Conrad looked confusedly around, and the same voice said again, “Mr. Dryfoos!” and he saw that it was a lady speaking to him from a coupe beside the curbing, and then he saw that it was Miss Vance.
She smiled when, he gave signs of having discovered her, and came up to the door of her carriage. “I am so glad to meet you. I have been longing to talk to somebody; nobody seems to feel about it as I do. Oh, isn’t it horrible? Must they fail? I saw cars running on all the lines as I came across; it made me sick at heart. Must those brave fellows give in? And everybody seems to hate them so—I can’t bear it.” Her face was estranged with excitement, and there were traces of tears on it. “You must think me almost crazy to stop you in the street this way; but when I caught sight of you I had to speak. I knew you would sympathize—I knew you would feel as I do. Oh, how can anybody help honoring those poor men for standing by one another as they do? They are risking all they have in the world for the sake of justice! Oh, they are true heroes! They are staking the bread of their wives and children on the dreadful chance they’ve taken! But no one seems to understand it. No one seems to see that they are willing to suffer more now that other poor men may suffer less hereafter. And those wretched creatures that are coming in to take their places—those traitors—”
“We can’t blame them for wanting to earn a living, Miss Vance,” said Conrad.
“No, no! I don’t blame them. Who am I, to do such a thing? It’s we—people like me, of my class—who make the poor betray one another. But this dreadful fighting—this hideous paper is full of it!” She held up an extra, crumpled with her nervous reading. “Can’t something be done to stop it? Don’t you think that if some one went among them, and tried to make them see how perfectly hopeless it was to resist the companies and drive off the new men, he might do some good? I have wanted to go and try; but I am a woman, and I mustn’t! I shouldn’t be afraid of the strikers, but I’m afraid of what people would say!” Conrad kept pressing his handkerchief to the cut in his temple, which he thought might be bleeding, and now she noticed this. “Are you hurt, Mr. Dryfoos? You look so pale.”
“No, it’s nothing—a little scratch I’ve got.”
“Indeed, you look pale. Have you a carriage? How will you get home? Will you get in here with me and let me drive you?”
“No, no,” said Conrad, smiling at her excitement. “I’m perfectly well—”
“And you don’t think I’m foolish and wicked for stopping you here and talking in this way? But I know you feel as I do!”
“Yes, I feel as you do. You are right—right in every way—I mustn’t keep you—Good-bye.” He stepped back to bow, but she put her beautiful hand out of the window, and when he took it she wrung his hand hard.