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Page:Stanwood Pier--The ancient grudge.djvu/270

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A PHILANTHROPIST'S IDEA

great new corporation, they would not suffer; but after his term had passed there would be a gradual leveling. The works at New Rome might always perhaps retain a certain prestige, but their independence was doomed, and in time there would be inevitably a scaling down of men and of wages. Floyd imagined the dismay in thousands of families when they should learn that the paternal care of a generous and indulgent employer was to be exchanged for the iron rule of a corporation to which there could never be any human appeal.

Colonel Halket moved quickly. The newspapers the next morning contained an outline of the "rumored" combination, mentioning three or four of the most important works that would be included, pointing out equally the advantages to capitalist and to employee. "The Halket Steel Works," said the article, "will of course form the backbone of the new organization—of which it may not be premature to assert that Colonel Halket will be president. The total capital of this stupendous combine will run up into the hundreds of millions."

Floyd went that morning to New Rome. He had business with the superintendent; when it was finished Gregg leaned back and said,—

"Mr. Halket, did you read the paper this morning?"

His face was anxious.

"Yes," said Floyd.

"Can you tell me if there's anything in that report—about a big steel combine which is to take in Halket & Company?"

"I knew nothing about it till last night," Floyd answered. "Then I had a talk with my grandfather. Yes, I think what is in the paper is substantially true. Of course the plan is only under contemplation. It may never be tried,—though I'm inclined to think it will be."

Gregg rolled a little cylinder of paper and turned it round and round in his fingers.

"Well," he said slowly, "it will make the old man