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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Grain Of Dust: A Novel - Chapter 19
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The Grain Of Dust: A Novel - Chapter 19 Post by :Merger Category :Long Stories Author :David Graham Phillips Date :May 2012 Read :1703

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The Grain Of Dust: A Novel - Chapter 19


It was not many minutes after ten when Tetlow hurried into Norman's office. "Galloway's coming at eleven!" said he, with an air of triumph.

"So you mulled over what I said and decided that I was not altogether drunk?"

"I wasn't sure of that," replied Tetlow. "But I was afraid you'd be offended if I didn't try to get him. He gave me no trouble at all. As soon as I told him you'd be glad to see him at your office, he astounded me by saying he'd come."

"He and I have had dealings," said Norman. "He understood at once. I always know my way when I'm dealing with a big man. It's only the little people that are muddled and complex. I hope you'll not forget this lesson, Billy."

"I shan't," promised Tetlow.

"We are to be partners," pursued Norman. "We shall be intimately associated for years. You'll save me a vast amount of time and energy and yourself a vast amount of fuming and fretting, if you'll simply accept what I say, without discussion. When I want discussion I'll ask your advice."

"I'm afraid you don't think it's worth much," said Tetlow humbly, "and I guess it isn't."

"On the contrary, invaluable," declared Norman with flattering emphasis. "Where you lack and I excel is in decision and action. I'll often get you to tell me what ought to be done, and then I'll make you do it--which you'd never dare, by yourself."

At eleven sharp Galloway came, looking as nearly like a dangerous old eagle as a human being well could. Rapacious, merciless, tyrannical; a famous philanthropist. Stingy to pettiness; a giver away of millions. Rigidly honest, yet absolutely unscrupulous; faithful to the last letter of his given word, yet so treacherous where his sly mind could nose out a way to evade the spirit of his agreements that his name was a synonym for unfaithfulness. An assiduous and groveling snob, yet so militantly democratic that, unless his interest compelled, he would not employ any member of the "best families" in any important capacity. He seemed a bundle of contradictions. In fact he was profoundly consistent. That is to say, he steadily pursued in every thought and act the gratification of his two passions--wealth and power. He lost no seen opportunity, however shameful, to add to his fortune or to amuse himself with the human race, which he regarded with the unpitying contempt characteristic of every cold nature born or risen to success.

His theory of life--and it is the theory that explains most great financial successes, however they may pretend or believe--his theory of life was that he did not need friends because the friends of a strong man weaken and rob him, but that he did need enemies because he could grow rich and powerful destroying and despoiling them. To him friends suggested the birds living in a tree. They might make the tree more romantic to the unthinking observer; but they in fact ate its budding leaves and its fruit and rotted its bough joints with their filthy nests.

We Americans are probably nearest to children of any race in civilization. The peculiar conditions of life--their almost Arcadian simplicity--up to a generation or so ago, gave us a false training in the study of human nature. We believe what the good preacher, the novelist and the poet, all as ignorant of life as nursery books, tell us about the human heart. We fancy that in a social system modeled upon the cruel and immoral system of Nature, success is to the good and kind. Life is like the pious story in the Sunday-school library; evil is the exception and to practice the simple virtues is to tread with sure step the highway to riches and fame. This sort of ignorance is taught, is proclaimed, is apparently accepted throughout the world. Literature and the drama, representing life as it is dreamed by humanity, life as it perhaps may be some day, create an impression which defies the plain daily and hourly mockings of experience. Because weak and petty offenders are often punished, the universe is pictured as sternly enforcing the criminal codes enacted by priests or lawyers. But, while all the world half inclines to this agreeable mendacity about life, only in America of all civilization is the mendacity accepted as gospel, and suspicion about it frowned upon as the heresy of cynicism. So the Galloways prosper and are in high moral repute. Some day we shall learn that a social system which is merely a slavish copy of Nature's barbarous and wasteful sway of the survival of the toughest could be and ought to be improved upon by the intelligence of the human race. Some day we shall put Nature in its proper place as kindergarten teacher, and drop it from godship and erect enlightened human understanding instead. But that is a long way off. Meanwhile the Galloways will reign, and will assure us that they won their success by the Decalogue and the Golden Rule--and will be believed by all who seek to assure for themselves in advance almost certain failure at material success in the arena of action.

But they will not be believed by men of ambition, pushing resolutely for power and wealth. So Frederick Norman knew precisely what he was facing when Galloway's tall gaunt figure and face of the bird of prey appeared before him. Galloway had triumphed and was triumphing not through obedience to the Sunday sermons and the silly novels, poems, plays, and the nonsense chattered by the obscure multitudes whom the mighty few exploit, but through obedience to the conditions imposed by our social system. If he raised wages a little, it was in order that he might have excuse for raising prices a great deal. If he gave away millions, it was for his fame, and usually to quiet the scandal over some particularly wicked wholesale robbery. No, Galloway was not a witness to the might of altruistic virtue as a means to triumph. Charity and all the other forms of chicanery by which the many are defrauded and fooled by the few--those "virtues" he understood and practiced. But justice--humanity's ages-long dream that at last seems to glitter as a hope in the horizon of the future--justice--not legal justice, nor moral justice, but human justice--that idea would have seemed to him ridiculous, Utopian, something for the women and the children and the socialists.

Norman understood Galloway, and Galloway understood Norman. Galloway, with an old man's garrulity and a confirmed moral poseur's eagerness about appearances, began to unfold his virtuous reasons for the impending break with Burroughs--the industrial and financial war out of which he expected to come doubly rich and all but supreme. Midway he stopped.

"You are not listening," said he sharply to the young man.

Their eyes met. Norman's eyes were twinkling. "No," said he, "I am waiting."

There was the suggestion of an answering gleam of sardonic humor in Galloway's cold gray eyes. "Waiting for what?"

"For you to finish with me as father confessor, to begin with me as lawyer. Pray don't hurry. My time is yours." This with a fine air of utmost suavity and respect.

In fact, while Galloway was doddering on and on with his fake moralities, Norman was thinking of his own affairs, was wondering at his indifference about Dorothy. The night before--the few hours before--when he had dealt with her so calmly, he, even as he talked and listened and acted, had assumed that the enormous amount of liquor he had been consuming was in some way responsible. He had said to himself, "When I am over this, when I have had sleep and return to the normal, I shall again be the foolish slave of all these months." But here he was, sober, having taken only enough whisky to prevent an abrupt let-down--here he was viewing her in the same tranquil light. No longer all his life; no longer even dominant; only a part of life--and he was by no means certain that she was an important part.

How explain the mystery of the change? Because she had voluntarily come back, did he feel that she was no longer baffling but was definitely his? Or had passion running madly on and on dropped--perhaps not dead, but almost dead--from sheer exhaustion?--was it weary of racing and content to saunter and to stroll? . . . He could not account for the change. He only knew that he who had been quite mad was now quite sane. . . . Would he like to be rid of her? Did he regret that they were tied together? No, curiously enough. It was high time he got married; she would do as well as another. She had beauty, youth, amiability, physical charm for him. There was advantage in the fact that her inferiority to him, her dependence on him, would enable him to take as much or as little of her as he might feel disposed, to treat her as the warrior must ever treat his entire domestic establishment from wife down to pet dog or cat or baby. . . . No, he did not regret Josephine. He could see now disadvantages greater than her advantages. All of value she would have brought him he could get for himself, and she would have been troublesome--exacting, disputing his sway, demanding full value or more in return for the love she was giving with such exalted notions of its worth.

"You are married?" Galloway suddenly said, interrupting his own speech and Norman's thought.

"Yes," said Norman.

"Just married, I believe?"


Young and old, high and low, successful and failed, we are a race of advice-givers. As for Galloway, he was not one to neglect that showy form of inexpensive benevolence. "Have plenty of children," said he.

"And keep your family in the country till they grow up. Town's no place for women. They go crazy. Women--and most men--have no initiative. They think only about whatever's thrust at them. In the country it'll be their children and domestic things. In town it'll be getting and spending money."

Norman was struck by this. "I think I'll take your advice," said he.

"A man's home ought to be a retreat, not an inn. We are humoring the women too much. They are forgetting who earns what they spend in exhibiting themselves. If a woman wants that sort of thing, let her get out and earn it. Why should she expect it from the man who has undertaken her support because he wanted a wife to take care of his house and a mother for his children? If a woman doesn't like the job, all right. But if she takes it and accepts its pay, why, she should do its work."

"Flawless logic," said Norman.

"When I hire a man to work, he doesn't expect to idle about showing other people how handsome he is in the clothes my money pays for. Not that marriage is altogether a business--not at all. But, my dear sir--" And Galloway brought his cane down with the emphasis of one speaking from a heart full of bitter experience--"unless it is a business at bottom, organized and conducted on sound business principles, there's no sentiment either. We are human beings--and that means we are first of all _business beings, engaged in getting food, clothing, shelter. No sentiment--_no sentiment, sir, is worth while that isn't firmly grounded. It's a house without a foundation. It's a steeple without a church under it."

Norman looked at the old man with calm penetrating eyes. "I shall conduct my married life on a sound, business basis, or not at all," said he.

"We'll see," said Galloway. "That's what I said forty years ago--No, I didn't. I had no sense about such matters then. In my youth the men knew nothing about the woman question." He smiled grimly. "I see signs that they are learning."

Then as abruptly as he had left the affairs he was there to discuss he returned to them. His mind seemed to have freed itself of all irrelevancy and superfluity, as a stream often runs from a faucet with much spluttering and rather muddy at first, then steadies and clears. Norman gave him the attention one can get only from a good mind that is interested in the subject and understands it thoroughly. Such attention not merely receives the words and ideas as they fall from the mouth of him who utters them, but also seems to draw them by a sort of suction faster and in greater abundance. It was this peculiar ability of giving attention, as much as any other one quality, that gave Norman's clients their confidence in him. Galloway, than whom no man was shrewder judge of men, showed in his gratified eyes and voice, long before he had finished, how strongly his conviction of Norman's high ability was confirmed.

When Galloway ended, Norman rapidly and in clear and simple sentences summarized what Galloway had said. "That is right?" he asked.

"Precisely," said Galloway admiringly. "What a gift of clear statement you have, young man!"

"It has won me my place," said Norman. "As to your campaign, I can tell you now that the legal part of it can be arranged. That is what the law is for--to enable a man to do whatever he wants. The penalties are for those who have the stupidity to try to do things in an unlawful way."

Galloway laughed. "I had heard that they were for doing unlawful things."

"Nothing is unlawful," said Norman, "except in method."

"That's an interesting view of courts of justice."

"But we have no courts of justice. We have only courts of law."

Galloway threw back his head and laughed till the tears rolled down his cheeks. "What a gift for clear statement!" he cried.

Norman beamed appreciation of a compliment so flattering. But he went back to business. "As I was saying, you can do what you want to do. You wish me to show you how. In our modern way of doing things, the relation of lawyer and client has somewhat changed. To illustrate by this case, you are the bear with the taste for honey and the strength to rob the bees. I am the honey bird--that is, the modern lawyer--who can show you the way to the hive. Most of the honey birds--as yet--are content with a very small share of the honey--whatever the bear happens to be unable to find room for. But I--" Norman's eyes danced and his strong mouth curved in a charming smile--"I am a honey bird with a bear appetite."

Galloway was sitting up stiffly. "I don't quite follow you, sir," he said.

"Yet I am plain enough. My ability at clear statement has not deserted me. If I show you the way through the tangled forest of the law to this hive you scent--I must be a partner in the honey."

Galloway rose. "Your conceptions of your profession--and of me, I may say--are not attractive. I have always been, and am willing and anxious to pay liberally--more liberally than anyone else--for legal advice. But my business, sir, is my own."

Norman rose, his expression one of apology and polite disappointment. "I see I misunderstood your purpose in coming to me," said he. "Let us take no more of each other's time."

"And what did you think my object was in coming?" demanded Galloway.

"To get from me what you realized you could get nowhere else--which meant, as an old experienced trader like you must have known, that you were ready to pay my price. Of course, if you can get elsewhere the assistance you need, why, you would be most unwise to come to me."

Galloway moved toward the door. "And you might have charged practically any fee you wished," said he, laughing satirically. "Young man, you are making the mistake that is ruining this generation. You wish to get rich all at once. You are not willing to be patient and to work and to build your fortune solidly and slowly."

Norman smiled as at a good joke. "What an asset to you strong men has been the vague hope in the minds of the masses that each poor devil of them will have his turn to loot and grow rich. I used to think ignorance kept the present system going. But I have discovered that it is that sly, silly, corrupt hope. But, sir, it does not catch me. I shall not work for you and the other strong men, and patiently wait my turn that would never come. My time is _now_."

"You threaten me!" cried Galloway furiously.

"Threaten you?" exclaimed Norman, amazed.

"You think, because I have given you, my lawyer, my secrets, that you can compel me----"

With an imperious gesture Norman stopped him. "Good day, sir," he said haughtily. "Your secrets are safe with me. I am a lawyer, not a financier."

Galloway was disconcerted. "I beg your pardon, Mr. Norman," he said. "I misunderstood you. I thought I heard you say in effect that you purposed to be rich, and that you purposed to compel me to make you so."

"So I did," replied Norman. "But not by the methods you financiers are so adept at using. Not by high-class blackmail and blackjacking. I meant that my abilities were such that you and your fellow masters of modern society would be compelled to employ me on my own terms. A few moments ago you outlined to me a plan. It may be you can find other lawyers competent to steer it through the channel of the law. I doubt it. I may exaggerate my value. But--" He smiled pleasantly--"I don't think so."

In this modern world of ours there is no more delicate or more important branch of the art of material success than learning to play one's own tune on the trumpets of fame. To those who watch careers intelligently and critically, and not merely with mouth agape and ears awag for whatever sounds the winds of credulity bear, there is keen interest in noting how differently this high art is practiced by the fame-seekers--how well some modest heroes disguise themselves before essaying the trumpet, how timidly some play, how brazenly others. It is an art of infinite variety. How many there are who can echo Shakespeare's sad lament, through Hamlet's lips--"I lack advancement!" Those are they who have wholly neglected, as did Shakespeare, this essential part of the art of advancement--Shakespeare, who lived almost obscure and was all but forgotten for two centuries after his death.

Norman, frankly seeking mere material success, and with the colossal egotism that disdains egotism and shrugs at the danger of being accused of it--Norman did not hesitate to proclaim his own merits. He reasoned that he had the wares, that crying them would attract attention to them, that he whose attention was attracted, if he were a judge of wares and a seeker of the best, would see that the Norman wares were indeed as Norman cried them. At first blush Galloway was amused by Norman's candid self-esteem. But he had often heard of Norman's conceit--and in a long and busy life he had not seen an able man who was unaware of his ability; any more than he had seen a pretty woman unaware of her prettiness. So, at second blush, Galloway was tempted by Norman's calm strong blast upon his own trumpet to look again at the wares.

"I always have had a high opinion of you, young man," said he, with laughing eyes. "Almost as high an opinion as you have of yourself. Think over the legal side of my plan. When you get your thoughts in order, let me know--and make me a proposition as to your own share. Does that satisfy you?"

"It's all I ask," said Norman.

And they parted on the friendliest terms--and Norman knew that his fortune was assured, if Galloway lived another nine months. When he was alone, the sweat burst out upon him and, trembling from head to foot, he locked his door and flung himself at full length upon the rug. It was half an hour before the fit of silent hysterical reaction passed sufficiently to let him gather strength to rise. He tottered to his desk chair, and sat with his head buried in his arms upon the desk. After a while the telephone at his side rang insistently. He took the receiver in a hand he could not steady.

"Yes?" he called.

"It's Tetlow. How'd you come out?"

"Oh--" He paused to stiffen his throat to attack the words naturally--"all right. We go ahead."

"With G.?"

"Certainly. But keep quiet. Don't let him know you've heard, if you see him or he sends for you. Remember, it's in my hands entirely."

"Trust me." Tetlow's voice, suppressed and jubilant, suggested a fat, hoarse rooster trying to finish a crow before a coming stone from a farm boy reaches him. "It seems natural and easy to you, old man. But I'm about crazy with joy. I'll come right over."

"No. I'm going home."

"Can't I see you there?"

"No. I've other matters to attend to. Come about lunch time to-morrow--to the office, here."

"All right," said Tetlow disappointedly, and Norman rang off.

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The Grain Of Dust: A Novel - Chapter 20 The Grain Of Dust: A Novel - Chapter 20

The Grain Of Dust: A Novel - Chapter 20
CHAPTER XXIn the faces of men who have dominion of whatever kind over their fellow men--be it the brutal rule of the prize fighter over his gang or the apparently gentle sway of the apparently meek bishop over his loving flock--in the faces of all men of power there is a dangerous look. They may never lose their tempers. They may never lift their voices. They may be ever suave and civil. The dangerous look is there--and the danger behind it. And the sense of that look and of its cause has a certain restraining effect upon all but the hopelessly

The Grain Of Dust: A Novel - Chapter 18 The Grain Of Dust: A Novel - Chapter 18

The Grain Of Dust: A Novel - Chapter 18
CHAPTER XVIIIA few days later, Tetlow, having business with Norman, tried to reach him by telephone. After several failures he went to the hotel, and in the bar learned enough to enable him to guess that Norman was of on a mad carouse. He had no difficulty in finding the trail or in following it; the difficulty lay in catching up, for Norman was going fast. Not until late at night--that is, early in the morning--of the sixth day from the beginning of his search did he get his man. He was prepared to find a wreck, haggard, wildly nervous and