit of work I want you to do for me. Get four things for me: the wages for the last three years--you have the sheets?"
"--The cost of living from the Labour Gazette for the last three years--you have them here--and the rates of increase in wages. Plot a diagram showing all these things. You know what I mean?"
"Yes, sir, I understand."
"And find out the wages paid at our competing points."
"All right, Mr. Jack. I know what you want. I can give you the necessary information in regard to the first three points almost at once. It will take some days, however, to get the wages of our competing points."
"All right, old boy. Carry on!" said Jack, and with the same smile on his face he passed out of the office into the shops.
It amused him slightly to observe the change in the attitude and bearing of his men. They would not look at him fairly in the face. Even Snoopy Sykes and Macnamara avoided his glance. But he had for everyone his usual cheery word. Why should he not? These chaps had no hatred for him, nor he for them. He had come to understand union methods of discipline and recognised fully the demands for loyalty and obedience imposed upon its members by the organisation. These men of his were bound to the union by solemn obligations. He bore them no ill-will on that score. Rather he respected them the more for it. If a fight was inevitable, he would do his best to beat them but he would allow no spirit of hatred to change his mind toward them nor cloud his judgment.
The day was full of excursions and alarms. A hurry call was sent out by McGinnis to all employers who had received copies of the document from the Allied Unions. In the afternoon a meeting was held in the Board of Trade Building, but it was given over chiefly to vituperation and threatening directed toward their variously described employees. With one heart and voice all affirmed with solemn, and in many cases with profane oaths that they would not yield a jot to the insolent demands of this newly organised body.
"I have already sent my answer," shouted Mr. McGinnis.
"What did you say, Mac?"
"Told 'em to go to hell, and told 'em that if any of these highly coloured committee men came on my premises, I would kick 'em into the middle of next week."
Jack, who was present at the meeting, sat listening with silent and amused pity. They seemed to him so like a group of angry children whose game had suddenly been interfered with and whose rage rendered them incapable of coherent thought.
Grant Maitland, who, throughout the meeting had sat silent, finally rose and said: "Gentlemen, the mere expression of feeling may afford a sort of satisfaction but the question is, What is to be done? That the situation is grave for all of us we know too well. Not many of us are in a position to be indifferent to a strike. Let us get down to business. What shall we do?"
"Fight them to a finish! Smash the unions!" were the suggestions in various forms and with various descriptive adjectives.
"It may come to a fight, gentlemen, but however gratifying a fight may be to our feelings, a fight may be disastrous to our business. A strike may last for weeks, perhaps months. Are we in a position to stand that? And as for smashing the unions, let us once and for all put such a thought out of our minds. These unions have all international affiliations. It is absurd to imagine that we here in Blackwater could smash a single union."
Fiercely McGinnis made reply. "I want to tell you right here and now that I am prepared to close down and go out of business but I will have no outside committee tell me how to run my job."
But no one took this threat seriously, and no one but knew that a shut-down for any of them might mean disaster. They all recalled those unfilled orders which they were straining every nerve to complete before the market should break, or cancellation should come. It added not a little to their rage that they knew themselves to be held in the grip of circumstances over which they had little control.
After much angry deliberation it was finally agreed that they should appoint a committee to consider the whole situation and to prepare a plan of action. Meantime the committee were instructed to temporise with the enemy.
The evening papers announced the imminence of a strike the extent and magnitude of which had never been experienced in the history of Blackwater. Everywhere the citizens of the industrial town were discussing the disturbing news anxiously, angrily, indifferently, according as they were variously affected. But there was a general agreement among all classes of citizens that a strike in the present industrial and financial situation which was already serious enough, would be nothing short of a calamity, because no matter what the issue would be, no matter which of the parties won in the conflict, a fight meant serious loss not only to the two parties immediately concerned, but to the whole community as well. With the rank and file of the working people there was little heart for a fight. More especially, men upon whom lay the responsibility for the support of homes shrank from the pain and the suffering, as well as from the loss which experience taught them a strike must entail. It is safe to say that in every working man's home in Blackwater that night there was to be found a woman who, as she put her children to bed, prayed that trouble might be averted, for she knew that in every war it is upon the women and children that in the last analysis the sorest burden must fall. To them even victory would mean for many months a loss of luxuries for the family, it might be of comforts; and defeat, which would come not until after long conflict, would mean not only straitened means but actual poverty, with all the attendant humiliation and bitterness which would kill for them the joy of life and sensibly add to its already heavy burden.
That night Jack Maitland felt that a chat with the Reverend Murdo Matheson might help to clear his own mind as to the demands of the Allied Unions. He found the minister in his study and in great distress of soul.
"I am glad to see you, Maitland," he said, giving him a hearty greeting. "My hope is largely placed in you and you must not fail me in this crisis. What exactly are the demands of the unions?"
Maitland spread before him the letter which his father had received that morning. The Reverend Murdo read it carefully over, then, with a sigh of relief, he said: "Well, it might be worse. There should not be much difficulty in coming to an agreement between people anxious for peace."
After an hour spent in canvassing the subject from various points of view, the Reverend Murdo exclaimed: "Let us go and see McNish."
"The very thing," said Maitland. "I have been trying to get in touch with him for the last month or so, but he avoids me."
"Ay," replied the Reverend Murdo, "he has a reason, no doubt."
To Maitland's joy they found McNish at home. They were received with none-too-cordial a welcome by the son, with kindly, even eager greeting by the mother.
"Come awa in, Minister; come awa, Mr. Maitland. You have come to talk about the 'trouble,' a doot. Malcolm does-na want to talk about it to me, a bad sign. He declines to converse even, wi' me, Mr. Matheson. Perhaps ye may succeed better wi' him."
"Mr. Matheson can see for himself," said her son, using his most correct English, "the impropriety of my talking with an employer in this way."
"Nonsense, McNish," said the minister briskly. "You know me quite well and we both know Maitland. It is just sheer nonsense to say that you cannot talk with us. Everyone in town is talking. Every man in your union is talking, trying to justify their present position, which, I am bound to say, takes some justifying."
"Why?" asked McNish hotly.
"Because the demands are some of them quite unsound. Some other than you had a hand in drawing up your Petition of Right, McNish, and some of the demands are impossible."
"How do you--" began McNish indignantly, but the minister held up his hand and continued:
"And some of them are both sound and reasonable."
"What's wrang with the demands?" said McNish.
"That's what I am about to show you," said the minister with grave confidence.
"Aye, minister," said the mother with a chuckle of delight. "That's you! That's you! Haud at him! Haud at him! That's you!"
They took seats about the blazing fire for the evening was still shrewd enough to make the fire welcome.
"Noo, Mr. Matheson," said the old lady, leaning toward him with keen relish in her face, "read me the union demands. Malcolm wadna read nor talk nor anything but glower."
The Reverend Murdo read the six clauses.
"Um! They're no bad negotiating pints."
"Negotiatin' pints!" exclaimed her son indignantly. "Noo, mither, ye maun play the game. A'm no gaun tae argue with ye to-night. Nor wi' any of ye," he added.
"Nonsense, Malcolm. You can't object to talk over these points with us. You must talk them over before you're done with them. And you'll talk them over before the whole town, too."
"What do you mean, 'before the whole town'?" said Malcolm.
"This is a community question. This community is interested and greatly interested. It will demand a full exposition of the attitude of the unions."
"The community!" snorted McNish in contempt.
"Aye, the community," replied the minister, "and you are not to snort at it. That's the trouble with you labour folk. You think you are the whole thing. You forget the third and most important party in any industrial strife, the community. The community is interested first, in justice being done to its citizens--to all its citizens, mind you; second, in the preservation of the services necessary to its comfort and well-being; third, in the continuance of the means of livelihood to wage earners."
"Ye missed one," said McNish grimly. "The conserving of the profits of labour for the benefit of the capitalist."
"I might have put that in, too," said the minister, "but it is included in my first. But I should have added another which, to my mind, is of the very first importance, the preservation of the spirit of brotherly feeling and Christian decency as between man and man in this community."
"Aye, ye might," replied Malcolm in bitter irony, "and ye might begin with the ministers and the churches."
"Whisht, laddie," said his mother sharply, "Mind yer manners."
"He doesn't mean me specially, Mrs. McNish, but I will not say but what he is right."
"No," replied McNish, "I don't mean you exactly, Mr. Matheson."
"Don't take it back, McNish," said the minister. "I need it. We all need it in the churches, and we will take it, too. But come now, let us look at these clauses. You are surely not standing for them all, or for them all alike?"
"Why not, then?" said McNish, angrily.
"I'll tell you," replied the minister, "and won't take long, either." He proceeded to read over carefully the various clauses in the demands of the allied unions, emphasizing and explaining the meaning of each clause. "First, as to wages. This is purely a matter for adjustment to the cost of living and general industrial conditions. It is a matter of arithmetic and common sense. There is no principle involved."
"I don't agree with you," said McNish. "There is more than the cost of living to be considered. There is the question of the standard of living. Why should it be considered right that the standard of living for the working man should be lower than that for the professional man or the capitalist?"
"There you are again, McNish," said the minister. "You are not up to your usual to-night. You know quite well that every working man in my parish lives better than I do, and spends more money on his living. The standard of living has no special significance with the working man to-day as distinguished from the professional man. We are not speaking of the wasteful and idle rich. So I repeat that here it is a matter of adjustment and that there is no principle involved. Now, as regard to hours. You ask an eight- hour day and a Saturday half-holiday. That, too, is a matter of adjustment."
"What about production, Mr. Matheson?" said Maitland. "And overhead? Production costs are abnormally high to-day and so are carrying charges. I am not saying that a ten-hour day is not too long. Personally, I believe that a man cannot keep at his best for ten hours in certain industries--not in all."
"Long hours do not mean big production, Maitland. Not long hours but intensive and co-ordinated work bring up production and lower production costs."
"What about idle machines and overhead?" inquired Maitland.
"A very important consideration," said the minister. "The only sound rule governing factory industry especially is this: the longest possible machine time, the shortest possible man time. But here again it is a question of organisation, adjustment and co- ordination of work and workers. We all want education here."
"If I remember right," said McNish, and he could not keep the bitterness out of his voice, "I have heard you say something in the pulpit at times in regard to the value of men's immortal souls. What care can men take of their bodies and minds, let alone their souls, if you work them ten hours a day?"
"There is a previous question, McNish," said the minister. "Why give more leisure time to men who spend their leisure hours now in pool rooms and that sort of nonsense?"
"And whose fault is that," replied McNish sharply. "Who is responsible that they have not learned to use their leisure more wisely? And further, what about your young bloods and their leisure hours?"
"Ay, A doot he has ye there, minister," said Mrs. McNish with a quiet chuckle.
"He has," said the minister. "The point is well taken and I acknowledge it freely. My position is that the men need more leisure, but, more than that, they need instruction as to how to use their leisure time wisely. But let us get on to the third point. 'A Joint Committee of References demanded to which all complaints shall be referred.' Now, that's fine. That's the Whitley plan. It is quite sound and has proved thoroughly useful in practice."
"I quite agree," said Maitland frankly. "But certain conditions must be observed."
"Of course, of course," replied the minister. "Conditions must be observed everywhere. Now, the fourth point: 'The foreman must be a member of the union.' Thoroughly unsound. They can't ride two horses at once.
"I am not so sure of that," said Maitland. "For my part, I should like to have retained my membership in the union. The more that both parties meet for conference, the better. And the more connecting links between them, the better. I should like to see a union where employers and employees should have equal rights of membership."
McNish grunted contemptuously.
"It would be an interesting experiment," said the minister. "An interesting experiment, McNish, and you are not to grunt like that. The human element, of course, is the crux here. If we had the right sort of foreman he might be trusted to be a member of the union, but a man cannot direct and be directed at the same time. But that union of yours, Maitland, with both parties represented in it, is a big idea. It is worth considering. What do you think about it, McNish?"
"What do I think of it? It is sheer idealistic nonsense."
"It is a noble idea, laddie, and no to be sneered at, but A doot it needs a better world for it than we hae at the present."
"I am afraid that is true," said the minister. "But meantime a foreman is a man who gives orders and directs work, and, generally speaking, he must remain with a directorate in any business. There may be exceptions. You must acknowledge that, McNish."
"I'll acknowledge nothing of the sort," replied McNish, and entered into a long argument which convinced no one.
"Now we come to the next, number five: 'a voice in the management,' it means. Come now, McNish, this is rather much. Do you want Mr. Maitland's job here, or is there anyone in your shop who would be anything but an embarrassment trying running the Maitland Mills, and you know quite well that the men want nothing of the sort. It may be as Mrs. McNish said, 'a good negotiating point,' but it has no place in practical politics here in Blackwater. How would you like, for instance, to take orders from Simmons?"
The old lady chuckled delightedly. "He has you there, laddie, he has you there!"
But this McNish would not acknowledge, and proceeded to argue at great length on purely theoretical grounds for joint control of industries, till his mother quite lost patience with him.
"Hoots, laddie, haud yer hoofs on mither earth. Would ye want yon radical bodies to take chairge o' ony business in which ye had a baubee? Ye're talkin' havers."
"Now, let us look at the last," said Mr. Matheson. "It is practically a demand for the closed shop. Now, McNish, I ask you, man to man, what is the use of putting that in there? It is not even a negotiating point."
At that McNish fired up. "It is no negotiating point," he declared. "I stand for that. It is vital to the very existence of unionised labour. Everyone knows that. Unionism cannot maintain itself in existence without the closed shop. It is the ideal toward which all unionised labour works."
"Now, McNish, tell me honestly," said the minister, "do you expect or hope for an absolutely closed shop in the factories here in Blackwater, or in the Building Industries? Have you the faintest shadow of a hope?"
"We may not get it," said McNish, "but that is no reason why we should not fight for it. Men have died fighting for the impossible because they knew it was right, and, by dying for it, they have brought it to pass."
"Far be it from me, McNish, to deny that. But I am asking you now, again as man to man, do you know of any industry, even in the Old Land, where the closed shop absolutely prevails, and do you think that conditions in Blackwater give you the faintest hope of a closed shop here?"
"Yes," shouted McNish, springing to his feet, "there is hope. There is hope even in Blackwater."
"Tut, tut, laddie," said his mother. "Dinna deeve us. What has come ower ye that ye canna talk like a reasonable man? Noo, Mr. Matheson, ye've had enough of the labour matters. A'll mak ye a cup of tea."
"Thank you, Mrs. McNish," said the minister gravely, "but I cannot linger. I have still work to do to-night." He rose from his chair and found his coat. His manner was gravely sad and gave evidence of his disappointment with the evening's conversation.
"Dinna fash yerself, minister," said the old lady, helping him on with his coat. "The 'trouble' will blow ower, a doot. It'll a' come oot richt."
"Mrs. McNish, what I have seen and heard in this house to-night," said the minister solemnly, "gives me little hope that it will all come right, but rather gives me grave concern." Then, looking straight into the eyes of her son, he added: "I came here expecting to find help and guidance in discovering a reasonable way out of a very grave and serious difficulty. I confess I have been disappointed."
"Mr. Matheson," said McNish, "I am always glad to discuss any matter with you in a reasonable and kindly way."
"I am afraid my presence has not helped very much, Mrs. McNish," said Maitland. "I am sorry I came tonight. I did come earnestly desiring and hoping that we might find a way out. It seems I have made a mistake."
"You came at my request, Maitland," said the minister. "If a mistake has been made, it is mine. Good-night, Mrs. McNish. Good- night, Malcolm. I don't pretend to know or understand what is in your heart, but I am going to say to you as your minister that where there is evil passion there can be no clear thinking. And further, let me say that upon you will devolve a heavy responsibility for the guidance you give these men. Good-night again. Remember that One whom we both acknowledge as the source of all true light said: 'If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.'" He shook hands first with the mother, then with the son, who turned away from him with a curt "Good-night" and nodded to Maitland.
For a moment or two neither of the men spoke. They were both grievously disappointed in the interview.
"I never saw him like that," said the Reverend Murdo at length. "What can be the matter with him? With him passion is darkening counsel."
"Well," said Maitland, "I have found out one thing that I wanted."
"And what is that?"
"These men clearly do not want what they are asking for. They want chiefly war--at least, McNish does."
"I am deeply disappointed in McNish," replied the minister, "and I confess I am anxious. McNish, above all others, is the brains of this movement, and in that mood there is little hope of reason from him. I fear it will be a sore fight, with a doubtful issue."
"Oh, I don't despair," said Maitland cheerily. "I have an idea he has a quarrel with me. He wants to get me. But we can beat him."
The Reverend Murdo waited for a further explanation, but was too much of a gentleman to press the point and kept silent till they reached his door.
"You will not desert us, Mr. Matheson," said Maitland earnestly.
"Desert you? It is my job. These people are my people. We cannot desert them."
"Right you are," said Maitland. "Cheerio. We'll carry on. He shook hands warmly with the minister and went off, whistling cheerily.
"That is a man to follow," said the minister to himself. "He goes whistling into a fight."