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
"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
"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
"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
"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]