Windy McPherson's Son
Sam was a half-grown man of fifteen when the call of the city came to him. For six years
he had been upon the streets. He had seen the sun come up hot and red over the corn
fields, and had stumbled through the streets in the bleak darkness of winter mornings,
when the trains from the north came into Caxton covered with ice, and the trainmen stood
on the deserted little platform whipping their arms and calling to Jerry Donlin to hurry
with his work that they might get back into the warm stale air of the smoking car.
In the six years the boy had grown more and more determined to become a man of
money. Fed by banker Walker, the silent mother, and in some subtle way by the very air
he breathed, the belief within him that to make money and to have money would in some
way make up for the old half-forgotten humiliations in the life of the McPherson family
and would set it on a more secure foundation than the wobbly Windy had provided, grew
and influenced his thoughts and his acts. Tirelessly he kept at his efforts to get ahead. In
his bed at night he dreamed of dollars. Jane McPherson had herself a passion for
frugality. In spite of Windy's incompetence and her own growing ill health, she would
not permit the family to go into debt, and although, in the long hard winters, Sam
sometimes ate cornmeal mush until his mind revolted at the thought of a corn field, yet
was the rent of the little house paid on the scratch, and her boy fairly driven to increase
the totals in the yellow bankbook. Even Valmore, who since the death of his wife had
lived in a loft above his shop and who was a blacksmith of the old days, a workman first
and a money maker later, did not despise the thought of gain.
"It is money makes the mare go," he said with a kind of reverence as banker Walker, fat,
sleek, and prosperous, walked pompously out of Wildman's grocery.
Of John Telfer's attitude toward money-making, the boy was uncertain. The man
followed with joyous abandonment the impulse of the moment.
"That's right," he cried impatiently when Sam, who had begun to express opinions at the
gatherings in the grocery, pointed out hesitatingly that the papers took account of men of
wealth no matter what their achievements, "Make money! Cheat! Lie! Be one of the men
of the big world! Get your name up for a modern, high-class American!"
And in the next breath, turning upon Freedom Smith who had begun to berate the boy for
not sticking to the schools and who predicted that the day would come when Sam would
regret his lack of book learning, he shouted, "Let the schools go! They are but musty beds
in which old clerkliness lies asleep!"
Among the travelling men who came to Caxton to sell goods, the boy, who had continued
the paper selling even after attaining the stature of a man, was a favourite. Sitting in
chairs before the New Leland House they talked to him of the city and of the money to be