Jordan stood up and waited till the noise had fully subsided. Everybody knew him. They had seen him stand up before, and he always said something worth listening to.
“You all know me, boys,” he began.
“You’re all right!”
“Speech! Go ahead!”
Jordan caught Morrissy’s eye. Morrissy nodded with bad grace. Jordan spoke for half an hour. He repeated word for word what Bennington had told him. In the end he was greeted with laughter.
“Very well, boys,” he said, shrugging. “It’s none of my business. You’ve never caught me lying yet. You don’t know this man Bennington. I believe I do. He’ll make good his threat. Wait and see.”
“How much were you paid to attend this meeting?” demanded Morrissy, sneering.
“A good deal less than you were, Mr. Morrissy.” There was a dangerous flush on Ben’s cheeks, but the smoke was so dense that Morrissy failed to observe it. The men laughed again, accepting Ben’s retort as a piece of banter. Ben went on doggedly: “I have in my pocket a permit to tear down the shops. Bennington gave it to me to produce. Look at it, if you doubt my word. There it is.”
The men passed it along the aisles. It came back presently, much the worse for the wear. Some of the older men looked exceedingly grave, but they were in the minority.
“Anybody can get a permit to tear down his property,” said Morrissy scornfully. “It’s a big bluff, men. What! tear down the golden goose? Not in a thousand years! It’s a plain bluff. And I’m sorry to see a decent man like our newspaper friend on the enemy’s side.”
“If I am on the enemy’s side, Mr. Morrissy, it’s because I’m a friend of every man here, save one,” significantly. “You men will vote a strike. I can see that. But you’ll regret it to your last day. I’ve nothing more to say. I helped you once when old man Bennington was alive, but I guess you’ve forgotten it.” Ben sat down in silence.
“We’ll proceed with the voting,” said Morrissy.
Half an hour later there was a cheer. The men would go out Monday, if the demands of the committee were not acceded to. The meeting broke up, and many of the men flocked into the near-by saloons. Morrissy approached Ben, who had waited for him. No one was within earshot.
“What the hell do you mean by saying you were paid less than I was?” he said, his jaw protruding at an ugly angle.
“I mean, Morrissy,” answered Ben fearlessly, “that you had better move carefully in the future. If I were you, I wouldn’t accept any unstamped envelopes in Herculaneum It would be a good plan to go to some other town for that.”
“Why, damn you!” Morrissy raised his fist.
“Stay where you are,” warned Ben, seizing a camp-chair “or I’ll break your head. Listen to me. I’m starting out from this night on to break you, and, by God, I’ll do it before the year is over. This is your last strike, so make the most of it. You were at Schmuck’s the other night, you and McQuade. There was a friend of mine on the other side of the partition. Unfortunately this friend was alone. I haven’t got any proofs, but I’ll get them.”