Windy McPherson's Son
It was a wonderful place, that South Water Street in Chicago where Sam came to make
his business start in the city, and it was proof of the dry unresponsiveness in him that he
did not sense more fully its meaning and its message. All day the food stuff of a vast city
flowed through the narrow streets. Blue-shirted, broad-shouldered teamsters from the
tops of high piled wagons bawled at scurrying pedestrians. On the sidewalks in boxes,
bags, and barrels, lay oranges from Florida and California, figs from Arabia, bananas
from Jamaica, nuts from the hills of Spain and the plains of Africa, cabbages from Ohio,
beans from Michigan, corn and potatoes from Iowa. In December, fur-coated men hurried
through the forests of northern Michigan gathering Christmas trees that found their way
to warm firesides through the street. And summer and winter a million hens laid the eggs
that were gathered there, and the cattle on a thousand hills sent their yellow butter fat
packed in tubs and piled upon trucks to add to the confusion.
Into this street Sam walked, thinking little of the wonder of these things and thinking
haltingly, getting his sense of the bigness of it in dollars and cents. Standing in the
doorway of the commission house for which he was to work, strong, well clad, able and
efficient, he looked through the streets, seeing and hearing the hurry and the roar and the
shouting of voices, and then with a smile upon his lips went inside. In his brain was an
unexpressed thought. As the old Norse marauders looked at the cities sitting in their
splendour on the Mediterranean so looked he. "What loot!" a voice within him said, and
his brain began devising methods by which he should get his share of it.
Years later, when Sam was a man of big affairs, he drove one day in a carriage through
the streets and turning to his companion, a grey-haired, dignified Boston man who sat
beside him, said, "I worked here once and used to sit on a barrel of apples at the edge of
the sidewalk thinking how clever I was to make more money in one month than the man
who raised the apples made in a year."
The Boston man, stirred by the sight of so much foodstuff and moved to epigram by his
mood, looked up and down the street.
"The foodstuff of an empire rattling o'er the stones," he said.
"I should have made more money here," answered Sam dryly.
The commission firm for which Sam worked was a partnership, not a corporation, and
was owned by two brothers. Of the two Sam thought that the elder, a tall, bald, narrow-
shouldered man, with a long narrow face and a suave manner, was the real master, and
represented most of the ability in the partnership. He was oily, silent, tireless. All day he
went in and out of the office and warehouses and up and down the crowded street,
sucking nervously at an unlighted cigar. He was a great worker in a suburban church, but
a shrewd and, Sam suspected, an unscrupulous business man. Occasionally the minister
or some of the women of the suburban church came into the office to talk with him, and