Patience Wins: War in the WorksGeorge Manville Fenn
Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England
Patience Wins; or, War in the Works, by George Manville Fenn.
The boy hero of the book, his father and his three uncles live inCanonbury, London, and run a factory in Bermondsey, the other side ofthe Thames in London. But they feel they need to expand, and they buy asteel working business in the North of England. Here they try tointroduce various profitable practices, such as improved methods forworking the steel, and various ingenious and new items of factoryequipment.
But these new ideas are objected-to by the Trades Unions, and thedespicable behaviour of the work-force is due to this attitude. Allsorts of the most dreadful and wicked deeds are perpetrated, andunpleasant things are done to the few workmen who seem to be cominground to sense. The Uncles reflect on how much more amenable andsensible a London workforce would have been in the same circumstances.But eventually various incidents occur in which it can be seen whatexcellent people the hero and his Uncles really are, and the whole townstarts to welcome them. Hence the title of the book--"Patience Wins".
It's not a long book, but there is plenty of action. It is not in thegeneral tradition of Manville Fenn books, but it is a very good read.
PATIENCE WINS; OR, WAR IN THE WORKS, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.
A FAMILY COUNCIL.
"I say, Uncle Dick, do tell me what sort of a place it is."
"Oh, you'll see when you get there!"
"Uncle Jack, you tell me then; what's it like?"
"Like! What, Arrowfield? Ask Uncle Bob."
"There, Uncle Bob, I'm to ask you. Do tell me what sort of a place itis?"
"Get out, you young nuisance!"
"What a shame!" I said. "Here are you three great clever men, who knowall about it; you've been down half a dozen times, and yet you won'tanswer a civil question when you are asked."
I looked in an ill-used way at my three uncles, as they sat at the tablecovered with papers; and except that one would be a little darker thanthe other, I could not help thinking how very much they were alike, andat the same time like my father, only that he had some grey coming atthe sides of his head. They were all big fine-looking men betweenthirty and forty, stern enough when they were busy, but wonderfullygood-tempered and full of fun when business was over; and I'm afraidthey spoiled me.
When, as I say, business was over, they were ready for anything with me,and though I had a great feeling of reverence, almost dread, for myfather, my three big uncles always seemed to me like companions, andthey treated me as if I were their equal.
Cricket! Ah! Many's the game we've had together. They'd take mefishing, and give me the best pitch, and see that I caught fish if theydid not.
Tops, marbles, kite-flying, football; insect and egg collecting;geology, botany, chemistry; they were at home with all, and I shared inthe game or pursuit as eagerly as they.
I've known the time when they'd charge into the room at Canonbury, whereI was busy with the private tutor--for I did not go to school--with "MrHeadley, Mr Russell would like to speak to you;" and as soon as he hadleft the room, seize hold of me, and drag me out of my chair with, "Comealong, Cob: work's closed for the day. _Country_!"
Then away we'd go for a delicious day's collecting, or something of thekind.
They used to call it slackening their bands, and mine.
Time had glided on very happily till I was sixteen, and there was sometalk of my being sent to a great engineer's establishment for five orsix years to learn all I could before being taken on at our own place inBermondsey, where Russell and Company carried on business, and knockedcopper and brass and tin about, and made bronze, and gun-metal, and dida great deal for other firms with furnaces, and forges, andsteam-engines, wheels, and lathes.
My father was "Russell"--Alexander--and Uncle Dick, Uncle Jack, andUncle Bob were "Company." The business, as I say, was in Bermondsey,but we lived together and didn't live together at Canonbury.
That sounds curious, but I'll explain:--We had two houses next door toeach other. Captain's quarters, and the barracks.
My father's house was the Captain's quarters, where I lived with mymother and sister. The next door, where my uncles were, they called thebarracks, where they had their bedrooms and sitting-room; but they tookall their meals at our table.
As I said before things had gone on very happily till I was sixteen--abig sturdy ugly boy.
Uncle Dick said I was the ugliest boy he knew.
Uncle Jack said I was the most stupid.
Uncle Bob said I was the most ignorant.
But we were the best of friends all the same.
And now after a great deal of discussion with my father, and severalvisits, my three uncles were seated at the table, and I had asked themabout Arrowfield, and you have read their answers.
I attacked them again.
"Oh, I say," I cried, "don't talk to a fellow as if he were a littleboy! Come, Uncle Dick, what sort of a place is Arrowfield?"
"Land of fire."
"Oh!" I cried. "Is it, Uncle Jack?"
"Land of smoke."
"Land of fire and smoke!" I cried excitedly. "Uncle Bob, are theymaking fun of me?"
"Land of noise, and gloom, and fog," said Uncle Bob. "A horrible placein a hole."
"And are we going there?"
"Don't know," said Uncle Bob. "Wait and see."
They went on with their drawings and calculations, and I sat by the firein the barrack room, that is, in their sitting-room, trying to read, butwith my head in a whirl of excitement about Arrowfield, when my fathercame in, laid his hand on my head, and turned to my uncles.
"Well, boys," he said, "how do you bring it in? What's to be done?"
"Sit down, and let's settle it, Alick," said Uncle Dick, leaning backand spreading his big beard all over his chest.
"Ah, do!" cried Uncle Jack, rubbing his curly head.
"Once and for all," said Uncle Bob, drawing his chair forward, stoopingdown, taking up his left leg and holding it across his right knee.
My father drew forward an easy-chair, looking very serious, and restinghis hand on the back before sitting down, he said without looking at me:
"Go to your mother and sister, Jacob."
I rose quickly, but with my forehead wrinkling all over, and I turned apitiful look on my three uncles.
"What are you going to send him away for?" said Uncle Dick.
"Because this is not boys' business."
"Oh, nonsense!" said Uncle Jack. "He'll be as interested in it as weare."
"Yes, let him stop and hear," said Uncle Bob.
"Very good. I'm agreeable," said my father. "Sit down, Jacob."
I darted a grateful look at my uncles, spreading it round so that theyall had a glance, and dropped back into my seat.
"Well," said my father, "am I to speak?"
This was in chorus; and my father sat thinking for a few minutes, duringwhich I exchanged looks and nods with my uncles, all of which was verysatisfactory.
"Well," said my father at last, "to put it in short, plain English, wefour have each our little capital embarked in our works."
Here there were three nods.
"We've all tried everything we knew to make the place a success, butyear after year goes by and we find ourselves worse off. In three morebad years we shall be ruined."
"And Jacob will have to set to work and keep us all," said Uncle Dick.
My father looked round at me and nodded, smiling sadl
y, and I could seethat he was in great trouble.
"Here is our position, then, boys: Grandison and Company are waiting forour answer in Bermondsey. They'll buy everything as it stands at a fairvaluation; that's one half. The other is: the agents at Arrowfield arewaiting also for our answer about the works to let there."
Here he paused for a few moments and then went on:
"We must look the matter full in the face. If we stay as we are thetrade is so depreciating that we shall be ruined. If we go toArrowfield we shall have to begin entirely afresh; to fight against agreat many difficulties; the workmen there are ready to strike, to turnupon you and destroy."
Uncle Dick made believe to spit in his hands.
"To commit outrages."
Uncle Jack tucked up his sleeves.
"And ratten and blow up."
Uncle Bob half took off his coat.
"In short, boys, we shall have a terribly hard fight; but there is tentimes the opening there, and we may make a great success. That is ourposition, in short," said my father. "What do you say?"
My three uncles looked hard at him and then at one another, seemed toread each other's eyes, and turned back to him.
"You're oldest, Alick, and head of the firm," said Uncle Dick; "settleit."
"No," said my father, "it shall be settled by you three."
"I know what I think," said Uncle Jack; "but I'd rather you'd say."
"My mind's made up," said Uncle Bob, "but I don't want to be speaker.You settle it, Alick."
"No," said my father; "I have laid the case before you three, who haveequal stakes in the risk, and you shall settle the matter."
There was a dead silence in the room, which was so still that thesputtering noise made by the big lamp and the tinkle of a few cindersthat fell from the fire sounded painfully loud. They looked at eachother, but no one spoke, till Uncle Dick had fidgeted about in his chairfor some time, and then, giving his big beard a twitch, he bent forward.
I heard my other uncles sigh as if they were relieved, and they sat backfarther in their seats listening for what Uncle Dick, who was theeldest, might wish to say.
"Look here," he cried at last.
Everybody did look there, but saw nothing but Uncle Dick, who kepttugging at one lock of his beard, as if that was the string that wouldlet loose a whole shower-bath of words.
"Well!" he said, and there was another pause.
"Here," he cried, as if seized by a sudden fit of inspiration, "let'shear what Cob has to say."
"Bravo! Hear, hear, hear!" cried my two uncles in chorus, and UncleDick smiled and nodded and looked as if he felt highly satisfied withhimself; while I, with a face that seemed to be all on fire, jumped upexcitedly and cried:
"Let's all go and begin again."
"That's it--that settles it," cried Uncle Bob.
"Yes, yes," said Uncle Dick and Uncle Jack. "He's quite right. We'llgo."
Then all three beat upon the table with book and pencil and compasses,and cried, "Hear, hear, hear!" while I shrank back into my chair, andfelt half ashamed of myself as I glanced at my father and wonderedwhether he was angry on account of what I had proposed.
"That is settled then," he said quietly. "Jacob has been yourspokesman; and now let me add my opinion that you have taken the rightcourse. What I propose is this, that one of us stays and carries on thebusiness here till the others have got the Arrowfield affair in fullswing. Who will stay?"
There was no answer.
"Shall I?" said my father.
"Yes, if you will," they chorused.
"Very good," said my father. "I am glad to do so, for that will give meplenty of time to make arrangements for Jacob here."
"But he must go with us," said Uncle Dick.
"Yes, of course," said Uncle Jack.
"Couldn't go without him."
"But his education as an engineer?"
"Now, look here, Alick," said Uncle Dick, "don't you think he'll learnas much with us down at the new works as in any London place?"
My father sat silent and thoughtful, while I watched the play of hiscountenance and trembled as I saw how he was on the balance. For itwould have been terrible to me to have gone away now just as a new lifeof excitement and adventure was opening out.
"Do you really feel that you would like Jacob to go with you?" said myfather at last.
There was a unanimous "Yes!" at this, and my heart gave a jump.
"Well, then," said my father, "he shall go."
That settled the business, except a general shaking of hands, for wewere all delighted, little thinking, in our innocence, of the troubles,the perils, and the dangers through which we should have to go.