After that the two committees met, in old Mr. Carpenter’s office, and Billy came home to Susan and Mrs. Cudahy, and sat for a tense hour playing moodily with Lizzie’s baby.
Then the committee came back, almost as silently as it had come last night. But this time it brought news. The strike was over.
Very quietly, very gravely, they made it known that terms had been reached at last. Practically everything had been granted, on the single condition that William Oliver resign from his position in the Iron Works, and his presidency of the union.
Billy congratulated them. Susan knew that he was so emotionally shaken, and so tired, as to be scarcely aware of what he was doing and saying. Men and women began to come in and discuss the great news. There were some tears; there was real grief on more than one of the hard young faces.
“I’ll see all you boys again in a day or two,” Billy said. “I’m going over to Sausalito to-night,—I’m all in! We’ve won, and that’s the main thing, but I want you to let me off quietly to-night,—we can go over the whole thing later.
“Gosh, about one cheer, and I would have broken down like a kid!” he said to Susan, on the car. Rassette and Clem had escorted them thither; Mrs. Cudahy and Lizzie walking soberly behind them, with Susan. Both women kissed Susan good-bye, and Susan smiled through her tears as she saw the last of them.
“I’ll take good care of him,” she promised the old woman. “He’s been overdoing it too long!”
“Lord, it will be good to get away into the big woods,” said Billy. “You’re quite right, I’ve taken the whole thing too hard!”
“At the same time,” said Susan, “you’ll want to get back to work, sooner or later, and, personally, I can’t imagine anything else in life half as fascinating as work right there, among those people, or people like them!”
“Then you can see how it would cut a fellow all up to leave them?” he asked wistfully.
“See!” Susan echoed. “Why, I’m just about half-sick with homesickness myself!”
The train went on and on and on; through woods wrapped in dripping mist, and fields smothered in fog. The unseasonable August afternoon wore slowly away. Betsey, fitting her head against the uncomfortable red velvet back of the seat, dozed or seemed to doze. Mrs. Carroll opened her magazine over and over again, shut it over and over again, and stared out at the landscape, eternally slipping by. William Oliver, seated next to Susan, was unashamedly asleep, and Susan, completing the quartette, looked dreamily from face to face, yawned suppressedly, and wrestled with “The Right of Way.”
They were making the six hours’ trip to the big forest for a month’s holiday, and it seemed to each one of the four that they had been in the train a long, long time. In the racks above their heads were coats and cameras, suit-cases and summer hats, and a long cardboard box, originally intended for “Gents’ medium, ribbed, white,” but now carrying fringed napkins and the remains of a luncheon.