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"But the canal cannot afford a strike. I've always told you that."
"Yes, this canal cannot afford a strike. And so you go out and crush them, domineer over them, subdue them. And they have no chance at all. You broke that strike flat. You broke it, for no reason at all."
"No reason, Lucy?" His voice sounded wearily.
"I mean the men had no reason to give up. Nothing but your own obstinacy stood in their way. I could hate you for it."
"You do not really believe that."
"Yes," she said, with level eyes. "I could hate you for it. I don't know you; you are a strange man to me. You always have been. There was no reason why the men should not have struck. None at all. But you went out in front of the offices, and said nothing for a minute. Then you looked at them and told them to go to hell. And they did, to a hell of living conditions. They simply could not answer you. Neither can I. And I hate you for it."
"You cannot hate me, Lucy. Have you forgotten everything so soon? It all does not change like that. You could not hate me if you would.”
"You are impervious. I say it again. Because you are too sure of yourself. And I hate you for that."
Four miles away across the empty dunes a heavy black smudge lay in the haze of the southern horizon, showing where a tugboat was bringing some ship into the mouth of the river, beginning the long, tortuous passage up to the city, the passage which the new canal would make unnecessary. Michaelson gazed at the smoke, watching it fill out and spread and then dissolve in long, thin brown tatters floating in the hot sky.
"Do you see that?" he asked. "That is a ship going into the old channel. Do you know how the tides run in the river? She risks being wrecked there, any minute. But we are going to do away with all that. Think. Money saved, lives perhaps. More commerce coming that is afraid to now. And that means big enterprises, big things. Yes, I am sure of myself. This canal is going to be built, and if I have to domineer, as you call it, I shall have to."
"Commerce! How awful to balance commerce against the happiness of these human beings."-The trite phrase of the agitator was somehow ennobled by her earnestness.—“You are unfeeling."
Michaelson bent the full inspiration that was in him upon her. "See here, Lucy," he said, speaking slowly, carefully arranging his words, "I love you. Much or little? Qualifications of that sort are senseless. I love you. You will not know what that means. But I do.”
"You love me?" She stressed the word curiously. "Above anything else that you want? Above this canal of yours? Am I to believe that?"
"Yes. The love is not all. A man must have his work to give it some meaning. Don't you see? Something to tie up to. How can I say it? Something to give it foundation, reality. A man must have something to be sure of himself in. Listen; I am sure of myself, sure that I am engaged here in a thing that is worthy of all that I have. And that is why I can love you as I do. Without it I would not be a man; I could feel nothing, as I feel for you now."
"Feel for me! How can you say that?"
"Yes. You cannot appreciate it.
But you will.”
There was a pause. The affair was too ludicrously tragic. The girl laughed. "I think we have both been great fools. How infinitely stupid of us." Her voice was harsh.
"No, it was not stupid, and it is not, and it never will be. Not for me. Lucy, you are necessary to me, vitally necessary. You know it, you must know it, and you are trying to laugh it away to give yourself courage against me.
"You are needlessly dramatic. The thing is simple enough. Let it go at that, if you want to."
"It is quite simple, as you say. But I am not letting everything go at that. I found myself on two things: you and the canal. You confuse the issue. Of course the social work you did was important to you. Of course. Of course. But the canal is important to me-vastly so. And I tell you I shall drive the canal through, do you understand, to a finish. That is simple. Why cannot you see it?"
Michaelson looked down upon her, tall and straight as she was. He controlled her by the very vagueness of the power that was in him. "Don't-don't be silly," she faltered. "I believe you are dreaming."
He smiled, a little grimly. "Yes, perhaps I am something of a dreamer. But that makes it no different."
She was driven to self-assertion. She was obliged to cling to her personality as she felt it slipping from her into his. "You are wicked and blind," she burst out. "You are selfish, heartless, impervious !"
He stepped toward her and caught her by both elbows, holding her close to him so that she had to look at him. "It is you who are heartless, Lucy," he said, firmly enough. "And that is because you cannot understand. This canal will be built. It is a great work; it is my great work; and nothing, not even your fancies, will stand in the way."
She was still defiant. "But how about my work, then? Was I spending days and hours among these people to have you trample over the result in this way?"
"You are not playing fairly. Each of us had to use his own tools. I am the employer. If you want to support the employees against me, very well. But if I win, you must accept it. That goes without saying."
"But I won't accept!" "You will have to. canal-and sure of you.
Because I am sure of myself, sure of this
She looked at him, caught up in his arms as she was, her hair carelessly falling over her forehead, for a long time. Then she fell suddenly quite limp and beaten. "I can't touch you," she faltered. He released her silently. Together they went down the slope.....
That was Michaelson, who founded his soul upon two things, his wife and his work. He himself did not realize, perhaps, exactly how much of his life they were. That day, when he had stepped out in front of the office shanty and, facing the dissatisfied laborers, had cowed them back to their places by nothing but his own power of mastery, he had not known where his strength came from. As he stood there, seeing the break run through the crowd, watching as a visible phenomenon the strike
leaders' hold upon the men dissolve and fade into the air, he had wondered, detached, at this force of his that he could use to such effect-wondered a little, and then laughed to himself that they should feel it so, laughed at the absurdly little things that sway men's minds under these empty skies. And even now, when he had subdued his wife as he had subdued them, he smiled. It was after all a bit inexplicable, a bit threatening, and a bit 'silly. His life was such a ridiculously thin stream, swept up and down by such curious things, making such fantastic demands upon him. His wife had failed him, and he had conquered her. But he did not know what he had done. He knew only his guiding principle; he was sure; and with that to go on, there was nothing for it but forward. And so he drove his big steam shovels into the yielding hill, and in the evening when he went up to his home in the distant city, he sat silent at the supper table opposite to his silent wife who looked at him with her big eyes It was hard, but he was seeing it through.
The big cut was one of the final stages of the work. From the sea and from the river the channel had been brought up to each end of it by dredges, and the water was held out of it now by two dykes. A little more excavation was necessary, and then the cars and tracks and shovels were taken out, and the dykes were mined with dynamite. A party of men, the financial backers of the enterprise, came out from New York to see the water admitted. They sailed up the river on a smart steam-yacht, sitting on the after deck and drinking champagne under the awnings. Michaelson met them at the dock, helped them over the fenders, and put them into an automobile. Going back afterwards they patronized him among themselves; but now they were nothing but suavity.
The motor carried them up along the slope, and they got out and tramped through the sand to the edge of the cut to very much the same place where Michaelson and his wife had stood before. When the dykes were flung into the air, the explosions reverberating in the artificial valley, and the glittering water rushed in, eating its way here and there, driven by the full flood tide among the clods and dirt and sand, Michaelson felt a surge of exultation.
"Comes through like a house afire, doesn't it?" said one of the financiers curiously.
"Yes," said another. "Pretty, somehow, isn't it?"
"Lonely place out here, Mr. Michaelson," said a third, who was bored.
"Eh? Yes, sir," assented Michaelson, absently. It was an important moment for him, important in the midst of the inanities of the business men, He watched the waters tearing away the fragments of the dykes, rushing in, turning, boiling up angrily in one place, running smooth and oily and dirty with mud in another. They were blind, and powerful with the horribly sinister determination of the purposeless. The flood poured on with a strange likeness to the fantastics of humanity. It caught and swirled about a stone and carried it away.
The first banker laughed. "Got that old fellow. Did you see that?" The third yawned and played in the sand with his foot. Michaelson had a sudden feeling of aversion for them. Narrow things. This was his canal, not theirs He was the ruler of it, of the lonely cut, of the laborers, of the steam shovels and the dredges. His it was what reward there might be, and the sacrifice. These others were useful tools that supplied money just as the workmen supplied labor
"Pretty piece of work," said one. "Pleasant to get away from the city now and then on a junket like this. Interesting."
Michaelson looked at him rather intently. Michaelson was always a little imposing, always had a touch of the imperial about him. "Yes, sir," he said slowly. "You would be interested. It's a little more than interesting to me. A little more." The other turned away and took out a cigar case. to say. The engineer made the three of them feel a trifle foolish. They began a movement toward the automobile. Michaelson saw them back on board their yacht.
There was nothing
"Everything seems most satisfactory," they said to him. “You have our congratulations." He inclined his head, but did not thank them. The yacht cast off and went down the river.
"It all went off well," said one of his assistants beside him. "Yes, Peters, it's gone off well. Because it had to. of that. As long as I have anything to say to it."
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