“You’ll get intensely interested and want to stay hours!” said she, with the loud roar of traffic in her ears. “Remember I only came for a peep—just to see what a Works is like inside.”
Hugo, guiding her over the littered sidewalk to the shabby little door marked “Office,” swore that she could not make her peep too brief for him.
She had considered the possibility of encountering her father here; had seen the difficulties of attributing this foray to Hugo’s insatiable interest in commerce, with Hugo standing right there. However, in the very unpretentious offices inside—desolate places of common wood partitions, bare floors, and strange, tall stools and desks—she was assured by an anaemic youth with a red Adam’s apple that her father had left for the bank an hour earlier, which was according to his usual habit. She inquired for Chas Cooney, who kept books from one of those lofty stools, but Chas was reported sick in bed, as Cally then remembered that Hen had told her, some days since. Accordingly the visitors fell into the hands of Mr. MacQueen, whom Carlisle, in the years, had seen occasionally entering or leaving papa’s study o’ nights.
MacQueen was black, bullet-headed, and dour. He had held socialistic views in his fiery youth, but had changed his mind like the rest of us when he found himself rising in the world. In these days he received a percentage on the Works profits, and cursed the impudence of Labor. As to visitors, his politics were that all such had better be at their several homes, and he indicated these opinions, with no particular subtlety, to Miss Heth and Mr. Canning. He even cited them a special reason against visiting to-day: new machines being installed, and the shop upset in consequence. However, he did not feel free to refuse the request out-right, and when Canning grew a little sharp,—for he did the talking, generously enough,—the sour vizier yielded, though with no affectation of a good grace.
“Well, as ye like then.... This way.”
And he opened a door with a briskness which indicated that Carlisle’s expressed wish “just to look around” should be carried out in the most literal manner.
The opening of this door brought a surprise. Things were so unceremonious in the business district, it seemed, that you stepped from the superintendent’s office right into the middle of everything, so to speak. You were inspecting your father’s business a minute before you knew it....
Cally, of course, had had not the faintest idea what to expect at the Works. She had prepared herself to view horrors with calm and detachment, if such proved to be the iron law of business. But, gazing confusedly at the dim, novel spectacle that so suddenly confronted her, she saw nothing of the kind. Her heart, which had been beating a little faster than usual, rose at once.