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A Poor Wise Man (Chapter 37)
The strike had apparently settled down to the ordinary run of strikes. The newspaper men from New York were gradually recalled, as the mill towns became orderly, and no further acts of violence took place. Here and there mills that had gone down fired their furnaces again and went back to work, m any with depleted shifts, however.
But the strikers had lost, and knew it. Howard Cardew, facing the situation with his customary honesty, saw in the gradual return of the men to work only the urgency of providing for their families, and realized that it was not peace that was coming, but an armed neutrality. The Cardew Mills were still down, but by winter he was confident they would be open again. To what purpose? To more wrangling and bickering, more strikes? Where was the middle ground? He was willing to give the men a percentage of the profits they made. He did not want great wealth, only an honest return for his invested capital. But he wanted to manage his own business. It was his risk.
The coal miners were going out. The Cardews owned coal mines. The miners wanted to work a minimum day for a maximum wage, but the country must have coal. Shorter hours meant more men for the mines, and they would have to be imported. But labor resented the importation of foreign workers.
Again, what was the answer?
Still, he was grateful for peace. The strike dragged on, with only occasional acts of violence. From the hill above Baxter a sniper daily fired with a long range rifle at the toluol tank in the center of one of the mills, and had so far escaped capture, as the tank had escaped damage. But he knew well enough that a long strike was playing into the hands of the Reds. It was impossible to sow the seeds of revolution so long as a man's dinner-pail was full, his rent paid, and his family contented. But a long strike, with bank accounts becoming exhausted and credit curtailed, would pave the way for revolution.