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A Poor Wise Man

Chapter 12
Howard Cardew was in his dressing room, sitting before the fire. His man had put
out his dinner clothes and retired, and Howard was sifting before the fire rather
listlessly.
In Grace's room, adjoining, he could hear movements and low voices. Before
Lily's return, now and then when he was tired Grace and he had dined by the fire
in her boudoir. It had been very restful. He was still in love with his wife, although,
as in most marriages, there was one who gave more than the other. In this case
it was Grace who gave, and Howard who received. But he loved her. He never
thought of other women. Only his father had never let him forget her
weaknesses.
Sometimes he was afraid that he was looking at Grace with his father's eyes,
rather than his own.
He had put up a hard fight with his father. Not about Grace. That was over and
done with, although it had been bad while it lasted. But his real struggle had been
to preserve himself, to keep his faiths and his ideals, and even his personality. In
the inessentials he had yielded easily, and so bought peace. Or perhaps a truce,
of a sort. But for the essentials he was standing with a sort of dogged conviction
that if he lowered his flag it would precipitate a crisis. He was not brilliant, but he
was intelligent, progressive and kindly. He knew that his father considered him
both stupid and obstinate.
There was going to be a strike. The quarrel now was between Anthony's curt "Let
them strike," and his own conviction that a strike at this time might lead to even
worse things. 'The men's demands were exorbitant. No business, no matter how
big, could concede them and live. But Howard was debating another phase of the
situation.
Not all the mills would go down. A careful canvass of some of the other
independent concerns had shown the men eighty, ninety, even one hundred per
cent, loyal. Those were the smaller plants, where there had always been a
reciprocal good feeling between the owners and the men; there the men knew
the owners, and the owners knew the men, who had been with them for years.
But the Cardew Mills would go down. There had been no liaison between the
Cardews and the workmen. The very magnitude of the business forbade that.
And for many years, too, the Cardews had shown a gross callousness to the
welfare of the laborers. Long ago he had urged on his father the progressive
attitude of other steel men, but Anthony had jeered, and when Howard had
 
 
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