To Him That Hath by Ralph Connor
Chapter XI. The New Manager
Grant Maitland sat in his office, plainly disturbed in his mind. His resolute face, usually reflecting the mental repose which arises from the consciousness of a strength adequate to any emergency, carried lines which revealed a mind which had lost its poise. Reports from his foremen indicated brooding trouble, and this his own observation within the last few weeks confirmed. Production was noticeably falling low. The attitude of the workers suggested suspicion and discontent. That fine glow of comradeship which had been characteristic of all workers in the Maitland Mills had given place to a sullen aloofness and a shiftiness of eye that all too plainly suggested evil forces at work.
During the days immediately preceding and following the Great Match, there had been a return of that frank and open bearing that had characterised the employees of the Maitland Mills in the old days, but that fleeting gleam of sunshine had faded out and the old grey shadow of suspicion, of discontent, had fallen again. To Maitland this attitude brought a disappointment and a resentment which sensibly added to his burden, already heavy enough in these days of weakening markets and falling prices. In his time he had come through periods of financial depression. He was prepared for one such period now, but he had never passed through the unhappy experience of a conflict with his own employees. Not that he had ever feared a fight, but he shrank from a fight with his own men. It humiliated him. He felt it to be a reflection upon his system of management, upon his ability to lead and control, indeed, upon his personality. But, more than all, it grieved him to feel that he had lost that sense of comradeship which for forty years he had been able to preserve with those who toiled with him in a common enterprise.
A sense of loneliness fell upon him. Like many a man, self-made and self-sufficing, he craved companionship which his characteristic qualities of independence and strength seemed to render unnecessary and undesired. The experience of all leaders of men was his, for the leader is ever a lonely man.
This morning the reports he had just received convinced him that a strike with his workers would not long be delayed. "If I only knew what they really wanted," he bitterly mused. "It cannot be wages. Their wages are two or three times what they were before the war-- shop conditions are all that could be desired--the Lord knows I have spent enough in this welfare stuff and all that sort of thing during these hard times. I have heard of no real grievances. I am sick of it all. I guess I am growing too old for this sort of thing."
There was a tap at the door and his son appeared, with a cheery greeting.
"Come in, Jack," said his father, "I believe you are the very man I want."
"Hello, Dad. You look as if you were in trouble."
"Well," replied his father with a keen look at him, "I think I may return the compliment."
"Well, yes, but perhaps I should not bother you. You have all you can carry."
"All I can carry," echoed Maitland, picking up the reports from his desk and handing them to his son, who glanced over them. "Things are not going well at the mills. No, you needn't tell me. You know I never ask you for any confidences about your brother unionists."
"Right you are, Dad. You have always played the game."
"Well, I must confess this is beyond me. Everywhere on the men's faces I catch that beastly look of distrust and suspicion. I hate to work with men like that. And very obviously, trouble is brewing, but what it is, frankly, it is beyond me to know."
"Well, it is hardly a secret any longer," said Jack. "Trouble is coming, Dad, though what form it shall take I am not in a position to say. Union discipline is a fierce thing. The rank and file are not taken into the confidence of the leaders. Policies are decided upon in the secret councils of the Great Ones and handed down to us to adopt. Of course, it is open to any man to criticise, and I am bound to say that the rankers exercise that privilege with considerable zest. All the same, however, it is difficult to overturn an administration, hard to upset established order. The thing that is, is the thing that ought to be. Rejection of an administration policy demands revolution."
"Well," said his father, taking the sheets from Jack's hand, "we needn't go to meet the trouble. Now, let us have yours. What is your particular grief?"
"Tony," said Jack shortly.
"Tony?" echoed his father in dismay. "Heaven help us! And what now has come to Tony? Though I must confess I have been expecting this for some time. It had to come."
"It is a long story, Dad, and I shan't worry you with the details. As you know, after leaving us, Tony went from one job to another with the curve steadily downwards. For the last few months, I gather, he has been living on his wits, helped out by generous contributions from his sister's wages. Finally he was given a subordinate position under "The Great War Veterans" who have really been very decent to him. This position involved the handling of funds--no great amount. Then it was the old story--gambling and drinking--the loss of all control--desperate straits--hoping to recoup his losses--and you know the rest."
"Embezzlement?" asked Maitland.
"Yes, embezzlement," said Jack. "Tony is not a thief. He didn't deliberately steal, you understand."
"Jack," said his father, sharply, "get that out of your head. There is no such distinction in law or in fact. Stealing is stealing, whatever the motive behind it, whatever the plan governing it, by whatever name called."
"I didn't really mean anything else, Dad. Tony did the thing, at any rate, and the cops were on his trail. He got into hiding, sent an S. O. S. to his sister. Annette, driven to desperation, came to me with her story the night of the Match. She was awfully cut up, poor girl. I had to leave the dance and go right off to Toronto. Too late for the train, I drove straight through,--ghastly roads,-- found Tony, fetched him back, and up till yesterday he has been hiding in his own home. Meantime, I managed to get things fixed up--paid his debts, the prosecution is withdrawn and now he wants,-- or, rather, he doesn't want but needs, a job."
Maitland listened with a grave face. "Then the little girl was right, after all," he said.
"Patricia," said his father. "She told me a long story of a terrible accident to Tony that had called you away to Toronto. I must say it was rather incoherent."
"But who told her? I swear not a soul knew but his people and myself," said Jack.
"Strange how things get out," said his father. "Well, where is Tony now?"
"Here, in the outer office."
"But," said Maitland, desperately, "where can we place him? He is impossible in any position--dangerous in the office, useless as a foreman, doubtful and uncertain as a workman."
"One thing is quite certain," said Jack decidedly, "he must be under discipline. He is useless on his own. I thought that perhaps he might work beside me. I could keep an eye on him. Tony has nothing in him to work with. I should like to hear old Matheson on him--the Reverend Murdo, I mean. That is a great theme of his--'To the man who has nothing you can give nothing.'"
"Matheson?" said Maitland. "A chum of yours, I understand. Radical, eh?"
"A very decent sort, father," replied Jack. "I have been doing a little economics with him during the winter. His radicalism is of a sound type, I think. He is a regular bear at economics and he is even better at the humanity business, the brother-man stuff. He is really sound there."
"I can guess what you mean," said his father, "though I don't quite catch on to all your jargon. But I confess that I suspect there is a whole lot of nonsense associated with these theories."
"You will pardon me, Dad," said Jack, "if I suggest that your education is really not yet complete."
"Whose is?" inquired his father, curtly.
"But about Tony," continued Jack, "I wish I had him in a gang under me. I would work him, or break his neck."
His father sat silently pondering for some minutes. Then, as if making a sudden resolve, he said: "Jack, I have been wanting to speak with you about something for some weeks. I have come to a place where it is imperative that I get some relief from my load. You see, I am carrying the whole burden of management practically alone. I look after the financing, the markets, I keep an eye on production and even upon the factory management. In normal conditions I could manage to get along, but in these critical days, when every department calls for close, constant and sane supervision, I feel that I must have relief. If I could be relieved of the job of shop management, I could give myself to the other departments where the situation at present is extremely critical. I want a manager, Jack. Why not take the job? Now," he continued, holding up his hand, as his son was about to speak, "listen for a moment or two. I have said the situation is serious. Let me explain that. The financing of this business in the present crisis requires a man's full time and energy. Markets, credits, collections, all demand the very closest attention."
Jack glanced at his father's face. For the first time he noticed how deep-cut were the lines that indicated care, anxiety and worry. A sudden remorse seized him.
"I am awfully sorry, sir," he said, "I have not been of much help to you."
Maitland waved his hand as if dismissing the suggestion. "Now you know nothing of the financial side, but you do know men and you can handle them. You proved that in the war, and, in another way, you proved that during this recent athletic contest. I followed that very closely and I say without hesitation that it was a remarkably fine bit of work and the reactions were of the best. Jack, I believe that you would make a great manager if you gave yourself to it, and thought it worth while. Now, listen to me." Thereupon the father proceeded to lay before his son the immediately pressing problems in the business--the financial obligations already assumed, the heavy accumulation of stock for which there were no markets, the increasing costs in production with no hope of relief, but rather every expectation of added burdens in this direction.
As he listened to his father, Jack was appalled with what he considered the overwhelmingly disastrous situation in which the business was placed. At the same time he saw his father in a new light. This silent, stern, reserved man assumed a role of hero in his eyes, facing desperate odds and silently fighting a lonely and doubtful battle. The son was smitten with a sense of his own futility. In him was born a desire and a resolve to stand beside his father in this conflict and if the battle went against them, to share in the defeat.
"Dad," cried his son impulsively, "I am a rotter. I have been of no help to you, but only a burden. I had no idea the situation was so serious." Remorse and alarm showed in his tone.
"Don't misunderstand me," said his father. "This is new to you and appears more serious than it is. There is really no ground, or little ground, for anxiety or alarm. Let me give you the other side." Then he proceeded to set forth the resources of the business, the extent of his credit, his plans to meet the present situation and to prepare for possible emergencies. "We are not at the wall yet, by any means, Jack," he said, his voice ringing out with a resolute courage. "But I am bound to say that if any sudden or untoward combination of circumstances, a strike, for instance, should arise, disaster might follow."
Jack's heart sank still lower. He was practically certain that a strike was imminent. Although without any official confirmation of his suspicions, he had kept his eyes and ears opened and he was convinced that trouble was unavoidable. As his father continued to set forth his plans, his admiration for him grew. He brought to bear upon the problems with which he was grappling a clear head, wide knowledge and steady courage. He was a general, planning a campaign in the face of serious odds. He recalled a saying of his old Commander-in-Chief in France: "War is a business and will be won by the application of business principles and business methods. Given a body of fighting men such as I command, the thing becomes a problem of transportation, organization, reserve, insurance. War is a business and will be won by fighting men directed or governed by business principles." He was filled with regret that he had not given himself more during these last months to the study of these principles. The prospect of a fight against impending disaster touched his imagination and stimulated him like a bugle call.
"I see what you want, father," he said. "You want to have some good N. C. O.'s. The N. C. O. is the backbone of the army," he quoted with a grin.
"N. C. O?" echoed his father. He was not sufficiently versed in military affairs to catch the full meaning of the army rag.
"What I mean is," said Jack, "that no matter how able a military commander is, he must have efficient subordinates to carry on. No Colonel can do his own company and platoon work."
His father nodded: "You've got it, Jack. I want a manager to whom I can entrust a policy without ever having to think of it again. I don't want a man who gets on top of the load, but one who gets under it."
"You want a good adjutant, father, and a sergeant-major."
"I suppose so," said the father, "although your military terms are a little beyond me. After all, the thing is simple enough. On the management side, we want increase in production, which means decrease in production costs, and this means better organization of the work and the workers."
Jack nodded and after a moment, said: "May I add, sir, one thing more?"
"Yes," said his father.
"Team play," said Jack. "That is my specialty, you know. Individualism in a game may be spectacularly attractive, but it doesn't get the goal."
"Team play," said his father. "Co-operation, I suppose you mean. My dear boy, this is no time for experimentation in profit-sharing schemes, if that is what you are after. Anyway, the history of profiteering schemes as I have read it is not such as to warrant entire confidence in their soundness. You cannot change the economic system overnight."
"That is true enough, Dad," said his son, "and perhaps I am a fool. But I remember, and you remember, what everybody said, and especially what the experts said, about the military methods and tactics before the war. You say you cannot change the economic system overnight, and yet the whole military system was changed practically overnight. In almost every particular, there was a complete revolution. Cavalry, fortress defences, high explosives, the proper place for machine guns, field tactics, in fact, the whole business was radically changed. And if we hadn't changed, they would be speaking German in the schools of England, like enough, by this time."
"Jack, you may be right," said his father, with a touch of impatience, "but I don't want to be worried just now. It is easy enough for your friend, Matheson, and other academic industrial directors, to suggest experiments with other people's money. If we could only get production, I would not mind very much what wages we had to pay. But I confess when industrial strife is added to my other burdens, it is almost more than I can bear."
"I am awfully sorry, Dad," replied his son. "I have no wish to worry you, but how are you going to get production? Everybody says it has fallen off terribly during and since the war. How are you going to bring it up? Not by the pay envelope, I venture to say, and that is why I suggested team play. And I am not thinking about co-operative schemes of management, either. Some way must be found to interest the fellows in their job, in the work itself, as distinct from the financial returns. Unless the chaps are interested in the game, they won't get the goals."
"My boy," said his father wearily, "that old interest in work is gone. That old pride in work which we used to feel when I was at the job myself, is gone. We have a different kind of workman nowadays."
"Dad, don't believe that," said Jack. "Remember the same thing was said before the war. We used to hear all about that decadent race stuff. The war proved it to be all rot. The race is as fine as ever it was. Our history never produced finer fighting men."
"You may be right," said his father. "If we could only get rid of these cursed agitators."
"There again, Dad, if you will excuse me, I believe you are mistaken. I have been working with these men for the last nine months, I have attended very regularly the meetings of their unions and I have studied the whole situation with great care. The union is a great institution. I am for it heart and soul. It is soundly and solidly democratic, and the agitators cut very little figure. I size up the whole lot about this way: Fifty per cent of the men are steady-going fellows with ambition to climb; twenty-five per cent are content to grub along for the day's pay and with no great ambition worrying them. Of the remainder, ten per cent are sincere and convinced reformers, more or less half-baked intellectuals; ten per cent love the sound of their own voices, hate work and want to live by their jaw, five per cent only are unscrupulous and selfish agitators. But, Dad, believe me, fire-brands may light fires, but solid fagots only can keep fires going. You cannot make conflagrations out of torches alone."
"That is Matheson, I suppose," said his father, smiling at him.
"Well, I own up. I have got a lot of stuff from Matheson. All the same I believe I have fairly sized up the labour situation."
"Boy, boy," said his father, "I am tired of it all. I believe with some team play you and I could make it go. Alone, I am not so sure. Will you take the job?"
There was silence between them for a few minutes. Then Jack answered slowly: "I am not sure of myself at all, Dad, but I can see you must have someone and I am willing to try the planing mill."
"Thank you, boy," said his father, stretching his hand quickly across the table, "I will back you up and won't worry you. Within reasonable limits I will give you a free hand."
"I know you will, Dad," said Jack, "and of course I have been in the army long enough to know the difference between the O. C. and the sergeant-major."
"Now, what about Tony?" inquired Maitland, reverting suddenly to what both felt to be a painful and perplexing problem. "What are we to do with him?"
"I will take him on," said Jack. "I suppose I must."
"He will be a heavy handicap to you, boy. Is there no other way?"
"I see no other way," Jack replied. "I will give him a trial. Shall I bring him in?"
"Bring him in."
In a minute or two Jack returned with Tony. As Maitland's eyes fell upon him, he could not prevent a start of shocked surprise.
"Why, Tony!" he exclaimed. "What in all the world is wrong with you? You are ill." Trembling, pale, obviously unstrung, Tony stood before him, his shifty eyes darting now at one face, then at the other, his hands restless, his whole appearance suggesting an imminent nervous collapse. "Why, Tony, boy, what is wrong with you?" repeated Maitland. The kindly tone proved too much for Tony's self-control. He gulped, choked, and stood speechless, his eyes cast down to the floor.
"Sit down, Tony," said Maitland. "Give him a chair, Jack."
But Jack said, "He doesn't need a chair. He is not here for a visit. You wanted to say something to him, did you not?" Jack's dry, matter-of-fact and slightly contemptuous tone had an instant and extraordinary effect upon the wretched man beside him.
Instantly, Tony stiffened up. His head went back, he cast a swift glance at Jack's face, whose smile, slightly quizzical, slightly contemptuous, appeared to bite into his vitals. A hot flame of colour swept his pale and pasty face.
"I want a job, sir," he said, in a tone low and fierce, looking straight at Mr. Maitland.
Maitland, taking his cue from his son, replied in a quiet voice: "Can you hold a job?"
"God knows," said Tony.
"He does," replied Maitland, "but what about you?"
Tony stood for a few moments saying nothing, darting uncertain glances now and then at Jack, on whose face still lingered the smile which Tony found so disturbing.
"If you want work," continued Mr. Maitland, "and want to make it go, Tony, you can go with Jack. He will give it to you."
"Jack!" exclaimed Tony. His face was a study. Uncertainty, fear, hope, disappointment were all there.
"Yes, Jack," said Mr. Maitland. "He is manager in these works now."
Tony threw back his head and laughed. "I guess I will have to work, then," he said.
"You just bet you will, Tony," replied Jack. "Come along, we will go."
"I am taking you home. See you to-night, sir," Jack added, nodding to his father.
The two young men passed out together to the car.
"Yes, Tony," said Jack, "I have taken over your job."
"My job? What do you mean by that?" asked Tony, bitter and sullen in face and tone.
"I am the new manager of the planing mill. Dad had you slated for that position, but you hadn't manager-timber in you."
Tony's answer was an oath, deep and heartfelt.
"Yes," continued Jack, "manager-timber is rare and slow-growing stuff, Tony."
Again Tony swore but kept silence, and so remained till they had reached his home. Together they walked into the living room. There they found Annette, and with her McNish. Both rose upon their entrance, McNish showing some slight confusion, and assuming the attitude of a bulldog on guard, Annette vividly eager, expectant, anxious.
"Well," she cried, her hands going fluttering to her bosom.
"I have got a job, Annette," said Tony, with a short laugh. "Here is my boss."
For a moment the others stood looking at Jack, surprised into motionless silence.
"I tell you, he is the new manager," repeated Tony, "and he is my boss."
"What does he mean, Jack?" cried the girl, coming forward to Maitland with a quick, impulsive movement.
"Just what he says, Annette. I am the new manager of the planing mill and I have given Tony a job."
Again there fell a silence. Into the eyes of the bulldog McNish there shot a strange gleam of something that seemed almost like pleasure. In those brief moments of silence life was readjusting itself with them all. Maitland had passed from the rank and file of the workers into the class of those who direct and control their work. Bred as they were and trained as they were in the democratic atmosphere of Canada, they were immediately conscious of the shifting of values.
Annette was the first to break silence. "I wish I could thank you," she said, "but I cannot. I cannot." The girl's face had changed. The eager light had faded from her dark eyes, her hands dropped quietly to her side. "But I am sure you know," she added after a pause, "how very, very grateful I am, how grateful we all are, Mr. Maitland."
"Annette," said Jack severely, "drop that 'Mr.' stuff. I was your friend yesterday. Am I any less your friend to-day? True enough, I am Tony's boss, but Tony is my friend--that is, if he wants to have it so. You must believe this, Annette."
He offered her his hand. With a sudden impulse she took it in both of hers and held it hard against her breast, her eyes meanwhile burning into his with a look of adoration, open and unashamed. She apparently forgot the others in the room.
"Jack," she cried, her voice thrilling with passion, "I don't care what you are. I don't care what you think. I will never, never forget what you have done for me."
Maitland flung a swift glance at McNish and was startled at the look of rage, of agonised rage, that convulsed his face.
"My dear Annette," he said, with a light laugh, "don't make too much of it. I was glad to help Tony and you. Why shouldn't I help old friends?"
As he was speaking they heard the sound of a door closing and looking about, Jack found that McNish had gone, to be followed by Tony a moment or two later.
"Oh, never mind him," cried Annette, answering Jack's look of surprise. "He has to go to work. And it doesn't matter in the least."
Jack was vaguely disturbed by McNish's sudden disappearance.
"But, Annette," he said, "I don't want McNish to think that I--that you--"
"What?" She leaned toward him, her face all glowing with warm and eager light, her eyes aflame, her bosom heaving. "What, Jack?" she whispered. "What does it matter what he thinks?"
He put out his hands. With a quick, light step she was close to him, her face lifted up in passionate surrender. Swiftly Jack's arms went around her and he drew her toward him.
"Annette, dear," he said, and his voice was quiet and kind, too kind. "You are a dear girl and a good girl, and I am glad to have helped you and shall always be glad to help you."
The door opened and Tony slipped into the room. With passionate violence, Annette threw away the encircling arms.
"Ah!" she cried, a sob catching her voice. "You--you shame me. No--I shame myself." Rigid, with head flung back, she stood before him, her eyes ablaze with passionate anger, her hands clenched tight. She had flung herself at him and had been rejected.
"What the devil is this?" cried Tony, striding toward them. "What is he doing to you, Annette?"
"He?" cried Annette, her breath coming in sobs. "To me? Nothing! Keep out of it, Tony." She pushed him fiercely aside. "He has done nothing! No! No! Nothing but what is good and kind. Ah! kind. Yes, kind." Her voice rose shrill in scorn of herself and of him. "Oh, yes, he is kind." She laughed wildly, then broke into passionate tears. She turned from them and fled to her room, leaving the two men looking at each other.
"Poor child," said Jack, the first to recover speech. "She is quite all in. She has had two hard weeks of it."
"Two hard weeks," repeated Tony, his eyes glaring. "What is the matter with my sister? What have you done to her?" His voice was like the growl of a savage dog.
"Don't be a confounded fool, Tony," replied Jack. "You ought to know what is the matter with your sister. You have had something to do with it. And now your job is to see if you can make it up to her. To-morrow morning, at seven o'clock, remember," he said curtly, and, turning on his heel, he passed out.
It seemed to Jack as he drove home that life had suddenly become a tangle of perplexities and complications. First there was Annette. He was genuinely distressed as he thought of the scene through which they had just passed. That he himself had anything to do with her state of mind did not occur to him.
"Poor little girl," he said to himself, "she really needs a change of some sort, a complete rest. We must find some way of helping her. She will be all right in a day or two." With which he dismissed the subject.
Then there was McNish. McNish was a sore puzzle to him. He had come to regard the Scotchman with a feeling of sincere friendliness. He remembered gratefully his ready and efficient help against the attacks of the radical element among his fellow workmen. On several occasions he, with the Reverend Murdo Matheson, had foregathered in the McNish home to discuss economic problems over a quiet pipe. He was always conscious of a reserve deepening at times to a sullenness in McNish's manner, the cause of which he could not certainly discover. That McNish was possessed of a mentality of more than ordinary power there was no manner of doubt. Jack had often listened with amazement to his argumentation with the Reverend Murdo, against whom he proved over and over again his ability to hold his own, the minister's superiority as a trained logician being more than counterbalanced by his antagonist's practical experience.
As he thought of these evenings, he was ready to believe that his suspicion of the Scotchman's ill-will toward himself was due largely to imagination, and yet he could not rid himself of the unpleasant memory of McNish's convulsed face that afternoon.
"What the deuce is the matter with the beggar, anyway?" he said to himself.
Suddenly a new suggestion came to him.
"It can't be," he added, "surely the idiot is not jealous." Then he remembered Annette's attitude at the moment, her hands pressing his hard to her breast, her face lifted up in something more than appeal. "By Jove! I believe that may be it," he mused. "And Annette? Had she observed it? What was in her heart? Was there a reason for the Scotchman's jealousy on that side?"
This thought disturbed him greatly. He was not possessed of a larger measure of self-conceit than falls to the lot of the average young man, but the thought that possibly Annette had come to regard him other than as a friend released a new tide of emotion within him. Rapidly he passed in review many incidents in their association during the months since he returned from the war, and gradually the conviction forced itself upon him that possibly McNish was not without some cause for jealousy. It was rotten luck and was bound to interfere with their present happy relations. Yet none the less was he conscious that it was not altogether an unpleasant thought to him that in some subtle way a new bond had been established between this charming young girl and himself.
But he must straighten things out with McNish at the very first opportunity. He was a decent chap and would make Annette a first- rate husband. Indeed, it pleased Jack not a little to feel that he would be able to further the fortunes of both. McNish had good foreman timber in him and would make a capable assistant. As to this silly prejudice of his, Jack resolved that he would take steps immediately to have that removed. That he could accomplish this he had little doubt.
But the most acutely pressing of the problems that engaged his mind were those that arose out of his new position as manager. The mere organizing and directing of men in their work gave him little anxiety. He was sure of himself as far as that was concerned. He was sure of his ability to introduce among the men a system of team play that would result in increased production and would induce altogether better results. He thought he knew where the weak spots were. He counted greatly upon the support of the men who had been associated with him in the Maitland Mills Athletic Association. With their backing, he was certain that he could eliminate most of that very considerable wastage in time that even a cursory observation had revealed to him in the shops, due to such causes as dilatory workers, idle machines, lack of co-ordination, improper routing of work, and the like. He had the suspicion that a little investigation would reveal other causes of wastage as well.
There was one feature in the situation that gave him concern and that was the radical element in the unions. Simmons and his gang had from the very first assumed an attitude of hostility to himself, had sought to undermine his influence and had fought his plans for the promotion of clean sport among the Mill men. None knew better than Simmons that an active interest in clean and vigorous outdoor sports tended to produce contentment of mind, and a contented body of men offered unfertile soil for radical and socialistic doctrines. Hence, Simmons had from the first openly and vociferously opposed with contemptuous and bitter indignation all Jack's schemes and plans for the promotion of athletic sports. But Jack had been able to carry the men with him and the recent splendid victory over a famous team had done much to discredit brother Simmons and his propaganda.
Already Jack was planning a new schedule of games for the summer. Baseball, football, cricket, would give occupation and interest to all classes of Mill workers. And in his new position he felt he might be able, to an even greater degree, to carry out the plans which he had in mind. On the other hand, he knew full well that men were apt to be suspicious of welfare schemes "promoted from above." His own hockey men he felt sure he could carry with him. If he could only win McNish to be his sergeant-major, success would be assured. This must be his first care.
He well knew that McNish had no love for Simmons, whom the Scotchman despised first, because he was no craftsman, and chiefly because he had no soundly-based system of economics but was governed by the sheerest opportunism in all his activities. A combination between McNish and Simmons might create a situation not easy to deal with. Jack resolved that that combination should be prevented. He would see McNish at once, after the meeting of his local, which he remembered was set for that very night.
This matter being settled, he determined to proceed immediately to the office for an interview with Wickes. He must get to know as speedily as possible something of the shop organization and of its effect upon production. He found Mr. Wickes awaiting him with tremulous and exultant delight, eager to put himself, his experience, his knowledge and all that he possessed at the disposal of the new manager. The whole afternoon was given to this work, and before the day was done, Jack had in his mind a complete picture of the planing mill, with every machine in place and an estimate, more or less exact, of the capacity of every machine. In the course of this investigation, he was surprised to discover that there was no detailed record of the actual production of each machine, nor, indeed, anything in the way of an accurate cost system in any department of the whole business.
"How do you keep track of your men and their work, Wickes?" he inquired.
"Oh!" said the old man, "the foremen know all about that, Mr. Jack."
"But how can they know? What check have they?"
"Well, they are always about, Mr. Jack, and keep their eyes on things generally."
"I see," said Jack. "And do you find that works quite satisfactorily?"
"Well, sir, we have never gone into details, you know, Mr. Jack, but if you wish--"
"Oh, no, Wickes, I am just trying to get the hang of things, you know." Jack was unwilling to even suggest a criticism of method at so early a stage in his managerial career. "I want to know how you run things, Wickes, and at any time I shall be glad of assistance from you."
The old bookkeeper hastened to give him almost tearful assurance of his desire to assist to the utmost of his power.
The meeting of Local 197 of the Woodworkers' Union was largely attended, a special whip having been sent out asking for a full meeting on the ground that a matter of vital importance to unionised labour was to be considered.
The matter of importance turned out to be nothing less than a proposition that the Woodworkers' Union should join with all other unions in the town to make a united demand upon their respective employers for an increase in wages and better conditions all around, in connection with their various industries. The question was brought up in the form of a resolution from their executive, which strongly urged that this demand should be approved and that a joint committee should be appointed to take steps for the enforcement of the demand. The executive had matters thoroughly in hand. Brother Simmons and the more radical element were kept to the background, the speakers chosen to present the case being all moderates. There was no suggestion of extreme measures. Their demands were reasonable, and it was believed that the employers were prepared to give fair consideration--indeed, members had had assurance from an authoritative quarter on the other side that such was the case.
Notwithstanding the moderate tone adopted in presenting it, the resolution met with strenuous opposition. The great majority of those present were quiet, steady-going men who wanted chiefly to be let alone at their work and who were hostile to the suggested action, which might finally land them in "trouble." The old-time workers in the Maitland Mills had no grievances against their employer. They, of course, would gladly accept an increase in wages, for the cost of living was steadily climbing, but they disliked intensely the proposed method of making a general demand for an increase in wages and for better conditions.
The sporting element in the meeting were frankly and fiercely antagonistic to anything that would disturb the present friendly relation with their employers in the Maitland Mills. "The old man" had always done the square thing. He had shown himself a "regular fellow" in backing them up in all their games during the past year. He had always given them a fair hearing and a square deal. They would not stand for any hold-up game of this sort. It was a low- down game, anyway.
The promoters of the resolution began to be anxious for their cause. They had not anticipated any such a strong opposition and were rather nonplussed as to the next move. Brother Simmons was in a fury and was on the point of breaking forth into a passionate denunciation of scabs and traitors generally when, to the amazement of all and the intense delight of the supporters of the administration, McNish arose and gave unqualified support to the resolution.
His speech was a masterpiece of diplomacy, and revealed his long practice in the art of oratory in that best of all training schools, the labour union of the Old Land. He began by expressing entire sympathy with the spirit of the opposition. The opposition, however, had completely misunderstood the intent and purport of the resolution. None of them desired trouble. There need not be, indeed, he hoped there would not be trouble, but there were certain very ugly facts that must be faced. He then, in terse, forceful language, presented the facts in connection with the cost of living, quoting statistics from the Department of Labour to show the steady rise in the price of articles of food, fuel and clothing since the beginning of the war, a truly appalling array. He had secured price lists from dealers in these commodities, both wholesale and retail, to show the enormous profits made during the war. There were returned soldiers present. They had not hesitated at the call of duty to give all they had for their country. They had been promised great things when they had left their homes, their families, their business and their jobs. How had they found things upon their return? He illustrated his argument from the cases of men present. It was a sore spot with many of them and he pressed hard upon it. They were suffering to-day; worse, their wives and children were suffering. Had anyone heard of their employers suffering? Here again he offered illustrations of men who had made a good thing out of the war. True, there were many examples of the other kind of employer, but they must deal with classes and not individuals in a case like this. This was part of a much bigger thing than any mere local issue. He drew upon his experience in the homeland with overwhelming effect. His voice rose and rolled in his richest Doric as he passionately denounced the tyranny of the masters in the coal and iron industries in the homeland. He was not an extremist; he had never been one. Indeed, all who knew him would bear him out when he said that he had been an opponent of Brother Simmons and those who thought with him on economic questions. This sudden change in attitude would doubtless surprise his brothers. He had been forced to change by the stern logic of facts. There was nothing in this resolution which any reasonable worker might object to. There was nothing in the resolution that every worker with any sympathy with his fellow workers should not support. Moreover, he warned them that if they presented a united front, there would be little fear of trouble. If they were divided in their ranks, or if they were halfhearted in their demands, they would invite opposition and, therefore, trouble. He asked them all to stand together in supporting a reasonable demand, which he felt sure reasonable men would consider favorably.
The effect of his speech was overwhelming. The administration supporters were exuberant in their enthusiastic applause and in their vociferous demands for a vote. The opposition were paralysed by the desertion of one whom they had regarded and trusted as a leader against the radical element and were left without answer to the masterly array of facts and arguments which he had presented.
At this point, the door opened and Maitland walked in. A few moments of tense silence, and then something seemed to snap. The opposition, led by the hockey men and their supporters, burst into a demonstration of welcome. The violence of the demonstration was not solely upon Maitland's account. The leaders of the opposition were quick to realise that his entrance had created a diversion for them which might save them from disastrous defeat. They made the most of this opportunity, prolonging the demonstration and joining in a "chair procession" which carried Maitland shoulder-high about the room, in the teeth of the violent protest of Brother Simmons and his following.
Order being restored, business was again resumed, when Brother Macnamara rose to his feet and, in a speech incoherent at times, but always forceful, proposed that the usual order be suspended and that here and now a motion be carried expressing their gratification at the recent great hockey victory and referring in highly laudatory terms to the splendid work of Brother Captain Maitland, to whose splendid efforts victory was largely due.
It was in vain that Brother Simmons and those of his way of thinking sought to stem the tide of disorder. The motion was carried with acclaim.
No sooner had this matter been disposed of than Maitland rose to his feet and said:
"Mr. President, I wish to thank you all for this very kind reference to my team and myself. I take very little credit for the victory which we won. We had a good team, indeed, quite a remarkable team. I have played in a good many athletic teams of various kinds, but in two particulars the Maitland Mills Hockey Team is the most remarkable of any I have known--first, in their splendid loyalty in taking their training and sticking together; that was beyond all praise; and, secondly, in the splendid grit which they showed in playing a losing game. Now, Mr. President, I am going to do something which gives me more regret than any of you can understand. I have to offer my resignation as a member of this union. I have accepted the position of manager of the planing mill and I understand that this makes it necessary that I resign as a member of this union. I don't really see why this should be necessary. I don't believe myself that it should, and, brothers, I expect to live long enough to belong to a union that will allow a fellow like me to be a member with chaps like you. But meantime, for the present I must resign. You have treated me like a brother and a chum. I have learned a lot from you all, but one thing especially, which I shall never forget: that there is no real difference in men that is due to their position in life; that a man's job doesn't change his heart."
He paused for a few moments as if to gather command of his voice, which had become suddenly husky.
"I am sorry to leave you, boys, and I want to say to you from my heart that though I cannot remain a member of this union, I can be and I will be a brother to you all the same. And I promise you that, as far as I can, I will work for the good of the union in the future as I have done in the past."
McNish alone was prepared for this dramatic announcement, although they all knew that Maitland sooner or later would assume a position which would link him up with the management of the business. But the suddenness of the change and the dramatic setting of the announcement created an impression so profound as to neutralise completely the effect of McNish's masterly speech.
Disappointed and enraged at the sudden turn of events, he was too good a general to allow himself to be routed in disorder. He set about to gather his disordered forces for a fresh attack, when once more the hockey men took command of the field. This time it was Snoopy Sykes, the most voiceless member of the union.
After a few moments of dazed silence that followed Maitland's announcement of his resignation, Snoopy rose and, encouraged by the cheers of his astonished comrades, began the maiden speech of his life.
"Mr. President," he shouted.
"Go to it, Snoopy, old boy."
"I never made a speech in my life, never--"
"Good, old scout, never begin younger! Cheerio, old son!"
"And I want to say that he don't need to. I once heard of a feller who didn't. He kept on and he didn't do no harm to nobody. And the Captain here wouldn't neither. So what I say is he don't need to," and Snoopy sat down with the whole brotherhood gazing at him in silence and amazed perplexity, not one of them being able to attach the faintest meaning to Snoopy's amazing oration.
At length Fatty Findlay, another of the voiceless ones, but the very special pal of Snoopy Sykes, broke forth in a puzzled voice:
"Say it again, Snoopy."
There was a roar of laughter, which only grew in volume as Snoopy turned toward his brothers a wrathful and bewildered countenance.
"No," said another voice. "Say something else, Snoopy. Shoot a goal this time."
Again Snoopy rose. "What I said was this," he began indignantly. Again there was a roar of laughter.
"Say, you fellers, shut up and give a feller a chance. The Captain wants to resign. I say 'No.' He is a darned good scout. We want him and we won't let him go. Let him keep his card."
"By the powers," roared Macnamara, "it is a goal, Snoopy. It's a humdinger. I second the motion."
It was utterly in vain that Brother Simmons and his whole following pointed out unitedly and successively the utter impossibility and absurdity of the proposal which was unconstitutional and without precedent. The hockey team had the company with them and with the bit in their teeth swept all before them.
At this point, McNish displayed the master-hand that comes from long experience. He saw his opportunity and seized it.
"Mr. President," he said, and at once he received the most complete attention. "A confess this is a most extraordinary proposal, but A'm goin' tae support it." The roar that answered told him that he had regained control of the meeting. "Brother Simmons says it is unconstitutional and without precedent. He is no correct in this. A have known baith maisters and managers who retained their union cards. A grant ye it is unusual, but may I point oot that the circumstances are unusual?"--Wild yells of approval--"And Captain Maitland is an unusual man"--louder yells of approval--"It may that there is something in the constitution o' this union that stands in the way--"Cries of "No! No!" and consignment of the constitution to a nameless locality.--"A venture to suggest that a committee be appointed, consisting of Brothers Sykes, Macnamara and the chairman, wi' poors tae add, tae go into this maitter with Captain Maitland and report."
It was a master-stroke. A true union man regards with veneration the constitution and hesitates to tamper with it except in a perfectly constitutional manner. The opposition to the administration's original resolution had gained what they sought, a temporary stay. The committee was appointed and the danger to both the resolution and the constitution for the present averted.
Again Mr. McNish took command. "And noo, Mr. President," he said, "the oor is late. We are all tired and we all wish to give mair thocht to the main maitter before us. A move, therefore, that we adjourn to the call o' the Executive."
Once more Brother Simmons found himself in a protesting minority, and the meeting broke up, the opposition jubilant over their victory, the supporters of the administration determined to await a more convenient time.