“No,” Marion differed thoughtfully. “There is one explanation based on human caution and wisdom. I am afraid that you are misunderstood by the very people whose confidence you should seek to cultivate, that is the miners. Some of them don’t like you very well. They think that you personally are a hard taskmaster and that the attentions and relief which really come from you in times of need, are bestowed on them by persons who feel that they have to help them because of your failure to do the right thing by them. Why don’t you, papa, go right among them and tell them that you are going to do everything you can for them, raise their wages, maybe, and make them love you personally?”
“It isn’t my nature, Marion, to do it that way,” Mr. Stanlock replied. “There is nothing in the world that would be so distasteful to me as assuming the role of a philanthropist or a hero. It spoils every man to some extent who tries it. Personal vanity is the greatest enemy that man has to guard against. I’ve guarded myself against it thus far successfully, I think, and I’m not going to let it get me in the future if I can help it.”
Marion felt like saying that her father’s fear of vanity might some day get him into trouble with his men, but she refrained from so expressing herself. On the occasion before us she recalled that conversation, for she realized that the strike was a result, in part, of the very misunderstanding that she had anticipated. Several clever leaders among the miners had spread the report about that Mr. Stanlock had become immensely wealthy by overworking and underpaying his men, while he caused to be circulated through various channels numerous undetailed reports of his generosity, philanthropy and public spirit.
When she invited the members of Flamingo Camp Fire to be her guests and work with her among the poor and hunger-suffering families of the strikers she did not realize the seriousness of the situation with reference to the feeling of the miners toward her father. Now she felt that the condition of affairs was more than she could cope with and from the day of her arrival home she was constantly in fear lest some dread catastrophe should befall the family because the “biggest man” in Hollyhill kept himself severely fortified against the adulation of his fellow townsmen and the character weakening influence of personal vanity.
* * * * *
A mysterious disappearance.
The Flamingo Camp Fire arrived at the Stanlock home on Friday. Christmas was scheduled on the calendar to fall on the following Wednesday.
From the day of their arrival all of the girls were busy with Christmas preparations. Every one of them, several weeks before, had taken on her the task of making, buying, or assembling from parts purchased a score or more of presents. As one of the chief aims of Hiawatha Institute was to teach wealthy men’s daughters how to be economical, it goes without saying that each of these girls had on hand no enviable Winter Task.