Tom Grogan by F. Hopkinson Smith
Part 1 out of 3
Tom Grogan by F. Hopkinson Smith
Something worried Babcock. One could see that from the impatient
gesture with which he turned away from the ferry window on
learning he had half an hour to wait. He paced the slip with
hands deep in his pockets, his head on his chest. Every now and
then he stopped, snapped open his watch and shut it again quickly,
as if to hurry the lagging minutes.
For the first time in years Tom Grogan, who had always unloaded
his boats, had failed him. A scow loaded with stone for the
sea-wall that Babcock was building for the Lighthouse Department
had lain three days at the government dock without a bucket having
been swung across her decks. His foreman had just reported that
there was not enough material to last the concrete-mixers two
hours. If Grogan did not begin work at once, the divers must come
Heretofore to turn over to Grogan the unloading of material for
any submarine work had been like feeding grist to a mill--so many
tons of concrete stone loaded on the scows by the stone crushing
company had meant that exact amount delivered by Grogan on
Babcock's mixing-platforms twenty-four hours after arrival, ready
for the divers below. This was the way Grogan had worked, and he
had required no watching.
Babcock's impatience did not cease even when he took his seat on
the upper deck of the ferry-boat and caught the welcome sound of
the paddles sweeping back to the landing at St. George. He
thought of his men standing idle, and of the heavy penalties which
would be inflicted by the Government if the winter caught him
before the section of wall was complete. It was no way to serve a
man, he kept repeating to himself, leaving his gangs idle, now
when the good weather might soon be over and a full day's work
could never be counted upon. Earlier in the season Grogan's delay
would not have been so serious.
But one northeaster as yet had struck the work. This had carried
away some of the upper planking--the false work of the coffer-dam;
but this had been repaired in a few hours without delay or serious
damage. After that the Indian summer had set in--soft, dreamy
days when the winds dozed by the hour, the waves nibbled along the
shores, and the swelling breast of the ocean rose and fell as if
in gentle slumber.
But would this good weather last? Babcock rose hurriedly, as this
anxiety again took possession of him, and leaned over the
deck-rail, scanning the sky. He did not like the drift of the low
clouds off to the west; southeasters began that way. It looked as
though the wind might change.
Some men would not have worried over these possibilities. Babcock
did. He was that kind of man.
When the boat touched the shore, he sprang over the chains, and
hurried through the ferry-slip.
"Keep an eye out, sir," the bridge-tender called after him,--he
had been directing him to Grogan's house,--"perhaps Tom may be on
Then it suddenly occurred to Babcock that, so far as he could
remember, he had never seen Mr. Thomas Grogan, his stevedore. He
knew Grogan's name, of course, and would have recognized his
signature affixed to the little cramped notes with which his
orders were always acknowledged, but the man himself might have
passed unnoticed within three feet of him. This is not unusual
where the work of a contractor lies in scattered places, and he
must often depend on strangers in the several localities.
As he hurried over the road he recalled the face of Grogan's
foreman, a big blond Swede, and that of Grogan's daughter, a
slender fair-haired girl, who once came to the office for her
father's pay; but all efforts at reviving the lineaments of Grogan
With this fact clear in his mind, he felt a tinge of
disappointment. It would have relieved his temper to unload a
portion of it upon the offending stevedore. Nothing cools a man's
wrath so quickly as not knowing the size of the head he intends to
As he approached near enough to the sea-wall to distinguish the
swinging booms and the puffs of white steam from the
hoisting-engines, he saw that the main derrick was at work
lowering the buckets of mixed concrete to the divers. Instantly
his spirits rose. The delay on his contract might not be so
serious. Perhaps, after all, Grogan had started work.
When he reached the temporary wooden fence built by the
Government, shutting off the view of the depot yard, with its
coal-docks and machine-shops, and neared the small door cut
through its planking, a voice rang out clear and strong above the
din of the mixers:--
"Hold on, ye wall-eyed macaroni! Do ye want that fall cut? Turn
that snatch-block, Cully, and tighten up the watch-tackle. Here,
cap'n; lend a hand. Lively now, lively, before I straighten out
the hull gang of ye!"
The voice had a ring of unquestioned authority. It was not
quarrelsome or abusive or bullying--only earnest and forceful.
"Ease away on that guy! Ease away, I tell ye!" it continued,
rising in intensity. "So--all gone! Now, haul out, Cully, and
let that other team back up."
Babcock pushed open the door in the fence and stepped in. A
loaded scow lay close beside the string-piece of the government
wharf. Alongside its forward hatch was rigged a derrick with a
swinging gaff. The "fall" led through a snatch-block in the
planking of the dock, and operated an iron bucket that was hoisted
by a big gray horse driven by a boy. A gang of men were filling
these buckets, and a number of teams being loaded with their
dumped contents. The captain of the scow was on the dock, holding
At the foot of the derrick, within ten feet of Babcock, stood a
woman perhaps thirty-five years of age, with large, clear gray
eyes, made all the more luminous by the deep, rich color of her
sunburnt skin. Her teeth were snow-white, and her light brown
hair was neatly parted over a wide forehead. She wore a long
ulster half concealing her well-rounded, muscular figure, and a
black silk hood rolled back from her face, the strings falling
over her broad shoulders, revealing a red silk scarf loosely wound
about her throat, the two ends tucked in her bosom. Her feet were
shod in thick-soled shoes laced around her well-turned ankles, and
her hands were covered by buckskin gauntlets creased with wear.
From the outside breast-pocket of her ulster protruded a
time-book, from which dangled a pencil fastened to a hempen
string. Every movement indicated great physical strength, perfect
health, and a thorough control of herself and her surroundings.
Coupled with this was a dignity and repose unmistakable to those
who have watched the handling of large bodies of workingmen by
some one leading spirit, master in every tone of the voice and
every gesture of the body. The woman gave Babcock a quick glance
of interrogation as he entered, and, receiving no answer, forgot
"Come, now, ye blatherin' Dagos,"--this time to two Italian
shovelers filling the buckets,--" shall I throw one of ye
overboard to wake ye up, or will I take a hand meself? Another
shovel there--that bucket's not half full"--drawing one hand from
her side pocket and pointing with an authoritative gesture,
breaking as suddenly into a good-humored laugh over the
awkwardness of their movements.
Babcock, with all his curiosity aroused, watched her for a moment,
forgetting for the time his own anxieties. He liked a skilled
hand, and he liked push and grit. This woman seemed to possess
all three. He was amazed at the way in which she handled her men.
He wished somebody as clearheaded and as capable were unloading
his boat. He began to wonder who she might be. There was no
mistaking her nationality. Slight as was her accent, her direct
descent from the land of the shamrock and the shilla-lah was not
to be doubted. The very tones of her voice seemed saturated with
its national spirit--"a flower for you when you agree with me, and
a broken head when you don't." But underneath all these outward
indications of dominant power and great physical strength he
detected in the lines of the mouth and eyes a certain refinement
of nature. There was, too, a fresh, rosy wholesomeness, a sweet
cleanliness, about the woman. These, added to the noble lines of
her figure, would have appealed to one as beauty, and only that
had it not been that the firm mouth, well-set chin, and deep,
penetrating glance of the eye overpowered all other impressions.
Babcock moved down beside her.
"Can you tell me, madam, where I can find Thomas Grogan?"
"Right in front of ye," she answered, turning quickly, with a toss
of her head like that of a great hound baffled in hunt. "I'm Tom
Grogan. What can I do for ye?"
"Not Grogan the stevedore?" Babcock asked in astonishment.
"Yes, Grogan the stevedore. Come! Make it short,--what can I do
"Then this must be my boat. I came down"--
"Ye're not the boss?"--looking him over slowly from his feet up, a
good-natured smile irradiating her face, her eyes beaming, every
tooth glistening. "There's me hand, I'm glad to see ye. I've
worked for ye off and on for four years, and niver laid eyes on ye
till this minute. Don't say a word. I know it. I've kept the
concrete gangs back half a day, but I couldn't help it. I've had
four horses down with the 'zooty, and two men laid up with
dip'thery. The Big Gray Cully's drivin' over there--the one
that's a-hoistin'--ain't fit to be out of the stables. If ye
weren't behind in the work, he'd have two blankets on him this
minute. But I'm here meself now, and I'll have her out to-night
if I work till daylight. Here, cap'n, pull yerself together.
This is the boss."
Then catching sight of the boy turning a handspring behind the
horse, she called out again:--
"Now, look here, Cully, none of your skylarkin'. There's the
dinner whistle. Unhitch the Big Gray; he's as dry as a bone."
The boy loosened the traces and led the horse to water, and
Babcock, after a word with the Captain, and an encouraging smile
to Tom, turned away. He meant to go to the engineer's office
before his return to town, now that his affairs with Grogan were
settled. As he swung back the door in the board fence, he
stumbled over a mere scrap of humanity carrying a dinner-pail.
The mite was peering through the crack and calling to Cully at the
horse-trough. He proved to be a boy of perhaps seven or eight
years of age, but with the face of an old man--pinched, weary, and
scarred all over with suffering and pain. He wore a white
tennis-cap pulled over his eyes, and a short gray jacket that
reached to his waist. Under one arm was a wooden crutch. His
left leg was bent at the knee, and swung clear when he jerked his
little body along the ground. The other, though unhurt, was thin
and bony, the yarn stocking wrinkling over the shrunken calf.
Beside him stood a big billy-goat, harnessed to a two-wheeled cart
made of a soap-box.
As Babcock stepped aside to let the boy pass he heard Cully
shouting in answer to the little cripple's cries. "Cheese it,
Patsy. Here's Pete Lathers comin' down de yard. Look out fer
Stumpy. He'll have his dog on him."
Patsy laid down the pail and crept through the door again, drawing
the crutch after him. The yardmaster passed with a bulldog at his
heels, and touching his hat to the contractor, turned the corner
of the coal-shed.
"What is your name?" said Babcock gently. A cripple always
appealed to him, especially a child.
"My name's Patsy, sir," looking straight up into Babcock's eyes,
the goat nibbling at his thin hand.
"And who are you looking for?"
"I come down with mother's dinner, sir. She's here working on the
dock. There she is now."
"I thought ye were niver comin' wid that dinner, darlint," came a
woman's voice. "What kept ye? Stumpy was tired, was he? Well,
The woman lifted the little fellow in her arms, pushed back his
cap and smoothed his hair with her fingers, her whole face beaming
"Gimme the crutch, darlint, and hold on to me tight, and we'll get
under the shed out of the sun till I see what Jennie's sent me."
At this instant she caught Babcock's eye.
"Oh, it's the boss. Sure, I thought ye'd gone back. Pull the hat
off ye, me boy; it's the boss we're workin' for, the man that's
buildin' the wall. Ye see, sir, when I'm driv' like I am to-day,
I can't go home to dinner, and me Jennie sends
me--big--man--Patsy--down"--rounding out each word in a pompous
tone, as she slipped her hand under the boy's chin and kissed him
on the cheek.
After she had propped him between two big spars, she lifted the
cover of the tin pail.
"Pigs' feet, as I'm alive, and hot cabbage, and the coffee
a-b'ilin' too!" she said, turning to the boy and pulling out a tin
flask with a screw top, the whole embedded in the smoking cabbage.
"There, we'll be after puttin' it where Stumpy can't be rubbin'
his nose in it"--setting the pail, as she spoke, on a rough
Here the goat moved up, rubbing his head in the boy's face, and
then reaching around for the pail.
"Look at him, Patsy! Git out, ye imp, or I'll hurt ye! Leave
that kiver alone!" She laughed as she struck at the goat with her
empty gauntlet, and shrank back out of the way of his horns.
There was no embarrassment over her informal dinner, eaten as she
sat squat in a fence-corner, an anchor-stone for a table, and a
pile of spars for a chair. She talked to Babcock in an unabashed,
self-possessed way, pouring out the smoking coffee in the flask
cup, chewing away on the pigs' feet, and throwing the bones to the
goat, who sniffed them contemptuously. "Yes, he's the youngest of
our children, sir. He and Jennie--that's home, and 'most as tall
as meself--are all that's left. The other two went to heaven when
they was little ones."
"Can't the little fellow's leg be straightened?" asked Babcock, in
a tone which plainly showed his sympathy for the boy's suffering.
"No, not now; so Dr. Mason says. There was a time when it might
have been, but I couldn't take him. I had him over to Quarantine
again two years ago, but it was too late; it'd growed fast, they
said. When he was four years old he would be under the horses'
heels all the time, and a-climbin' over them in the stable, and
one day the Big Gray fetched him a crack, and broke his hip. He
didn't mean it, for he's as dacint a horse as I've got; but the
boys had been a-worritin' him, and he let drive, thinkin', most
likely, it was them. He's been a-hoistin' all the mornin'."
Then, catching sight of Cully leading the horse back to work, she
rose to her feet, all the fire and energy renewed in her face.
"Shake the men up, Cully! I can't give 'em but half an hour
to-day. We're behind time now. And tell the cap'n to pull them
macaronis out of the hold, and start two of 'em to trimmin' some
of that stone to starboard. She was a-listin' when we knocked off
for dinner. Come, lively!"
A BOARD FENCE LOSES A PLANK
The work on the sea-wall progressed. The coffer-dam which had
been built by driving into the mud of the bottom a double row of
heavy tongued and grooved planking in two parallel rows, and
bulkheading each end with heavy boards, had been filled with
concrete to low-water mark, consuming not only the contents of the
delayed scow, but two subsequent cargoes, both of which had been
unloaded by Tom Grogan.
To keep out the leakage, steam-pumps were kept going night and
By dint of hard work the upper masonry of the wall had been laid
to the top course, ready for the coping, and there was now every
prospect that the last stone would be lowered into place before
the winter storms set in.
The shanty--a temporary structure, good only for the life of the
work--rested on a set of stringers laid on extra piles driven
outside of the working-platform. When the submarine work lies
miles from shore, a shanty is the only shelter for the men, its
interior being arranged with sleeping-bunks, with one end
partitioned off for a kitchen and a storage-room. This last is
filled with perishable property, extra blocks, Manila rope,
portable forges, tools, shovels, and barrows.
For this present sea-wall--an amphibious sort of structure, with
one foot on land and the other in the water--the shanty was of
light pine boards, roofed over, and made water-tight by tarred
paper. The bunks had been omitted, for most of the men boarded in
the village. In this way increased space for the storage of tools
was gained, besides room for a desk containing the government
working drawings and specifications, pay- rolls, etc. In addition
to its door, fastened at night with a padlock, and its one glass
window, secured by a ten-penny nail, the shanty had a flap-window,
hinged at the bottom. When this was propped up with a barrel
stave it made a counter from which to pay the men, the paymaster
Babcock was sitting on a keg of dock spikes inside this working
shanty some days after he had discovered Tom's identity, watching
his bookkeeper preparing the pay-roll, when a face was thrust
through the square of the window. It was not a prepossessing
face, rather pudgy and sleek, with uncertain, drooping mouth, and
eyes that always looked over one's head when he talked. It was
the property of Mr. Peter Lathers, the yardmaster of the depot.
"When you're done payin' off maybe you'll step outside, sir," he
said, in a confiding tone. "I got a friend of mine who wants to
know you. He's a stevedore, and does the work to the fort. He's
never done nothin' for you, but I told him next time you come down
I'd fetch him over. Say, Dan!" beckoning with his head over his
shoulder; then, turning to Babcock,--"I make you acquainted, sir,
with Mr. Daniel McGaw."
Two faces now filled the window--Lathers's and that of a
red-headed man in a straw hat.
"All right. I'll attend to you in a moment. Glad to see you, Mr.
McGaw," said Babcock, rising from the keg, and looking over his
Lathers's friend proved to be a short, big-boned,
square-shouldered Irishman, about forty years of age, dressed in a
once black broadcloth suit with frayed buttonholes, the lapels and
vest covered with grease-spots. Around his collar, which had done
service for several days, was twisted a red tie decorated with a
glass pin. His face was spattered with blue powder-marks, as if
from some quarry explosion. A lump of a mustache dyed dark brown
concealed his upper lip, making all the more conspicuous the
bushy, sandy-colored eyebrows that shaded a pair of treacherous
eyes. His mouth was coarse and filled with teeth half worn off,
like those of an old horse. When he smiled these opened slowly
like a vise. Whatever of humor played about this opening lost its
life instantly when these jaws clicked together again.
The hands were big and strong, wrinkled and seamed, their rough
backs spotted like a toad's, the wrists covered with long spidery
Babcock noticed particularly his low, flat forehead when he
removed his hat, and the dry, red hair growing close to the
"I wuz a-sp'akin' to me fri'nd Mister Lathers about doin' yer
wurruk," began McGaw, resting one foot on a pile of barrow-planks,
his elbow on his knee. "I does all the haulin' to the foort.
Surgint Duffy knows me. I wuz along here las' week, an' see ye
wuz put back fer stone. If I'd had the job, I'd had her unloaded
two days befoore."
"You're dead right, Dan," said Lathers, with an expression of
disgust. "This woman business ain't no good, nohow. She ought to
be over her tubs."
"She does her work, though," Babcock said, beginning to see the
drift of things.
"Oh, I don't be sayin' she don't. She's a dacint woman, anough;
but thim b'ys as is a-runnin' her carts is raisin' h--ll all the
"And then look at the teams," chimed in Lathers, with a jerk of
his thumb toward the dock--"a lot of staggering horse-car wrecks
you couldn't sell to a glue-factory. That big gray she had
a-hoistin' is blind of an eye and sprung so forrard he can't
At this moment the refrain of a song from somewhere near the board
fence came wafting through the air,--
"And he wiped up the floor wid McGeechy."
McGaw turned his head in search of the singer, and not finding
him, resumed his position.
"What are your rates per ton?" asked Babcock.
"We're a-chargin' forty cints," said McGaw, deferring to Lathers,
as if for confirmation.
"The Stevedores' Union."
"But Mrs. Grogan is doing it for thirty," said Babcock, looking
straight into McGaw's eyes, and speaking slowly and deliberately.
"Yis, I heared she wuz a-cuttin' rates; but she can't live at it.
If I does it, it'll be done roight, an' no throuble."
"I'll think it over," said Babcock quietly, turning on his heel.
The meanness of the whole affair offended him--two big, strong men
vilifying a woman with no protector but her two hands. McGaw
should never lift a shovel for him.
Again the song floated out; this time it seemed nearer,--
". . . wid McGeechy--
McGeechy of the Fourth."
"Dan McGaw's giv'n it to you straight," said Lathers, stopping for
a last word, his face thrust through the window again. "He's
rigged for this business, and Grogan ain't in it with him. If she
wants her work done right, she ought to send down something with a
Here the song subsided in a prolonged chuckle. McGaw turned, and
caught sight of a boy's head, with its mop of black hair thrust
through a crownless hat, leaning over a water cask. Lathers
turned, too, and instantly lowered his voice. The head ducked out
of sight. In the flash glance Babcock caught of the face, he
recognized the boy Cully, Patsy's friend, and the driver of the
Big Gray. It was evident to Babcock that Cully at that moment was
bubbling over with fun. Indeed, this waif of the streets,
sometimes called James Finnegan, was seldom known to be otherwise.
"Thet's the wurrst rat in the stables," said McGaw, his face
reddening with anger. "What kin ye do whin ye're a-buckin' ag'in'
a lot uv divils loike him?"--speaking through the window to
Babcock. "Come out uv thet," he called to Cully, "or I'll bu'st
yer jaw, ye sneakin' rat!"
Cully came out, but not in obedience to McGaw or Lathers. Indeed,
he paid no more attention to either of those distinguished
diplomats than if they had been two cement-barrels standing on
end. His face, too, had lost its irradiating smile; not a wrinkle
or a pucker ruffled its calm surface. His clay-soiled hat was in
his hand--a very dirty hand, by the way, with the torn cuff of his
shirt hanging loosely over it. His trousers bagged everywhere--at
knees, seat, and waist. On his stockingless feet were a pair of
sun-baked, brick-colored shoes. His ankles were as dark as
mahogany. His throat and chest were bare, the skin tanned to
leather wherever the sun could work its way through the holes in
his garments. From out of this combination of dust and rags shone
a pair of piercing black eyes, snapping with fun.
"I come up fer de mont's pay," he said coolly to Babcock, the
corner of his eye glued to Lathers. "De ole woman said ye'd hev
"Mrs. Grogan's?" asked the bookkeeper, shuffling over his
"Yep. Tom Grogan."
"Can you sign the pay-roll?"
"You bet"--with an eye still out for Lathers.
"Where did you learn to write--at school?" asked Babcock, noting
the boy's independence with undisguised pleasure.
"Naw. Patsy an' me studies nights. Pop Mullins teaches us--he's
de ole woman's farder what she brung out from Ireland. He's
a-livin' up ter de shebang; dey're all a-livin' dere--Jinnie an'
de ole woman an' Patsy--all 'cept me an' Carl. I bunks in wid de
Big Gray. Say, mister, ye'd oughter git onter Patsy--he's de
little kid wid de crutch. He's a corker, he is; reads po'try an'
everythin'. Where'll I sign? Oh, I see; in dis'ere square hole
right along-side de ole woman's name"--spreading his elbows, pen
in hand, and affixing "James Finnegan" to the collection of
autographs. The next moment he was running along the dock, the
money envelope tight in his hand, sticking out his tongue at
McGaw, and calling to Lathers as he disappeared through the door
in the fence, "Somp'n wid a mustache, somp'n wid a mustache," like
a news-boy calling an extra. Then a stone grazed Lathers's ear.
Lathers sprang through the gate, but the boy was half way through
the yard. It was this flea-like alertness that always saved Mr.
Once out of Lathers's reach, Cully bounded up the road like a
careering letter X, with arms and legs in air. If there was any
one thing that delighted the boy's soul, it was, to quote from his
own picturesque vocabulary, "to set up a job on de ole woman."
Here was his chance. Before he reached the stable he had planned
the whole scene, even to the exact intonation of Lathers's voice
when he referred to the dearth of mustaches in the Grogan
household. Within a few minutes of his arrival the details of the
whole occurrence, word for word, with such picturesque additions
as his own fertile imagination could invent, were common talk
about the yard.
Lathers meanwhile had been called upon to direct a gang of
laborers who were moving an enormous iron buoy-float down the
cinder-covered path to the dock. Two of the men walked beside the
buoy, steadying it with their hands. Lathers was leaning against
the board fence of the shop whittling a stick, while the others
Suddenly there was an angry cry for Lathers, and every man stood
still. So did the buoy and the moving truck.
With head up, eyes blazing, her silk hood pushed back from her
face, as if to give her air, her gray ulster open to her waist,
her right hand bare of a glove, came Tom Grogan, brushing the men
out of her way.
"I knew I'd find you, Pete Lathers," she said, facing him
squarely; "why do ye want to be takin' the bread out of me
The stick dropped from Lathers's hand: "Well, who said I did?
What have I got to do with your"--
"You've got enough to do with 'em, you and your friend McGaw, to
want 'em to starve. Have I ever hurt ye that ye should try an'
sneak me business away from me? Ye know very well the fight I've
made, standin' out on this dock, many a day an' night, in the cold
an' wet, with nothin' between Tom's children an' the street but
these two hands--an' yet ye'd slink in like a dog to get me"--
"Here, now, I ain't a-goin' to have no row," said Lathers,
twitching his shoulders. "It's against orders, an' I'll call the
yard-watch, and throw you out if you make any fuss."
"The yard-watch!" said Tom, with a look of supreme contempt. "I
can handle any two of 'em, an' ye too, an' ye know it." Her
cheeks were aflame. She crowded Lathers so closely his slinking
figure hugged the fence.
By this time the gang had abandoned the buoy, and were standing
aghast, watching the fury of the Amazon.
"Now, see here, don't make a muss; the commandant'll be down here
in a minute."
"Let him come; he's the one I want to see. If he knew he had a
man in his pay that would do as dirty a trick to a woman as ye've
done to me, his name would be Dinnis. I'll see him meself this
very day, and"--
Here Lathers interrupted with an angry gesture.
"Don't ye lift yer arm at me," she blazes out, "or I'll break it
at the wrist!"
Lathers's hand dropped. All the color was out of his face, his
"Whoever said I said a word against you, Mrs. Grogan, is a--liar."
It was the last resort of a cowardly nature.
"Stop lyin' to me, Pete Lathers! If there's anythin' in this
world I hate, it's a liar. Ye said it, and ye know ye said it.
Ye want that drunken loafer Dan McGaw to get me work. Ye've been
at it all summer, an' ye think I haven't watched ye; but I have.
And ye say I don't pay full wages, and have got a lot of boys to
do men's work, an' oughter be over me tubs. Now let me tell
ye"--Lathers shrank back, cowering before her--"if ever I hear ye
openin' yer head about me, or me teams, or me work, I'll make ye
swallow every tooth in yer head. Send down somethin' with a
mustache, will I? There's not a man in the yard that's a match
for me, an' ye know it. Let one of 'em try that."
Her uplifted fist, tight-clenched, shot past Lathers's ear. A
quick blow, a plank knocked clear of its fastenings, and a flood
of daylight broke in behind Lathers's head!
"Now, the next time I come, Pete Lathers," she said firmly, "I'll
miss the plank and take yer face."
Then she turned, and stalked out of the yard.
SERGEANT DUFFY'S LITTLE GAME
The bad weather so long expected finally arrived. An afternoon of
soft, warm autumn skies, aglow with the radiance of the setting
sun, and brilliant in violet and gold, had been followed by a
cold, gray morning. Of a sudden a cloud the size of a hand had
mounted clear of the horizon, and called together its fellows. An
unseen herald in the east blew a blast, and winds and sea awoke.
By nine o'clock a gale was blowing. By ten Babcock's men were
bracing the outer sheathing of the coffer-dam, strengthening the
derrick-guys, tightening the anchor-lines, and clearing the
working-platforms of sand, cement, and other damageable property.
The course-masonry, fortunately, was above the water-line, but the
coping was still unset and the rubble backing of much of the wall
unfinished. Two weeks of constant work were necessary before that
part of the structure contained in the first section of the
contract would be entirely safe for the coming winter. Babcock
doubled his gangs, and utilized every hour of low water to the
utmost, even when the men stood waist-deep. It was his only hope
for completing the first section that season. After that would
come the cold, freezing the mortar, and ending everything.
Tom Grogan performed wonders. Not only did she work her teams far
into the night, but during all this bad weather she stood
throughout the day on the unprotected dock, a man's sou'wester
covering her head, a rubber waterproof reaching to her feet. She
directed every boat-load herself, and rushed the materials to the
shovelers, who stood soaking wet in the driving rain.
Lathers avoided her; so did McGaw. Everybody else watched her in
admiration. Even the commandant, a bluff, gray-bearded naval
officer,--a hero of Hampton Roads and Memphis,--passed her on his
morning inspection with a kindly look in his face and an aside to
Babcock: "Hire some more like her. She is worth a dozen men."
Not until the final cargo required for the completion of the wall
had been dumped on the platforms did she relax her vigilance.
Then she shook the water from her oilskins and started for home.
During all these hours of constant strain there was no outbreak of
bravado, no spell of ill humor. She made no boasts or promises.
With a certain buoyant pluck she stood by the derricks day after
day, firing volleys of criticism or encouragement, as best suited
the exigencies of the moment, now she sprang forward to catch a
sagging bucket, now tended a guy to relieve a man, or handled the
teams herself when the line of carts was blocked or stalled.
Every hour she worked increased Babcock's confidence and
admiration. He began to feel a certain pride in her, and to a
certain extent to rely upon her. Such capacity, endurance, and
loyalty were new in his experience. If she owed him anything for
her delay on that first cargo, the debt had been amply paid. Yet
he saw that no such sense of obligation had influenced her. To
her this extra work had been a duty: he was behind-hand with the
wall, and anxious; she would help him out. As to the weather, she
reveled in it. The dash of the spray and the driving rain only
added to her enjoyment. The clatter of rattling buckets and the
rhythmic movement of the shovelers keeping time to her orders made
a music as dear to her as that of the steady tramp of men and the
sound of arms to a division commander.
Owing to the continued bad weather and the difficulty of shipping
small quantities of fuel, the pumping-engines ran out of coal, and
a complaint from Babcock's office brought the agent of the coal
company to the sea-wall. In times like these Babcock rarely left
his work. Once let the Old Man of the Sea, as he knew, get his
finger in between the cracks of a coffer-dam, and he would smash
the whole into wreckage.
"I was on my way to see Tom Grogan," said the agent. "I heard you
were here, so I stopped to tell you about the coal. There will be
a load down in the morning. I am Mr. Crane, of Crane & Co.,
"You know Mrs. Grogan, then?" asked Babcock, after the delay in
the delivery of the coal had been explained. He had been waiting
for some such opportunity to discover more about his stevedore.
He never discussed personalities with his men.
"Well, I should say so--known her for years. Best woman on top of
Staten Island. Does she work for you?"
"Yes, and has for some years; but I must confess I never knew
Grogan was a woman until I found her on the dock a few weeks ago,
handling a cargo. She works like a machine. How long has she
been a widow?"
"Well, come to think of it, I don't know that she is a widow.
There's some mystery about the old man, but I never knew what.
But that don't count; she's good enough as she is, and a hustler,
Crane was something of a hustler himself--one of those busy
Americans who opens his daily life with an office-key and closes
it with a letter for the late mail. He was a restless, wiry,
black-eyed little man, never still for a moment, and perpetually
in chase of another eluding dollar,--which half the time he
Then, laying his hand on Babcock's arm: "And she's square as a
brick, too. Sometimes when a chunker captain, waiting to unload,
shoves a few tons aboard a sneak-boat at night, Tom will spot him
every time. They try to fool her into indorsing their bills of
lading in full, but it don't work for a cent."
"You call her Tom Grogan?" Babcock asked, with a certain tone in
his voice. He resented, somehow, Crane's familiarity.
"Certainly. Everybody calls her Tom Grogan. It's her husband's
name. Call her anything else, and she don't answer. She seems to
glory in it, and after you know her a while you don't want to call
her anything else yourself. It comes kind of natural--like your
calling a man 'colonel' or 'judge."
Babcock could not but admit that Crane might be right. All the
names which could apply to a woman who had been sweetheart, wife,
and mother seemed out of place when he thought of this undaunted
spirit who had defied Lathers, and with one blow of her fist sent
the splinters of a fence flying about his head.
"We've got the year's contract for coal at the fort," continued
Crane. "The quarter-master-sergeant who inspects it--Sergeant
Duffy--has a friend named McGaw who wants to do the unloading into
the government bins. There's a low price on the coal, and there's
no margin for anybody; and if Duffy should kick about the quality
of the coal,--and you can't please these fellows if they want to
be ugly,--Crane & Co. will be in a hole, and lose money on the
contract. I hate to go back on Tom Grogan, but there's no help
for it. The ten cents a ton I'd save if she hauls the coal
instead of McGaw would be eaten up in Duffy's short weights and
rejections. I sent Sergeant Duffy's letter to her, so she can
tell how the land lies, and I'm going up now to her house to see
her, on my way to the fort. I don't know what Duffy will get out
of it; perhaps he gets a few dollars out of the hauling. The coal
is shipped, by the way, and ought to be here any minute."
"Wait; I'll go with you," said Babcock, handing him an order for
more coal. "She hasn't sent down the tally-sheet for my last
scow." There was not the slightest necessity, of course, for
Babcock to go to Grogan's house for this document.
As they walked on, Crane talked of everything except what was
uppermost in Babcock's mind. Babcock tried to lead the
conversation back to Tom, but Crane's thoughts were on something
When they reached the top of the hill, the noble harbor lay spread
out beneath them, from the purple line of the great cities to the
silver sheen of the sea inside the narrows. The clearing wind had
hauled to the northwest. The sky was heaped with soft clouds
floating in the blue. At the base of the hill nestled the
buildings and wharves of the Lighthouse Depot, with the unfinished
sea-wall running out from the shore, fringed with platforms and
bristling with swinging booms--the rings of white steam twirling
from the exhaust-pipes.
On either side of the vast basin lay two grim, silent forts,
crouched on grassy slopes like great beasts with claws concealed.
Near by, big lazy steamers, sullen and dull, rested motionless at
Quarantine, awaiting inspection; while beyond, white-winged
graceful yachts curved tufts of foam from their bows. In the
open, elevators rose high as church steeples; long lines of
canal-boats stretched themselves out like huge water-snakes, with
hissing tugs for heads; enormous floats groaned under whole trains
of cars; big, burly lighters drifted slowly with widespread
oil-stained sails; monster derricks towered aloft, derricks that
pick up a hundred-ton gun as easily as an ant does a grain of
sand--each floating craft made necessary by some special industry
peculiar to the port of New York, and each unlike any other craft
in the harbor of any other city of the world.
Grogan's house and stables lay just over the brow of this hill, in
a little hollow. The house was a plain, square frame dwelling,
with front and rear verandas, protected by the arching branches of
a big sycamore- tree, and surrounded by a small garden filled with
flaming dahlias and chrysanthemums. Everything about the place
was scrupulously neat and clean.
The stables--there were two--stood on the lower end of the lot.
They looked new, or were newly painted in a dark red, and appeared
to have accommodations for a number of horses. The stable-yard
lay below the house. In its open square were a pump and a
horse-trough, at which two horses were drinking. One, the Big
Gray, had his collar off, showing where the sweat had discolored
the skin, the traces crossed loosely over his back. He was
drinking eagerly, and had evidently just come in from work.
About, under the sheds, were dirt-carts tilted forward on their
shafts, and dust-begrimed harnesses hanging on wooden pegs.
A strapping young fellow in a red shirt came out of the stable
door leading two other horses to the trough. Babcock looked about
him in surprise at the extent of the establishment. He had
supposed that his stevedore had a small outfit and needed all the
work she could get. If, as McGaw had said, only boys did Grogan's
work, they at least did it well.
Crane mounted the porch first and knocked. Babcock followed.
"No, Mr. Crane," said a young girl, opening the door, "she's not
at home. I'm expecting her every minute. Mother went to work
early this morning. She'll be sorry to miss you, sir. She ought
to be home now, for she's been up 'most all night at the fort.
She's just sent Carl up for two more horses. Won't you come in
"No; I'll keep on to the fort," answered Crane. "I may meet her
on the road."
"May I come in?" Babcock asked, explaining his business in a few
"Oh, yes, sir. Mother won't be long now. You've not forgotten
me, Mr. Babcock? I'm her daughter Jennie. I was to your office
once. Gran'pop, this is the gentleman mother works for."
An old man rose with some difficulty from an armchair, and bowed
in a kindly, deferential way. He had been reading near the
window. He was in his shirt-sleeves, his collar open at the
throat. He seemed rather feeble. His legs shook as if he were
weak from some recent illness. About the eyes was a certain
kindliness that did not escape Babcock's quick glance; they were
clear and honest, and looked straight into his--the kind he liked.
The old man's most striking features were his silver-white hair,
parted over his forehead and falling to his shoulders, and his
thin, straight, transparent nose, indicating both ill health and a
certain refinement and sensitiveness of nature. Had it not been
for his dress, he might have passed for an English curate on half
"Me name's Richard, sor--Richard Mullins," said the old man. "I'm
Mary's father. She won't be long gone now. She promised me she'd
be home for dinner." He placed a chair for Babcock, and remained
"I will wait until she returns," said Babcock. He had come to
discover something more definite about this woman who worked like
a steam-engine, crooned over a cripple, and broke a plank with her
fist, and he did not intend to leave until he knew. "Your
daughter must have had great experience. I have never seen any
one man handle work better," he continued, extending his hand.
Then, noticing that Mullins was still standing, "Don't let me take
Mullins hesitated, glanced at Jennie, and, moving another chair
from the window, drew it nearer, and settled slowly beside
The room was as clean as bare arms and scrubbing-brushes could
make it. Near the fireplace was a cast-iron stove, and opposite
this stood a parlor organ, its top littered with photographs. A
few chromos hung on the walls. There were also a big plush sofa
and two haircloth rocking-chairs, of walnut, covered with cotton
tidies. The carpet on the floor was new, and in the window, where
the old man had been sitting, some pots of nasturtiums were
blooming, their tendrils reaching up both sides of the sash.
Opening from this room was the kitchen, resplendent in bright pans
and a shining copper wash-boiler. The girl passed constantly in
and out the open door, spreading the cloth and bringing dishes for
Her girlish figure was clothed in a blue calico frock and white
apron, the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, showing some faint
traces of flour clinging to her wrists, as if she had been
suddenly summoned from the bread-bowl. She was fresh and sweet,
strong and healthy, with a certain grace of manner about her that
pleased Babcock instantly. He saw now that she had her mother's
eyes and color, but not her air of fearlessness and
self-reliance--that kind of self-reliance which comes only of many
nights of anxiety and many days of success. He noticed, too, that
when she spoke to the old man her voice was tempered with a
peculiar tenderness, as if his infirmities were more to be pitied
than complained of. This pleased him most of all.
"You live with your daughter, Mrs. Grogan?" Babcock asked in a
friendly way, turning to the old man.
"Yis, sor. Whin Tom got sick, she sint fer me to come over an'
hilp her. I feeds the horses whin Oi'm able, an' looks after the
garden, but Oi'm not much good."
"Is Mr. Thomas Grogan living?" asked Babcock cautiously, and with
a certain tone of respect, hoping to get closer to the facts, and
yet not to seem intrusive.
"Oh, yis, sor: an' moight be dead fer all the good he does. He's
in New Yorruk some'er's, on a farm"--lowering his voice to a
whisper and looking anxiously toward Jennie--"belongin' to the
State, I think, sor. He's hurted pretty bad, an' p'haps he's a
leetle off--I dunno. Mary has niver tould me."
Before Babcock could pursue the inquiry further there was a firm
tread on the porch steps, and the old man rose from the chair, his
"Here she is, Gran'pop," said Jennie, laying down her dish and
springing to the door.
"Hold tight, darlint," came a voice from the outside, and the next
instant Tom Grogan strode in, her face aglow with laughter, her
hood awry, her eyes beaming. Patsy was perched on her shoulder,
his little crutch fast in one hand, the other tightly wound about
her neck. "Let go, darlint; ye're a-chokin' the wind out of me."
"Oh, it's ye a-waitin', Mr. Babcock--me man Carl thought ye'd
gone. Mr. Crane I met outside told me you'd been here. Jennie'll
get the tally- sheet of the last load for ye. I've been to the
fort since daylight, and pretty much all night, to tell ye God's
truth. Oh, Gran'pop, but I smashed 'em!" she exclaimed as she
gently removed Patsy's arm and laid him in the old man's lap. She
had picked the little cripple up at the garden gate, where he
always waited for her. "That's the last job that sneakin' Duffy
and Dan McGaw'll ever put up on me. Oh, but ye should'a' minded
the face on him, Gran'pop!"--untying her hood and breaking into a
laugh so contagious in its mirth that even Babcock joined in
without knowing what it was all about.
As she spoke, Tom stood facing her father, hood and ulster off,
the light of the windows silhouetting the splendid lines of her
well-rounded figure, with its deep chest, firm bust, broad back,
and full throat, her arms swinging loose and free.
"Ye see," she said, turning to Babcock, "that man Duffy tried to
do me,--he's the sergeant at the fort--and Dan McGaw--ye know
him--he's the divil that wanted to work for ye. Ye know I always
had the hauling of the coal at the fort, an' I want to hold on to
it, for it comes every year. I've been a-watchin' for this coal
for a month. Every October there's a new contractor, and this
time it was me friend Mr. Crane I've worked for before. So I sees
Duffy about it the other day, an' he says, 'Well, I think ye
better talk to the quartermaster, who's away, but who'll be home
next week.' An' that night when I got home, there lay a letter
from Mr. Crane, wid another letter inside it Sergeant Duffy had
sent to Mr. Crane, sayin' he'd recommend Dan McGaw to do the
stevedorin'--the sneakin' villain--an' sayin' that he--Duffy--was
a-goin' to inspect the coal himself, an' if his friend Dan McGaw
hauled it, the quality would be all right. Think of that! I tell
ye, Mr. Babcock, they're divils. Then Mr. Crane put down at the
bottom of his letter to me that he was sorry not to give me the
job, but that he must give it to Duffy's friend McGaw, or Duffy
might reject the coal. Wait till I wash me hands and I'll tell ye
how I fixed him," she added suddenly, as with a glance at her
fingers she disappeared into the kitchen, reappearing a moment
later with her bare arms as fresh and as rosy as her cheeks, from
their friction with a clean crash towel.
"Well!" she continued, "I jumps into me bonnet yisterday, and over
I goes to the fort; an' I up an' says to Duffy, 'I can't wait for
the quartermaster. When's that coal a-comin'?' An' he says, 'In
a couple of weeks.' An' I turned onto him and says: 'Ye're a
pretty loafer to take the bread out of Tom Grogan's children's
mouths! An' ye want Dan McGaw to do the haulin', do ye? An' the
quality of the coal'll be all right if he gits it! An' there's
sure to be twenty-five dollars for ye, won't there? If I hear a
word more out of ye I'll see Colonel Howard sure, an' hand him
this letter.' An' Duffy turned white as a load of lime, and says,
'Don't do it, for God's sake! It'll cost me m' place.' While I
was a-talkin' I see a chunker-boat with the very coal on it round
into the dock with a tug; an' I ran to the string-piece and
catched the line, and has her fast to a spile before the tug lost
head-way. Then I started for home on the run, to get me derricks
and stuff. I got home, hooked up by twelve o'clock last night,
an' before daylight I had me rig up an' the fall set and the
buckets over her hatches. At six o'clock this mornin' I took the
teams and was a-runnin' the coal out of the chunker, when down
comes Mr.--Daniel--McGaw with a gang and his big derrick on a
cart." She repeated this in a mocking tone, swinging her big
shoulders exactly as her rival would have done.
"'That's me rig,' I says to him, p'intin' up to the gaff, 'an' me
coal, an' I'll throw the fust man overboard who lays hands on it!'
An' then the sergeant come out and took McGaw one side an' said
somethin' to him, with his back to me; an' when McGaw turned he
was white too, an' without sayin' a word he turned the team and
druv off. An' just now I met Mr. Crane walkin' down, lookin' like
he had lost a horse. 'Tom Grogan,' he says,'I hate to disappoint
ye, an' wouldn't, for ye've always done me work well; but I'm
stuck on the coal contract, an' the sergeant can put me in a hole
if ye do the haulin'.' An' I says, 'Brace up, Mr. Crane, there's
a hole, but ye ain't in it, an' the sergeant is. I'll unload
every pound of that coal, if I do it for nothin', and if that
sneak in striped trousers bothers me or you, I'll pull him apart
an' stamp on him!'"
Through all her talk there was a triumphant good humor, a
joyousness, a glow and breeziness, which completely fascinated
Babcock. Although she had been up half the night, she was as
sweet and fresh and rosy as a child. Her vitality, her strength,
her indomitable energy, impressed him as no woman's had ever done
When she had finished her story she suddenly caught Patsy out of
her father's arms and dropped with him into a chair, all the
mother-hunger in her still unsatisfied. She smothered him with
kisses and hugged him to her breast, holding his pinched face
against her ruddy cheek. Then she smoothed his forehead with her
well-shaped hand, and rocked him back and forth. By and by she
told him of the stone that the Big Gray had got in his hoof down
at the fort that morning, and how lame he had been, and how Cully
had taken it out with--a--great--big--spike!--dwelling on the last
words as if they belonged to some wonderful fairy-tale. The
little fellow sat up in her lap and laughed as he patted her
breast joyously with his thin hand. "Cully could do it," he
shouted in high glee; "Cully can do anything." Babcock,
apparently, made no more difference to her than if he had been an
As she moved about her rooms afterward, calling to her men from
the open door, consulting with Jennie, her arms about her neck, or
stopping at intervals to croon over her child, she seemed to him
to lose all identity with the woman on the dock. The spirit that
enveloped her belonged rather to that of some royal dame of heroic
times, than to that of a working woman of to-day. The room
somehow became her castle, the rough stablemen her knights.
On his return to his work she walked back with him part of the
way. Babcock, still bewildered, and still consumed with curiosity
to learn something of her past, led the talk to her life along the
docks, expressing his great surprise at discovering her so capable
and willing to do a man's work, asking who had taught her, and
whether her husband in his time had been equally efficient and
Instantly she grew reticent. She did not even answer his
question. He waited a moment, and, realizing his mistake, turned
the conversation in another direction.
"And how about those rough fellows around the wharves--those who
don't know you--are they never coarse and brutal to you?"
"Not when I look 'em in the face," she answered slowly and
deliberately. "No man ever opens his head, nor dar'sn't. When
they see me a-comin' they stops talkin', if it's what they
wouldn't want their daughters to hear; an' there ain't no dirty
back talk, neither. An' I make me own men civil, too, with a
dacint tongue in their heads. I had a young strip of a lad once
who would be a-swearin' round the stables. I told him to mend his
manners or I'd wash his mouth out, an' that I wouldn't have nobody
hit me horses on the head. He kep' along, an' I see it was a bad
example for the other drivers (this was only a year ago, an' I had
three of 'em); so when he hit the Big Gray ag'in, I hauled off and
give him a crack that laid him out. I was scared solid for two
hours, though they never knew it."
Then, with an almost piteous look in her face, and with a sudden
burst of confidence, born, doubtless, of a dawning faith in the
man's evident sincerity and esteem, she said in a faltering
"God help me! what can I do? I've no man to stand by me, an'
somebody's got to be boss."
A WALKING DELEGATE LEARNS A NEW STEP
McGaw's failure to undermine Tom's business with Babcock, and his
complete discomfiture over Crane's coal contract at the fort, only
intensified his hatred of the woman.
Finding that he could make no headway against her alone, he called
upon the Union to assist him, claiming that she was employing
non-union labor, and had thus been able to cut down the
discharging rates to starvation prices.
A meeting was accordingly called by the executive committee of the
Knights, and a resolution passed condemning certain persons in the
village of Rockville as traitors to the cause of the workingman.
Only one copy of this edict was issued and mailed. This found its
way into Tom Grogan's letter-box. Five minutes after she had
broken the seal, her men discovered the document pasted upside
down on her stable door.
McGaw heard of her action that night, and started another line of
attack. It was managed so skillfully that that which until then
had been only a general dissatisfaction on the part of the members
of the Union and their sympathizers over Tom's business methods
now developed into an avowed determination to crush her. They
discussed several plans by which she could be compelled either to
restore rates for unloading, or be forced out of the business
altogether. As one result of these deliberations a committee
called upon the priest, Father McCluskey, and informed him of the
delicate position in which the Union had been placed by her having
hidden her husband away, thus forcing them to fight the woman
herself. She was making trouble, they urged, with her low wages
and her unloading rates. "Perhaps his Riverence c'u'd straighten
her out." Father McCluskey's interview with Tom took place in the
priest's room one morning after early mass. It had gone abroad,
somehow, that his Reverence intended to discipline the
"high-flyer," and a considerable number of the "tenement-house
gang," as Tom called them, had loitered behind to watch the effect
of the good father's remonstrances.
What Tom told the priest no one ever knew: such conferences are
part of the regime of the church, and go no farther. It was
noticed, however, as she came down the aisle, that her eyes were
red, as if from weeping, and that she never raised them from the
floor as she passed between her enemies on her way to the church
door. Once outside, she put her arm around Jennie, who was
waiting, and the two strolled slowly across the lots to her house.
When the priest came out, his own eyes were tinged with moisture.
He called Dennis Quigg, McGaw's right-hand man, and in a voice
loud enough to be heard by those nearest him expressed his
indignation that any dissension should have arisen among his
people over a woman's work, and said that he would hear no more of
this unchristian and unmanly interference with one whose only
support came from the labor of her hands.
McGaw and his friends were not discouraged. They were only
determined upon some more definite stroke. It was therefore
ordered that a committee be appointed to waylay her men going to
work, and inform them of their duty to their fellow-laborers.
Accordingly, this same Quigg--smooth-shaven, smirking, and
hollow-eyed, with a diamond pin, half a yard of watch-chain, and a
fancy shirt--ex-village clerk with his accounts short, ex-deputy
sheriff with his accounts of cruelty and blackmail long, and at
present walking delegate of the Union--was appointed a committee
of one for that duty.
Quigg began by begging a ride in one of Tom's return carts, and
taking this opportunity to lay before the driver the enormity of
working for Grogan for thirty dollars a month and board, when
there were a number of his brethren out of work and starving who
would not work for less than two dollars a day if it were offered
them. It was plainly the driver's duty, Quigg urged, to give up
his job until Tom Grogan could be compelled to hire him back at
advanced wages. During this enforced idleness the Union would pay
the driver fifty cents a day. Here Quigg pounded his chest,
clenched his fists, and said solemnly, "If capital once downs the
lab'rin' man, we'll all be slaves."
The driver was Carl Nilsson, a Swede, a big, blue-eyed,
light-haired young fellow of twenty-two, a sailor from boyhood,
who three years before, on a public highway, had been picked up
penniless and hungry by Tom Grogan, after the keeper of a sailors'
boarding-house had robbed him of his year's savings. The change
from cracking ice from a ship's deck with a marlinespike, to
currying and feeding something alive and warm and comfortable, was
so delightful to the Swede that he had given up the sea for a
while. He had felt that he could ship again at anytime, the water
was so near. As the months went by, however, he, too, gradually
fell under the spell of Tom's influence. She reminded him of the
great Norse women he had read about in his boyhood. Besides all
this, he was loyal and true to the woman who had befriended him,
and who had so far appreciated his devotion to her interests as to
promote him from hostler and driver to foreman of the stables.
Nilsson knew Quigg by sight, for he had seen him walking home with
Jennie from church. His knowledge of English was slight, but it
was enough to enable him to comprehend Quigg's purpose as he
talked beside him on the cart. After some questions about how
long the enforced idleness would continue, he asked suddenly:--
"Who da horse clean when I go 'way?"
"D--n her! let her clean it herself," Quigg answered angrily.
This ended the question for Nilsson, and it very nearly ended the
delegate. Jumping from the cart, Carl picked up the shovel and
sprang toward Quigg, who dodged out of his way, and then took to
When Nilsson, still white with anger, reached the dock, he related
the incident to Cully, who, on his return home, retailed it to
Jennie with such variety of gesture and intonation that that young
lady blushed scarlet, but whether from sympathy for Quigg or
admiration for Nilsson, Cully was unable to decide.
Quigg's failure to coax away one of Tom's men ended active
operations against Tom, so far as the Union was concerned. It
continued to listen to McGaw's protests, but, with an eye open for
its own interests, replied that if Grogan's men would not be
enticed away it could at present take no further action. His
trouble with Tom was an individual matter, and a little patience
on McGaw's part was advised. The season's work was over, and
nothing of importance could be done until the opening of the
spring business. If Tom's men struck now, she would be glad to
get rid of them. It would, therefore, be wiser to wait until she
could not do without them, when they might all be forced out in a
body. In the interim McGaw should direct his efforts to harassing
his enemy. Perhaps a word with Slattery, the blacksmith, might
induce that worthy brother Knight to refuse to do her shoeing some
morning when she was stalled for want of a horse; or he might let
a nail slip in a tender hoof. No one could tell what might happen
in the coming months. At the moment the funds of the Union were
too low for aggressive measures. Were McGaw, however, to make a
contribution of two hundred dollars to the bank account in order
to meet possible emergencies, something might be done. All this
was duly inscribed in the books of the committee,--that is, the
last part of it,--and upon McGaw's promising to do what he could
toward improving the funds. It was thereupon subsequently
resolved that before resorting to harsher measures the Union
should do all in its power toward winning over the enemy. Brother
Knight Dennis Quigg was thereupon deputed to call upon Mrs. Grogan
and invite her into the Union.
On brother Knight Dennis Quigg's declining for private reasons the
honorable mission intrusted to him by the honorable board (Mr.
Quigg's exact words of refusal, whispered in the chairman's ear,
were, "I'm a-jollyin' one of her kittens; send somebody else after
the old cat"), another walking delegate, brother Knight Crimmins
by name, was selected to carry out the gracious action of the
Crimmins had begun life as a plumber's helper, had been iceman,
night- watchman, heeler, and full-fledged plumber; and having been
out of work himself for months at a time, was admirably qualified
to speak of the advantages of idleness to any other candidate for
He was a small man with a big nose, grizzled chin-whiskers, and
rum-and-watery eyes, and wore constantly a pair of patched blue
overalls as a badge of his laborship. The seat of these outside
trousers showed more wear than his hands.
Immediately upon his appointment, Crimmins went to McGaw's house
to talk over the line of attack. The conference was held in the
sitting-room and behind closed doors--so tightly closed that young
Billy McGaw, with one eye in mourning from the effect of a recent
street fight, was unable, even by the aid of the undamaged eye and
the keyhole, to get the slightest inkling of what was going on
When the door was finally opened and McGaw and Crimmins came out,
they brought with them an aroma the pungency of which was
explained by two empty glasses and a black bottle decorating one
end of the only table in the room.
As Crimmins stepped down from the broken stoop, with its rusty
rain-spout and rotting floor-planks, Billy overheard this parting
remark from his father: "Thry the ile furst, Crimmy, an' see what
she'll do; thin give her the vinegar; and thin," with an oath, "ef
that don't fetch'er, come back here to me and we'll give 'er the
Brother Knight Crimmins waved his hand to the speaker. "Just
leave'er to me, Dan," he said, and started for Tom's house.
Crimmins was delighted with his mission. He felt sure of bringing
back her application within an hour. Nothing ever pleased him so
much as to work a poor woman into an agony of fright with threats
of the Union. Wives and daughters had often followed him out into
the street, begging him to let the men alone for another week
until they could pay the rent. Sometimes, when he relented, the
more grateful would bless him for his magnanimity. This increased
Tom met him at the door. She had been sitting up with a sick
child of Dick Todd, foreman at the brewery, and had just come
home. Hardly a week passed without some one in distress sending
for her. She had never seen Crimmins before, and thought he had
come to mend the roof. His first words, however, betrayed him:--
"The Knights sent me up to have a word wid ye."
Tom made a movement as if to shut the door in his face; then she
paused for an instant, and said curtly, "Come inside."
Crimmins crushed his slouch-hat in his hand, and slunk into a
chair by the window. Tom remained standing.
"I see ye like flowers, Mrs. Grogan," he began, in his gentlest
voice. "Them geraniums is the finest I iver see"--peering under
the leaves of the plants. "Guess it's 'cause ye water 'em so
Tom made no reply.
Crimmins fidgeted on his chair a little, and tried another tack.
"I s'pose ye ain't doin' much just now, weather's so bad. The
road's awful goin' down to the fort."
Tom's hands were in the side pockets of her ulster. Her face was
aglow with her brisk walk from the tenements. She never took her
eyes from his face, and never moved a muscle of her body. She was
slowly revolving in her mind whether any information she could get
out of him would be worth the waiting for.
Crimmins relapsed into silence, and began patting the floor with
his foot. The prolonged stillness was becoming uncomfortable.
"I was tellin' ye about the meetin' we had to the Union last
night. We was goin' over the list of members, an' we didn't find
yer name. The board thought maybe ye'd like to come in wid us.
The dues is only two dollars a month. We're a-regulatin' the
prices for next year, stevedorin' an' haulin', an' the rates'll be
sent out next week." The stopper was now out of the oil-bottle.
"How many members have ye got?" she asked quietly.
"Hundred an' seventy-three in our branch of the Knights."
"All pay two dollars a month?"
"That's about the size of it," said Crimmins.
"What do we git when we jine?"
"Well, we all pull together--that's one thing. One man's strike's
every man's strike. The capitalists been tryin' to down us, an'
the laborin'-man's got to stand together. Did ye hear about the
Fertilizer Company's layin' off two of our men las' Friday just
fer bein' off a day or so without leave, and their gittin' a
couple of scabs from Hoboken to"--
"What else do we git?" said Tom, in a quick, imperious tone,
ignoring the digression. She had moved a step closer.
Crimmins looked slyly up into her eyes. Until this moment he had
been addressing his remarks to the brass ornament on the extreme
top of the cast-iron stove. Tom's expression of face did not
reassure him; in fact, the steady gaze of her clear gray eye was
as uncomfortable as the focused light of a sun lens.
"Well--we help each other," he blurted out.
"Do you do any helpin'?"
"Yis;" stiffening a little. "I'm the walkin' delegate of our
"Oh, ye're the walkin' delegate! You don't pay no two dollars,
then, do ye!"
"No. There's got to be somebody a-goin' round all the time, an'
Dinnis Quigg and me's confidential agents of the branch, an' what
we says goes"--slapping his overalls decisively with his fist.
McGaw's suggested stopper was being loosened on the vinegar.
Tom's fingers closed tightly. Her collar began to feel small.
"An' I s'pose if ye said I should pay me men double wages, and put
up the price o' haulin' so high that me customers couldn't pay it,
so that some of yer dirty loafers could cut in an' git it, I'd
have to do it, whether I wanted to or not; or maybe ye think I'd
oughter chuck some o' me own boys into the road because they don't
belong to yer branch, as ye call it, and git a lot o' dead beats
to work in their places who don't know a horse from a coal-bucket.
An' ye'll help me, will ye? Come out here on the front porch, Mr.
Crimmins"--opening the door with a jerk. "Do ye see that stable
over there! Well, it covers seven horses; an' the shed has six
carts with all the harness. Back of it--perhaps if ye stand on
yer toes even a little feller like you can see the top of another
shed. That one has me derricks an' tools."
Crimmins tried to interrupt long enough to free McGaw's red
pepper, but her words poured out in a torrent.
"Now ye can go back an' tell Dan McGaw an' the balance of yer
two-dollar loafers that there ain't a dollar owin' on any horse in
my stable, an' that I've earned everything I've got without a man
round to help 'cept those I pays wages to. An' ye can tell 'em,
too, that I'll hire who I please, an' pay 'em what they oughter
git; an' I'll do me own haulin' an' unloadin' fer nothin' if it
suits me. When ye said ye were a walkin' delegate ye spoke God's
truth. Ye'd be a ridin' delegate if ye could; but there's one
thing ye'll niver be, an' that's a workin' delegate, as long as ye
kin find fools to pay ye wages fer bummin' round day 'n' night.
If I had me way, ye would walk, but it would be on yer uppers, wid
yer bare feet to the road."
Crimmins again attempted to speak, but she raised her arm
threateningly: "Now, if it's walkin' ye are, ye can begin right
away. Let me see ye earn yer wages down that garden an' into the
road. Come, lively now, before I disgrace meself a-layin' hands
on the likes of ye!"
A WORD FROM THE TENEMENTS
One morning Patsy came up the garden path limping on his crutch;
the little fellow's eyes were full of tears. He had been out with
his goat when some children from the tenements surrounded his
cart, pitched it into the ditch, and followed him half way home,
calling "Scab! scab!" at the top of their voices. Cully heard
his cries, and ran through the yard to meet him, his anger rising
at every step. To lay hands on Patsy was, to Cully, the
unpardonable sin. Ever since the day, five years before, when Tom
had taken him into her employ, a homeless waif of the
streets,--his father had been drowned from a canal-boat she was
unloading,--and had set him down beside Patsy's crib to watch
while she was at her work, Jennie being at school, Cully had loved
the little cripple with the devotion of a dog to its master.
Lawless, rough, often cruel, and sometimes vindictive as Cully was
to others, a word from Patsy humbled and softened him.
And Patsy loved Cully. His big, broad chest, stout, straight
legs, strong arms and hands, were his admiration and constant
pride. Cully was his champion and his ideal. The waif's
recklessness and audacity were to him only evidences of so much
brains and energy.
This love between the lads grew stronger after Tom had sent to
Dublin for her old father, that she might have "a man about the
house." Then a new blessing came, not only into the lives of both
the lads, but into the whole household as well. Mullins, in his
later years, had been a dependent about Trinity College, and
constant association with books and students had given him a taste
for knowledge denied his daughter. Tom had left home when a girl.
In the long winter nights during the slack season, after the
stalls were bedded and the horses were fed and watered and locked
up for the night, the old man would draw up his chair to the big
kerosene lamp on the table, and tell the boys stories--they
listening with wide-open eyes, Cully interrupting the narrative
every now and then by such asides as "No flies on them fellers,
wuz ther', Patsy? They wuz daisies, they wuz. Go on, Pop; it's
better'n a circus;" while Patsy would cheer aloud at the downfall
of the vanquished, with their "three thousand lance-bearers put to
death by the sword," waving his crutch over his head in his
Jennie would come in too, and sit by her mother; and after
Nilsson's encounter with Quigg--an incident which greatly advanced
him in Tom's estimation--Cully would be sent to bring him in from
his room over the stable and give him a chair with the others,
that he might learn the language easier. At these times it was
delightful to watch the expression of pride and happiness that
would come over Tom's face as she listened to her father's talk.
"But ye have a great head, Gran'pop," she would say. "Cully, ye
blatherin' idiot, why don't ye brace up an' git some knowledge in
yer head? Sure, Gran'pop, Father McCluskey ain't in it wid ye a
minute. Ye could down the whole gang of 'em." And the old man
would smile faintly and say he had heard the young gentlemen at
the college recite the stories so many times he could never forget
In this way the boys grew closer together, Patsy cramming himself
from books during the day in order to tell Cully at night all
about the Forty Thieves boiled in oil, or Ali Baba and his donkey,
or poor man Friday to whom Robinson Crusoe was so kind; and Cully
relating in return how Jimmie Finn smashed Pat Gilsey's face
because he threw stones at his sister, ending with a full account
of a dog-fight which a "snoozer of a cop" stopped with his club.
So when Patsy came limping up the garden path this morning,
rubbing his eyes, his voice choking, and the tears streaming, and,
burying his little face in Cully's jacket, poured out his tale of
insult and suffering, that valiant defender of the right pulled
his cap tight over his eyes and began a still-hunt through the
tenements. There, as he afterwards expressed it, he "mopped up
the floor" with one after another of the ringleaders, beginning
with young Billy McGaw, Dan's eldest son and Cully's senior.
Tom was dumfounded at the attack on Patsy. This was a blow upon
which she had not counted. To strike her Patsy, her cripple, her
baby! The cowardice of it incensed her, She knew instantly that
her affairs must have been common talk about the tenements to have
produced so great an effect upon the children. She felt sure that
their fathers and mothers had encouraged them in it.
In emergencies like this it was never to the old father that she
turned. He was too feeble, too much a thing of the past. While
to a certain extent he influenced her life, standing always for
the right and always for the kindest thing she could do, yet when
it came to times of action and danger she felt the need of a
younger and more vigorous mind. It was on Jennie, really more her
companion than her daughter, that she depended for counsel and
sympathy at these times.
Tom did not underestimate the gravity of the situation. Up to
that point in her career she had fought only the cold, the heat,
the many weary hours of labor far into the night, and now and then
some man like McGaw. But this stab from out the dark was a danger
to which she was unused. She saw in this last move of McGaw's,
aided as he was by the Union, not only a determination to ruin
her, but a plan to divide her business among a set of men who
hated her as much on account of her success as for anything else.
A few more horses and carts and another barn or two, and she
herself would become a hated capitalist. That she had stood out
in the wet and cold herself, hours at a time, like any man among
them; that she had, in her husband's early days, helped him feed
and bed their one horse, often currying him herself; that when she
and her Tom had moved to Rockville with their savings and there
were three horses to care for and her husband needed more help
than he could hire, she had brought her little baby Patsy to the
stable while she worked there like a man; that during all this
time she had cooked and washed and kept the house tidy for four
people; that she had done all these things she felt would not
count now with the Union, though each member of it was a
bread-winner like herself.
She knew what power it wielded. There had been the Martin family,
honest, hardworking people, who had come down from Haverstraw--the
man and wife and their three children--and moved into the new
tenement with all their nice furniture and new carpets. Tom had
helped them unload these things from the brick-sloop that brought
them. A few weeks after, poor Martin, still almost a stranger,
had been brought home from the gas-house with his head laid open,
because he had taken the place of a Union man discharged for
drunkenness, and lingered for weeks until he died. Then the
widow, with her children about her, had been put aboard another
sloop that was going back to her old home. Tom remembered, as if
it were yesterday, the heap of furniture and little pile of
kitchen things sold under the red flag outside the store near the
She had seen, too, the suffering and misery of her neighbors
during the long strike at the brewery two years before, and the
moving in and out from house to tenement and tenement to shanty,
with never a day's work afterward for any man who left his job.
She had helped many of the men who, three years before, had been
driven out of work by the majority vote of the Carpenters' Union,
and who dared not go back and face the terrible excommunication,
the social boycott, with all its insults and cruelties. She
shuddered as she thought again of her suspicions years ago when
the bucket had fallen that crushed in her husband's chest, and
sent him to bed for months, only to leave it a wrecked man. The
rope that held the bucket had been burned by acid, Dr. Mason said.
Some grudge of the Union, she had always felt, was paid off then.
She knew what the present trouble meant, now that it was started,
and she knew in what it might end. But her courage never wavered.
She ran over in her mind the names of the several men who were
fighting her--McGaw, for whom she had a contempt; Dempsey and
Jimmie Brown, of the executive committee, both liquor-dealers;
Paterson, foreman of the gas-house; and the rest--dangerous
enemies, she knew.
That night she sent for Nilsson to come to the house; heard from
him, word for word, of Quigg's effort to corrupt him; questioned
Patsy closely, getting the names of the children who had abused
him; then calling Jennie into her bedroom, she locked the door
When they reentered the sitting-room, an hour later, Jennie's lips
were quivering. Tom's mouth was firmly set. Her mind was made
She would fight it out to the bitter end.
THE BIG GRAY GOES HUNGRY
That invincible spirit which dwelt in Tom's breast--that spirit
which had dared Lathers, outwitted Duffy, cowed Crimmins, and
braved the Union, did not, strange to say, dominate all the
members of her own household. One defied her. This was no other
than that despoiler of new-washed clothes, old harness,
wagon-grease, time-books, and spring flowers, that Arab of the
open lot, Stumpy the goat.
This supremacy of the goat had lasted since the eventful morning
when, only a kid of tender days, he had come into the stable-yard
and wobbled about on his uncertain legs, nestling down near the
door where Patsy lay. During all these years he had ruled over
Tom. At first because his fuzzy white back and soft, silky legs
had been so precious to the little cripple, and later because of
his inexhaustible energy, his aggressiveness, and his marvelous
activity. Brave spirits have fainted at the sight of spiders,
others have turned pale at lizards, and some have shivered when
cats crossed their paths. The only thing Tom feared on any number
of legs, from centipedes to men, was Stumpy.
"Git out, ye imp of Satan!" she would say, raising her hand when
he wandered too near; "or I'll smash ye!" The next instant she
would be dodging behind the cart out of the way of Stumpy's
lowered horns, with a scream as natural and as uncontrollable as
that of a schoolgirl over a mouse. When he stood in the path
cleared of snow from house to stable door, with head down,
prepared to dispute every inch of the way with her, she would
tramp yards around him, up to her knees in the drift, rather than
face his obstinate front.
The basest of ingratitude actuated the goat. When the accident
occurred that gained him his sobriquet and lost him his tail, it
was Tom's quickness of hand alone that saved the remainder of his
kidship from disappearing as his tail had done. Indeed, she not
only choked the dog who attacked him, until he loosened his hold
from want of breath, but she threw him over the stable-yard fence
as an additional mark of her displeasure.
In spite of her fear of him, Tom never dispossessed Stumpy. That
her Patsy loved him insured him his place for life.
So Stumpy roamed through yard, kitchen, and stable, stalking over
bleaching sheets, burglarizing the garden gate, and grazing
wherever he chose.
The goat inspired no fear in anybody else. Jennie would chase him
out of her way a dozen times a day, and Cully would play bullfight
with him, and Carl and the other men would accord him his proper
place, spanking him with the flat of a shovel whenever he
interfered with their daily duties, or shying a corn-cob after him
when his alertness carried him out of their reach.
This afternoon Jennie had missed her blue-checked apron. It had
been drying on the line outside the kitchen door five minutes
before. There was no one at home but herself, and she had seen
nobody pass the door. Perhaps the apron had blown over into the
stable-yard. If it had, Carl would be sure to have seen it. She
knew Carl had come home; she had been watching for him through the
window. Then she ran in for her shawl.
Carl was rubbing down the Big Gray. He had been hauling ice all
the morning for the brewery. The Gray was under the cart-shed, a
flood of winter sunlight silvering his shaggy mane and restless
ears. The Swede was scraping his sides with the currycomb, and
the Big Gray, accustomed to Cully's gentler touch, was resenting
the familiarity by biting at the tippet wound about the neck of
the young man.
Suddenly Carl raised his head--he had caught a glimpse of a flying
apron whipping round the stable door. He knew the pattern. It
always gave him a lump in his throat, and some little creepings
down his back when he saw it. Then he laid down the currycomb.
The next instant there came a sound as of a barrel-head knocked in
by a mixing-shovel, and Stumpy flew through the door, followed by
Carl on the run. The familiar bit of calico was Jennie's lost
apron. One half was inside the goat, the other half was in the
hand of the Swede.
Carl hesitated for a moment, looked cautiously about the yard, and
walked slowly toward the house, his eyes on the fragments. He
never went to the house except when he was invited, either to hear
Pop read or to take his dinner with the other men. At this
instant Jennie came running out, the shawl about her head.
"Oh, Carl, did you find my apron? It blew away, and I thought it
might have gone into the yard."
"Yas, mees; an' da goat see it too--luke!" extending the tattered
fragments, anger and sorrow struggling for the mastery in his
"Well, I never! Carl, it was a bran'-new one. Now just see, all
the strings torn off and the top gone! I'm just going to give
Stumpy a good beating."
Carl suggested that he run after the goat and bring him back; but
Jennie thought he was down the road by this time, and Carl had
been working all the morning and must be tired. Besides, she must
get some wood.
Carl instantly forgot the goat. He had forgotten everything,
indeed, except the trim little body who stood before him looking
into his eyes. He glowed all over with inward warmth and delight.
Nobody had ever cared before whether he was tired. When he was a
little fellow at home at Memlo his mother would sometimes worry
about his lifting the big baskets of fish all day, but he could
not remember that anybody else had ever given his feelings a
thought. All this flashed through his mind as he returned
"No, no! I not tire--I brang da wood." And then Jennie said she
never meant it, and Carl knew she didn't, of course; and then she
said she had never thought of such a thing, and he agreed to that;
and they talked so long over it, standing out in the radiance of
the noonday sun, the color coming and going in both their
faces,--Carl playing aimlessly with his tippet tassel, and Jennie
plaiting and pinching up the ruined apron,--that the fire in the
kitchen stove went out, and the Big Gray grew hungry and craned
his long neck around the shed and whinnied for Carl, and even
Stumpy the goat forgot his hair-breadth escape, and returned near
enough to the scene of the robbery to look down at it from the
There is no telling how long the Big Gray would have waited if
Cully had not come home to dinner, bringing another horse with
Patsy perched on his back. The brewery was only a short distance,
and Tom always gave her men a hot meal at the house whenever it
was possible. Had any other horse been neglected, Cully would not
have cared; but the Big Gray which he had driven ever since the
day Tom brought him home,--"Old Blowhard," as he would often call
him (the Gray was a bit wheezy),--the Big Gray without his dinner!
"Hully gee! Look at de bloke a-jollying Jinnie, an' de Blowhard
a-starvin'. Say, Patsy,"--lifting him down,--"hold de line till I
git de Big Gray a bite. Git on ter Carl, will ye! I'm
a-goin'--ter--tell--de--boss,"--with a threatening air, weighing
each word--"jes soon as she gits back. Ef I don't I'm a chump."
At sight of the boys, Jennie darted into the house, and Carl
started for the stable, his head in the clouds, his feet on air.
"No; I feed da horse, Cully,"--jerking at his halter to get him
away from Cully.
"A hell ov 'er lot ye will! I'll feed him meself. He's been home
an hour now, an' he ain't half rubbed down."
Carl made a grab for Cully, who dodged and ran under the cart.
Then a lump of ice whizzed past Carl's ear.
"Here, stop that!" said Tom, entering the gate. She had been in
the city all the morning--"to look after her poor Tom," Pop said.
"Don't ye be throwing things round here, or I'll land on top of
"Well, why don't he feed de Gray, den? He started afore me, and
dey wants de Gray down ter de brewery, and he up ter de house
"I go brang Mees Jan's apron; da goat eat it oop."
"Ye did, did ye! What ye givin' us? Didn't I see ye a-chinnin'
'er whin I come over de hill--she a-leanin' up ag'in' de fence,
an' youse a-talkin' ter 'er, an' ole Blowhard cryin' like his
heart was broke?"
"Eat up what apron?" said Tom, thoroughly mystified over the
"Stumpy eat da apron--I brang back--da half ta Mees Jan."
"An' it took ye all the mornin' to give it to her?" said Tom
thoughtfully, looking Carl straight in the eye, a new vista
opening before her.
That night when the circle gathered about the lamp to hear Pop
read, Carl was missing. Tom had not sent for him.
THE CONTENTS OF CULLY'S MAIL
When Walking Delegate Crimmins had recovered from his amazement,
after his humiliating defeat at Tom's hands, he stood irresolute
for a moment outside her garden gate, indulged at some length in a
form of profanity peculiar to his class, and then walked direct to
That worthy Knight met him at the door. He had been waiting for
Young Billy McGaw also saw Crimmins enter the gate, and promptly
hid himself under the broken-down steps. He hoped to overhear
what was going on when the two went out again. Young Billy's
inordinate curiosity was quite natural. He had heard enough of
the current talk about the tenements and open lots to know that
something of a revengeful and retaliatory nature against the
Grogans was in the air; but as nobody who knew the exact details
had confided them to him, he had determined upon an investigation
of his own. He not only hated Cully, but the whole Grogan
household, for the pounding he had received at his hands, so he
was anxious to get even in some way.
After McGaw had locked both doors, shutting out his wife and
little Jack, their youngest, he took a bottle from the shelf,
filled two half-tumblers, and squaring himself in his chair,
"Did ye see her, Crimmy?"
"I did," replied Crimmins, swallowing the whiskey at a gulp.
"An' she'll come in wid us, will she?"
"She will, will she? She'll come in nothin'. I jollied her about
her flowers, and thought I had her dead ter rights, when she up
an' asked me what we was a-goin' to do for her if she jined, an'
afore I could tell her she opens the front door and gives me the
"Fired ye?" exclaimed McGaw incredulously.
"I'm givin' it to ye straight, Dan; an' she pulled a gun on me,
too,"--telling the lie with perfect composure. "That woman's no
slouch, or I don't know 'em. One thing ye can bet yer bottom
dollar on--all h--- can't scare her. We've got to try some other
It was the peculiarly fertile quality of Crimmins's imagination
that made him so valuable to some of his friends.
When the conspirators reached the door, neither Crimmins nor his
father was in a talkative mood, and Billy heard nothing. They
lingered a moment on the sill, within a foot of his head as he lay
in a cramped position below, and then they sauntered out, his
father bareheaded, to the stable-yard. There McGaw leaned upon a
cart-wheel, listening dejectedly to Crimmins, who seemed to be
outlining a plan of some kind, which at intervals lightened the
gloom of McGaw's despair, judging from the expression of his
father's face. Then he turned hurriedly to the house, cursed his
wife because he could not find his big fur cap, and started across
to the village. Billy followed, keeping a safe distance behind.
Tom after Patsy's sad experience forbade him the streets, and
never allowed him out of her sight unless Cully or her father were
with him. She knew a storm was gathering, and she was watching
the clouds and waiting for the first patter of rain. When it came
she intended that every one of her people should be under cover.
She had sent for Carl and her two stablemen, and told them that if
they were dissatisfied in any way she wanted to know it at once.
If the wages she was paying were not enough, she was willing to
raise them, but she wanted them distinctly to understand that as
she had built up the business herself, she was the only one who
had a right to manage it, adding that she would rather clean and
drive the horses herself than be dictated to by any person
outside. She said that she saw trouble brewing, and knew that her
men would feel it first. They must look out for themselves coming
home late at night. At the brewery strike, two years before,
hardly a day passed that some of the non-union men were not beaten
That night Carl came back again to the porch door, and in his
quiet, earnest way said: "We have t'ink 'bout da Union. Da men
not go--not laik da union man. We not 'fraid"--tapping his
hip-pocket, where, sailor-like, he always carried his knife
sheathed in a leather case.
Tom's eyes kindled as she looked into his manly face. She loved
pluck and grit. She knew the color of the blood running in this
young fellow's veins.
Week after week passed, and though now and then she caught the
mutterings of distant thunder, as Cully or some of the others
overheard a remark on the ferry-boat or about the post-office, no
other signs of the threatened storm were visible.
Then it broke.
One morning an important-looking envelope lay in her letter-box.
It was long and puffy, and was stamped in the upper corner with a
picture of a brewery in full operation. One end bore an
inscription addressed to the postmaster, stating that in case Mr.
Thomas Grogan was not found within ten days, it should be returned
to Schwartz & Co., Brewers.
The village post-office had several other letter-boxes, faced with
glass, so that the contents of each could be seen from the
outside. Two of these contained similar envelopes, looking
equally important, one being addressed to McGaw.
When he had called for his mail, the close resemblance between the
two envelopes seen in the letter-boxes set McGaw to thinking.
Actual scrutiny through the glass revealed the picture of the
brewery on each. He knew then that Tom had been asked to bid for
the brewery hauling. That night a special meeting of the Union
was called at eight o'clock. Quigg, Crimmins, and McGaw signed
"Hully gee, what a wad!" said Cully, when the postmaster passed
Tom's big letter out to him. One of Cully's duties was to go for
When Pop broke the seal in Tom's presence,--one of Pop's duties
was to open what Cully brought,--out dropped a type-written sheet
notifying Mr. Thomas Grogan that sealed proposals would be
received up to March 1st for "unloading, hauling, and delivering
to the bins of the Eagle Brewery" so many tons of coal and malt,
together with such supplies, etc. There were also blank forms in
duplicate to be duly filled up with the price and signature of the
bidder. This contract was given out once a year. Twice before it
had been awarded to Thomas Grogan. The year before a man from
Stapleton had bid lowest, and had done the work. McGaw and his
friends complained that it took the bread out of Rockville's
mouth; but as the bidder belonged to the Union, no protest could
The morning after the meeting of the Union, McGaw went to New York
by the early boat. He carried a letter from Pete Lathers, the
yardmaster, to Crane & Co., of so potent a character that the
coal-dealers agreed to lend McGaw five hundred dollars on his
three-months' note, taking a chattel mortgage on his teams and
carts as security, the money to be paid McGaw as soon as the
papers were drawn. McGaw, in return, was to use his "pull" to get
a permit from the village trustees for the free use of the village
dock by Crane & Co. for discharging their Rockville coal. This
would save Crane half a mile to haul. It was this promise made by
McGaw which really turned the scale in his favor. To hustle
successfully it was often necessary for Crane to cut some sharp
This dock, as McGaw knew perfectly well, had been leased to
another party--the Fertilizing Company--for two years, and could
not possibly be placed at Crane's disposal. But he said nothing
of this to Crane.
When the day of payment to McGaw arrived, Dempsey of the executive
committee and Walking Delegate Quigg met McGaw at the ferry on his
return from New York. McGaw had Crane's money in his pocket.
That night he paid two hundred dollars into the Union, two hundred
to his feed-man on an account long overdue, and the balance to
Quigg in a poker game in the back room over O'Leary's bar.
Tom also had an interview with Mr. Crane shortly after his
interview with McGaw. Something she said about the dock having
been leased to the Fertilizing Company caused Crane to leave his
chair in a hurry, and ask his clerk in an angry voice if McGaw had
yet been paid the money on his chattel mortgage. When his cashier
showed him the stub of the check, dated two days before, Crane
slammed the door behind him, his teeth set tight, little puffs of
profanity escaping between the openings. As he walked with Tom to
the door, he said:--
"Send your papers up, Tom, I'll go bond any day in the year for
you, and for any amount; but I'll get even with McGaw for that lie
he told me about the dock, if it takes my bank account."
The annual hauling contract for the brewery, which had become an
important one in Rockville, its business having nearly doubled in
the last few years, was of special value to Tom at this time, and
she determined to make every effort to secure it.
Pop filled up the proposal in his round, clear hand, and Tom
signed it, "Thomas Grogan, Rockville, Staten Island." Then Pop
witnessed it, and Mr. Crane, a few days later, duly inscribed the
firm's name under the clause reserved for bondsmen. After that
Tom brought the bid home, and laid it on the shelf over her bed.
Everything was now ready for the fight.
The bids were to be opened at noon in the office of the brewery.
By eleven o'clock the hangers-on and idlers began to lounge into
the big yard paved with cobblestones. At half past eleven McGaw
got out of a buggy, accompanied by Quigg. At a quarter to twelve
Tom, in her hood and ulster, walked rapidly through the gate, and,
without as much as a look at the men gathered about the office
door, pushed her way into the room. Then she picked up a chair
and, placing it against the wall, sat down. Sticking out of the
breast pocket of her ulster was the big envelope containing her
Five minutes before the hour the men began filing in one by one,
awkwardly uncovering their heads, and standing in one another's
way. Some, using their hats as screens, looked over the rims.
When the bids were being gathered up by the clerk, Dennis Quigg
handed over McGaw's. The ease with which Dan had raised the money
on his notes had invested that gentleman with some of the dignity
and attributes of a capitalist; the hired buggy and the obsequious
Quigg indicated this. His new position was strengthened by the
liberal way in which he had portioned out his possessions to the
workingman. It was further sustained by the hope that he might
perhaps repeat his generosities in the near future.
At twelve o'clock precisely Mr. Schwartz, a round, bullet-headed
German, entered the room, turned his revolving-chair, and began to
cut the six envelopes heaped up before him on his desk, reading
the prices aloud as he opened them in succession, the clerk
recording. The first four were from parties in outside villages.
Then came McGaw's:--
"Forty-nine cents for coal, etc."
So far he was lowest. Quigg twisted his hat nervously, and
McGaw's coarse face grew red and white by turns.
Tom's bid was the last.
"Thomas Grogan, Rockville, S.I., thirty-eight cents for coal,
"Gentlemen," said Mr. Schwartz, quietly, "Thomas Grogan gets the
POP MULLINS'S ADVICE
Almost every man and woman in the tenement district knew Oscar
Schwartz, and had felt the power of his obstinate hand during the
long strike of two years before, when, the Union having declared
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