The Victors. A Romance of Yesterday Morning and This Afternoon - Robert Barr - ebook
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This greatest political novel of Robert Barr’s most beloved books has been written in years. Barr was a Scottish-Canadian author who relocated to London in 1881 where he founded the magazine „The Idler” in 1892 in collaboration with Jerome K Jerome. In 1895 he retired from its co-editorship and became a prolific novelist. „The Victors: A Romance Of Yesterday Morning & This Afternoon...” is a stirring story of a „boss” and others. Patrick Maguire, big, brawny, and smooth of tongue, early decides that there is a good thing for him in the big city, and he starts after it. How he succeeds – becoming the big „boss” by methods that are known to be practical and practiced by the initiated– is Mr. Barr’s theme. Another „live issue” treated by Mr. Barr is that of „Christian Science”. The work has a climax whose strength has rarely been equaled in modern fiction.

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Contents

BOOK I

CLEARING FOR ACTION

CHAPTER I “EACH NEW-HATCHED, UNFLEDGED COMRADE”

CHAPTER II “HE’LL TURN YOUR CURRENT IN A DITCH”

CHAPTER III “LET ME BUY YOUR FRIENDLY HELP”

CHAPTER IV “I HAVE FLATTERED A LADY”

CHAPTER V “DOING NOTHING FOR A BRIBE”

CHAPTER VI “HIS DISHONESTY APPEARS”

CHAPTER VII “BUY ’EM TO SELL AGAIN”

CHAPTER VIII “I AND MY PARTNER”

CHAPTER IX “YOU CHARGE ME MOST UNJUSTLY”

CHAPTER X “RIDES THE WILD MARE WITH THE BOYS”

CHAPTER XI “THEY ARE THRIFTY, HONEST MEN”

BOOK II

THE FOOT OF THE SLOPE

CHAPTER I “JOURNEYS END IN LOVERS’ MEETING”

CHAPTER II “A STRANGER IN THIS CITY HERE”

CHAPTER III “MARK HIS FIRST APPROACH BEFORE MY LADY”

CHAPTER IV “I SAT UPON A PROMONTORY AND HEARD A MERMAID”

CHAPTER V “FIRST, SIR, I PRAY, WHAT IS YOUR TITLE?”

CHAPTER VI “I HAVE A BAG OF MONEY HERE THAT TROUBLES ME”

CHAPTER VII “MY SURVEYOR IS FALSE”

CHAPTER VIII “A RARE ENGINEER”

BOOK III

BEGINNING THE GAME

CHAPTER I “THIS MIGHT BE THE FATE OF A POLITICIAN”

CHAPTER II “WE QUARREL IN PRINT”

CHAPTER III “BUT HE, SIR, HAD THE ELECTION”

CHAPTER IV “SACK GREAT ROME WITH ROMANS”

BOOK IV

THE HILL OF ENDEAVOUR

CHAPTER I “THAT WERE A TRICK INDEED”

CHAPTER II “BY A SEALED COMPACT, WELL RATIFIED”

CHAPTER III “THE DEVIL SHALL HAVE HIS BARGAIN”

CHAPTER IV “YOUR EXPOSITION ON THE HOLY TEXT”

CHAPTER V “WHEN DID YOU LOSE YOUR DAUGHTER?”

CHAPTER VI “GIVE ME LEAVE TO PROVE YOU A FOOL”

CHAPTER VII “FORTUNE’S FURIOUS FICKLE WHEEL”

CHAPTER VIII “I DO DESIRE SOME CONFIDENCE”

CHAPTER IX “A GRACIOUS PERSON”

CHAPTER X “HER HAIR IS AUBURN”

CHAPTER XI “SWEET HUSBAND, BE NOT OF THAT MIND”

CHAPTER XII “THERE IS MONEY; SPEND IT”

CHAPTER XIII “WHAT, WILT THOU FLOUT ME THUS?”

BOOK V

SPOILS TO THE VICTORS

CHAPTER I “THEY ARE SO LINKED IN FRIENDSHIP”

CHAPTER II “FORTUNE AND VICTORY SIT ON THY HELM”

CHAPTER III “FIRE THAT SEVERS DAY FROM NIGHT”

CHAPTER IV “GOD’S WILL! WHAT WILFULNESS IS THIS?”

CHAPTER V “WHAT TELL’ST THOU ME OF ROBBING?”

CHAPTER VI “TURNS INSURRECTION TO RELIGION”

CHAPTER VII “AND SWEET RELIGION MAKES A RHAPSODY OF WORDS”

BOOK VI

ON THE SUMMIT

CHAPTER I “I AM COME TO FETCH YOU HOME”

CHAPTER II “DESPATCH ALL BUSINESS AND BEGONE”

CHAPTER III “DASHED OUT WITH A GRECIAN CLUB”

CHAPTER IV “TO LEAVE YOU IN YOUR MADNESS”

CHAPTER V “MADAM, THIS IS MERE DISTRACTION”

CHAPTER VI “O GOD DEFEND ME! HOW AM I BESET!”

CHAPTER VII “WILL RAIN HOT VENGEANCE ON OFFENDERS”

CHAPTER VIII “MAKE A SCARECROW OF THE LAW”

CHAPTER IX “WHY, THEN, LET’S HOME AGAIN”

CHAPTER X “WITH THEIR TONGUES DOOM MEN TO DEATH”

CHAPTER XI “FROM CUPID’S SHOULDER”

BOOK I

CLEARING FOR ACTION

CHAPTER I. “EACH NEW-HATCHED, UNFLEDGED COMRADE”

It had been a panting hot day; a day when those who could sought shelter of shade, while those compelled to work stopped often and shook the dripping perspiration from their brows. The heat seemed to hang quivering in the air, abating, yet not appearing to abate; Mithras, god of light, the cause of it all, burned red in the west, and, like an impressionist painter recklessly lavish with his colours, had prodigally splashed all the far horizon with gold and crimson, while as the sun sank still lower behind a radiant cloud its rays were flung into the sky like the spokes of a gigantic wheel of glory; or if the sex of the simile be changed and Mithras be transformed into a goddess, this deity of the day coquettishly prepared to leave the scene of her triumphs, flirting open a fan of dazzling gossamer before making the farewell bow and quitting for the night her throne in the heavens.

Two very young men lay prone on their backs in a fence corner. The grass under them was parched, dry and warm, providing a comfortable couch. Straw hats with broad brims somewhat ragged at the rim concealed the two faces, but the buzzing flies bothered the boys, who sometimes struck out wildly at them, like men warding off danger in drowsiness. If a blow of this kind removed the hat, its owner groped for it dreamily and drew it over his face again. At last the elder of the two rose to a sitting posture, letting his hat slide to the ground, and passed his shirt sleeve across his bedewed brow, drawing a deep breath as he did so. His was a clean-cut face, beaming with intelligence and glorified with a latent touch of enthusiasm. A young man with such a face might become anything–a revivalist preacher whose throbbing words would sweep thousands toward repentance; a statesman holding empire in his hands; a college professor moulding the untrained ambitions of young men; a politician, perhaps; a speculator, maybe; but whatever sphere of activity the future reserved for him, he would be an enthusiast always, ever believing fervently in himself and his cause, and yet a dreamer too–there lay a danger to his success–a dreamer and a theorist, who might not be able, with the alchemy of practicality, to transmute the abstract into the real. No lines marked or marred his smooth face; it was as yet an unwritten page; but there glowed from it the steady white light of promise, like the effect of a lamp behind a frosted pane.

“Jim, you lazy beggar, get up and look at this sunset.”

Jim, his fingers interlaced behind the back of his head, did not move, but drowsily murmured:

“What’s a-matter with it?” the words coming sleepily from under the tattered brim of the straw hat.

“Matter with it? Nothing, except that it’s simply glorious; looks like a glimpse of the gates of heaven.”

Jim disentangled his fingers, stretched his arms as far as they would go, and yawned wearily; then, still gaping prodigiously at the risk of a broken jaw, arose slowly.

“Fine open countenance, Jim,” said his comrade, which remark, being an old and well-worn phrase, Jim ignored, glanced at the sunset and said:

“It’s going to be another hot day to-morrow.”

Jim’s eyes speedily fell from the glowing sunset to the earth, and now, in spite of the heat, some energy infused itself throughout his lanky frame. He saw part way down the hill, at the side of the road by which they sat, a scraggy little horse, attached to a dilapidated, four-wheeled light waggon.

“Back there, you fool!” cried Jim, jumping to his feet. “Where d’ye think you’re a-going, anyhow? Want to get down the hill again? Thunder, you made fuss enough coming up.”

The young man ran down the hill, took the patient, unresisting pony by the bridle, made it describe a semi-circle at some risk of upsetting the waggon, led the animal up the hill past where the enthusiast still sat admiring the sunset, then giving the horse a hearty slap on the flank left it facing the east to crop the side-road grass again.

“Say, Ben, this horse is just like you; it hasn’t enough sense to pound sand. Think of its not knowing any better than to go fooling down that hill again!”

“I tell you what I’d like to see,” said Ben, as Jim seated himself once more on the side of the ditch. “I’d like to see a real Italian sunset. One of them must be worth a voyage across the Atlantic.”

“Well, I’ve seen Italian labourers, and in seeing them I’ve had all I want of Italy. What I’d like to see is a way of earning my living. This here peddling’s no good, Ben. There’s no money in it; too many in the business. We’re not ruined by Chinese cheap labour, as that Western fellow said, but we might as well be. There’s enough of American cheap labour to knock us out.”

“Do you know, Jim, I think where we have made our mistake in life is through going in for little things instead of big. It is just as easy to go in for a big thing as for a small one.”

“Meaning profits, do you?”

“Meaning everything. I wish I had gone to that university. It wouldn’t have cost any more than Stormboro Academy; for, after all, the main charge at college is the living expenses, and we could have lived as cheaply here as there. Then when we were through we should have had something at the back of us. The University of Michigan means something; Stormboro Academy means nothing ten miles from that town. That’s where I think we made the initial mistake, and that’s what I was referring to when I said that if you’re going for a thing go for the biggest of the kind that’s to be had.”

Ben spoke with the discouraged air of a disappointed man of twenty-one, who realises when it is too late the criminal waste of years that have gone before, and fears that his life is wrecked because of mistakes past remedy. The silence of the other showed that he too, shared the gloomy forebodings of his comrade. He gazed down over the fair town toward the sunset, his brow vexed with the ruffling of passing thought, as a placid lake is rippled by a sudden current of wind. The grim pessimism of youth over-shadowed the two lads, and the possibilities of the future were as effectually hidden from them as was the beauty of the scene which lay before their eyes. Ben had wished himself in Italy, too ignorant to know that, spread out before him like a banquet of vision, was as fair a landscape as Italy could show, while the sunset was a display of chromatic celestial fire, such as could be seen in no country but America, outvieing in lavish splendour the more famous, but not more gorgeous, sunsets of the Orient. The physical eye of the young man saw the picture, but his mental eye beheld the sunset of his imagination, and he sighed for Italy.

In the immediate foreground lay embowered amidst vivid green a town whose loveliness, with its polychromatic background, seemed more like an exaggerated theatre-spectacle than a specimen of quiet country scenery. The broad carmine disk of the setting sun was sharply cut by the great dome of the university buildings, giving the effect of a shapely cameo environed with crimson. From the tall square pile supporting the lofty dome, which bore a striking resemblance to St. Peter’s, in Rome, projected, on either side, the college wings, giving to the whole edifice a stately and dignified appearance. Various departments of scholarly activity were housed in structures that formed a cluster round the domed rotunda, scattered here and there with little regard to symmetrical arrangement. From this educational core the town radiated in all directions, every avenue double-lined with trees, roofs peeping above the sea of foliage which circled the whitish college houses as the green periphery of Damascus surrounds the snowlike minarets of that ancient capital. The silver ribbon of a river ran past the town, and as far as the eye could see lay a rolling country, smiling like a garden. Such is the city of Ann Arbor, the home of the state University of Michigan.

“After all, Ben, the main thing is the learning; it doesn’t so much matter where you get it. Six times seven is exactly forty-two in the university as it is in the academy. It isn’t where you come from, but what you can do, now that you’ve left there; that’s the way I look at it.”

“Do you mean to hold that a diploma from Yale is no better than a certificate from Stormboro?” asked Ben.

“I don’no. Let’s go and test it. I’m getting hungry, and we haven’t made enough money to-day to buy one square meal. Let’s whip up old Trigonitus here and journey to the farmhouse. I’ll tell ’em you’re a Yale man and that I’m from Stormboro, and we’ll find out whether you fare better than I do.”

“Oh, now you’re talking nonsense, and you know it. Here’s what confronts us. We’ve spent four years at Stormboro Academy, and we’ve been graduated, which means, I take it, that we have learned all they can teach us. The certificate we have received is a sort of receipt for four years’ time duly paid to the school. We have the receipt and the knowledge, the question is what are we going to do with it.”

“Which? The receipt or the knowledge?”

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