By actual count, I saw more than one hundred men, of all ages, sizes, and colors. Eight of these were tried, of whom five were found wanting. Early in February I had settled upon three sober men to add to our colony. As none of these lasted the year out, I may be forgiven for not introducing them to the reader. They served their purpose, and mine too, and then drifted on.
I do not wish to take credit for things which gave me pleasure in the doing, or to appear altruistic in my dealings with the people employed at Four Oaks. I tell of our business and other relations because they are details of farm history and rightfully belong to these pages. If I dealt fairly by my men and established relations of mutual confidence and dependence, it was not in the hope that my ways might be approved and commended, but because it paid, in more ways than one. I wanted my men to have a lively interest in the things which were of importance to me, that their efforts might be intelligent and direct; and I was glad to enter into their schemes, either for pleasure or for profit, with such aid as I could give. Cordial understanding between employee and employer puts life into the contract, and disposes of perfunctory service, which simply recognizes a definite deed for a definite compensation. Uninterested labor leaves a load of hay in the field to be injured, just because the hour for quitting has come, while interested labor hurries the hay into the barn to make it safe, knowing that the extra half-hour will be made up to it in some other way.
It pays the farmer to take his help into a kind of partnership, not always in his farm, but always in his consideration. That is why my farm-house was filled with papers and magazines of interest to the men; that is why I spent many an evening with them talking over our industries; that is why I purchased an organ for them when I found that Mrs. French, the dairymaid, could play on it; that is why I talked economy to them and urged them to place some part of each month’s wage in the Exeter Savings Bank; and that is why, early in 1898, I formulated a plan for investing their wages at a more profitable rate of interest. I asked each one to give me a statement of his or her savings up to date. They were quite willing to do this, and I found that the aggregate for the eight men and three women was $2530. Anderson, who saved most of his wages, had an account in a city savings bank, and did not join us in our syndicate, though he approved of it.
The money was made up of sums varying from $90, Lena’s savings, to $460 owned by Judson, the buggy man. My proposition was this: Pool the funds, buy Chicago, Rock Island, and Pacific stock, and hold it for one or two years. The interest would be twice as much as they were getting from the bank, while the prospect of a decided advance was good. I said to them:—