Bennington refolded the letter slowly. The men stood absolutely motionless, waiting.
“Men, if you go out this day, not one of you will ever find employment here again. My sense of justice is large, and nothing but that shall dictate to me. I shall employ and discharge whom I will; no man or organization of men shall say to me that this or that shall be done here. I am master, but perhaps you will understand this too late. Stay or go; that is as you please. If you stay, nothing more will be said on my part; if you go ... Well, I shall tear down these walls and sell the machinery for scrap-iron!”
For the first time he showed emotion. He brought his hands strongly together, as a man puts the final blow to the nail, then buttoned up his coat and stood erect, his chin aggressive and his mouth stern.
“Well, which is it to be?” he demanded.
“You are determined to keep Chittenden?”
“We’ll go out, Mr. Bennington,” said Shipley.
“And what’s more,” added Morrissy, “we’ll see that nobody else comes in.”
He lighted a cigar, shoved his hands into his trousers pockets and walked insolently toward the exit. The majority of the men were grinning. Tear down this place? Kill the goose that laid the golden egg? It was preposterous. Why, no man had ever done a thing like that. It was to cut off one’s nose to spite one’s face. It was a case of bluff, pure and simple. Winter was nearly three months off. By that time this smart young man would be brought to his senses. So they began filing out in twos and threes, their blouses and dinner-pails tucked under their arms. Many were whistling lightly, many were smoking their pipes, but there were some who passed forth silent and grave. If this young man was a chip of the old block, they had best start out at once in search of a new job.
Bennington jumped down from his impromptu platform and closed the ponderous doors. Then he hurried to the main office, where he notified the clerks what had happened. He returned to his private office. He arranged his papers methodically, closed the desk, and sat down. His gaze wandered to the blue hills and rolling pastures, and his eyes sparkled; but he forced back what had caused it, and presently his eyes became dry and hard.
“’You and your actress and her lover’,” he murmured softly. “My God, I am very unhappy!”