Progress upward was by means of a most primitive elevator, nothing but an open platform of bare boards, which Mr. MacQueen worked with one hand, and which interestingly pushed up the floor above as one ascended. As they rose by this quaint device, Carlisle said: "Is this next the bunching-room, Mr. MacQueen?" "It is, Miss." "Bunching-room!" echoed Hugo, with satiric admiration.
He proceeded with eagerness to sketch in her square-arch braces under his bunching-room floor, and he said again: "Perfect solution!... Why, you ought to have been a builder!" "Oh, I just happened to see a picture of something like that in the encyclopædia this afternoon." Her tone was depreciatory, not suggesting that she had looked some time before she happened to see that picture.
"I ... was just a little dizzy," said Cally, quite apologetically.... And, though the visitors departed then, almost immediately, all signs of the sudden little panic in the bunching-room were already rapidly disappearing. Work proceeded.
And yet, just as she was aware that her woman's feelings about the bunching-room would have no weight with Hugo, so she was curiously aware that Hugo's arguments produced no effect at all upon her. If she had relied upon him as a demolishing club against Vivian, the over-sympathetic, it appeared that his strength was not equal to the peculiar demand.
The little confidence spoke straight to the heart, as a touch of genuine feeling always will. Quite unconsciously, Henrietta took her cousin's hand, saying, "You poor dear ..." And within a minute or two Cally was eagerly pouring out all that she had seen in the bunching-room, with at least a part of how it had made her feel. Hen listened sympathetically, and spoke reassuringly.
For an instant nothing had seemed surer than that the daughter of the Works would be the fifth girl to faint in the bunching-room that day; she had seen the floor rise under her whirling vision.... But once at the window the dark minute passed speedily. The keen October air bore the gift of life. Blood trickled back into the dead white cheeks.
Nothing, it was clear, could be worse than this. To-night, after dinner, she must follow her father into the study, say what she must say. Her mind had returned and clung to the solid arguments of Hen and others. She knew that the memory of the bunching-room had got upon her nerves; entwined and darkened itself with other painful things; assumed fantastic and horrid shapes.
It might be business, it might be right; but no argument could make it agreeable to feel that the money she wore upon her back at this moment was made in this malodorous place, by these thickly crowded girls.... Was it in such thoughts that grew this sense of some personal relation of herself with her father's most unpleasant bunching-room?
Possibly she and mamma did have some connection with the business, but it would be simply foolish to say that they were responsible for the overcrowding in the bunching-room. How could she be how could she? she, to whom her father had never spoken seriously in his life, who had never even seen the Works inside till to-day? No, it was papa's business.
"I mean iron braces running from the ground on each side of the building," said Cally "and holding up girders, or whatever you call them, under the bunching-room floor?" He gazed a moment, and then exclaimed: "Oh good! Oh, that's good!... That would do it do it perfectly!..."