“Yes, I know you did. When Dyckman didn’t come out with the pay-rolls yesterday evening I telephoned him. He said Vint Farley, as treasurer of the company, had made a draft on him and taken it all.”
Tom sprang out of his chair and the bitter oaths upbubbled and choked him. But he stifled them long enough to say: “And the men?”
“The miners went out at ten o’clock this morning. The blacks would have stood by us, but Ludlow’s men drove ’em out—made ’em quit. We’re done, Buddy.”
Tom dashed his hat on the floor, and the Gordon rage, slow to fire and fierce to scorch and burn when once it was aflame, made for the moment a yelling, cursing maniac of him. In the midst of it he turned, and the tempest of imprecation spent itself in a gasp of dismay. His mother was standing in the doorway, thin, frail, with the sorrow in her eyes that had been there since the long night of chastenings three years agone.
As he looked he saw the growing pallor in her face, the growing speechless horror in her gaze. Then she put out her hands as one groping in darkness and fell before he could reach her.
It was her stalwart son who carried Martha Gordon to her room and laid her gently on the bed, with the husband to follow helplessly behind. Also, it was Tom, tender and loving now as a woman, who sat upon the edge of the bed, chafing the bloodless hands and striving as he could to revive her.
“I’m afeard you’ve killed her for sure, this time, son!” groaned the man.
But Tom saw the pale lips move and bent low to catch their whisperings. What he heard was only the echo of the despairing cry of the broken heart: “Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son!”
In these days of slowing wheels and silenced anvils South Tredegar had its own troubles, and when some one telephoned the editor of the Morning Tribune that Chiawassee Consolidated had succumbed at last, he did not deem it worth while to inquire whether the strike at Gordonia was the cause or the consequence of the sudden shut-down.
But a day or two later, when rumors of threatened violence began to trickle in over the telephone wires, a Tribune man called, in passing, at the general offices in the Coosa Building, and was promptly put to sleep by the astute Dyckman, who, for reasons of his own, was quite willing to conceal the true state of affairs. Yes, there was a suspension of active operations at Gordonia, and he believed there had been some hot-headed talk among the miners. But there would be no trouble. Mr. Farley was at present in London negotiating for English capital. When he should return, the capital stock of the company would be increased, and the plant would probably be removed to South Tredegar and enlarged.
All of which was duly jotted down to be passed into the Tribune’s archives; and the following morning Tom, doing guard duty with his father, the two Helgersons and a squad of the yard men at the threatened plant, read a pointless editorial in which misstatement of fact and sympathy for the absent and struggling Farleys were equally and impartially blended.