It was just another warm summer afternoon. I was sitting in the garden reading a letter from Edgar. He is planning a visit in the near future which I am looking forward to in most respects, but it does mean I will have to speak with mother soon and probably face her wrath for deceiving her. Probably best to get it over with soon so I can enjoy Edgar’s visit without wincing when I sit.
Father’s study has a window into the garden and during the summer he often leaves it open. The only exception is when mother has guests in the garden and he does not want to be disturbed. Today it was open and surely father left it open for breath of cooler air in the garden and likely did not realize I was outside.
When guests arrived, I paid little attention. I was too engrossed in re-reading every exquisite word written by Edgar. Slowly, over time, I began to listen more and more to the men talking though, especially as I noticed the tones carried some sense of aggravation.
The players were; my father of course, a man called Thomas Parker, and another called William Howe.
“And have you heard the latest effrontery from the General Williams? The imbecile has the audacity to attempt to dictate to me how I will operate my own mine.” Mr. Parkers said with some degree of loudness which was surely unnecessary.
“It is more than an attempt, for the moment General Williams is in control of your mine and there is little to be done about it.” My father replied.
“The government has no right to step in and dictate how my business manages its assets. I want you to prepare a letter of intent to challenge this General’s overstepping.” Mr. Parker said.
“You may wish to reconsider. If I were to challenge General Williams’ authority in this matter I could not do so without calling into question his authority to force the laborers back to work as well. You see it is a double edged sword and it appears the General has realized this.” My father said.
“I don’t care if those miserable miners go back to work in the mine all I wanted was for them to be forced out of the way of new miners coming in.” Mr. Parker said.
“Mr. Parker, the government became involved in this mess for two reasons. One, your mine stopped producing coal and was creating a rising cost due to the shortage for the nation’s industry. Two, your methods to resolve the disputes led to a full blown labor revolt which nearly turned the town into a war zone. In fact several people were killed before the General’s troops arrived.” My father replied.
“I do not deal with extortionists.” Mr. Parker said.
“It was a strike and with these recent demands coming to light public perception will be you were trying to run a slave operation rather than employ Americans to do necessary hard and dangerous work.” My father said.
“I don’t give a damn about public perception. That mine was barely making itself profitable before, with these changes it will likely cost me to keep it open.” Mr. Parker replied.
“You may not care about public perception but you have turned Daniel Waters into a martyr, which was the last thing you needed.”
“That’s not precisely true. The girl is mostly responsible for the martyrdom of Daniel.” Mr. Howe said.
“Daniel Waters was not to be killed and it was your man who killed him. You cannot blame child for idolizing her father. If you had gotten your hands on his journal like you were supposed to it would not have mattered either way.” My fathers said.
“That’s just it, Mr. Spooner, I have the journal.” Mr. Howe said.
“Then how did the girl know about his demands? What does she have?” My father demanded.
“I don’t know. We didn’t find anything else, he must have hidden some information away to her.” Mr. Howe said.
“We need to find out what exactly she knows.” Mr. Parker said.
“Agreed, but this time send someone to find out, not kidnap or kill her.” My father said.
“I never intended things to go as far as they did. Daniel Waters was a stubborn man and he’s the only reason things got so out of hand.” Mr. Howe said.
“That may very well be true, but I am of the opinion this matter was handled wrong from the start. The list of demands published in the paper makes those miners out to be victims of corporate greed instead of insurrectionists. Mr. McKinley wants to distance himself from you until the election is over on account of this incident.” My father said.
“Depending on what the Waters’ girl knows he might not be able to.” Mr. Parker said.
“Precisely why we must find out what she knows.” My father replied.
“It would be easier to kill her.” Mr. Parker said.
“Perhaps but such a course is not prudent at this time.” My father replied.
“She’s going to become more of a problem in time.” Mr. Howe said.
“What makes you say that?” My father asked.
“She is attending Primrose College in the fall.” Mr. Parker answered.
“I do not see that as a problem. If anything it is convenient as we all ready have the school being watched.” My father replied.
“Do you remember Arthur Bowen?” Mr. Parker asked.
“The New York lawyer? Yes.” My father replied.
“One and the same. His daughter is at Primrose and she’s the one who stirred up the whole mixed gender mess.” Mr. Parker said.
“Are you certain? I was under the impression the entire family was killed.” My father said.
“There is no doubt. I met her in Providence on Saturday. She’s the spitting image of Agnes.” Mr. Parker replied.
“Arthur was brilliant, he must have figured out a way to hide her.” My father said.
“I’m afraid this Bowen business was before my time.” Mr. Howe said.
“The less you know the better.” Mr. Parker replied.
“Bowen’s girl could be a threat and she’s all ready becoming a nuisance. Sumter’s girl was corrupted by her and there is some indication Bassett’s as well.” Mr. Parker continued after a short pause.
“I doubt Bowen’s girl knows anything of use and Mr. Sumter has assured me the incident with his daughter will not be repeated. As for Bassett, he’s always been a stubborn man. I think we sent a loud enough message though through his daughter.” My father said.
“Yes, and your own girl was right in the middle of all of it too.” Mr. Parker said.
“Leave Margaret out of this. She did nothing wrong and was only present to speak on a separate, unrelated matter.” My father said with a touch of anger in his voice.
“However you look at it, putting Waters’ girl in the midst of things is not a good idea. If she’s even half as stubborn as her father she’ll start putting the pieces together.” Mr. Parker said.
“She’s far better than half as stubborn, she made her old man look reasonable.” Mr. Howe said.
“She’s not your concern any longer. I’ll take care of it and there won’t be any more killing. Understood, gentlemen?” My father stated.
“We’ll do it your way for now, Mr. Spooner. C’mon let’s go.” Mr. Parker said and a moment later I heard father’s door open and shut.
In the garden I bit my lip wondering if I should try to sneak back into the house unseen or just stay put. No doubt I should have disappeared when they first arrived but the more I overheard the more I realized it would be a bigger mistake to risk calling attention to my presence.
What on Earth has my father got himself involved in? I looked down at the letter from Edgar in my hands and suddenly wished I could tell him not to come at all. I stood up and started to walk back into the house when the door suddenly opened. My father stepped out and closed the door behind him.
“You heard?” He asked.
I nodded my head.
“There are things you don’t understand Margaret.”
“Like most of what was being said in there.” I replied.
“I’m sorry I overheard.” I said.
“I’m not. We need to talk about what is going on at your school and how you will handle it. Is that from Edgar?”
“Yes, sir.” I replied.
“Is he coming?”
“He is trying for next week.”
“Good. I think it is a conversation we should have together.”