Then he turned quickly to Elisabeth and caught her hand. “They say that Maraton’s speech was wonderful,” he announced. “He declared war, but a man’s war. Cotton first, and cotton alone.”
She gave a little sobbing breath. Her hands were locked together.
“England will never know,” Mr. Foley added, in a voice still trembling with emotion, “what she has escaped!”
Those wonderful few days at Manchester had passed, and oppressed by the inevitable reaction, Julia was back at work in the clothing factory.
She had given up her place by the window to an anaemic-looking child of seventeen, who had a habit of fainting during these long, summer afternoons. Her own fingers were weary and she was conscious of an increasing fatigue as the hours of toil passed on. No breath of air came in from the sun-baked streets through the wide-flung windows. The atmosphere of the long, low room, in which over a hundred girls closely huddled together, were working, was sickly with the smell of cloth. There was no conversation. The click of the machines seemed sometimes to her partially dulled senses like the beating out of their human lives. It seemed impossible that the afternoon would ever end. The interval for tea came and passed—tea in tin cans, with thick bread and melting butter. The respite was worse almost than the mechanical toil. Julia’s eyes ranged over the housetops, westwards. There was another world of trees, flowers, and breezes; another world altogether. She set her teeth. It was hard to have no place in it. A little time ago she had been content, content even to suffer, because she was toiling with these others whom she loved, and for whom, in her profound pity, she poured out her life and her talents. And now there was a change. Was it the spell of this cruel summer, she wondered, or was it something else—some new desire in her incomplete life, something from which for so many years she had been free? She let her thoughts, momentarily, go adrift. She was back again in the cab, her fingers clutching his arm, her heart thrilling with the wonderful passionate splendour of those few hours. She recalled his looks, his words, his little acts of kindness. She realised in those few moments how completely he filled her thoughts. She began to tremble.
“Better have your place by the window back again, Miss Thurnbrein,” the girl at her side said suddenly. “You’re looking like Clara, just before she popped off. My, ain’t it awful!”
Julia came back to herself and refused the child’s offer.
“I shall be all right directly,” she declared. “This weather can’t last much longer.”
“If only the storm would come!” the child muttered, as she turned back to her work.
If only the storm would come! Julia seemed to take these words with her as she passed at last into the streets, at the stroke of the hour. It was like that with her, too. There was something inside, something around her heart, which was robbing her of her rest, haunting her through the long, lonely nights, torturing her through these miserable days. Soon she would have to turn and face it. She shivered with fear at the thought.