Maude, with alarm in her eyes, kept very close to me, as I supplemented the explanations they gave her. I had been there many times before.
“Why, Hugh,” she exclaimed, “you seem to know a lot about it!”
Mr. Scherer laughed.
“He’s had to talk about it once or twice in court—eh, Hugh? You didn’t realize how clever your husband was did you, Mrs. Paret?”
“But this is so—complicated,” she replied. “It is overwhelming.”
“When I found out how much trouble he had taken to learn about my business,” added Mr. Scherer, “there was only one thing to do. Make him my lawyer. Hugh, you have the floor, and explain the open-hearth process.”
I had almost forgotten the Huns. I saw Maude gazing at them with a new kind of terror. And when we sat at home that evening they still haunted her.
“Somehow, I can’t bear to think about them,” she said. “I’m sure we’ll have to pay for it, some day.”
“Pay for what?” I asked.
“For making them work that way. And twelve hours! It can’t be right, while we have so much, and are so comfortable.”
“Don’t be foolish,” I exclaimed. “They’re used to it. They think themselves lucky to get the work—and they are. Besides, you give them credit for a sensitiveness that they don’t possess. They wouldn’t know what to do with such a house as this if they had it.”
“I never realized before that our happiness and comfort were built on such foundations;” she said, ignoring my remark.
“You must have seen your father’s operatives, in Elkington, many times a week.”
“I suppose I was too young to think about such things,” she reflected. “Besides, I used to be sorry for them, sometimes. But these men at the steel mills—I can’t tell you what I feel about them. The sight of their great bodies and their red, sullen faces brought home to me the cruelty of life. Did you notice how some of them stared at us, as though they were but half awake in the heat, with that glow on their faces? It made me afraid—afraid that they’ll wake up some day, and then they will be terrible. I thought of the children. It seems not only wicked, but mad to bring ignorant foreigners over here and make them slaves like that, and so many of them are hurt and maimed. I can’t forget them.”
“You’re talking Socialism,” I said crossly, wondering whether Lucia had taken it up as her latest fad.
“Oh, no, I’m not,” said Maude, “I don’t know what Socialism is. I’m talking about something that anyone who is not dazzled by all this luxury we are living in might be able to see, about something which, when it comes, we shan’t be able to help.”
I ridiculed this. The prophecy itself did not disturb me half as much as the fact that she had made it, as this new evidence that she was beginning to think for herself, and along lines so different from my own development.