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    The Four Fists

    by F. Scott Fitzgerald
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    At the present time no one I know has the slightest desire to
    hit Samuel Meredith; possibly this is because a man over fifty
    is liable to be rather severely cracked at the impact of a
    hostile fist, but, for my part, I am inclined to think that all
    his hitable qualities have quite vanished. But it is certain
    that at various times in his life hitable qualities were in his
    face, as surely as kissable qualities have ever lurked in a
    girl's lips.

    I'm sure every one has met a man like that, been casually
    introduced, even made a friend of him, yet felt he was the sort
    who aroused passionate dislike--expressed by some in the
    involuntary clinching of fists, and in others by mutterings
    about "takin' a poke" and "landin' a swift smash in ee eye." In
    the juxtaposition of Samuel Meredith's features this quality was
    so strong that it influenced his entire life.

    What was it? Not the shape, certainly, for he was a pleasant-
    looking man from earliest youth: broad-bowed with gray eyes that
    were frank and friendly. Yet I've heard him tell a room full of
    reporters angling for a "success" story that he'd be ashamed to
    tell them the truth that they wouldn't believe it, that it
    wasn't one story but four, that the public would not want to
    read about a man who had been walloped into prominence.

    It all started at Phillips Andover Academy when he was fourteen.
    He had been brought up on a diet of caviar and bell-boys' legs
    in half the capitals of Europe, and it was pure luck that his
    mother had nervous prostration and had to delegate his education
    to less tender, less biassed hands.

    At Andover he was given a roommate named Gilly Hood. Gilly was
    thirteen, undersized, and rather the school pet. From the
    September day when Mr. Meredith's valet stowed Samuel's clothing
    in the best bureau and asked, on departing, "hif there was
    hanything helse, Master Samuel?" Gilly cried out that the
    faculty had played him false. He felt like an irate frog in
    whose bowl has been put goldfish.

    "Good gosh!" he complained to his sympathetic contemporaries,
    "he's a damn stuck-up Willie. He said, 'Are the crowd here
    gentlemen?' and I said, 'No, they're boys,' and he said age
    didn't matter, and I said, 'Who said it did?' Let him get fresh
    with me, the ole pieface!"

    For three weeks Gilly endured in silence young Samuel's comments
    on the clothes and habits of Gilly's personal friends, endured
    French phrases in conversation, endured a hundred half-feminine
    meannesses that show what a nervous mother can do to a boy, if
    she keeps close enough to him--then a storm broke in the aquarium.

    Samuel was out. A crowd had gathered to hear Gilly be wrathful
    about his roommate's latest sins.

    "He said, 'Oh, I don't like the windows open at night,' he said,
    'except only a little bit,'" complained Gilly.

    "Don't let him boss you."

    "Boss me? You bet he won't. I open those windows, I guess, but
    the darn fool won't take turns shuttin' 'em in the morning."

    "Make him, Gilly, why don't you?"

    "I'm going to." Gilly nodded his head in fierce agreement.
    "Don't you worry. He needn't think I'm any ole butler."

    "Le's see you make him."

    At this point the darn fool entered in person and included the
    crowd in one of his irritating smiles. Two boys said, "'Lo,
    Mer'dith"; the others gave him a chilly glance and went on talking
    to Gilly. But Samuel seemed unsatisfied.

    "Would you mind not sitting on my bed?" he suggested politely to
    two of Gilly's particulars who were perched very much at ease.

    "Huh?"

    "My bed. Can't you understand English?"

    This was adding insult to injury. There were several comments on
    the bed's sanitary condition and the evidence within it of animal
    life.

    "S'matter with your old bed?" demanded Gilly truculently.

    "The bed's all right, but---"

    Gilly interrupted this sentence by rising and walking up to
    Samuel. He paused several inches away and eyed him fiercely.

    "You an' your crazy ole bed," he began. "You an' your crazy---"

    "Go to it, Gilly," murmured some one.

    "Show the darn fool---"

    Samuel returned the gaze coolly.

    "Well," he said finally, "it's my bed--- "

    He got no further, for Gilly hauled of and hit him succinctly in
    the nose.

    "Yea! Gilly!"

    "Show the big bully!"

    Just let him touch you--he'll see!"

    The group closed in on them and for the first time in his life
    Samuel realized the insuperable inconvenience of being
    passionately detested. He gazed around helplessly at the
    glowering, violently hostile faces. He towered a head taller
    than his roommate, so if he hit back he'd be called a bully and
    have half a dozen more fights on his hands within five minutes;
    yet if he didn't he was a coward. For a moment he stood there
    facing Gilly's blazing eyes, and then, with a sudden choking
    sound, he forced his way through the ring and rushed from the
    room.

    The month following bracketed the thirty most miserable days of
    his life. Every waking moment he was under the lashing tongues
    of his contemporaries; his habits and mannerisms became butts
    for intolerable witticisms and, of course, the sensitiveness of
    adolescence was a further thorn. He considered that he was a
    natural pariah; that the unpopularity at school would follow him
    through life. When he went home for the Christmas holidays he
    was so despondent that his father sent him to a nerve
    specialist. When he returned to Andover he arranged to arrive
    late so that he could be alone in the bus during the drive from
    station to school.

    Of course when he had learned to keep his mouth shut every one
    promptly forgot all about him. The next autumn, with his
    realization that consideration for others was the discreet
    attitude, he made good use of the clean start given him by the
    shortness of boyhood memory. By the beginning of his senior year
    Samuel Meredith was one of the best-liked boys of his class--and
    no one was any stronger for him than his first friend and
    constant companion, Gilly Hood.

    II

    Samuel became the sort of college student who in the early
    nineties drove tandems and coaches and tallyhos between
    Princeton and Yale and New York City to show that they
    appreciated the social importance of football games. He believed
    passionately in good form--his choosing of gloves, his tying of
    ties, his holding of reins were imitated by impressionable
    freshmen. Outside of his own set he was considered rather a
    snob, but as his set was THE set, it never worried him. He
    played football in the autumn, drank high-balls in the winter,
    and rowed in the spring. Samuel despised all those who were
    merely sportsmen without being gentlemen or merely gentlemen
    without being sportsmen.

    He live in New York and often brought home several of his
    friends for the week-end. Those were the days of the horse-car
    and in case of a crush it was, of course, the proper thing for
    any one of Samuel's set to rise and deliver his seat to a
    standing lady with a formal bow. One night in Samuel's junior
    year he boarded a car with two of his intimates. There were
    three vacant seats. When Samuel sat down he noticed a heavy-eyed
    laboring man sitting next to him who smelt objectionably of
    garlic, sagged slightly against Samuel and, spreading a little
    as a tired man will, took up quite too much room.

    The car had gone several blocks when it stopped for a quartet of
    young girls, and, of course, the three men of the world sprang
    to their feet and proffered their seats with due observance of
    form. Unfortunately, the laborer, being unacquainted with the
    code of neckties and tallyhos, failed to follow their example,
    and one young lady was left at an embarrassed stance. Fourteen
    eyes glared reproachfully at the barbarian; seven lips curled
    slightly; but the object of scorn stared stolidly into the
    foreground in sturdy unconsciousness of his despicable conduct.
    Samuel was the most violently affected. He was humiliated that
    any male should so conduct himself. He spoke aloud.

    "There's a lady standing," he said sternly.

    That should have been quite enough, but the object of scorn only
    looked up blankly. The standing girl tittered and exchanged
    nervous glances with her companions. But Samuel was aroused.

    "There's a lady standing," he repeated, rather raspingly. The
    man seemed to comprehend.

    "I pay my fare," he said quietly.

    Samuel turned red and his hands clinched, but the conductor was
    looking their way, so at a warning nod from his friends he
    subsided into sullen gloom.

    They reached their destination and left the car, but so did the
    laborer, who followed them, swinging his little pail. Seeing his
    chance, Samuel no longer resisted his aristocratic inclination.
    He turned around and, launching a full-featured, dime-novel
    sneer, made a loud remark about the right of the lower animals
    to ride with human beings.

    In a half-second the workman had dropped his pail and let fly at
    him. Unprepared, Samuel took the blow neatly on the jaw and
    sprawled full length into the cobblestone gutter.

    "Don't laugh at me!" cried his assailant. "I been workin' all
    day. I'm tired as hell!"

    As he spoke the sudden anger died out of his eyes and the mask
    of weariness dropped again over his face. He turned and picked
    up his pail. Samuel's friends took a quick step in his direction.

    "Wait!" Samuel had risen slowly and was motioning back. Some
    time, somewhere, he had been struck like that before. Then he
    remembered--Gilly Hood. In the silence, as he dusted himself
    off, the whole scene in the room at Andover was before his eyes--
    and he knew intuitively that he had been wrong again. This
    man's strength, his rest, was the protection of his family. He
    had more use for his seat in the street-car than any young girl.

    "It's all right," said Samuel gruffly. "Don't touch 'him. I've
    been a damn fool."

    Of course it took more than an hour, or a week, for Samuel to
    rearrange his ideas on the essential importance of good form. At
    first he simply admitted that his wrongness had made him
    powerless--as it had made him powerless against Gilly--but
    eventually his mistake about the workman influenced his entire
    attitude. Snobbishness is, after all, merely good breeding grown
    dictatorial; so Samuel's code remained but the necessity of
    imposing it upon others had faded out in a certain gutter.
    Within that year his class had somehow stopped referring to him
    as a snob.

    III

    After a few years Samuel's university decided that it had shone
    long enough in the reflected glory of his neckties, so they
    declaimed to him in Latin, charged him ten dollars for the paper
    which proved him irretrievably educated, and sent him into the
    turmoil with much self-confidence, a few friends, and the proper
    assortment of harmless bad habits.

    His family had by that time started back to shirt-sleeves,
    through a sudden decline in the sugar-market, and it had already
    unbuttoned its vest, so to speak, when Samuel went to work. His
    mind was that exquisite TABULA RASA that a university education
    sometimes leaves, but he had both energy and influence, so he
    used his former ability as a dodging half-back in twisting
    through Wall Street crowds as runner for a bank.

    His diversion was--women. There were half a dozen: two or three
    debutantes, an actress (in a minor way), a grass-widow, and one
    sentimental little brunette who was married and lived in a
    little house in Jersey City.

    They had met on a ferry-boat. Samuel was crossing from New York
    on business (he bad been working several years by this time) and
    he helped her look for a package that she had dropped in the crush.

    "Do you come over often?" he inquired casually.

    "Just to shop," she said shyly. She had great brown eyes and the
    pathetic kind of little mouth. "I've only been married three
    months, and we find it cheaper to live over here."

    "Does he--does your husband like your being alone like this?"

    She laughed, a cheery young laugh.

    "Oh, dear me, no. We were to meet for dinner but I must have
    misunderstood the place. He'll be awfully worried."

    "Well," said Samuel disapprovingly, "he ought to be. If you'll
    allow me I'll see you home."

    She accepted his offer thankfully, so they took the cable-car
    together. When they walked up the path to her little house they
    saw a light there; her husband had arrived before her.

    "He's frightfully jealous," she announced, laughingly apologetic.

    "Very well," answered Samuel, rather stiffly. "I'd better leave
    you here."

    She thanked him and, waving a good night, he left her.

    That would have been quite all if they hadn't met on Fifth
    Avenue one morning a week later. She started and blushed and
    seemed so glad to see him that they chatted like old friends.
    She was going to her dressmaker's, eat lunch alone at Taine's,
    shop all afternoon, and meet her husband on the ferry at five.
    Samuel told her that her husband was a very lucky man. She
    blushed again and scurried off.

    Samuel whistled all the way back to his office, but about twelve
    o'clock he began to see that pathetic, appealing little mouth
    everywhere--and those brown eyes. He fidgeted when he looked at
    the clock; he thought of the grill down-stairs where he lunched
    and the heavy male conversation thereof, and opposed to that
    picture appeared another; a little table at Taine's with the
    brown eyes and the mouth a few feet away. A few minutes before
    twelve-thirty he dashed on his hat and rushed for the cable-car.

    She was quite surprised to see him.

    "Why--hello," she said. Samuel could tell that she was just
    pleasantly frightened.

    "I thought we might lunch together. It's so dull eating with a
    lot of men."

    She hesitated.

    "Why, I suppose there's no harm in it. How could there be!"

    It occurred to her that her husband should have taken lunch with
    her--but he was generally so hurried at noon. She told Samuel
    all about him: he was a little smaller than Samuel, but, oh,
    MUCH better-looking. He was a book-keeper and not making a lot
    of money, but they were very happy and expected to be rich
    within three or four years.

    Samuel's grass-widow had been in a quarrelsome mood for three or
    four weeks, and through contrast, he took an accentuated
    pleasure in this meeting; so fresh was she, and earnest, and
    faintly adventurous. Her name was Marjorie.

    They made another engagement; in fact, for a month they lunched
    together two or three times a week. When she was sure that her
    husband would work late Samuel took her over to New Jersey on
    the ferry, leaving her always on the tiny front porch, after
    she had gone in and lit the gas to use the security of his
    masculine presence outside. This grew to be a ceremony--and it
    annoyed him. Whenever the comfortable glow fell out through the
    front windows, that was his CONGE; yet he never suggested coming
    in and Marjorie didn't invite him.

    Then, when Samuel and Marjorie had reached a stage in which they
    sometimes touched each other's arms gently, just to show that
    they were very good friends, Marjorie and her husband had one of
    those ultrasensitive, supercritical quarrels that couples never
    indulge in unless they care a great deal about each other. It
    started with a cold mutton-chop or a leak in the gas-jet--and
    one day Samuel found her in Taine's, with dark shadows under her
    brown eyes and a terrifying pout.

    By this time Samuel thought he was in love with Marjorie--so he
    played up the quarrel for all it was worth. He was her best
    friend and patted her hand--and leaned down close to her brown
    curls while she whispered in little sobs what her husband had
    said that morning; and he was a little more than her best friend
    when he took her over to the ferry in a hansom.

    "Marjorie," he said gently, when he left her, as usual, on the
    porch, "if at any time you want to call on me, remember that I
    am always waiting, always waiting."

    She nodded gravely and put both her hands in his. "I know," she
    said. "I know you're my friend, my best friend."

    Then she ran into the house and he watched there until the gas
    went on.

    For the next week Samuel was in a nervous turmoil. Some
    persistently rational strain warned him that at bottom he and
    Marjorie had little in common, but in such cases there is
    usually so much mud in the water that one can seldom see to the
    bottom. Every dream and desire told him that he loved Marjorie,
    wanted her, had to have her.

    The quarrel developed. Marjorie's husband took to staying in New
    York until late at night came home several times disagreeably
    overstimulated, and made her generally miserable. They must have
    had too much pride to talk it out--for Marjorie's husband was,
    after all, pretty decent--so it drifted on from one
    misunderstanding to another. Marjorie kept coming more and more
    to Samuel; when a woman can accept masculine sympathy at is much
    more satisfactory to her than crying to another girl. But
    Marjorie didn't realize how much she had begun to rely on him,
    how much he was part of her little cosmos.

    One night, instead of turning away when Marjorie went in and lit
    the gas, Samuel went in, too, and they sat together on the sofa
    in the little parlor. He was very happy. He envied their home,
    and he felt that the man who neglected such a possession out of
    stubborn pride was a fool and unworthy of his wife. But when he
    kissed Marjorie for the first time she cried softly and told him
    to go. He sailed home on the wings of desperate excitement,
    quite resolved to fan this spark of romance, no matter how big
    the blaze or who was burned. At the time he considered that his
    thoughts were unselfishly of her; in a later perspective he knew
    that she had meant no more than the white screen in a motion
    picture: it was just Samuel--blind, desirous.

    Next day at Taine's, when they met for lunch, Samuel dropped all
    pretense and made frank love to her. He had no plans, no
    definite intentions, except to kiss her lips again, to hold her
    in his arms and feel that she was very little and pathetic and
    lovable. . . . He took her home, and this time they kissed until
    both their hearts beat high--words and phrases formed on his lips.

    And then suddenly there were steps on the porch--a hand tried
    the outside door. Marjorie turned dead-white.

    "Wait!" she whispered to Samuel, in a frightened voice, but in
    angry impatience at the interruption he walked to the front door
    and threw it open.

    Every one has seen such scenes on the stage--seen them so often
    that when they actually happen people behave very much like
    actors. Samuel felt that he was playing a part and the lines
    came quite naturally: he announced that all had a right to lead
    their own lives and looked at Marjorie's husband menacingly, as
    if daring him to doubt it. Marjorie's husband spoke of the
    sanctity of the home, forgetting that it hadn't seemed very holy
    to him lately; Samuel continued along the line of "the right to
    happiness"; Marjorie's husband mentioned firearms and the
    divorce court. Then suddenly he stopped and scrutinized both of
    them--Marjorie in pitiful collapse on the sofa, Samuel
    haranguing the furniture in a consciously heroic pose.

    "Go up-stairs, Marjorie," he said, in a different tone.

    "Stay where you are!" Samuel countered quickly.

    Marjorie rose, wavered, and sat down, rose again and moved
    hesitatingly toward the stairs.

    "Come outside," said her husband to Samuel. "I want to talk to
    you."

    Samuel glanced at Marjorie, tried to get some message from her
    eyes; then he shut his lips and went out.

    There was a bright moon and when Marjorie's husband came down
    the steps Samuel could see plainly that he was suffering--but
    he felt no pity for him.

    They stood and looked at each other, a few feet apart, and the
    husband cleared his throat as though it were a bit husky.

    "That's my wife," he said quietly, and then a wild anger surged
    up inside him. "Damn you!" he cried--and hit Samuel in the
    face with all his strength.

    In that second, as Samuel slumped to the ground, it flashed to
    him that he had been hit like that twice before, and
    simultaneously the incident altered like a dream--he felt
    suddenly awake. Mechanically he sprang to his feet and squared
    off. The other man was waiting, fists up, a yard away, but
    Samuel knew that though physically he had him by several inches
    and many pounds, he wouldn't hit him. The situation had
    miraculously and entirely changed--a moment before Samuel had
    seemed to himself heroic; now he seemed the cad, the outsider,
    and Marjorie's husband, silhouetted against the lights of the
    little house, the eternal heroic figure, the defender of his home.

    There was a pause and then Samuel turned quickly away and went
    down the path for the last time.

    IV

    Of course, after the third blow Samuel put in several weeks at
    conscientious introspection. The blow years before at Andover
    had landed on his personal unpleasantness; the workman of his
    college days had jarred the snobbishness out of his system, and
    Marjorie's husband had given a severe jolt to his greedy
    selfishness. It threw women out of his ken until a year later,
    when he met his future wife; for the only sort of woman worth
    while seemed to be the one who could be protected as Marjorie's
    husband had protected her. Samuel could not imagine his grass-
    widow, Mrs. De Ferriac, causing any very righteous blows on her
    own account.

    His early thirties found him well on his feet. He was associated
    with old Peter Carhart, who was in those days a national figure.
    Carhart's physique was like a rough model for a statue of
    Hercules, and his record was just as solid--a pile made for the
    pure joy of it, without cheap extortion or shady scandal. He had
    been a great friend of Samuel's father, but he watched the son
    for six years before taking him into his own office. Heaven
    knows how many things he controlled at that time--mines,
    railroads, banks, whole cities. Samuel was very close to him,
    knew his likes and dislikes, his prejudices, weaknesses and
    many strengths.

    One day Carhart sent for Samuel and, closing the door of his
    inner office, offered him a chair and a cigar.

    "Everything 0. K., Samuel?" he asked.

    "Why, yes."

    "I've been afraid you're getting a bit stale."

    "Stale?" Samuel was puzzled.

    "You've done no work outside the office for nearly ten years?"

    "But I've had vacations, in the Adiron---"

    Carhart waved this aside.

    "I mean outside work. Seeing the things move that we've always
    pulled the strings of here."

    "No " admitted Samuel; "I haven't."

    "So," he said abruptly "I'm going to give you an outside job
    that'll take about a month."

    Samuel didn't argue. He rather liked the idea and he made up his
    mind that, whatever it was, he would put it through just as
    Carhart wanted it. That was his employer's greatest hobby, and
    the men around him were as dumb under direct orders as infantry
    subalterns.

    "You'll go to San Antonio and see Hamil," continued Carhart.
    "He's got a job on hand and he wants a man to take charge."

    Hamil was in charge of the Carhart interests in the Southwest, a
    man who had grown up in the shadow of his employer, and with
    whom, though they had never met, Samuel had had much official
    correspondence.

    "When do I leave?"

    "You'd better go to-morrow," answered Carhart, glancing at the
    calendar. "That's the 1st of May. I'll expect your report here on
    the 1st of June."

    Next morning Samuel left for Chicago, and two days later he was
    facing Hamil across a table in the office of the Merchants'
    Trust in San Antonio. It didn't take long to get the gist of the
    thing. It was a big deal in oil which concerned the buying up of
    seventeen huge adjoining ranches. This buying up had to be done
    in one week, and it was a pure squeeze. Forces had been set in
    motion that put the seventeen owners between the devil and the
    deep sea, and Samuel's part was simply to "handle" the matter
    from a little village near Pueblo. With tact and efficiency the
    right man could bring it off without any friction, for it was
    merely a question of sitting at the wheel and keeping a firm
    hold. Hamil, with an astuteness many times valuable to his
    chief, had arranged a situation that would give a much greater
    clear gain than any dealing in the open market. Samuel shook
    hands with Hamil, arranged to return in two weeks, and left for
    San Felipe, New Mexico.

    It occurred to him, of course, that Carhart was trying him out.
    Hamil's report on his handling of this might be a factor in
    something big for him, but even without that he would have done
    his best to put the thing through. Ten years in New York hadn't
    made him sentimental and he was quite accustomed to finish
    everything he began--and a little bit more.

    All went well at first. There was no enthusiasm, but each one of
    the seventeen ranchers concerned knew Samuel's business, knew
    what he had behind him, and that they had as little chance of
    holding out as flies on a window-pane. Some of them were
    resigned--some of them cared like the devil, but they'd talked
    it over, argued it with lawyers and couldn't see any possible
    loophole. Five of the ranches had oil, the other twelve were
    part of the chance, but quite as necessary to Hamil's purpose,
    in any event.

    Samuel soon saw that the real leader was an early settler named
    McIntyre, a man of perhaps fifty, gray-haired, clean-shaven,
    bronzed by forty New Mexico summers, and with those clear steady
    eye that Texas and New Mexico weather are apt to give. His ranch
    had not as yet shown oil, but it was in the pool, and if any man
    hated to lose his land McIntyre did. Every one had rather looked
    to him at first to avert the big calamity, and he had hunted all
    over the territory for the legal means with which to do it, but
    he had failed, and he knew it. He avoided Samuel assiduously,
    but Samuel was sure that when the day came for the signatures he
    would appear.

    It came--a baking May day, with hot wave rising off the parched
    land as far as eyes could see, and as Samuel sat stewing in his
    little improvised office--a few chairs, a bench, and a wooden
    table--he was glad the thing was almost over. He wanted to get
    back East the worst way, and join his wife and children for a
    week at the seashore.

    The meeting was set for four o'clock, and he was rather
    surprised at three-thirty when the door opened and McIntyre came
    in. Samuel could not help respecting the man's attitude, and
    feeling a bit sorry for him. McIntyre seemed closely related to
    the prairies, and Samuel had the little flicker of envy that
    city people feel toward men who live in the open.

    "Afternoon," said McIntyre, standing in the open doorway, with
    his feet apart and his hands on his hips.

    "Hello, Mr. McIntyre." Samuel rose, but omitted the formality of
    offering his hand. He imagined the rancher cordially loathed
    him, and he hardly blamed him. McIntyre came in and sat down
    leisurely.

    "You got us," he said suddenly.

    This didn't seem to require any answer.

    "When I heard Carhart was back of this," he continued, "I gave up."

    "Mr. Carhart is---" began Samuel, but McIntyre waved him silent.

    "Don't talk about the dirty sneak-thief!"

    "Mr. McIntyre," said Samuel briskly, "if this half-hour is to be
    devoted to that sort of talk---"

    "Oh, dry up, young man," McIntyre interrupted, "you can't abuse
    a man who'd do a thing like this."

    Samuel made no answer.

    "It's simply a dirty filch. There just ARE skunks like him too
    big to handle."

    "You're being paid liberally," offered Samuel.

    "Shut up!" roared McIntyre suddenly. "I want the privilege of
    talking." He walked to the door and looked out across the land,
    the sunny, steaming pasturage that began almost at his feet and
    ended with the gray-green of the distant mountains. When he
    turned around his mouth was trembling.

    "Do you fellows love Wall Street?" he said hoarsely, "or
    wherever you do your dirty scheming---" He paused. "I suppose you
    do. No critter gets so low that he doesn't sort of love the
    place he's worked, where he's sweated out the best he's had in
    him."

    Samuel watched him awkwardly. McIntyre wiped his forehead with a
    huge blue handkerchief, and continued:

    "I reckon this rotten old devil had to have another million. I
    reckon we're just a few of the poor he's blotted out to buy a
    couple more carriages or something." He waved his hand toward
    the door. "I built a house out there when I was seventeen, with
    these two hands. I took a wife there at twenty-one, added two
    wings, and with four mangy steers I started out. Forty summers
    I've saw the sun come up over those mountains and drop down red
    as blood in the evening, before the heat drifted off and the
    stars came out. I been happy in that house. My boy was born
    there and he died there, late one spring, in the hottest part of
    an afternoon like this. Then the wife and I lived there alone
    like we'd lived before, and sort of tried to have a home, after
    all, not a real home but nigh it--cause the boy always seemed
    around close, somehow, and we expected a lot of nights to see
    him runnin' up the path to supper." His voice was shaking so he
    could hardly speak and he turned again to the door, his gray
    eyes contracted.

    "That's my land out there," he said, stretching out his arm, "my
    land, by God--- It's all I got in the world--and ever wanted." He
    dashed his sleeve across his face, and his tone changed as he
    turned slowly and faced Samuel. "But I suppose it's got to go
    when they want it--it's got to go."

    Samuel had to talk. He felt that in a minute more he would lose
    his head. So he began, as level-voiced as he could--in the sort
    of tone he saved for disagreeable duties.

    "It's business, Mr. McIntyre," he said. "It's inside the law.
    Perhaps we couldn't have bought out two or three of you at any
    price, but most of you did have a price. Progress demands some
    things---"

    Never had he felt so inadequate, and it was with the greatest
    relief that he heard hoof-beats a few hundred yards away.

    But at his words the grief in McIntyre's eyes had changed to fury.

    "You and your dirty gang of crooks!" be cried. "Not one of you
    has got an honest love for anything on God's earth! You're a
    herd of money-swine!"

    Samuel rose and McIntyre took a step toward him.

    "You long-winded dude. You got our land--take that for Peter
    Carhart!"

    He swung from the shoulder quick as lightning and down went
    Samuel in a heap. Dimly he heard steps in the doorway and knew
    that some one was holding McIntyre, but there was no need. The
    rancher had sunk down in his chair, and dropped his head in his
    hands.

    Samuel's brain was whirring. He realized that the fourth fist
    had hit him, and a great flood of emotion cried out that the law
    that had inexorably ruled his life was in motion again. In a
    half-daze he got up and strode from the room.

    The next ten minutes were perhaps the hardest of his life. People
    talk of the courage of convictions, but in actual life a man's
    duty to his family may make a rigid corpse seem a selfish
    indulgence of his own righteousness. Samuel thought mostly of
    his family, yet he never really wavered. That jolt had brought him
    to.

    When he came back in the room there were a log of worried faces
    waiting for him, but he didn't waste any time explaining.

    "Gentlemen," he said, "Mr. McIntyre has been kind enough to
    convince me that in this matter you are absolutely right and the
    Peter Carhart interests absolutely wrong. As far as I am
    concerned you can keep your ranches to the rest of your days."

    He pushed his way through an astounded gathering, and within a
    half-hour he had sent two telegrams that staggered the operator
    into complete unfitness for business; one was to Hamil in San
    Antonio; one was to Peter Carhart in New York.

    Samuel didn't sleep much that night. He knew that for the first
    time in his business career he had made a dismal, miserable
    failure. But some instinct in him, stronger than will, deeper
    than training, had forced him to do what would probably end his
    ambitions and his happiness. But it was done and it never
    occurred to him that he could have acted otherwise.

    Next morning two telegrams were waiting for him. The first was
    from Hamil. It contained three words:

    "You blamed idiot!"

    The second was from New York:

    "Deal off come to New York immediately Carhart."

    Within a week things had happened. Hamil quarrelled furiously
    and violently defended his scheme. He was summoned to New York
    and spent a bad half-hour on the carpet in Peter Carhart's
    office. He broke with the Carhart interests in July, and in
    August Samuel Meredith, at thirty-five years old, was, to all
    intents, made Carhart's partner. The fourth fist had done its
    work.

    I suppose that there's a caddish streak in every man that runs
    crosswise across his character and disposition and general
    outlook. With some men it's secret and we never know it's there
    until they strike us in the dark one night. But Samuel's showed
    when it was in action, and the sight of it made people see red.
    He was rather lucky in that, because every time his little devil
    came up it met a reception that sent it scurrying down below in
    a sickly, feeble condition. It was the same devil, the same
    streak that made him order Gilly's friends off the bed, that
    made him go inside Marjorie's house.

    If you could run your hand along Samuel Meredith's jaw you'd
    feel a lump. He admits he's never been sure which fist left it
    there, but he wouldn't lose it for anything. He says there's no
    cad like an old cad, and that sometimes just before making a
    decision, it's a great help to stroke his chin. The reporters
    call it a nervous characteristic, but it's not that. It's so he
    can feel again the gorgeous clarity, the lightning sanity of
    those four fists.
    If you're writing a The Four Fists essay and need some advice, post your F. Scott Fitzgerald essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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