The Harbor


But Eleanore had good reason. When at last the house had been closed, back at home one evening she told me what she had known for weeks but had kept to herself until I should be free from other things. We were to have another child.

The news was a shock, it frightened me. "Where's the money to come from?" flashed into my mind. In an instant it had passed and I was holding her tight in my arms. But she must have caught that look in my face, for I could feel her trembling.

"The same funny old world, my dearest one," she whispered, "with its same old trick of starting out. But oh my dear, in spite of it all—or because of it all—how good it is to be alive! More than ever—a hundred times!"

"You darling girl," I whispered back, "you're the bravest one of all!"

Her father came to us the next night, and after Eleanore went to bed he and I talked long together. He looked worn and tired, but the same quiet affection was in his eyes.

"Let's see where we are," he said, "and what we've got to go on. To begin with, thank God, you and I are still friends. Then there's Eleanore and your small son and the smaller one that's coming. We're just starting in on a long, hot summer. She must of course be got out of town. How much have you in the bank?"

"Thirty-seven dollars," I said.

He looked thoughtfully at his cigar.[Pg 367]

"You've never yet taken money from me," he continued, after a moment. "Still, you'd do it if you had to—because this is our affair. But unluckily, just at present, I'm nearly as high and dry as yourself. The men who have backed my harbor work have lost so heavily in the strike that they feel now they must recoup. I've already proposed to them a plan which they have as good as accepted. They'll provide enough money to pay the rent of a smaller office. I can borrow enough to pay half my men. The rest I'll have to let go for a time."

"And your salary?" I ventured.

"Is left out," he answered. "I mean it is if I stay here. I want to stay here, I want to put through this job if I can, you see it has taken six years of my life. And besides," he added wistfully, "in a very few weeks they'll finish the work at Panama—and the ships of the world will begin to crowd into a harbor that isn't ready here—we haven't even completed our plans. It's not a good time to stop our work. But of course if you and Eleanore get into a hole that is serious—as I said before and you'll agree, you'd have to let me help you—even if to do it I should have to give up my work for a while and take up something that will pay."

"No sir!"

"Yes sir," he replied. "Unless you can earn enough money yourself."

We looked at each other a moment.

"You know how to bring pressure, don't you?" I said.

"Yes, I'm bringing pressure. I want to see you go on as before."

"That won't be easy," I remarked.

"Shall we talk it over a little?"


"All right," he said. "Since that talk we had together the day Eleanore's first child was born, what a splendid start you made in your writing. You were not only earning big pay, you were doing fine work, work that was[Pg 368] leading somewhere. I could see you learning to use your tools, getting a broad, sane view of life—and of yourself—training yourself and building yourself. You were right on the threshold of big results. But then your friend Kramer came along. He had not built himself, he had chucked himself over, neglected himself, his health included. So he took typhoid and came to your home. His being there was a drain on your pocket and a heavy strain on your nerves. He got you unsettled. Then came the strike. And what has it done? It has taken your time, health, money. It has left two good workmen stranded—you and me. And I don't see that it's done the crowd any good. What has the strike given you in return for all it has taken away?"

"A deeper view of life," I said. "I saw something in that strike so much bigger than Marsh or Joe or that crude organization of theirs—something deep down in the people themselves that rises up out of each one of them the minute they get together. And I believe that power has such possibilities that when it comes into full life not all the police and battleships and armies on earth can stop it."

The look in Dillon's eyes was more anxious than impatient.

"Billy," he said, "I've lived a good deal closer than you have to the big jobs of this world. And I know those jobs are to get still bigger, even more complex. They're to require even bigger men." I smiled a bit impatiently.

"Still the one man in a million," I said.

"Yes," said Dillon, "his day isn't over, it has only just begun. He may have his bad points—I'll admit he has—but compared to all the little men his vision is wide and it goes deep. And if they'll only leave him alone and give him a chance, he'll take me and the other engineers, and the chemists and doctors and lawyers, and he'll make a world—he's doing it now—where ignorance and poverty will in time be wiped completely out."[Pg 369]

"They're not going to leave him alone," I said. "I'm sure of that now. Whether he grafts or whether he's honest won't make any difference. The crowd is going to pull him down. Because it's not democracy. The trouble with all your big men at the top is that they're trying to do for the crowd what the crowd wants to do for itself. And it may not do it half so well—but all the time it will be learning—gathering closer every year—and getting a spirit compared to which your whole clean clear efficiency world is only cold and empty!"

He must have caught the look in my eyes.

"You're thinking that I'm getting old," he said softly. "I and all the men like me who have been building up this country. You're thinking that we're all following on after your father into the past." As I looked back I felt suddenly humble. Dillon's voice grew appealing and kind. "But you belong with us, Billy," he said. "It was under us you won your start. And what I want now," he added, "is not only for Eleanore's sake, but your own. I want you to try to write again about all the work we are doing and see what it will do for you. Why not give it another chance? You're not afraid of it, are you?"

"No," I said, "I'm not afraid—and I'll give it another chance if you like—I don't want to be narrow about it, God knows. But before I tackle anything else I'll finish my story of the strike."

"All right," he agreed. "That's all I ask. Now suppose you take Eleanore up to the mountains and write your strike article up there. Let me loan you a little just at the start."

"How much money have you in the bank?"

"Enough to send Eleanore where she belongs."

"Eleanore belongs right here," said a voice from the other room, and presently Eleanore appeared. She surveyed us both with a scorn in her eyes that made us quake a little. "I never heard," she went on calmly, "of anything quite so idiotic. Go home, Dad, and go to bed, and[Pg 370] please drop this insane idea that I'm afraid of July in New York, or of August or September. Do you know what you're going to do to-morrow, both of you poor foolish boys? You're going sensibly to work and worry about nothing at all. And to-morrow night we're all three of us going to forget how it feels to work or think, and get on an open trolley and go down and hear Harry Lauder. Thank Heaven he happens to be in town. To hear you talk you'd think the whole American people had forgotten how to laugh.

"Now Billy," she ended smoothly, "go to the icebox and get two bottles of nice cool beer—and make me a tall glass of lemonade. And don't use too much sugar."[Pg 371]

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