There was an eager protest from the listeners, and presently the busy group of men disappeared on their way to the train. A nine per cent. dividend naturally made the Farley Manufacturing Company’s stock go up a good many points, and word came presently that the largest stockholder and one or two other men had sold out. Then the stock ceased to rise, and winter came on apace, and the hard times which the agent had foreseen came also.
One noon in early March there were groups of men and women gathering in the Farley streets. For a wonder, nobody was hurrying toward home and dinner was growing cold on some of the long boarding-house tables.
“They might have carried us through the cold weather; there’s but a month more of it,” said one middle-aged man sorrowfully.
“They’ll be talking to us about economy now, some o’ them big thinkers; they’ll say we ought to learn how to save; they always begin about that quick as the work stops,” said a youngish woman angrily. She was better dressed than most of the group about her and had the keen, impatient look of a leader. “They’ll say that manufacturing is going to the dogs, and capital’s in worse distress than labor—”
“How is it those big railroads get along? They can’t shut down, there’s none o’ them stops; they cut down sometimes when they have to, but they don’t turn off their help this way,” complained somebody else.
“Faith then! they don’t know what justice is. They talk about their justice all so fine,” said a pale-faced young Irishman—“justice is nine per cent. last year for the men that had the money and no rise at all for the men that did the work.”
“They say the shut-down’s going to last all summer anyway. I’m going to pack my kit to-night,” said a young fellow who had just married and undertaken with unusual pride and ambition to keep house. “The likes of me can’t be idle. But where to look for any work for a mule spinner, the Lord only knows!”
Even the French were sobered for once and talked eagerly among themselves. Halfway down the street, in front of the French grocery, a man was haranguing his compatriots from the top of a packing-box. Everybody was anxious and excited by the sudden news. No work after a week from to-morrow until times were better. There had already been a cut-down, the mills had not been earning anything all winter. The agent had hoped to keep on for at least two months longer, and then to make some scheme about running at half time in the summer, setting aside the present work for simple yarn-making. He knew well enough that the large families were scattered through the mill rooms and that any pay would be a help. Some of the young men could be put to other work for the company; there was a huge tract of woodland farther back among the hills where some timber could be got ready for shipping. His mind was full of plans