“Well, I’ve only to say,” said Donnelly, hedging before this clear argument, “I’ve only to say, if the men become violent, look out for yourself.”
“I shall appeal to you for civic or military protection; if you refuse it, to the governor; if politics there interferes, I shall appeal to Washington, where neither your arm nor McQuade’s can reach. I understand the causes back of this strike; they are personal, and I’m man enough to look out for myself. But if politics starts to work, there will be a trouble to settle in the courts. You may not know the true cause of this strike, Mr. Donnelly, but I do. The poor deluded men believe it to be the English inventor, but he is only a blind. Had you really wished to do me a favor, you would have spoken to the men before they went out on this silly strike. But I am master of what is mine, and I shall tear down that building. I shall tolerate no interference from any man. The workman has his rights; this is one of my rights, and I intend to use it.”
“It’s your business. If you are fool enough to kill a golden goose, it’s no affair of mine. But I shall rescind your permit, however. I believe it to be my duty.”
“Call your Council together, Mr. Donnelly. You can not get a quorum together earlier than to-morrow night; and by that time I shall have the work done. You say you will not afford me protection. Very well; if the men become violent and burn the shops, I shall be relieved of the expense of tearing them down. Good afternoon.”
Donnelly sat in his chair for a quarter of an hour, silent and thoughtful. Suddenly he slapped his thigh.
“I don’t know what McQuade has against that man, but, by the Lord! he is a man!”
That night the strikers received several bottles of whisky and a keg of beer. The source of these gifts was unknown. Some of the more thoughtful were for smashing the stuff, but the turbulent majority overruled them. They began to drink and jest. They did so with impunity. For some reason the police had been withdrawn. The hammering inside the shops puzzled them, but they still clung to the idea that all this clamor was only a ruse to frighten them into surrendering. From the interior the pounding gradually approached as far as the walls of the courtyard. At midnight one of these walls went thundering to the ground. A few minutes later another fell. The strikers grouped together, dismayed.
“By God, boys,” one of them yelled, “he’s tearing it down!”
In that moment, and only then, did they realize that they had been dealing with a man whose will and word were immutable. They saw all their dreams of triumph vanish in the dust that rose from the crumbling brick and plaster. And dismay gave way to insensate rage. It would only be helping Bennington to riot and burn the shops, so now to maim and kill the men who, at hire, were tearing down these walls.
“Come on, boys! We’ll help the scabs finish the work! Come on!”