Carlene lifted her heavy black hair, propped herself on one elbow and looked down at the man’s strong build and ruddy features. He had fallen asleep for a short time after he’d climaxed. Finally her gaze penetrated his consciousness and he blinked a few times, getting his bearings.
He had been here three times and it still took him a few moments to take in his surroundings. He lowered the bearskin that covered their bodies and looked at her until his loins responded again. Pulling her toward him by her great shank of black hair, he brought her wide red mouth to his.
“Come here, woman.”
She pulled back. “Why you call me `woman’?”
“That’s what you are. Otherwise, you sure got me fooled.”
“I don’t mean that—”
“You woman, me man.”
“My name is Carlene.”
“I’ll try to remember that.”
“You don’t call her `woman’, do you?”
His face turned an angry red. “You leave her out of this. Hear?”
She was quiet. In a few minutes he heard a sound— almost like purring. He listened for a few moments. The way she was breathing returned them both to a vein of tranquility.
On his twenty-fourth birthday Roy couldn’t have been more excited. Ma had fixed a special dinner. As they gathered around the table, he couldn’t wait.
Putting his arm around Jenny, he announced with a big grin, “Jenny and me are going to get married. It’s official.” He slipped a little ring on her finger and gave her a kiss.
“Congratulations,” Pa said.
“When’s the happy day, Roy?” Calvin asked.
Roy looked at his fiancée. “You’ll have to ask the lady here.”
Jenny looked at her father, who’d been invited for this special occasion. “Father thinks we should wait, a year or two.”
“Wise choice,” Jeremy concurred.
The announcement was not a great bolt of surprise to anyone, but still it added to the cheer that night. Pa broke out a bottle of champagne. When he popped the cork, it rocketed upwards. With an agile leap Roy caught it. Everyone clapped and toasted the young couple. Roy reveled in the attention they were getting. Pa produced two bottles of wine to go with dinner— not his home brew, but some good stuff he’d bought uptown.
Jenny kissed him and gave him a handsome linen handkerchief she’d made herself. She’d embroidered his initials in the corner.
“I shall cherish this forever,” he said, pressing it against his cheek.
When he walked Jenny home later that night, he was the happiest he could ever remember being.
“Oh, Jenny, it’s all so grand. We’re going to be married! How many children do you want?” He picked her up and swung her around.
She laughed and said, “Enough to make you happy.”
“How about a dozen?”
“Oh, not that many! Roy, are you serious?”
“Course not. A couple will do. Whatever you want, Sweetheart.”
Suddenly he turned to her seriously, and lifted her chin under the streetlamp. “You know there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you.”
She hugged him, right there on Walker Street.
When they were seated in her parlor, Roy’s amorous demonstrations showed more restraint than usual.
As he was leaving she said, “I knew you’d see reason.”
Roy smiled. He’d found a solution.
She held him close. “When we’re married I’ll give myself to you with all my heart,” she promised.
“I know you will, Precious.”
And Roy felt good inside every time he thought of Jenny, of their perfect future together.
The construction of the beautiful new Opera House in Red Jacket was talked about everywhere.
“Can you imagine— there’s to be individual heating controls for each seat?” her friend Rose told Betsy.
“Impossible! How would that work?”
“Foot warmers, for each theatre patron. With a little lever, you can adjust the heat.”
“Isn’t it marvelous! I doubt if Broadway has such an invention as that.”
“We’re certainly getting modern.”
“And guess who’s engaged to perform for the gala opening?”
“The great Sarah Bernhardt.”
Even Patty, who’d returned to work was interested. “Will you and the mister be going to it?”
“Oh, yes, I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
“What’s the name of the play, mum?”
“The Curse of the Aching Heart.”
Betsy was on a committee to plan the dinner that would follow the performance. Cases of real French champagne were brought in, smoked salmon and caviar all the way from Norway.
The dinner went well, with everyone in high spirits from the good food and libations.
“If only I could write that way,” she sighed to Rose after the performance.
“What about the performing— would you like to act, like Miss Bernhardt?”
“Oh, I couldn’t!” she laughed. “Did you notice, Rose, how she held the audience, as if in her hand?”
“She was very captivating.”
The next morning as Betsy was sitting at her dresser, Patty wanted to hear about the evening. She was hanging up the gown Betsy had worn the night before.
“Did you enjoy the show, mum? Was she as great as they say?”
“She was indeed, Patty.”
“It must have been wonderful, sure!” She paused, and offered shyly, “My Michael likes the stage. Wouldn’t he have loved to see that, now.”
“Oh, yes?” Betsy was putting pins in her hair.
“He was in the musical hall business back home. Made his living at it for a while before I met him, that he did.”
“I didn’t know that.”
“Tell you the truth that’s what he’d rather be doin’ now, if he had his way.”
“But you wouldn’t like that kind of life, would you?”
“Ah, no, mum. I made him quit that foolishness before I’d marry him. I told him I wouldn’t go on the road with him— I wanted to settle, and have a family. And I wouldn’t have him goin’ off without me, either.”
Betsy was putting the finishing touches on her hair. “I suppose not.”
“But he plays around with a little group here just for the pleasure o’ it. Mostly singin’ they do, ole Irish songs in the pub, and sometimes the odd skit. Dirty humor it is too.” She shook her head. “He misses the musical hall, that he does.”
Patty laughed as she raised the window shade and made the bed up. “When he gets mad at me he threatens to run off with the next travelin’ company that comes through town.”
“He doesn’t mean it, Patty.”
“Was there dancin’ and songs as well, mum?”
“No. It wasn’t that kind of show.”
In the evening Jeremy smiled. “You’ll enjoy this, Betsy. The great Miss Bernhardt wishes to go down in the mine!”
“What!” Betsy laughed. “You are in jest!”
“I am not. She put the word out that she’d like to see the inside of a mine, and our Roy stepped forward and offered to accommodate her. Fancy that.”
“Is she really going to do it?” Betsy was beside herself with excitement.
“She is, tomorrow. Roy suggested the No. 6, because it doesn’t smell as bad as the others.” He laughed. “Better ventilation. Still, the men had orders to clean the place up today.”
“Jeremy,” Betsy said thoughtfully, “What do the men use for a privy?”
“That’s just it. Old dynamite boxes, if that.”
“It’s no place for a woman. Still, Parker was flattered that she’d want to see the mine. He figures it will be good publicity, and won’t hurt the purchase of shares in the Company.”
“And Roy is going to accompany her?”
“Yes, tough job— that,” he laughed.
AnnaBeth had been listening. “Who’s Sarah Bernhardt?”
“Just about the most famous actress in the country,” Jeremy said. “Shouldn’t you be washing up in the kitchen, eh?”
AnnaBeth looked puzzled.
“Jeremy,” Betsy replied, “she finished the dishes an hour ago.”
He turned to AnnaBeth. “Then you can go study. We can all improve ourselves by studying. For our whole lives.”
AnnaBeth looked aghast.
“Why do you think I read books, and the newspaper?” Jeremy inquired.
She twisted her mouth. “I don’t know, Father.”
“To learn, girl— learn!”
“Jeremy,” Betsy reprimanded, when AnnaBeth had left the room, “that was unkind.”
“She’s twenty-five years old, for God’s sake. She’s—” He hunted for the word he was looking for. “She’s backward.”
Betsy gasped. “Oh, don’t say that.”
“It’s true. She’s an embarrassment in public.”
“How do you mean?” The color rose to her neck and face.
“She can’t answer simple questions put to her. She stares.”
Betsy would never look at her beloved AnnaBeth that way. “She’s just shy.”
“She’ll always be a spinster. You know that, don’t you?”
Betsy bit her tongue. Jeremy had driven away the only man who’d shown an interest in her daughter.
Plain, but not unattractive, AnnaBeth did not possess the charms of some young ladies. She was as sweet, as compassionate and loving as any young girl could be. If she wasn’t witty and beguiling, Betsy loved her all the more.
Roy was excited to tell Jenny about the diva coming.
She put on her prettiest smile. “Perhaps I should go too, so she won’t feel uncomfortable, being the only woman. And we could talk— woman to woman.”
“Not on your life. I will not allow a fiancée of mine down there. Nothing about that place was designed for the tender sensibilities of a woman,” he said, chucking her under the chin.
“I must say, you are a spoil-sport. It might be great fun, and something I’d remember the rest of my life.”
“No doubt. But the answer is ‘no’.”
Jenny had to be content, but couldn’t wait to ask Roy that evening if the great Miss Bernhardt really did go down, and what she thought of it.
“She said she enjoyed it tremendously, and the men should all be very proud of the hard and dangerous work they do.”
“What did she wear?”
“I gave her one of my white coats to cover her dress.” Roy seemed to have no more to say.
“And that’s all?” Jenny felt a sense of disappointment.
“What did you expect, my dear?”
“Wasn’t she frightened, going so deep into the bowels of the earth? Did she panic in the dark, and grab onto you, or scream?”
Roy laughed. “Not at all. I must say she conducted herself as well as a man. She showed no fear, which we all thought she would—though every man was prepared to catch her, should she faint.”
“But Roy, the man-car is practically a vertical ladder, you’ve told me, with men crowded together, three on each step. You’ve told me they’ve fallen to their death, often a mile or more, if they so much as lean forward.” She turned away. “I think I should have fainted.”
“That’s why you weren’t allowed to go.”
Jenny gave him a look, but he only smiled.
“Is she pretty off-stage?”
“It was hard to tell in the dark.”
“Oh, Roy, don’t tease.”
“It’s true—it’s totally dark in the mine, except for the men’s helmet lamps.”
“You sat next to her?”
“Yes, Jenny, I did.”
“And held her so she wouldn’t tip?”
“And had my way with her all the way down.”
“Roy Willis!” Playfully, Jenny started beating him on the chest. “You’re terrible. You’re deliberately provoking me!”
Roy only laughed as he caught her wrists. “You’re making yourself miserable, Jenny, with all your questions. Her deportment was admirable, and so was mine. Now be satisfied. She’s at least sixty, if not seventy years old!”
“Never! Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”
Betsy made another visit to the employment office.
“Riley. Yes, I remember the man, don’t I? Got the axe when he passed out on Friday last. Or was it the week before?”
Betsy brushed the flies away from her face. She watched one stick to a crumb on Mr. Copley’s beard. It didn’t seem to bother him. “Two weeks ago.”
“It’s a pity, but can’t have somebody on the man-car might pass out and push a bunch of ‘em off with him, like dominoes.” Mr. Copley added gestures to illustrate his point.
“Is the Company doing anything for him?”
“They seldom do for the miners. The trammers are strictly on their own.”
“How are they supposed to get on, then?”
Copley’s dark eyes twinkled. “Say their prayers and tighten their belts, I ‘spect.”
She was seething by the time she got home. That evening she said to her husband, “Did you know Keweenaw isn’t doing anything for Patty’s husband?”
“It is not the Company’s responsibility to take care of these men for life.”
“But Jeremy— ”
“It’s dangerous work. They know that when they sign on.”
“But when they’re hurt or killed—”
“There are charities, and a fund for emergencies.”
There was a bite to his voice, but she forged ahead.
“What’s the fund called?”
“Are you questioning me, Betsy?”
“I had thought you had more compassion for the poor. You used to say—”
“I don’t have to answer to you, Betsy. For that matter, I don’t make the rules.”
“Will you speak to someone on the board of supervisors about helping Michael Riley?”
“I will not! That is not my province, and I will not interfere.”
But you have influence, Jeremy. You’re on the board of supervisors!”
“Influence! It’s a token position—a shop owner or two, to make it all seem so democratic.”
Earl Foster was just sitting down to dinner with his wife, Cora, when he got an emergency call from a shaft supervisor at the mine. As sheriff, he had to go.
“Some crackpot set fire in the mine,” he told his wife as he got his coat. It was August, but the evenings were chilly.
He rode his buggy, with his old mare still at the helm. Bigot was bad-tempered at being made to go out at night.
“Getting tetchy, are we, old girl?”
As he bumped along through the darkness, Earl sang, The old grey mare she ain’t what she used to be.
Then his thoughts turned to running through what facts he had on this case. He’d never heard of such a thing before. There were fires in the mines all right, when the huge, dry timbers that supported the walls started to blaze. None he’d heard of were set on purpose. Usually they were caused by sparks from a fuse set for a dynamite explosion. And the men were lucky to get out alive. Sometimes they didn’t.
So it was some surprise when the shaft supervisor called Foster with this charge and asked for an immediate arrest.
Lights ahead signaled they were nearing their destination. There loomed the enormous Keweenaw Mine, holding irrefutable sovereignty over all it surveyed. There was an impressive spread of buildings above ground, but it was only the tip of the iceberg; a warren of shafts and drifts lay underground. The peninsula was dotted with copper mines, but the Keweenaw had no peer in this realm.
“How do you know he did it on purpose?” the sheriff asked Krause, the shaft supervisor.
“The nitwit confessed, practically bragged about it.”
“Why would anyone set a fire in the hole?”
“Don’t know. But got my ‘spicions.”
“He’s an agitator. Not satisfied with working conditions.”
“How did he figure on changing things that way?”
The other man shrugged. “Wants to make a point— get back at the Company.”
“Damned dangerous way to do it. How serious is the fire?”
“Well, his partner put it out before it could do much damage, and they managed to get out of there unhurt.”
“What’s his name?”
“They call him Twister—Twister Trewella.”
Earl arrested Trewella, who was being held at the Company office. They rode south through groves of birches, aspen and beech. They passed the church that Earl had always thought was too big for the hill it stood on.
On the long buggy ride, the culprit sat next to him in handcuffs. With his huge crop of red hair and no beard it was hard not to think of him as a boy. The lad said he was twenty years old, and had worked at the Keweenaw since he was fourteen.
“I can’t take h’it no more,” the youth told the sheriff, as his left knee bounced up and down.
Earl Foster strained to decipher the Cornish accent.
“I got passed h’up, for learning the minin’ trade. They must think I wanted to pick h’up and dump rock my whole life. Now Fred, ‘e’s my brother, and ‘e’s been a miner h’ever so long. So ‘as h’other blokes.”
“Did you think you could change the course of events by starting a fire down below?”
“I ‘ad to do somethin’. Nobody h’ever listens. Trammers work harder than miners, h’and get less pay. ‘Ad to do somethin’ to get their ‘tention.”
“I don’t think you realize what a serious offense this is. What if the whole shaft had caught on fire? It could cost the Company thousands of dollars—”
“I don’t care h’about the Company.”
“—And you could have lost your life. Did you think about that?”
As if to emphasize his point, the right wheel of the buggy dove into a pothole that jolted them both. Trewella cried out. Earl cursed himself for not keeping a better eye on the road.
The young man turned his head to the side and bit his fingernail— by necessity raising both cuffed arms.
“How many others feel the way you do?”
“Lots. We hain’t ‘ad a raise h’in a ‘coon’s age. I’m tryin’ to stir h’up some h’action.”
“I think you picked the wrong way to go about it, boy.”
Earl was well aware that miners and trammers alike were not satisfied. The long day, poor wages and safety precautions were breeding discontent in all quarters. Every few years the matter would bubble up and burst, sometimes causing a strike among the men. But most of them knew that that path only led to empty bellies.
They came to Lake Portage. Nature had designed it to look like a polliwog—round on the east end, and narrow as an ordinary river where Houghton and Hancock faced each other. A bridge spanned the lake between the two cities. They crossed the bridge and drove up to the jail which was housed in the basement of the courthouse in Houghton. The jailkeep escorted them to a cell in the basement.
“I’ll have to keep you here,” Earl said. “You won’t be earning any wages at all in jail. You married, son? Have any kids?”
“Well, that’s good news, then.” He started for the door. “You’ll get a hearing in a few days.”
When he left, he could hear Trewella sniffling. He wasn’t at all sure the lad’s train was on its track.
Even though Cora had warmed his supper up he didn’t feel like eating any more. He was sorry for this Twister fellow, and he knew that was his greatest weakness as a law officer.