* * * * *
Helen and the strike leader’s wife.
But what had become of Helen Nash?
It was a very determined little woman who stole out of the Stanlock residence, with the contents of the last threatening letter fresh in her memory, after the return of the members of Flamingo Camp Fire from their Sunday afternoon drive. She walked briskly four blocks east and boarded a street car.
A twenty-minutes’ ride took her into the heart of the mining tenement district. Reference to an address memorandum on a slip of paper that she carried in her handbag and a question to the conductor determined where she should get off.
Heaver street, the conductor told her, was three blocks east. With no evidence of a slackening of resolution, she proceeded as directed and was soon searching a long row of cottages, built along almost identical lines, for number 632.
Reaching this number, she ascended a flight of seven or eight steps and gave a quick turn to the old-fashioned fifteen-or-twenty-cent trip-action door bell. A pale-faced, care-worn woman of about 30 years, who might have been mistaken for 40, answered the ring. At sight of the caller she exclaimed in a voice that echoed years of toil and suffering:
“Nell,” was the greeting returned by the caller.
The woman stepped aside, and Helen stepped into a hall, whose sole furnishing consisted of a rag rug on the floor and a cheap hall-tree with a cracked mirror. Evidently it was the chief wardrobe of the house, for upon the twenty or more nails driven into the walls in fairly regular order were articles of both men’s and women’s wear, most of them bearing evidence of contact with hard labor. From the hall, Helen was conducted into the “front room,” the only name it was ever known by, which communicated with the dining room through a cased opening without portieres. These two rooms were about as barely furnished as possible under a minimum of necessary articles and quality. A threadbare ingrain carpet covered the floor of the front room. A few rag rugs hid probably some of the worst gaps in the matching of the yellow-pine floor of the dining room.
As for human life in this house of pinch and poverty, it was hardly vigorous enough to attract attention ahead of the furnishings. Clinging to the faded skirts of their mother were three hungry-eyed anaemic children, a girl and two boys.
“How are you, Nell?” inquired Helen, giving the woman a kiss that seemed almost to frighten her. “It’s been two years since I’ve seen you.”
“I’m not very well, Helen,” the other replied, wearily. “I’ve about given up all hope of ever seeing any better days. But what brings you here? I didn’t expect ever to see you again.”
“Now, Nell, don’t talk that way,” Helen protested. “You know—or maybe you don’t know it—that I would do anything in the world to help you out of this unhappy condition, but Dave’s way of looking at things makes it impossible. If you had any vitality I would urge you to leave him and earn your own living.”