“I’m afraid,” said Miss Frazer, “it’s your placard.”
“The men had their choice between their unions and their jobs—and they’ve stood by their unions.”
“They’ve struck,” said Ruth.
There are family traditions among the poor just as there are among the rich. The families of working-men may cling as tenaciously to their traditions as the descendants of an earl. In certain families the sons are compelled by tradition to become bakers, in others machinists; still other lowly family histories urge their members to conduct of one sort or another. It is inherent in them to hold certain beliefs regarding themselves. Here is a family whose tradition is loyalty to another family which has employed the father, son, grandfather; across the street may live a group whose peculiar religion is to oppose all constituted authority and to uphold anarchism. Theories and beliefs are handed down from generation to generation until they assume the dignity of blood laws.
Bonbright was being wrenched to fit into the Foote tradition. Ruth Frazer, his secretary, needed no alterations to conform to the tradition of her family. This was the leveling tradition; the elevating of labor and the pulling down of capital until there was a dead level of equality—or, perhaps, with labor a bit in the saddle. Probably a remote ancestor of hers had been a member of an ancient guild; perhaps one had risen with Wat Tyler. Not a man of the family, for time beyond which the memory of man runneth not, but had been a whole-souled, single-purposed labor man—trade-union man—extremist— revolutionist. Her father had been killed in a labor riot—and beatified by her. As the men of her family had been, so were the women—so was she.
Rights of man, tyranny of capital, class consciousness had been taught her with her nursery rhymes. She was a zealot. A charming zealot with a soul that laughed and wanted all mankind to be happy with it—a soul that translated itself by her famous grin.
When she thought of capital, of moneyed aristocracy in the mass and in the abstract, she hated it. It was a thing to be uprooted, plotted against, reviled. When she met a member of it in the body, and face to face, as she was meeting Bonbright Foote, she could not hate. He was a man, an individual. She could not withhold from him the heart-warming flash of her smile, could not wish him harm. Somehow, in the concrete, he became a part of mankind, and so entitled to happiness.
She was sincere. In her heart she prayed for the revolution. Her keen brain could plan for the overthrow of the enemy and her soul could sacrifice her body to help to bring it to pass. She believed. She had faith. Her actions would be true to her faith even at a martyr cost. But to an individual whom she saw face to face, let him be the very head and front of the enemy, and she could not wish him personal harm. To a psychologist this might have presented a complex problem. To Ruth it presented no problem at all. It was a simple condition and she lived it.