The blow given the plan of life so carefully thought out and so eagerlyaccepted by the young McPhersons threw them back upon themselves. Forseveral years they had been living upon a hill top, taking themselves veryseriously and more than a little preening themselves with the thought thatthey were two very unusual and thoughtful people engaged upon a worthy andennobling enterprise. Sitting in their corner immersed in admiration oftheir own purposes and in the thoughts of the vigorous, disciplined, newlife they were to give the world by the combined efficiency of their twobodies and minds they were, at a word and a shake of the head from DoctorGrover, compelled to remake the outline of their future together.
All about them the rush of life went on, vast changes were impending inthe industrial life of the people, cities were doubling and tripling theirpopulation, a war was being fought, and the flag of their country flew inthe ports of strange seas, while American boys pushed their way throughthe tangled jungles of strange lands carrying in their hands RaineyWhittaker rifles. And in a huge stone house, set in a broad expanse ofgreen lawns near the shores of Lake Michigan, Sam McPherson sat looking athis wife, who in turn looked at him. He was trying, as she also wastrying, to adjust himself to the cheerful acceptance of their new prospectof a childless life.
Looking at Sue across the dinner table or seeing her straight, wiry bodyastride a horse riding beside him through the parks, it seemed to Samunbelievable that a childless womanhood was ever to be her portion, andmore than once he had an inclination to venture again upon an effort forthe success of their hopes. But when he remembered her still white facethat night in the hospital, her bitter, haunting cry of defeat, he turnedwith a shudder from the thought, feeling that he could not go with heragain through that ordeal; that he could not again allow her to lookforward through weeks and months toward the little life that never came tolie upon her breast or to laugh up into her face.
And yet Sam, son of that Jane McPherson who had won the admiration of themen of Caxton by her ceaseless efforts to keep her family afloat and cleanhanded, could not sit idly by, living upon the income of his own and Sue'smoney. The stirring, forward-moving world called to him; he looked abouthim at the broad, significant movements in business and finance, at thenew men coming into prominence and apparently finding a way for theexpression of new big ideas, and felt his youth stirring in him and hismind reaching out to new projects and new ambitions.
Given the necessity for economy and a hard long-drawn-out struggle for alivelihood and competence, Sam could conceive of living his life with Sueand deriving something like gratification from just her companionship, andher partnership in his efforts--here and there during the waiting years hehad met men who had found such gratification--a foreman in the shops or atobacconist from whom he bought his cigars--but for himself he felt thathe had gone with Sue too far upon another road to turn that way now withanything like mutual zeal or interest. At bottom, his mind did not runstrongly toward the idea of the love of women as an end in life; he hadloved, and did love, Sue with something approaching religious fervour, butthe fervour was more than half due to the ideas she had given him and tothe fact that with him she was to have been the instrument for therealisation of those ideas. He was a man with children in his loins and hehad given up his struggles for business eminence for the sake of preparinghimself for a kind of noble fatherhood of children, many children, strongchildren, fit gifts to the world for two exceptionally favoured lives. Inall of his talks with Sue this idea had been present and dominant. He hadlooked about him and in the arrogance of his youth and in the pride of hisgood body and mind had condemned all childless marriages as a selfishwaste of good lives. With her he had agreed that such lives were withoutpoint and purpose. Now he remembered that in the days of her audacity anddaring she had more than once expressed the hope that in case of achildless issue to their marriage one or the other of them would have thecourage to cut the knot that tied them and venture into another effort atright living at any cost.
In the months after Sue's last recovery, and during the long evenings, asthey sat together or walked under the stars in the park, the thought ofthese talks was often in Sam's mind and he found himself beginning tospeculate on her present attitude and to wonder how bravely she would meetthe idea of a separation. In the end he decided that no such thought wasin her mind, that face to face with the tremendous actuality she clung tohim with a new dependence, and a new need of his companionship. Theconviction of the absolute necessity of children as a justification for aman and woman living together had, he thought, burned itself more deeplyinto his brain than into hers; to him it clung, coming back again andagain to his mind, causing him to turn here and there restlessly, makingreadjustments, seeking new light. The old gods being dead he sought newgods.
In the meantime he sat in his house facing his wife, losing himself in thebooks recommended to him years before by Janet, thinking his own thoughts.Often in the evening he would look up from his book or from hispreoccupied staring at the fire to find her eyes looking at him.
"Talk, Sam; talk," she would say; "do not sit there thinking."
Or at another time she would come to his room at night and putting herhead down on the pillow beside his would spend hours planning, weeping,begging him to give her again his love, his old fervent, devoted love.
This Sam tried earnestly and honestly to do, going with her for long walkswhen the new call, the business had begun to make to him, would have kepthim at his desk, reading aloud to her in the evening, urging her to shakeoff her old dreams and to busy herself with new work and new interests.
Through the days in the office he went in a kind of half stupor. An oldfeeling of his boyhood coming back to him, it seemed to him, as it hadseemed when he walked aimlessly through the streets of Caxton after thedeath of his mother, that there remained something to be done, anaccounting to be made. Even at his desk with the clatter of typewriters inhis ears and the piles of letters demanding his attention, his mindslipped back to the days of his courtship with Sue and to those days inthe north woods when life had beat strong within him, and every young,wild thing, every new growth renewed the dream that filled his being.Sometimes on the street, or walking in the park with Sue, the cries ofchildren at play cut across the sombre dulness of his mind and he shrankfrom the sound and a kind of bitter resentment took possession of him.When he looked covertly at Sue she talked of other things, apparentlyunconscious of his thoughts.
Then a new phase of life presented itself. To his surprise he foundhimself looking with more than passing interest at women in the streets,and an old hunger for the companionship of strange women came back to him,in some way coarsened and materialised. One evening at the theatre awoman, a friend of Sue's and the childless wife of a business friend ofhis own, sat beside him. In the darkness of the playhouse her shouldernestled down against his. In the excitement of a crisis on the stage herhand slipped into his and her fingers clutched and held his fingers.
Animal desire seized and shook him, a feeling without sweetness, brutal,making his eyes burn. When between the acts the theatre was again floodedwith light he looked up guiltily to meet another pair of eyes equallyfilled with guilty hunger. A challenge had been given and received.
In their car, homeward bound, Sam put the thoughts of the woman away fromhim and taking Sue in his arms prayed silently for some help against heknew not what.
"I think I will go to Caxton in the morning and have a talk with MaryUnderwood," he said.
After his return from Caxton Sam set about finding some new interest tooccupy Sue's mind. He had spent an afternoon talking to Valmore, FreedomSmith, and Telfer and thought there was a kind of flatness in their jokesand in their ageing comments on each other. Then he had gone from them forhis talk with Mary. Half through the night they had talked, Sam gettingforgiveness for not writing and getting also a long friendly lecture onhis duty toward Sue. He thought she had in some way missed the point. Shehad seemed to suppose that the loss of the children had fallen singly uponSue. She had not counted upon him, and he had depended upon her doing justthat. He had come as a boy to his mother wanting to talk of himself andshe had wept at the thought of the childless wife and had told him how toset about making her happy.
"Well, I will set about it," he thought on the train coming home; "I willfind for her this new interest and make her less dependent upon me. Then Ialso will take hold anew and work out for myself a programme for a way oflife."
One afternoon when he came home from the office he found Sue filled indeedwith a new idea. With glowing cheeks she sat beside him through theevening and talked of the beauties of a life devoted to social service.
"I have been thinking things out," she said, her eyes shining. "We mustnot allow ourselves to become sordid. We must keep to the vision. We musttogether give the best in our lives and our fortunes to mankind. We mustmake ourselves units in the great modern movements for social uplift."
Sam looked at the fire and a chill feeling of doubt ran through him. Hecould not see himself as a unit in anything. His mind did not run outtoward the thought of being one of the army of philanthropists or richsocial uplifters he had met talking and explaining in the reading rooms ofclubs. No answering flame burned in his heart as it had burned thatevening by the bridle path in Jackson Park when she had expounded anotheridea. But the thought of a need of new interest for her coming to him, heturned to her smiling.
"It sounds all right but I know nothing of such things," he said.
After that evening Sue began to get a hold upon herself. The old fire cameback into her eyes and she went about the house with a smile upon her faceand talked through the evenings to her silent, attentive husband of thelife of usefulness, the full life. One day she told him of her election tothe presidency of a society for the rescue of fallen women, and he beganseeing her name in the newspapers in connection with various charity andcivic movements. At the house a new sort of men and women began appearingat the dinner table; a strangely earnest, feverish, half fanatical people,Sam thought, with an inclination toward corsetless dresses and uncut hair,who talked far into the night and worked themselves into a sort ofreligious zeal over what they called their movement. Sam found them likelyto run to startling statements, noticed that they sat on the edges oftheir chairs when they talked, and was puzzled by their tendency towardmaking the most revolutionary statements without pausing to back them up.When he questioned a statement made by one of these people, he came downupon him with a rush that quite carried him away and then, turning to theothers, looked at them wisely like a cat that has swallowed a mouse. "Askus another question if you dare," their faces seemed to be saying, whiletheir tongues declared that they were but students of the great problem ofright living.
With these new people Sam never made any progress toward realunderstanding and friendship. For a time he tried honestly to get some oftheir own fervent devotions to their ideas and to be impressed by whatthey said of their love of man, even going with them to some of theirmeetings, at one of which he sat among the fallen women gathered in, andlistened to a speech by Sue.
The speech did not make much of a hit, the fallen women moving restlesslyabout. A large woman, with an immense nose, did better. She talked with aswift, contagious zeal that was very stirring, and, listening to her, Samwas reminded of the evening when he sat before another zealous talker inthe church at Caxton and Jim Williams, the barber, tried to stampede himinto the fold with the lambs. While the woman talked a plump little memberof the _demi monde_ who sat beside Sam wept copiously, but at the end ofthe speech he could remember nothing of what had been said and he wonderedif the weeping woman would remember.
To express his determination to continue being Sue's companion andpartner, Sam during one winter taught a class of young men at a settlementhouse in the factory district of the west side. The class in his hands wasunsuccessful. He found the young men heavy and stupid with fatigue afterthe day of labour in the shops and more inclined to fall asleep in theirchairs, or wander away, one at a time, to loaf and smoke on a nearbycorner, than to stay in the room listening to the man reading or talkingbefore them.
When one of the young women workers came into the room, they sat up andseemed for the moment interested. Once Sam heard a group of them talkingof these women workers on a landing in a darkened stairway. The experiencestartled Sam and he dropped the class, admitting to Sue his failure andhis lack of interest and bowing his head before her accusation of a lackof the love of men.
Later by the fire in his own room he tried to draw for himself a moralfrom the experience.
"Why should I love these men?" he asked himself. "They are what I mighthave been. Few of the men I have known have loved me and some of the bestand cleanest of them have worked vigorously for my defeat. Life is abattle in which few men win and many are defeated and in which hate andfear play their part with love and generosity. These heavy-featured youngmen are a part of the world as men have made it. Why this protest againsttheir fate when we are all of us making more and more of them with everyturn of the clock?"
During the next year, after the fiasco of the settlement house class, Samfound himself drifting more and more rapidly away from Sue and her newviewpoint of life. The growing gulf between them showed itself in athousand little household acts and impulses, and every time he looked ather he thought her more apart from him and less a part of the real lifethat went on within him. In the old days there had been something intimateand familiar in her person and in her presence. She had seemed like a partof him, like the room in which he slept or the coat he wore on his back,and he had looked into her eyes as thoughtlessly and with as little fearof what he might find there as he looked at his own hands. Now when hiseyes met hers they dropped, and one or the other of them began talkinghurriedly like a person who has a consciousness of something he mustconceal.
Down town Sam took up anew his old friendship and intimacy with JackPrince, going with him to clubs and drinking places and often spendingevenings among the clever, money-wasting young men who laughed and madedeals and talked their way through life at Jack's side. Among these youngmen a business associate of Jack's caught his attention and in a few weeksan intimacy had sprung up between Sam and this man.
Maurice Morrison, Sam's new friend, had been discovered by Jack Princeworking as a sub-editor on a country daily down the state. There was, Samthought, something of the Caxton dandy, Mike McCarthy, in the man,combined with prolonged and fervent, although somewhat periodic attacks ofindustry. In his youth he had written poetry and at one time had studiedfor the ministry, and in Chicago, under Jack Prince, he had developed intoa money maker and led the life of a talented, rather unscrupulous man ofthe world. He kept a mistress, often overdrank, and Sam thought him themost brilliant and convincing talker he had ever heard. As Jack Prince'sassistant he had charge of the Rainey Company's large advertisingexpenditure, and the two men being thrown often together a mutual regardgrew up between them. Sam believed him to be without moral sense; he knewhim to be able and honest and he found in the association with him a fundof odd little sweetnesses of character and action that lent aninexpressible charm to the person of his friend.
It was through Morrison that Sam had his first serious misunderstandingwith Sue. One evening the brilliant young advertising man dined at theMcPhersons'. The table, as usual, was filled with Sue's new friends, amongthem a tall, gaunt man who, with the arrival of the coffee, began in ahigh-pitched, earnest voice to talk of the coming social revolution. Samlooked across the table and saw a light dancing in Morrison's eyes. Like ahound unleashed he sprang among Sue's friends, tearing the rich to pieces,calling for the onward advance of the masses, quoting odds and ends ofShelley and Carlyle, peering earnestly up and down the table, and at theend quite winning the hearts of the women by a defence of fallen womenthat stirred the blood of even his friend and host.
Sam was amused and a trifle annoyed. The whole thing was, he knew, no morethan a piece of downright acting with just the touch of sincerity in itthat was characteristic of the man but that had no depth or real meaning.During the rest of the evening he watched Sue, wondering if she too hadfathomed Morrison and what she thought of his having taken the role ofstar from the long gaunt man, who had evidently been booked for that partand who sat at the table and wandered afterward among the guests, annoyedand disconcerted.
Late that night Sue came into his room and found him reading and smokingby the fire.
"Cheeky of Morrison, dimming your star," he said, looking at her andlaughing apologetically.
Sue looked at him doubtfully.
"I came in to thank you for bringing him," she said; "I thought himsplendid."
Sam looked at her and for a moment was tempted to let the matter pass. Andthen his old inclination to be always open and frank with her asserteditself and he closed the book and rising stood looking down at her.
"The little beast was guying your crowd," he said, "but I do not want himto guy you. Not that he wouldn't try. He has the audacity for anything."
A flush arose to her cheeks and her eyes gleamed.
"That is not true, Sam," she said coldly. "You say that because you arebecoming hard and cold and cynical. Your friend Morrison talked from hisheart. It was beautiful. Men like you, who have a strong influence overhim, may lead him away, but in the end a man like that will come to givehis life to the service of society. You should help him; not assume anattitude of unbelief and laugh at him."
Sam stood upon the hearth smoking his pipe and looking at her. He wasthinking how easy it would have been in the first year after theirmarriage to have explained Morrison. Now he felt that he was but making abad matter worse, but went on determined to stick to his policy of beingentirely honest with her.
"Look here, Sue," he began quietly, "be a good sport. Morrison was joking.I know the man. He is the friend of men like me because he wants to be andbecause it pays him to be. He is a talker, a writer, a talented,unscrupulous word-monger. He is making a big salary by taking the ideas ofmen like me and expressing them better than we can ourselves. He is a goodworkman and a generous, open-hearted fellow with a lot of nameless charmin him, but a man of convictions he is not. He could talk tears into theeyes of your fallen women, but he would be a lot more likely to talk goodwomen into their state."
Sam put a hand upon her shoulder.
"Be sensible and do not be offended," he went on: "take the fellow forwhat he is and be glad for him. He hurts little and cheers a lot. He couldmake a convincing argument in favour of civilisation's return tocannibalism, but really, you know, he spends most of his time thinking andwriting of washing machines and ladies' hats and liver pills, and most ofhis eloquence after all only comes down to 'Send for catalogue, DepartmentK' in the end."
Sue's voice was colourless with passion when she replied.
"This is unbearable. Why did you bring the fellow here?"
Sam sat down and picked up his book. In his impatience he lied to her forthe first time since their marriage.
"First, because I like him and second, because I wanted to see if Icouldn't produce a man who could outsentimentalise your socialistfriends," he said quietly.
Sue turned and walked out of the room. In a way the action was final andmarked the end of understanding between them. Putting down his book Samwatched her go and some feeling he had kept for her and that haddifferentiated her from all other women died in him as the door closedbetween them. Throwing the book aside he sprang to his feet and stoodlooking at the door.
"The old goodfellowship appeal is dead," he thought. "From now on we willhave to explain and apologise like two strangers. No more taking eachother for granted."
Turning out the light he sat again before the fire to think his waythrough the situation that faced him. He had no thought that she wouldreturn. That last shot of his own had crushed the possibility of that.
The fire was getting low in the grate and he did not renew it. He lookedpast it toward the darkened windows and heard the hum of motor cars alongthe boulevard below. Again he was the boy of Caxton hungrily seeking anend in life. The flushed face of the woman in the theatre danced beforehis eyes. He remembered with shame how he had, a few days before, stood ina doorway and followed with his eyes the figure of a woman who had liftedher eyes to him as they passed in the street. He wished that he might goout of the house for a walk with John Telfer and have his mind filled witheloquence of the standing corn, or sit at the feet of Janet Eberly as shetalked of books and of life. He got up and turning on the lights beganpreparing for bed.
"I know what I will do," he said, "I will go to work. I will do some realwork and make some more money. That's the place for me."
And to work he went, real work, the most sustained and clearly thought-outwork he had done. For two years he was out of the house at dawn for a longbracing walk in the fresh morning air, to be followed by eight, ten andeven fifteen hours in the office and shops; hours in which he drove theRainey Arms Company's organisation mercilessly and, taking openly everyvestige of the management out of the hands of Colonel Tom, began the plansfor the consolidation of the American firearms companies that later puthis name on the front pages of the newspapers and got him the title of aCaptain of Finance.
There is a widespread misunderstanding abroad regarding the motives ofmany of the American millionaires who sprang into prominence and affluencein the days of change and sudden bewildering growth that followed theclose of the Spanish War. They were, many of them, not of the brute tradertype, but were, instead, men who thought and acted quickly and with adaring and audacity impossible to the average mind. They wanted power andwere, many of them, entirely unscrupulous, but for the most part they weremen with a fire burning within them, men who became what they were becausethe world offered them no better outlet for their vast energies.
Sam McPherson had been untiring and without scruples in the first hard,quick struggle to get his head above the great unknown body of men therein the city. He had turned aside from money getting when he heard what hetook to be a call to a better way of life. Now with the fires of youthstill in him and with the training and discipline that had come from twoyears of reading, of comparative leisure and of thought, he was preparedto give the Chicago business world a display of that tremendous energythat was to write his name in the industrial history of the city as one ofthe first of the western giants of finance.
Going to Sue, Sam told her frankly of his plans.
"I want a free hand in the handling of your stock in the company," hesaid. "I cannot lead this new life of yours. It may help and sustain youbut it gets no hold on me. I want to be myself now and lead my own life inmy own way. I want to run the company, really run it. I cannot stand idlyby and let life go past. I am hurting myself and you standing here lookingon. Also I am in a kind of danger of another kind that I want to avoid bythrowing myself into hard, constructive work."
Without question Sue signed the papers he brought her. A flash of her oldfrankness toward him came back.
"I do not blame you, Sam," she said, smiling bravely. "Things have notgone right, as we both know, but if we cannot work together at least letus not hurt each other."
When Sam returned to give himself again to affairs, the country was justat the beginning of the great wave of consolidation which was finally tosweep all of the financial power of the country into a dozen pairs ofcompetent and entirely efficient hands. With the sure instinct of the borntrader Sam had seen this movement coming and had studied it. Now he beganto act. Going to that same swarthy-faced lawyer who had drawn the contractfor him to secure control of the medical student's twenty thousand dollarsand who had jokingly invited him to become one of a band of train robbers,he told him of his plans to begin working toward a consolidation of allthe firearms companies of the country.
Webster wasted no time in joking now. He laid out the plans, adjusted andreadjusted them to suit Sam's shrewd suggestions, and when a fee wasmentioned shook his head.
"I want in on this," he said. "You will need me. I am made for this gameand have been waiting for a chance to get at it. Just count me in as oneof the promoters if you will."
Sam nodded his head. Within a week he had formed a pool of his owncompany's stock controlling, as he thought, a safe majority and had begunworking to form a similar pool in the stock of his only big western rival.
This last job was not an easy one. Lewis, the Jew, had been makingconstant headway in that company just as Sam had made headway in theRainey Company. He was a money maker, a sales manager of rare ability,and, as Sam knew, a planner and executor of business coups of the firstclass.
Sam did not want to deal with Lewis. He had respect for the man's abilityin driving sharp bargains and felt that he would like to have the whip inhis own hands when it came to the point of dealing with him. To this endhe began visiting bankers and the men who were head of big western trustcompanies in Chicago and St. Louis. He went about his work slowly, feelinghis way and trying to get at each man by some effective appeal, buying theuse of vast sums of money by a promise of common stock, the bait of a bigactive bank account, and, here and there, by the hint of a directorship inthe big new consolidated company.
For a time the project moved slowly; indeed there were weeks and monthswhen it did not appear to move at all. Working in secret and with extremecaution Sam encountered many discouragements and went home in the eveningday after day to sit among Sue's guests with a mind filled with his ownplans and with an indifferent ear turned to the talk of revolution, socialunrest, and the new class consciousness of the masses, that rattled andcrackled up and down his dinner table. He thought that it must be tryingto Sue. He was so evidently not interested in her interests. At the sametime he thought that he was working toward what he wanted out of life andwent to bed at night believing that he was finding, and would find, a kindof peace in just thinking clearly along one line day after day.
One day Webster, who had wanted to be in on the deal, came to Sam's officeand gave his project its first great boost toward success. He, like Sam,thought he saw clearly the tendencies of the times, and was greedy for theblock of common stock that Sam had promised should come to him with thecompletion of the enterprise.
"You are not using me," he said, sitting down before Sam's desk. "What isblocking the deal?"
Sam began to explain and when he had finished Webster laughed.
"Let's get at Tom Edwards of the Edward Arms Company direct," he said, andthen, leaning over the desk, "Edwards is a vain little peacock and asecond rate business man," he declared emphatically. "Get him afraid andthen flatter his vanity. He has a new wife with blonde hair and big softblue eyes. He wants prominence. He is afraid to venture upon big thingshimself but is hungry for the reputation and gain that comes through bigdeals. Use the method the Jew has used; show him what it means to theyellow-haired woman to be the wife of the president of the bigconsolidated Arms Company. THE EDWARDS CONSOLIDATED, eh? Get at Edwards.Bluff him and flatter him and he is your man."
Sam wondered. Edwards was a small grey-haired man of sixty with somethingdry and unresponsive about him. Being a silent man, he had created animpression of remarkable shrewdness and ability. After a lifetime spent inhard labour and in the practice of the most rigid economy he had come upto wealth, and had got into the firearms business through Lewis, and itwas counted one of the brightest stars in that brilliant Hebrew's crownthat he had been able to lead Edwards with him in his daring and audacioushandling of the company's affairs.
Sam looked at Webster across the desk and thought of Tom Edwards as thefigurehead of the firearms trust.
"I was saving the frosting on the cake for my own Tom," he said; "it was athing I wanted to hand the colonel."
"Let us see Edwards this evening," said Webster dryly.
Sam nodded, and late that night made the deal that gave him control of thetwo important western companies and put him in position to move on theeastern companies with every prospect of complete success. To Edwards hewent with an exaggerated report of the support he had already got for hisproject, and having frightened him offered him the presidency of the newcompany and promised that it should be incorporated under the name of TheEdwards Consolidated Firearms Company of America.
The eastern companies fell quickly. With Webster Sam tried on them the olddodge of telling each that the other two had agreed to come in, and itworked.
With the coming in of Edwards and the options given by the easterncompanies Sam began to get also the support of the LaSalle Street bankers.The firearms trust was one of the few big consolidations managed wholly inthe west, and after two or three of the bankers had agreed to help financeSam's plan the others began asking to be taken into the underwritingsyndicate he and Webster had formed. Within thirty days after the closingof the deal with Tom Edwards Sam felt that he was ready to act.
For several months Colonel Tom had known something of the plans Sam had onfoot, and had made no protest. He had in fact given Sam to understand thathis stock would be voted with Sue's, controlled by Sam, and with the stockof the other directors who knew of and hoped to share in the profits ofSam's deal. The old gunmaker had all of his life believed that the otherAmerican firearms companies were but shadows destined to disappear beforethe rising sun of the Rainey Company, and thought of Sam's project as anact of providence to further this desirable end.
At the moment of his acquiescence in Webster's plan, for landing TomEdwards, Sam had a moment of doubt, and now, with the success of hisproject in sight, he began to wonder how the blustering old man would lookupon Edwards as the titular head of the big company and upon the name ofEdwards in the title of the company.
For two years Sam had seen little of the colonel, who had given up allpretence to an active part in the management of the business and who,finding Sue's new friends disconcerting, seldom appeared at the house,living at the clubs, playing billiards all day long, or sitting in theclub windows boasting to chance listeners of his part in the building ofthe Rainey Arms Company.
With a mind filled with doubt Sam went home and put the matter before Sue.She was dressed and ready for an evening at the theatre with a party offriends and the talk was brief.
"He will not mind," she said indifferently. "Go ahead and do what you wantto do."
Sam rode back to the office and called his lieutenants about him. He feltthat the thing might as well be done and over, and with the options in hishands, and the ability he thought he had to control his own company, hewas ready to come out into the open and get the deal cleaned up.
The morning papers that carried the story of the proposed big newconsolidation of firearms companies carried also an almost life-sizehalftone of Colonel Tom Rainey, a slightly smaller one of Tom Edwards, andgrouped about these, small pictures of Sam, Lewis, Prince, Webster, andseveral of the eastern men. By the size of the half-tone, Sam, Prince, andMorrison had tried to reconcile Colonel Tom to Edwards' name in the titleof the new company and to Edwards' coming election as president. The storyalso played up the past glories of the Rainey Company and its directinggenius, Colonel Tom. One phrase, written by Morrison, brought a smile toSam's lips.
"This grand old patriarch of American business, retired now from activeservice, is like a tired giant, who, having raised a brood of younggiants, goes into his castle to rest and reflect and to count the scarswon in many a hard-fought battle."
Morrison laughed as he read it aloud.
"It ought to get the colonel," he said, "but the newspaper man who printsit should be hung."
"They will print it all right," said Jack Prince.
And they did print it; going from newspaper office to newspaper officePrince and Morrison saw to that, using their influence as big buyers ofadvertising space and even insisting upon reading proof on their ownmasterpiece.
But it did not work. Early the next morning Colonel Tom appeared at theoffices of the arms company with blood in his eye, and swore that theconsolidation should not be put through. For an hour he stormed up anddown in Sam's office, his outbursts of wrath varied by periods ofchildlike pleading for the retention of the name and glory of the Raineys.When Sam shook his head and went with the old man to the meeting that wasto pass upon his action and sell the Rainey Company, he knew that he had afight on his hands.
The meeting was a stormy one. Sam made a talk telling what had been doneand Webster, voting some of Sam's proxies, made a motion that Sam's offerfor the old company be accepted.
And then Colonel Tom fired his guns. Walking up and down in the roombefore the men, sitting at a long table or in chairs tilted against thewalls, he began talking with all of his old flamboyant pomposity of thepast glories of the Rainey Company. Sam watched him quietly thinking ofthe exhibition as something detached and apart from the business of themeeting. He remembered a question that had come into his head when he wasa schoolboy and had got his first peep into a school history. There hadbeen a picture of Indians at the war dance and he had wondered why theydanced before rather than after battle. Now his mind answered thequestion.
"If they had not danced before they might never have got the chance," hethought, and smiled to himself.
"I call upon you men here to stick to the old colours," roared thecolonel, turning and making a direct attack upon Sam. "Do not let thisungrateful upstart, this son of a drunken village housepainter, that Ipicked up from among the cabbages of South Water Street, win you away fromyour loyalty to the old leader. Do not let him steal by trickery what wehave won only by years of effort."
The colonel, leaning on the table, glared about the room. Sam feltrelieved and glad of the direct attack.
"It justifies what I am going to do," he thought.
When Colonel Tom had finished Sam gave a careless glance at the old man'sred face and trembling fingers. He had no doubt that the outburst ofeloquence had fallen upon deaf ears and without comment put Webster'smotion to the vote.
To his surprise two of the new employ directors voted their stock withColonel Tom's, and a third man, voting his own stock as well as that of awealthy southside real estate man, did not vote. On a count the stockrepresented stood deadlocked and Sam, looking down the table, raised hiseyebrows to Webster.
"Move we adjourn for twenty-four hours," snapped Webster, and the motioncarried.
Sam looked at a paper lying before him on the table. During the count ofthe vote he had been writing over and over on the sheet of paper thissentence.
"The best men spend their lives seeking truth."
Colonel Tom walked out of the room like a conqueror, declining to speak toSam as he passed, and Sam looked down the table at Webster and made amotion with his head toward the man who had not voted.
Within an hour Sam's fight was won. Pouncing upon the man representing thestock of the south-side investor, he and Webster did not go out of theroom until they had secured absolute control of the Rainey Company and theman who had refused to vote had put twenty-five thousand dollars into hispocket. The two employe directors Sam marked for slaughter. Then afterspending the afternoon and early evening with the representatives of theeastern companies and their attorneys he drove home to Sue.
It was past nine o'clock when his car stopped before the house and, goingat once to his room, he found Sue sitting before his fire, her arms thrownabove her head and her eyes staring at the burning coals.
As Sam stood in the doorway looking at her a wave of resentment swept overhim.
"The old coward," he thought, "he has brought our fight here to her."
Hanging up his coat he filled his pipe and drawing up a chair sat besideher. For five minutes Sue sat staring into the fire. When she spoke therewas a touch of hardness in her voice.
"When everything is said, Sam, you do owe a lot to father," she observed,refusing to look at him.
Sam said nothing and she went on.
"Not that I think we made you, father and I. You are not the kind of manthat people make or unmake. But, Sam, Sam, think what you are doing. Hehas always been a fool in your hands. He used to come home here when youwere new with the company and talk of what he was doing. He had a wholenew set of ideas and phrases; all that about waste and efficiency andorderly working toward a definite end. It did not fool me. I knew theideas, and even the phrases he used to express them, were not his and Iwas not long finding out they were yours, that it was simply youexpressing yourself through him. He is a big helpless child, Sam, and heis old. He hasn't much longer to live. Do not be hard, Sam. Be merciful."
Her voice did not tremble but tears ran down her rigid face and herexpressive hands clutched at her dress.
"Can nothing change you? Must you always have your own way?" she added,still refusing to look at him.
"It is not true, Sue, that I always want my own way, and people do changeme; you have changed me," he said.
She shook her head.
"No, I have not changed you. I found you hungry for something and youthought I could feed it. I gave you an idea that you took hold of and madeyour own. I do not know where I got it, from some book or hearing some onetalk, I suppose. But it belonged to you. You built it and fostered it inme and coloured it with your own personality. It is your idea to-day. Itmeans more to you than all this firearms trust that the papers are fullof."
She turned to look at him, and put out her hand and laid it in his.
"I have not been brave," she said. "I am standing in your way. I have hada hope that we would get back to each other. I should have freed you but Ihadn't the courage, I hadn't the courage. I could not give up the dreamthat some day you would really take me back to you."
Getting out of her chair she dropped to her knees and putting her head inhis lap, shook with sobs. Sam sat stroking her hair. Her agitation was sogreat that her muscular little back shook with it.
Sam looked past her at the fire and tried to think clearly. He was notgreatly moved by her agitation, but with all his heart he wanted to thinkthings out and get at the right and the honest thing to do.
"It is a time of big things," he said slowly and with an air of oneexplaining to a child. "As your socialists say, vast changes are going on.I do not believe that your socialists really sense what these changesmean, and I am not sure that I do or that any man does, but I know theymean something big and I want to be in them and a part of them; all bigmen do; they are struggling like chicks in the shell. Why, look here! WhatI am doing has to be done and if I do not do it another man will. Thecolonel has to go. He will be swept aside. He belongs to something old andoutworn. Your socialists, I believe, call it the age of competition."
"But not by us, not by you, Sam," she plead. "After all, he is my father."
A stern look came into Sam's eyes.
"It does not ring right, Sue," he said coldly; "fathers do not mean muchto me. I choked my own father and threw him into the street when I wasonly a boy. You knew about that. You heard of it when you went to find outabout me that time in Caxton. Mary Underwood told you. I did it because helied and believed in lies. Do not your friends say that the individual whostands in the way should be crushed?"
She sprang to her feet and stood before him.
"Do not quote that crowd," she burst out. "They are not the real thing. Doyou suppose I do not know that? Do I not know that they come here becausethey hope to get hold of you? Haven't I watched them and seen the look ontheir faces when you have not come or have not listened to their talk?They are afraid of you, all of them. That's why they talk so bitterly.They are afraid and ashamed that they are afraid."
"Like the workers in the shop?" he asked, musingly.
"Yes, like that, and like me since I failed in my part of our lives andhad not the courage to get out of the way. You are worth all of us and forall our talk we shall never succeed or begin to succeed until we make menlike you want what we want. They know that and I know it."
"And what do you want?"
"I want you to be big and generous. You can be. Failure cannot hurt you.You and men like you can do anything. You can even fail. I cannot. None ofus can. I cannot put my father to that shame. I want you to acceptfailure."
Sam got up and taking her by the arm led her to the door. At the door heturned her about and kissed her on the lips like a lover.
"All right, Sue girl, I will do it," he said, and pushed her through thedoor. "Now let me sit down by myself and think things out."
It was a night in September and a whisper of the coming frost was in theair. He threw up the window and took long breaths of the sharp air andlistened to the rumble of the elevated road in the distance. Looking upthe boulevard he saw the lights of the cyclists making a glistening streamthat flowed past the house. A thought of his new motor car and of all ofthe wonder of the mechanical progress of the world ran through his mind.
"The men who make machines do not hesitate," he said to himself; "eventhough a thousand fat-hearted men stood in their way they would go on."
A line of Tennyson's came into his mind.
"And the nation's airy navies grappling in the central blue," he quoted,thinking of an article he had read predicting the coming of airships.
He thought of the lives of the workers in steel and iron and of the thingsthey had done and would do.
"They have," he thought, "freedom. Steel and iron do not run home to carrythe struggle to women sitting by the fire."
He walked up and down the room.
"Fat old coward. Damned fat old coward," he muttered over and over tohimself.
It was past midnight when he got into bed and began trying to quiethimself for sleep. In his dreams he saw a fat man with a chorus girlhanging to his arm kicking his head about a bridge above a swiftly flowingstream.
When he got down to the breakfast room the next morning Sue had gone. Byhis plate he found a note saying that she had gone for Colonel Tom andwould take him to the country for the day. He walked to the officethinking of the incapable old man who, in the name of sentiment, hadbeaten him in what he thought the big enterprise of his life.
At his desk he found a message from Webster. "The old turkey cock hasfled," it said; "we should have saved the twenty-five thousand."
On the phone Webster told Sam of an early visit to the club to see ColonelTom and that the old man had left the city, going to the country for theday. It was on Sam's lips to tell of his changed plans but he hesitated.
"I will see you at your office in an hour," he said.
Outside again in the open air Sam walked and thought of his promise. Downby the lake he went to where the railroad with the lake beyond stoppedhim. Upon the old wooden bridge looking over the track and down to thewater he stood as he had stood at other crises in his life and thoughtover the struggle of the night before. In the clear morning air, with theroar of the city behind him and the still waters of the lake in front, thetears, and the talk with Sue seemed but a part of the ridiculous andsentimental attitude of her father, and the promise given herinsignificant and unfairly won. He reviewed the scene carefully, the talkand the tears and the promise given as he led her to the door. It allseemed far away and unreal like some promise made to a girl in hisboyhood.
"It was never a part of all this," he said, turning and looking at thetowering city before him.
For an hour he stood on the wooden bridge. He thought of Windy McPhersonputting the bugle to his lips in the streets of Caxton and again theresounded in his ears the roaring laugh of the crowd; again he lay in thebed beside Colonel Tom in that northern city and saw the moon rising overthe round paunch and heard the empty chattering talk of love.
"Love," he said, still looking toward the city, "is a matter of truth, notlies and pretence."
Suddenly it seemed to him that if he went forward truthfully he should geteven Sue back again some time. His mind lingered over the thoughts of theloves that come to a man in the world, of Sue in the wind-swept northernwoods and of Janet in her wheel-chair in the little room where the cablecars ran rumbling under the window. And he thought of other things, of Suereading papers culled out of books before the fallen women in the littleState Street hall, of Tom Edwards with his new wife and his little wateryeyes, of Morrison and the long-fingered socialist fighting over words athis table. And then pulling on his gloves he lighted a cigar and went backthrough the crowded streets to his office to do the thing he haddetermined on.
At the meeting that afternoon the project went through without adissenting voice. Colonel Tom being absent, the two employ directorsvoted with Sam with almost panicky haste as Sam looking across at thewell-dressed, cool-headed Webster, laughed and lighted a fresh cigar. Andthen he voted the stock Sue had intrusted to him for the project, feelingthat in doing so he was cutting, perhaps for all time, the knot that boundthem.
With the completion of the deal Sam stood to win five million dollars,more money than Colonel Tom or any of the Raineys had ever controlled, andhad placed himself in the eyes of the business men of Chicago and New Yorkwhere before he had placed himself in the eyes of Caxton and South WaterStreet. Instead of another Windy McPherson failing to blow his buglebefore the waiting crowd, he was still the man who made good, the man whoachieved, the kind of man of whom America boasts before the world.
He did not see Sue again. When the news of his betrayal reached her shewent off east taking Colonel Tom with her, and Sam closed the house, evensending a man there for his clothes. To her eastern address, got from herattorney, he wrote a brief note offering to make over to her or to ColonelTom his entire winnings from the deal and closed it with the brutaldeclaration, "At the end I could not be an ass, even for you."
To this note Sam got a cold, brief reply telling him to dispose of herstock in the company and of that belonging to Colonel Tom, and naming aneastern trust company to receive the money. With Colonel Tom's help shehad made a careful estimate of the values of their holdings at the time ofconsolidation and refused flatly to accept a penny beyond that amount.
Sam felt that another chapter of his life was closed. Webster, Edwards,Prince, and the eastern men met and elected him chairman of the board ofdirectors of the new company and the public bought eagerly the river ofcommon stock he turned upon the market, Prince and Morrison doingmasterful work in the moulding of public opinion through the press. Thefirst board meeting ended with a dinner at which wine flowed in rivuletsand Edwards, getting drunk, stood up at his place and boasted of thebeauty of his young wife. And Sam, at his desk in his new offices in theRookery, settled down grimly to the playing of his role as one of the newkings of American business.