Slowly the violence of the girl’s grief subsided. And after a while she turned to him and gazed at him through her tears.
But Bull shook his head.
“Come. Shall we go and eat?”
He still retained his hold upon her arm. And as he spoke he led her unresistingly away towards the camp.
THE MAN IN THE TWILIGHT
Bat Harker passed out of the house on the hillside. Muffled in heavy furs he stood for a moment filling up the storm doorway, gazing out over a desolate prospect, a scene of grave-like, significant stillness.
The mills he loved were completely idle. But that was not all. He knew them to be at the mercy of an army of men who had abandoned their work at the call of wanton political and commercial agitators. It was disaster, grievous disaster. And he told himself he was about to beat a retreat like some hard-pressed general, hastily retiring in face of the enemy from a position no longer tenable.
There was no yielding in the lumberman. But to a man of his forcefulness and headstrong courage the thought of retreat was maddening. He was yearning to fight in any and every way that offered. He knew that he was going to fight this thing out, that his present retreat was purely strategic. He knew that the whole campaign was only just beginning. But it galled his spirit that his first move must be a—retreat.
The late winter day was fiercely threatening, fit setting for the disaster that had befallen. The cold was bitterly intense, but no more bitter than the lumberman’s present mood. There down below were the deserted quays with their mountains of baled wood-pulp buried deep under white drifts of snow. And the voiceless mills were similarly half buried. Look where he would the scene was dead and deserted. There was not one single stirring human figure to break up the desolation of it all.
It was a sad, white, desolate world, which for over fifteen years he had known only as a busy hive. Roadways should have been clear. Traffic should have been speeding, every service, even in the depth of winter, should have been in full running. The mills—those wonderful mills—should have been droning out their chorus of human achievement in a world set out for Nature’s fiercest battle ground.
From the moment of that first encounter in the recreation hall Bat had known the strike to be inevitable. Bull’s swift action at the outset had had its effect. For the moment it had checked the movement, and reduced it to a simmer. Heat and power had been restored, and work had been resumed, and outwardly there had been peace. But it was artificial, and the lumberman and the engineer had been aware that this was so.
Brief as was the respite it was valuable time to the men in control, and they used it to the uttermost. The leaders of the strike had been robbed of the advantage they had sought from a lightning strike. But they were by no means defeated. It was only that they had lost a move in the game they had prepared.