“Just what is your plan?” asked Taylor, quite as if he did not know.
“Why, man, the transfer of a hundred millions of stock would give me control of the cotton-mills of America. Think of it!—the biggest trust next to steel.”
“Why not bigger?” asked Taylor, imperturbably puffing away. Mr. Easterly eyed him. He had regarded Taylor hitherto as a very valuable asset to the business—had relied on his knowledge of routine, his judgment and his honesty; but he detected tonight a new tone in his clerk, something almost authoritative and self-reliant. He paused and smiled at him.
But John Taylor was dead in earnest. He did not smile.
“First, there’s England—and all Europe; why not bring them into the trust?”
“Possibly, later; but first, America. Of course, I’ve got my eyes on the European situation and feelers out; but such matters are more difficult and slower of adjustment over there—so damned much law and gospel.”
“But there’s another side.”
“You are planning to combine and control the manufacture of cotton—”
“But how about your raw material? The steel trust owns its iron mines.”
“Of course—mines could be monopolized and hold the trust up; but our raw material is perfectly safe—farms growing smaller, farms isolated, and we fixing the price. It’s a cinch.”
“Are you sure?” Taylor surveyed him with a narrowed look.
“I’m not. I’ve been looking up things, and there are three points you’d better study: First, cotton farms are not getting smaller; they’re getting bigger almighty fast, and there’s a big cotton-land monopoly in sight. Second, the banks and wholesale houses in the South can control the cotton output if they work together. Third, watch the Southern ‘Farmers’ League’ of big landlords.”
Mr. Easterly threw away his cigar and sat down. Taylor straightened up, switched on the porch light, and took a bundle of papers from his coat pocket.
“Here are census figures,” he said, “commercial reports and letters.” They pored over them a half hour. Then Easterly arose.
“There’s something in it,” he admitted, “but what can we do? What do you propose?”
“Monopolize the growth as well as the manufacture of cotton, and use the first to club European manufacturers into submission.”