“Not that I am afraid of getting hurt,” Helen added hastily, realizing the suspicion of cowardice that might rest against her. “Still, if my advice had been asked, I would have argued against this very dangerous vacation scheme of yours.”
“Why?” inquired Marion in a tone of disappointment.
“Because of the very situation complained of in that skull-and-cross-bones letter. I hope I don’t hurt your feelings, Marion, but it is very natural for some of these rough miners to suspect that your plan was cooked up by your father to pull the wool over their eyes, and to regard you as a tool employed by him to put the scheme into operation.”
“Some of the girls’ parents raised the objection that there might be danger in a mining district during a strike, but none of them suggested anything of this sort,” Marion remarked with humble anxiety. “I explained to them that there could hardly be any danger even if the strikers should get ugly, as the mines are some distance from where we live and any violence on the part of the miners would surely be committed at the scene of their labors. This seemed to satisfy them. Most of the miners live at the south end of the town or along the electric line running from Hollyhill to the mines.”
“That doesn’t make much difference if the miners once get it into their heads that the girls are being used to put over a confidence game on them,” Helen argued authoritatively. “Miners are peculiar people, especially if they are lead by radical leaders of aggressive purpose. They believe that they are a badly misused set, turning out the wealth of the wealthy, who repay them by holding them in contempt, keeping their wages down to a minimum and pressing them into social and political subjection.”
“Where did you learn all that, Helen?” Marion asked wonderingly. “You are not even studying sociology at school. You talk like a person of experience.”
“My father was a miner,” Helen began. Then she stopped, and Marion saw from the expression in her eyes and the twitch of her mouth that a big lump in her throat had interrupted her explanation. She seemed to be making an effort to continue, but was unable to do so.
“Never mind, Helen,” said Marion, taking her hand tenderly in her own. “I am more convinced than ever that I found just the right person to advise me when I laid this matter before you. We will try to work this problem out together. Meanwhile we must take Miss Ladd into our confidence. Why, here she is now.”
* * * * *
“What’s the matter, girls? You look as if you had the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
Miss Ladd spoke these words lightly as if to pass judgment on the conference as entirely too serious for a Christmas holiday occasion. Marion and Helen did not respond in tones of joviality, as might have been expected. They met her jocular reproach with expressions of such serious portent that the Guardian of the Fire could no longer look upon it as calling for words of levity.