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   Chapter 16 No.16

Windy McPherson's Son By Sherwood Anderson Characters: 32556

Updated: 2017-12-06 00:03


One day when the youth Sam McPherson was new in the city he went on a Sunday afternoon to a down-town theatre to hear a sermon. The sermon was delivered by a small dark-skinned Boston man, and seemed to the young McPherson scholarly and well thought out.

"The greatest man is he whose deeds affect the greatest number of lives," the speaker had said, and the thought had stuck in Sam's mind. Now walking along the street carrying his travelling bag, he remembered the sermon and the thought and shook his head in doubt.

"What I have done here in this city must have affected thousands of lives," he mused, and felt a quickening of his blood at just letting go of his thoughts as he had not dared do since that day when, by breaking his word to Sue, he had started on his career as a business giant.

He began to think of the quest on which he had started and had keen satisfaction in the thought of what he should do.

"I will begin all over and come up to Truth through work," he told himself. "I will leave the money hunger behind me, and if it returns I will come back here to Chicago and see my fortune piled up and the men rushing about the banks and the stock exchange and the court they pay to such fools and brutes as I have been, and that will cure me."

Into the Illinois Central Station he went, a strange spectacle. A smile came to his lips as he sat on a bench along the wall between an immigrant from Russia and a small plump farmer's wife who held a banana in her hand and gave bites of it to a rosy-cheeked babe lying in her arms. He, an American multimillionaire, a man in the midst of his money-making, one who had realised the American dream, to have sickened at the feast and to have wandered out of a fashionable club with a bag in his hand and a roll of bills in his pocket and to have come on this strange quest-to seek Truth, to seek God. A few years of the fast greedy living in the city, that had seemed so splendid to the Iowa boy and to the men and women who had lived in his town, and then a woman had died lonely and in want in that Iowa town, and half across the continent a fat blustering old man had shot himself in a New York hotel, and here he sat.

Leaving his bag in the care of the farmer's wife, he walked across the room to the ticket window and standing there watched the people with definite destinations in mind come up, lay down money, and taking their tickets go briskly away. He had no fear of being known. Although his name and his picture had been upon the front pages of Chicago newspapers for years, he felt so great a change within himself from just the resolution he had taken that he had no doubt of passing unnoticed.

A thought struck him. Looking up and down the long room filled with its strangely assorted clusters of men and women a sense of the great toiling masses of people, the labourers, the small merchants, the skilled mechanics, came over him.

"These are the Americans," he began telling himself, "these people with children beside them and with hard daily work to be done, and many of them with stunted or imperfectly developed bodies, not Crofts, not Morrison and I, but these others who toil without hope of luxury and wealth, who make up the armies in times of war and raise up boys and girls to do the work of the world in their turn."

He fell into the line moving toward the ticket window behind a sturdy-looking old man who carried a box of carpenter tools in one hand and a bag in the other, and bought a ticket to the same Illinois town to which the old man was bound.

In the train he sat beside the old man and the two fell into quiet talk-the old man talking of his family. He had a son, married and living in the Illinois town to which he was going, of whom he began boasting. The son, he said, had gone to that town and had prospered there, owning a hotel which his wife managed while he worked as a builder.

"Ed," he said, "keeps fifty or sixty men going all summer. He has sent for me to come and take charge of a gang. He knows well enough I will get the work out of them."

From Ed the old man drifted into talk of himself and his life, telling bare facts with directness and simplicity and making no effort to disguise a slight turn of vanity in his success.

"I have raised seven sons and made them all good workmen and they are all doing well," he said.

He told of each in detail. One, who had taken to books, was a mechanical engineer in a manufacturing town in New England. The mother of his children had died the year before and of his three daughters two had married mechanics. The third, Sam gathered, had not done well and from something the old man said he thought she had perhaps gone the wrong way there in Chicago.

To the old man Sam talked of God and of a man's effort to get truth out of life.

"I have thought of it a lot," he said.

The old man was interested. He looked at Sam and then out at the car window and began talking of his own beliefs, the substance of which Sam could not get.

"God is a spirit and lives in the growing corn," said the old man, pointing out the window at the passing fields.

He began talking of churches and of ministers, against whom he was filled with bitterness.

"They are dodgers. They do not get at things. They are damned dodgers, pretending to be good," he declared.

Sam talked of himself, saying that he was alone in the world and had money. He said that he wanted work in the open air, not for the money it would bring him, but because his paunch was large and his hand trembled in the morning.

"I've been drinking," he said, "and I want to work hard day after day so that my muscles may become firm and sleep come to me at night."

The old man thought that his son could find Sam a place.

"He's a driver-Ed is," he said, laughing, "and he won't pay you much. Ed don't let go of money. He's a tight one."

Night had come when they reached the town where Ed lived, and the three men walked over a bridge, beneath which roared a waterfall, toward the long poorly-lighted main street of the town and Ed's hotel. Ed, a young, broad-shouldered man, with a dry cigar stuck in the corner of his mouth, led the way. He had engaged Sam standing in the darkness on the station platform, accepting his story without comment.

"I'll let you carry timbers and drive nails," he said, "that will harden you up."

On the way over the bridge he talked of the town.

"It's a live place," he said, "we are getting people in here."

"Look at that!" he exclaimed, chewing at the cigar and pointing to the waterfall that foamed and roared almost under the bridge. "There's a lot of power there and where there's power there will be a city."

At Ed's hotel some twenty men sat about a long low office. They were, for the most part, middle-aged working men and sat in silence reading and smoking pipes. At a table pushed against the wall a bald-headed young man with a scar on his cheek played solitaire with a greasy pack of cards, and in front of him and sitting in a chair tilted against the wall a sullen-faced boy idly watched the game. When the three men came into the office the boy dropped his chair to the floor and stared at Ed who stared back at him. It was as though a contest of some sort went on between them. A tall neatly-dressed woman, with a brisk manner and pale, inexpressive, hard blue eyes, stood back of a little combined desk and cigar case at the end of the room, and as the three walked toward her she looked from Ed to the sullen-faced boy and then again at Ed. Sam concluded she was a woman bent on having her own way. She had that air.

"This is my wife," said Ed, introducing Sam with a wave of his hand and passing around the end of the desk to stand by her side.

Ed's wife twirled the hotel register about facing Sam, nodded her head, and then, leaning over the desk, bestowed a quick kiss upon the leathery cheek of the old carpenter.

Sam and the old man found a place in chairs along the wall and sat down among the silent men. The old man pointed to the boy in the chair beside the card players.

"Their son," he whispered cautiously.

The boy looked at his mother, who in turn looked steadily at him, and got up from his chair. Back of the desk Ed talked in low tones to his wife. The boy, stopping before Sam and the old man and still looking toward the woman, put out his hand which the old man took. Then, without speaking, he went past the desk and through a doorway, and began noisily climbing a flight of stairs, followed by his mother. As they climbed they berated each other, their voices rising to a high pitch and echoing through the upper part of the house.

Ed, coming across to them, talked to Sam about the assignment of a room, and the men began looking at the stranger; noting his fine clothes, their eyes filled with curiosity.

"Selling something?" asked a large red-haired young man, rolling a quid of tobacco in his mouth.

"No," replied Sam shortly, "going to work for Ed."

The silent men in chairs along the wall dropped their newspapers and stared, and the bald-headed young man at the table sat with open mouth, a card held suspended in the air. Sam had become, for the moment, a centre of interest and the men stirred in their chairs and began to whisper and point to him.

A large, watery-eyed man, with florid cheeks, clad in a long overcoat with spots down the front, came in at the door and passed through the room bowing and smiling to the men. Taking Ed by the arm he disappeared into a little barroom, where Sam could hear him talking in low tones.

After a little while the florid-faced man came and put his head through the barroom door into the office.

"Come on, boys," he said, smiling and nodding right and left, "the drinks are on me."

The men got up and filed into the bar, the old man and Sam remaining seated in their chairs. They began talking in undertones.

"I'll start 'em thinking-these men," said the old man.

From his pocket he took a pamphlet and gave it to Sam. It was a crudely written attack upon rich men and corporations.

"Some brains in the fellow who wrote that," said the old carpenter, rubbing his hands together and smiling.

Sam did not think so. He sat reading it and listening to the loud, boisterous voices of the men in the barroom. The florid-faced man was explaining the details of a proposed town bond issue. Sam gathered that the water power in the river was to be developed.

"We want to make this a live town," said the voice of Ed, earnestly.

The old man, leaning over and putting his hand beside his mouth, began whispering to Sam.

"I'll bet there is a capitalist deal back of that power scheme," he said.

He nodded his head up and down and smiled knowingly.

"If there is Ed will be in on it," he added. "You can't lose Ed. He's a slick one."

He took the pamphlet from Sam's hand and put it in his pocket.

"I'm a socialist," he explained, "but don't say anything. Ed's against 'em."

The men filed back into the room, each with a freshly-lighted cigar in his mouth, and the florid-faced man followed them and went out at the office door.

"Well, so long, boys," he shouted heartily.

Ed went silently up the stairs to join the mother and boy, whose voices could still be heard raised in outbursts of wrath from above as the men took their former chairs along the wall.

"Well, Bill's sure all right," said the red-haired young man, evidently expressing the opinion of the men in regard to the florid-faced man.

A small bent old man with sunken cheeks got up and walking across the room leaned against the cigar case.

"Did you ever hear this one?" he asked, looking about.

Obviously no answer could be given and the bent old man launched into a vile pointless anecdote of a woman, a miner, and a mule, the crowd giving close attention and laughing uproariously when he had finished. The socialist rubbed his hands together and joined in the applause.

"That was a good one, eh?" he commented, turning to Sam.

Sam, picking up his bag, climbed the stairway as the red-haired young man launched into another tale, slightly less vile. In his room to which Ed, meeting him at the top of the stairs, led him, still chewing at the unlighted cigar, he turned out the light and sat on the edge of the bed. He was as homesick as a boy.

"Truth," he muttered, looking through the window to the dimly-lighted street. "Do these men seek truth?"

The next day he went to work, wearing a suit of clothes bought from Ed. He worked with Ed's father, carrying timbers and driving nails as directed by him. In the gang with him were four men, boarders at Ed's hotel, and four other men who lived in the town with their families. At the noon hour he asked the old carpenter how the men from the hotel, who did not live in the town, could vote on the question of the power bonds. The old man grinned and rubbed his hands together.

"I don't know," he said. "I suppose Ed tends to that. He's a slick one, Ed is."

At work, the men who had been so silent in the office of the hotel were alert and wonderfully busy, hurrying here and there at a word from the old man and sawing and nailing furiously. They seemed bent upon outdoing each other and when one fell behind they laughed and shouted at him, asking him if he had decided to quit for the day. But though they seemed determined to outdo him the old man kept ahead of them all, his hammer beating a rattling tattoo upon the boards all day. At the noon hour he had given each of the men one of the pamphlets from his pocket and on the way back to his hotel in the evening he told Sam that the others had tried to show him up.

"They wanted to see if I had juice in me," he explained, strutting beside Sam with an amusing little swagger of his shoulders.

Sam was sick with fatigue. His hands were blistered, his legs felt weak, and a terrible thirst burned in his throat. All day he had gone grimly ahead, thankful for every physical discomfort, every throb of his strained, tired muscles. In his weariness and in his efforts to keep pace with the others he had forgotten Colonel Tom and Mary Underwood.

All during that month and into the next Sam stayed with the old man's gang. He ceased thinking, and only worked desperately. An odd feeling of loyalty and devotion to the old man came over him and he felt that he too must prove that he had the juice in him. At the hotel he went to bed immediately after the silent dinner, slept, awoke aching, and went to work again.

One Sunday one of the men of his gang came to Sam's room and invited him to go with a party of the workers into the country. They went in boats, carrying with them kegs of beer, to a deep ravine clothed on both sides by heavy woods. In the boat with Sam sat the red-haired young man, who was called Jake and who talked loudly of the time they would have in the woods, and boasted that he was the instigator of the trip.

"I thought of it," he said over and over again.

Sam wondered why he had been invited. It was a soft October day and in the ravine he sat looking at the trees splashed with colour and breathing deeply of the air, his whole body relaxed, grateful for the day of rest. Jake came and sat beside him.

"What are you?" he asked bluntly. "We know you are no working man."

Sam told him a half-truth.

"You are right enough about that; I have money enough not to have to work. I used to be a business man. I sold guns. But I have a disease and the doctors have told me that if I do not work out of doors part of me will die."

The man from his own gang who had invited him on the trip came up to them, bringing Sam a foaming glass of beer. He shook his head.

"The doctor says it will not do," he explained to the two men.

The red-haired man called Jake began talking.

"We are going to have a fight with Ed," he said. "That's what we came up here to talk about. We want to know where you stand. We are going to see if we can't make him pay as well for the work here as men are paid for the same work in Chicago."

Sam lay back upon the grass.

"All right," he said. "Go ahead. If I can help I will. I'm not so fond of Ed."

The men began t

alking among themselves. Jake, standing among them, read aloud a list of names among which was the name Sam had written on the register at Ed's hotel.

"It's a list of the names of men we think will stick together and vote together on the bond issue," he explained, turning to Sam. "Ed's in that and we want to use our votes to scare him into giving us what we want. Will you stay with us? You look like a fighter."

Sam nodded and getting up joined the men about the beer kegs. They began talking of Ed and of the money he had made in the town.

"He's done a lot of town work here and there's been graft in all of it," explained Jake emphatically. "It's time he was being made to do the right thing."

While they talked Sam sat watching the men's faces. They did not seem vile to him now as they had seemed that first evening in the hotel office. He began thinking of them silently and alertly at work all day long, surrounded by such influences as Ed and Bill, and the thought sweetened his opinion of them.

"Look here," he said, "tell me of this matter. I was a business man before I came here and I may be able to help you fellows get what you want."

Getting up, Jake took Sam's arm and they walked down the ravine, Jake explaining the situation in the town.

"The game," he said, "is to make the taxpayers pay for a millrace to be built for the development of the water power in the river and then, by a trick, to turn it over to a private company. Bill and Ed are both in the deal and they are working for a Chicago man named Crofts. He's been up here at the hotel with Bill talking to Ed. I've figured out what they are up to." Sam sat down upon a log and laughed heartily.

"Crofts, eh?" he exclaimed. "Say, we will fight this thing. If Crofts has been up here you can depend upon it there is some size to the deal. We will just smash the whole crooked gang for the good of the town."

"How would you do that?" asked Jake.

Sam sat down on a log and looked at the river flowing past the mouth of the ravine.

"Just fight," he said. "Let me show you something."

He took a pencil and slip of paper from his pocket, and, with the voices of the men about the beer kegs in his ears and the red-haired man peering over his shoulder, began writing his first political pamphlet. He wrote and erased and changed words and phrases. The pamphlet was a statement of facts as to the value of water power, and was addressed to the taxpayers of the community. He warmed to the subject, saying that a fortune lay sleeping in the river, and that the town, by the exercise of a little discretion now, could build with that fortune a beautiful city belonging to the people.

"This fortune in the river rightly managed will pay the expenses of government and give you control of a great source of revenue forever," he wrote. "Build your millrace, but look out for a trick of the politicians. They are trying to steal it. Reject the offer of the Chicago banker named Crofts. Demand an investigation. A capitalist has been found who will take the water power bonds at four per cent and back the people in this fight for a free American city." Across the head of the pamphlet Sam wrote the caption, "A River Paved With Gold," and handed it to Jake, who read it and whistled softly.

"Good!" he said. "I will take this and have it printed. It will make Bill and Ed sit up."

Sam took a twenty-dollar bill from his pocket and gave it to the man.

"To pay for the printing," he said. "And when we have them licked I am the man who will take the four per cent bonds."

Jake scratched his head. "How much do you suppose the deal is worth to Crofts?"

"A million, or he would not bother," Sam answered.

Jake folded the paper and put it in his pocket.

"This would make Bill and Ed squirm, eh?" he laughed.

Going home down the river the men, filled with beer, sang and shouted as the boats, guided by Sam and Jake, floated along. The night fell warm and still and Sam thought he had never seen the sky so filled with stars. His brain was busy with the idea of doing something for the people.

"Perhaps here in this town I shall make a start toward what I am after," he thought, his heart filled with happiness and the songs of the tipsy workmen ringing in his ears.

All through the next few weeks there was an air of something astir among the men of Sam's gang and about Ed's hotel. During the evening Jake went among the men talking in low tones, and once he took a three days' vacation, telling Ed that he did not feel well and spending the time among the men employed in the plough works up the river. From time to time he came to Sam for money.

"For the campaign," he said, winking and hurrying away.

Suddenly a speaker appeared and began talking nightly from a box before a drug store on Main Street, and after dinner the office of Ed's hotel was deserted. The man on the box had a blackboard hung on a pole, on which he drew figures estimating the value of the power in the river, and as he talked he grew more and more excited, waving his arms and inveighing against certain leasing clauses in the bond proposal. He declared himself a follower of Karl Marx and delighted the old carpenter who danced up and down in the road and rubbed his hands.

"It will come to something-this will-you'll see," he declared to Sam.

One day Ed appeared, riding in a buggy, at the job where Sam worked, and called the old man into the road. He sat pounding one hand upon the other and talking in a low voice. Sam thought the old man had perhaps been indiscreet in the distribution of the socialistic pamphlets. He seemed nervous, dancing up and down beside the buggy and shaking his head. Then hurrying back to where the men worked he pointed over his shoulder with his thumb.

"Ed wants you," he said, and Sam noticed that his voice trembled and his hand shook.

In the buggy Ed and Sam rode in silence. Again Ed chewed at an unlighted cigar.

"I want to talk with you," he had said as Sam climbed into the buggy.

At the hotel the two men got out of the buggy and went into the office. Inside the door Ed, who came behind, sprang forward and pinioned Sam's arms with his own. He was as powerful as a bear. His wife, the tall woman with the inexpressive eyes, came running into the room, her face drawn with hatred. In her hand she carried a broom and with the handle of this she struck Sam several swinging blows across the face, accompanying each blow with a half scream of rage and a volley of vile names. The sullen-faced boy, alive now and with eyes burning with zeal, came running down the stairs and pushed the woman aside. He struck Sam time after time in the face with his fist, laughing each time as Sam winced under the blows.

Sam struggled furiously to escape Ed's powerful grasp. It was the first time he had ever been beaten and the first time he had faced hopeless defeat. The wrath within him was so intense that the jolting impact of the blows seemed a secondary matter to the need of escaping Ed's vice-like grasp.

Suddenly Ed turned and, pushing Sam before him, threw him through the office door and into the street. In falling his head struck against a hitching post and he lay stunned. When he partially recovered from the fall Sam got up and walked along the street. His face was swollen and bruised and his nose bled. The street was deserted and the assault upon him had been unnoticed.

He went to a hotel on Main Street-a more pretentious place than Ed's, near the bridge leading to the station-and as he passed in he saw, through an open door, Jake, the red-haired man, leaning against the bar and talking to Bill, the man with the florid face. Sam, paying for a room, went upstairs and to bed.

In the bed, with cold bandages on his bruised face, he tried to get the situation in hand. Hatred for Ed ran through his veins. His hands clenched, his brain whirled, and the brutal, passionate faces of the woman and the boy danced before his eyes.

"I'll fix them, the brutal bullies," he muttered aloud.

And then the thought of his quest came back to his mind and quieted him. Through the window came the roar of the waterfall, broken by noises of the street. As he fell asleep they mingled with his dreams, sounding soft and quiet like the low talk of a family about the fire of an evening.

He was awakened by a noise of pounding on his door. At his call the door opened and the face of the old carpenter appeared. Sam laughed and sat up in bed. Already the cold bandages had soothed the throbbing of his bruised face.

"Go away," begged the old man, rubbing his hands together nervously. "Get out of town."

He put his hand to his mouth and talked in a hoarse whisper, looking back over his shoulder through the open door. Sam, getting out of bed, began filling his pipe.

"You can't beat Ed, you fellows," added the old man, backing out at the door. "He's a slick one, Ed is. You better get out of town."

Sam called a boy and gave him a note to Ed asking for his clothes and for the bag in his room, and to the boy he gave a large bill, asking him to pay anything due. When the boy came back bringing the clothes and the bag he returned the bill unbroken.

"They're scared about something up there," he said, looking at Sam's bruised face.

Sam dressed carefully and went down into the street. He remembered that he had never seen a printed copy of the political pamphlet written in the ravine and realised that Jake had used it to make money for himself.

"Now I shall try something else," he thought.

It was early evening and crowds of men coming down the railroad track from the plough works turned to right and left as they reached Main Street. Sam walked among them, climbing a little hilly side street to a number he had got from a clerk at the drug store before which the socialist had talked. He stopped at a little frame house and a moment after knocking was in the presence of the man who had talked night after night from the box in the street. Sam had decided to see what could be done through him. The socialist was a short, fat man, with curly grey hair, shiny round cheeks, and black broken teeth. He sat on the edge of his bed and looked as if he had slept in his clothes. A corncob pipe lay smoking among the covers of the bed, and during most of the talk he sat with one shoe held in his hand as though about to put it on. About the room in orderly piles lay stack after stack of paper-covered books. Sam sat down in a chair by the window and told his mission.

"It is a big thing, this power steal that is going on here," he explained. "I know the man back of it and he would not bother with a small affair. I know they are going to make the city build the millrace and then steal it. It will be a big thing for your party about here if you take hold and stop them. Let me tell you how it can be done."

He explained his plan, and told of Crofts and of his wealth and dogged, bullying determination. The socialist seemed beside himself. He pulled on the shoe and began running hurriedly about the room.

"The time for the election," Sam went on, "is almost here. I have looked into this thing. We must beat this bond issue and then put through a square one. There is a train out of Chicago at seven o'clock, a fast train. You get fifty speakers out here. I will pay for a special train if necessary and I will hire a band and help stir things up. I can give you facts enough to shake this town to the bottom. You come with me and 'phone to Chicago. I will pay everything. I am McPherson, Sam McPherson of Chicago."

The socialist ran to a closet and began pulling on his coat. The name affected him so that his hand trembled and he could scarcely get his arm into the coat sleeve. He began to apologise for the appearance of the room and kept looking at Sam with the air of one not able to believe what he had heard. As the two men walked out of the house he ran ahead holding doors open for Sam's passage.

"And you will help us, Mr. McPherson?" he exclaimed. "You, a man of millions, will help us in this fight?"

Sam had a feeling that the man was going to kiss his hand or do something equally ridiculous. He had the air of a club door man gone off his head.

At the hotel Sam stood in the lobby while the fat man waited in a telephone booth.

"I will have to 'phone Chicago, I will simply have to 'phone Chicago. We socialists don't do anything like this offhand, Mr. McPherson," he had explained as they walked along the street.

When the socialist came out of the booth he stood before Sam shaking his head. His whole attitude had changed, and he looked like a man caught doing a foolish or absurd thing.

"Nothing doing, nothing doing, Mr. McPherson," he said, starting for the hotel door.

At the door he stopped and shook his finger at Sam.

"It won't work," he said, emphatically. "Chicago is too wise."

Sam turned and went back to his room. His name had killed his only chance to beat Crofts, Jake, Bill and Ed. In his room he sat looking out of the window into the street.

"Where shall I take hold now?" he asked himself.

Turning out the lights he sat listening to the roar of the waterfall and thinking of the events of the last week.

"I have had a time," he thought. "I have tried something and even though it did not work it has been the best fun I have had for years."

The hours slipped away and night came on. He could hear men shouting and laughing in the street, and going downstairs he stood in a hallway at the edge of the crowd that gathered about the socialist. The orator shouted and waved his hand. He seemed as proud as a young recruit who has just passed through his first baptism of fire.

"He tried to make a fool of me-McPherson of Chicago-the millionaire-one of the capitalist kings-he tried to bribe me and my party."

In the crowd the old carpenter was dancing in the road and rubbing his hands together. With the feeling of a man who had finished a piece of work or turned the last leaf of a book, Sam went back to his hotel.

"In the morning I shall be on my way," he thought.

A knock came at the door and the red-haired man came in. He closed the door softly and winked at Sam.

"Ed made a mistake," he said, and laughed. "The old man told him you were a socialist and he thought you were trying to spoil the graft. He is scared about that beating you got and mighty sorry. He's all right-Ed is-and he and Bill and I have got the votes. What made you stay under cover so long? Why didn't you tell us you were McPherson?"

Sam saw the hopelessness of any attempt to explain. Jake had evidently sold out the men. Sam wondered how.

"How do you know you can deliver the votes?'" he asked, trying to lead Jake on.

Jake rolled the quid in his mouth and winked again.

"It was easy enough to fix the men when Ed, Bill and I got together," he said. "You know about the other. There's a clause in the act authorising the bond issue, a sleeper, Bill calls it. You know more about that than I do. Anyway the power will be turned over to the man we say."

"But how do I know you can deliver the votes?"

Jake threw out his hand impatiently.

"What do they know?" he asked sharply. "What they want is more wages. There's a million in the power deal and they can't any more realise a million than they can tell what they want to do in Heaven. I promised Ed's fellows the city scale. Ed can't kick. He'll make a hundred thousand as it stands. Then I promised the plough works gang a ten per cent raise. We'll get it for them if we can, but if we can't, they won't know it till the deal is put through."

Sam walked over and held open the door.

"Good night," he said.

Jake looked annoyed.

"Ain't you even going to make a bid against Crofts?" he asked. "We ain't tied to him if you do better by us. I'm in this thing because you put me in. That piece you wrote up the river scared 'em stiff. I want to do the right thing by you. Don't be sore about Ed. He wouldn't a done it if he'd known."

Sam shook his head and stood with his hand still on the door.

"Good night," he said again. "I am not in it. I have dropped it. No use trying to explain."

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