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Title:      Fact'ry 'Ands
Author:     Edward Dyson
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Title:      Fact'ry 'Ands
Author:     Edward Dyson





Acknowledgment.

The bulk of the matter contained in this volume was first published in
the pages of the Bulletin, Sydney.  "The Man-Eater" is not new to readers
of the Kalgoorlie Sun, Westralia.


A Foreword.

WHAT may be called the machinery of this book is the outcome of
experience in one establishment; the characters and the incidents are
gathered from a wide field.  Workers in the busy top flat I have
described, who may perhaps recognise scenes, situations, and materials,
will search in vain for familiar lineaments in these pages.  From the
smallest prim office boy in the stationery warehouse below to the most
frivolous "donah" deftly manufacturing fruit bags in the higher flights,
master and man, all were too decorous for my needs.  The people here
presented are a choice selection from a large circle of acquaintances
earning honourable if humble subsistence in jam, pickle, lollie, and
biscuit factories, in tobacco factories, box factories, shirt factories,
rope works, and paper mills, and I claim for them at least that they are
true types of a pronounced Australian class not previously exploited for
the purposes of the maker of popular fiction.  Feathers, Benno, Goudy,
Odgson, Fuzzy Ellis, Billy the Boy, and many others capering through my
book spring from germs of reality, but I have used my originals as
plastic raw material, remoulding them at my own sweet will, robbing them
of semblance, but never quite squeezing vitality out of them in the
process, I hope.

There is an aristocracy amongst factory hands as in almost every walk of
life.  The superior young ladies who go to business in first class
establishments, and provoke the wondering admiration of discerning
foreign visitors by their accomplishments, their dainty dress, and the
modesty of their deportment, I know only by sight, the raffish hoydens
who stream from some smoky, staring building in a side street, raking up
unstable garments, brandishing battered crib baskets, and squealing
compliments in the dialect are my good familiar people.  They scatter
like bees from the hive, running for a lift on homeward bound lorries,
kicking vagabond limbs from the tail of truck or dray, scampering in
little bands, voluble, raucous, gesticulatory, shouting at each other
abuse without anger and threats without venom.  Termagants at sixteen, it
is as well not to provoke them to eloquence if you have the prejudice of
a "higher order," and object to figuring as the object of a public
demonstration.  Respectability snorts at them like a blood horse, and
then they answer with derision in language that compels madam to stop her
cars in self defence.  Then madam's beautiful toque may suffer.  It is
all very dreadful, but there are faults on both sides, and you cannot
have class distinctions without these little differences.

The males come forth later, more soberly; they do not scamper, they are
sparing of effort, if there is anything to say it can be as well said
leaning against a post or a building.  This is not laziness, they will
have done a good day's work, in most cases better than their masters are
willing to believe, but have a strong intuitive appreciation of the
futility of waste force.  Their parting words may sound impertinent to
you, genteel reader, but try to remember that the terms that shock you
have been refined by usage.  Practice makes perfect even in philology.
They have a respect for beer that is not always justified by results, and
a disrespect for   their "superiors" that manifests itself in a grim
antipathy to policemen.  Larrikins they might have been called had not
that useful word been perverted by indiscriminate use to designate either
the little knot of sandcarters beguiling a spare half hour with a
harmless game of two-up behind the stable, or a brace of garroters
putting a strangle hold on an affluent-looking gentleman in an unlit city
street.

You may find my factory hands, decked in their best, patrolling the chief
thoroughfares of the workingman's suburbs on fine Saturday nights, the
girls in twos and threes, the boys in small parties, the "donahs"
grimacing and giggling, the lads "wording 'em" with laboured jocularities
peculiar to the class.  There are conventions even here, but they do not
forbid the young lady striking up an acquaintance with the young
gentleman who has introduced himself with a few cant witticisms, which,
despite their seeming irrelevance, are compliments of a kind, and imply a
dawning sentiment of tenderness in the bosom of the humourist.  It is
perhaps as well to say here for the benefit of the genteel reader that
the result of these meetings is in most cases a trifle of philandering on
the part of a lad whose rakish airs may mask a bashful spirit, and a
"donah" in whom a good deal of useful knowledge is not incompatible with
a very serviceable sort of innocence.

E. D.

Contents

Chapter

I       BENNO'S LITTLE BOSHTER
II      A QUESTION OF PROPRIETY
III     A LITTLE LOVE AFFAIR
IV      THE MORBID BOY
V       THE FAT GIRL
VI      A HOT DAY AT SPATS'
VII     THE MAN-EATER
VIII    THE WOOING OF MINNIE
IX      LEVI'S TROUSERS
X       THE PACKER'S LITTLE SILLY
XI      SPATS'CATS
XII     INTRODUCING MACHINERY

Chapter I. Benno's Little Bosher.

IT was Monday morning. Benno loitered at the packer's bench. The clerk
was possessed with a great unrest, and his high stool could not hold him
today.

"She's er little boshter!" he said vehemently. "Y' orter seen 'er."

"Fair 'r dark?" asked Feathers, with the intention of showing a friendly
interest in the matter. This was the fifth time Benno had declaimed on
the "boshter" qualities of the unknown, and fraternal sympathy could not
be longer deferred with decency. Feathers delayed the completion of a
knot, and bit off a morsel of tobacco. He solaced business hours with an
occasional quid, smoking on the premises being strictly prohibited by
order of the Czar below.

"Fair," replied Benno, with rapture, "with bloo eyes, 'n' er mouth like
er bloomin' baby. Never saw anythin' like it. She's ther show biscuit,
take it from ther man in ther business--ther top apple, th' 'ole
blessed cake-walk, 'n' straight ez er church. Yeh can see it stickin'
out. Bin well brought up, yeh know--bit shy, 'n' romantic, 'n' all
that."

"This gentle little maiden of today," sang Goudy, the town traveller, to
himself, absently, as he reached for twenty-eight of sixes.

"Ah-h-h go'n 'ave er scratch!" retorted the clerk, bitterly. The town
traveller was a Scot, but the insult had no sting for him; he went on
cheerfully sorting out his order. "Some men," said Benno, with cold
despair, "ain't got no more fine feelin' than a hotel cat."

"When she left the village she was shy," hummed the town traveller,
changing his tune.

"It 'appened dead simple," Benno continued, turning a contemptuous
shoulder on Goudy. "Me 'n' Billy King was standin'on ther usual corner,
Satedee night, watchin' ther little toms trippin'it, 'n' sortin' out
samples, y' know; when 'long she comes with 'er cobber, 'n' blessed iv
she don't chance an eye on me noble--jest er little frightened sort iv
look, but, s'elp me, I was fittted."

Goudy put his forefinger to his lip, and dropped a lopsided curtsey. "Oh,
sir, me father's a clergyman," he simpered, "and I used to play the organ
once."

"Her cobber seemed t' be quite took with Billy's lip whisker," said
Benno, his air and attitude insinuating that the town traveller was
offensively dead, "n' yeh know what Bffly is. 'I'll word 'em when they
pass again,' he  says, 'n' struth he done it. Billy's ther pure glassey.
'Iv course you know my friend, Percy Chirnside,  Miss Fortesque?' ses he
t' ther fair one, havin' took over th' other. She blushed, 'n' smiled,
'n' said somethin' about not having ther pleasure, 'n' in two ticks we
was lifelong cobbers, me 'n' 'er. 'Course, I sees 'er 'ome, 'n' we parts
at ther gate. 'Er father, being 'ead salesman at Gum 'a' Tumbledon's is
er bit stiff on ettiket 'n' all that. But she meets me Sund'y afternoon.
Feathers, there was nothin' on ther grass t' touch 'er. She's er little
boshter- er BOSHTER! 'n' I'm 'er one 'n' only."

Feathers winked hard at Goudy, keeping a smooth and sympathetic cheek to
Benno.

"'Minds me iv er little lady I carried lollies to seven years ago,"
Feathers said, softly. "She had feathery, flaxen 'air, 'n' a neye like
ther grace iv 'Eaven, 'n' she walked about with 'em  turned up t'
'allelujah, 'n' a nym-book pressed to 'er 'eart. She died lingerin' iv
some kind iv saintly disease, 'n' I've never bin the same man since."
Here Goudy wiped his own eye, and passed the handkerchief to Feathers,
and the packer mopped up a covert tear. "I took ther teetotal, 'n'
learned some hymns, 'n' cried on her grave every fine Sund'y afternoon
for er week 'r more, 'n' cot lumbago through it, 'n' passed away in er
little white shimmy 'n' er pale-blue light, callin' her name in er low
sweet voice." Feathers broke down, and Goudy, despite his fifty
dishonourable years, uttered a desolate cry, and besought the packer to
come up some evening, and tell that beautiful story to his poor old
bedridden mother.

"Pigs to you!" said Benno, with incredible scorn--"ther pair iv yeh,"
and he returned sulkily to his desk.

This was a strange development in Benno the cynic--Benno who had been in
the swarming factory from his boyhood, and who on his high stool had
looked down upon a world of women, and learnt the sex off like a nursery
rhyme. True, his attitude towards girls had always been indulgent, but it
was the indulgence of a superior being. At twenty-one one is no longer
deceived by women, but it does not follow that Benno took no delight in
the human girl. It is pleasant to be appreciated by her; it is pleasant
to give her the rapture one's kindly notice may confer; so that Benno
dressed with many precautions and great difficulty on Saturday evenings,
and loved to walk with a young gentleman friend of kindred tastes where
the girls were thickest in the favourite city street; and, if a fair
percentage looked at him with dawning interest as he passed, he was
happy. Spats' Beauties, as a rule, were ignored, but he did not disdain
to escort the better-dressed pasters in the great mashing march along the
crowded pave. He loved to be seen with women--it helped his reputation
as a young devil.

A Panama hat, a high, white, turn-over collar, a small, gay, mechanical
tie, a dark suit, carefully creased to preserve a fictitious air of
newness, tan boots, a clean shave, and a cigarette, all went to the
making of Benno. For the rest, he had a pimply, thin, somewhat foxy face,
pale with the pallor that belonged to Spats' factory, and his right ear
drooped like a wilted lily. His expression was one of unnatural
precocity, his attitude of mind that of a small and early humorist. He
was artificially funny at the expense of all things on earth below and in
the heavens above; his conversation was supposed to be delightfully light
and sparkling, and consisted mainly of a large collection of street gags
and fanciful phrases. Sometimes the clerk spent sixpence or ninepence,
perhaps even one shilling, on drinks, which expenditure carried with it
the splendid privilege of extending an airy patronage to the barmaid; but
Benno did not like drink, and the fine moment came in the gay roll forth
from the bar, with a flourish of handkerchiefs and a fusillade of
badinage. That, too, was necessary to the part of the young devil.
Really, when 'on his own' Benno had no vices, and was of a frugal mind;
his Savings Bank pass book was tattered and limp, and stained with long
service.

And now the cynical and worldly-wise Mr Ben Dickson was raving over the
perfections of a mere girl with yellow hair and the mouth of a baby,
despite the fact that he had seen golden hair come and go on black-browed
Beauties time and again, and in defiance of his knowledge of the guile
that lurks behind little red lips. His yearning for a confidant drove him
back to the packer's bench within an hour. He proudly displayed a
coloured photograph in a rolled-gold locket.

"Present from 'er," he said proudly. "Ain't she ther pick iv ther
peaches? 'N' she never took up with er lad before."

"Neat enough bit iv skirt," said Feathers, critically. "Saucy eye, that."

"Nothin' like it," replied Benno, with spirit. "She's ez fresh ez eggs. She
don't know A.B.--ab."

"'N' 'er 'air ez yaller ez all that?"

"It's pure gold."

"All ain't gold that glitters, Benno, my boy. Does it wear well?"

"Ask me! But iv course you can't be expected t' have no idea iv the
points iv er lady in your walk iv life," replied Dickson, with the
superior air of a clerk. "This is somethin' er cut above you, for er
cert."

Feathers beat his parcel square, threw it on the heap, and spread another
sheet of paper. "I know I ain't been movin' much in 'igh society lately,"
he said, accepting the rebuff; "'n' I may be wrong in thinkin' your tom
was tryin' t' mash ther man shootin' off ther camera, but I recollec' er
bloke sayin' at this 'ere bech, Chewsdee last, that he wouldn't trust no
girl with er giggle in her eye."

"But she ain't got er giggle, I tell yeh."

"'N' he also said that most iv these golden 'aired pieces was not
genuine, just dipped."

"Jimmy Jee! She's no fact'ry rat. Do 'ave er bit iv common."

Ellis, the foreman, stopped beside the young men, mumbling plaintively,
hurt by the disregard of his authority shown in their open loafing. Benno
lingered only a minute longer, so that the girls might get no false
impression in respect to Ellis's influence over him.

In the course of the week Benno's infatuation increased alarmingly. The
clerk, hitherto so methodical, became the victim of a devil of
uneasiness. He was up and down his high stool all day long, like a hungry
ape, and he mooned about the room, seeking sympathy from the Beauties. He
even confided in Miss Kruse, the fat, elderly forewoman, and gushed
rapturously and at great length, regardless of the stupid depression that
clung in the flabby folds of her Dutch face. He cornered Ellis himself
behind the guillotines, and poured out his whole soul to him, giving
minute descriptions of Minetta Bird's perfections of character,
appearance, dress, and manner. Minetta Bird was his darling's name.
"Min," he called her, as his confidence grew more confidential. Before a
fortnight had passed he had confided in every girl on the flat; always in
a low, earnest voice, presumably with the impression that the nature of
his communications was unsuspected by the rest; whereas by this time
Benno's "boshter" had become the choice jibe of the factory, the printing
flat, and the warehouse below.

"I'm just crazy gone on 'er," he told Kitty Coudray; "'n' she deserves
it. Innocent!--innocent!"-- Benno was simply confounded in the
contemplation of Min's infantile unworldliness, and words failed him.

"Beautiful soft golden 'air," murmured the ecstatic voice from the
folding board.

"Mouth like a bloomin' babby," cried the ex-professional fat girl.

"'N' she didn't know it was loaded," interjected a third voice somewhat
irrelevantly, it would seem.

And then came a chorus like a chant from the four corners of the flat.

"Oh, she's a little boshter!" The expression was repeated three times,
with increasing intensity. This had been adopted as a plan of defence. It
threatened to put an end to Benno's confessions, but the clerk's devotion
dulled his sensibilities and subjugated even his vanity.

It was a good time for the printer's devil. Billy the Boy had some talent
as a caricaturist, and much stolen leisure; he littered he factory with
ribald illustrations of Benno's courtship, in which Min-- was represented
with a wicked leer and a sliding chin, and giving expression to vulgar
sentiments encased in small balloons. He scattered fictitious love-notes,
addressed to Benno and signed 'The Boshter', all of which represented Min
as a designing creature of the yellowest dye, and he had a most
irritating way of bobbing up above the stair rail at odd moments, and
ejaculating amazedly: "'N' her 'air's ez good ez gold." Mottos casting
ridicule on the innocence and prettiness of Miss Bird were scribbled on
the white-washed walls, and strangers visiting the flat were beset with
questions respecting the character, habits, and appearance of Benno's
boshter.

The humour of the town traveller was particularly offensive. He had a
deep sense of gravity, and his method of attack was to address indirect
conversations to the furthest ends of the flat. His theme was always the
infantile virtues of Min. He had a fresh story every morning, each more
preposterous than the other, and his repertoire of music-hall ditties --
the heroines of which were guileful creatures who hid their vicious
tendencies under golden hair and an ingenious girlishness --was
practically inexhaustible.

But Benno's mental obfuscation pulled him through. His infatuation
survived all attacks, and one morning he came in fatuously radiant.

"She--she's promised t' be my wife, ole man," he gasped, grasping the
packer's hand, and shaking it with great heartiness.

Feathers stood it manfully. "Don't surprise yeh much, does it," he said.
"Thought yeh was prepared for ther worst."

"You don't understand 'er, Mills. She's er hangel--er bloomin'
hangel--that's what she is," said Dickson, fervently.

"Well, she's goin' cheap," answered the packer.

Benno was beyond insult and above anger. He went through the factory
bubbling. He bubbled all day. He even forgave Goudy everything, and
bubbled to him.

"She's goin' t' marry me, Scotty," he said confidentially.

"Well, 'ou brought it on yourself!" answered the town travellor, washing
his hands of the whole business.

Benno told everybody in the place, bar Spats himself, and for one
portentous moment the flat thought he was even going confide in the boss;
but the clerk recollected himself in time, and pulled up short. For a
year after, the Beauties wondered what would have happened had Benno
actually babbled his rapture to the master. The majority favoured the
opinion that Spats would have burst on the spot.

After this, Dickson's raving took a new form; it was now all of the
little cottage and the furnishing. He was leaving everything to Min,
excepting, of course, the unimportant part of financing the business;
that was his pleasant duty.

"Yeh know, Feathers, she's no bally nark; er bloke kin trust 'er," he
said. "'N' she's got taste, mind yeh. 'Er father was er winder-dresser
once. She took er pretty little cottage, 'n' furnishin' it good 'n' fine.
I'm outer all that; don't even know where ther crib is. When all's
finished, we rings up ther parson, do ther trick, all rights reserved,
'n' I sails inter me little 'ome, all Sir Garney oh. That's er idea. Just
ther thing, eh, what? Oh, yeh can't push er down. She's er boshter!"

The happy date arrived. Benno was allowed two days off on full pay to
celebrate the event. Spats liked his hands to marry; it made them
submissive, he thought; hence the liberality. Benno returned on the third
day, and the Beauties greeted him yell as he mounted the stairs. The yell
died away when Dickson came fully into view. Benno the jaunty was no
more; a grey-faced, pinched, hollow-eyed, broken wretch confronted them.
The clerk almost staggered to the packer's bench, and, leaning upon it,
passed a nervous hand over his eyes. There was an abject piteousness in
his face, his lips trembled, a tear rolled down his cheek.

"I bin done, Feathers," he blurted. "She--she's er speiler." Benno's
head dropped, he cried before them all, sobbing without shame.

"What, ain't yeh married, then?" asked Feathers.

Benno shook his head. "No," he said; "she never turned up. I 'unted fer
ther 'ouse yesterdee 'n' ther day before. I--I found it. It was
furnished beautiful." Benno's feelings overcame him again.

"'N' ther girl?" prompted Feathers, eagerly.

"She'd--she'd married another feller, 'n' he was livin' in my 'ouse!"

Goudy let fall the parcel he had taken up when Benno entered. His face
was set hard, like that of a stone man He walked straight to the stairs,
head erect, and went down past each flat right into the cellar, and at
the far end, in the darkness, among the bales, he sat down and exploded,
and the echoes of his mad subterranean laughter came faintly up to the
factory. But there was no laughing there. Benno was weeping at his desk,
and the Beauties were storming in throes of indignation righteous and
profound. Hours later the factory generously Offered to "deal with" Min
but Benno, with a touch of his old self, said that it didn't matter; he
had consulted his solicitor.

Chapter II. A Question of Propriety.

THERE was something amiss; the crowded factory room was quick with the
sense of it. A stranger coming up the stairs might have been visited with
a consciousness of the fact that the spirit of mischief was stirring on
the top flat. Spats' Beauties, girls of a kind commonly given to
rebellious and frivolous practices, had preserved for over an hour the
decorum of a superior young ladies' seminary under a Presbyterian regime.

The foreman clawed his fuzzy hair, and showed a cowering back. The quiet
was ominous. Nothing was heard but the whir and whiz of the machines, the
fluttering of busy hands in paper, and a sibilant whispering peculiarly
viperish. Spats' girls did not usually whisper; their ordinary
conversation was shrill and over-bearing, and there were at least eighty
of them, young and old. Factory girls, like those of the ballet, remain
"girls" in defiance of time and the ravages thereof.

"Wha' 's wrong, Feathers?" Billy the Boy, the juvenile rouseabout from
the printers' flat, who had crept up the stairs, thrust an inky stub of a
nose through the battens, and cocked an anxious eye.

"Get t' 'ell outer this!" said the packer, throwing a ball of twine. The
day was oppressive, and the packer's attempt to steal out for a pint of
consolation had been stalled off at the lift door by the boss, and he was
feeling wronged and vindictive.

Billy whipped down on a banister at the peril of his neck, and called
softly upwards:

"Oh, yer love me, Carrie, donteher, spite o' me boil?"

The tone had a tender pathos touched with passion. It stirred the packer
to black wrath. Leaning over the open space by the stairs, he promised
Billy death with barbaric effects. Feathers was liable to boils, and was
also a man of a philandering temperament. The printer's devils were in
the habit of deliberately hearing things in the cellar among the bales
when the girls were being let out after over-time.


Billy was deeply moved; he smeared ink on the rope with which Feathers
swung parcels to the shop flat, and resumed the ordinary evasion of his
duties as a devil.

The majority of the girls worked at square boards on trestles. There was
a heap of paste in the centre of each board, and the piece-workers stood
to their task, pasting and folding at the terraced stacks of stationery
with the dexterity of machines, bare-armed, bare-necked, in slovenly
gowns caked with dirt-colored dough, their tousled hair powdered with the
fibre of the paper. One girl worked alone. There was a drift from her
neighbourhood, but sidelong glances assailed her with accusations; the
tittering that occasionally broke out was all for her ears, and it was
suppressed with a malicious understanding that she would recognise the
suppression to be a measure of consideration extended to a transgressor.

The creature apart was a sallow, freckled girl, with pale hair and sharp
features. She was fully conscious of what was going on-had felt some
symptoms of it working for weeks, but to-day the devilment was pointed
and deliberate. The hot oppression of the top flat had wrought upon the
Beauties, and Annie Mack was sacrificed to the necessity for diversion.
From a purely moral point of view the factory had no particular qualms
about Miss Mack's weaknesses.

There was a sullen stupidity in Annie's face; she raced her work; her
hands flashed along the automatic movements of a set task; the
perspiration ran down her long neck. This energetic action was the only
relief, and the girl's consolation would come in a fat packet on
Saturday, she being a piece-worker.

Benno loitered at the packer's bench for a word. Our Mr. Dickson, it must
not be forgotten, was a superior creature-he reigned on a high stool at a
desk in a top corner near the cutters, piling figures on figures all day
long. He came at nine, after the others, and left at half-past five,
before the others, and had become shockingly lop-eared as a result of his
practice of carrying a long pen behind his ear to assert his dignity.
Benno as a clerk should have held status with the young gentlemen down in
the warehouse if people had their rights.

"They're settin' her nibs t'-day," said Benno, with a sportsman's
keenness, a sidewise convulsion of his features indicating Annie.

Feathers finished a knot with some deliberation.

"Dunno what they're gettin' at," he said. His air was that of a man with
a mild grievance.

"G'out, man! mean t' say yeh ain't took a tumble?" Benno had his own
opinion of such mental denseness.

"No, iv you?"

"Course-weeks ago. Ain't yeh got eyes in yer 'ead?"

A harsh voice barked behind them. Benno fled to his high stool. Feathers
banged his ream industriously, and Odgson, the Gov'ner, otherwise Spats,
snarled and glowered for a few minutes, like an angry dog. Spats was
rarely articulate. After scrutinising his Beauties under the rim of his
belltopper, overlooking the room in the attitude of an avenging Fate, the
Gov'ner drifted down stairs again. He had been disturbed in his den below
by the ominous silence aloft.

Billy the Boy reappeared under the banister, grinning maliciously.

"Copped out that trip, didn't yeh? Up to yeh, too, fer a dead nark." The
"office" should have come from Billy the Boy. Feathers took him on the
nose with a treacherous jerk of the twine ball, and the devil retreated
to the first landing, whence he sent up shrill whisperings to remind the
packer of his lowly birth, and his many defects of character and
education. "Anyhow, thank Gawd, 'twasn't my old mother stole the boots!"
said Billy.

The hush imposed by the great man's presence passed, the voices hissed
again; and Annie bent to her task. Her face was to her enemies. She
increased her pace. She had listened so long, and at such a strain that
now the whole room buzzed in her head like a big bee.

Miss Kruse, the ever depressed elderly maiden, nominally forewoman, felt
the electrical condition of the atmosphere, and, knowing her helplessness
in the face of a combination of the bigger girls, devoted herself to the
kids at the folding-boards, casting sulky, underhand glances at the
others, and wearing the piteous expression of an ill-used woman on her
flat face. Ellis, boss of the flat, who had retired behind his
guillotines, shot his head over the machines every now and again, and
nervously surveyed the room. Being mortally afraid of the girls, anything
like a display of insubordination threw the lathy man into a state of
imbecile distress.

The long day wore on to half-past four, and there was no outbreak. Ellis
prayed for 6 o'clock. With marvellous cunning he had approached Miss
Mack, hinting at illness, and mildly advising bed and a brand of pills
much appreciated in the factory. Diplomacy was Fuzzy's strong point.

"Set a trap in yer 'at, you've got rats!" responded the young lady,
bitterly, and though the foreman revolved for a few minutes agitatedly
expostulating, after that she treated him as something extinct.

Work had been Annie's safety-valve. While running at high pressure she
could contain herself, but now came a break. Her paste was used up, and
to get more she must turn her back to the foe and pass down a long flat
to the corner where the coppers were. She went with resolution.
Simultaneously with her disappearance, there was a burst of uproar in the
factory, loud conversation, calls, badinage, and laughter; the flat
roared with its characteristic babel.

The moment Annie reappeared the racket sank to a sibilant murmuring once
more. The girl walked erect, with tight drawn lips and fiery eyes,
carrying the dipper of steaming paste in her hand. She came to the
packer's bench, where Benno stood talking business.

"Fifty-six iv nine pound brown," said Feathers.

Annie saw the heads together, and suddenly her restraint collapsed. She
turned upon the men, her whole person animate with passion.

"You're a lyin' 'ound!" she yelled.

Feathers got the whole dipper of hot paste full in his face. The stuff
half choked him; it clung in his hair, it rolled down his neck, it
deluged him. He slid down into a pool of it, and blinked up at his
assailant in pitiable amazement, a ludicrous object smoking on the floor,
no longer a man, but a clammy mass.

"An' I never said a word!" he protested weakly. "S' 'elp me, I never said
a word!"

But Annie Mack was otherwise engaged. She flamed upon the factory. Rage
possessed her. She was crammed with hatred, and it flew from her in
language that shot terror into her enemies.

"I leave it t' Benno, there. Now, come, what 'd I say?" cried Feathers,
virtuously pathetic.

"Flamin', blazin' liars!" cried Annie. "You tork about me-you-you! You
orter! A pack o' rats. What're yer gotter say 'bout me? Spit it out!" She
stood with up lifted hands and screamed at them, and then her eye picked
out an individual. "You, Kitty Conroy, call me things, will yeh?"

She dashed at Kitty, and fastened on her like a fury, all claws. "Fight
me, yeh waster!" she shrieked, tearing at the other's hair.

Kitty fought back with spirit. Crash went her board and on it rolled the
combatants, fighting like tykes amongst the paste and the papers. They
clawed, and tore, and punched, screaming incessantly, turning over and
over in the mess. Annie arose from the fray half-blinded, pasted from
head to foot, and garnished with fruit-bags. She rushed into the thick of
her enemies. The girls screamed, and broke before her in terror, and
havoc followed in her wake. She tore down the tables, she filled the air
with paste and myriads of envelopes, storms of stationery broke out
whenever she paused a moment, and the unhappy girl that fell into her
hands was reft of hair and draperies, and blackened with bruises. The
distracted foreman danced on the outskirts of the riot, shedding real
tears, and appealing in heart-rending accents alternately to Annie and to
high heaven.

"Miss Mack! Miss Mack, for pity's sake!" He became valiant in his great
perturbation, and threw himself in Annie's way.

Snatching up a small tub of paste, she smashed it over the foreman's
head, leaving him with a necklace of hoops, and in a smother of his own
composition. In that awful moment, Ellis bitterly regretted his attempts
to improve the consistency of good flour paste with common glue.

Sis Twentyman was the next victim, but she escaped, leaving a wisp of
hair in Annie's hands, and took refuge behind her table, and Miss Mack
chased her round it five times.

"I'll give yeh whisperin' an' tisperin'," cried Annie. "I'll tear the
eyes out of yer monkey face, you pig's sister. What 're you, to go
whisperin' about people? What 're you, more'n a half Chow?" She paused
for breath, and a fierce resolution shone in her eyes. "I'll do yeh,
though! I'll do yeh!"

Annie darted to the dressing-room, and presently reappeared, brandishing
something with the triumph of a scalp-hunting savage. It was Sis
Twentyman's new hat she held aloft-the beautiful confection Sis had
introduced only that morning-the most precious thing in all the world.
"See," cried Annie-"See, you dirty stop-out!" She placed the hat on the
floor and danced wildly amongst the feathers.

Sis uttered a yell of mortal agony, and, heedless of danger, dashed in to
the rescue; but with her foot still upon the crown, Annie tore the hat to
fragments, and flung them in Sis's face, and the two girls fastened on
each other after the manner of cats.

A number of the printers had come to Benno's assistance by this time.
They parted the combatants, and Annie relapsed into hysterics. She was
carried to the dressing-room, and Fuzzy followed after with the Gov'ner,
who had just arrived on the scene, snapping orders.

A quarter of an hour later Annie Mack came forth, clothed in her right
mind, and stole down the stairs. It was understood that she had been
discharged, and her foes were appeased, but order was not restored in the
factory that day, nor the next.

One afternoon, some nine weeks later, Annie re-visited the top flat,
proudly carrying a long-coated baby about three weeks of age. Annie was
gaily dressed, and the infant's gown was worked to a point of
extravagance. The girl smiled cheerfully on all, just as if nothing had
happened, sailing through the room, a vision of happiness. She bore no
malice for the mischief she had wrought. Annie submitted her baby to Miss
Kruse's approval with beaming confidence. Curiosity overcame the others,
and they gathered round to inspect and applaud.

"Ain't he a bute?" said Annie.

"A little love!" said Kitty Conroy.

"The darlin'!" gasped Bell Oliver.

The girls flattered and gushed. Sis Twentyman kissed the baby.

"Course you know I'm married?" said Annie.

"Go on!" cried Bell. "Was that lately?"

"Bless yeh, no!" answered Annie-"a week ago!"

Chapter III. A Little Love Affair.

FEATHERS, the packer, owed his name to a strange set of side-whiskers he
once grew. Over these the feathery paper-dust collected till they looked
like the wings of an adolescent gosling. He soon wearied of the
nick-name, and shaved off his fluff, thinking the insult would pass with
it. He was mistaken. The sobriquet of the foreman, Fuzzy Ellis, had a
similar origin. His dead-looking, reddish hair was as fine as tow; it was
always distracted, and in it the fibrous dust gathered so thickly that
every jerk of his head produced a miniature dust storm.

Fuzzy was a queer bird. Besides being long and lank, he had a prematurely
withered appearance. The white apron that enveloped him gave him
something of the aspect of a wilted candle. His eye had a hunted look
that corresponded with the distraction of his hair; his pinched face
might have been put on his bones with a palette-knife and had the sallow
livery of Spats' factory. It was always moist, as with trepidation, and
from it oozed driblets of whiskers. He was the dustiest man in the world,
and gaunt with everlasting worry. Fuzzy could not be imagined apart from
the factory. He was first to come in the morning, last to leave at night.
Nobody in the firm recollected his beginning. It was vaguely surmised
that he was born in the factory and nourished on its insidious dust and
the paste and gum that over-ran the place and caked on everything. He was
regarded as a fixture; that he had friends or relations was never dreamed
of-he was hardly credited with a soul.

So rooted was this conception of Fuzzy as an inseparable adjunct of the
factory, that Feathers, having proof to the contrary, went to Benno, the
clerk, one Monday morning, feeling like a man about to endanger a
hard-earned reputation.

"Who jer think I seen at the Zoo yes'dee afternoon?" he said.

"Give it up," answered Benno, ruling a line with insolent elaboration.

"Fuzzy!" said the packer.

Benno revolved on his high stool and faced his friend. "Knock it off,
George Henry," he said, appealingly. "You'd be all right iv it wasn't for
the drink. Knock it off, ther's a good feller. You warn't at no Zoo, yeh
know." Then, with a change of tone, he continued: "D' yeh mean t' say yeh
saw Fuzzy out on his own-prowlin' round in th' open like a'uman bein'?"

Feathers assured him of it on his honor as a man and his faith as a
Christian. "S'elp me cat! I did," he said.

Benno surveyed the foreman with a new interest. "After all, I s'pose the
beggar must be somewhere when we're shut down," he said thoughtfully.

Feathers carried the story to the girls, but it seemed probable to them
that he was lying, particularly as Sarah Eddie had been to the Zoo on
Sunday and had seen nothing of the foreman there. And yet the tale was
true. Moreover, Fuzzy, having heard Miss Eddie declare her intention of
visiting the Zoological Gardens, had gone there with the deliberate idea
of exhibiting himself to that young lady in his Sunday clothes, but had
been too timid to carry out his purpose. In the marvellous workings of
Providence it was allotted to Sarah Eddie's destiny to awaken a tender
passion in the dusty heart of Fuzzy Ellis.

Sarah was a large, fair young woman of thirty, stoutly framed, with a
mouth extended beyond all reason and human necessity, good teeth, and a
gummy smile. She had been in the factory some months, and Fuzzy's love
was the mysterious and unhallowed growth of a moment. Sarah, with the
mercenary object of securing the most profitable work, had beguiled him
with her Ethiopian grin and glances of matured coyness, and when the
foreman's hand pressed hers, as he placed the work on her board, she
giggled affectedly.

"Oh, Mr. Ellis, you are a one!" she said.

In the words of Benno the wise, "It took like a vaccination." Fuzzy came
up the room with a stunned look in his eyes, and the expression of a man
who had committed himself irretrievably. He offered no more advances for
some days, and then, after hovering about Miss Eddie's board a dozen
times during the morning, he made a rally, and, placing a small packet on
the table beside her paste, fled to cover behind his cutting-machines,
tripping over the truck and barking his shins by the way.

The packet contained three penn'orth of cheap jujubes.

During the afternoon the hands saw Fuzzy's small sheep-like head shoot up
above his machines on a stalk of neck, transfixed. Fuzzy's eyes were
turned upon Sarah with a tender and absorbed expression. Heaven knows
what blissful emotions were stirring softly in his bony breast, but he
was "dead to the world." Girls at the top benches discovered him, and
"passed the office" along. The intelligence drifted down the flat; work
was suspended; silence fell upon the factory. The girls stared at Fuzzy,
and Fuzzy gloated upon the object of his affection with a fatuous ardor.
He suggested an amorous adjutant-bird. A titter ran through the factory.
It swelled to a yell of laughter; and Ellis, recalled to a sense of his
position, ducked, spun the guillotine wildly, and, in his great
agitation, nearly cut off the tip of his index finger.

The idea of Fuzzy as a lover was the acme of the incongruous; he was so
arid, so nervous, so thin, and so unhuman. No one had any idea of his
age, but he looked like a man who had dried up at the age of thirty-six,
and had since been free of all human infirmities. His little love-affair
was to the factory a mad joke; news of it spread to the printers, it was
discussed in the warehouse, it was talked of in the street; but the
foreman, unconscious of all this, continued to steal to Miss Eddie's
board with love-tokens-a pound of grapes, a bag of buns, a bottle of
ginger-ale; once it was a pork-pie. Miss Eddie was involved in the
comedy, and there were jokes at her expense, but she took them all in
very good part, and continued to ogle Fuzzy with a cow-like playfulness.

Feathers, the humorist, affected the airs of a desolate man, and
encouraged Fuzzy with descriptions of his own hopeless love of Sarah and
pitiable accounts of her recent cruelties. He hinted at suicide.

"Someone's come between us," sighed the packer, wiping away a tear. Benno
swore that the foreman almost smiled at this. "'Twas touch 'n' go," said
Benno. The clerk was of opinion that Sarah Eddie had a "bit iv splosh."
He declared he had seen her smuggle a bank-book out of her bag. That
afternoon Fuzzy gave Sarah a brooch. It was of an ancient device, and had
lost a stone, but was large and had some value as old gold.

It was several days before the girls quite understood Sarah, but when
they did there was a sudden revulsion of feeling. Fuzzy's courtship was
no longer a joke-it was an outrage. All the easy work was going to
Sarah's board. She was given the pleasant and profitable jobs. The
special stuff that had hitherto been distributed fairly among the
piece-workers all brought extra money to Sarah, and her earnings went up
with a jump. This was not to be borne. Spats' Beauties began to murmur,
murmurs swelled to open complaint, cries of bitterness and insult
followed, and then the Beauties began to throw things. Blobs of
half-caked paste assailed the foreman and clung in his hair; balls of
sodden paper fell about him; a recently-emptied flour-sack turned
inside-out was dropped on him down the lift-well; an unknown hand knocked
him headlong off the stairs with a bundle of waste. Fuzzy's hunted look
deepened to one of terror. He moved gingerly, but his infatuation made
him strong to endure, and Sarah continued to score.

An act of flagrant favoritism precipitated a strike. The piece-workers
threw their brushes into the paste, and, seating themselves on their
boards, swung their heels, and yelled defiance at Fuzzy. A dozen of them
went downstairs as a deputation to Spats, and the foreman, after
stumbling about the room in a fit of nervous irresponsibility, retreated
behind the guillotines to await developments.

The deputation charged into the office of the boss. Twelve voices raised
in vociferous complaint. Spats drove them up stairs again with angry
snarls and snappings, and sent for Fuzzy. Ellis returned from that
interview looking a complete wreck, and Miss Kruse informed the girls
that for the future there would be a fair division of the better-class
work.

The foreman could still do his adored many favors, and he was her humble
servant. Her paste was brought for her, he carried her work to her hand,
and although she did not scrape her board on Saturday like the others, it
was white and clean when she came to work on Monday; so that it was still
worth Sarah's while to shed shy glances on Samuel.

"You do so grow on a body," she whispered one morning, and this excited
Fuzzy to such a degree that he was bumping into things three hours later.

But the termination of Fuzzy's love-affair was sudden and dramatic. Early
one Saturday morning, a bulky, black-browed man came lumbering up the
back stairs.

"'S your name Ellis?" he said to Feathers. The packer directed him along
the room with a nod of the head, and the bulky stranger moved in that
direction. To the surprise of everyone, Sarah Eddie flew out, and
intercepted him, brandishing a threatening brush.

"If yeh do, Jim!" she cried in great agitation. "Mind, if yeh do!" Jim
seemed prepared to chance it, and, thrusting her aside, passed on. "Your
name Ellis, Mister?" he asked Benno. The clerk pointed out the foreman
with his pen, and the intruder faced Fuzzy.

"They tell me you're Ellis!" he said. The tone was threatening, the man's
air distinctly dangerous. It was obviously unwise to be Ellis. Fuzzy
hedged.

"Well, er-it depends," he said, and retreated timidly.

"If so happens you are Ellis, I mean to punch your damn' head off." It
was the tone of an earnest man, one who had resolved on a course of
conduct, and had no use for argument.

Fuzzy fled behind the folding board, and the bulky man dashed after him.
The pursuer was not a man to stick at trifles; he carried the long board
off its trestles in his rush, but fell among the ruins, and Fuzzy went
down too. The foreman extricated himself first, and darted for another
table, Jim after him. They raced round twice, and then faced each other
across the board.

Jim controlled himself for a moment and shook a terrible fist at his
destined victim, and then thumped the board determinedly.

"Wha'-wha'-what is it?" gasped Ellis.

"I'll tell yer what it is," he said. "That there's my girl." He pointed
to Sarah Eddie. "She's been goin' to marry me, more 'r less, fer a year,
an' now you've chipped-in. Well, I don't allow it! D'yer hear? I don't
allow it!"

"Police!" piped Fuzzy.

Smash went another board before the impetuous Jim, and Fuzzy fled again,
under the tables, around the packing-benches, and then down the long
flat, with Jim at his heels. It was a sensational scramble, and
choke-full of interest to the Beauties. They clambered on to their
boards, and screamed encouragement to Jim. The stranger made a grab at
Ellis, and it seemed that all was over with the foreman, but a parcel of
bags tripped his rival, and he fell headlong. This was Samuel's chance;
he raced for the ladder at the opening in the ceiling, straddled up it
like a distracted spider, and crawled into the darkness above. He was
making a desperate effort to haul the ladder up after him when Jim
snatched at the bottom-rung, and, swinging his great weight brought the
ladder down with a crash on top of himself, and plucked Fuzzy on to his
face at the opening, clutching wildly at the edges to avert a disaster.
Jim reared the ladder again, and, racing up it, scrambled into the loft,
and those below heard muffled sounds of running feet, bumpings, and
curses, coming from above the ceiling.

The loft was a spacious place, hot and black as the pit, and the strange,
volatile dust characteristic of Spats' factory lay a foot deep on its
floor, and clung thickly to the weird festoons of cobweb that spanned the
rafters. A rat-fight up there was sufficient to convert the atmosphere
into a feathery mass. There was silence in the factory-all ears were
strained to mark the progress of the race overheard. Every bump sent a
blast of dust out of the manholes, and it billowed along the factory
ceiling, and poured out of the windows like smoke. A shrill cry indicated
that Fuzzy had fallen into the clutches of the enemy. A confusion of
yells, much swearing, and a great trampling and bumping, during which the
dust rolled from the openings in dense masses, told of a bitter,
hand-to-hand contest. Then a body was dragged along the ceiling, and
presently Jim's boots came into view on the ladder; his legs followed,
but slowly, and after his legs came his body, and then came Fuzzy. Jim,
backing down the ladder, reckless of consequences, dragged Ellis out with
a run on top of himself, and the two fell in a tangle on a heap of stock.

The identity of the men had to be taken for granted; they were now
monstrous objects, with few human attributes, swathed round with clinging
rags of black cobweb, their features blotted out, masses of web hanging
from their limbs like elfin wings. But Jim had not lost sight of his
mission. He seized on the foreman again, and dragged him through the
factory, seeking Sarah Eddie; and when he found her he dumped Fuzzy at
her feet. He tried to spit, but his mouth was like a dust-bin; he opened
it, but was inarticulate. Then he sneezed five times, and speech returned
to him.

"Now, we'll settle this matter," he said. He shook Fuzzy up, and they
were obscured in the dust. "Here, you," he went on, "is this here your
girl, 'r is she mine?"

Fuzzy made a gesture of complete abandonment.

"You give her up?" Fuzzy nodded supinely. Jim was still holding him.

"You gives it to her straight that all's over atween yer, that you ain't
havin' any truck with her whatsomever, savin' in the way o' business?"
The wretched foreman signified his assent. "Very well," said Jim, "that
bein' so, I ain't got nothin' more agin yer." And he dropped Ellis on the
floor.

The trouble being ended, two policemen, who had been hastily summoned
under the impression that murder was being done on the top flat, came up
the stairs and seized upon Jim. He was fined five pounds, with the
alternative of three weeks' gaol, and took the alternative with a good
grace. To show he had no ill-feeling towards anybody, he put ninepence in
the poor-box.

Three weeks and two days later, Sarah was married to a wharf-lumper, who,
there is every reason to believe, was identical with Jim, and Fuzzy's
dream of love was over.

Chapter IV. The Morbid Boy.

THE truculent boy had been summarily dismissed, and the morbid boy was
introduced late on the following Monday morning. Billy, the devil, hit
him with the cake off a tin of ink as he lumbered wearily up the stairs.
The morbid boy was very broad and extremely meaty. His head was large and
almost square; nose, ears, cheeks, and lips were puffy, and he had a fat
forehead. His color was pasty, and his average expression vacuous. This
morning its vacuity was relieved by a dull wonder as he stood at the head
of the stair, his arms hanging limply, gazing at the pack of girls. It
dawned on him presently that he had been deceived, that life would not be
worth living in this ruck of heathens, and he started downstairs again.

The packer recaptured him on the printers' flat.

"It's all right, Mumps," said Feathers. "You're the new boy, I reckon."

"'M orf it," answered the boy, sullenly.

"Rats!" said the packer. "This is dead easy. Yer got nothin' t' do 'ere
but tickle the pianer 'n' blow the dust off the chandeliers."

Feathers towed the lad back to the flat, and away to the changing room,
where he superintended the removal of his coat and the donning of a
hessian apron with a large pocket across the middle, a relic of the
truculent boy. Then he led Mumps to the busy half of the long room, and
started him up the track to the foreman's retreat. But a couple of
minutes after resuming work the packer saw that Mumps was standing where
he had left him, in the middle of the gangway, gazing straight before
him, like something petrified. Mumps had no initiative; this was
discovered before he had been in the factory an hour. A girl's glance had
the effect of striking him motionless in the middle of a job, and he
would stand inert, with a lolling tongue and a dead eye. Fuzzy, the
foreman, gave him a fresh start.

"Nice, bright, active, lovable lad that," said the clerk to Feathers.
"Wonder where they gathered him?"

"He come over th' 'sylum wall," said the packer. "Already he's brought
the best knife in the big machine down on a spanner, cut two reams iv
cartridge t' waste, 'n' spilt a quart iv ink inter Fuzzy's lunch."

"'N' he hums like a little bone mill," said Benno, "bless him!"

It was his capacity as a "hummer" that conquered the factory. Where he
passed went consternation, and even Fuzzy, who was supposed to be
superior to little prejudices, put Mumps from him, and regarded him with
a thoughtful and troubled air. The Beauties were not hampered by the
niceties of polite convention; they rarely strained the point at which
forbearance ceases to be a virtue; and when Mumps passed them by the
injured did not stifle their cries, but yelled like devils.

Martha, the ex-professional fat girl, when Mumps brought work to her
table, cried "Wow!" threw her apron over her head, and sat down on the
floor in an imitation fit.

"Give it Christian burial," squealed the thin machinist.

"Scrap fat!"

"Shift that tannery!" The whole flat was giving tongue.

"Yah, dry it, can't yeh," said Benno, "The lad was reared in a soap
foundry 'n' can't help hisself."

Mumps did not show that he was conscious of the impression he was making;
the scorn of the girls failed to deepen the heavy imbecility of his
manner. It was late in the afternoon, when all hope of an abatement of
the nuisance had been abandoned, that Feathers attacked the new boy.

"In the name o' Jimmy Jee, wha's the matter with yeh?" he cried,
brutally. "Bli me, you're 'ummin' somethin' awful."

"'Taint me, neither," growled Mumps.

Feathers pulled at the pocket of the apron. "What yeh got 'ere?" he said.
"Pooh! Strike me dead! She's a corker. Take it out!" he yelled.

Mumps dipped into the pocket and produced a dead rat on a string, the
identical rat with which the truculent boy had stampeded the factory.
Being unable to escape from the folded apron, the beast had perished
miserably, and Mumps had carried its remains with him all day.

"Well, you're a shine idyit," commented Feathers. "Why didn't yer throw
the thing away?"

"How wiz I t'know?" whined the morbid boy.

This was characteristic of Mumps; the rat might have remained there a
month before he would have taken upon himself the responsibility of
dislodging it.

Feathers had some felicity in the selection of nicknames, and although
the new boy was officially entered as John Robey, the room refused to
recognize him as anything but Mumps. Strange to say, Ellis contracted a
liking for John; possibly because the youngster was never impudent. John,
who seemed to be in a perpetual state of moral hibernation, hadn't
sufficient impulse to be insolent, and the foreman had had a large and
varied experience of boys with impulse. As a rule, the boys treated Fuzzy
brutally. The truculent boy-4ft. 9in. and 13 next birthday-had once
clamored violently for three rounds with his boss, being anxious to prove
in the eyes of the whole world which was "best man." True, Mumps was dull
and needed close watching, and had to be started and stopped like a
machine, and could never learn what was to be done next, and was liable
to fall into a condition of open-mouthed inanimation in the middle of a
job, but he never gave back-talk, and there was something respectful in
his stupid awe.

Three mornings running a very ponderous woman, who was taken to be his
mother, lugged Mumps up the stairs and drove him to his work, but after
that John accepted the inevitable and came regularly at eight. He brought
enormous lunches in a rush basket, and sat alone amongst the bales to eat
them. When work started again, his distress was painful to behold, and he
was often heard to groan pitiably during the hour that followed. Then
Benno would tell him that he ought to have his lunch made to measure and
not go trying to fit a No. 3 stomach on a No. 9 meal; and Feathers would
gravely advise him to have it pulled.

One morning Mumps fell into a state of dreamy inaction over a truck of
grey sugar paper, just where the front stairs cut into the flat. A yap at
his back jerked him into consciousness, and, looking round, he discovered
the imposing figure of the boss at his heels. Instantly John Robey was
thrown into a condition of fatuous irresponsibility; he seized on his
truck, heaved up the great burden, made a blind stagger, and rushed the
whole box of tricks straight down the stairs. The truck bounded, threw a
dazzling revolution, and its handles crashed through the floor of the
first landing. Great reams of paper leaped down the remaining stairs,
shooting in all directions into the printing room, and the crashes told
of ravage and disaster. Mumps stared after his lost load for seven
terrible seconds, and then turned, and fled for the men's dressing-room.
He reappeared with his hat in his hand, dragging his coat after him, and
darted down the back stairs.

Feathers overtook John, and he was given another trial after the foreman
had interceded on his behalf, but the printers' devil never forgave him.
One of the reams having jumped into a tub of lye, and deluged Billy with
the awful mixture, the boy felt called upon to subject John to monotonous
persecution as long as he remained in the place. Mumps was a child of
persecution, but he dulled the point of practical jokes by preserving a
Chinese unconsciousness. The packer dropped all subterfuge, and treated
him as an open and unabashed idiot, telling him twenty times a day
exactly how much of an ass he was, in language calculated to appeal to
the lowest intelligence, but always with a well-intentioned and
benevolent air as of one imparting useful knowledge. Benno, however,
adopted a tone of biting irony, and it must be credited to Mumps'
penetration that one day, after surveying the clerk heavily for five
minutes or so, he said: "I hate you, Dickson!" Although the tone was
phlegmatic, this, coming from Mumps, was regarded as an amazing burst of
confidence.

At about this time there began a frequent disappearance of lunches, and
although John Robey was known as a monument of gluttony it did not occur
to anybody that he had degenerated into a crib thief. For over a week
suspicion rested upon the rats, which were frequent in the factory,
though during all that time Mumps' painful indispositions might have
enlightened the dullest minds. One day when three lunches were missed,
Mumps remained curled up on a big bag of waste for some time after the
lunch hour, sweating and groaning. He told Feathers that it was
"apendickitis" he had. Later the crib thief grew discriminating, and
stole only the choicest morsels from the lunches, spoiling no less than
nine in one morning. But it was not till Miss Kruse sent John out for
sixpenn'orth of mixed pastry, and he came back with the empty bag and
explained dully that he had eaten the stuff "by accident," that the
elucidation of the mystery was whispered about.

Next morning at about a quarter to twelve, while Mumps was depositing
work on Martha Pilcher's board, the fat girl called across the room:

"Say, youse, I've fixed up them rats proper this trip. They nicked some
'am sandwiches from my lunch this mornin'. Them sandwiches was poisoned!"

Mumps dropped the goods he had in his hands, and stared at Martha, and
his pallor took a faint greenish tinge.

"I poisoned 'em myself," said Martha, "with ninepenn'orth o' arsenic."

Mumps doubled his arms across his stomach, bent like a man in agony, and
uttered a long, anguished howl.

"They's enough poison in 'em to kill a norse," continued the fat girl,
remorselessly.

The boy scrambled under the bench, and rushed for the stairs. He was
heard to fall down the last flight. He raced through the warehouse,
colliding blindly with the boss in the doorway, and a few minutes later
the people in the main street of the city saw a white-faced, despairing
Mumps, wild-eyed, bare-headed, and wearing a bag apron, racing along the
road like something frantic. Mumps clamored at the door of the most
expensive doctor in town, kicking the panels, pulling the bell, and
shrieking simultaneously; and when the door was opened to him he fell in,
crying:

"I'm poisoned. Quick! quick! do something-they've poisoned me!"

About an hour later, a tall, grave constable brought John Robey back to
us, and John was a woeful thing to see-pale and clammy, and so limp that
the policeman had to hold him up, like exhibit A, while he explained to
the company:

"He swore he was poisoned. The doctor said 'twas nothing of the kind, but
the b'y was so set on it, the gentleman gave him a bit iv an emetic to
satisfy him. Bechune me 'n' youse, things iv happened sinst."

"He looks it," said the packer.

Mumps was dropped on a bag of waste, where he groaned so fearfully that
Fuzzy endeavoured to reassure him by explaining that whatever had
happened to Martha's sandwiches they were free of poison, and fit for
human consumption.

"'Tain't that, mister," said Mumps, weakly. "I'm starvin'. They ain't
nothin' left inside o' me, an' I'm starvin' to death."

There was no denying that the possibility had real terrors for him, so
Ellis took pity on his emptiness, and Mumps was sent home to re-stock.

Chapter V. The Fat Girl.

MISS Pilcher, who had been in "the profession" as a Fat Girl, had come
down in the world.  She used to weigh 24st. 41bs.; now she weighed only
12 st. and a few immaterial ounces.  As she was short of stature, she had
no very reasonable grounds for complaint on the score of ungraceful
attenuation; but Martha was now too lean for show purposes, and she had
once been the mainstay and the pride of an exhibitor of malformed calves,
accomplished pigs, and human freaks of various kinds.

"When I think o' what I was," said she to the sympathetic pasters around
her (and as she spoke she picked out the flattering symbols on an
imaginary four-sheet poster of many colors, with a proud fore-finger)--
"Miss Gloriana Brobding, the Mammoth Mermaid, Twenty-five Stone in her
Bathing-dress; Admired by the Prince o' Wales'-'n' then think o' what I
am, pastin' beastly bags fer Spats at a tizzy a dray-load, it fair gi's
me the 'ump."

Martha was still young.  Her professional experiences had begun at the
early age of 12, and had ended at 17, her unfaithful flesh having melted
by that time to such an extent that the most audacious showman declined
to try to impose the Mammoth Mermaid upon the public as a curiosity, even
in a liberally-padded bathing-dress.  As the Mermaid's papa, who drank
like a fish, had always carefully consumed her salary far in advance,
poor Martha was left to earn her daily bread by the sweat of her brow.

The fat girl was very proud of having been "an artist," and comforted
herself in her present lowliness with enraptured reflections on her
professional triumphs.  She showed many photographs of her prodigious
former self, dressed in a scant and scaly bathing-dress, standing by a
painted sea; she had an old exercise book in which were pasted clippings
from the up-country papers referring to her enormous disproportions in
terms of wondering eulogy; she had also the proud privilege of free
entree to the waxworks.

Though fallen from her high estate, Martha did not despair.  She still
had hopes of regaining her old magnitude, and strove for it by judicious
dieting and careful attention to a set of rules for the guidance of
skinny people, which were published in a medical almanac.  She weighed
herself about three times a week, and her spirits varied in accordance
with the tally of the slot-machine; rising with an increase, falling with
an appreciable loss.

One warm morning she came wearily down the flat with her empty paste-keg
under her arm, and leaned despondingly upon the packer's board.

"Got off one pound seven ounces since Saterdee," she said.

"G'on! yeh don't say," answered Feathers. "Well, what price goin' inter
trainin' fer a livin' skelington?"

"Dicken!  Skeletons is low. They ain't no class, 'n' they ain't decent,
if you ask me.  Y' wouldn't catch me standin' afore the public in me
bones, anyhow."

"Yeh ain't exac'ly over-dressed in them photografs iv you ez the Mammoth
Mermaid, are yeh?"

"The Duke o' York said I was a splendid natural produc', 'n' a credit t'
me country," said Martha in proud vindication.

"Where was his missus?  A few fish-scales ain't much iv a wardrobe fer
strikin' moral attitudes in, Sis.  'F I was you, old girl, I'd skip a
couple o' thousand ev'ry mornin', punch the bag a bit, 'n' get down t' me
own class."

"Ah! you don't know nothin' iv the feelin's iv a hartist, Feathers," said
Martha, sadly.

"Say, how'd yeh account fer yer fallin' off?" asked Feathers, spraying a
handful of bags to bind his parcel.

Martha looked round cautiously, and then whispered, "'Twas love!"

"Oh, catch me!"

"Yes," persisted Martha, "I was mug enough t' go 'n' fall in love, 'n' it
brought me down to this." She opened her arms, inviting attention to her
fragile figure.  "He was dark 'n' tall, with long, black 'air 'n'
piercin' dark eyes.  Pale he was, 'n' 'andsome.  Perfessor Pedro was a
hartist, too, readin' palms 'n' tellin' fortunes, 'n' ownin' a trick dog
with his tail growin' out between his ears.  He would smooge to me when
the boss wasn't about, 'n' he said we could run a grand little show on
our lonesome.  Well, I got fair struck mad on him, 'n' began t' dwindle
away from that minit. I lost a stone in less'n a fortnit. I near over-ate
meself t' death, tryin' t' stop the drift.  'Twasn't no use, 'n' the
Perfessor, seem' me goin' t' waste, done a guy; 'n' that finished me. I
come a reg'lar slump after that, 'n' now where am I?"

"You're right in the ash-barrel, Sissy."

Martha groaned.  "But no more love fer me.  The bloke that comes
canoodlin' here gets that in his feed-bag!" She flourished her paste-tub
fiercely.  "Love!  Love!  I'd sooner get the bloomin' bubonic."

Martha was really afraid that love might afflict her again, and interfere
with her prospects of being restored to her former glory as the pride of
the museums; and there were reasons.  One of them was her knowledge of
the emotions raging in the bosom of Ponny Scott.  He was a compositor on
the lower flat; a depressed youth with a strange head of streaky black
hair that grew from a definite centre on the occiput, and radiated in
lank petals like a chrysanthemum freak. He had a thin, long, hatchet
face, narrow eyes, large invertebrate ears; a high, fragile, razor-backed
nose that looked very superior to its present position, and an unstable
underlip sagging almost to his chin.  As Martha was short and fat,
Ponny's love for her was a genuine attempt on the part of Mother Nature
to restore the happy mean, for Ponny was very tall and very thin.

Ponny's love was scarcely distinguishable from melancholia.  He was often
heard soliloquising on the miseries of life and the vanity of human
wishes, whereat Billy the Boy, as quick to detect a sensitive soul as a
mosquito is to discover a new-chum, uttered dolorous dog-howlings and
wailed piteously for his "mummer."

"Wha's a bloke born fer, tha's what I wanter know?" was the problem that
beset poor Ponny.  One day he put it to the packer. Feathers was not
sympathetic.

"Well, there's beer," he said.  Then, noting the drift of Ponny's eye,
and having a mind to relieve the tedium of life in the factory with a
little comedy, he altered his tone.  "There's a little tom in this flat
who'd give a bit t' have you hers for keeps."

"Garn!"

"S'elp me!  The round-'n'-rosy at the third board. She's shook ter bits
about yeh. 'Ave a shy et it."

"Come off. She don't look where I live," said Mr. Scott, gloomily.

"Coz you ain't a battler.  Get in 'n' bustle 'er. Yeh don't expect the
girl t' fling herself at yeh off a 'ouse."

Thus encouraged, Ponny Scott's advances towards Miss Pilcher became more
definite. He spoke to her on the stairs as she came in of mornings, and
escorted her home one evening, very much against her will. The more
ardent he grew, the greater was Martha's alarm.  She was an extremely
tender-hearted girl, and realising her weakness, feared that Ponny's love
might eventually awaken reciprocal emotion, to the ruin of her
professional prospects. She stormed at her devoted admirer; she
threatened him with her paste-tub; she abused him with the invectives of
the cheap suburbs; she talked of invoking the aid of a younger brother,
who was the pride of a notorious "push"; and, as a last resource,
threatened an appeal to Spats himself.

Ponny was much depressed by all this; it caused his views of life to
become so horribly jaundiced that the printer's devil, with a great show
of brotherly concern, declared he had warned all the chemists on no
account to serve him with rat-poison, and advised him that he would
certainly be arrested on suspicion if found with a rope in his
possession, or caught near the river.  But for all that Ponny did not
desist. He continued to pursue Miss Pilcher with sighs and protestations
and lugubrious looks.

"Oh, take a jump at yerself!" cried Martha, petulantly, in the face of
the whole factory. "What d'yer want sighin' 'n' snivellin' round my
pitch? Here iv lost two pounds 'n' three-quarters worryin' over you
a'ready.  Ain't that enough?  Bli' me, give us a charnce!"

Ponny never replied to these attacks. He stole downstairs and
soliloquised on the sorrow of things for the delectation of Billy the
Boy, and was up on the girls' flat again at the first opportunity.
Martha bore it with loud complainings, till the morning she came up the
stairs, bathed in tears, and confided in Feathers.

"What yer think?" she said; "I've just been weighed on the station, 'n'
I'm 'arf a stone t' the bad again.  It's all that Ponny Scott, 'n' he's
fair filled me. I ain't takin' any more."

That day, when the boss appeared on the factory flat, Martha marched
boldly from her board and confronted him.

"Please, Mr. Odgson, I got a complaint," she said.  "There's a bloke on
the printer's flat, name o' Scott; he's fair pesterin' the life out o' me
with love 'n' all that sort o' thing, 'n' I want it seen inter."

Evidently it was "seen into." Ponny did not speak to Martha again for the
rest of that week, but when opportunity offered he beset her with such
mournful looks that she was actually more worried than before, and when
she caught him glowering darkly and reproachfully at her between the
stair-railings she shivered with apprehension.

On the following Monday, Ponny did not appear, and it was soon known that
he had been dismissed for "interfering" -a heinous crime.  This troubled
Martha, too; she had pangs of conscience for two days, and then Feathers
delivered a letter which some mysterious hand had attached to the hook on
the end of the rope with which he dropped small orders to the lower
flats.

The letter contained a sheet of paper, to which was pinned a wisp of dark
hair-one of the petals from Ponny's chrysanthemum-and on which was
written the following grim poem:--

"Farewell.
Oh, cruel girl, you've cast me off
Because I ain't a naughty toff.
When in the river I am found dead
Well you'll know why I've drownded."

P.S.
Martha read the missive through twice with staring, terrified eyes, then
uttered a woeful cry, and fainted, and her fall shook Odgson and Co. to
its foundations. Her anxieties increased a hundredfold. Nobody had heard
anything of Ponny for three days.

"I know what it is, he's went 'n' killed himself, 'n' they'll pinch me
for accessory afore the act," Martha told Feathers, tearfully.

"Not a bit iv it," said the packer. "He's gone off on his ace somewhere;
he'll be all ri'."

"'N' 'ow'm I t'know that?" wailed Martha.  "'Ow's a girl t' keep a
tranquil mind 'n' in good feed while a bloke's gone missin' all along of
'er, 'n' may turn up in the paper any mornin', drownded or hanged?  What
price me all this time, with weight fair droppin' off me?"

Sorrow marked Martha for its own during the next week. Ponny had not been
heard of. She was sure the blighted wretch had taken his own life, and
she brooded over the terrible thought till all noted her diminished bulk.
 Martha was in danger of assuming normal proportions, and was a wretched
woman in consequence. She opened the morning paper in trepidation,
dreading to see Ponny's name in the list of those found drowned. When the
packer's evening sheet was delivered, the pasters gathered about him, and
the columns were eagerly scanned for news of the comp.'s un-timely end;
but it never came, and Martha always returned to her board in tears.

"If he was on'y found," she said, "I think I'd make flesh again.  Worry's
terrible redoocin'."

But Martha was not destined to fade completely.  One morning when she
came in Feathers greeted her joyously.

"It's all right, Sis," he said.

"What!" gasped Martha, "iv' they found the body?"

"I've seen him.  He was at ther Owls' smoke night lars night, singin' 'Me
Little Back-Room in Blooms-ber-ee.'"

"Alive!" cried the fat girl.

"'N' singin' comics," said Feathers.

"Thank Heaven!" ejaculated Martha, piously.  "Now I'll be able t' pick up
a bit."

CHAPTER VI. A Hot Day at Spats'

THE day was hot. The industrious little tin thermometer over packer's
bench registered 103, not out, and the atmosphere of the long flat was
as oppressive as a burden, and heavy with motes. The factory was
low-roofed and ill-ventilated. Through the row of dingy western windows
the afternoon sun shot broad beams that shimmered in the dull interior
like strips of white-hot steel. To many of the sallow girls at the
pasting boards it seemed that they were supporting the ceiling with their
stiff and aching heads. The factory sulked; all brows were lowering, and
lips drooped with a sickly petulance. Several of the piece-workers,
confirmed grafters, toiled with swift fingers, hanging desperately to the
task, but the majority of the Beauties leaned upon their boards
indolently, moving their limbs with slow effort. The flat was gusty with
sighs. It was impossible to hold the paid hands to their tables; the
forewomen kept up a continual whining, and Ellis fluttered about
uneasily, tremulous with apprehension, the paper-dust and the sweat
coagulating into mud in his scattered tufts of whiskers.

"Now, now, girls!" the foreman's timorous expostulation was almost as
insistent as the ticking of the big cloak. "Now, now, girls--now, now!"
The Beauties treated him with full disdain; they had no heart even for
insolence.

That part of the flat which turned to the left, out of the sight of Ellis
at his cutting-machines, was piled to the rafters with stock and bales,
and here were the dressing-rooms. This was the favourite rendezvous of
the impudent shirkers, too, and now and again the foreman made an angry
excursion along the dark passages between the piles of goods, driving the
loafers forth, with pathetic reproaches and threats of dismissal.

From behind one of the stacks an unhealthy-looking girl, of about
eighteen, with a tousled mass of dull red hair, made pantomimic efforts
to attract the packer. Feathers was very sad. He was a man with a thirst
that became an actual infliction under the stress of 103 in the shade --
"Worse 'n' neuralger," he complained--but Odgson, whose office stock of
uncustomed whisky never ran short, was scandalized by anything like
drinking habits in the lower orders, and alcoholic beverages were
strictly prohibited upstairs. Feathers' affliction cut into his earnings.
Already he had gone forth secretly as a passionate pilgrim, but his
limited credit at the Star and Garter was exhausted.

"I wouldn' 'a' b'lieved 'twas in er 'uman woman t' be ez firm ez what
that Mrs Publican is," he told Bruno, bitterly. "Wimmin ain't fit t' keep
pubs; they ain't got no compassion."

Feathers was thinking over these things, with a dull pain at his heart
and a mouth "like a drought-struck bone mill", when his eye fell upon
Linda gesticulating in the distance.

"Yah, get up yer pole!" Feathers hated frivolity at a moment like this.

"What-oh, Feathers," hissed Linda. "Come 'n' 'av' a --"

The packer was about to descend to the vulgar in his anguish, when an
action of Linda's swept the black thoughts from his soul. The girl had
raised her right hand to her face, her head was tilting slowly backwards,
rhythmical ripples ran along her white threat. Feathers shivered.

"Meanin'?" he pointed to the centre of his breast, and his eyes were
round with inquiry.

"Fair dinkum," telegraphed Linda.

"Right-o, then. In arf er tick." Feathers ran a casual eye over the room,
took up a parcel, and carried it round the bend. In a small space between
a stack and the wall four or five were crowded round a large billy. The
billy had liquor in it. Feathers recognized it at a glance, and half the
misery of a hard life fell from him. It was beer. Linda dipped a cupful
and offered it.

"Oh, come, what sort?" The packer spoke in stern expostulation. But he
took the cup. "This means ther dirty push fer ther lot iv yer copped," he
said.

"Rats," said Carrie Bent. "Ole Spats' rotten fact'ry ain't 'eaven, is it?
Run it in, Jud, I'm fair hungry for another."

"Howdja work it?"

"New cove from the mill smuggled it up the lift."

"It's er fair cop out iv yer cort. Mind, I told yeh." Feathers thought he
was being very firm, but the arm that held the cup was weakening visibly.
The cup moved towards his face as if of its own volition. "'N' it's
rotten bad fer yeh beer is, this weather," he continued. "It goes t' yer
'ead." What further wisdom the packer might have spoken was stopped by
the arrival of the cup at his lips. He seemed surprised to find it there.
Something like a feat of legerdemain followed, and the beer was swept
away.

Linda took the cup and served one round, Feathers standing over,
moralizing. Then came the sound of Ellis's familiar hobble, and instantly
the billy went out of sight under a sack and behind a bale.

"What rot, girls; why don't yer get er shift on?" cried Feathers
virtuously, making himself right. "'Taint ther mealy pertater, polin' on
the firm like this."

"Come, come, come," spluttered Ellis. "Get to your boards, I'll fine you
-- every one of you." A trifling revolt was sufficient to rob Fuzzy of
what little understanding and self-control he possessed. He took every
dereliction to heart as a personal wrong. His voice ran shrill in an
agony of reproach, and, as he stumped after the girls, the timid, nervous
man pitifully asserting himself, he ran blindly into a bale, cannoned on
to a case of white note, and fell into the truck. The foreman fell into,
or over, one or the other of the trucks at least once a day, and the joke
had lost point. The Beauties remained sullen, some sprawling over their
boards, openly loafing, their bare arms hanging down, their figures
sharply outlined in thin skirts and skimpy bodices.

"Dead hookity, I call it," said the packer sympathetically, as he helped
Ellis out of his complication with the truck.

The foreman turned to his machines, whimpering "Now, now, girls; come,
come now!" as he passed the boards. Feathers returned to his bench. He
packed with some little energy for ten minutes, and then the knowledge
that there was illicit beer on the flat began to prey upon his mind. He
sighed frequently; his nagging thirst got at him again. The heat came
through the factory in successive clouds. In answer to some weary
pleasantry that came up the speaking tube, he said distinctly that life
was a "blasted fraud".

"Is that the Union Brewery?" asked the voice, after an sniff.

"Nah, it's 'ell's stokehole, yer Jack chump."

A few minutes later Feathers paid another urgent visit to the billy. The
beer was tepid, but he returned refreshed. The factory was almost silent
under the heat and burden of the day, saving for the rattle of the cogs
of the guillotines and the whirr of the sewing machines ripping out
leagues of meal bags. The girls had  nothing to say for themselves. They
were stripped to the last rag within the requirements of decency. The
ex-professsional fat girl, working hard, was a humid mountain; there was
an uncanny look in her set face. Benno drowsed at his desk. Much latitude
was permitted to the clerk these days, in consideration of a recent
sorrow. The air of the factory was heavy with the tang of  humanity. The
curse of Adam brooded in the room.

The printer's devil below sang a line of "Climbing up the Golden Stairs".
It was the "office'. Feathers snatched something from his drawer, bit off
an ample mouthful and chewed. Spats' belltopper loomed above the stairs.
Spats followed. The "guv'-nor's" face was purple with heat and emotion,
and large beads of oil glistened upon his tuberous nose. The machines
whirred with new vigour, the Beauties made a spiritless effort to look
busy, Benno drove his pen with a great show of energy, and the owner
stood and glared over the factory under his clumps of brow. His look was
one of unmeasured hatred. He grunted, and his grunt was expressive of
great loathing. He turned, and shuffled along the flat till he came to
the packer's bench. There he paused and sniffed. He sniffed at Feathers
repeatedly, like an angry dog, and grunted three times--rising grunts
of fathomless disgust--the last almost a snort. Then he passed downstairs
again.

Feathers leaned over the rail. "Pig's Whiskers!" he hissed. The
expression might have lacked point but it relieved him. It was cheese the
packer was eating--very old cheese, and very strong for its age. It was
not nice cheese, but it had the virtue of subordinating the smell of any
beer that might be within an acre at the time of eating.

The whirr of the machines softened again. The cogs clanked no more.
Benno's head sank, and the Beauties abandoned all pretensions. The heated
atmosphere came up the stairways, and grew denser in the top flat;
breathing was a labour, and the packer's head was humming like a mill. He
was thinking of the unguarded beer behind the bale.

Suddenly the factory was disturbed by a thin crying--a low, helpless
crying that had an animal-like agony in it. The fat girl was wailing at
her boards. Her large face shone white; she still worked with deft
fingers, but she wept at her task like an insensate creature. Ellis
understood what it meant; he had heard it before more than once, and
instantly he fell into his familiar condition of terror-stricken
irresponsibility. He scrambled down the room, knocking against all the
boards, throwing tiers of work into confusion.

"Here, here--you stop it!" he cried. "Stop it! Stop it, I tell you."

A little girl at the folding board was making strange gasping noises.
Many of the girls seemed to become suddenly possessed of a bovine fear.
Sarah Eddie ran to Martha Rickards, and put strong arms about her,
whereupon the fat girl flopped upon the floor, and her crying increased
to an agonized scream. The little girl at the folding-board fell back
convulsed. Two other girls started crying, and Ellis ran foolishly from
one to the other, pleading and complaining. Feathers alone remained cool.
He was experienced in all the foolishness of women. The packer leaned
over the stair and called down to the printers:

"Here, er couple iv you blokes len's a 'and Fat's down."

A couple of printers bounded up from the lower flat, and Feathers took
command.

"Yah-h! go 'n' get hosed!" he said, contemptuously, to the foreman, who
was fussing uselessly. "Grab er 'ead, lads."

The fat girl was now screaming in violent hysterics. Feathers took her
heels, the printers her arms, and, with Sarah's help, they carried their
great burden to the lift.

"Take 'er inter ther cellar an' let 'er bloomin' well 'ave it out there,'
'r she'll 'ave ther 'ole fact'ry 'owlin' mad in 'arf a tick." The fat
girl was promptly lowered, and Feathers turned to his other patients.

Chrissie M'Fadyen, a tall dark girl, had fallen in a huddled heap under
her board, and was making weird, choking noises. Feathers straightened
her out, pillowed her head on a pile of bags and said angrily:

"Shut up'! D' yeh 'ear? We ain't doin' anythin' in fancy fits today."
Then with extreme disdain: "Arr-r-r, ring off, can't yeh!" The girl
shivered, stiffened her limbs, and opened a startled eye. "Nah, then,
Mac, that'll do you. Just you take a 'ammerlock holt iv yerself, 'n' 'ave
some dam' consideration fer others." The tone was brutal. Chrissie
struggled with her symptoms, and conquered. "Take 'er away 'n' sprinkle
'er," said Feathers to one of the machinists, and Chrissie M'Fadyen was
led to the taps, weeping quietly.

The packer passed on to Ginger Copin, the foreman dancing at his heels
and stuttering like a cranky monkey. It seemed as if half the girls might
get out of hand at any moment. Many were crying. Feathers took Ginger by
the shoulders in a masterful grip, and shook her to emphazise his biting
rebuke.

"Shine idyit you makin' o' yerself, Copin," he said. "Bli' me, have er
bit iv common. Stow it; stow it, d'ye hear?" Ginger strove against her
racked nerves, and looked surprised and piteous. Feathers was not to be
softened, however. He said further things to Copin, and they were not
tender and soothing things. In short he cursed her from boots to
breakfast; and Copin revived as under cooling showers, and was led away
by the stronger girls.

Feathers swore bitterly at a couple of weeping pasters in passing, and
braced them up wonderfully; delivered a scathing expostulation to Miss
Bentley, the sedate piece-worker, who gave marked indications of going
off; and then addressed himself to the little girl at the folding-board,
who had fallen in a fit. He carried her to the taps in the cooler part of
the building, sothing the factory with bad, masterful words as he passed.

"New one, this, ain't she?" he said. "Wha's she called?"

They told him, and he addressed her by her name; not so sternly as in the
former cases and without bullock-compelling expletives, but with the tone
of a man who was not to be denied. He insisted on her getting well by her
own effort. "It's no use tellin' me yeb carn't, y'know, 'cause I know
better. Come, come, buck-up!" The little girl was slowly reviving, and
although this case took longer than the others, the patient was presently
well enough to go below with the rest.

Feathers went back to the Beauties, bullying manfully here and there. He
picked out three more, cursed them into some sense of decency, and passed
them down to the cellar to cool off; and behold, the factory was in order
again, and clothed in its right mind. The packer had proved himself
master of the situation.

"Never you snivel 'n' whine over wimmen when they're 'avin' 'sterics 'n'
them jiggity fits," he said, wisely, to the printers; "it on'y makes 'em
feel they're pore sufferin' dears, 'n' they'll holler their 'eads off,
'n' kick ther ceilin' in outer dashed sympathy fer themselves. What er
woman wants when she's feelin' like that is a real beast t' boss her. Yiv
gotter work in among 'em here few er few years t' know what er
consolation er reg'lar brute is to er woman now 'n' again."

"Sst--Pig's Whiskers!" hissed Billy the boy. The printers fled
downstairs, and Feathers packed. "Pig's Whiskers" was one of the many pet
names the factory had given Odgson, the Boss.

Half an hour later a south breeze was sweeping the factory, and the
Beauties were barracking noisily at their work. Feathers was in an
amiable mood; he had emptied the billy, and now walked with ostentatious
uprightness. The fact that there was no longer any alcoholic beverage on
the flat, and that the boss had no just cause for complaint, filled him
with genuine and virtuous satisfaction.

CHAPTER VII. The Man-Eater

FEATHERS christened her the Man-Eater. The implication was that Porline
was the counterpart of the devilish adventuress in the popular melodrama,
who consumes men with undiminishable appetite. Porline was small, and so
thin that her whole osseous structure stood out like a skeleton in a bran
sack; she was ugly, and no longer young; her mere wisp of hair was drawn
tight into a tiny knot at the top, augmented with scraps of black ribbon;
she had deeply-sunken beady, black eyes, and her complexion, indeed, her
whole binding, was leathery.

There was a painful cheerfulness about Porline, an inexcusable
skittishness that might have hurt finer sensibilities than those common
in the bag factory. She made an affectation of being a devil of a fellow,
which, taken in conjunction with her manifest disabilities, was quite
pitiful, but the hands did not see it in that light.

Her name, Pauline Streeton, would have been a jarring note in the factory
if it had been used there, but to Spats' Beatties she was always Porline
or The Man-Eater, and Porline took no exception to the nickname; on the
contrary, she accepted it as a compliment to her fatal powers of
fascination, and even strained a point to live up to it. Although she had
been in the factory some years, nothing was known of Porline's home life,
but because she had little slang, and spoke fairly correct English--a
thing generally condemned by the Beauties as a beastly affectation--it
was whispered to all new-corners that the Man-Eater's family had been
somebodies. One romancer in a burst of recklessness asserted positively
that Porline's father was an Inspector of Police, but the factory held
that there was a medium in all things, and the idea perished of
inanition.

Porline affected a youthful style in frocks, and her hats had always a
misplaced jauntiness; her feathers were higher than any other girl's, and
particularly vivid, and even at work, when the Beauties discarded sleeves
and collars, and all adornment, she loved to flutter bits of cardinal
ribbon, and generally wore a wilted artificial rose of extreme redness in
her sparse hair.

George H. Mills, alias Jud, alias Feathers, the packer, was supposed to
cherish a hopeless passion for Porline. It was part of the poor comedy.
Feathers maintained the pose without loss of interest for some years, and
Porline's archness towards the young man, according to the opinion of the
judicial Benno, was "the sort iv thing t' make er dorg 'owl." She hung
upon him, and turned saucy eyes up into his face, and giggled
heartlessly, remembering her part as the slayer. Feathers had a formula.

"Look at 'er," he would say appealingly to anybody or nobody, "ain't she
ther sort what's fillin' ther river? It's them eyes what does it. S'elp
me Jimmy Jee she's rooned my life! Straight--she's draggin' me down."

Then Porline would laugh coquettishly, and skip away to her work. But she
was lavish of her attentions, and wasted no little time at Benno's desk,
trying to bewitch him too.

"What I wonder when I see you is that there ain't more unhappy homes,"
said Benno. "Porline, I'd 'a' bin er better man iv I'd never set eyes on
yeh."

Billy the Boy, on the next flat, murmured with deep feeling: "Oh you
little devil!" as Porline went gaily downstairs. The printers cried:
"Chase me, Charley!" or affected a great concern about mythical
appointments, and the clerks in the warehouse, if the eagle eye of Spats
was not upon them, sighed deeply as she pranced in or out, and addressed
poetical raptures to the rafters Whereat Porline smiled roguishly upon
all, and accented her girlishness of manner. She did everything with a
girly air that became grim burlesque in comparison with her years and
infirmities. Porline even tried her kittenish graces on the foreman, and
had once looked bewitchingly at the fat proprietor himself. Spats backed
before the glance like a man menaced by a python, pulled the lift rope
with a perk, and shot into the depth, whence he almost immediately sent
an order demanding Porline's instant dismissal. She was saved by Ellis,
who assured the "gov'ner" of her harmlessness, and the more cogent fact
that she was one of the most profitable hands in the factory.

Tim Moore came to the flat one morning in the capacity of assistant
packer. He was a shy young exile of Erin, new to Australia, and the
Beauties overwhelmed him. He worked with his back to them in a state of
nervous apprehension, and it was noticed that he had not lifted his eyes
to the ribald hussies at the pasting boards in a whole week. Porline
showed no respect for Tim's native reserve, however, but beset him with
artful wheedling, like the sly minx she affected to be, and poor Tim
cowered before her attacks. The woman's audacity, her boniness, her
desiccated charms, and her ridiculous pretensions in the matter of hair,
threw him into a sort of helpless amazement.

Feathers was the first to offer a kindly word of warning.

"Yer a young man," he said, "n' yeh ain't got no mother to advise yeh.
Take my tip--pluck her out iv yer 'eart." Tim cast a look of alarm
towards Porline's board, and the packer dropped his voice to an
impressive whisper. "We call her ther Man-Eater," he said. "She'll bring
yeh sorrer 'n' disgrace. Buck up--tear her himage from yer breast."

An hour or two later Benno, primed by the packer, drifted from the room,
and loitered at Tim's bench.

"So," he said gloomily, "you're to be her new victim. That's like her,
castin' her devilish wiles over ther young an' ther fair. We've all
yielded to her fatal fascination; her path is strooed with ruined lives.
Well, well, iv ther worst comes t' ther worst, don't say I never done me
juty by yeh."

Tim's uneasiness developed into a sort of superstitious awe. He watched
Porline's comings and goings out of the corner of his eyes, with a
pathetic trepidation. In the afternoon, Goudy the town traveller, when
upstairs picking out an order, led Moore behind a stack of bales. His
manner was full of mystery.

"She's a siren," he said. Moore did not know what a siren was, but he was
impressed. "I've got sons of my own, and think it only right to speak ere
it is too late. Let her get a hold upon you, and--" Goudy left the rest
to Tim's imagination, but his gesture was eloquent of desolation and
despair.

Two hours later Tim stole over to Feathers. "D'ye mind tellin' me what's
a sireen, at all?" he said.

"It's one iv them things that sings and sucks yer blood," answered the
packer, with the readiness of an expert.

"An' I t'ought 'twas nothin' more'n a bit iv a whistle." Tim allowed his
eyes to turn cautiously in Porline's direction. "Goudy sez she's wan iv
them sireens."

Feathers nodded gloomily. "She's bin the blight iv me young life," he
said.

The joke ended there, for when Tim was missed from the flat half an hour
later, it was found that he had taken his hat and coat, and stolen off.
He did not even return for his pay, and Goudy heard that he shipped West
by a boat that left on the following day. The flight was a triumph for
Porline. "He told me another week iv it, 'n' he'd 'a' bin yours body 'n'
soul," said the veracious Feathers. Benno confided to her that he had
seen Tim passionately kissing an artificial rose she had tossed to him.
Porline's middle-aged diablerie increased, and this success prompted her
crowning audacity. She came to the factory the on following Saturday,
dressed in her gayest, and leading by the hand a child of about three
years of age, a little girl, pretty and fresh as a flower, and
caparisoned like the daughter of a duchess. Spats' Beauties were very
partial to kiddies; they deserted their paste boards in a body, and
swarmed about the child, gushing rapturously, praising its beauty with
longing ecstasies, finding wonders in the tiniest details of its dress,
the blueness of its eyes, and the gold of its hair. Porline lifted the
little girl to the bench, that all might see, and her own weird sapless
ugliness, was in hurtful contrast with the sweetness of the child, but
her little, spotty eyes shone with joy.

"Whose kiddy is it?" asked Martha, the fat girl.

Porline looked round upon them all. "Whose should she be?" she said.
"Mine, of course. She's mine!"

The Beauties, if not particularly keen on morals, were on the side of
conventions in their initial impulses. They drew off a step or two.

"But who's its mother, I mean?" said Martha.

"I'm its mother," answered Porline defiantly. "Pooh!"--she snapped her
fingers like the bad female in the drama--"what do I care who knows?
Why shouldn't I acknowledge my child? I don't give that for your
respectables."

Feathers pursed his mouth and whistled a long tremolo. "Well, iv she
ain't a fair take-down!" gasped Benno. The Beauties did not seem to know
what to do in the circumstances, so they laughed, and drifted back to
their boards, where they made calculations and compared dates.
Circumstantial evidence supported the claim of Porline; amazement
possessed the factory. Nobody would have believed it possible --
everybody said so.

For a time there was some little inclination to hold off from Porline's
kiddy, but the child's winsomeness dissipated all pruderies, and the
hands would have killed it with kindness had not Porline shown herself as
alert and scrupulous as a mothering hen; but the pride she felt in her
child lit her up like an inward light, and she paraded the proof of her
paganism with a flaunting audacity. The news went through the
establishment in a matter of minutes. The printers came up in a
procession to see Porline's "illegim"; the clerks, one after another,
found excuse for a visit to the top flat. The fat, bald ledger-keeper,
bowed his head upon a stack of nine-pound browns, and sobs shook his
frame. The fat ledger-keeper was an instinctive comedian. He had given it
out far and wide that Porline was his secret sorrow. All the men
reproached Porline, mutely, or with the speech of desolated hearts.
Ellis, the dusty foreman, was stunned; hours later he stopped to whisper
to Feathers, with the air of a man who's missed the point of a story.

"Does she mean the young un's really hers?" he said.

"Sure pop," answered the packer. "Hers fer keeps."

The foreman clicked his tongue for half a minute, looking like a mazed
hen. "I been in the thick of 'em here fer more'n twenty-five year," he
said, "an' my opinion is girls is mad more 'r less most times by reason
of the nature of 'em, but I'd never 'a' suspected anythin' o' the like o'
that of 'er."

"I'd never 'a' suspected it iv any man," said Feathers.

Having recovered from his great wonder, the packer resumed the thread of
his long joke.

"Yeh might 'a' broke it to er bloke gently, Porline," he murmured
dolefully. "Iv yeh, can't return ther haffections iv one what worships
ther very old slippers yeh work in, there's no call t' go laceratin' his
'eart. Girl, girl, ain't yeh got no 'uman instincts?"

"Oh, fritters!" cried Porline vivaciously.

"Can't yeh be true t' one what loves yeh fer yerself alone?"

"To a dozen," said Porline.

Feathers wiped away the tears with which he had sprinkled hisface in
preparation for the scene. "Leave me t' me grief," he "Let me sorrer make
me sacred."

Porline went off jauntily in her character of the heartless foreign
female out of the third act, and Feathers stole down for his daily beer
like a man driven to it.

After that Porline often brought little Kitty to the factory. The
Beauties made a toy of the pretty child, and presently the astonishment
passed, and Porline's motherhood was accepted without remark. The woman
was an Ishmaelite, she had no relatives to consider, and keeping no
society, was bound to no social observances. How she behaved within the
law was own affair; the factory at least pressed no demands.

One week, about two months after the first appearance of the child at
Spats', Porline absented herself from work three days running. She
returned on the Friday, coming in late, and the factory gasped at the
sight of her. She was changed as if by a visitation, all her jauntiness
was gone, she was hopelessly old and withered, the leathery tan had gone
from her cheeks, and the folded skin was yellow and blotched, her
red-lidded eyes were rimmed with purple--she looked like death in a
feathered hat.

She passed through the girls, without a word, deaf to their inquiries.
The packer's joke died on his lips. At her board she worked fiercely,
wrapping herself up in the task, and the Beauties looked at her and at
each other, and whispered conjectures. Fat Martha worked at the same
table, but it was not till an hour and a half had passed that she dared
put the question that had been on her lips all along.

"Is--is it somethin' wrong with Kitty, Porline?" she said.

Porline turned on her savagely, raising her brush to strike. "Shut up,
you fool!" she cried shrilly. Her voice sank almost to a whisper. "Can't
-- can't you see I'm dying?" Her head fell amongst the paper before her,
and then she slid to the floor, and lay grovelling, and the sobs that
convulsed her beat her face upon the boards until it bled.

The girls rushed about her. Some tried to lift her from the floor, but
she boat them off, and lay there writhing in a passion of grief.

"It's Kitty," she said presently. "My Kitty, my baby, my beautiful Kitty.
They have taken her from me."

"Who, dear?" asked the fat girl, sobbing in sympathy.

"Her mother. I took her when she was a tiny mite, and her own mother was
afraid to have her, and she said I could keep her always, and I paid to
have her nursed, and I dressed her in all the prettiest things I could
buy, and I loved her--I loved her, and she is gone. They have taken her
-- my baby! my baby!"

Porline struck her bare hands upon the floor, and lying upon her face in
the dust, abandoned herself to a grief that was tragic--profound as the
human heart--and the Beauties, who caught up emotions as the trees take
the winds, cried over her in a woeful chorus.

Feathers broke away, and staring at Benno, and pushing his hands before
him, he said brokenly: "I'm beat! I'm beat! Fer God's sake come 'n' 'ave
er drink I'm fair beat!"

CHAPTER VIII. The Wooing of Minnie

AFTER years spent in the quest of the perfect boy, Odgson seem satisfied
that the species became extinct when he grew up, and a man was engaged to
assist at the guillotines and do the rouse-about work of the factory.
Chiller Green was about twenty-four and a sinister young man at first
sight. He came on to the flat with the tips of his fingers dipped behind
his belt in front, his chin thrust forward, and his eyes full of
truculence. He surveyed the room and its occupants coldly, and his
expression implied a certain disgust at finding himself in such cheap
company. As he glared, his chin moved in a chewing action, leisurely and
insolent. The movement was purely for effect; Chiller had nothing to
chew. He had dressed in a soft black felt hat, high in the crown--a
kind much effected by jockey-boys; a short, faded coat; trousers very
skimped in the waist, and high-heeled boots.

A facetious clerk called up the tube to Feathers: "Accept delivery of the
new boy. Please forward receipt at your convenience."

The packer grinned. "'R' yow ther new boy?" he said.

Chiller looked sidelong at the packer's feet with contemptuous
casualness, "I'm Chiller Green, amachoor bantim champyin iv ther Port,"
he replied.

"Don' mention it," said Feathers, cordially.

"I'm jest sayin'," continued Chiller, "I'm man enough t' go on with,
s'posin' anyone's wantin' anythin'."

"G'out!" said Feathers; "I'll contract t' bury all your dead with ther
fat-money from er brick-mill. Iv you've come 'ere t' work, sling off yer
coat 'n' move, 'r the fore-woman 'll smack you."

Chiller spat with scientific precision, turned slowly away, and slouched
towards the changing-room.

The impression Chiller Green conveyed during those first few minutes
proved to be quite erroneous. The new hand was really a jaunty,
companionable youth, and demonstrated as much within a week by
inaugurating a boxing class in the lift corner, and fraternally
blackening the packer's eye during the luncheon hour. The boxing-gloves
were extemporized out of pairs of working stockings discarded by the
Beauties. Green was the pride of a suburban "push", and was certainly not
more impudent than was excusable in a man who could "hook" with both
hands and had "done time" because a bush-bred policeman had no more
respect for his head than to leave it in the way when the "push" was
throwing bricks about. Chiller was not backward in publishing his record.
He promised to show Feathers a "boshter knack for passing out gazobs".

"Got on to it when I was 'up'," he said.

"Gar-rn!" said the packer.

"Oh, I done my bit," Chiller went on. "'Tain't nothin' agen me, though.
Jist lined er John with er half-Brunswick, 'n' got four moon. Knocked him
fair off his trolly."

"Iv it gets known here they'll bounce yeh on ther pavement."

"My trubs! I'd have er cut at ole Spats hisself if 'e looked cock-eyed at
me." Chiller titled his truck-load on to its base, put his hands up to
nothing, did a shadowy spar, and then danced a few steps indicative of
his cheerful indifference. "I kin alwez get back to ther trade," he said;
"on'y it's Chinaman's work."

"'N' what's yer trade?" asked Feathers.

"Barrerin' rabbies. They's money in it when meat's riz, but pushin' a
barrer gets er man down, I tell yeh, specially in the winter mon's. I
reckon I'll hang up here 'n' make er name fer mesilf."

"Hope you'll keep us all on when you take over the business," said the
town-traveller.

The "bantim champyin" sparred at Gaudy, feinted and baulked in a highly
decorative way, and tweaked the big man's beard, making at the same time
a plaintive baa-ing. Then he resumed his burden and passed on, singing
something to the effect that he could get a sweetheart any day, but not
another mother. Chiller's taste in songs inclined to the sentimental and
woebegone.

The town traveller's remark was called for. Already Chiller Green had
assumed dominance in the factory. The deprecatory Ellis was most polite
towards his assistant. The foreman's native timidity doomed him to be an
easy victim to the audacity of young Mr Green. Chiller respected nobody.
When Spats visited the factory flat, the Bantam outraged his dignity and
ruined his influence by ridiculing him with audacious effrontery. As a
compliment to Odgson's hairiness, Chiller had christened him Jo-Jo, and
he indulged in doggy pantomime at the heels of the proprietor, or whined
and yapped plaintively for the edification of the pasters, scattering
choice sotto voce reflections on Spats, his appearance and manners, etc.,
reflections that embraced all Odgson's relations, including a purely
hypothetical Aunt Lucy, and it was carried on with bravado that amounted
to insane recklessness in the minds of the girls, whose dislike for the
great man from below was tempered with a becoming awe.

Chiller's manner towards the girls was familiar, and flippant. Even the
superiority of the two or three sedate and somewhat elderly pasters, who
preserved a certain aloofness, had no effect upon the Bantam's
exuberance, and he maintained for their benefit an assumption of close
and intimate friendship that they seem to find extremely galling. Miss
Stevens was the most reserved of all these. The factory had endowed her
with aristocratic antecedents and romantic misfortune, and even the
ragamuffin Beauties called her "Miss". She was thirty and scornful.

"What-oh, Steve! How-de-do-de?" was Chiller's morning greeting. Miss
Stevens treated him as if he were something to which the attention of the
Board of Health should be drawn at the earliest possible moment, and,
addressing a neighbour, the young man would continue brightly: "Great
cobbers, me 'n' Steve. She kin keep nothin' from me, tells me all her
secrets. No end iv conferdence in me, she's got. Used t' be er friend o'
mother's. How's th' indigestion this mornin', Sissy?" Miss Steven's name
was not Sissy; she had no indigestion. Her wrath towards Mr Green was
silent, but very deep.

Benno, the clerk, Mr Green refused to take seriously, at any time or in
any capacity. He called him "Tutsie", and insisted that, despite his
present pretensions, his antecedents were of the lowest.

"How's yer ole pot-'n'-pan, Tutsie?" said Chiller. "When I knew him, he
was head shop-walker on er saverloy-can, 'n' yer mother was carryin'
round babies t' ther poor, 'n' runnin' er 'families supplied' emporium in
Paddy's Alley."

"Le' go me leg," retorted the clerk, smartly.

"'N' 'ere 're you, wearin' made-t'-measure suits, 'n' collars what turn
down all round, 'n' splashin' yerself agin ther verandy posts iv fine
nights, like er young dook."

Mr Green's spirits were guaranteed to keep in any climate. When the
factory was cold it was as inclement as a refrigerating mill, and when it
was hot it was suggestive of a material hell with all the modern
improvements in house-warming; but cold or hot, Green retained his
flippancy, and went about his work with abounding cheerfulness. He
frequently paused by the way to put up a vivacious spar with a stack of
parcels, and every now and then he threw in a "dead flash" scrap of
step-dancing, or sang a couple of lines of a popular music-hall chorus
with original effects.

This was before the Spadger began to get in her work. The Spadger was a
little folder, so called because Feathers had discovered in her a strong
resemblance to a bedraggled sparrow. She was waspish and thin, with a
nose like a cheap wooden doll's, round eyes, and a mouth puckered into an
ineradicable perkiness. Her walk had a confident sort of hop in it. Her
ginger hair was literally dragged into a knot at the back, which was
always misplaced, so that her head had a cunning appearance of being
pulled to one side or the other. She dressed very poorly, and her hats
looked like some few unconsidered trifles collected on a plate. She was
old-maidish at eighteen. Her name was Minnie Silver.

Chiller had been in the factory two months or more before he noticed
Minnie particularly. When he began to offer her little attentions, his
manner was still gaily impertinent, and the small folder ignored him with
elaborate disdain that was a grotesque parody of the arts and graces of
her betters. When she came up the stairs Chiller would make a burlesque
demonstration, dusting the floor, and bustling pasters and parcels out of
the way.

"Hello there, get off th' earth!" cried the Bantam "'Ere comes ther
little Duchess. How's it this mornin', yer Grace?"

Miss Silver's nose would be hoisted into the air, her under-lip would
curl outwards disdainfully, and she would sweep aside her scarp of faded
skirt, and pass on with intense hauteur. Then Chiller to the packer: "Get
on to 'er, Feathers. You see 'ow she treats me--me what never put her
away when she stole ther tutsie, 'n' never will, s'help me." The
reference to the tutsie (vernacular for cat) was provoked by Minnie's
muff--a skimpy moth-eaten muff with bald patches--of which she was
rather proud.

"I 'ope I got too much self-respec' t' have anythink t' say t' them low
larrikins," said Minnie to the nearest paster.

Mr Green continued in this vein for some weeks. He never came near Miss
Silver without favouring her with some trifle of banter, and his remarks
were personal--painfully so, they might have seemed to people of
refinement. One afternoon Minnie remarked, in a high-pitched, thin voice,
addressing nobody in particular:

"If someone don't know better 'n ter sing out after people in the street
they'll find out." The speech was laboriously enigmatic, but Chiller
understood. Strange to say, the young man had no reply.

There was an undercurrent of sadness in the Bantam's greeting to Miss
Silver next morning.

"'Ere she is agin. Ain't she saucy?" he said.

"Phew!" said Miss Silver, disdainfully.

"Oh, mother, she bit me!" Chiller sparred, side-stepped the town
traveller, hit him in the wind, and then danced a shuffle or two; but it
was evident to Feathers that the bloom was passing from the young man's
assurance.

Not long after this the packer came upon Chiller and Miss Silver behind
one of the stacks. Minnie was supercilious; Chiller was protesting almost
pathetically.

"Oh, I say, Min, get off me face. Ain't I sweet with yeh! Ain't--"
Chiller discovered Feathers at this point, and fell into a low-comedy
vein. He feinted at the stack, ducked in, andput in some effective
half-arm blows on a bundle of fruit-bags; but Feathers was not deceived.
Miss Silver went perkily up the room. Certainly the courtship was
progressing.

After this there was an unmistakably pathetic appeal in Chiller's banter;
and Miss Silver, understanding her advantage accentuated her haughtiness.
She was weazened, and plain, and miserably dressed, and in all
probability had never had an admirer before, but the most disdainful
beauty could not have assumed more airs towards a hapless suppliant.
Indeed, at this stage Miss Silver's performance was an exquisite piece of
comedy. Despite her disdain, instinct prompted the girl to preen herself
With silly little bits of ribbon and scraps of lace, and a small bunch of
second-hand cherries and a turkey feather were added to the quaint
collection in her battered hat. Her scorn for Chiller was rapidly working
upon what strange sense of humour the Beauties possessed. She put herself
to no little trouble to display it. She went out of her way to meet the
Bantam in order to avoid him with unspeakable disdain. She talked at
Chiller in a loud, reedy voice.

"There's someone what's always follerin' someone about in a way what he
orter be ashamed of hisself, knowin' he ain't wanted," she cried.

"Better lay poison for him," said the Fat Girl.

"It's yer fatal beauty, Spadger," suggested Kitty Coudray "Cut yer 'air
'n' sit in the sun till you freckle up, 'n' then the man might give you a
rest."

Another paster asked if the villain who still pursued her was an
aide-de-camp or a rich squatter.

"Oh, 'e knows what 'e is well enough," answered Minnie shrilly, "'n' 'e
better mind 'isself, that's all."

Chiller had no answer to make to these insinuations. They left him
depressed. He went about his work quietly. He had abandoned the
boxing-class in the lift-corner, and showed a marked dislike for the
society of Feathers, Goudy, and the ribald printers. Even Billy the Boy
was losing respect for him, and cast painful reflections up and down the
stairs.

"Buck up," said Billy, "there's lots better 'n her in ther dust-box."

Chiller declined to buck up. Minnie piped something to the effect that
she would disdain to be "found drowned with a bloke what done up 'is 'air
dead leary"; next morning the elaborate festoons had disappeared from
Chiller's brow, and his hair was parted with the oily precision
characteristic of Sunday-school superintendents and reputable young
barbers.

"They's scrougers what think they's jist the lolly in a red tie," piped
Minnie, "but they ain't respectible if yer arsk me." Chiller abandoned
his red tied He put away the proud bob-tailed coat with the buttons on
it, because Minnie said acridly of all wearers of such coats; "It shows
what they are--lurchers 'n' rats, the lot iv 'em." He lowered his heels
for the same reasons and discarded a black-and-white sweater that he had
prized very highly, because Minnie thought sweaters suggested
disreputable sporting connections. But poor young Mr Green's courtship
was not visibly advanced by these concessions. Minnie Silver remained
supercilious.

"Oh, Min, come off," said Chiller, in sad expostulation.

"Speak ter yer equals!" sniffed the little folder.

"Give's er charnce won't yeh?" persisted Chiller, following her up.

Minnie gathered up her dingy skirt, pointed her nose straight at the
rafters, and to use Chiller's own expressive phrase, "laid him out cold".
Half-an-hour later, speaking from her place at the board, and addressing
the whole factory, Miss Silver cried:

"If people 'angs round other people's 'ouses of nights it's their own
look-out if the police gets spoke to."

Chiller Green actually blushed. A few minutes later, when the Bantam was
busy at the machines, and well within range, Minnie said to Miss
Twentyman:

"Seen me out with Mr Eddie, Sunday, didn't yer, Sis? 'E's a gentleman 'e
is. Knows how t' behave 'isseif. Gets 's quid a week et Goosie's,
solderin' jam-tins, 'n' a rise every year. 'E don't 'ave no truck with no
low fightin' scrougers, 'e don't."

Mr Green did not blush this time, but a light came into his eye that
augured ill for Mr Eddie, of Goosie's jam factory. On the morning of the
second day, Minnie was extremely caustic in her comments on some person
or persons of pugnacious quality.

"Them what 'its them what is too good for them will be made to pay for
it, so they better mind out," she said. Chiller growled a bad expression,
and Miss Silver continued moralizing. "It's somethin' if a young lady
can't walk down the street with a friend what's a gentleman, without 'im
bein' dealt with, an' 'is nose punched. But what I sez is, there's a law
for the likes."

Chiller got a day off to attend his aunt's funeral, and Feathers
discovered in the suburban department of an evening paper an intimation
that one James Green had been fined two pounds, with the alternative of a
week's imprisonment, for a grievous and unprovoked assault on a Mr Henry
Eddie in the public street.

Next evening, Chiller said to Feathers, "I'm slingin' it, blokey, Goin'
back ter ther trade."

"But I thought barrer-pushin' was er game fer gazobs?"

"Oh, ole Spats can't expect me ter go on muckin' round fact'ry fer
seventeen-'n'-a-tizzy. I'm thinking iv gettin' married."

"Gar-rn!"

"Ya-a-a-a-s." Chiller sparred a bit, danced a step or two, and went off
singing. "She's onlee a wuckin' girl, no friends 'as she", but his old
spirit was lacking.

Chiller left. In two months, Minnie left. One Monday morning about a year
later. Feathers said to Benno, the clerk:

"Who'd yeh think I seen, Sundee? Th' Bantam 'n' 'er nibs."

"What! Spadger?"

"Ya-as. They 'ad er pramberlater. There was er pincher in it. Chiller was
pushin' it."

"Good enough for 'im", said the relentless Benno.

CHAPTER IX. Levi's Trousers.

'TAIN'T in 'uman nature t' respect a man what lets his missus make his
trowsis, said the head packer. Feathers had the new man in the off corner
of his left eye, but was chewing deliberately, and scattering his
philosophy for the use of the globe. There was something very impressive
about his chewing at moments like this, it lent a ruminating profundity
to his discourse. He swept the brown paper neatly into the end of his
parcel, and paused again, leaning on his job.

"No man that wore 'ome-made round-th'-'ouses ever done wonders in this
world," Mills continued. "Napoleon's missus never made his trowsis, 'n' iv
Julius Caesar's ole lady 'd tried t' push a brace iv pants cut off a set
iv father's on t' him, he'd 'a' shown her some new hits, take it from me.
Straight, there ain't no call fer two opinons 'bout the bloke in breeches
with all the fullin' in front, 'n' legs like rusty tin cylinders. They
show he ain't got hit enough in him t' make himself respected in his own
'ome, 'n' you can bet that at a pinch the wearer wouldn't have sufficient
gimp t' get up off a tack."

Feathers punched his parcel round, and whipped in the other end with
automatic precision. "'N' yet," he said, bitterly, "half the 'ouses in
town 'ud give a gooey iv that sort a billet rather 'n' take on a lad with
a tizzy's worth iv grit in him. 'Specially if His Trowsis had a slitherin'
chin, 'n' the Sunday face iv a sick sheep."

The new man packed on in a painful way. The articles Mills handled so
deftly tormented him like things possessed of devils, and slid all over
the bench. His face was that of a depressed animal, and his large, pale
eyes had the intense expression of a prestidigitateur in action.

"Feathers," said the town traveller, "you're a heathen. You do not
appeciate the refining influence of a pure woman. Now, when I see a man
in a pair of trousers facing both ways I recognise the tender touch of a
woman's hand, and know he has a good, frugal, little wife."

"Who knocks cats out iv him iv he spits in the fender."

"I admit the trousers mother makes are not elegant, but by persistenly
making her hubby's pants, a thoughtful wife may save enough to bury
him."

The trousers were Dutch-rigged and wonderful. They were of a thick, hard,
brown material, and looked as if they might have stood alone had not one
leg been so much shorter than the other; they were extremely baggy fore
and aft, and were corrugated up the seams, and had a decided list to
port; but the criticism did not seem to reach the wearer. He found no
personal significance in the conversation, but was absorbed in the effort
to get the paper round his parcel without spilling everything. Billy the
Boy, whose mere wart of a nose poked into all mischief, had been grinning
ecstatically through the stair battens, and now ventured to take his part
in the play. He approached the new man and examined his trousers closely,
critically, with grave concern, from several points of view. He was very
small, very inky, and had a sense of humor much beyond his years. He
touched the new man inquisitively.

"How'd it happen, cully?" he said, pointing to the trousers.

The new man looked down at his pants, and his parcel went to pieces under
his hand again. He turned round once, as if to get a general view.

"What's wrong?" he said.

"Did yeh put 'em on wrong, 'r hev they gone wrong on yeh?" asked the
printer's devil, anxiously.

"They're all right, ain't they?" asked the man, and he dusted them
carefully.

"Oh, they're jist the glassy, but if yeh did'nt get in backwards yeh must
'a' turned the corner too soon."

The new man suspected something jocular at last, and looked up, and
bleated at Feathers and the town traveller. He meant well, and thought he
was smiling, but, as Benno said, it looked like the figure-head of a wild
asylum having spasms.

"Jimmy Jee!" ejaculated Feathers. "Someone stop it, for the love iv
heaven."

"Mother, I've come home to die," sang Goudy.

"Kiss me 'n' I will be good," cried Bella Coleman, and the pasters
squealed rapturously. A new hand was always fair game for them.

The foreman cantered down the room spluttering; the new hand switched
off his smile, and the others went about the firm's business with an
appearance of great industry.

Levi Goss, the new hand, had been engaged to assist Feathers during the
busy season, and the packer had wasted so much time endeavouring to teach
him his business that he now regarded him as a painful grievance, sent
into the factory by Spats and an adverse Providence for his especial
mortification.

Levi was about 35, a lugubrious and unsociable person who neither drank,
smoked, swore, nor canoodled with Beauty. "He ain't no hangel, but he
enjoys all the disadvantages," said Feathers. He was always dressed in
anticipation of the worst, in heavy suits that looked as if they had been
made more by accident than design, and wore thick, grey, woollen socks,
and thick, blue, knitted mitts about his wrists, and a thick woollen
muffler, and he carried an umbrella. The packer declared that he wore red
felt chest-protectors and woollen knee comforters, too, but that was mere
conjecture.

Goss was something of a new chum, and spoke with the remains of a
barbarous North country dialect, the burr of which defies every known
process of literary reproduction. He was a covert man, and avoided the
girls with a deliberate intention that became an offence in the course of
a week-an open offence calling for retaliation. It was crass folly to
take service in a factory full of undisciplined hussies in any spirit but
one of proper humility backed by trust in Providence.

The Beauties resented Goss's dull, unseeing eye and his bovine
insensibility, and with the sex's quick instinct in discovering man's
most vulnerable parts, opened an attack upon his trousers.

These trousers were a source of great uneasiness to Levi; they were
always on his mind. It was not the eccentricity of their style that
worried him-he was plainly unconscious of their imperfections-but fear
that an injury should come to them. His care that no stain should sully
their well-preserved newness, was not merely the natural anxiety of a
careful man. There was terror in it. For a time his little attentions
were secret. He would fearfully inspect his nether garments by the lift
windows behind the piled bales. He went under cover to brush them many
times a day, and before leaving of an evening cautiously removed every
particle of factory dust.

Later, when his pants became an object of open ridicule and a target for
scorn, Goss's distress about them was open and undisguised, and still the
Beauties harried him with heathenish relish. Clots of paste attached
themselves to his trousers in ways inconceivable to the wearer; adhesive
papers were picked up from every scat; flour bespattered them, and they
were defiled with dust and printer's ink and gum. Levi grew haggard in
his devotion to them, and wore the look of a hunted animal.

The factory was never without a stock joke or two, and for a fortnight
Levi's trousers usurped the honor. One afternoon the Fat Girl came from
the changing-room in a caricature of the despicable garments, done in
hessian, drawn on over her petticoats, and the result was a storm of
ribald joy that drove the foreman half frantic, and brought Spats himself
up from his lurking place in the warehouse. Purple with wrath, and quite
breathless after the exertion, he stood for a minute at the head of the
stairs, a malignant black figure, scowling horribly.

On another occasion a large tub of paste disguised with paper was
substituted for the seat Levi usually occupied at lunch, and Levi came up
out of it so bedraggled that his misery completely unsettled the packer,
and Feathers assisted manfully in cleaning him down. This kindly office
must have touched the new hand; at any rate it led him to repose some
little confidence in the packer. A few hours later he approached the
bench at which Feathers was working, and said, lugubriously:

"You know, Mr. Mills, I got a sorrer, I have."

"Whater?" gasped Feathers.

"I got a sorrer-here." He smote himself on the breast, and returned to
his work, leaving the packer in a condition of semi-paralysis. It was too
good a joke to be thrown away.

"Know what?" said the packer to Goudy and the clerk next morning. "Goss's
got a sorrer. Ain't yeh, Goss?"

Levi nodded, and pointed to his heart as if to imply its secret nature.
"Here," he said, and his expression was such that Goudy bent suddenly
over a parcel and coughed violently to save the situation.

"Hello," said Benno, "a sorrer-eh what? 'Tain't a little duchess is it?"

"No, no, no, no," gasped Levi, with trepidation; "it isn't anything of
that kind."

"Something he's keeping from the missus," said Goudy.

"Maybe iv it ain't women it's the booze," mused Feathers. "Confide in us,
Goss-weak men the best iv us, 'n' all mis'rable sinners."

"Perhaps it's his trousers," ventured the town traveller, with a
sympathetic inflection.

Goss shook his head. "No," he said, "it's a secret sorrer."

"Ther fact is," Feathers admitted, impressively, "his missus makes him
wear red flannel binders."

"They're very sustaining," said Goudy, encouragingly.

"Yes, but blime a bloke in flannel binders ain't properly weaned; 'n' I
cud just cry over pore ole Levi there with binders gnawin' inter his
vitals."

"Here," cried Goudy, tremulously, "don't you give way or you'll have me
crying, too."

Benno blubbered.

Goss hastened to reassure them, but he would not tell the true story of
his sorrow.

Within ten minutes the whole factory was in possession of the legend of
Levi's sorrow, and the Beauties were enjoying it with undisciplined
rapture like the barbarians they were. It was a new theme, but it did not
divert attention from the trousers, which seemed to develop fresh
possibilities in the way of low comedy every day, and at length Levi
approached Feathers on the subject.

"I say," he said, with the faintest suggestion of impatience, "is there
anythin' wrong about my trousers?"

"Yer trowsis!" ejaculated Feathers, with surprising self-control.

"Yes, what's against them!"

The packer examined the clothes with a judicial air, as if his attention
had now been called to them for the first time.

"I dunno," he said, "they seem t' be a orl right pair iv pants, iv sound
constitution, 'n' not too saucy. Hi, Benno!" The clerk climbed down from
his desk, and joined in the inspection. "Yeh don't see nothin' irreg'lar
about Goss's trowsis, do yeh?" continued Feathers. "Jest have a look at
'em, 'n' give us yer unbiassed opinion."

"They're the pink!" said Benno, warmly. "T' tell the gor's truth, if I
have showed any envy iv Goss, it's on account iv them garments."

Feathers called the Fat Girl, and she came readily. "Goss here, he's a
bit put out over his pants," said the packer. "Thinks perhaps they ain't
the height iv ambition in their way. Speakin' ez a hexpert, what's yer
candid opinion iv 'em, Miss Pilcher?"

"If Mr. Goss hadn't been so cold to me I'd 've asked him fer a pattern
off 'em fer pa," said Martha, almost sadly.

"'Old 'ard a bit, 'n' I'll whistle up the guv'ner, 'n' we'll hear what a
really great mind thinks about 'em." Feathers pulled the plug out of the
speaking-tube, and blew a blast. "Is Mr. Odgson in his office? Y' might
ask him t' step upstairs fer a moment. Goss is in great distress iv mind
about his trowsis-wants counsel's opinion respectin' the fit iv the keel
'n' the hang iv the basque."

"No, no, no, no!" wailed Goss. "It doesn't much matter. You mustn't
disturb the proprietor." He fled back to his bench, and flurried a
thousand envelopes on to the floor.

That was a very bad day for the trousers, and in the evening, a few
minutes after the last of the girls had gone downstairs, an excited bit
of pantomime on the part of the packer brought half-a-dozen printers to
the top flat. Feathers, going on tip-toe, led them round the turn of the
room to where Levi Goss, denuded of the precious breeches, stood at the
sink, a lank-legged, ungainly object, carefully cleaning his pants with
"turps." Feathers commanded silence with a master hand. Then suddenly
bounded down upon Levi, counterfeiting great excitement.

"Run fer yer life!" he yelled. "Run, 'r yer a rooned man! Half-a-dozen iv
the girls 're comin' back up the stairs."

Levi swung round, and glared for one terrible moment, his eyes full of
horror, his fallen chin suggestive of a sheepish helplessness, his few
poor wits utterly demoralised by the shock; and then he made a desperate
rush for the lift as the only possible haven of refuge, pulled the rope
with a furious tug, and dropped out of sight.

Goss made frantic efforts to struggle into the wrong end of his trousers
during the down journey, but had only succeeded in working up a strange
entanglement when the lift bumped on the bottom floor at the wide doors
opening on to a crowded lane, where two-thirds of the Beauties were still
loitering, exchanging badinage with the youths in the bacon stores
opposite.

A shriek of pagan delight greeted the spectacle of the trouserless man,
and there was a dash for the entrance.

Terror-stricken, Goss caught up his draperies and rushed into the cellar,
falling over bales in his hurry. He went up the rough steps to the first
flat in a few bounds, ending in a grotesque scramble. Voices above headed
him off, and he raced down the warehouse, like some quaint, mad animal,
and jumped for the front stairs. His clambering up them was suggestive of
the caperings of a drugged tarantula. He made maniacal attempts to jump
into his trousers as he climbed, and twice he hit the steps with his
shins, and sprawled half way down the flight again, his face retaining
the expression of a man escaping narrowly from the jaws of some ravening
beast, and all the while clerks and customers gaped in speechless
wonderment.

The Printers' flat greeted Goss with a yell as he rushed through it,
trailing his trousers. One voice cried "Fire!"

Thrown back by the sounds of feminine squealing above, Levi hurled
himself bodily under the double-royal printing machine, and lay there,
beseeching protection in gasps, and picking up inked paper and coagulated
grease as he fought his way into his garments again.

Neither Spats nor the second in command was in the establishment during
the term of Levi's flight, and there was nobody malicious enough to give
him away, but Goss was not destined to remain long in Spats' factory.

One afternoon, eight or nine days later, a short, stout, neat-looking
Methodistical woman of about 30, with a very businesslike expression in
her eye, came up the back stairs and stood for a moment regarding Levi
Goss silently, severely. Levi's work slid from his hand; he cowered under
the stern gaze like a criminal. Feathers, looking from one to the other,
whistled down the scale.

"Goss's sorrer, fer a dollar!" he said.

The woman advanced to Levi. "So, Mr. Goss, this is your quiet little job,
is it?" Her eyes went over the factory taking inventory of the girls, and
classifying them, and her lips tightened, and her color rose. "You
dissipated devil!" she hissed. "You abominable rake! You have deceived
me. This is why you have lied to me."

"'Pon my soul, Louisal I--" Levi's attitude was humble, but the woman cut
him short.

"Yes," she cried, "you are in your element here with all these hussies,
you wretch. Oh, but you shall pay for this." Nobody seeing Louisa's face
could doubt it for a moment. "To think after all the care I have taken of
you, you should have been here unwatched, unguarded. You brute, I'll
divorce you."

The truth dawned upon the factory. Louisa was jealous-jealous of her
Levi. It seemed too utterly grotesque, but there was no doubting it.
Bella Coleman had marked the word "hussies, and the contemptuous flashes
in Louisa's grey eyes, and she approached diffidently with an anxious
expression, seeking vengeance.

"Who-who are you, woman?" she asked in agonised Theatre Royal accents.

"I am this man's wife, that's who I am!" said Louisa, fiercely.

"Great Heavings!" gasped Bella, staggering. "Great Heavings; and he never
told us he was a married man."

Then she passed on with bowed head and a faltering step, the picture of a
blighted life.

Louisa turned on Goss, and for half-a-minute she was speechless. Then she
seized him by the shoulder. "Get your coat!" She dragged him from his
bench, and Levi lurched away to the dressing room, Louisa retaining her
grip. He returned presently with his coat, and Louisa, with her
relentless clutch upon him, pushed him before her down the stairs. She
pushed him all the way, never relaxing her hold for a moment. Feathers,
leaning over the rail, watched them down in a dazed way, with the feeling
of a man who had seen the last possibility of human folly. Then he
straightened himself and addressed the factory.

"Levi's a giddy," he said. "He's a rake, a bloomin' Henry the Eight. 'N'
in them trowsis too!"

But we had not seen the last of Levi Goss. He came up to the top flat
again next day with his wife in charge. Louisa stood aside, wearing a
grim, unbelieving expression, while her husband set about clearing his
character.

"I'm in an awful mess, Mr. Mills," he said to the packer, "and you're a
good chap, you'll help me. See, my missus, she's 'orribly jealous o' me,
and I didn't care to tell her I was workin' in the same room with a pack
o' girls, and now she thinks I've bin carryin' on, and-and I didn't get a
wink o' sleep all last night. 'Twas bad enough when I got my clothes
dirty, but now it's somethin' awful." A tear rolled down Levi's cheek.

Feathers took the matter in hand with judicious gravity. He assured Mrs.
Goss that her husband's conduct had been most exemplary during his stay
in the factory, that he had been blind to beauty and deaf to the voice of
the tempter. He produced witnesses in proof, Bella Coleman among the
rest, and this young lady admitted that Goss's not having told her he was
a married man might reasonably have been ascribed to the fact that he had
never spoken to her at all. "I wouldn't have one like him if they gave
'em away with a gold mine," added Miss Coleman, with convincing emphasis.

Levi looked happier as he went away, and Feathers called a bit of advice
after them.

"Take it from me, missus," he said, "give the pore man a charnce. Let
him buy his own trowsis."

Chapter X. The Packer's "Little Silly."

MR. GEORGE MILLS, packer, was not wholly impervious to the arrows of the
little love god. He had not served, for twelve years or more, on the top
flat at Spats', with girls of all ages, all sorts and sizes, and every
make and shape, gathered about him, without sustaining wounds. But
Feathers was a philosopher.

"Er man learns a bit 'bout women in a crib like this," he said,
ruminating over a quid, "'n' the more he learns, the more he puts his
confidence in beer."

Nobody had ever seen the packer drunk, but he had a deep, abiding
affection for beer, and with the affection was coupled a large respect.

"It's these cheap 'n' easy shickers rollin' round on their ear what
brings discredit on beer. 'Tain't the liquor wot's snide, it's the dead
hookity hides what it gets chuted into, 'n' the grown bloke ez kin take
his little lot in bond, 'n' then go 'ome on his own end 'ithout wakin'
the town, 's got a friend in beer more lovin' than mother. Jimmy Jee!
how'd a man get bumped with worldly trubs if he 'adn't beer t' fall back
on! '0w'd I iv bin many a time if 'twasn't fer the drop iv buck-up? I've
seen me put all my bits on a little silly more'n once 'r twice, 'n'
played fer keeps too-took the teetotal fer 'er sake, 'n' was mother's
bes' boy fer ez much ez a month, 'n' then 'ad t' get back et the pints
agin fer consolation. Now I wouldn't turn it down fer the toffest Dolly
on the block."

The "little silly" Mills had more particularly in his mind when
moralizing thus was Connie Gleeson, an expert paster from a rival
establishment. Miss Gleeson was a revelation to Spats' Beauties-tall and
fair, with large blue eyes, abundant hair, an excellent complexion, and a
decent figure. Sitting quite still, in a plain black dress, with her
mouth shut, Connie was a passable imitation of a lady, but the illusion
vanished the moment she opened her ruby lips. Feathers was well pleased
with her; so was Benno, and, for the matter of that, so was Billy the
Boy, in whom familiarity with the Beauties had bred a quaint precocity.

"My Jimmy! you kin tread on me face, whoever y' are," said the small
devil, when he first confronted Miss Gleeson. "You're the prize bloom,
Sis. Where'd they get yeh? Look 'ere, if you ain't runnin' a bes' boy iv
yer own would y' min' givin' me a little kiss?"

"Cheeky boy," said Miss Gleeson. "Get goin' 'r I'll hit y' in the
squint." She threatened him pleasantly with her brush.

Billy the Boy stood back for a better view. "What's a bonzer like you
doin' spreadin' sour paste fer yer daily?" said the wise child. "You
outer be in the sixp'ny bar, spangled with di'monds, dishin' up drinks t'
lots iv squatters." To Billy's young idea, a barmaid's position in a
sixpenny bar was the ultimate height in the way of social elevation.

"Wa's that?" exclaimed Miss Gleeson, struck with the idea. "D'yeh think
I'd do fer a barmaid?"

"Do I what? Take it from the teller, you'd slap the town. You'd have
firs' pull ermong the doods, 'n' cud pick one t' suit."

Feathers came softly behind the printer's devil, took him by the ear, led
him to the top of the stairs, and prompted him with a kick. Billy went
down. The packer already had other views for Miss Gleeson, and he did not
like the turn the conversation had taken.

"Gar-rt!" cried Connic. "Le' the boy be. 'E's a fair treat."

Billy's head bobbed up the stairs again. "'Andle him tender, Sis," he
piped, "he's li'ble t' boils. That what yeh notice 'bout 'im's free-lunch
onyins. Cud chip it with a chisel, cudn't yeh?"

The packer's usual weapon, the twine ball, missed, and knocked in the
belltopper of the junior partner in the cellar below. Billy the Boy was
absent from the subsequent explanations. He was very happy. Later in the
day he presented Miss Gleeson with a caricature of the packer in three
inks. Bill's caricatures were always atrociously broad, and yet held some
strange, loathly resemblance to the victim that made them a joy to
everybody else.

Feathers' love for Connie Gleeson was a sudden infection. In the words of
Benno, he took it "ez the kitten took the brick." Miss Twentyman
introduced the stranger with grave formalities, and the packer was glad
he had kept his collar on that morning, and pleased that his well-oiled
hair was truly parted, and that the branching arabesques on his forehead
were as accurate as a printer's bracket. These reflections flowed in upon
him, despite the fact that it was "a fair knock-out." Connie had large
eyes, into which she could infuse at will a touching shyness quite
infantile. She rolled them at Mills, and she smiled at him through moist,
red lips. She had a trick of moistening her lips when she wished to be
particularly bewitching. Feathers was stunned. Ten minutes later Benno
found him, fifty two-pound fruit bags in his inert hands, his jaws
suspended, and his unseeing eyes fixed on the whitewashed wall beyond his
packing-board, dead to the world.

"'Ello! 'ello, there!" cried the clerk, dropping a fourteen pound weight
on the scales. "Get a move on, 'r you'll get the shoot. Hoggy's comin' up
with his gun."

The packer sprung into action as if a button had been touched. "Hev y'
taken er inven'try iv the new goods?" he said presently, finding it was a
false alarm.

"What-ho!" said the little clerk, giving his lapels a tug. "Have I not!"

"Isn't she?" commented Mills, with something like enthusiasm.

"She is,'n' more," replied Benno. "Me 'n' me worldly goods 're all hers."

"Pity t' waste yeh!" sneered Feathers.

Miss Gleeson discovered herself to be the object of interest, and
moistened her lips, dropped her face, and smiled up shyly at them through
her nimbus of fair hair. It was a very pretty action, and most effective,
but it drew a long, moaning sound from Harrerbeller Harte, followed by a
lot of irrelevant baby-talk, addressed to nobody and nothing.

"Oo's mummy's ickle sly-boots, oo is-oo is! Baby's a baddy baddy'icky
bubb-bubb to goo-goo the wicked mans!" said the lank and homely Miss
Harte, and she kept at it till Feathers got angry and advised her to get
back to the madhouse.

"S'pose it's in the fam'ily," he said. "Y'orter be seen to. How d'we know
y' ain't dangerous?"

For answer Harrerbeller gave a grotesque parody of Miss Gleeson's timid
droop and moist, shy smile that set half the pasters squealing. Already
the Beauties had decided that Connie was "as ratty as rabbits," and their
hasty judgment was confirmed by wider experience, although no man in the
house could be brought to admit that there was anything the matter with
Connie beyond an excess of girlish sweetness.

It is a foolish girl indeed who has not some kind of an eye to the main
chance in her dealings with man, and it is not likely that Connie
regarded Feathers as her main chance at any time. There is no doubt,
however, that the packer was very serious. After the first month he gave
up beer and other little self indulgences, in order to have it in his
power to shout the young lady to 2s. seats at the Royal, and to suppers
of fried whiting, chips, and coffee at the fish-shops. Feathers was not a
demonstrative lover, but his affection for Miss Gleeson was soon common
knowledge. He built a stack of sugar-bags near her board as a cover for
little flirtations, and if anybody in authority came to the flat while he
was making himself sweet with the paster, he adroitly shifted his
interest, and was found to be busy at that stack, either taking parcels
off or building them on.

Benno brought to Goudy the news that Mills had been seen at large in a
flogger coat, and wearing a turn-over collar five inches high, and a
little bow tie of tender pink. The facts were communicated in George's
hearing.

"Strike me, you'd iv thought it had ten thousan' er year from aunty t' do
what it liked with," said Benno.

"A little pink bow tie," said the town traveller, with exaggerated
interest. "How coy!"

"'N a new grey felt 'at tucked in by mother," said Benno.

"And a pure white collar and a clean shave," added Goudy. "It must have
looked like 'The Maiden's Prayer.' How did the women seem to bear up,
poor things?"

Feathers arranged fourteen pound of sugar bags with great attention to
detail.

"But you've gotter overlook it." Benno went on. "It ain't responsible.
It's doin' a dote on a little silly, 'n' it's took t' walkin' in its
sleep."

"Takes her to sixpenny shows, and shouts cough drops," said the town
traveller. "The man's mad!"

Feathers began to soliloquise aloud. "Once knew a Scotchman give an ounce
iv liver t' bribe a tom cat, 'n' then, after frettin' erbout it fer a
month, he ate the cat t' get his own back." Then, discovering Goudy and
the clerk, he said pleasantly: "'Ello! is that you? Thort it was the
cockroaches." Taking up his parcel, the packer crossed to Connie's board,
and held playful conversation with the paster merely to demonstrate his
superiority to criticism. While his back was turned, the town traveller
filled his drawer with dodgers and cuttings from furnishing
warehousemen's advertisements, all addressed to those about to marry, and
all undertaking to furnish a home for two at a cost the ridiculous
smallness of which absolutely filled the advertisers with amazement.
Later, Goudy led Miss Gleeson to the packer's bench, and, pulling out the
drawer, revealed to her the many cuttings.

"Keep at him, my girl. You've got him thinking," he said.

"Yar, go'n chase yerself, why don't yeh?" said Miss Gleeson, pleasantly
confused. Then, as a bright afterthought, she added, "Yer fair up the
pole!"

Mills had become very spruce these mornings. He shaved every day. He wore
white collars and gay ties at his bench, and kept a bit of broken mirror
in the lift corner, to which he repaired several times a day to refresh
himself and re-arrange his hair. Billy the Boy noticed these things, and
commented on them.

"He's bin mendin' his hair agin, Sis," said the small boy. "He parts it
with a plumb-bob. I say, ain't he one fer keepin' hisself clean? I ain't
bin able t' rekernize him lately."

Billy lurked behind stacks of bales, with his retreat always open. The
packer placed a hard twine ball handy, and trusted in Providence. Billy
the Boy resented the packer's courtship of Connie. He thought she should
aim higher, and he brought her affectionate messages, mostly mythical,
from superior persons in the warehouse. Billy's messages from the junior
partner once removed, "Our Mr. Duff," were particularly ardent. Miss
Gleeson was inclined to think there was something in them, but everybody
else knew them to be preposterous.

"Suety's bin tellin'me he's seen nothin' t' touch yeh 'tween here 'n'
world's end, Sis," said Billy, soberly.

"Oh, go on, get off me face," answered Connie.

"Sez yer a knock-out, 'n' if anyone 'ud poison his wife he'd be on'y too
'appy t' track with yeh. He sez yer'air's the goldenest he knows, 'n'
you've got a neye like a tram lamp, 'N' 'ere are yow dodgin' round with a
waster like Feathers, what gets a matter iv three bob a day, 'n' couldn't
afford t' keep white mice after he's paid fer the brilliantine what he
glues his 'air with."

Judge the amazement of the factory when one afternoon Mr. Duff, the
junior partner once removed, approached Connie Gleeson's board, and,
under a thin and miserable pretence of examining her work, entered into
serious conversation, which soon developed a flippancy of which his wife
would certainly not have approved. Connie was greatly flustered and
flattered. Her moist, red lips, her large, infantile eye, and her girlish
airs were all overworked in a distressing way. A strange silence fell
upon the Beauties. Feathers worked stolidly. His back betrayed nothing,
but it would have pleased him to have been in a position to command a
special thunderbolt for the junior partner that day.

In the course of a week Mr. Duff came twenty times to the factory flat
and he never left without exchanging a little airy badinage with Miss
Gleeson. On each succeeding occasion the conversation was a little more
familiar, and Connie moistened her lips, giggled ingenuously, and,
glancing up through her hair, said again and again: "Oh, Mr. Duff, you
are a one!" Feathers grew murderous. Harrerbeller Harte's little
burlesques of the meetings convulsed the factory.

"Popsey-wopsey mustn't play with the wicked gentleman," cautioned
Harrerbeller. "Wicked gentleman steal mummy's ickle sweetie away, and
then bub cry her pretty blue eyes out, she will. Popsey's a teeny weeny
sillikin; nice gentleman eat her all up!" In concluding, Harrerbeller
aped a cow-like coquetry, and squealed with affected rapture: "Oh, Mr.
Duff, you are a one!" And then the Beauties gave the chorus: "Oh, Mr.
Duff, you are a one!" But Connie was not distressed by this by-play. She
merely giggled, and wriggled, and rolled her blue eyes, and said,
mincingly, with her most ladylike air: "Stop it off, y' lot iv wasters. I
wouldn't 'ave him on me mind."

Feathers was the real sufferer. In his own language, he was "off the
Dolly." Connie passed his bench now with her mouth pursed, her nose up,
and her eyes half-closed, usually trilling a popular tune with a most
elaborate assumption of preoccupation. The packer gave no sign, but his
soul was a seething geyser of emotion, waiting for a chance to spout.

It was a pleasant afternoon. The sunshine poured in through the western
windows, and a droning calmness was upon the factory. Mills packed
steadily, apparently unconscious of everything but duty, really alert
from his ear-tips to his ankles. Benno came to him from the lift end,
touched him on the shoulder, winked three times, and jerked his thumb in
the direction of the stacks.

"Get back t' yer barrel!" said Feathers, with concentrated
vindictiveness.

As if Feathers did not know that the junior partner had just met Connie
as she was coming back from the boilers, and that round the turn of the
room a flighty flirtation was going on. The packer could hear the sound
of playful slapping, and Connie's irritating titter scalded his ears. The
two were under cover of a high stack of hat bags in parcels of five
hundred, built twelve on, and almost reaching the roof. Hat bags are
extremely light, the whole stack would not weigh anything considerable,
and it had caved, and had a big list. It overhung the philanderer and
Miss Gleeson like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Billy the Boy came up the stairs on a special mission.

"Mister Duff 'ere?" he asked. "His missus wants him pertickler." Billy
looked back. "She's comin' up," he said.

A blinding inspiration struck Mills. He ceased packing. His vengeance was
at hand.

"Comin' up, is she?" He looked over the stair, and lied calmly. "Suety's
jist gone down t' the printer's flat. Get after him on the front stairs."

Billy fled, and Feathers looked over the balusters again. He wished to
time his little tableau precisely. There came to his mind rumors of Mr.
Duff's domestic infelicities. He had heard Mrs. Duff referred to as "the
Duchess." She was large and stout, and she had followed her husband to
the top flat on previous occasions.

The packer bent over a few reams of confectionery paper by the stack of
hat bags. His shoulder was against the stack. He lifted deliberately, and
with a great heave, and slowly, silently, like a snow-drift, over went
the stack, burying Connie and the junior partner in an avalanche of bags.
One shrill scream from Connie, and for a moment all was still. Then there
was a clamorous rush of Beauties. Mrs. Duff and Feathers were first upon
the scene of the disaster. Feathers was particularly careful that Mrs.
Duff should have a front place and a full view.

On the floor lay a mound of hat bags. Nothing of humanity was visible.
Feathers set to work, hurling the parcels aside. He worked with energy,
but wisely too, and presently a pair of boots came into view. They were
the junior partner's. Mrs. Duff recognised them with an ejaculation of
terror. Feathers tossed aside a dozen more bundles, and another pair of
boots and ankles were revealed. They were Connie Gleeson's. Mrs. Duff
uttered a second ejaculation, but this time it was not terror that
impelled it. Feathers grinned inwardly.

"Get a jig on, can't yeh?" he cried, and the dumbfounded pasters fell
upon the bundles.

A minute later Mr. Duff struggled up out of the wreckage, and shook
himself. He was unhurt, and seemed rather amused. The next moment Connie
was pulled from under, and she, too, stood erect.

"By Jove, that was a queer experience," cried Mr. Duff. "I hope you're
not hurt, my dear." Then he discovered his wife, and caught her awful eye.

"'E didn't faint," said Feathers to Goudy next morning. "'E didn't
scream. 'E jist faded away. 'E turned the tint iv a young Chow, 'n' the
smile went dead on his face, 'n' he was struck that way. His wife took a
firm 'n' masterly grip iv his arm, 'n' she said: 'Come, Mister Duff!
Come, Mister Duff!' That was all, but y' ortiv 'eard it. S'elp me, Jimmy
Jee, 'twas like a sentence iv death! I watched 'em down stairs. She never
eased her grip iv him all the way. I don't believe she's let go yet."

"Mighty curious how that stack came to topple over just then," said the
town traveller, scratching his lip in a troubled way.

"Yes," said the packer. "'Twas what the papers call a dispensation iv
Providence."

The following Saturday was Connie's last day at the factory. A fortnight
later Billy the Boy had news of her.

"Gleeson took the tip from one what knows, after all," he said. "She's in
a bar up town. A sixpenny bar."

"My troubs!" answered the packer. He was unshaven, uncollared, and
disreputable, and there was a taint of beer in his atmosphere, but, all
the same, when Billy had gone, he heaved a great sigh. She was indeed
lost to him, for to Feathers a sixpenny bar seemed as remote as the North
Pole, and not more desirable of attainment.

Chapter XI. Spats' Cats.

"FER some reason cats don't prosper 'ere," said the packer, leisurely
cutting his string, and locating his "chew" in one cheek as a preliminary
to discourse. "The climit 'r somethin'don't agree with 'em,'n' they alwiz
come to huntimely ends."

"Manslaughter?" queried the town traveller, who had noticed Mills' fatal
facility with a pound-weight.

"No," said Feathers. "I don't kill cats, on principle; it's bad fer luck.
When I first came up the flat I passed-out a large blonde she-cat 'n'
her family by pinnin' 'em to the floor with a 4cwt. tank iv tinfoil; 'n'
I lived t' regret it. Point iv fact, we all lived t' regret it. The cat
was nursin' her brood, clandestine, aft the smoker there, 'n' I ran the
tank in, 'n' dumped her in the dark, havin' no previous knowledge iv
Tutsie 'n' her chicks. When I bumped the stock down on her she never
breathed a word. Her pride wouldn't allow her. She left us to find out
the herror fer ourselves, which we did in the course iv time. That
knowledge groaned all over the factory, the hum iv it was so fearful.
Take it from the man off the works, Goudy, killin' cats is rotten luck."

"How do they die generally?" asked the town traveller. The town
traveller's order was being carefully compiled the while, and that bulky
and indolent man was comfortably bestowed on a lounge of parcels. He
loved conversation.

"Sooercide," answered Feathers. "I was goin' t' tell yeh. They all do it.
That un will in about a month." He indicated the new cat, curled up in
the cherished best hat of the elder Miss Kruse. "They get hydrophobia, 'r
somethin' 'n' run stark starin' demented over everythin', like a fresh
soul in the fire-box; 'n' end by pitchin' themselves head-over-crumpet
down the lift-well.

"The first one I recomember kicked the fact'ry end-up, 'n' fair rattled
the town. He was a big, lanky, grey brute, like a daylight spectre; jest
the color iv everythin'; so you had t' look three times t' see 'im, 'n'
then sometimes you wasn't sure that he wasn't a sleight-iv-hand trick 'r
a bloomin' hillusion. He 'ad big, sad eyes, 'n' when 'e fixed 'em on yeh
thoughtful you bed a feelin' 'e was strippin' you clean, 'n' turnin' up
all yer miserable secrets. 'Ceptin' fer a hunexpected wail he jerked out
iv 'is works now 'n' again, that cat was just a livin' silence; but that
one yowl was a blood-curdler; chock full iv human sorrer mixed with hints
iv Hell; bad enough by day, but at night, when he slipped it on yeh down
in the cellar, yer backbone rattled loose, 'n' yer 'air took t' crawling
round yer head like cold worms.

"He came to us full-grown, 'n' made friends with nobody. Killin' rats was
his bizness, 'n' he give his whole attention t' it. You know what a place
this is fer rats; they're ez thick ez flees on a Chow's dorg, 'n' up in
the loft the kings iv them grow ez big ez sheep. Bunyip was th' on'y cat
we ever had game t' roller 'em inter the loft, 'n' try a fall with the
champions up there in the dark.

"'Twas quick business down below here, 'n' no beg-pardons with Bunyip. He
downed on his victim like a flash, there was a sort o' sputter iv
fireworks, 'n' Bunyip came out o' the scrim, carryin' his lunch be the
scruff, but hot 'n' willin' was the mills he had up under the roof.
There's a hacre 'r so iv wilderness up there, smit with a plague iv
darkness, 'n' old grey rats with whiskers on 'em 'n' tusks like walruses.
Stick yer nose up there, 'n' ten t' one a rat what might be mistook fer
the father iv all the wallabies'll 'ave a cut at yeh fer yer ear.

"Bunyip's great fight come off one hot mornin'. It seemed ez if there was
a conspiracy among the patriarchs t' deal with him. We 'eard his usual
jump, and the squeal iv a rat in holts, 'n' then there was a sound like
the rush iv a reglar army, 'n' then a tearin' round 'n' bumpin' 'n'
botheration, same ez if a hundred dingoes was dinin' off a 'orse. Bunyip
let loose his terrible cry on'y once; it was his busy day.

"Operations was suspended on the flat, 'n' we listened t' the fight
shiftin' round above the ceilin'. There was a 'orrible muffled fierceness
about it; 'twas sort iv uncanny, same ez if two sets iv devils was
settlin' a difference in the darkness. At times it was deadened by the
thick dust, 'n' then it ud beat down t' the boards, 'n' bump furious; 'n'
then off it ud scurry t' th' other end iv the flat with a noiseless
noise, in a way iv speakin'. S'elp me, I thought I cud hear them rats
breathin'.

"Some iv the girls got scared, 'n' moaned a bit, 'n' began t' huddle like
sheep; 'n' the dust fair boiled out iv the loft.

"Sudden 'n' wild all the rats seemed to yell et once; there was a
terrible scramble, 'n' a rattle iv loose slates where the roof jined the
ceilin', 'n' then somethin' shot clean through the man-hole there;
somethin' fearful t' see, revolvin' with rage 'n' full iv murder;
somethin ez big ez a bar'l. It bumped on the fact'ry floor, 'n' bust into
two 'underd ole-man rats that 'ad bin glued on t' Bunyip in mortal
combat. The rats scattered 'n' broke fer cover, 'n' the girls put up th'
biggest thing in the way iv a nine-stone-four shriekin' competition I
ever heard, 'n' rushed into a heap up by the cutters.

"Bunyip didn't stop revolvin'. He was turnin' mad han'-springs over
hisself on the floor; his wool was stickin' out like a wire-brush; his
tail was ez thick ez yer arm, 'n' his eyes blazed delirious tremblings.
He whirled like a bally cath'-rinewheel, 'n' bounced like a squib, all
spikes 'n' 'lectric sparks, fer ha'f a minit, 'n' then he started down
the fact'ry. Lor lummy, what a hexibition!

"That cat seemed t' be a whirlin' battery full iv steel claws. He flew up
the walls 'n' fell off, whirled over everythin', 'n' everythin' he
touched was scattered in fourteen directions, same ez if the works iv a
winnower had gone mad among the staff an' stock. He flopped into the
paste, 'n' it was splashed all over the shop; he got among the stacks iv
bags 'n' the cut papers, 'n' the envelopes, 'n' the air was full iv
damaged goods. Over 'n' under the boards, up the walls, 'n' through the
stacks iv dryin' wrappers went Bunyip, 'n' 87 girls yelled blue murder,
'n' the grey dust iv ages from the loft rolled towards the winders in
thick clouds, 'n' Fuzzy revolved on the edge iv things, ten times madder
'n the cat.

"I went after the brute with Benno's ebony ruler, 'n' Fuzzy danced round
the bloomin' fray with a iron spanner in his fist, but Bunyip had got
among the Beauties, 'n' you might ez well try ter knock the eye out 'v a
shootin'-star with a 'arf brick.

"Goudy, don't talk t' me; you never seen that worry; you don't know
nothin' iv trouble. The cat went through the bunch iv girls, fair kickin'
off their goods, 'n' their cries could be 'card a mile off. Three fellers
from the printers' flat raced up 'ere, 'n' got after the cat with weights
'n' things, 'n' Bunyip went on spreadin' himself. When he struck a paster
he buzzed all over her, up one side, down the other, whizzin' hair 'n'
hide 'n' rags inter the hatmosphere, 'n' then got at another, 'n' the
fact'ry was littered with hysterics, 'n' fringes, 'n' fluff, 'n'
distracted rats was dartin' in 'n' out, huntin' fer places iv refuge, 'n'
on the outskirts iv the trouble Fuzzy continued caperin' like a crimson
goriller in a fit, clean off his knocker, 'n' pickled in misery.
Presently he thinks he see a fair openin' fer a dash at the cat, 'n' lets
go his spanner, all-in, 'n' takes Tommy th' comp. fair twixt wind 'n'
vittles, drivin' him inter the corner, tucked up 'n' scratched fer all
engagements.

"Bunyip broke loose from ther Beauties agin, 'n' went down the flat once
more, revolvin' on his own axle, 'n' boundin' 'n' bumpin' somethin'
furious. Then he gives one grand bounce, takes three turns out iv
hisself, 'n' bangs down the lift-well, still whirlin', landin' on the
head iv Tim Fennessey, the lorryman from the paper-mill, clings there fer
a moment with 57 sets iv red-hot claws, 'n' then starts over Tim, workin'
his passage, 'n' clawin'him t' the bone. Tim thinks the devil's
collector's got him fer all his sins, fetches a bellow, 'n' goes roarin'
up the steps inter the warehouse, where the cat breaks loose 'n' starts
layin' waste the selected stock, doin' nothin' t' the inks 'n' gums 'n'
pastes, kickin' the whiskers off the accountant en route, so ter speak,
fizzin' among the glassware, 'n' raisin' Spats 'n' 'ell generally.

"Up here, meanwhile, the Beauties wuz still kickin' their feelin's loose,
one big, red-'eaded bounder leadin' the band, mainly 'cause iv a
suspicion concernin' a rat in her dress-improver. Tommy was still lyin'
in his corner with the spanner tucked in his darby, venturin' a groan now
'n' agin, 'n' the foreman was fumblin' his 'air up, dotty with anxiety,
wailin' for peace 'n' quiet.

"Suddenly--wosh! crash! biff!--through one iv the front winders comes a
stream iv water, thick ez that, takes Fuzzy fair in the mush, heels him
over, 'n' washes him under the grinder, 'n' mixes him up with two 'undred
weight iv emery-powder, sluices the red-'eaded girl 'n' Mother Kruse
'ead-over-tip down the front stairs, swirls most iv the other girls round
promiscuss among the paste 'n' paper, 'n' then takes me fair 'n' 'ard
where the beer settles, 'n' jams me tight inter the works iv a
bag-machine, dead t' the world.

"It seems the racket upstairs fired an idyit boy on the clerical staff
with an idear the fire-brigade was wanted, 'n' he hailed 'em up quick 'n'
lively; 'n' nine wild firemen, arrivin' with a reel, 'n' seein' the grey
paper-dust from the loft billowin' out iv the upstairs winders, let loose
the bloomin' reservoy, 'n' shot a million gallons iv water at us.

"The damage done almost turned the boss's belltopper grey in a single
night. Bunyip was found in the cellar seven days later, 'n' a'eroic
dustman removed him for ninepence. Since then cats ain't bin pop'lar in
this fact'ry, somehow."

Chapter XII. Introducing Machinery

THERE were premonitions of important happenings, and the Beauties were
much concerned. Large cases of an unfamiliar kind had come up the lift,
and, with much grunting, had been shot on rollers into a commanding
position on the flat, under the eye of Odgson himself, who stood for a
quarter of an hour after with his belltopper on the back of his head and
his hands plunged in his trousers, looking hard at the cases, and barking
curt remarks at the junior partner, a fair fat, curly man, with the
ingratiating manners of a commercial traveller. The latter's air when
among the Beauties was that of a man of a frivolous and affectionate
disposition, whose natural tendencies had to be rigorously repressed out
of respect for the position he held. His name was Duff. The girls called
him Suety, and many other things more or less relevant.

Later, a space was cleared in the middle of the flat, and several times a
day Spats came up, and looked at this cleared space critically, with his
eminently respectable hat at the same angle, and his hands hard in his
pockets. On a few occasions the junior partner assisted, but only the
initiated could make anything of the boss's conversation, it being
usually a series of short and sudden barks and growls, with an occasional
breathless word breaking through.

The Beauties were bewildered. They went to the packer for enlightenment.
Feathers had not been taken into the confidence of the firm. He chose to
be frivolous.

"We bin thinkin' iv puttin' in a chute," he said, soberly, building up
two thousand tin-foil bags, which are more slippery than the souls of
Presbyterian Chinese. "Y' see," he continued, "the wear'n'tear on the
stair carpet is bringin' the firm t' beggary, 'n' we're thinkin' iv
fittin' the buildin' with all the modern appliances for dumpin' fact'ry
rats inter th' open. Yer flung in et this end, 'n' slid out et th' other,
like bags iv bran, pee-destrians bein' purlitely requested t' look both
ways afore crossin'."

At odd times the packer said the new structure was to be a three-penny
bar, a conservatory, a donkey-engine for vending saveloys, a
merry-go-round, and a fever ward. What he sought to convey was that the
firm kept nothing from him, but he respected its confidence.

One morning, two 24-feet lengths of hardwood, 12 x 4, were introduced. A
timid mechanic came with them, and bolted them to the factory floor in
the cleared space, and then fled like a man glad to escape with his life.
The herd of Beauties on Odgson's top flat were not generous to strangers.
Then hangers were secured to the massive cross beams above, and a length
of shafting, with two pulleys, was put in place by the foreman of the
printers.

The foreman of the printers, assisted by Fuzzy Ellis, opened the big
cases. That is to say, the foreman of the printers prized open the cases,
and Fuzzy got his finger caught every time the slats sprang back, and put
himself in the way of the hammer, and lost a bit of ear when the
hoop-iron flew up and hit him, and sat on such loose boards as had nails
sticking through them, and let all the heavy articles and implements fall
on his feet, and tripped over everything else, and was breathless and
stark distracted all the time. Odgson supervised, and barked at odd
moments, when he could no longer contain himself.

Rupert Luke, the foreman of the printers, was an extremely deliberate,
intensely melancholy man, whose face never in any circumstances lost its
expression of dog-like lugubriousness. Everybody laughed at Luke, he was
so sad. There was something indescribably comic about his unspoken woe.
For the rest, he was an extremely untidy tradesman, and was always
stuccoed from head to toe in printers' inks of a dozen colours. His hair
looked like old combings, and generally had at least three samples of
cheap ink rubbed in to it. He had a moth-eaten moustache in four
independent clumps, red-lidded, watery eyes, and flabby cheeks that
sagged down below the line of his jaw, like the fleshy decorations on a
common breed of hens. He was nicknamed the Pelican.

The cases were found to contain a great assortment of wheels, rollers,
pulleys, steel sheets, spindles, quaint saw-toothed blades, and
curiosities in cast and wrought iron. The worst suspicions of the pasters
were confirmed; obviously Spats was introducing machinery. There was a
flutter in the dovecot. Feathers abandoned subterfuge.

"Fact is," said the packer, "we're gettin' a bit soured on wimmin, me 'n'
the proprietary, 'specially me, 'n' we're barrin' the females, 'n'
puttin' down a mill that'll do everythin' fer nix, work overtime nine
nights a week, 'n' never look fer tea money. Yeh sling a bale iv paper in
et one end, let her whiz, 'n' she spits up envelopes by the million, 'n'
does no cluckin' about it. Pull another crank, 'n' she fair floods the
fact'ry with bags while yer lookin' round fer yer 'at. She squirts all
manner iv bags, sugar, fruit, confection', canister, 'n' brown bags, 'n'
cuts Hoggy's corns, and polishes the door plate when not otherwise
engaged. Seems t' me you toms had better book engagements et the Zoo,
wimmin's goin' t' be great curiosities in a year 'r two."

"That ole motor car's goin' t' do our work, 'n' we get the hunt?" said
Harrerbeller Harte.

"Same ez if," replied Feathers. "On'y it won't squeal over fines, nor use
impolite language t' the foreman when the clock stops."

"Oh, ma! I feel that somethin's goin' t' 'appin," said Harrerbeller.

Naturally this created a prejudice against the machinery, and against the
good-looking young fitter, who commenced to build up the parts. He
entered upon the job with great confidence, and then the girls got at
him. Sotto voce insults were nagged in his ears for two hours, and he was
a common cockshie all the time, the pasters spattering him with the crust
from their paste tubs, a missile that hits hard and sticks close. Then
the young fellow hastily collected his tools, and went down, looking like
an infuriated bread pudding, and he told Spats that he would fight any
man in the factory for two pen'orth of glue, but he wouldn't spend
another ten minutes in the company of those disreputable she-heathens up
stairs for all the powers, human and divine.

So Rupert Luke, nicknamed the Pelican, and Fuzzy Ellis were invited to
piece the new machine together. It was the only machine of the kind in
the country, and neither Rupert nor Fuzzy had engineering skill. What
Ellis lacked in knowledge he strove to make up with diseased energy and
misdirected haste. If the Pelican succeeded in getting a couple of parts
into their proper places, Fuzzy generally fell over them, or plunged into
them, and mixed the sections up again, and all the time he looked like a
man trying to collect his valuables in a burning house. When this
happened, the printers' foreman sighed profoundly, and sat and looked at
the fallen machinery for some minutes in a state of hopeless woe, but he
never complained. As he always expected the worst, there was no occasion
to complain.

Anything the Beauties could do to complicate matters and delay Luke in
arriving at a complete understanding of the machine, they did with
criminal goodwill, and bolts got into the cogs, and nails under the
rollers in mysterious ways; nuts were loosened if Luke merely turned his
back, and parts that worked in harmony one moment ceased to revolve the
next, and when they were urged something always broke. Then Rupert would
rake up his head of oakum, and almost shed tears in his grief over the
cussedness of inanimate things, and Fuzzy would paw wildly among the
parts, like a terrier after a rat, catching his nose in the cogs or his
fingers under the rollers, and battering himself with the revolving arm.
Fortunately, the hospital was quite handy.

Feathers alone was sympathetic; he would pause on his way to the stack
with a parcel, and commiserate the Pelican.

"She's got yer beat again, Mr. Luke," he said. "Take it from me, this
ain't no bag machine. It's a case iv mistaken identity. She's a 'ot pie
mill. Yeh put in a ton iv weaveled flour 'n' ole mutton cuttin's et this
end, give 'er 'er head, 'n' she pays out double-decker 'am 'n' beef
bulls-eyes till the fact'ry's bogged under, 'n' the traffic's all stopped
with pies from 'ere t' Dan. Barry 'n' back."

Odgson himself was never so concerned about anything as about that
misfortunate machine. The packer insisted that Spats had dreamed it one
night after a debauch of dried eels and tinned milk, and had had it built
in a local madhouse, and was now engaged in the distressing task of
trying to find out what it was good for. He spent most of his time
staring at the machine, and his glossy belltopper wandered all over his
head as he studied the thing with the comprehension of a damp hen.
Sometimes hard down on his nose, sometimes balanced precariously on his
occiput, now on one ear, now on the other, that belltopper was an
emotional barometer.

Hoggy's only contribution to the struggle was a spitting noise like an
angry cat, which he emitted every time Ellis made a slip, and the sound
threw poor Fuzzy into convulsions of aimless zeal, in which he always
hurt himself. During the months spent in erecting the machine, pulling it
to pieces, and collecting it together in another way, altering,
repairing, and experimenting, the foreman of the flat was never without
an injury. There were times when he had all his fingers done in bundles,
and free-hand designs in sticking plaster all over him.

One afternoon when the Pelican, after deep study and hard breathing, had
got something like logical, consecutive movement out of the parts, a
shrill cry broke the stillness of the hot room; and it was found that
Fuzzy had his spare tussock of chin whiskers run into the mill. Luke, in
the excitement of the moment, backed her up rather suddenly, and Fuzzy's
hair got woven in another set of rollers. Ellis yelled again. Feathers
described the disturbance for Goudy's edification:

"In ten secs Hoggy 'n' the whole Co. was on the job. Fifteen wild
printers came up the stairs, 'n' the pasters swarmed 'n' swelled the
disturbance. Seven Irish carters outer Egg Lane, four clerks, 'n' the
woman that washes the front offices, rushed the flat, 'n' pointed out
where the Pelican's treatment iv the case was a herror iv judgment. Mike,
the peanut man, bein' eager for the Ryle 'Umane Society's medal fer life
savin', waded in ter break up the machine with a sled, 'n' Billy the Boy
headed a forlorn 'ope what tried ter pull Fuzzy outer the mill be the
'ind leg.

"Meanwhile, Fuzzy was risin' t' remark, 'n' his remarks was like lunch
time et a cat show. Every time anyone gave the machine a twist, he yelled
like a barretone tom tab in a graveyard, 'n' every time anyone touched
him, he squealed like a million kittens.

"All the rabid partners was busy unscrewin' 'n' screwin', the pasters was
mostly advisin' Luke ter run Fuzzy through the mill 'n' chance what he'd
come out, 'n' Benno there, with a presence iv mind that was trooly
'eroic, snatched up a bucket iv water 'n' threw it over the miserable
victim. A marvellous intellec' Benno has-he'd ha' done the same iv Ellis
had bin drownin'. They had t' pick the mill mostly t' pieces t' unwind
Fuzzy, 'n' there he is. That strained look's due t' the pressure on his
back 'air. He thinks he'll never be able t' shut his mince pies again."

Fuzzy was in retirement behind his guillotine, sitting crouched on a
small box, nursing his hurts, and trying to hide his mortification.
Nobody could look at him without thinking of the brahmapootra rooster
that has been beaten in fair fight, and has gone under the barn to escape
criticism. But he was back, fussing about the machine again within the
hour, showing the Pelican what to do, stuttering explanations, and poking
his battered fingers into dangerous places, and Luke, who in these days
was an outre study in black oil from the bearings and stale paste, bore
it all without permitting it to aggravate his settled sorrow to any
noticeable extent.

The printer's foreman rearranged the machine to his own satisfaction, and
then followed many days during which he spent all the time he could spare
from his duties below endeavouring to persuade the bag mill to mill bags.
A large roll of grey sugar paper revolved at one end, various brass
receptacles distributed paste, the paper was folded over blades, and
drifted through rollers, and a revolving arm broke it in lengths, and
everything happened but bags. Strange complications of paper, paste,
anti-friction, and human skin and hair were born of all this labour, but
nothing remotely resembling a bag.

The firm was nearly demented; Fuzzy was threatened with brain fever, and
had once so far forgotten authority and his awe of Odgson as to cry out
desperately in the face of that great man that he wished he was dead; two
little girls were away injured; and the mother of Billy the Boy, a large,
fat, sullen woman, was in possession below, demanding compensation for a
hole in Billy's head inflicted by the revolving arm. Billy's head was
none the worse for the hole, but his fond mother came and sat on a case
in the lower flat and stubbornly refused to budge, assailing everybody,
from Spats to the office boy, with bitter demands for hundreds of pounds
down, in addition to fifty for medical expenses.

Eventually, however, a real bag issued from the drying press, and its
advent created another burst of excitement. Fuzzy squealed down the pipe
for Odgson. Never before in the whole history of the firm had anybody
dared to squeal down the pipe for Odgson. Odgson came up, and all the
partners, and the confidential clerk, and the ledger-keeper followed, and
all examined the bag critically. Triplets might have been born to the
firm without provoking half as much emotion.

Luke revolved the mill again, and more bags danced out all in order.

Feathers was skipping about amongst the pasters, trying to stem a
threatened revolt. The Beauties, fancying that the triumph of the machine
was at hand, were expressing their disgust in chorus, crying reflections
on the Firm, and casting odium on Hoggy's belltopper.

It was decided that the momentous time had arrived when steam-power
should be put on the machine. That was Tuesday. On the following
Thursday, when the town traveller came up to sort out a big order, he saw
the machine lying helpless again in miserable disorder, and the pasters
were slapping their brushes in a big rush, and singing gaily at their
work.

"Hell-o-o-o!" said Goudy.

"Yes, Scotty," said Feathers. "They put the steam on her, 'n' she's
tossed in her agate." He put up his hands, and brought the corners of his
mouth hard down. "Yeh never did, Goudy! Don't mag ter me, yeh never did!
Phew! Yeh ain't even got an idear. 'Twas 'ell 'n' free beer here yes'day,
'n' iv yeh know any gazob on yer round what's in need iv an ole clothes
wringer 'r a 'ump-backed mangle what'll do on a pinch fer a sausage mill,
'r a knife polisher, 'r a new patent fer rollin' dough, yeh can refer him
t' the Firm. We're sellin' out iv the notion iv growin' bags be machinery
at a halarmin' sacrifice.

"I dunno what indooced 'er t' do it," he continued. "The whole bag iv
tricks was here, includin' some fine female relations iv the Firm, what
ud come along t' commit the idjis sin iv spillin' God's good drink on a
dumb 'n' deaf bleedin' machine. The Pelican shot the bolt, 'n' she
revolved somethin' lovely, scorin' off her own bat, 'n' the bags was
hoppin' out thick ez fleas, 'n' the Firm was huggin' itself with both
'ands, 'n' the Firm's missus 'n' married daughters was sayin' how
awfully, perfectly, beastly clever it was, 'n' lookin' at it critical
through them long-handled spectacles, when all iv a sudden she began t'
buck up. There was a long, rippin', tearin' sound, a snort, 'n' a rumble,
'n' erbout a pint iv teeth off the cogs was jerked inter the elder
dorter's back hair. Then the mill started t' 'ump her back like a rattled
cat, miles iv puckered paper got wadded in her works, gathered, bulged,
'n' burst up, 'n' heaved great streams 'n' wads 'n' shavin's all over the
flat, spoutin' 'em like a bloomin' Vesuvius.

"There was another burst iv thunder sound, 'n' two quarts iv hot paste
spirted out, 'n' took Spats clean in the whiskers, 'n' got a flyin' fall
out of him over a roll in something under 4 secs.

"'Stop 'er!' howled Duff, 'n' he made a good bid fer it, but she shot out
a steel roller weighin' a quarter 'underd, 'n' whacked him hard 'n' good
fair in the dyspepsy, 'n' the junyer partner went down then 'n' there,
'n' revolved nine times on his own elbow.

"'Stop 'er!' squealed Mrs. Spats, 'n' she did a dash with 'er silk
sunshade worth pounds, havin' a idear she might poke its eye out, but it
et up 'er gold-mounted brolly, 'n' batted 'er in the basket with 28 lb.
iv grey sugar paper done up tough, 'n' she retired 'urt.

"'Stop 'er!" screamed Fuzzy, 'n' what 'e did I dunno, but when I saw him
next he had his napper plunged in a tub iv dough, 'n' his feet was
dancin' polkers in the air, 'n' the jigger was openin' out fer new
flights iv fancy.

"Presently the Pelican got a dawnin' idear the machine was n't quite
hittin' it accordin' t' the bye-law, 'n' he rushed fer an openin', but
the revolvin' arm was bent out, 'n' it got home a left lead 'n' a right
cross, 'n' the rag went in from the Pelican's corner. All this time the
idyit iv a mill was tearin' out leagues iv what yer might call premature
sugar bags, 'n' stockin' the blighted factory with 'em, 'n' it was
spatterin' hot paste ez if it was bein' whacked out by a maxim, 'n' the
frenzy iv it turned Hoggy's whiskers grey, 'n' doubled up his second
dorter in a squealin' fit that was more disorderly than one iv fat
Martha's.

"The crowds iv strangers what had come up the stairs looked on
awe-strick, 'n' one was dumped down two flights, 'ead over tuck, with a
fat punch from a two-pound cog-wheel biff in the binge. Silly Dodd's
light was put out with a junk iv a castin', Booser M'Gunn, the comp.,
went ter beddy-bye with a brass bearin' rolled up in his clothes, 'n'
Harrerbeller was squirted in the eye with such vi'lence that she jes'
said 'Oh, mother!' 'n' went off like a little child.

"Be this time the Beauts had gone under cover, 'n' every one what wasn't
disabled was watchin' the insurrection frim behind bales 'n' stacks, 'n'
frim under tables, 'n' there was the bally mill crimpin' up raw material,
'n' chuckin' out fathoms iv tucks, fair daft.

"Then jist ez sudden ez 'Kiss me, Charley,' all was over. Fuzzy fell limp
from somewhere aloft into a pool iv slops on fat Martha's board, 'n' the
loose belt was dancin' over the shaftin'.

"Ellis, in one iv his brightest himpersonations iv the Idyit Boy, 'ad
jumped on Martha's board t' throw the belt off, 'n' be the dilly nature
iv him, got himself yanked up 'tween belt 'n' pully, where he got a
squeezin' that made his boots pop. Then the belt slid off, 'n' peace was
declared.

"Fuzzy's away, bandaged, 'n' plastered, 'n' docketed in the 'orspital
now, 'n' Booser M'Gunn's wearin' a faint smile 'n' a wet compress, 'n'
we're all 'appy."

Ellis was back in his place two days later, fearing somebody else would
be getting injured in his absence, and then the new bag mill was covered
under a long, black pall, and the Beauties were gaily chanting its
obsequies.



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