Informational Site NetworkInformational Site Network
Privacy
 
   Home - Science Fiction Stories - Western Stories


The End Of The Silent Campaign








From: Still Jim

"The dream in them of a greater good lifts humans from the
level of brutes. Take this dream from them and they are like
quenched comets."

MUSINGS OF THE ELEPHANT.


It was Oscar's turn to get to his feet. "Manning," he said, "ain't you
learned your lesson yet? Who was it kicked me out of the dirty political
scrape I was getting into and made me see straight? Huh? Who was it?
Well, it was my wife. And who woke my wife up? It was Mrs. Pen, wasn't
it? And who, by your own admission, showed you things you'd been seeing
crooked all your life? Huh? 'Twas Mrs. Pen, wasn't it? You're as
moss-bound in lots of ways as a farmer. Now I've learned my lesson. I'm
willing to admit that women folks has got intuitions that beat our fine
ideas all hollow. She may not do us any good. But I want to know what
she thinks about things. I'll be yelling votes for women next. Gimme her
address. I'm going to send her a night message they'll have to use an
adding machine to count the words in."

"What can be done in a week?" asked Jim, with his first show of
irritation. "I won't have her bothered, I tell you."

"Still Jim," said Uncle Denny, "do you suppose she's thought of anything
else but the situation out here, excepting, of course, poor Sara? And
Pen's Irish! Even long distance fighting has charms for her."

Henderson looked at Jim's dark circled eyes and his compressed lips. "Go
to bed, Boss," he said in his tender voice. "See if you can't get some
sleep. You have done your best. Is there anyone in the valley you ain't
seen yet?"

"Two or three," said Jim.

"See them," said Henderson. "We are going to put up a fight to keep you
here, Mr. Manning."

Jim started for his bedroom door, then he came back and said slowly: "I
don't want you fellows to misunderstand me. I'm the least important item
in this matter. I admit that it's crucifying me to leave the dam, but
there is no doubt they can find a better man than I am for the job. I
woke up too late. You folks must keep on in one last fight against
Fleckenstein. For Fleckenstein stands for repudiation. Repudiation means
the undermining of the basic principle of the Reclamation Service. And
the loss of that principle means the loss of the Projects as a great
working ideal for America. It was that principle that was the real
kernel of the New England dream in this country. We've got to work not
so much for equality in freedom as for equality in responsibility to the
nation. Don't waste a moment on keeping me here. Make one last effort to
defeat Fleckenstein."

Then Jim went into his room and closed the door.

When he had gone, Murphy said in a low voice: "It's too late to lick
Fleckenstein. Are we going to lie down on the Boss losing his job,
boys?"

"Not till I've beaten the face off Fleckenstein," said Henderson,
softly.

"I want to get in touch with Mrs. Pen," said Oscar Ames.

"Aw, forget it, Ames!" said Murphy. "I don't doubt she's a smart girl,
but this is no suffragette meeting."

"Don't try to start anything," said Oscar. "Wait till you're married for
thirty years like me and maybe you'll have learned a thing or two."

"Don't quarrel, boys," said Uncle Denny. "Me heart is like lead within
me. How can I think of Jim as anywhere but with the Service?"

"If he goes, I go," said Henderson. "The only reason I stayed up on the
Makon was because of him. What's the matter with the wooden heads in
this country? I'd like to be fool killer for a year."

Murphy was chewing his cigar. "You'd have to commit suicide if you was,"
he said. "I've tried everything against Fleckenstein except the one way
to swing votes in America and that's with whiskey or dollars. Under the
circumstance we can't use either. I'm going to turn in. I'm at the end
of my rope."

Henderson followed Murphy to the door. Oscar Ames forgot to lower his
voice. He squared his big shoulders and shouted: "You blame quitters! I
ain't ashamed to ask women for ideas if you are. The women got me into
this fight and I'll bet they get me out."

He nodded belligerently at Uncle Denny and strode out into the night.
Uncle Denny, left alone in the living room, stood long on the hearthrug,
talking to himself and now and again shaking his head despondently.

"I mind how after he found himself, he was always making trails in front
of the old fireplace in the brownstone front. I mind how he first heard
of the Reclamation Service. 'How'd you like that, Uncle Denny,' he said,
'James Manning, U.S.R.S.' What'll he do now, poor lad?

"Thank God his father's dead, for if he felt worse than I do he'd kill
himself. No! No! I'll not say that! He'd have felt like meself that
'twas worth all the sorrow to hear Still put his idea ahead of himself
as he did tonight. That's the test of a man's sincerity. And in her
heart, his mother'll be glad. She's always worried lest he get killed on
one of his dams, bless her heart."

Uncle Denny moved about the room, closing the door and putting away the
cigars. He picked Jim's hat off the floor and patted it softly as he
hung it up.

"What'll he do now, poor boy?" he murmured. Then he turned out the light
and went to bed.

Jim received a message the next morning, saying that a certain Herr
Gluck would reach the dam that afternoon.

"And who is he?" asked Uncle Denny.

"He's an engineer the German government is sending over to see some of
the stunts I've been doing on the dam," said Jim. "I'll show him round,
then I'll turn him over to you for the hour before supper. I want to see
old Miguel, who is coming up to the dam."

"I'm itching to lay hands on him. Does he speak English?"

Jim laughed. "Better than I do. He's written me a couple of times."

Jim brought Herr Gluck in over the great road. The German was full of
enthusiasm. "Blasted from solid rock! How not like America! This was
built for the future! How did you come to do it?"

Jim smiled and shrugged his shoulders.

"You belong not to this country," Herr Gluck went on, "you belong to the
old world where they build for their descendants."

Jim thoroughly enjoyed the long afternoon on the dam with the German.
Herr Gluck's questions were searching and invigorating. They took Jim
out of himself and he showed Herr Gluck a scientific knowledge and
enthusiasm that few people were fitted to appreciate.

At five o'clock Jim took Herr Gluck up to his house and turned him over
to Uncle Denny. The rotund, flaxen-haired German and the rotund,
gray-haired Irishman took stock of each other. Uncle Denny moved two
chairs before the open door.

Herr Gluck sat down. "Himmel! What beauty!" he exclaimed, as the faint
lavender distances with the far mountains flashing sunset gold met his
gaze. "Not strange that Mr. Manning has enthusiasm."

Uncle Denny sighed in a relieved way as if he had catalogued the
newcomer.

"They say," said Dennis, "that a man must close his soul to the Big
Country or else he will become great or go mad. And do you think me boy
has done good work here, Herr Gluck?"

The German made some extraordinary rings of smoke and nodded his head
slowly. "He has done some daring things well that may not be great in
themselves, but they show imagination. That is the point. He has
imagination. Many are the engineers who are accurate, who are
trustworthy, but imagination, creative ability, no! You observe the
shape of his head, his jaw, his hands--the dreamer, urged into action.
And the impudence of his sand-cement idea! In my country we dare make
our concrete only very rich. He shows me this afternoon that diluted
rightly with sand, cement can be made stronger." Herr Gluck chuckled
delightedly.

Uncle Denny almost purred. "He was so as a lad. He was captain of his
school football teams because he could think of more wild tactics than
all the rest of them put together. And always got away with them,
looking sad and never an unnecessary word."

Herr Gluck nodded. "He is so valuable here that I think it not possible
I get him to come to Germany yet?"

Michael Dennis got red in the face and took a long breath. "But they
don't appreciate him here. He's been asked to resign in a few days now."

The German's round eyes grew rounder. "Nein! And why? Has he got into
foolishness? He is young, they must remember."

"It's a long tale," said Uncle Denny, "but I'll tell it to you," and he
plunged into the story of the Project.

Herr Gluck listened breathlessly.

"And so you see," Dennis ended, "that for all he has done he feels he's
failed, for everything the dam has stood for in his mind has come to
naught. And that's a bad feeling for a man as young as Jim. He'll never
readjust himself, Jim won't. He can get another job but his life's big
dream will have gone to smash. His inspiration will be gone. And what
will he do then, poor boy?"

"But it's impossible," persisted Herr Gluck. "He's a valuable man. It is
not possible they would dismiss him. Some day when he is older he will
do great things your country can't afford to lose. What is the matter
with your Head of the Service?"

"Impossible!" snorted Uncle Denny. "Impossible! The word is not in the
vocabulary of the American politician. The Director is all right, a fine
clean fellow. But he can't help himself. It's either Jim or the Project
to be smirched. They won't be satisfied, the politicians, till they get
the Service attached to the Spoils system. What do they care for
scientific achievement? Soul of me soul! I'd like to be Secretary of the
Interior for fifteen minutes. I'd discharge everyone in the Department,
ending with meself."

Herr Gluck was visibly excited. "I tell you it is not possible! He's a
great engineer in the making? They cannot know it or they would not so
do."

Uncle Denny lost patience. "I'm telling you it is so! Don't you know
that nothing is impossible to ignorant men?" he shouted. "Didn't
ignorance crucify Christ? Didn't the ignorant make Galileo deny his
world was round? Didn't ignorance burn Joan of Arc at the stake? Every
advance the world has made has been with bloody footsteps. Don't we
always kill the man in the vanguard and use his body as a bridge to
cross the gulf of our own fear and ignorance? I tell you, I fear
ignorance!"

Herr Gluck rose and shook his plump fist in Uncle Denny's face. "Those
are days gone by in my country," he roared. "They may be true in this
raw land or in besotted Ireland, but in the Fatherland we worship brain.
Do not include the Fatherland in your recriminations! Once in a while
you accomplish great things in your foolish country here with its
hysteria and frothing and bubbling. But come to my country if you would
see the quiet patient advance of noble science with scientists revered
like kings."

"There were colleges in Ireland," shouted Uncle Denny, "when your
ancestors were wearing fur breech clouts and using cairns for books!"

Jim came slowly up the trail and Uncle Denny and Herr Gluck sat down a
little sheepishly. Herr Gluck did not waste any time in preliminaries as
Jim came in the door.

"Your Uncle tells me of the trouble here on the dam," he said. "My
government is undertaking some great work which I will describe to you.
We will make you a formal offer if you will it consider."

Jim sat down in the doorway, pulled off his hat and looked up into the
German's face. Herr Gluck concisely and clearly outlined the work. Jim
listened intently, then as Herr Gluck finished and waited for Jim's
answer, the young engineer looked away.

He saw the Elephant dominating the river and desert, guarding and
waiting--for what? Jim wondered. He saw the far road that he had built,
winding into the dim mountains. For a long time he sat battling with
himself in the flood of emotion that rose within him. It really had
come, he realized, with Herr Gluck's offer. He actually was to turn his
work over to another man to finish. The two older men watched him
intently.

Finally Jim said: "The New England stock in this country is
disappearing, Herr Gluck. Perhaps we are no longer needed. At any rate
we haven't been strong enough to stay. This dam has been more than a dam
to me. It has meant something like, 'Anglo-Saxons; their mark; by Jim
Manning.' Some other man will finish the dam quite as well as I, but I
don't think he will have my dream about it."

Herr Gluck leaned forward and said: "We all are Teutons, one family.
That is why we always have quarreled. But we understand each other. Come
to Germany and build for other Teutons, since they will not have you
here."

"An expatriate! Poor dad!" muttered Jim. Then he said, in his quiet
drawl, "I'll come, but you'll be getting only half a man."

The German looked away. He was a scientist, yet he was of a nation that
had produced Goethe as well as Weismann and his heart was quick to
respond to truth, shot with the rainbow tints of vision.

"I know!" he said. "I know! Man needs the impulse of national pride and
honor behind his mind. There are those that claim that they achieve for
human kind and not for their own race alone. But I doubt it. After all,
Goethe spoke for Deutschland, Darwin spoke for England. Therefrom came
their greatness. And yet if they will not have you here, dear
friend--Ach Himmel, I cannot urge thee! Come if thou wilt!"

Herr Gluck broke off abruptly to turn to Uncle Denny. "Who is the
highest authority in this Service?"

"The Secretary of the Interior," said Uncle Denny. "Come, we must eat
supper or Mrs. Flynn will be using force on us."

Jim took Herr Gluck over to the midnight train. The German was very
quiet, but Jim was even more so. As Jim left him Herr Gluck said: "Keep
a good heart, dear friend. I shall say a few truths myself before I have
finished."

Jim shook hands heartily. "There is nothing to be done, Herr Gluck, but
I'm grateful for your sympathy. You will hear from me about the new
work," and he drove off in the darkness, leaving Herr Gluck in the hands
of the ranchers Marshall and Miguel, who had spent the afternoon and
evening at the dam, and were going to Cabillo by train.

Jim had received no answer from the Secretary of the Interior to his
last letter. He was a little puzzled and hurt. There had been one
flashing look pass between himself and the Secretary at the May hearing
that had stayed with Jim as though it had declared a friendship that
needed neither words nor personal association to give it permanence. Jim
had counted on that friendship, not to save him his job, but to save his
idea. No answer had come to his letter. Jim believed that the story of
the interview with Freet had finally destroyed the Secretary's faith in
his integrity.

Pen had written a long letter jointly to Jim and Uncle Denny some two
weeks after leaving the dam. It was the first word they had had except
through telegrams. Sara's will had been read. He had left Pen all his
property, which was enough to yield a living income for her. Pen
enclosed a copy of the note Sara had left her with his papers.

"You have always felt bitter at my stinginess. But I knew that I could
not live long and I wanted to repay you for your care of me. I did not
spend an unnecessary cent nor did I let you. I have been ugly but it
didn't matter to you. I knew you didn't care for me and so I didn't try
to be decent."

Uncle Denny shook his head over this note. "No human soul but has its
white side, and there you are! I hope I'll never sit in judgment on
another human being."

"Has she any comment on Sara's note?" asked Jim, who was resting on the
couch while Uncle Denny read the letter to him.

Uncle Denny looked on the reverse side of the sheet. Pen had written:
"This touches me very much. But when I consider the sources of poor
Sara's money I can't bear to touch it. I am arranging to give it to the
home for paralytic children. I hope that both of you will approve of my
doing so."

The two men stared at each other and Jim said nothing. He was consumed
by such a longing for Pen that he scarcely dared speak her name. But
Uncle Denny nodded complacently and said:

"You can always bet on Pen!"

The day after Herr Gluck's visit there was to be a political rally of
the Fleckenstein forces at Cabillo. To the great relief of Dennis and
his two henchmen, Jim made no move to attend the meeting. The first
concrete pouring on the last section of the foundation was to be made
that day and Jim was engrossed with it. Fleckenstein was late in getting
to the meeting. This, too, was better luck than the three conspirators
had hoped for. The meeting was made up almost entirely of farmers who
wanted to hear Fleckenstein's last statement of his pledges.

Before the chairman called the meeting to order, Oscar Ames mounted the
platform and asked permission to say a few words while the audience
waited for Fleckenstein. Oscar then put forth the great effort of his
life.

He squared his great shoulders and threw back his tawny head.

"Fellow citizens, there is a great disgrace coming onto this community.
You all know the Project engineer, James Manning. Well, there ain't been
anyone who's fought him harder or made him more trouble till lately than
I have. But lately, fellow citizens, I've got to know him. I tell you
right now that he's the smartest fellow that ever come into these parts.
He's got some ideas that I'm not smart enough myself to understand, but
I do know enough to realize that if he gets a chance to carry them out
he'll make this Project the center of America!"

Oscar paused and someone called, "Go it, Oscar! Throw her in to low and
you'll make it!"

"Well, fellow citizens, Fleckenstein and his crowd and all the rest of
us, helping with kicks, have worked it so that Jim Manning has been
asked to resign. They tell him that he's so unpopular here that the
Service can't afford to keep him. Understand that? In other words, we
farmers are such fools that we can't appreciate a good man just because
his ideas differ from ours. But we can go crazy over a man like
Fleckenstein because he'll take the trouble to jolly us. Fellow
citizens, I ask you, are you going to sit by while the man that would
make this Project into a valley empire is kicked out?"

Oscar stood for a moment glaring at his grinning hearers. Murphy climbed
up beside him and shoved him aside.

"Down with the Irish!" yelled someone.

"You never paid me the fifty dollars you ran up for whiskey in my
saloon, Henry," replied Murphy.

There was a roar of laughter and Murphy followed it quickly. "You all
know me. I was in the saloon business in this valley for twenty years.
But not one of you can say I wasn't on the straight all that time. The
nearest I ever come to doing a man dirt was up in the dam. I was running
a saloon just off the Reserve and Big Boss Manning jumped me and made me
clean out my own joint. I was mad and I went up to the Greek there, who
since is dead, for I heard the Greek was backed by Big Money with which
he backed Fleckenstein to do the Service. Says I to myself, I'll help
the Greek to do Manning.

"But the Greek cursed me out as I'll stand from no man. Then they took
me to Manning and he treated me like a gentleman and asked me for my
word of honor to keep off the Project. I know men. And I saw that the
fellow I'd set out to do was a real man, carrying a load that was too
big for the likes of me to sabez and that it made him sad and lonely. I
was sick of the saloon business, anyhow, and when I got his number, I
was proud to have been licked by him. Do you get me? Proud! And I says,
I'm his friend for life and I'll just keep an eye on the pikers who are
trying to do him.

"And I have. You know me, boys. You know that after the priest and the
doctor it's the saloonkeeper that knows a man's number. Let me tell you
that Fleckenstein is a crook. He'll steal anything from a woman's honor
to a water power site. He's playing you folks for suckers. He's having
everything his own way. Charlie Ives is the only fellow who's had the
nerve to run against Fleckenstein and he's a dead one.

"And now Fleckenstein has done the Big Boss. He's made monkeys of you
farmers. He's got you to roasting Manning till you've ruined him. And
they ain't one of us fit to black his boots. This Project is his life's
blood to him. There isn't anything he would[n't] sacrifice to its
welfare. And you're throwing him out. Ain't a man's sacrifice worth
anything to you? Will you take his best and give him the Judas kiss in
return? Are ye hogs or men?"

There was an angry buzz in the room. Just as Uncle Denny started upon
the platform, a tall lank farmer whom the man next him had been nudging
violently, rose.

"My name's Marshall," he said, "and my friend Miguel here says I gotta
get up and say the few things he and I agreed on last night. I'm mighty
sick of hearing us farmers called fools. And now even the women folks
have begun it. When our wives won't give us any peace maybe it's time we
reformed our judgments. I'm willing to say that I think I've been
mistaken about Manning. He came over to my place for the first time a
few weeks back. I never talked with him before or got a good look at
him. Boys, a man don't get the look that that young fella has on his
face unless he's full of ideas that folks will kick him for. I felt kind
of worked up about him then, but I didn't do anything.

"Last night I rode down to Cabillo with a Dutchman, some big bug who'd
been up at the dam. I'd just been up there with Miguel. He told us that
Jim Manning is attracting notice in the old country by the work he's
doing on this dam. And he roasted us as samples of fat cattle who'd let
a man like Manning go. At least that's what I made out, for he was so
mad he talked Dutch a lot. Miguel and I made up our minds then that we'd
got in wrong. What has this fellow Fleckenstein ever done for us? Is he
going to get us branded over the country as a bunch that'll jump an
honest debt? It looks to me as if Manning had done more for us than we
knew. I'm willing to give Manning a new chance. I move we turn this
meeting into a Manning meeting and I move we send a petition to the
Secretary of the Interior to keep Manning on the job."





Next: The Thumb Print

Previous: Sara Goes On A Journey



Add to del.icio.us Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Del.icio.us Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon
Add to Informational Site Network
Report
Privacy
SHAREADD TO EBOOK


Viewed 419