"Several times," continued Mrs. B, "news has come from that house that there is going to be an organized ‘confiscation’ of the valuables from the homes of the bourgeoisie in the town. Finally, after some minor robberies and personal attacks, the men of the foreign colony persuaded their consuls to enter formal demand for protection against the proposed outrages. The Kerensky Commissaire was frightened, and did something to quiet things down for a while. If I could, I'd leave for America tomorrow; and I think you'd be wiser to travel in that direction, instead of toward the Urals!"
"What interests me most at present," interrupted Mr. B, "is how this labor question is going to be settled. It's becoming a serious problem with us business men. For instance, the Canadian Pacific Railway used to pay its employees on the wharves, for loading and unloading its vessels, eighty copecks a day. Well, after the change in affairs wages naturally rosewith everything else. Eventually, the employees asked four rubles for the first hour, five for the second, and so on, for an eight-hour day. That amounted to sixty rubles for the day, or seventy-five times the rate paid a year ago. The men ask some of us one hundred rubles a day, and it's useless to try to argue with them. I can't imagine where they think the money's coming from.
"Commodities are higher because of the abnormal cost in the unloading of imports. Then the family men come around and say: 'We've got to have another raise. Prices have gone up again!' And so it goes on indefinitely. In spite of all we can do, the men strike and refuse to worksay they're tired of working. Then the Mongolians or Manchurians get their jobs. Discontent seizes them in time, and they quit. After that, the women leave the farms in the surrounding country and hurry into the city after the 'big pay.' The result is a scarcity of food-supplies and a poorer quality of city labor. And I understand this sort of thing is being repeated in all the commercial centers of Siberia."
During the days that followed I saw much to confirm my friends' statements of the chaotic conditions in the port city.
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