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- The World For Sale, Volume 2. - 3/28 -
Ingolby walked on, seeing everything; yet with his mind occupied intently, too, on the trouble which must be faced before Lebanon and Manitou would be the reciprocating engines of his policy. Coming to a spot where a great gap of vacant land showed in the street-land which he had bought for the new offices of his railway combine--he stood and looked at it abstractedly. Beyond it, a few blocks away, was the Sagalac, and beyond the Sagalac was Manitou, and a little way to the right was the bridge which was the symbol of his policy. His eyes gazed almost unconsciously on the people and the horses and wagons coming and going upon the bridge. Then they were lifted to the tall chimneys rising at two or three points on the outskirts of Manitou.
"They don't know a good thing when they get it," he said to himself. "A strike--why, wages are double what they are in Quebec, where most of 'em come from! Marchand--"
A hand touched his arm. "Have you got a minute to spare, kind sir?" a voice asked.
Ingolby turned and saw Nathan Rockwell, the doctor. "Ah, Rockwell," he responded cheerfully, "two minutes and a half, if you like! What is it?"
The Boss Doctor, as he was familiarly called by every one, to identify him from the newer importations of medical men, drew from his pocket a newspaper.
"There's an infernal lie here about me," he replied. "They say that I--"
He proceeded to explain the misstatement, as Ingolby studied the paper carefully, for Rockwell was a man worth any amount of friendship.
"It's a lie, of course," Ingolby said firmly as he finished the paragraph. "Well?"
"Well, I've got to deal with it."
"You mean you're going to deny it in the papers?"
"I wouldn't, Rockwell."
"No. You never can really overtake a newspaper lie. Lots of the people who read the lie don't see the denial. Your truth doesn't overtake the lie--it's a scarlet runner."
"I don't see that. When you're lied about, when a lie like that--"
"You can't overtake it, Boss. It's no use. It's sensational, it runs too fast. Truth's slow-footed. When a newspaper tells a lie about you, don't try to overtake it, tell another."
He blinked with quizzical good-humour. Rockwell could not resist the audacity. "I don't believe you'd do it just the same," he retorted decisively, and laughing.
"I don't try the overtaking anyhow; I get something spectacular in my own favour to counteract the newspaper lie."
"In what way?"
"For instance, if they said I couldn't ride a moke at a village steeplechase, I'd at once publish the fact that, with a jack-knife, I'd killed two pumas that were after me. Both things would be lies, but the one would neutralize the other. If I said I could ride a moke, nobody would see it, and if it were seen it wouldn't make any impression; but to say I killed two mountain-lions with a jack-knife on the edge of a precipice, with the sun standing still to look at it, is as good as the original lie and better; and I score. My reputation increases."
Nathan Rockwell's equilibrium was restored. "You're certainly a wonder," he declared. "That's why you've succeeded."
"Have I succeeded?"
"Thirty-three-and what you are!"
"What am I?"
"Pretty well master here."
"Rockwell, that'd do me a lot of harm if it was published. Don't say it again. This is a democratic country. They'd kick at my being called master of anything, and I'd have to tell a lie to counteract it."
"But it's the truth, and it hasn't to be overtaken."
A grim look came into Ingolby's face. "I'd like to be master-boss of life and death, holder of the sword and balances, the Sultan, here just for one week. I'd change some things. I'd gag some people that are doing terrible harm. It's a real bad business. The scratch-your-face period is over, and we're in the cut-your-throat epoch."
Rockwell nodded assent, opened the paper again, and pointed to a column. "I expect you haven't seen that. To my mind, in the present state of things, it's dynamite."
Ingolby read the column hastily. It was the report of a sermon delivered the evening before by the Rev. Reuben Tripple, the evangelical minister of Lebanon. It was a paean of the Scriptures accompanied by a crazy charge that the Roman Church forbade the reading of the Bible. It had a tirade also about the Scarlet Woman and Popish idolatry.
Ingolby made a savage gesture. "The insatiable Christian beast!" he growled in anger. "There's no telling what this may do. You know what those fellows are over in Manitou. The place is full of them going to the woods, besides the toughs at the mills and in the taverns. They're not psalm-singing, and they don't keep the Ten Commandments, but they're savagely fanatical, and--"
"And there's the funeral of an Orangeman tomorrow. The Orange Lodge attends in regalia."
Ingolby started and looked at the paper again. "The sneaking, praying liar," he said, his jaw setting grimly. "This thing's a call to riot. There's an element in Lebanon as well that'd rather fight than eat. It's the kind of lie that--"
"That you can't overtake," said the Boss Doctor appositely; "and I don't know that even you can tell another that'll neutralize it. Your prescription won't work here."
An acknowledging smile played at Ingolby's mouth. "We've got to have a try. We've got to draw off the bull with a red rag somehow."
"I don't see how myself. That Orange funeral will bring a row on to us. I can just see the toughs at Manitou when they read this stuff, and know about that funeral."
"Yes, here's an invitation in the Budget to Orangemen to attend the funeral of a brother sometime of the banks of the Boyne!"
"Who's the Master of the Lodge?" asked Ingolby. Rockwell told him, urging at the same time that he see the Chief Constable as well, and Monseigneur Lourde at Manitou.
"That's exactly what I mean to do--with a number of other things. Between ourselves, Rockwell, I'd have plenty of lint and bandages ready for emergencies if I were you."
"I'll see to it. That collision the other day was serious enough, and it's gradually becoming a vendetta. Last night one of the Lebanon champions lost his nose."
"A French river-driver bit a third of it off."
Ingolby made a gesture of disgust. "And this is the twentieth century!"
They had moved along the street until they reached a barber-shop, from which proceeded the sound of a violin. "I'm going in here," Ingolby said. "I've got some business with Berry, the barber. You'll keep me posted as to anything important?"
"You don't need to say it. Shall I see the Master of the Orange Lodge or the Chief Constable for you?" Ingolby thought for a minute. "No, I'll tackle them myself, but you get in touch with Monseigneur Lourde. He's grasped the situation, and though he'd like to have Tripple boiled in oil, he doesn't want broken heads and bloodshed."
"I'll deal with him at once. I've got a hold on him. I never wanted to use it, but I will now without compunction. I have the means in my pocket. They've been there for three days, waiting for the chance."
"It doesn't look like war, does it?" said Rockwell, looking up the street and out towards the prairie where the day bloomed like a flower. Blue above--a deep, joyous blue, against which a white cloud rested or slowly travelled westward; a sky down whose vast cerulean bowl flocks of wild geese sailed, white and grey and black, while the woods across the Sagalac were glowing with a hundred colours, giving tender magnificence to the scene. The busy eagerness of a pioneer life was still a quiet, orderly thing, so immense was the theatre for effort and movement. In these wide streets, almost as wide as a London square, there was room to move; nothing seemed huddled, pushing, or inconvenient. Even the disorder of building lost its ugly crudity in the space and the sunlight.
"The only time I get frightened in life is when things look like that," Ingolby answered. "I go round with a life-preserver on me when it seems as if 'all's right with the world.'"
The violin inside the barber-shop kept scraping out its cheap music--a coon-song of the day.
"Old Berry hasn't much business this morning," remarked Rockwell. "He's in keeping with this surface peace."
"Old Berry never misses anything. What we're thinking, he's thinking. I go fishing when I'm in trouble; Berry plays his fiddle. He's a philosopher and a friend."
"You don't make friends as other people do."
"I make friends of all kinds. I don't know why, but I've always had a
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