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Title: In the Arena: Stories of Political Life
Author: Tarkington, Booth
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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IN THE ARENA

Stories of Political Life

By Booth Tarkington



TO MY FATHER

[Illustration: THE CONVERSION OF THE SENATOR FROM STACKPOLE]



CONTENTS

PART I

  Boss Gorgett
  The Aliens
  The Need of Money
  Hector

PART II

  Mrs. Protheroe
  Great Men’s Sons



“IN THE FIRST PLACE”


The old-timer, a lean, retired pantaloon, sitting with loosely
slippered feet close to the fire, thus gave of his wisdom to the
questioning student:

“Looking back upon it all, what we most need in politics is more good
men. Thousands of good men _are_ in; and they need the others who
are not in. More would come if they knew how _much_ they are
needed. The dilettantes of the clubs who have so easily abused me, for
instance, all my life, for being a ward-worker, these and those other
reformers who write papers about national corruption when they don’t
know how their own wards are swung, probably aren’t so useful as they
might be. The exquisite who says that politics is ‘too dirty a
business for a gentleman to meddle with’ is like the woman who lived
in the parlour and complained that the rest of her family kept the
other rooms so dirty that she never went into them.

“There are many thousands of young men belonging to what is for some
reason called the ‘best class,’ who would like to be ‘in politics’ if
they could begin high enough up--as ambassadors, for instance. That
is, they would like the country to do something for them, though they
wouldn’t put it that way. A young man of this sort doesn’t know how
much he’d miss if his wishes were gratified. For my part, I’d hate not
to have begun at the beginning of the game.

“I speak of it as a game,” the old gentleman went on, “and in some
ways it is. That’s where the fun of it comes in. Yet, there are times
when it looks to me more like a series of combats, hand-to-hand fights
for life, and fierce struggles between men and strange powers. You buy
your newspaper and that’s your ticket to the amphitheatre.  But the
distance is hazy and far; there are clouds of dust and you can’t see
clearly. To make out just what is going on you ought to get down in
the arena yourself. Once you’re in it, the view you’ll have and the
fighting that will come your way will more than repay you. Still, I
don’t think we ought to go in with the idea of being repaid.

“It seems an odd thing to me that so many men feel they haven’t any
time for politics; can’t put in even a little, trying to see how their
cities (let alone their states and the country) are run.  When we have
a war, look at the millions of volunteers that lay down everything and
answer the call of the country. Well, in politics, the country needs
_all_ the men who have any patriotism--_not_ to be seeking
office, but to watch and to understand what is going on. It doesn’t
take a great deal of time; you can attend to your business and do that
much, too. When wrong things are going on and all the good men
understand them, that is all that is needed. The wrong things stop
going on.”



PART I



BOSS GORGETT


I guess I’ve been what you might call kind of an assistant boss pretty
much all my life; at least, ever since I could vote; and I was
something of a ward-heeler even before that. I don’t suppose there’s
any way a man of my disposition could have put in his time to less
advantage and greater cost to himself. I’ve never got a thing by it,
all these years, not a job, not a penny--nothing but injury to my
business and trouble with my wife. _She_ begins going for me,
first of every campaign.

Yet I just can’t seem to keep out of it. It takes a hold on a man that
I never could get away from; and when I reach my second childhood and
the boys have turned me out, I reckon I’ll potter along trying to look
knowing and secretive, like the rest of the has-beens, letting on as
if I still had a place inside. Lord, if I’d put in the energy at my
business that I’ve frittered away on small politics!  But what’s the
use thinking about it?

Plenty of men go to pot horse-racing and stock gambling; and I guess
this has just been my way of working off some of my nature in another
fashion.  There’s a good many like me, too; not out for office or
contracts, nor anything that you can put your finger on in
particular--nothing except the _game_. Of course, it’s a
pleasure, knowing you’ve got more influence than some, but I believe
the most you ever get out of it is in being able to help your friends,
to get a man you like a job, or a good contract, something he wants,
when he needs it.

I tell you _then’s_ when you feel satisfied, and your time don’t
seem to have been so much thrown away. You go and buy a higher-priced
cigar than you can afford, and sit and smoke it with your feet out in
the sunshine on your porch railing, and watch your neighbour’s
children playing in their yard; and they look mighty nice to you; and
you feel kind, and as if everybody else was.

But that wasn’t the way I felt when I helped to hand over to a
reformer the nomination for mayor; then it was just selfish
desperation and nothing else. We had to do it. You see, it was this
way: the other side had had the city for four terms, and, naturally,
they’d earned the name of being rotten by that time. Big Lafe Gorgett
was their best. “Boss Gorgett,” of course our papers called him when
they went for him, which was all the time; and pretty considerable of
a man he was, too. Most people that knew him liked Lafe. I did. But he
got a bad name, as they say, by the end of his fourth term as
Mayor--and who wouldn’t? Of course, the cry went up all round that he
and his crowd were making a fat thing out of it, which wasn’t so much
the case as that Lafe had got to depending on humouring the gamblers
and the brewers for campaign funds and so forth. In fact, he had the
reputation of running a disorderly town, and the truth is, it
_was_ too wide open.

But _we_ hadn’t been much better when we’d had it, before Lafe
beat us and got in; and everybody remembered that. The “respectable
element” wouldn’t come over to us strong enough for anybody we could
pick of our own crowd; and so, after trying it on four times, we
started in to play it another way, and nominated Farwell Knowles, who
was already running on an independent ticket, got out by the reform
and purity people. That is: we made him a fusion candidate, hoping to
find some way to control him later.  We’d never have done it if we
hadn’t thought it was our only hope. Gorgett was too strong, and he
handled the darkeys better than any man I ever knew. He had an
organization for it which we couldn’t break; and the coloured voters
really held the balance of power with us, you know, as they do so many
other places near the same size, They were getting pretty well on to
it, too, and cost more every election. Our best chance seemed to be in
so satisfying the “law-and-order” people that they’d do something to
counterbalance this vote--which they never did.

Well, sir, it was a mighty curious campaign.  There never really was a
day when we could tell where we stood, for certain. As anybody knows,
the “better element” can’t be depended on.  There’s too many of ‘em
forget to vote, and if the weather isn’t just right they won’t go to
the polls.  Some of ‘em won’t go anyway--act as if they looked down on
politics; say it’s only helping one boodler against another. So your
true aristocrat won’t vote for either. The real truth is, he don’t
_care_. Don’t care as much about the management of his city,
State, and country as about the way his club is run. Or he’s ignorant
about the whole business, and what between ignorance and indifference
the worse and smarter of the two rings gets in again and old Mr.
Aristocrat gets soaked some more on his sewer assessments. _Then_
he’ll holler like a stabbed hand-organ; but he’ll keep on talking
about politics being too low a business for a gentleman to mix in,
just the same!

Somebody said a pessimist is a man who has a choice of two evils, and
takes both. There’s your man that don’t vote.

And the best-dressed wards are the ones that fool us oftenest. We’re
always thinking they’ll do something, and they don’t. But we thought,
when we took Farwell Knowles, that we had ‘em at last. Fact is, they
did seem stirred up, too.  They called it a “moral victory” when we
were forced to nominate Knowles to have any chance of beating
Gorgett. That was because it was _their_ victory.

Farwell Knowles was a young man, about thirty-two, an editorial writer
on the _Herald_, an independent paper. I’d known him all his
life, and his wife--too, a mighty sweet-looking lady she was. I’d
always thought Farwell was kind of a dreamer, and too excitable; he
was always reading papers to literary clubs, and on the speech-making
side he wasn’t so bad--he liked it; but he hadn’t seemed to me to know
any more about politics and people than a royal family would. He was
always talking about life and writing about corruption, when, all the
time, so it struck me, it was only books he was really interested in;
and he saw things along book lines. Of course he was a tin god,
politically.

He was for “stern virtue” only, and everlastingly lashed compromise
and temporizing; called politicians all the elegant hard names there
are, in every one of his editorials, especially Lafe Gorgett, whom
he’d never seen. He made mighty free with Lafe, referred to him
habitually as “Boodler Gorgett”, and never let up on him from one
year’s end to another.

I was against our adopting him, not only for our own sakes--because I
knew he’d be a hard man to handle--but for Farwell’s too. I’d been a
friend of his father’s, and I liked his wife--everybody liked his
wife. But the boys overruled me, and I had to turn in and give it to
him.

Not without a lot of misgivings, you can be sure. I had one little
experience with him right at the start that made me uneasy and got me
to thinking he was what you might call too literary, or theatrical, or
something, and that he was more interested in being things than doing
them. I’d been aware, ever since he got back from Harvard, that
_I_ was one of his literary interests, so to speak.  He had a way
of talking to me in a _quizzical_, condescending style, in the
belief that he was drawing me out, the way you talk to some old
book-peddler in your office when you’ve got nothing to do for a while;
and it was easy to see he regarded me as a “character” and thought he
was studying me. Besides, he felt it his duty to study the wickedness
of politics in a Parkhurstian fashion, and I was one of the lost.

One day, just after we’d nominated him, he came to me and said he had
a friend who wanted to meet me. Asked me couldn’t I go with him right
away. It was about five in the afternoon; I hadn’t anything to do and
said, “Certainly,” thinking he meant to introduce me to some friend of
his who thought I’d talk politics with him. I took that for granted so
much that I didn’t ask a question, just followed along up street,
talking weather. He turned in at old General Buskirk’s, and may I be
shot if the person he meant wasn’t Buskirk’s daughter, Bella! He’d
brought me to call on a girl young enough to be my daughter. Maybe you
won’t believe I felt like a fool!

I knew Buskirk, of course (he didn’t appear), but I hadn’t seen Bella
since she was a child.  She’d been “highly educated” and had been
living abroad a good deal, but I can’t say that my visit made me
_for_ her--not very strong. She was good-looking enough, in her
thinnish, solemn way, but it seemed to me she was kind of overdressed
and too grand. You could see in a minute that she was intense and
dreamy and theatrical with herself and superior, like Farwell; and I
guess I thought they thought they’d discovered they were “kindred
souls,” and that each of them understood (without saying it) that both
of them felt that Farwell’s lot in life was a hard one because
Mrs. Knowles wasn’t up to him. Bella gave him little, quiet, deep
glances, that seemed to help her play the part of a person
who understood everything--especially him, and reverenced
greatness--especially his. I remember a fellow who called the sort of
game it struck me they were carrying on “those soully flirtations.”

Well, sir, I wasn’t long puzzling over why he had brought _me_ up
there. It stuck out all over, though they didn’t know it, and would
have been mighty astonished to think that I saw. It was in their
manner, in her condescending ways with me, in her assumption of
serious interest, and in his going through the trick of “drawing me
out,” and exhibiting me to her. I’ll have to admit that these young
people viewed me in the light of a “character.” That was the part
Farwell had me there to play.

I can’t say I was too pleased with the notion, and I was kind of sorry
for Mrs. Knowles, too.  I’d have staked a good deal that my guess was
right, for instance: that Farwell had gone first to this girl for her
congratulations when he got the nomination, instead of to his wife;
and that she felt--or pretended she felt--a soully sympathy with his
ambitions; that she wanted to be, or to play the part of, a woman of
affairs, and that he talked over everything he knew with her. I
imagined they thought they were studying political reform together,
and she, in her novel-reading way, wanted to pose to herself as the
brilliant lady diplomat, kind of a Madam Roland advising statesmen, or
something of that sort.  And I was there as part of their political
studies, an object-lesson, to bring her “more closely in touch” (as
Farwell would say) with the realities he had to contend with. I was
one of the “evils of politics,” because I knew how to control a few
wards, and get out the darkey vote almost as well as Gorgett. Gorgett
would have been better, but Farwell couldn’t very easily get at him.

I had to sit there for a little while, of course, like a ninny between
them; and I wasn’t the more comfortable because I thought Knowles
looked like a bigger fool than I did. Bella’s presence seemed to
excite him to a kind of exaltation; he had a dark flush on his face
and his eyes were large and shiny.

I got out as soon as I could, naturally, wondering what my wife would
say if she knew; and while I was fumbling around among the
knick-knacks and fancy things in the hall for my hat and coat, I heard
Farwell get up and cross the room to a chair nearer Bella, and then
she said, in a sort of pungent whisper, that came out to me
distinctly:

“My knight!” That’s what she called him.  “My knight!” That’s what she
said.

I don’t know whether I was more disgusted with myself for hearing, or
with old Buskirk who spent his whole time frittering around the club
library, and let his daughter go in for the sort of soulliness she was
carrying on with Farwell Knowles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Trouble in our ranks began right away. Our nominee knew too much, and
did all the wrong things from the start; he began by antagonizing most
of our old wheel-horses; he wouldn’t consult with us, and advised with
his own kind. In spite of that, we had a good organization working for
him, and by a week before election I felt pretty confident that our
show was as good as Gorgett’s.  It looked like it would be close.

Just about then things happened. We had dropped onto one of Lafe’s
little tricks mighty smartly. We got one of his heelers fixed (of
course we usually tried to keep all that kind of work dark from
Farwell Knowles), and this heeler showed the whole business up for a
consideration.  There was a precinct certain to be strong for Knowles,
where the balloting was to take place in the office-room of a
hook-and-ladder company.  In the corner was a small closet with one
shelf, high up toward the ceiling. It was in the good old free and
easy Hayes and Wheeler times, and when the polls closed at six o’clock
it was planned that the election officers should set the ballot-box up
on this shelf, lock the closet door, and go out for their suppers,
leaving one of each side to watch in the room so that nobody could
open the closet-door with a pass-key and tamper with the ballots
before they were counted. Now, the ceiling over the shelf in the
closet wasn’t plastered, and it formed, of course, part of the
flooring in the room above. The boards were to be loosened by a
Gorgett man upstairs, as soon as the box was locked in; he would take
up a piece of planking--enough to get an arm in--and stuff the box
with Gorgett ballots till it grunted. Then he would replace the board
and slide out. Of course, when they began the count our people would
know there was something wrong, but they would be practically up
against it, and the precinct would be counted for Gorgett.

They brought the heeler up to me, not at headquarters (I was city
chairman) but at a hotel room I’d hired as a convenient place for the
more important conferences and to keep out of the way of every
Tom-Dick-and-Harry grafter.  Bob Crowder, a ward committee-man,
brought him up and stayed in the room, while the fellow--his name was
Genz--went over the whole thing.

“What do you think of it?” says Bob, when Genz finished. “Ain’t it
worth the money? I declare, it’s so neat and simple and so almighty
smart besides, I’m almost ashamed some of our boys hadn’t thought of
it for us.”

I was just opening my mouth to answer, when there was a signal knock
at the door and a young fellow we had as a kind of watcher in the next
room (opening into the one I used) put his head in and said
Mr. Knowles wanted to see me.

“Ask him to wait a minute,” said I, for I didn’t want him to know
anything about Genz. “I’ll be there right away.”

Then came Farwell Knowles’s voice from the other room, sharp and
excited. “I believe I’ll not wait,” says he. “I’ll come in there now!”

And that’s what he did, pushing by our watcher before I could hustle
Genz into the hall through an outer door, though I tried to. There’s
no denying it looked a little suspicious.

Farwell came to a dead halt in the middle of the room.

“I know that person!” he said, pointing at Genz, his brow mighty
black. “I saw him and Crowder sneaking into the hotel by the back way,
half an hour ago, and I knew there was some devilish--”

“Keep your shirt on, Farwell,” said I.

He was pretty hot. “I’ll be obliged to you,” he returned, “if you’ll
explain what you’re doing here in secret with this low hound of
Gorgett’s.  Do you think you can play with me the way you do with your
petty committee-men? If you do, I’ll _show_ you! You’re not
dealing with a child, and I’m not going to be tricked or sold out of
this elec--”

I took him by the shoulders and sat him down hard on a cane-bottomed
chair. “That’s a dirty thought,” said I, “and if you knew enough to
be responsible I reckon you’d have to account for it.  As it is--why,
I don’t care whether you apologize or not.”

He weakened right away, or, at least, he saw his mistake. “Then won’t
you give me some explanation,” he asked, in a less excitable way, “why
are you closeted here with a notorious member of Gorgett’s ring?”

“No,” said I, “I won’t.”

“Be careful,” said he. “This won’t look well in print.”

That was just so plumb foolish that I began to laugh at him; and when
I got to laughing I couldn’t keep up being angry. It _was_
ridiculous, his childishness and suspiciousness. Right there was where
I made my mistake.

“All right,” says I to Bob Crowder, giving way to the impulse. “He’s
the candidate. Tell him.”

“Do you mean it?” asks Bob, surprised.

“Yes. Tell him the whole thing.”

So Bob did, helped by Genz, who was more or less sulky, of course; and
is wasn’t long till I saw how stupid I’d been. Knowles went straight
up in the air.

“I knew it was a dirty business, politics,” he said, jumping out of
his chair, “but I didn’t _realize_ it before. And I’d like to
know,” he went on, turning to me, “how you learn to sit there so
calmly and listen to such iniquities. How do you dull your conscience
so that you can do it? And what course do you propose to follow in the
matter of this confession?”

“Me?” I answered. “Why, I’m going to send supper in to our fellows,
and the box’ll never see that closet. The man upstairs may get a
little tired. I reckon the laugh’s on Gorgett; it’s his scheme and--”

Farwell interrupted me; his face was outrageously red. “_What!_
You actually mean you hadn’t intended to expose this infamy?”

“Steady,” I said. I was getting a little hot, too, and talked more
than I ought. “Mr. Genz here has our pledge that he’s not given away,
or he’d never have--”

“_Mister_ Genz!” sneered Farwell. “_Mister_ Genz has your
pledge, has he? Allow me to tell you that I represent the people, the
_honest_ people, in this campaign, and that the people and I have
made no pledges to _Mister_ Genz. You’ve paid the scoundrel--”

“_Here!_” says Genz.

“The scoundrel!” Farwell repeated, his voice rising and rising, “paid
him for his information, and I tell you by that act and your silence
on such a matter you make yourself a party to a conspiracy.”

“Shut the transom,” says I to Crowder.

“_I’m_ under no pledge, I say,” shouted Farwell, “and I do not
compound felonies. You’re not conducting my campaign. I’m doing that,
and I don’t conduct it along such lines. It’s precisely the kind of
fraud and corruption that I intend to stamp out in this town, and this
is where I begin to work.”

“How?” said I.

“You’ll see--and you’ll see soon! The penitentiaries are built for
just this--”

“_Sh, sh!_” said I, but he paid no attention.

“They say Gorgett owns the Grand Jury,” he went on. “Well, let him!
Within a week I’ll be mayor of this town--and Gorgett’s Grand Jury
won’t outlast his defeat very long. By his own confession this man
Genz is party to a conspiracy with Gorgett, and you and Crowder are
witnesses to the confession. I’ll see that you have the pleasure of
giving your testimony before a Grand Jury of determined men. Do you
hear me? And tomorrow afternoon’s _Herald_ will have the whole
infamous story to the last word. I give you my solemn oath upon it!”

All three of us, Crowder, Genz, and I, sprang to our feet. We were
considerably worked up, and none of us said anything for a minute or
so, just looked at Knowles.

“Yes, you’re a little shocked,” he said. “It’s always shocking to men
like you to come in contact with honesty that won’t compromise. You
needn’t talk to me; you can’t say anything that would change me to
save your lives. I’ve taken my oath upon it, and you couldn’t alter me
a hair’s breadth if you burned me at a slow fire. Light, light, that’s
what you need, the light of day and publicity! I’m going to clear this
town of fraud, and if Gorgett don’t wear the stripes for this my
name’s not Farwell Knowles! He’ll go over the road, handcuffed to a
deputy, before three months are gone. Don’t tell me I’m injuring
_you_ and the party by it. Pah! It will give me a thousand more
votes. I’m not exactly a child, my friends!  On my honour, the whole
thing will be printed in to-morrow’s paper!”

“For God’s sake--” Crowder broke out, but Knowles cut him off.

“I bid you good-afternoon,” he said, sharply.  We all started toward
him, but before we’d got half across the room he was gone, and the
door slammed behind him.

Bob dropped into a chair; he was looking considerably pale; I guess I
was, too, but Genz was ghastly.

“Let me out of here,” he said in a sick voice.  “Let me out of here!”

“Sit down!” I told him.

“Just let me out of here,” he said again. And before I could stop him,
he’d gone, too, in a blind hurry.

Bob and I were left alone, and not talking any.

Not for a while. Then Bob said: “Where do you reckon he’s gone?”

“Reckon who’s gone?”

“Genz.”

“To see Lafe.”

“What?”

“Of course he has. What else can he do? He’s gone up any way. The best
he can do is to try to square himself a little by owning up the whole
thing. Gorgett will know it all any way, tomorrow afternoon, when the
_Herald_ comes out.”

“I guess you’re right,” said Bob. “We’re done up along with Gorgett;
but I believe that idiot’s right, he won’t lose votes by playing hob
with _us_. What’s to be done?”

“Nothing,” I answered. “You can’t head Farwell off. It’s all my fault,
Bob.”

“Isn’t there any way to get hold of him? A crazy man could see that
his best friend couldn’t _beg_ it out of him, and that he
wouldn’t spare any of us; but don’t you know of some bludgeon we could
hang up over him?”

“Nothing. It’s up to Gorgett.”

“Well,” said Bob, “Lafe’s mighty smart, but it looks like
God-help-Gorgett now!”

Well, sir, I couldn’t think of anything better to do than to go around
and see Gorgett; so, after waiting long enough for Genz to see him and
get away, I went. Lafe was always cool and slow; but I own I expected
to find him flustered, and was astonished to see right away that he
wasn’t.  He was smoking, as usual, and wearing his hat, as he always
did, indoors and out, sitting with his feet upon his desk, and a
pleasant look of contemplation on his face.

“Oh,” says I, “then Genz hasn’t been here?”

“Yes,” says he, “he has. I reckon you folks have ‘most spoiled Genz’s
usefulness for me.”

“You’re taking it mighty easy,” I told him.

“Yep. Isn’t it all in the game? What’s the use of getting excited
because you’ve blocked us on one precinct? We’ll leave that closet out
of our calculations, that’s all.”

“Almighty Powers, I don’t mean _that!_ Didn’t Genz tell you--”

“About Mr. Knowles and the _Herald_? Oh, yes,” he answered,
knocking the ashes off his cigar quietly. “And about the thousand
votes he’ll gain? Oh, yes. And about incidentally showing you and
Crowder up as bribing Genz and promising to protect him--making your
methods public? Oh, yes. And about the Grand Jury? Yes, Genz told
me. And about me and the penitentiary. Yes, he told me. Mr. Knowles is
a rather excitable young man. Don’t you think so?”

“Well?”

“Well, what’s the trouble?”

“Trouble!” I said. “I’d like to know what you’re going to do?”

“What’s Knowles going to do?”

“He’s sworn to expose the whole deal, as you’ve just told me you knew;
one of the preliminaries to having us all up before the next Grand
Jury and sending you and Genz over the road, that’s all!”

Gorgett laughed that old, fat laugh of his, tilting farther back, with
his hands in his pockets and his eyes twinkling under his last
summer’s straw hat-brim.

“He can’t hardly afford it, can he,” he drawled, “he being the
representative of the law and order and purity people? They’re mighty
sensitive, those folks. A little thing turns ‘em.”

“I don’t understand,” said I.

“Well, I hardly reckoned you would,” he returned.  “But I expect if
Mr. Knowles wants it warm all round, _I’m_ willing. We may be
able to do some of the heating up, ourselves.”

This surprised me, coming from him, and I felt pretty sore. “You mean,
then,” I said, “that you think you’ve got a line on something our boys
have been planning--like the way we got onto the closet trick--and
you’re going to show _us_ up because we can’t control Knowles;
that you hold that over me as a threat unless I shut him up?  Then I
tell you plainly I know I can’t shut him up, and you can go ahead and
do us the worst you can.”

“Whatever little tricks I may or may not have discovered,” he
answered, “that isn’t what I mean, though I don’t know as I’d be above
making such a threat if I thought it was my only way to keep out of
the penitentiary. I know as well as you do that such a threat would
only give Knowles pleasure. He’d take the credit for forcing me to
expose you, and he’s convinced that everything of that kind he does
makes him solider with the people and brings him a step nearer this
chair I’m sitting in, which he regards as a step itself to the
governorship and Heaven knows what not. He thinks he’s detached
himself from you and your organization till he stands alone.
_That_ boy’s head was turned even before you fellows nominated
him. He’s a wonder. I’ve been noticing him long before he turned up as
a candidate, and I believe the great surprise of his life was that
John the Baptist didn’t precede and herald _him_. Oh, no, going
for you wouldn’t stop him--not by a thousand miles. It would only do
him good.”

“Well, what _are_ you going to do? Are you going to see him?”

“No, sir!” Lafe spoke sharply.

“Well, well! What?”

“I’m not bothering to run around asking audiences of Farwell
Knowleses; you ought to know that!”

“Given it up?”

“Not exactly. I’ve sent a fellow around to talk to him.”

“What use will that be?”

Gorgett brought his feet down off the desk with a bang.

“_Then_ he can come to see _me_, if he wants to.  D’you
think I’ve been fool enough not to know what sort of man I was going
up against? D’you think that, knowing him as I do, I’ve not been ready
for something of this kind? And that’s all you’ll get out of
_me_, this afternoon!”

And it was all I did.

       *       *       *       *       *

It may have been about one o’clock, that night, or perhaps a little
earlier, as I lay tossing about, unable to sleep because I was too
much disturbed in my mind--too angry with myself--when there came a
loud, startling ring at the front-door bell. I got up at once and
threw open a window over the door, calling out to know what was
wanted.

“It’s I,” said a voice I didn’t know--a queer, hoarse voice. “Come
down.”

“Who’s ‘I’?” I asked.

“Farwell Knowles,” said the voice. “Let me in!”

I started, and looked down.

He was standing on the steps where the light of a street-lamp fell on
him, and I saw even by the poor glimmer that something was wrong; he
was white as a dead man. There was something wild in his attitude; he
had no hat, and looked all mixed-up and disarranged.

“Come down--come down!” he begged thickly, beckoning me with his arm.

I got on some clothes, slipped downstairs without wakening my wife,
lit the hall light, and took him into the library. He dropped in a
chair with a quick breath like a sob, and when I turned from lighting
the gas I was shocked by the change in him since afternoon. I never
saw such a look before.  It was like a rat you’ve seen running along
the gutter side of the curbstone with a terrier after it.

“What’s the matter, Farwell?” I asked.

“Oh, my God!” he whispered.

“What’s happened?”

“It’s hard to tell you,” said he. “Oh, but it’s hard to tell.”

“Want some whiskey?” I asked, reaching for a decanter that stood
handy. He nodded and I gave him good allowance.

“Now,” said I, when he’d gulped it down, “let’s hear what’s turned
up.”

He looked at me kind of dimly, and I’ll be shot if two tears didn’t
well up in his eyes and run down his cheeks. “I’ve come to ask you,”
 he said slowly and brokenly, “to ask you--if you won’t intercede with
Gorgett for me; to ask you if you won’t beg him to--to grant me--an
interview before to-morrow noon.”

“_What!_”

“Will you do it?”

“Certainly. Have you asked for an interview with him yourself?”

He struck the back of his hand across his forehead--struck hard, too.

“Have I tried? I’ve been following him like a dog since five o’clock
this afternoon, beseeching him to give me twenty minutes’ talk in
private.  He _laughed_ at me! He isn’t a man; he’s an iron-hearted
devil! Then I went to his house and waited three hours for him. When
he came, all he would say was that you were supposed to be running
this campaign for me, and I’d better consult with you. Then he turned
me out of his house!”

“You seem to have altered a little since this afternoon.” I couldn’t
resist that.

“This afternoon!” he shuddered. “I think that was a thousand years
ago!”

“What do you want to see him for?”

“What for? To see if there isn’t a little human pity in him for a
fellow-being in agony--to end my suspense and know whether or not he
means to ruin me and my happiness and my home forever!”

Farwell didn’t seem to be regarding me so much in the light of a
character as usual; still, one thing puzzled me, and I asked him how
he happened to come to me.

“Because I thought if anyone in the world could do anything with
Gorgett, you’d be the one,” he answered. “Because it seemed to me he’d
listen to you, and because I thought--in my wild clutching at the
remotest hope--that he meant to make my humiliation more awful by
sending me to you to ask you to go back to him for me.”

“Well, well,” I said, “I guess if you want me to be of any use you’ll
have to tell me what it’s all about.”

“I suppose so,” he said, and choked, with a kind of despairing sound;
“I don’t see any way out of it.”

“Go ahead,” I told him. “I reckon I’m old enough to keep my
counsel. Let it go, Farwell.”

“Do you know,” he began, with a sharp, grinding of his teeth, “that
dishonourable scoundrel has had me _watched_, ever since there
was talk of me for the fusion candidate? He’s had me followed,
_shadowed_, till he knows more about me than I do myself.”

I saw right there that I’d never really measured Gorgett for as tall
as he really was. “Have a cigar?” I asked Knowles, and lit one
myself. But he shook his head and went on:

“You remember my taking you to call on General Buskirk’s daughter?”

“Quite well,” said I, puffing pretty hard.

“An angel! A white angel! And this beast, this _boodler_ has the
mud in his hands to desecrate her white garments!”

“Oh,” says I.

The angel’s knight began to pace the room as he talked, clinching and
unclinching his hands, while the perspiration got his hair all
scraggly on his forehead. You see Farwell was doing some suffering and
he wasn’t used to it.

“When she came home from abroad, a year ago,” he said, “it seemed to
me that a light came into my life. I’ve got to tell you the whole
thing,” he groaned, “but it’s hard! Well, my wife is taken up with our
little boy and housekeeping,--I don’t complain of her, mind that--but
she really hasn’t entered into my ambitions, my inner life. She
doesn’t often read my editorials, and when she does, she hasn’t been
serious in her consideration of them and of my purposes. Sometimes she
differed openly from me and sometimes greeted my work for truth and
light with indifference! I had learned to bear this, and more; to save
myself pain I had come to shrink from exposing my real self to
her. Then, when this young girl came, for the first time in my life I
found real sympathy and knew what I thought I never should know; a
heart attuned to my own, a mind that sought my own ideals, a soul of
the same aspirations--and a perfect faith in what I was and in what it
was my right to attain. She met me with open hands, and lifted me to
my best self. What, unhappily, I did not find at home, I found in
her--encouragement. I went to her in every mood, always to be greeted
by the most exquisite perception, always the same delicate
receptiveness. She gave me a sister’s love!”

I nodded; I knew he thought so.

“Well, when I went into this campaign, what more natural than that I
should seek her ready sympathy at every turn, than that I should
consult with her at each crisis, and, when I became the fusion
candidate, that I should go to her with the news that I had taken my
first great step toward my goal and had achieved thus far in my
struggle for the cause of our hearts--reform?”

“You went up to Buskirk’s after the convention?”  I asked.

“No; the night before.” He took his head in his hands and groaned, but
without pausing in his march up and down the room. “You remember, it
was known by ten o’clock, after the primaries, that I should receive
the nomination.  As soon as I was sure, I went to her; and I found her
in the same state of exaltation and pride that I was experiencing
myself. There was _always_ the answer in her, I tell you, always
the response that such a nature as mine craves. She took both my hands
and looked at me just as a proud sister would. ‘I _read_ your
news,’ she said. ‘It is in your face!’ Wasn’t that touching? Then we
sat in silence for a while, each understanding the other’s joy and
triumph in the great blow I had struck for the right. I left very
soon, and she came with me to the door. We stood for a moment on the
step--and--for the first time, the only time in my life--I received
a--a sister’s caress.”

“Oh,” said I. I understood how Gorgett had managed to be so calm that
afternoon.

“It was the purest kiss ever given!” Farwell groaned again.

“Who was it saw you?” I asked.

He dropped into a chair and I saw the tears of rage and humiliation
welling up again in his eyes.

“We might as well have been standing by the footlights in a theatre!”
 he burst out, brokenly.  “Who saw it? Who _didn’t_ see it?  Gorgett’s
sleuth-hound, the man he sent to me this afternoon, for one; the
policeman on the beat that he’d stopped for a chat in front of the
house, for another; a maid in the hall behind us, the policeman’s
sweetheart _she_ is, for another! Oh!” he cried, “the desecration!
That one caress, one that I’d thought a sacred secret between us
forever--and in plain sight of those three hideous vulgarians, all
belonging to my enemy, Gorgett!  Ah, the horror of it--what _horror_!”

Farwell wrung his hands and sat, gulping as if he were sick, without
speaking for several moments.

“What terms did the man he sent offer from Gorgett?” I asked.

“_No_ terms! He said to go ahead and print my story about the closet;
it was a matter of perfect indifference to him; that he meant to print
this about me in their damnable party-organ tomorrow, in any event,
and only warned me so that I should have time to prepare Miss Buskirk.
Of course he don’t care! _I’ll_ be ruined, that’s all.  Oh, the
hideous injustice of it, the unreason!  Don’t you see the frightful
irony of it? The best thing in my life, the widest and deepest; my
friendship with a good woman becomes a joke and a horror!  Don’t you
see that the personal scandal about me absolutely undermines me and
nullifies the political scandal of the closet affair?  Gorgett will
come in again and the Grand Jury would laugh at any attack on him. I’m
ruined for good, for good and all, for good and all!”

“Have you told Miss Buskirk?”

He uttered a kind of a shriek. “_No!_ I can’t!  How could I? What do
you think I’m made of?  And there’s her father--and all her relatives,
and mine, and my wife--my wife! If she leaves me--”

A fit of nausea seemed to overcome him and he struggled with it,
shivering. “My God! Do you think I can _face_ it? I’ve come to you for
help in the most wretched hour of my life--all darkness, darkness!
Just on the eve of triumph to be stricken down--it’s so cruel, so
devilish! And to think of the horrible comic-weekly misery of it,
caught kissing a girl, by a policeman and his sweetheart, the
chambermaid! Ugh! The vulgar ridicule--the hideous laughter!” He
raised his hands to me, the most grovelling figure of a man I ever
saw.

“Oh, for God’s sake, help me, help me....”

Well, sir, it was sickening enough, but after he had gone, and I
tumbled into bed again, I thought of Gorgett and laughed myself to
sleep with admiration.

When Farwell and I got to Gorgett’s office, fairly early the next
morning, Lafe was sitting there alone, expecting us, of course, as I
knew he would be, but in the same characteristic, lazy attitude I’d
found him in, the day before; feet up on the desk, hat-brim tilted
‘way forward, cigar in the right-hand corner of his mouth, his hands
in his pockets, his double-chin mashing down his limp collar. He
didn’t even turn to look at us as we came in and closed the door.

“Come in, gentlemen, come in,” says he, not moving. “I kind of thought
you’d be along, about this time.”

“Looking for us, were you?” I asked.

“Yes,” said he. “Sit down.”

We did; Farwell looking pretty pale and red-eyed, and swallowing a
good deal.

There was a long, long silence. We just sat and watched
Gorgett. _I_ didn’t want to say anything; and I believe Farwell
couldn’t. It lasted so long that it began to look as if the little
blue haze at the end of Lafe’s cigar was all that was going to
happen. But by and by he turned his head ever so little, and looked at
Knowles.

“Got your story for the _Herald_ set up yet?” he asked.

Farwell swallowed some more and just shook his head.

“Haven’t begun to work up the case for the Grand Jury yet?”

“No,” answered Farwell, in almost a whisper, his head hanging.

“Why,” Lafe said, in a tone of quiet surprise; “you haven’t given all
that up, have you?”

“Yes.”

“Well, ain’t that strange?” said Lafe. “What’s the trouble?”

Knowles didn’t answer. In fact, I felt mighty sorry for him.

All at once, Gorgett’s manner changed; he threw away his cigar, the
only time I ever saw him do it without lighting another at the end of
it.  His feet came down to the floor and he wheeled round on Farwell.

“I understand your wife’s a mighty nice lady, Mr. Knowles.”

Farwell’s head sank lower till we couldn’t see his face, only his
fingers working kind of pitifully.

“I guess you’ve had rather a bad night?” said Gorgett, inquiringly.

“Oh, my God!” The words came out in a whisper from under Knowles’s
tilted hat-brim.

“I believe I’d advise you to stick to your wife,” Gorgett went on,
quietly, “and let politics alone.  Somehow I don’t believe you’re the
kind of man for it. I’ve taken considerable interest in you for some
time back, Mr. Knowles, though I don’t suppose you’ve noticed it until
lately; and I don’t believe you understand the game. You’ve said some
pretty hard things in your paper about me; you’ve been more or less
excitable in your statements; but that’s all right. What I don’t like
altogether, though, is that it seems to me you’ve been really tooting
your own horn all the time--calling everybody dishonest and
scoundrels, to shove _yourself_ forward. That always ends in sort
of a lonely position. I reckon you feel considerably lonely, just now?
Well, yesterday, I understand you were talking pretty free about the
penitentiary.  Now, that ain’t just the way to act, according to my
notion. It’s a bad word. Here we are, he and I”--he pointed to
me--“carrying on our little fight according to the rules, enjoying it
and blocking each other, gaining a point here and losing one there,
everything perfectly good-natured, when _you_ turn up and begin
to talk about the penitentiary! That ain’t quite the thing.  You see
words like that are liable to stir up the passions. It’s dangerous.
You were trusted, when they told you the closet story, to regard it as
a confidence--though they didn’t go through the form of pledging
you--because your people had given their word not to betray Genz. But
you couldn’t see it and there you went, talking about the Grand Jury
and stripes and so on, stirring up passions and ugly feelings. And I
want to tell you that the man who can afford to do that has to be
mighty immaculate himself. The only way to play politics, whatever
you’re _for_, is to learn the game first. Then you’ll know how
far you can go and what your own record will stand. There ain’t a man
alive whose record will stand too much, Mr.  Knowles--and when you get
to thinking about that and what your own is, it makes you feel more
like treating your fellow-sinners a good deal gentler than you would
otherwise. Now _I’ve_ got a wife and two little girls, and my old
mother’s proud of me (though you wouldn’t think it) and they’d hate it
a good deal to see me sent over the road for playing the game the best
I could as I found it.”

He paused for a moment, looking sad and almost embarrassed. “It ain’t
any great pleasure to me,” he said, “to think that the people have let
it get to be the game that it is. But I reckon it’s good for
_you_. I reckon the best thing that ever happened to you is
having to come here this morning to ask mercy of a man you looked down
on.”

Farwell shifted a little in his chair, but he didn’t speak, and
Gorgett went on:

“I suppose you think it’s mighty hard that your private character
should be used against you in a political question by a man you call a
public corruptionist. But I’m in a position where I can’t take any
chances against an antagonist that won’t play the game my way. I had
to find your vulnerable point to defend myself, and, in finding it, I
find that there’s no need to defend myself any longer, because it
makes all your weapons ineffective.  I believe the trouble with you,
Mr.  Knowles, is that you’ve never realized that politicians are human
beings. But we are: we breathe and laugh and like to do right, like
other folks.  And, like most men, you’ve thought you were different
from other men, and you aren’t. So, here you are. I believe you said
you’d had a hard night?”

Knowles looked up at last, his lips working for a while before he
could speak. “I’ll resign now--if you’ll--if you’ll let me off,” he
said.

Gorgett shook his head. “I’ve got the election in my hand,” he
answered, “though you fellows don’t know it. You’ve got nothing to
offer me, and you couldn’t buy me if you had.”

At that, Knowles just sank into himself with a little, faint cry, in a
kind of heap. There wasn’t anything but anguish and despair _to_
him. Big tears were sliding down his cheeks.

I didn’t say anything. Gorgett sat looking at him for a good while;
and then his fat chin began to tremble a little and I saw his eyes
shining in the shadow under his old hat-brim.

He got up and went over to Farwell with slow steps and put his hand
gently on his shoulder.

“Go on home to your wife,” he said, in a low voice that was the
saddest I ever heard. “I don’t bear you any ill-will in the
world. Nobody’s going to give you away.”



THE ALIENS


Pietro Tobigili, that gay young chestnut vender--he of the radiant
smiles--gave forth, in his warm tenor, his own interpretation of “Ach
du lieber Augustine,” whenever Bertha, rosy waitress in the little
German restaurant, showed her face at the door. For a month it had
been a courtship; and the merchant sang often:

_“Ahaha, du libra Ogostine,
  Ogostine, Ogostine!
Ahaha, du libra Ogostine,
  Nees coma ross.”_

The acquaintance, begun by the song and Pietro’s wonderful laugh, had
grown tender. The chestnut vender had a way with him; he looked like
the “Neapolitan Fisher Lad” of the chromos, and you could have fancied
him of two centuries ago, putting a rose in his hair; even as it was,
he had the ear-rings. But the smile of him it was that won Bertha,
when she came to work in the little restaurant. It was a smile that
put the world at its ease; it proclaimed the coming of morning over
the meadows, and, taking every bystander into an April friendship, ran
on suddenly into a laugh that was like silver, and like a strange
puppy’s claiming you for the lost master.

So it befell that Bertha was fascinated; that, blushing, she laughed
back to him, and was nothing offended when, at his first sight of her,
he rippled out at once into “Ahaha, du libra Ogostine.”

Within two weeks he was closing his business (no intricate matter)
every evening, to walk home with her, through the September moonlight.
Then extraordinary things happened to the English language.

“I ain’d nefer can like no foreigner!” she often joked back to a
question of his. “Nefer, nefer! you t’ink I’m takin’ up mit a
hant-orkan maan, Mister Toby?”

Whereupon he would carol out the tender taunt, “Ahaha, du libra
Ogostine!”

“Yoost a hant-orkan maan!”

“No! _No_! No oragan! I am a greata--greata merchant. Vote a
Republican! Polititshian! To-bigli, Chititzen Republican.
Naturalasize! March in a parade!”

Never lived native American prouder of his citizenship than this
adopted one. Had he not voted at the election? Was he not a member of
the great Republican party? He had eagerly joined it, for the reason
that he had been a Republican in Italy, and he had drawn with him to
the polls his second cousin, Leo Vesschi, and the five other Italians
with whom he lived. For this, he had been rewarded by Pixley, his
precinct committee-man, who allowed him to carry pink torches in three
night processions.

“You keeb oud politigs,” said Bertha, earnestly, one evening. “My
uncle, Louie Gratz, he iss got a neighbour-lady; her man gone in
politigs.  After_vorts_ he git it! He iss in der bennidenshierry
two years. You know why?”

“Democrat!” shouted the chestnut vender triumphantly.

“No, sir! Yoost politigs,” replied the unpartisan Bertha. “You keeb
oud politigs.”

_“Ahaha, du libra Ogostine,
  Ogostine, Ogostine!
Ahaha, du libra Ogostine,
  Nees coma ross.”_

The song was always a teasing of her and carried all his friendly
laughter at her, because of her German ways; but it became softly
exultant whenever she betrayed her interest in him.

“Libra Ogostine, she afraid I go penitensh?”  he inquired.

“Me!” she jeered with uneasy laughter. “_I_ ain’d care! but
you--you don’ look oud, you git in dod voikhouse!”

He turned upon her, suddenly, a face like a mother’s, and touched her
hand with a light caress.

“I stay in a workhouse sevena-hunder’ year,” he said gently, “you come
seeta by window some-a-time.”

At this Bertha turned away, was silent for a space, leaning on the
gate-post in front of her uncle’s house, whither they were now
come. Finally she answered brokenly: “I ain’d sit by no vinder for
yoost a jessnut maan.” This was her way of stimulating his ambition.

“Ahaha!” he cried. “You don’ know? I’m goin’ buy beeg stan’! Candy!
Peanut! Banan’!  Make some-a-time four dollar a day! ‘Tis a greata
countra! Bimaby git a store! Ride a buggy!  Smoke a cigar! You play
piano! Vote a Republican!”

“Toby!”

“Tis true!”

“Toby,” she said tearfully; “Toby, you voik hart, und safe your
money?”

“You help?” he whispered.

“I help--_you_!” she cried loudly. Then, with a sudden fit of
sobbing, she flung open the gate and ran at the top of her speed into
the house.

Halcyon the days for Pietro Tobigli, extravagant the jocularity of
this betrothed one. And, as his happiness, so did his prosperity
increase; the little chestnut furnace became the smallest adjunct of
his affairs; for he leaped (almost at one bound) to the proprietorship
of a wooden stand, shaped like the crate of an upright piano and
backed up against the brick wall of the restaurant--a mercantile house
which was closed at night by putting the lid on. All day long Toby’s
smile arrested pedestrians, and compelled them to buy of him, making
his wares sweeter in the mouth. Bertha dwelt in a perpetual serenade:
on warm days, when the restaurant doors were open, she could hear him
singing, not always “Ogostine,” but festal lilts of Italy, liquid and
strangely sweet to her; and at such times, when the actual voice was
not in her ears, still she blushed with delight to hear in her heart
the thrilling echoes of his barcaroles, and found them humming
cheerily upon her own lips.

Toby was to save five hundred dollars before they married, a great
sum, but they were patient and both worked very hard. The winter would
have fallen bitterly upon an outdoor merchant lacking Toby’s confident
heart, but on the coldest days, when Bertha looked out, she always
found him slapping his hands, and trudging up and down in the snow in
front of the little box; and, as soon as he caught sight of
her--“Aha-ha, du libra Ogostine, Ogostine, Ogostine!”

She saved her own money with German persistence, and on Christmas day
her present to her betrothed, in return for a coral pin, was a pair of
rubber boots filled with little cakes.

Elysium was the dwelling-place of Pietro Tobigli, though, apparently,
he abode in a horrible slum cellar with Leo Vesschi and the five Latti
brothers. In this place our purveyor of sweetmeats was the only
light. Thither he had carried his songs and his laugh and his furnace
when he came from Italy to join Vesschi; and there he remained, partly
out of loyalty to his un-prosperous comrades, and partly because his
share of the expense was only twenty-five cents a week, and every
saving was a saving for Bertha. Every evening, on the homeward walk,
the affianced pair passed the hideous stairway that led down to the
cellar, and Bertha, neat soul, never failed to shudder at it. She did
not know that Pietro lived there, for he feared it might distress her;
nor could she ever persuade him to tell her where he lived.

Because of this mystery, upon which he merrily insisted, she affected
a fear that he would some day desert her. “You don’ tell me where you
lif, I t’ink you goin’ ran away of me, Toby.  I vake opp some day; git
a ledder dod you gone back home by ‘Talian lady dod’s grazy ‘bout
you!”

“Ahaha! Libra Ogostine, you believe I can make a write weet a
pen-a-paper? I don’ know that-a _how_. Some-a-time you _see_
that gran’ palazzo where I leef. Eesa greata-great sooraprise!”

In the gran’ palazzo, it was as much as he could do to keep clean his
own grim little bunk in the corner. His comrades, sullen, hopeless,
came at evening from ten hours’ desperate shovelling, and exhibited no
ambition for water or brooms, but sat hunched and silent, or morosely
muttering and coughing, in the dark room with its sodden earthen
floor, stained walls, and one smoky lamp.

To this uncomfortable chamber repaired, one March evening, Mr. Frank
Pixley, Republican precinct committee-man, nor was its dinginess an
unharmonious setting for that political brilliant.  He was a
pock-pitted, damp-looking, soiled little fungus of a man, who had
attained to his office because, in the dirtiest precinct of the
wickedest ward in the city, he had, through the operation of a
befitting ingenuity, forced a recognition of his leadership. From such
an office, manned by a Pixley, there leads an upward ramification of
wires, invisible to all except manipulators, which extends to higher
surfaces. Usually the Pixley is a deep-sea puppet, wholly controlled
by the dingily gilded wires that run down to him; but there are times
when the Pixley gives forth initial impulses of his own, such as may
alter the upper surface; for, in a system of this character, every
twitch is felt throughout the whole ramification.

“Hello, boys,” the committee-man called out with automatic geniality,
as he descended the broken steps. “How are ye? All here? That’s good;
that’s the stuff! Good work!”

Only Toby replied with more than an indifferent grunt; but he ran
forward, carrying an empty beer keg which he placed as a seat for the
guest.

“Aha_ha_, Meesa Peeslay! Make a parade?  Torchlight?
Bandaplay--ta ra, la la la? Firework?  Fzzz! Boum! Eh?”

The politician responded to Toby’s extravagantly friendly laughter
with some mechanical cachinnations which, like an obliging salesman,
he turned on and off with no effort. “Not by a dern sight!” he
answered. “The campaign ain’t begun yet.”

“Champagne?” inquired Tobigli politely.

“Campaign, campaign,” explained Pixley.  “Not much champagne in
yours!” he chuckled beneath his breath. “Blame lucky to git Chicago
bowl!”

“What is that, that campaign?”

“Why--why, it’s the campaign. Workin’ up public sentiment; gittin’ you
boys in line, ‘lect-ioneerin’--fixin’ it _right_.”

Tobigli shook his head. “Campaign?” he repeated.

“Why--Gee, _you_ know! Free beer, cigars, speakin’, handshaking,
paradin’--”

“Ahaha!” The merchant sprang to his feet with a shout. “Yes!
Hoor-r-ra! Vote a Republican!  Dam-a Democrat!”

“That’s it,” replied the committee-man somewhat languidly. “You see,
this is a Republican precinct, and it turns the ward--”

“Allaways a Republican!” vociferated Pietro.  “That eesa right?”

“Well,” said the other, “of course, whichever way you go, you want to
follow your precinct committee-man--that’s me.”

“Yess! Vote a Republican.”

Pixley looked about the room, his little red eyes peering out cannily
from under his crooked brows at each of the sulky figures in the damp
shadows.

“You boys all vote the way Pete says?” he asked.

“Vote same Pietro,” answered Vesschi. “Allaways.”

“Allaways a Republican,” added Pietro sparkingly, with abundant
gesture. “‘Tis a greata-great countra. Republican here same a
Republican at home--eena Etallee. Republican eternall! All good
Republican eena thees house! Hoor-r-ra!”

“Well,” said Pixley, with a furtiveness half habit, as he rose to go,
“of course, you want to keep your eye on your committee-man, and kind
of foller along with him, whatever he does. That’s me.” He placed a
dingy bottle on the keg. “I jest dropped in to see how you boys were
gittin’ along--mighty tidy little place you got here.”  He changed the
stub of his burnt-out cigar to the other side of his mouth, shifting
his eyes in the opposite direction, as he continued benevolently: “I
thought I’d look in and leave this bottle o’ gin fer ye, with my
compliments. I’ll be around ag’in some evenin’, and I reckon before
‘lection day comes there may be somep’n doin’--I might have better fer
ye than a bottle. Keep your eye on me, boys, an’ foller the
leader. That’s the idea.  So long!”

“Vote a Republican!” Pietro shouted after him gaily.

Pixley turned.

“Jest foller yer leader,” he rejoined. “That’s the way to learn
politics, boys.”

Now as the rough spring wore on into the happier season, with the days
like spiced warm wine, when people on the street are no longer driven
by the weather but are won by it to loiter; now, indeed, did commerce
at Toby’s new stand so mightily thrive that, when summer came, Bertha
was troubled as to the safety of Toby’s profits.

“You yoost put your money by der builtun-loan ‘sociation, Toby,” she
advised gently. “Dey safe ut fer you.”

“T’ree hunder’ fifta dolla--_no_!” answered her betrothed. “I
keep in de pock’!” He showed her where the bills were pinned into his
corduroy waistcoat pocket. “See! Eesa _yau!_ Onna my heart, libra
Ogostine!”

“Toby, uf you ain’d dake ut by der builtun-loan, _blease_ put ut
in der bink?”

“I keep!” he repeated, shaking his head seriously.  “In t’ree-four
mont’ eesa five-hunder-dolla.  Nobody but me eesa tross weet that
money.”

Nor could Bertha persuade him. It was their happiness he watched
over. Who to guard it as he, the dingy, precious parcel of bills? He
pictured for himself a swampy forest through which he was laying a
pathway to Bertha, and each of the soiled green notes that he pinned
in his waistcoat was a strip of firm ground he had made, over which he
advanced a few steps nearer her. And Bertha was very happy, even
forgetting, for a while, to be afraid of the smallpox, which had
thrown out little flags, like auction signs, here and there about the
city.

When the full heat of summer came, Pietro laughed at the dog-days; and
it was Bertha’s to suffer in the hot little restaurant; but she smiled
and waved to Pietro, so that he should not know.  Also she made him
sell iced lemonade and birch beer, which was well for the corduroy
waistcoat pocket. Never have you seen a more alluring merchant. One
glance toward the stand; you caught that flashing smile, the owner of
it a-tip-toe to serve you; and Pietro managed, too, by a light jog to
the table on which stood his big, bedewed, earthen jars, that you
became aware of the tinkle of ice and a cold, liquid murmur--what
mortal could deny the inward call and pass without stopping to buy?

There fell a night in September when Bertha beheld her lover
glorious. She had been warned that he was to officiate in the great
opening function of the campaign; and she stood on the corner for an
hour before the head of the procession appeared.  On they
came--Pietro’s party, three thousand strong; brass bands, fireworks,
red fire, tumultuous citizens, political clubs, local potentates in
open carriages, policemen, boys, dogs, bicycles--the procession doing
all the cheering for itself, the crowds of spectators only feebly
responding to this enthusiasm, as is our national custom. At the end
of it all marched a plentiful crew of tatterdemalions, a few bleared
white men, and the rest negroes. They bore aloft a crazy transparency,
exhibiting the legend:

“FRANK PIXLEY’S HARD-MONEY LEAGUE.

WE STAND FOR OUR PRINCIPALS.

WE ARE SOLLID!

NO FOOLING THE PEOPLE GOES!

WE VOTE AS ONE MAN FOR

TAYLOR P. SINGLETON!”

Bertha’s eyes had not rested upon Toby where they innocently sought
him, in the front ranks, even scanning the carriages, seeking him in
all positions which she conceived as highest in honour, and she would
have missed him altogether, had not there reached her, out of chaotic
clamours, a clear, high, rollicking tenor:

_“Ahaha! du libra Ogostine,
  Ogostine, Ogostine!
Ahaha! du libra Ogostine,
  Nees coma ross!”_

Then the eager eyes found their pleasure, for there, in the last line
of Pixley’s pirates, the very tail of the procession, danced Pietro
Tobigli, waving his pink torch at her, proud, happy, triumphant, a
true Republican, believing all company equal in the republic, and the
rear rank as good as the first.

“Vote a Republican!” he shouted. “Republican--Republican eternall!”

Strangely enough, a like fervid protestation (vociferated in greeting)
evoked no reciprocal enthusiasm in the breast of Mr. Pixley, when the
committee-man called upon Toby and his friends at their apartment one
evening, a fortnight later.

“That’s right,” he responded languidly.  “That’s right in gineral, I
_should_ say. Cert’nly, in _gineral_, I ain’t got no quarrel
with no man’s Republicanism. But this here’s kind of a put-tickler
case, boys. The election’s liable to be mighty close.”

“Republican win!” laughed Toby. “Meelyun man eena parade!”

Mr. Pixley’s small eyes lowered furtively. He glanced once toward the
door, stroked his stubby chin, and answered softly: “Don’t you be too
sure of that, young feller. Them banks is fightin’ each other ag’in!”

“Bank? Fight? W’at eesa that?” inquired the merchant, with an entirely
blank mind.

“There’s one thing it _ain’t_,” replied the other, in the same
confidential tone. “It ain’t no two-by-four campaign. All I got to say
to you boys is: ‘Foller yer leader’--and you’ll wear pearl
collar-buttons!”

“Vote a Republican,” interjected Leo Vesschi gutturally.

The furtiveness of Mr. Pixley increased.

“Well--mebbe,” he responded, very deliberately.  “I reckon I better
put you boys next, right now’s well’s any other time. Ain’t nothin’
ever gained by not bein’ open ‘n’ above-board; that’s my motto, and I
ack up to it. You kin ast ‘em, jest ast the boys, and you’ll hear it
from each-an-dall: ‘Frank Pixley’s _square_!’ That’s what they’ll
tell ye. Now see here, this is the way it is. I ain’t worryin’ much
about who goes to the legislature, or who’s county-commissioners, nor
none o’ _that. Why_ ain’t I worryin’? Because it’s picayune. It’s
peanut politics. It ain’t where the money is. No, sir, this campaign
is on the treasurership.  Taylor P. Singleton is runnin’ fer treasurer
on the Republican ticket, and Gil. Maxim on the Democratic. But that
ain’t where the fight is.” Mr. Pixley spat contemptuously. “Pah!
whichever of ‘em gits it won’t no more’n draw his salary. It’s the
banks. If Singleton wins out, the Washington National gits the use of
the county’s money fer the term; if Maxim’s elected, Florenheim’s bank
gits it. Florenheim laid down the cash fer Maxim’s nomination, and the
Washington National fixed it fer Singleton. And it’s big money, don’t
you git no wrong idea about _that_!”

“Vote a Republican,” said Toby politely.

A look of pain appeared upon the brow of the committee-man.

“I reckon I ain’t hardly made myself clear,” he observed, somewhat
plaintively. “Now here, you listen: I reckon it would be kind of resky
to trust you boys to scratch the ticket--it’s a mixed up business,
anyway--”

“Vote a straight!” cried Pietro, nodding his head,
cheerfully. “_Yess!_ I teach Leo; yess, teach all these”--he
waved his hands to indicate the melancholy listeners--“teach them
all. Stamp in a circle by that eagle. Vote a Republican!”

“What I was goin’ to say,” went on the official, exhibiting tokens of
impatience and perturbation, “was that if we _should_ make any
switch this year, I guess you boys would have to switch straight.”

“‘Tis true!” was the hearty response. “Vote a straight
Republican. Republican eternall!”

Pixley wiped his forehead with a dirty handkerchief, and scratched his
head. “See here,” he said, after a pause, to Toby. “I’ve got to go
down to Collins’s saloon, and I’d like to have you come along. Feel
like going?”

“Certumalee,” answered Toby with alacrity, reaching for his hat.

But no one could have been more surprised than the chestnut vender
when, on reaching the vacant street, his companion glancing cautiously
about, beckoned him into the darkness of an alley-way, and,
noiselessly upsetting a barrel, indicated it as a seat for both.

“Here,” said Pixley, “I reckon this is better.  Jest two men by
theirselves kin fix up a thing like this a lot quicker, and I seen you
didn’t want to talk too much before _them_. You make your own
deal with ‘em afterwards, or none at all, jest as you like! They’ll do
whatever you say, anyway.  I sized you up to run _that_ bunch,
first time I ever laid eyes on the outfit. Now see here, Pete, you
listen to me. I reckon I kin turn a little trick here that’ll do you
some good. You kin bet I see that the men I pick fer my leaders--like
you, Pete--git their rights! Now here: there’s you and the other six,
that’s seven; it’ll be three dollars in your pocket if you deliver the
goods.”

“No! no!” said Pietro in earnest protestation.  “We seven a good
Republican. We vote a Republican--same las’ time, all a time. Eesa not
a need to pay us to vote a Republican. You save that a money, Meesa
Peaslay.”

“You don’t understand,” groaned Pixley, with an inclination to weep
over the foreigner’s thick-headedness. “There’s a chance fer a big
deal here for all the boys in the precinck. Gil.  Maxim’s backers’ll
pay _big_ fer votes enough to swing it. The best of ‘em don’t
know where they’re at, I tell you. Now here, you see here”--he took an
affectionate grip of Pietro’s collar--“I’m goin’ to have a talk with
Maxim’s manager to-morrow, I’ve had one or two a’ready, and I’ll put
up the price all round on them people. It’s no more’n right, when you
count up what we’re doin’ fer them. Look here, you swing them six in
line and march ‘em up, and all of ye stamp the rooster instead of the
eagle this time, and help me to show Maxim that Frank Pixley’s there
with the goods, and I’ll hand you a five-dollar bill and a full box o’
_ci_gars, see?”

Pietro nodded and smiled through the darkness.  “Stamp that eagle!” he
answered, “Eesa all _right_, Meesa Peasley. Don’t you have
afraid.  We all seven a good Republican! Stamp that eagle! Hoor-r-ra!
Republican _eternall_!”

Pixley was left sitting on the barrel, looking after the light figure
of the young man joyously tripping back to the cellar, and turning to
wave a hand in farewell from the street.

“Well, I _am_ damned!” the politician remarked, with unwitting
veracity. “Did the dern Dago bluff me, does he want more, er did he
reely didn’t un’erstand fer honest?” Then, as he took up his way,
crossing the street at the warning of some red and green smallpox
lanterns, “I’ll git those seven votes, though, _someway_. I’m out
fer a record this time, and I’ll _git_ ‘em!”

Bertha went with her fiancé to select the home that was to be
theirs. They found a clean, tidy, furnished room, with a canary bird
thrown in, and Toby, in the wild joy of his heart, seized his
sweetheart round the waist and tried to force her to dance under the
amazed eyes of the landlady.

“You yoost behafed awful!” exclaimed the blushing waitress that
evening, with tears of laughter at the remembrance.

She was as happy as her lover, except for two small worries that she
had: she feared that her uncle, Louie Gratz, with whom she lived, or
one of her few friends, might, when they found she was to marry Toby,
allude to him as a “Dago,” in which case she had an intuition that he
would slap the offender; and she was afraid of the smallpox, which had
caused the quarantine of two shanties not far from her uncle’s house.
The former of her fears she did not mention, but the latter she spoke
of frequently, telling Pietro how Gratz was panic-stricken, and talked
of moving, and how glad she was that Toby’s “gran’ palazzo” was in
another quarter of the city, as he had led her to believe. Laughing
her humours almost away, he told her that the red and green lanterns,
threatening murkily down the street, were for only wicked ones, like
that Meesa Peaslay, for whom she discovered, Pietro’s admiration had
diminished. And when she thought of the new home--far across the city
from the ugly flags and lanterns--the tiny room with its engraving of
the “Rock of Ages” and its canary, she forgot both her troubles
entirely; for now, at last, the marvellous fact was assured: the five
hundred dollars was pinned into the waistcoat pocket, lying upon
Pietro’s heart day and night, the precious lump that meant to him
Bertha and a home. The good Republican set election-day for the
happiest holiday of his life, for that would be his wedding-day.

He left her at her own gate, the evening before that glorious day, and
sang his way down the street, feeling that he floated on the airy
uplift of his own barcarole beneath sapphire skies, for Bertha had put
her arms about him at last.

“Toby,” she said, “lieber Toby, I am so all-lofing by you--you are
sitch a good maan--I am so--so--I am yoost all-_lofing_ by you!”
 And she cried heartily upon his shoulder. “Toby, uf you ain’d here for
me to-morrow by eckseckly dwelf o’glock, uf you are von minutes late,
I’m goin’ yoost fall down deat! Don’ you led nothings happen mit you,
Toby.”

And she had whispered to him, in love with his old tender mockery of
her, to sing “Libra Ogostine” for her before he said good-night.

Mr. Pixley, again seated upon the barrel which he had used for his
interview with Toby, beheld the transfigured face of the young man as
the chestnut vender passed the mouth of the alley, and the
committee-man released from his soul a burdening profanity in the ear
of his companion and confidant, a policeman who would be on duty in
Pixley’s precinct on the morrow, and who had now reported for
instructions not necessarily received in a too public rendezvous.

“After I talked to him out here on this very barrel,” said Pixley, his
anathema concluded, “I raised the bid on him; yessir, you kin skin me
fer a dead skunk if I didn’t offer him ten dollars and a box of
_cigars_ fer the bunch; and him jest settin’ there laughin’ like
a plumb fool and tellin’ me I didn’t need to worry, they’d all vote
Republican fer nothin’! Talked like a parrot: ‘Vote a Republican!
Republican eternal!’ _Republican_!  Faugh, he don’t know no more
why he’s a Republican than a yeller dog’d know! I went around
to-night, when he was out, thought mebbe I could fix it up with the
others. No, _sir_!  Couldn’t git nothing out of ‘em except some
more parrot-cackle: ‘Vote same Petro. All a good Republican!’ It’s
enough to sicken a man!”

“Do we need his gang bad?” inquired the policeman deferentially.

“I need everybody bad! This is a good-sized job fer me, and I want to
do it right. Throwin’ the precinck to Maxim is goin’ to do me
_some_ wrong with the Republican crowd, even if they don’t git on
that it was throwed; and I want to throw it _good_! I couldn’t
feel like I’d done right if I didn’t. I’ve give my word that they’ll
git a majority of sixty-eight votes, and that’ll be jest twicet as
much in my pocket as a plain majority.  And I want them seven Dagoes!
I’ve give up on _votin_’ ‘em; it can’t be done. It’d make a saint
cuss to try to reason with ‘em, and it’s no good.  They can’t be
fooled, neither. They know where the polls is, and they know how to
vote--blast the Australian ballot system! The most that can be done is
to keep ‘em away from the polls.”

“Can’t you git ‘em out of town in the morning?”

“D’you reckon I ain’t tried that? _No_, sir!  That Dago wouldn’t
take a pass to _heaven_! Everything else is all right. Doc
Morgan’s niggers stays right here and _votes_. I _know_ them
boys, and they’ll walk up and stamp the rooster all right, all
right. Them other niggers, that Hell-Valley gang, ain’t that kind; and
them and Tooms’s crowd’s goin’ to be took out to Smelter’s ice-houses
in three express wagons at four o’clock in the morning. It ain’t goin’
to cost over two dollars a head, whiskey and all. Then, Dan Kelly is
fixed, and the Loo boys. Mike, I don’t like to brag, and I ain’t
around throwin’ no bokays at myself as a reg’lar thing, but I want to
say right, here, there ain’t another man in this city--no, nor the
State neither--that could of worked his precinck better’n I have
this. I tell you, I’m within five or six votes of the majority they
set for their big money.”

“Have you give the Dagoes up altogether?”

“No, by----!” cried the committee-man harshly, bringing his dirty fist
down on the other’s knee. “Did you ever hear of Frank Pixley
weakenin’? Did you ever see the man that said Frank Pixley wasn’t
game?” He rose to his feet, a ragged and sinister silhouette against
the sputtering electric light at the alley mouth.  “Didn’t you ever
hear that Frank Pixley had a barrel of schemes to any other man’s
bucket o’ wind? What’s Frank Pixley’s repitation, lemme ast you that?
I git what I go after, don’t I?  Now look here, you listen to me,” he
said, lowering his voice and shaking a bent forefinger earnestly in
the policeman’s face; “I’m goin’ to turn the trick. And I _ought_
to do it, too. That there Pete, he ain’t worth the powder to blow him
up--you couldn’t learn him no politics if you set up with him night
after night fer a year.  Didn’t I _try? Try_? I dern near bust my
head open jest thinkin’ up ways to make the flathead _see_. And
he wouldn’t make no effort, jest set there and parrot out ‘Vote a
Republican!’ He’s ongrateful, that’s what he is. Well, him and them
other Dagoes are goin’ to stay at home fer two weeks, beginnin’
to-night.”

“I’ll be dogged if I see how,” said the policeman, lifting his helmet
to scratch his head.

“I’ll show you how. I don’t claim no credit fer the idea, I ain’t
around blowin’ my own horn too often, but I’d like fer somebody to
jest show me any other man in this city could have thought it out! I’d
like to be showed jest one, that’s all, jest one! Now, you look here;
you see that nigger shanty over there, with the smallpox lanterns
outside?”

The policeman shivered slightly. “Yes.”

“Look here; they’re rebuildin’ the pest-house, ain’t they?”

“Yes.”

“Leavin’ smallpox patients in their own holes under quarantine guard
till they git a place to put ‘em, ain’t they?”

“Yes.”

“You know how many niggers in that shack?”

“Four, ain’t they?”

“Yessir, four of ‘em. One died to-night, another’s goin’ to, another
ain’t tellin’ which way he’s goin’ yit; and the last one, Joe
Cribbins, was the first to take it; and he’s almost plumb as good as
ever ag’in. He’s up and around the house, helpin’ nurse the sick ones,
and fit fer hard labour.  Now look here; that nigger does what I
_tell_ him and he does it quick--see? Well, he knows what I want
him to do to-night. So does Charley Gruder, the guard over
there. Charley’s fixed; I seen to that; and he knows he ain’t goin’ to
lose no job fer the nigger’s gittin’ out of the back winder to go make
a little sociable call this evening.”

“What!” exclaimed the policeman, startled; “Charley ain’t goin’ to let
that nigger out!”

“Ain’t he? Oh, you needn’t worry, he ain’t goin’ _fur_! All he’s
waiting fer is fer you to give the signal.”

“Me!” The man in the helmet drew back.

“Yessir, you! You walk out there and lounge up towards the drug-store
and jest look over to Charley and nod twice. Then you stand on the
corner and watch and see what you see. When you _see_ it, you
yell fer Charley and git into the drug store telephone, and call up
the health office and git their men up here and into that Dago cellar
like hell! The nigger’ll be there. They don’t know him, and he’ll just
drop in to try and sell the Dagoes some policy tickets. You understand
_me_?”

“Mother Mary in heaven!” The policeman sprang up. “What are you going
to do?”

“What am I going to do?” shrilled the other, the light of a monstrous
pride in his little eyes.  “I’m goin’ to quarantine them Dagoes fer
fourteen days. They’ll learn some politics before I git through with
‘em. Maybe they’ll know enough United States language to foller their
leader next time!”

“By all that’s mighty, Pixley,” said the policeman, with an admiration
that was almost reverence, “you _are_ a schemer!”

“Mein Gott!” screeched Bertha’s uncle, snapping his teeth fiercely on
his pipe-stem, as he flung open the door of the girl’s room. “You want
to disgraze me mit der whole neighbourhoot, ‘lection night? Quid ut!
Stob ut! Beoples in der streed stant owidside und litzen to dod
grying. You _voult_ goin’ to marry mit a Dago mens, voult you!
Ha, ha! Soife you right! He run away!” The old man laughed unamiably.
“Ha, ha! Dago mens foolt dod smard Bertha.  Dod’s pooty tough. But,
bei Gott, you stop dod noise und ect lige a detzent voomans, or you
goin’ haf droubles mit your uncle Louie Gratz!”

But Bertha, an undistinguishable heap on the floor of the unlit room,
only gasped brokenly for breath and wept on.

“Ach, ach, ach, lieber Gott in Himmel!” sobbed Bertha. “Why didn’t
Toby come for me?  Ach, ach! What iss happened mit Toby? Somedings iss
happened--I _know_ ut!”

“Ya, ya!” jibed Gratz; “somedings iss heppened, I bet you! Brop’ly
he’s got anoder vife, dod’s vot heppened! Brop’ly _leffing_ ad
you mit anoder voomans! Vot for dit he nefer tolt you vere he lif? So
you voultn’t ketch him; dod’s der reason! You’re a pooty vun,
_you_ are! Runnin’ efter a doity Dago mens! Bei Gott! you bedder
git oop und back your glo’es, und stob dod gryin’. I’m goin’ to mofe
owid to-morrow; und you kin go verefer you blease. I ain’d goin’ to
sday anoder day in sitch a neighbourhoot. Fife more smallpox lanterns
yoost oop der streed. I’m goin’ mofe glean to der oder ent of der
city. Und you can come by me or you can run efter your Dago mens und
his voomans! Dod’s why he dittn’t come to marry you, you grazy--ut’s a
voomans!”


“No, _no_,” screamed Bertha, stopping her ears with her
forefingers. “Lies, lies, lies!”

A slatternly negro woman dawdled down the street the following
afternoon, and, encountering a friend of like description near the
cottage which had been tenanted by Louie Gratz and his niece, paused
for conversation.

“Howdy, honey,” she began, leaning restfully against the
gate-post. “How’s you ma?”

“She right spry,” returned the friend. “How you’self an’ you good
husban’, Miz Mo’ton?”

Mrs. Morton laughed cheerily. “Oh, he enjoyin’ de ‘leckshum. He ‘uz on
de picnic yas’day, to Smeltuh’s ice-houses; an’ ‘count er Mist’
Maxim’s gittin’ ‘lected, dey gi’n him bottle er whiskey an’ two
dollahs. He up at de house now, entuhtainin’ some ge’lemenfrien’s
wi’de bones, honey.”

“Um hum.” The other lady sighed reflectively.  “I on’y wisht my po’
husban’ could er live to enjoy de fruits er politics.”

“Yas’m,” returned Mrs. Morton. “You right.  It are a great intrus’ in
a man’s life. Dat what de ornator say in de speech f’m de back er de
groce’y wagon, yas’m, a great intrus’ in a man’s life.  Decla’h, I
b’lieve Goe’ge think mo’ er politics dan he do er me! Well ma’am,” she
concluded, glancing idly up and down the street and leaning back more
comfortably against the gatepost, “I mus’ be goin’ on my urrant.”

“What urrant’s dat?” inquired the widow.

“Mighty quare urrant,” replied Mrs. Morton.  “Mighty quare urrant,
honey. You see back yon’eh dat new smallpox flag?”

“Sho.”

“Well ma’am, night fo’ las’, dat Joe Cribbins, dat one-eye nigger what
sell de policy tickets, an’s done be’n havin’ de smallpox, he crope
out de back way, when’s de gyahd weren’t lookin’, an’, my Lawd, ef dey
ain’t ketch him down in dat Dago cellar, tryin’ sell dem Dagoes policy
tickets! Yahah, honey!” Mrs. Morton threw back her head to
laugh. “Ain’t dat de beatenest nigger, dat one-eyed Joe?”

“What den, Miz Mo’ton?” pursued the listener.

“Den dey quahumteem dem Dagoes; sot a gyahd dah: you kin see him
settin’ out dah now.  Well ma’am, ‘cordin’ to dat gyahd, one er dem
Dagoes like ter go inter fits all day yas’day. Dat man hatter go in
an’ quiet him down ev’y few minute’. Seem ‘t he boun’ sen’ a message
an’ cain’t git no one to ca’y it fer him. De gyahd, he cain’t go; he
willin’ sen’ de message, but cain’t git nobody come nigh enough de
place fer to tell ‘em what it is. ‘Sides, it ‘leckshum-day, an’ mos’
folks hangin’ ‘roun’ de polls. Well ma’am, dis aft’noon, I so’nter’n
by, an’ de gyahd holler out an’ ask me do I want make a dollah, an’ I
say I do. I ain’t ‘fraid no smallpox, done had it two year’ ago. So I
say I take de message.”

“What is it?”

“Law, honey, it ain’t wrote. Dem Dago folks hain’t got no writin’ ner
readin’. Dey mo’ er less like de beasts er de fiel’. Dat message by
word er mouf. I goin’ tell nuffin ‘bout de quahumteem.  I’m gotter
say: ‘Toby sen’ word to liebuh Augustine dat she needn’ worry. He li’l
sick, not much, but de doctah ain’ ‘low him out fer two weeks; an’
‘mejutly at de en’ er dat time he come an’ git her an’ den kin go on
home wheres de canary bu’d is.’ Honey, you evah hyuh o’ sich a
foolishness? But de gyahd, he say de message gotter be ca’yied dass
dataways.”

“Lan’ name!” ejaculated the widow. “Who dat message to?”

“Hit to a Dutch gal.”

“My Lawd!” The widow lifted amazed hands to heaven. “De impidence er
dem Dagoes!  _Little_ mo’ an’ dey’ll be sen’in’ messages to you
er me!--What her name?”

“Name Bertha Grass,” responded Mrs.  Morton, “an’, nigh as I kin make
out, she live in one er dese little w’ite-paint cottages, right ‘long
yere.”

“Yas’m! I knows dat Dutch gal, ole man Grass, de tailor, dass his
niece. W’y, dey done move out dis mawn, right f’um dis ve’y house you
stan’in in front de gate of. De ole man skeered er de smallpox, an’ he
mad, too, an’ de neighbuhs ask him whuh he gwine, he won’t tell; so
mad he won’t speak to nobody. None on ‘em ‘round hyuh knows an’ dey’s
considabul cyu’us ‘bout it, too. Dey gone off in bofe d’rections--him
one way, her ‘nother. ‘Peah lak dey be’n quollun!”

“Now look at dat!” cried Mrs. Morton dolefully.  “Look at dat! Ain’t
dat de doggonest luck in de wide worl’! De gyahd he say dat Dago
willin’ pay fifty cents a day fo’ me to teck an’ bring a message eve’y
mawn’ tell de quahumteem took off de cellar. Now dat Dutch gal gone
an’ loss dat money fo’ me--movin’ ‘way whuh nobody cain’t fine ‘er!”

“Sho!” laughed the widow. “Ef I’se in you place, Miz Mo’ton, an’ you’s
in mine, dat money sho’lly, sho’lly nevah would be los’, indeed hit
wouldn’t. I dass go in t’ de do’ an’ tu’n right ‘roun’ back ag’in an’
go down to dat gyahd an’ say de Dutch gal ‘ceive de message wid de
bes’ er ‘bligin’ politeness an’ sent her kine regyahds to de Dago man
an’ all inquirin’ frien’s, an’ hope de Dago man soon come an’ git
‘er. To-morrer de same, nex’ day de same--”

“Lawd, ef dat ain’t de beatenest!” cried Mrs.  Morton
delightedly. “Well, honey, I thank you long as I live, ‘cause I
nevah’d a wuk dat out by myself an de livin’ worl’, an’ I sho does
needs de money. I’m goin’ do exackly dass de way you say.  Dat man he
ain’ goin’ know no diffunce till he git out--an’ den, honey,” she let
loose upon the quiet air a sudden, great salvo of laughter, “dass let
him fine Lize Mo’ton!”

Bertha went to live in the tiny room with the canary bird and the
engraving of the “Rock of Ages.” This was putting lime to the canker,
but, somehow, she felt that she could go to no other place. She told
the landlady that her young man had not done so well in business as
they had expected, and had sought work in another city.  He would come
back, she said.

She woke from troubled dreams each morning to stifle her sobbing in
the pillow. “Ach, Toby, coultn’t you sented me yoost one word, you
_might_ sented me yoost one word, yoost one, to tell me what has
happened mit you! Ach, Toby, Toby!”

The canary sang happily; she loved it and tended it, and the gay
little prisoner tried to reward her by the most marvellous trilling in
his power, but her heart was the sorer for every song.

After a time she went back drearily to the kraut-smelling restaurant,
to the work she had thought to leave forever, that day when Toby had
not come for her. She went out twenty times every morning, and oftener
as it wore on towards evening, to look at his closed stand, always
with a choking hope in her heart, always to drag leaden feet back into
the restaurant. Several times, her breath failing for shame, she
approached Italians in the street, or where there was one to be found
at a stand of any sort she stopped and made a purchase, and asked for
some word of Toby--without result, always.  She knew no other way to
seek for him.

One day, as she trudged homeward, two coloured women met on the
pavement in front of her, exchanged greetings, and continued for a
little way together.

“How you enjoyin’ you’ money, dese fine days, Miz Mo’ton?” inquired
one, with a laugh that attested to the richness of the joke between
the two.

“Law, honey,” answered the other, “dat good luck di’n’ las’ ve’y
long. Dey done shut off my supplies.”

“No!”

“Yas’m, dey sho did. Dat man done tuck de smallpox; all on ‘em ketched
it, ev’y las’ one, off’n dat no ‘count Joe Cribbins, an’ now dat dey
got de new pes’-house finish’, dey haul ‘em off yon’eh, yas’day.
Reckon dat ain’ make no diffunce in my urrant runnin’. Dat Dago man,
he outer he hade two day fo’ dey haul ‘em away, an’ ain’ sen’ no mo’
messages. So dat spile _my_ job! Hit dass my luck. Dey’s sho’ a
voodoo on Lize Mo’ton!”

Bertha, catching but fragments of this conversation, had no
realization that it bore in any way upon the mystery of Toby; and she
stumbled homeward through the twilight with her tired eyes on the
ground.

When she opened the door of the tiny room, the landlady’s lean black
cat ran out surreptitiously.  The bird-cage lay on the floor, upside
down, and of its jovial little inhabitant the tokens were a few yellow
feathers.

Bertha did not know until a month after, when Leo Vesschi found her at
the restaurant and told her, that out in the new pest-house, that
other songster and prisoner, the gay little chestnut vender, Pietro
Tobigli, had called lamentably upon the name of his God and upon
“Libra Ogostine,” and now lay still forever, with the corduroy
waistcoat and its precious burden tightly clenched to his breast. Even
in his delirium they had been unable to coax or force him to part from
it for a second.



THE NEED OF MONEY


Far back in his corner on the Democratic side of the House, Uncle
Billy Rollinson sat through the dragging routine of the legislative
session, wondering what most of it meant. When anybody spoke to him,
in passing, he would answer, in his gentle, timid voice, “Howdy-do,
sir.” Then his cheeks would grow a little red and he would stroke his
long, white beard elaborately, to cover his embarrassment. When a vote
was taken, his name was called toward the last of the roll, so that he
had ample time, after the leader of his side of the House, young
Hurlbut, had voted, to clear his throat several times and say “Aye” or
“No” in quite a firm voice. But the instant the word had left his lips
he found himself terribly frightened, and stroked his beard a great
many times, the while he stared seriously up at the ceiling, partly to
avoid meeting anybody’s eye, and partly in the belief that it
concealed his agitation and gave him the air of knowing what he was
about. Usually he did not know, any more than he knew how he had
happened to be sent to the legislature by his county. But he liked
it. He liked the feeling of being a person to be considered; he liked
to think that he was making the laws of his State. He liked the
handsome desk and the easy leather chair; he liked the row of fat,
expensive volumes, the unlimited stationery, and the free penknives
which were furnished him. He enjoyed the attentions of the coloured
men in the cloakroom, who brushed him ostentatiously and always called
him (and the other Representatives) “Senator,” to make up to
themselves for the airs which the janitors of the “Upper House”
 assumed.  Most of these things surprised him; he had not expected to
be treated with such liberality by the State and never realized that
he and his colleagues were treating themselves to all these things at
the expense of the people, and so, although he bore off as much
note-paper as he could carry, now and then, to send to his son, Henry,
he was horrified and dumbfounded when the bill was proposed
appropriating $135,000 for the expenses of the seventy days’ session
of the legislature.

He was surprised to find that among his “perquisites” were passes
(good during the session) on all the railroads that entered the State,
and others for use on many inter-urban trolley lines.  These, he
thought, might be gratifying to Henry, who was fond of travel, and had
often been unhappy when his father failed to scrape up enough money to
send him to a circus in the next county.  It was “very accommodating
of the railroads,” Uncle Billy thought, to maintain this pleasant
custom, because the members’ travelling expenses were paid by the
State just the same; hence the economical could “draw their mileage”
 at the Treasurer’s office, and add it to their salaries. He
heard--only vaguely understanding--many joking references to other
ways of adding to salaries.

Most of the members of his party had taken rooms at one of the hotels,
whither those who had sought cheaper apartments repaired in the
evening, when the place became a noisy and crowded club, admission to
which was not by card. Most of the rougher man-to-man lobbying was
done here; and at times it was Babel.

Through the crowds Uncle Billy wandered shyly, stroking his beard and
saying, “Howdy-do, sir,” in his gentle voice, getting out of the way
of people who hurried, and in great trouble of mind if any one asked
him how he intended to vote upon a bill. When this happened he looked
at the interrogator in the plaintive way which was his habit, and
answered slowly: “I reckon I’ll have to think it over.” He was not in
Hurlbut’s councils.

There was much bustle all about him, but he was not part of it. The
newspaper reporters remarked the quiet, inoffensive old figure
pottering about aimlessly on the outskirts of the crowd, and thought
Uncle Billy as lonely as a man might well be, for he seemed less a
part of the political arrangement than any member they had ever seen.
He would have looked less lonely and more in place trudging alone
through the furrows of his home fields in a wintry twilight.

And yet, everybody liked the old man, Hurlbut in particular, if Uncle
Billy had known it; for Hurlbut watched the votes very closely and was
often struck by the soundness of Representative Rollinson’s
intelligence in voting.

In return, Uncle Billy liked Hurlbut better than any other man he had
ever known--except Henry, of course. On the first day of the session,
when the young leader had been pointed out to him, Uncle Billy’s
humble soul was prostrate with admiration, and when Hurlbut led the
first attack on the monopolistic tendencies of the Republican party,
Representative Rollinson, chuckling in his beard at the handsome
youth’s audacity, himself dared so greatly as to clap his hands
aloud. Hurlbut, on the floor, was always a storm centre: tall,
dramatic, bold, the members put down their newspapers whenever his
strong voice was heard demanding recognition, and his “Mr. Speaker!”
 was like the first rumble of thunder. The tempest nearly always
followed, and there were times when it threatened to become more than
vocal; when, all order lost, nine-tenths of the men on the other side
of the House were on their feet shouting jeers and denunciations, and
the orator faced them, out-thundering them all, with his own cohorts,
flushed and cheering, gathered round him.  Then, indeed, Uncle Billy
would have thought him a god, if he had known what a god was.

Sometimes Uncle Billy saw him in the hotel lobby, but he seemed always
to be making for the elevator in a hurry, with half-a-dozen people
trying to detain him, or descending momentarily from the stairway for
a quick, sharp talk with one or two members, their heads close
together, after which Hurlbut would dart upward again.

Sometimes the old man sat down at one of the writing tables, in a
corner of the lobby, and, annexing a sheet of the hotel note-paper,
“wrote home” to Henry. He sat with his head bent far over, the broad
brim of his felt hat now and then touching the hand with which he kept
the paper from sliding; and he pressed diligently upon his pen,
usually breaking it before the letter was finished. He looked so like
a man intent upon concealment that the reporters were wont to say:
“There’s Uncle Billy humped up over his guilty secret again.”

The secret usually took this form:


“Dear Son Henry:

“I would be glad if you was here. There is big doings.  Hurlbut give
it to them to-day. He don’t give the Republicans no rest, he lights
into them like sixty you would like to see him. They are plenty nice
fellows in the Republicans too but they lay mighty low when Hurlbut
gets after them. He was just in the office but went out. He always has
a segar in his mouth but not lit. I expect hes quit. I send you
enclosed last week’s salary all but $11.80 which I had to use as
living is pretty high in our capital city of the state.  If you would
like some of this hotel writing paper better than the kind I sent you
of the General Assembly I can send you some the boys say it is free. I
think it is all right you sold the calf but Wilkes didn’t give you
good price. Hurlbut come in while I was writing then. You bet he can
always count on Wm. Rollinson’s vote.

“Well I must draw to a dose, Yours truly

“Your father.”


“Wm. Rollinson” was not aware that he was known to his colleagues and
the lobby and the Press as “Uncle Billy” until informed thereof by a
public print. He stood, one night, on the edge of a laughing group,
when a reporter turned to him and said:

“The _Constellation_ would like to know Representative
Rollinson’s opinion of the scandalous story that has just been told.”

The old man, who had not in the least understood the story, summoned
all his faculties, and, after long deliberation, bent his plaintive
eyes upon the youth and replied:

“Well, sir, it’s a-stonishing, a-stonishing!”

“Think it’s pretty bad, do you?”

Some of the crowd turned to listen, and the old fellow, hopelessly
puzzled, stroked his beard with a trembling hand, and then, muttering,
“Well, young man, I expect you better excuse me,” hurried away and
left the place. The next morning he found the following item tacked to
the tail of the “Legislative Gossip” column of the _Constellation_:


“UNCLE BILLY ROLLINSON HORRIFIED

“Yesterday a curious and amusing story was current among the solons at
the Nagmore Hotel. It seems that the wife of a country member of the
last legislature had been spending the day at the hotel and the wife
of a present member from the country complained to her of the greatly
increased expenditure appertaining to the cost of living in the
Capital City. ‘Indeed,’ replied the wife of the former member, ‘that
is curious. But I suppose my husband is much more economical than
yours, for he brought home $1.500, that he’d saved out of his salary.’
As the salary is only $456, and the gentleman in question did not play
poker, much hilarity was indulged in, and there were conjectures that
the economy referred to concerned his vote upon a certain bill before
the last session, anent which the lobby pushing it were far from
economical. Uncle Billy Rollinson, the Gentleman from Wixinockee,
heard the story, as it passed from mouth to mouth, but he had no
laughter to greet it. Uncle Billy, as every one who comes in contact
with him knows, is as honest as the day is long, and the story grieved
and shocked him. He expressed the utmost horror and consternation, and
requested to be excused from speaking further upon a subject so
repugnant to his feelings. If there were more men of this stamp in
politics, who find corruption revolting instead of amusing, our
legislatures would enjoy a better fame.”


Uncle Billy had always been agitated by the sight of his name in
print. Even in the Wixinockee County _Clarion_, it dumbfounded
him and gave him a strange feeling that it must mean somebody else,
but this sudden blaze of metropolitan fame made him almost giddy. He
folded the paper quickly and placed it under his coat, feeling vaguely
that it would not do to be seen reading it. He murmured feeble answers
during the day, when some of his colleagues referred to it; but when
he reached his own little room that evening, he spread it out under
his oil-smelling lamp and read it again. Perhaps he read it twenty
times over before the supper bell rang. Perhaps the fact that he was
still intent upon it accounted for his not hearing the bell, so that
his landlady had to call him.

What he liked was the phrase: “Honest as the day is long.” He did not
go to the hotel that night.  He went back to his room and read the
_Constellation_.  He liked the _Constellation_. Newspapers
were very kind, he thought. Now and then, he would pick up his pile of
legislative bills and try to spell through the ponderous sentences,
but he always gave it up and went back to the _Constellation_. He
wondered if Hurlbut had read it. Hurlbut had.  The leader had even
told the author of the item that he was glad somebody could appreciate
the kind of a man Uncle Billy was, and his value to the body politic.

“Honest as the day is long,” Uncle Billy repeated to himself, in the
little room, nodding his head gravely. Then he thought for a long
while about the member who had, according to the story, gone home with
$1,500. He sat up, that evening, until almost ten o’clock. Even after
he had gone to bed, he lay awake with his eyes wide open in the
darkness, thinking of the colossal sum. If anybody should come to
_him_ and offer him all that money to vote a certain way upon a
bill, he believed he would not take it, for that would be bribery;
though Henry would be glad to have the money. Henry always needed
money; sometimes the need was imperative--once, indeed, so imperative
that the small, unfertile farm had been mortgaged beyond its value,
otherwise very serious things must have happened to Henry. Uncle Billy
wondered how offers of money to members were refused without hurting
the intending donor’s feelings. And what a great deal could be done
with $1,500, if a member could get it and still be as honest as the
day is long!

About the second month of the session the floor of the House began
steadily to grow more and more tumultuous. To an unpolitical onlooker,
leaning over the gallery rail, it was often an incomprehensible
Bedlam, or perhaps one might have been reminded of an ant-heap by the
hurry-and-scurry and life-and-death haste in a hundred directions at
once, quite without any distinguishable purpose. Twenty men might be
rampaging up and down the aisles, all shouting, some of them
furiously, others with a determination that was deadly, all with arms
waving at the Speaker, some of the hands clenched, some of them
fluttering documents, while pages ran everywhere in mad haste,
stumbling and falling in the aisles. In the midst of this, other
members, seated, wrote studiously; others mildly read newspapers;
others lounged, half-standing against their desks, unlighted cigars in
their mouths, laughing; all the while the patient Speaker tapped with
his gavel on a small square of marble. Suddenly perfect calm would
come and the voice of the reading clerk drone for half an hour or
more, like a single bee in a country garden on Sunday morning.

Of all this Uncle Billy was as much a layman spectator as any tramp
who crept into the gallery for a few hours out of the cold. The hurry
and seethe of the racing sea touched him not at all, except to
bewilderment, while he was carried with it, unknowing, toward the
breakers. The shout of those breakers was already in the ears of many,
for the crisis of the session was coming. This was the fight that was
to be made on Hurlbut’s “Railroad Bill,” which was, indeed, but in
another sense, known as the “Breaker.”

Uncle Billy had heard of the “Breaker.” He couldn’t have helped
that. He had heard a dozen say: “Then’s when it’s going to be warm
times, when that ‘Breaker’ comes up!” or, “Look out for that
‘Breaker.’ We’re going to have big trouble.” He knew, too, that
Hurlbut was interested in the “Breaker,” but upon which side he was
for a long time ignorant.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hurlbut always nodded to the old man, now, as he came down the aisle
to his own desk. He had begun that, the day after the _Constellation_
item.  Uncle Billy never failed to be in his seat early in the
morning, waiting for the nod. He answered it with his usual “Howdy-do,
sir,” then stroked his beard and gazed profoundly at the row of fat
volumes in front of him, swallowing painfully once or twice.

This was all that really happened for Uncle Billy during the turmoil
and scramble that went on about him all the day long. He had not been
forced to discover a way to meet an offer of $1,500, without hurting
the putative giver’s feelings.  No lobbyist had the faintest idea of
“approaching” the old man in that way. The members and the hordes of
camp-followers and all the lobby had settled into a belief that
Representative Rollinson was a sea-green Incorruptible, that of all
honest members he was the most honest.  He had become typical of
honesty: sayings were current--“You might as well try to bribe Uncle
Billy Rollinson!” “As honest as old Uncle Billy Rollinson.” Hurlbut
often used such phrases in private.

The “Breaker” was Hurlbut’s own bill; he had planned it and written
it, though it came over to the House from the Senate under a Senator’s
name. It was one of those “anti-monopolistic” measures which Democrats
put their whole hearts into, sometimes, and believe in and fight for
magnificently; an idea conceived in honesty and for a beneficent
purpose, in the belief that a legislature by the wave of a hand can
conjure the millennium to appear; and born out of an utter
misconception of man and railroads. The bill needs no farther
description than this: if it passed and became an enforced law, the
dividends of every rail road entering the State would be reduced by
two-fifths.  There is one thing that will fight harder than a
Democrat--that is a railroad.

The “Breaker” had been kept very dark until Hurlbut felt that he was
ready; then it was swept through the Senate before the railroad lobby,
previously lulled into unsuspicion, could collect itself and block
it. This was as Hurlbut had planned: that the fight should be in his
own House. It was the bill of his heart and he set his reputation upon
it. He needed fifty-one votes to pass it, and he had them, and one to
spare; for he took his followers, who formed the majority, into caucus
upon it. It was in the caucus Uncle Billy learned that Hurlbut was
“for” the bill. He watched the leader with humble, wavering eyes,
thinking how strong and clear his voice was, and wondering if he never
lit the cigar he always carried in his hand, or if he ever got into
trouble, like Henry, being a young man. If he did, Uncle Billy would
have liked the chance to help him out.

He had plenty of such chances with Henry; indeed, the opportunity may
be said to have become unintermittent, and Uncle Billy was never free
from a dim fear of the day when his son would get in so deeply that he
could not get him out. Verily, the day seemed near at hand: Henry’s
letters were growing desperate and the old man walked the floor of his
little room at night, more and more hopeless. Once or twice, even as
he sat at his desk in the House, his eyes became so watery that he
forced himself into long spells of coughing, to account for it, in
case any one might be noticing him.

The caucus was uneventful and quiet, for it had all been talked over,
and was no more than a matter of form.

The Republicans did not caucus upon the bill (they had reasons), but
they were solidly against it. Naturally it follows that the assault of
the railroad lobby had to be made upon the virtue of the Democrats
_as_ Democrats. That is, whether a member upon the majority side
cared about the bill for its own sake of not, right or wrong, he felt
it his duty as a Democrat to vote for it. If he had a conscience
higher than a political conscience, and believed the bill was bad, his
duty was to “bolt the caucus”; but all of the Democratic side believed
in the righteousness of the bill, except two. One had already been
bought and the other was Uncle Billy, who knew nothing about it,
except that Hurlbut was “for” it and it seemed to be making a “big
stir.”

The man who had been bought sat not far from Uncle Billy. He was a
furtive, untidy slouch of a man, formerly a Republican; he had a great
capacity for “handling the coloured vote” and his name was
Pixley. Hurlbut mistrusted him; the young man had that instinct, which
good leaders need, for feeling the weak places in his following; and
he had the leader’s way, too, of ever bracing up the weakness and
fortifying it; so he stopped, four or five times a day, at Pixley’s
desk, urging the necessity of standing fast for the “Breaker,” and
expressing convictions as to the political future of a Democrat who
should fail to vote for it; to which Pixley assented in his husky,
tough-ward voice.

All day long now, Hurlbut and his lieutenants, disregarding the
routine of bills, went up and down the lines, fending off the
lobbyists and such Republicans as were working openly for the bill.
They encouraged and threatened and never let themselves be too
confident of their seeming strength. Some of those who were known, or
guessed, to be of the “weaker brethren” were not left to themselves
for half an hour at a time, from their breakfasts until they went to
bed. There was always at elbow the “_Hold fast_!” whisper of
Hurlbut and his lieutenants. None of them ever thought of speaking to
Uncle Billy.

Hurlbut’s “work was cut out for him,” as they said. What work it is to
keep every one of fifty men honest under great temptation for three
weeks (which time it took for the hampered and filibustered bill to
come up for its passage or defeat), is known to those who have tried
to do it.  The railroads were outraged and incensed by the measure;
they sincerely believed it to be monstrous and thievish. “Let the
legislature try to confiscate two-fifths of the lawyers’, or the
bakers’, or the ironmoulders’, just earnings,” said they, “and see
what will happen!”

When such a bill as this comes to the floor for the third time the
fight is already over, oratory is futile; and Cicero could not budge a
vote. The railroads were forced to fight as best they could; this was
the old way that they have learned is most effective in such a
case. Votes could not be had to “oblige a friend” on the “Breaker”
 bill; nor could they be procured by arguments to prove the bill
unjust. In brief: the railroad lobby had no need to buy Republican
votes (with the exception of the one or two who charged out of habit
whenever legislation concerned corporations), for the Republicans were
against the bill, but they did mortally need to buy two Democratic
votes, and were willing to pay handsomely for them. Nevertheless,
Mr. Pixley’s price was not exorbitant, considering the situation; nor
need he have congratulated himself so heartily as he did (in moments
of retirement from public life) upon his prospective $2,000 (when the
goods should be delivered) since his vote was assisting the railroads
to save many million dollars a year.

Of course the lobby attacked the bill noisily; there were big guns
going all day long; but those in charge knew perfectly well that the
noise accomplished nothing in itself. It was used to cover the
whispering. Still, Hurlbut held his line firm and the bill passed its
second reading with fifty-two votes, Mr. Pixley being directed by his
owners to vote for it on that occasion.

As time went on the lobby began to grow desperate; even Pixley had
been consulted upon his opinion by Barrett, the young lawyer through
whom negotiations in his case had been conducted.  Pixley suggested
the name of Rollinson and Barrett dismissed this counsel with as much
disgust for Pixley’s stupidity as he had for the man’s person. (One
likes a _dog_ when he buys him.)

“But why not?” Pixley had whined as he reached the door. “Uncle Billy
ain’t so much! You listen to me. He wouldn’t take it out-an’-out--I
don’t say as he would. But you needn’t work that way. Everybody thinks
it’s no use to tackle him--but nobody never _tried_! What’s he
_done_ to make you scared of him? _Nothing_! Jest set there
and _looked_!”

After he had gone the fellow’s words came back to Barrett: “Nobody
never tried!” And then, to satisfy his conscience that he was leaving
no stone unturned, yet laughing at the uselessness of it, he wrote a
letter to a confidant of his, formerly a colleague in the lobby, who
lived in the county-seat near which Uncle Billy’s mortgaged acres
lay. The answer came the night after the second vote on the “Breaker.”


“Dear Barrett:

“I agree with your grafter. I don’t believe Rollinson would be hard to
approach if it were done with tact--of course you don’t want to tackle
him the way you would a swine like Pixley. A good many people around
here always thought the old man simple-minded. He was given the
nomination almost in joke--nobody else wanted it, because they all
thought the Republicans had a sure thing of it; but Rollinson slid in
on the general Democratic landslide in this district. He’s got one
son, a worthless pup, Henry, a sort of yokel Don Juan, always half
drunk when his father has any money to give him, and just smart enough
to keep the old man mesmerized. Lately Henry’s been in a mighty
serious peck of trouble. Last fall he got married to a girl here in
town. Three weeks ago a family named Johnson, the most shiftless in
the county, the real low-down white trash sort, living on a truck
patch out Rollinson’s way, heard that Henry was on a toot in town,
spending money freely, and they went after him. A client of mine rents
their ground to them and told me all about it. It seems they claim
that one of the daughters in the Johnson family was Henry’s common-law
wife before he married the other girl, and it’s more than likely they
can prove it. They are hollering for $600, and if Henry doesn’t raise
it mighty quick they swear they’ll get him sent over the road for
bigamy. I think the old man would sell his soul to keep his boy out of
the penitentiary and he’s at his wits’ ends; he hasn’t anything to
raise the money on and he’s up against it. He’ll do any thing on earth
for Henry. Hope this’ll be of some service to you, and if there’s
anything more I can do about it you better call me up on the long
distance.

“Yours faithfully,

“J. P. WATSON.

“P.S.--You might mention to our old boss that I don’t want anything if
services are needed; but a pass for self and family to New York and
return would come in handy.”


Barrett telegraphed an answer at once: “If it goes you can have annual
for yourself and family.  Will call you up at two sharp to-morrow.”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was late the following night when the lobbyist concluded his
interview with Representative Rollinson, in the latter’s little room,
half lighted by the oil-smelling lamp.

“I knew you would understand, Mr. Rollinson,” said Barrett as he rose
to go. His eyes danced and his jaws set with the thought that had been
jubilant within him for the last half-hour: “We’ve got ‘em! We’ve got
‘em! We’ve got ‘em!” The railroads had defended their own again.

“Of course,” he went on, “we wouldn’t have dreamed of coming to you
and asking you to vote against this outrageous bill if we thought for
a minute that you had any real belief in it or considered it a good
bill. But you say, yourself, your only feeling about it was to oblige
Mr. Hurlbut, and you admit, too, that you’ve voted his way on every
other bill of the session. Surely, as I’ve already said so many times,
you don’t think he’d be so unreasonable as to be angry with you for
differing with him on the merits of only one! No, no, Hurlbut’s a very
sensible fellow about such matters. You don’t need to worry about
_that_!  After all I’ve said, surely you won’t give it another
thought, will you?”

Uncle Billy sat in the shadow, bent far over, slowly twisting his
thin, corded hands, the fingers tightly interlocked. It was a long
time before he spoke, and his interlocutor had to urge him again
before he answered, in his gentle, quavering voice.

“No, I reckon not, if you say so.”

“Certainly not,” said Barrett briskly. “Why of course, we’d never have
thought of making you a money offer to vote either for or against your
principles. Not much! We don’t do business that way! We simply want to
do something for you. We’ve wanted to, all during the session, but the
opportunity hadn’t offered until I happened to hear your son was in
trouble.”

Out of the shadow came a long, tremulous sigh. There was a moment’s
pause; then Uncle Billy’s head sank slowly lower and rested on his
hands.

“You see,” the other continued cheerfully, “we make no conditions,
none in the world. We feel friendly to you and want to oblige you, but
of course we do think you ought to show a little good-will towards
_us_. I believe it’s all understood: to-morrow night Mr. Watson
will drive out in his buggy to this Johnson place, and he’s empowered
by us to settle the whole business and obtain a written statement from
the family that they have no claim on your son. How he will settle it
is neither your affair nor mine; nor whether it costs money or
not. But he _will_ settle it. We do that out of good-will to you,
as long as we feel as friendly to you as we do now, and all we ask is
that you show your good-will to us.”

It was plain, even to Uncle Billy, that if he voted against
Mr. Barrett’s friends in the afternoon those friends might not feel so
much good-will toward him in the evening as they did now: and
Mr. Watson might not go to the trouble of hitching up his buggy to
drive out to the Johnsons’.

“You see, it’s all out of friendship,” said Barrett, his hand on the
door knob. “And we can count on your’s to-morrow, can’t
we--absolutely?”

The grey head sank a little lower, and then after a moment the
quavering voice answered:

“Yes, sir--I’ll be friendly.”

Before morning, Hurlbut lost another vote.  One of his best men left
on a night train for the bedside of his dying wife. This meant that
the “Breaker” needed every one of the fifty-one remaining Democratic
votes in order to pass. Hurlbut more than distrusted Pixley, yet he
felt sure of the other fifty, and if, upon the reading of the bill,
Pixley proved false, the bill would not be lost, since there would be
a majority of votes in its favour, though not the constitutional
majority of fifty-one required for its passage, and it could be
brought up again and carried when the absent man returned. Thus, on
the chance that Pixley had withstood tampering, Hurlbut made no effort
to prevent the bill from coming to the floor in its regular order in
the afternoon, feeling that it could not possibly be killed by a
majority against it, for he trusted his fifty, now, as strongly as he
distrusted Pixley.

And so the roll-call on the “Breaker” began, rather quietly, though
there was no man’s face in the hall that was not set to show the
tensity of high-strung nerves. The great crowd that had gathered and
choked the galleries and the floor beyond the bar, and the Senators
who had left their own chamber to watch the bill in the House, all
began to feel disappointed; for nothing happened until Pixley’s name
was called.

Pixley voted “No!”

Uncle Billy, sitting far down in his leather chair on the small of his
back, heard the outburst of shouting that followed; but he could not
see Pixley, for the traitor was instantly surrounded by a ring of men,
and all that was visible from where he sat was their backs and
upraised, gesticulating hands. Uncle Billy began to tremble violently;
he had not calculated on this; but surely such things would not happen
to _him_!

The Speaker’s gavel clicked through the uproar and the roll-call
proceeded.

The clerk reached the name of Rollinson.  Uncle Billy swallowed, threw
a pale look about him and wrapped his damp hands in the skirts of his
shiny old coat, as if to warm them. For a moment he could not
answer. People turned to look at him.

“Rollinson!” shouted the clerk again.

“No,” said Uncle Billy.

Immediately he saw above him and all about him a blur of men’s faces
and figures risen to their feet, he heard a hundred voices say
breathlessly: “_What_!” and one that said: “My God, that kills
the bill!”

Then a horrible and incredible storm burst upon him, and he who had
sat all the session shrinking unnoticed in his quiet, back seat,
unnerved when a colleague asked the simplest question, found himself
the centre and point of attack in the wildest mêlée that legislature
ever saw.  A dozen men, red, frantic, with upraised arms, came at him,
Hurlbut the first of them. But the lobby was there, too; for it was
not part of its calculations that the old man should be frightened
into changing his vote.

There need have been no fear of that. Uncle Billy was beyond the power
of speech. The lobby’s agents swarmed on the floor, and, with
half-a-dozen hysterically laughing Republicans, met the onset of
Hurlbut and his men. It became a riot immediately. Sane men were swept
up in it to be as mad as the rest, while the galleries screamed and
shouted. All round the old man the fury was greatest; his head sank
over his desk and rested on his hands as it had the night before; for
he dared not lift it to see the avalanche he had loosed upon
himself. He would have liked to stop his ears to shut out the
egregious clamour of cursing and yelling that beset him, as his bent
head kept the glazed eyes from seeing the impossible vision of the
attack that strove to reach him. He remembered awful dreams that were
like this; and now, as then, he shuddered in a cold sweat, being as
one who would draw the covers over his head to shelter him from
horrors in great darkness. As Uncle Billy felt, so might a naked soul
feel at the judgment day, tossed alone into the pit with all the
myriads of eyes in the universe fastened on its sins.

He was pressed and jostled by his defenders; once a man’s shoulders
were bent back down over his own and he was crushed against the desk
until his ribs ached; voices thundered and wailed at him, threatening,
imploring, cursing, cajoling, raving.

Smaller groups were struggling and shouting in every part of the room,
the distracted sergeants-at-arms roaring and wrestling with the
rest. On the high dais the Speaker, white but imperturbable, having
broken his gavel, beat steadily with the handle of an umbrella upon
the square of marble on his desk. Fifteen or twenty members, raging
dementedly, were beneath him, about the clerk’s desk and on the steps
leading up to his chair, each howling hoarsely:

“A point of _order_! A point of _or-der_!”

When the semblance of order came at last, the roll was finished,
“reconsidered,” the “Breaker” was beaten, 50 to 49, was dead; and
Uncle Billy Rollinson was creeping down the outer steps of the
Statehouse in the cold February slush and rain.

He was glad to be out of the nightmare, though it seemed still upon
him, the horrible clamours, all gonging and blaring at _him_; the
red, maddened faces, the clenched fists, the open mouths, all raging
at _him_--all the ruck and uproar swam about the dazed old man as
he made his slow, unseeing way through the wet streets.

He was too late for dinner at his dingy boarding house, having
wandered far, and he found himself in his room without knowing very
well how he had come there, indeed, scarcely more than half-conscious
that he _was_ there. He sat, for a long time, in the dark. After
a while he mechanically lit the lamp, sat again to stare at it, then,
finding his eyes watering, he turned from it with an incoherent
whimper, as if it had been a person from whom he would conceal the
fact that he was weeping. He leaned his arm, against the window sill
and dried his eyes on the shiny sleeve.

An hour later, there came a hard, imperative knock on the door. Uncle
Billy raised his head and said gently:

“Come in.”

He rose to his feet uncertain, aghast, when he saw who his visitor
was. It was Hurlbut.

The young man confronted him darkly, for a moment, in silence. He was
dripping with rain; his hat, unremoved, shaded lank black locks over a
white face; his nostrils were wide with wrath; the “dry cigar” wagged
between gritting teeth.

“Will ye take a chair?” faltered Uncle Billy.

The room rang to the loud answer of the other: “I’d see you in Hell
before I’d sit in a chair of yours!”

He raised an arm, straight as a rod, to point at the old
man. “Rollinson,” he said, “I’ve come here to tell you what I think of
you! I’ve never done that in my life before, because I never thought
any man worth it. I do it because I need the luxury of it--because I’m
sick of myself not to have had gumption enough to see what you were
all the time and have you watched!”

Uncle Billy was stung to a moment’s life.  “Look here,” he quavered,
“you hadn’t ought to talk that way to me. There ain’t a cent of money
passed my fingers--”

Hurlbut’s bitter laugh cut him short. “_No?_ Don’t you suppose
_I know_ how it was done? Do you suppose there’s a man in the
whole Assembly doesn’t know how you were sold? I had it by the long
distance an hour ago, from your own home.  Do you suppose _we_
have no friends there, or that it was hard to find out about the whole
dirty business?  Your son’s not going to stand trial for bigamy; that
was the price you charged for killing the bill. You and Pixley are the
only men whom they could buy with all their millions! Oh, I know a
dozen men who could be bought on other issues, but not on _this_!
You and Pixley stand alone. Well, you’ve broken the caucus and you’ve
betrayed the Democratic party. I’ve come to tell you that the party
doesn’t want you any more. You are out of it, do you hear? We don’t
want even to use you!”

The old man had sunk back into his chair, stricken white, his hands
fluttering helplessly.  “I didn’t go to hurt your feelings,
Mr. Hurlbut,” he said. “I never knowed how it would be, but I don’t
think you ought to say I done anything dishonest. I just felt kind of
friendly to the railroads--”

The leader’s laugh cut him off again. “Friendly!  Yes, that’s what you
were! Well, you can go back to your friends; you’ll need them!--Mother
in Heaven! How you fooled us! We thought you were the straightest man
and the staunchest Democrat--”

“I b’en a Democrat all my life, Mr. Hurlbut. I voted fer--”

“Well, you’re a Democrat no longer. You’re done for, do you
understand? And we’re done with you!”

“You mean,” the old man’s voice shook almost beyond control; “you mean
you’re tryin’ to read me out of the party?”

“Trying to!” Hurlbut turned to the door.  “You’re out! It’s done. You
can thank God that your ‘friends’ did their work so well that we can’t
prove what we know. On my soul, you dog, if we could I believe some of
the boys would send you over the road.”

An hour after he had gone, Uncle Billy roused himself from his stupor,
and the astonished landlady heard his shuffling step on the stair. She
followed him softly and curiously to the front door, and watched
him. He was bare-headed but had not far to go. The night-flare of the
cheap, all-night saloon across the sodden street silhouetted the
stooping figure for a moment and then the swinging doors shut the old
man from her view. She returned to her parlour and sat waiting for his
return until she fell asleep in her chair. She awoke at two o’clock,
went to his room, and was aghast to find it still vacant.

“The Lord have mercy on us all!” she cried aloud. “To think that old
rascal’d go out on a spree! He’d better of stayed in the country where
he belonged.”

It was the next morning that the House received a shock which loosed
another riot, but one of a kind different from that which greeted
Representative Rollinson’s vote on the “Breaker.” The reading-clerk
had sung his way through an inconsequent bill; most of the members
were buried in newspapers, gossiping, idling, or smoking in the
lobbies, when a loud, cracked voice was heard shrilly demanding
recognition.

“Mr. Speaker!” Every one turned with a start.  There was Uncle Billy,
on his feet, violently waving his hands at the Speaker. “Mr. Speaker,
Mr.  Speaker, Mr. Speaker!” His dress was disordered and muddy; his
eyes shone with a fierce, absurd, liquorish light; and with each
syllable that he uttered his beard wagged to an unspeakable effect of
comedy. He offered the most grotesque spectacle ever seen in that
hall--a notable distinction.

For a moment the House sat in paralytic astonishment.  Then came an
awed whisper from a Republican: “Has the old fool really found his
voice?”

“No, he’s drunk,” said a neighbour. “I guess he can afford it, after
his vote yesterday!”

“Mister Speaker! _Mister_ Speaker!”

The cracked voice startled the lobbies. The hangers-on, the
typewriters, the janitors, the smoking members came pouring into the
chamber and stood, transfixed and open-mouthed.

“_Mister Speaker_!”

Then the place rocked with the gust of laughter and ironical cheering
that swept over the Assembly, Members climbed upon their chairs and on
desks, waving handkerchiefs, sheets of foolscap, and waste-baskets.
“Hear ‘im! _He-ear_ ‘im!” rang the derisive cry.

The Speaker yielded in the same spirit and said:

“The Gentleman from Wixinockee.”

A semi-quiet followed and the cracked voice rose defiantly:

“That’s who I am! I’m the Gentleman from Wixinockee an’ I stan’ here
to defen’ the principles of the Democratic party!”

The Democrats responded with violent hootings, supplemented by cheers
of approval from the Republicans. The high voice out-shrieked them
all: “Once a Democrat, always a Democrat!  I voted Dem’cratic tick’t
forty year, born a Democrat an’ die a Democrat. Fellow sizzens, I want
to say to you right here an’ now that principles of Dem’cratic party
saved this country a hun’erd times from Republican mal-’diministration
an’ degerdation! Lemme tell you this: you kin take my life away but
you can’t say I don’ stan’ by Dem’cratic party, mos’ glorious party of
Douglas an’ Tilden, Hen’ricks, Henry Clay, an’ George Washin’ton. I
say to you they _hain’t_ no other party an’ I’m member of it till
death an’ Hell an’ f’rever after, so help me _God_!”

He smote the desk beside him with the back of his hand, using all his
strength, skinning his knuckles so that the blood dripped from them,
unnoticed.  He waved both arms continually, bending his body almost
double and straightening up again, in crucial efforts for
emphasis. All the old jingo platitudes that he had learned from
campaign speakers throughout his life, the nonsense and brag and blat,
the cheap phrases, all the empty balderdash of the platform, rushed to
his incoherent lips.

The lord of misrule reigned at the end of each sentence, as the
members sprang again upon the chairs and desks, roaring, waving,
purple with laughter. The Speaker leaned back exhausted in his chair
and let the gavel rest. Spectators, pages, galleries whooped and
howled with the members.  Finally the climax came.

“I want to say to you just this _here_,” shrilled the cracked
voice, “an’ you can tell the Republican party that I said so, tell ‘em
straight from _me_, an’ I hain’t goin’ back on it; I reckon they
know who I am, too; I’m a man that’s honest--I’m as honest as the day
is long, I am--as honest as the day is long--”

He was interrupted by a loud voice. “_Yes_,” it cried, “_when
that day is the twenty-first of December!_”

That let pandemonium loose again, wilder, madder than before. A member
threw a pamphlet at Uncle Billy. In a moment the air was thick with a
Brobdingnagian snow-storm: pamphlets, huge wads of foolscap, bills,
books, newspapers, waste-baskets went flying at the grotesque target
from every quarter of the room. Members “rushed” the old man, hooting,
cheering; he was tossed about, half thrown down, bruised, but,
clamorous over all other clamours, jumping up and down to shriek over
the heads of those who hustled him, his hands waving frantically in
the air, his long beard wagging absurdly, still desperately
vociferating his Democracy and his honesty.

That was only the beginning. He had, indeed, “found his voice”; for he
seldom went now to the boarding-house for his meals, but patronized
the free-lunch counter and other allurements of the establishment
across the way. Every day he rose in the House to speak, never failing
to reach the assertion that he was “as honest as the day is long,”
 which was always greeted in the same way.

For a time he was one of the jokes that lightened the tedious business
of law-making, and the members looked forward to his “_Mis-ter
Speaker_” as schoolboys look forward to recess. But, after a week,
the novelty was gone.

The old man became a bore. The Speaker refused to recognize him, and
grew weary of the persistent shrilling. The day came when Uncle Billy
was forcibly put into his seat by a disgusted sergeant-at-arms. He was
half drunk (as he had come to be most of the time), but this
humiliation seemed to pierce the alcoholic vapours that surrounded his
always feeble intelligence. He put his hands up to his face and cried
like a whimpering child. Then he shuffled out and went back to the
saloon. He soon acquired the habit of leaving his seat in the House
vacant; he was no longer allowed to make speeches there; he made them
in the saloon, to the amusement of the loafers and roughs who infested
it. They badgered him, but they let him harangue them, and applauded
his rhodomontades.

Hurlbut, passing the place one night at the end of the session, heard
the quavering, drunken voice, and paused in the darkness to listen.

“I tell you, fellow-countrymen, I’ve voted Dem’cratic tick’t forty
year, live a Dem’crat, die a Dem’crat! An’ I’m’s honest as day is
long!”

       *       *       *       *       *

It was five years after that session, when Hurlbut, now in the
national Congress, was called to the district in which Wixinockee
lies, to assist his hard-pressed brethren in a campaign. He was
driving, one afternoon, to a political meeting in the country, when a
recollection came to him and he turned to the committee chairman, who
accompanied him, and said:

“Didn’t Uncle Billy Rollinson live somewhere near here?”

“Why, yes. You knew him in the legislature, didn’t you?”

“A little. Where is he now?”

“Just up ahead here. I’ll show you.”

They reached the gate of a small, unkempt, weedy graveyard and
stopped.

“The inscription on the head-board is more or less amusing,” said the
chairman, as he got out of the buggy, “considering that he was thought
to be pretty crooked, and I seem to remember that he was ‘read out of
the party,’ too. But he wrote the inscription himself, on his
death-bed, and his son put it there.”

There was a sparse crop of brown grass growing on the grave to which
he led his companion.  A cracked wooden head-board, already tilting
rakishly, marked Henry’s devotion. It had been white-washed and the
inscription done in black letters, now partly washed away by the rain,
but still legible:

HERE LIES THE MORTAL REMAINS OF WILLIAM ROLLINSON A LIFE-LONG DEMOCRAT
AND A MAN AS HONEST AS THE DAY IS LONG

The chairman laughed. “Don’t that beat thunder? You knew his record in
the legislature didn’t you?”

“Yes.”

“He _was_ as crooked as they say he was, wasn’t he?”

Hurlbut had grown much older in five years, and he was in Congress. He
was climbing the ladder, and, to hold the position he had gained, and
to insure his continued climbing, he had made some sacrifices within
himself by obliging his friends--sacrifices which he did not name.

“I could hardly say,” he answered gently, his down-bent eyes fastened
on the sparse, brown grass. “It’s not for us to judge too much. I
believe, maybe, that if he could hear me now, I’d ask his pardon for
some things I said to him once.”



HECTOR


It isn’t the party manager, you understand, that gets the fame; it’s
the candidate. The manager tries to keep his candidate in what the
newspapers call a “blaze of publicity”; that is, to keep certain spots
of him in the blaze, while sometimes it is the fact that a candidate
does not know much of what is really going on; he gets all the red
fire and sky-rockets, and, in the general dazzle and nervousness, is
unconscious of the forces which are to elect or defeat him.  Strange
as it is, the more glare and conspicuousness he has, the more he
usually wants. But the more a working political manager gets, the less
he wants. You see, it’s a great advantage to keep out of the high
lights.

For my part, not even being known or important enough to be named
“Dictator,” now and then, in the papers, I’ve had my fun in the game
very quietly. Yet I did come pretty near being a famous man once, a
good while ago, for about a week. That was just after Hector J. Ransom
made his great speech on the “Patriotism of the Pasture” which set the
country to talking about him and, in time, brought him all he desired.

You remember what a big stir that speech made, of course--everybody
remembers it. The people in his State went just wild with pride, and
all over the country the papers had a sort of catch head-line:
“Another Daniel Webster Come to Judgment!” When the reporters in my
own town found out that Ransom was a second cousin of mine, I was put
into a scare-head for the only time in my life. For a week I was a
public character and important to other people besides the boys that
do the work at primaries. I was interviewed every few minutes; and a
reporter got me up one night at half-past twelve to ask for some
anecdotes of Hector’s “Boyhood Days and Rise to Fame.”

I didn’t oblige that young man, but I knew enough. I was always fond
of my first cousin, Mary Ransom, Hector’s mother; and in the old days
I never passed through Greenville, the little town where they lived,
without stopping over, a train or two, to visit with her, and I saw
plenty of Hector! I never knew a boy that left the other boys to come
into the parlour (when there was company) quicker than Hector, and I
certainly never saw a boy that “showed off” more. His mother was
wrapped up in him; you could see in a minute that she fairly
worshipped him; but I don’t know, if it hadn’t been for Mary, that I’d
have praised his recitations and elocution so much, myself.

Mary and I wouldn’t any more than get to tell each other how long
since we’d heard from Aunt Sue, before Hector would grow uneasy and
switch around on the sofa and say: “Ma, I’d rather you wouldn’t tell
cousin Ben about what happened at the G. A. R. reunion. I don’t want
to go through all that stuff again.”

At that, Mary’s eyes would light up and she’d say: “You must, Hector,
you must! I want him to hear you do it; he mustn’t go away without
that!” Then she’d go on to tell me how Hector had recited Lincoln’s
Gettysburg speech at a meeting of the local post of the G. A. R. and
how he was applauded, and that many of the veterans had told him if he
kept on he’d be Governor of his State some day, and how proud she was
of him and how he was so different from ordinary boys that she was
often anxious about him. Then she would urge him to let me have
it--and he always would, especially if I said: “Oh, don’t _make_
the boy do it, Mary!”

He would stand out in the middle of the floor and thrust his chin out,
knitting his brow and widening his nostrils, and shout “Of the people,
By the people, and For the people” at the top of his lungs in that
little parlour. He always had a great talent for mimicry, a talent of
which I think he was absolutely unconscious. He would give his
speeches in exactly the boy-orator style; that is, he imitated
speakers who imitated others who had heard Daniel Webster. Mary and
he, however, had no idea that he imitated anybody; they thought it was
creative genius.

When he had finished Lincoln, he would say: “Well, I’ve got another
that’s a good deal better, but I don’t want to go through that today;
it’s too much trouble,” with the result that in a few minutes Patrick
Henry would take a turn or two in his grave. Hector always placed
himself by a table for “Liberty or Death,” and barked his knuckles on
it for emphasis. Little he cared, so long as he thought he’d got his
effect! You could see, in spite of the intensity of his expression,
that he was perfectly happy.

When he’d worked us through that, and perhaps “Horatius at the Bridge”
 and the quarrel scene between Brutus and Cassius and was pretty well
emptied, he’d hang about and interrupt in a way that made me
restless. Neither Mary nor I could get out two sentences before the
boy would cut in with something like: “Don’t tell cousin Ben about
that day I recited in school; I’m tired of all that guff!”

Then Mary would answer: “It isn’t guff, precious. I never was prouder
of you in my life.”  And she’d go on to tell me about another of his
triumphs, and how he made up speeches of his own sometimes, and would
stand on a box and deliver them to his boy friends, though she didn’t
say how the boys received them. All the while, Hector would stare at
me like a neighbour’s cat on your front steps, to see what impression
it made on me; and I was conscious that he was sure that I knew he was
a wonderful boy. I think he felt that everybody knew it. Hector kind
of palled on me.

When he was about sixteen, Mary wrote me that she was in great
distress about him because he had decided to go on the stage; that he
had written to John McCullough, offering to take the place of leading
man in his company to begin with. Mary was sure, she said, that the
life of an actor was a hard one; Hector had always been very delicate
(I had known him to eat a whole mince pie without apparent distress
afterward) and she wanted me to write and urge him to change his
mind. She felt sure Mr. McCullough would send for him at once, because
Hector had written him that he already knew all the principal
Shakespearian roles, could play Brutus, Cassius, or Mark Antony as
desired; and he had added a letter of recommendation from the Mayor of
their city, declaring that Hector was a finer elocutionist and
tragedian than any actor he had ever seen.

The dear woman’s anxiety was needless, for she wrote me, with as much
surprise as pleasure, two months later, that for some reason
Mr. McCullough had not answered the letter, and that she was very
happy; she had persuaded Hector to go to college.

How she kept him there, the first two years, I don’t know, for her
husband had only left her about four hundred dollars a year. Of
course, living in Greenville isn’t expensive, but it does cost
something, and I honestly believe Mary came near to living on
nothing. It was a small college that she’d sent the boy to, but it was
a mother’s point with her that Hector should be as comfortable as
anyone there.

I stopped off at Greenville, one day, toward the end of his second
year, but before he’d come home, and I saw how it was. Mary seemed as
glad as ever to see me--it was the same old bright greeting that she’d
always given me. She saw me from the dining-room window where she was
eating her supper, and she came out, running down to the gate to meet
me, like a girl; but she looked thin and pale.

I said I’d go right in and have some supper with her, and at that the
roses came back quickly to her cheeks. “No,” she said, “I wasn’t
really at supper; only having a bite beforehand; I’m going up-town now
to get the things for supper.  You smoke a cigar out on the porch till
I get back, and--”

I took her by the arm. “Not much, Mary,” I said. “I’m going to have
the same supper you had for yourself.”

So I went straight out to the dining-room; and all I found on the
table was some dry bread toasted and a baked apple without cream or
sugar. It gave me a pretty good idea of what the general run of her
meals must have been.

I had a long talk with her that night, and I wormed it out of her that
Hector’s college expenses were about twenty-five dollars a month,
which left her six to live on. The truth is, she didn’t have enough to
eat, and you could see how happy it made her. She read me a good many
of Hector’s letters, her voice often trembling with happiness over his
triumphs. The letters were long, I’ll say that for Hector, which may
have been to his credit as a son, or it may have been because he had
such an interesting subject. There was no doubt that he had worked
hard; he had taken all the chief prizes for oratory and essay writing
and so forth that were open to him; he also allowed it to be seen that
he was the chief person in the consideration of his class and the
fraternity he had joined. Mary had a sort of humbleness about being
the mother of such a son.

But I settled one thing with her that night, though I had to hurt her
feelings to do it. I owned a couple of small notes which had just
fallen due, and I could spare the money. I put it as a loan to Hector
himself; he was to pay me back when he got started, and so it was
arranged that he could finish his course without his mother’s living
on apples and toast.

I went over to his Commencement with Mary and we hadn’t been in the
town an hour before we saw that Hector was the king of the place.  He
had _all_ the honours; first in his class, first in oratory,
first in everything; professors and students all kow-towed and sounded
the hew-gag before him. Most of Mary’s time was put in crying with
happiness. As for Hector himself, he had changed in just one way: he
no longer looked at people to see his effect on them; he was too
confident of it.

His face had grown to be the most determined I have ever seen. There
was no obstinacy in it--he wasn’t a bull-dog--only set determination.
No one could have failed to read in it an immensely powerful will. In
a curious way he seemed “on edge” all the time. His nostrils were
always distended, the muscles of his lean jaw were never lax, but
continually at tension, thrusting the chin forward with his teeth hard
together.  His eyebrows were contracted, I think, even in his sleep,
and he looked at everything with a sort of quick, fierce, appearance
of scrutiny, though at that time I imagined that he saw very little.
He had a loud, rich voice, his pronunciation was clipped to a deadly
distinctness; he was so straight and his head so high in the air that
he seemed almost to tilt back. With his tall figure and black hair, he
was a boy who would have attracted attention, as they say, in any
crowd, so that he might have been taken for a young actor.  His best
friend, a kind of Man Friday to him, was another young fellow from
Greenville, whose name was Joe Lane. I liked Joe. I’d known him? since
he was a boy. He was lazy and pleasant-looking, with reddish hair and
a drawling, low voice. He had a humorous, sensible expression, though
he was dissipated, I’d heard, but very gentle in his manners. I had a
talk with him under the trees of the college campus in the moonlight,
Commencement night. I can see the boy lying there now, sprawling on
the grass with a cigar in his mouth.

“Hector’s done well,” I said.

“Oh, Lord, yes!” Joe answered. “He always will. He’s going ‘way up in
the world.”

“What makes you think so?”

“Because he’s so sure of it. It only needs a little luck to make him a
great man. In fact, he already is a great man.”

“You mean you think he has a great mind?”

“Why, no, sir; but I think he has a purpose so big and so set, that it
might be called great, and it will make him great.”

“What purpose?”

Joe answered quietly but very slowly, pulling at his cigar after each
syllable: “Hec--tor--J.  Ran--som!”

“I declare,” I put in, “I thought you were his friend!”

“So I am,” the young fellow returned. “Friend, admirer, and
doer-in-ordinary to Hector J. Ransom, that’s my quality. I’ve done
errands and odd jobs for him all my life. Most people who meet him do;
though it might be hard to say why. I haven’t hitched my wagon to a
star; nobody’ll get to do that, because this star isn’t going to take
anything to the zenith but itself.”

“Going to the zenith, is he?”

“Surely.”

“You mean,” said I, “that he’s going to make a fine lawyer?”

“Oh, no, I think not. He might have been called one in the last
generation, but, as I understand it, nowadays a lawyer has to work out
business propositions more than oratory.”

“And you think Hector has only his oratory?”

“I think that’s his vehicle; it’s his racing sulky and he’ll drive it
pretty hard. We’re good friends, but if you want me to be frank, I
should say that he’d drive on over my dead body if it lay in the road
to where he was going.” Lane rolled over in the grass with a little
chuckle. “Of course,” he went on, “I talk about him this way because
I know what you’ve done for him and I’d like to help you to be sure
that he’s going to be a success.  He’ll do you credit!”

“What are you going to do, yourself, Joe?”  I asked.

“Me?” He sat up, looking surprised. “Why, didn’t you know? I didn’t
get my degree. They threw me out at the eleventh hour for getting too
publicly tight--celebrating Hector’s winning the works of Lord Byron,
the prize in the senior debate! I’ll never be a credit to anybody; and
as for what I’m going to do--go back to Greenville and loaf in Tim’s
pool-room, I suppose, and watch Hector’s balloon.”

However, Hector’s balloon seemed uninclined to soar, at the
set-off--though Hector didn’t. The next summer began a presidential
campaign, and Hector, knowing that I was chairman of my county
committee, and strangely overestimating my importance, came up to see
me: he asked me to use my influence with the National Committee to
have him sent to make speeches in one of the doubtful States; he
thought he could carry it for us. I explained that I had no wires
leading up so far as the National Committee.  There were other things
I might have explained, but it didn’t seem much use. Hector would have
thought I wanted to “keep him down.”

He thought so anyway, because, after a crestfallen moment, he began to
look at me in his fierce eye-to-eye way with what seemed to me a dark
suspicion. He came and struck my desk with his clinched fist (he was
always strong on that), and exclaimed:

“Then by the eternal gods, if my own flesh and blood won’t help me,
I’ll go to Chicago myself, lay my credentials before the committee,
unaided, and wring from them--”

“Hold on, Hector,” I said. “Why didn’t you say you had credentials?
What are they?”

“What are they?” he answered in a rising voice. “You ask me what are
my credentials?  The credentials of my patriotism, my poverty, and my
pride! You ask me for my credentials?  The credentials of youth!” (He
hit the desk every few words.) “The credentials of enthusiasm!  The
credentials of strength! You ask for my credentials? The credentials
of red blood, of red corpuscles, of young manhood, ripest in the
glorious young West! The credentials of vitality!  Of virile--”

“Hold on,” I said again, but I couldn’t stop him. He went on for
probably fifteen minutes, pacing the room and gesticulating and
thundering at me, though we two were all alone. I felt mighty
ridiculous, but, of course, I’d been through much the same thing with
one or two candidates and orators before. I thought then that he was
practising on me, but I came afterward to see that I was partly
wrong. “Oratory” was his only way of expressing himself; he couldn’t
just _talk_, to save his life. All you could do, when he began,
was to sit and take it till he got through, which consumed some
valuable time for me that afternoon. I suppose I was profane inside,
for having given him that cue with “credentials.” Finally I got in a
question:

“Why not begin a little more mildly, Hector?  Why don’t you make some
speeches in your own county first?”

“I have consented to make the Fourth of July oration at Greenville,”
 he answered.

Before he could go on, I got up and slapped him on the back. “That’s
right!” I said. “That’s right! Go back and show the home folks what
you can do, and I’ll come down to hear it!”

And so I did. Mary was, if possible, more flustered and upset than at
Hector’s Commencement.  She and Joe Lane and I had a bench close up to
the stand, and on the other side of Mary sat a girl I’d never seen
before. Mary introduced me to her in a way that made me risk a guess
that Hector liked her more than common. Her name was Laura Rainey, and
she’d come to Greenville, a year before, to teach in the high-school.
She was young, not quite twenty, I reckoned, and as pretty and dainty
a girl as ever I saw; thin and delicate-looking, though not in the
sense of poor health; and she struck me as being very sweet and
thoughtful. Joe Lane told me, with his little chuckle, that she’d had
a good deal of trouble in the school on account of all the older boys
falling in love with her.

Something in the way he spoke made me watch Joe, and I was sure if
he’d been one of her pupils he wouldn’t have lightened her worries
much in that direction. He had it himself. I saw it, or, I should say,
I felt it, in spite of his never seeming to look at her. She looked at
him, however, and pretty often, too; and there was a good deal of
interest in her eyes, only it was a sad kind, which I understood, I
thought, when I found that Joe had been on a long spree and had just
sobered up the day before.

Hector sat above us on the platform, with the Mayor and the County
Judge, and when the latter introduced him, and the same old white
pitcher and glass of water on a pine table, the boy came forward with
slow and impressive steps, and, setting his left fist on his hip,
allowed his right arm to hang straight by his side till his hand
rested on the table, like a statesman of the day standing for a
photograph. His brow contained a commanding frown, and he stood for
some moments in that position, while, to my astonishment, the crowd
cheered itself hoarse.

There was no mistaking the genuine enthusiasm that he evoked, though I
didn’t feel it myself.  I suppose the only explanation is that he had
a great deal of what is called “magnetism.” What made it I don’t
know. He was good-looking enough, with his dark eyes and hair, and
white, intense face and black clothes; but there was more in the
cheering than appreciation of that. I could not doubt that he produced
on the crowd, by his quiet attitude, an apparition of greatness. There
was some kind of hypnotism in it, I suppose.

The speech was about what I was looking for: bombastic platitudes
delivered with such earnestness and velocity that “every point scored”
 and the cheering came whenever he wanted it.

For instance: he would retire a few steps toward the rear, and,
pointing to the sky, adjure it in a solemn voice which made every one
lean forward in a dead hush:

“Tell me, ye silent stars, that seem to slumber ‘neath the auroral
coverlet of day, tell me, down what laurelled pathways among ye walk
our dead, the heroes whose blood was our benison, bequeathing to us
the heritage of this flower-strewn land; they who have passed to that
bourne whence no traveller returns? Answer me: Are not _theirs_
the loftiest names inscribed on your marble catalogues of the
nations?” He let his voice out startlingly and shouted: “CREEPS there
a creature of the earth with spirit so sordid as to doubt it, to doubt
_who_ heads those gilded rolls! If there be, then _I_ say to
him, ‘Beware!’  For the names I see written above me to-day on the
immemorial canopy of heaven begin with that of the spotless knight,
the unsceptred and uncrowned king, the godlike and immaculate”--(here
he turned suddenly, ran to the front of the stage, and, with
outstretched fist shaking violently over our heads, thundered at the
full power of his lungs): “GEORGE WASHINGTON!”

He did the same for Jefferson, Jackson, Lincoln, Grant, and four or
five governors and senators of the State; and at every name the crowd
went wild, worked up to it by Hector in the same way. But what
surprised me was his daring to conclude his list with a votive
offering laid at the feet of Passley Trimmer. Trimmer was the
congressional representative of that district and one of the meanest
men and smartest politicians in the world. He was always creeping out
of tight places and money-scandals by the skin of his teeth; and yet,
by building up the finest personal machine in the State, he stuck to
his seat in Congress term after term, in spite of the fact that most
of the intelligent and honest men in his district despised him. It was
a proof of the power Hector held over his audience that, by his
tribute to Trimmer, he was able to evoke the noisiest enthusiasm of
the afternoon.

Nevertheless, what really tickled me most was the boy’s peroration. It
gave me a pretty clear insight into his “innard workings.” He led up
to it in his favourite way: stepping backward a pace or two and
sinking his voice to a kind of Edwin Booth quiet; gradually growing a
little louder; then suddenly turning on the thunder and running
forward.

“You ask _me_ for our credentials?” he roared.  (Nobody had, this
time.) “In the Lexicon of the Peoples, you ask _me_ for my
country’s credentials?  The credentials of our pastures, our
population and our pride! You ask me for my country’s credentials? I
reply: ‘The credentials of our youth and our enthusiasm! Of red
corpuscles!  Of red blood! The credentials of the virility and of the
magnificent manhood of the Columbian Continent!’ You ask for my
country’s credentials and I answer: ‘The credentials of Glory! By
right of the eternal and Almighty God!’”

Of course there was a great deal more, but that’s enough to show how
he had polished it.

       *       *       *       *       *

I walked back to Mary’s with Joe Lane, while Hector followed, making a
kind of Royal Progress through the crowds, with his mother and Miss
Rainey.

“You see it now, yourself, don’t you?” Joe said to me.

“You mean about his doing well?”

“What else? He’s just shown what he can do with people. The day will
come when you’ll have to take him at his own valuation.”

I couldn’t help laughing. “Well, Joe,” I said, “that sounds as if
_you_, at least, already took Hector at his own valuation.”

“In some things,” he answered, “I think I do.  Don’t you take him for
an ass, sir. Sometimes I believe he’s guided by a really superior
intelligence--”

“Must be a sub-consciousness, then, Joe!”

“Exactly,” he said seriously. “He doesn’t make a single mistake. He’s
trained his manner so that, while a very few people laugh at him, he
does things that the town would resent in any one else. He doesn’t go
round with the boys, and they look up to him for it. He isn’t pompous,
but he’s acquired a kind of stateliness of manner that’s made
Greenville call him ‘Mister Ransom’ instead of ‘Hec.’ You probably
think that his request to the National Committee only shows he’s got
all the nerve in the world; but I believe, on my soul, that if it had
been granted he could have made good.”

“What did he want to run Passley Trimmer into his Pantheon for,
to-day?” I asked.

Joe’s honest face looked a little dark at this.  “It’s only another
proof of the shrewdness that directs him, though it was, maybe, a
little bit sickening. He talks gold and stars and eternal gods, about
sweetness and light and pure politics and reform, but he wants Passley
Trimmer’s machine to take him up. Passley Trimmer and his brother,
Link, are a good-sized curse to this district, I expect you know, but
Hector’s courting them. Link is the dirtiest we’ve ever had here, and
he holds all the rottenest in this county solid for Passley. He’s
overbearing; ugly, too; shot a nigger in the hip a year ago, and
crippled him for life on account of a little back-talk, and got off
scot-free. I had a row with him in a saloon last week; I was tight, I
suppose, though there’s always been bad blood between us, anyway,
drunk or sober, and I didn’t know much what happened, except that I
refused to drink in his company and he cursed me out and I blacked an
eye for him before they separated us. Well, sir, next day, here was
Hector demanding that I go and apologize to Link. I said I’d as soon
apologize to a rattlesnake, and Hector upbraided me in his rhetoric,
but with a whole lot of real feeling, too. He was even pathetic about
it: put it on the ground that I owed it to morality, by which he meant
Hector. I was known to be his most intimate friend; I had done him an
irrecoverable injury with the Trimmers, who would extend their
retaliation and let _him_ have a share of it, as my friend. He
ended by declaring that he should withhold the light of his
countenance from me until I had repaired the wrong done to his cause,
and had apologized to Link!”

“Did you do it?”

The good fellow answered with his little chuckle: “Of course! Don’t
you see that he gets everybody to do what he wants? It’s almost sheer
will, and he’s a true cloud-compeller.”

I wanted to understand something else, and I didn’t know how much Mary
could tell me; that is, I was sure that she would think that Miss
Rainey was in love with Hector. Mary wouldn’t be able to see how any
girl could help it.

“Joe,” I said, “does Hector seem much taken with this Miss Rainey?”

We had come to the gate, and Lane stopped to relight a cigar before he
answered. He kept the match at the stub until it burned out, half
hiding his face from me with his hands, shielding the flame from a
breeze that wasn’t blowing.

“Yes,” he said finally, “as much as he could be with anybody--at least
he wants her to be taken with him.”

“Do you think she is?”

He swung the gate open, and stood to let me pass in first. “She could
be of great help to him.  We’ve all got to help Hector.”

I was going on: “You believe she will--”

“Did you ever hear,” he interrupted, “of Jane Welsh Carlyle?”

I thought about that answer of Joe’s most of the evening, and it
struck me he was right. It was one of those things you couldn’t
possibly explain to save your life, but you knew it: everybody had
_got_ to help Hector. Everybody had to get behind him and
push. Hector took it for granted in a way that passed the love of
woman!

And yet, as we sat at Mary’s supper-table, that evening, I don’t know
that I ever felt less real liking for any of my kin than I felt for
Hector, though, perhaps, that was because he seemed to keep rubbing it
in on me in indirect ways that I had done him an injury by not helping
him with the National Committee, and that I ought to know it, after
his triumph of the afternoon. I could see that Mary agreed with him,
though in her gentle way.

Young Lane and Miss Rainey stayed for supper, too, and were very
quiet. Miss Rainey struck me as a quiet girl generally, and Joe never
talked, anyway, when in Hector’s company. For that matter, nobody else
did; there was mighty little chance. The truth is, Hector had an
impediment of speech: he couldn’t listen.

Of course he talked only about himself. That followed, because it was
all there was in him.  Not that it always _seemed_ to be about
himself.  For instance, I remember one of his ways of rubbing it into
me, that evening. He had been delivering himself of some opinions on
the nature of Genius, fragments (like his “credentials”--I had a
sneaking idea) of some undeveloped oration or other. “Look at
Napoleon!” he bade us, while Mary was cutting the pie. “Could Barras
with all his jealous and malevolent opposition, could Barras with all
his craft, all his machinations, with all the machinery of the State,
could Barras oppose the upward flight of that mighty spirit? No!
Barras, who should have been the faithful friend, the helper, the
disciple and believer, Barras, I say, set himself to destroy the youth
whose genius he denied, and Barras was himself destroyed! He fell, for
he had dared to oppose the path of one of the eternal stars!”

That was a sample, and I don’t exaggerate it.  I couldn’t exaggerate
Hector; it’s beyond me; he always exaggerated himself beyond anybody
else’s power to do it. But I loved to hear Joe Lane’s chuckle and I
got one out of him when I offered him a cigar as we went out on the
porch.

“Take one,” I said. “It’s one of Barras’s best.”

“Better get in line,” was all he added to the chuckle.

       *       *       *       *       *

A good many visitors dropped in, during the evening, Greenville’s
greatest come to congratulate Hector on the speech. Everybody in the
county was talking about him that night, they said. Hector received
these people in his old-fashioned-statesman manner, though I noticed
that already he shook hands like a candidate.  He would grasp the
caller’s hand quickly and decidedly, instead of letting the other do
the gripping.  And I could see that all those who came in, even
hard-headed men twice his age, treated him deferentially, with the air
of intimate respect that he somehow managed to exact from people.
Perhaps I don’t do him justice: he was a “mighty myster’us” boy!

I sat and smoked, lounging in one of Mary’s comfortable
porch-chairs. I managed without trouble to be in the background and I
couldn’t help putting in most of my time studying Joe Lane and Miss
Rainey. Those two were sitting, on the side-steps of the porch, a
little apart from the rest of us--and a little apart from each other,
too. Lord knows how you get such strong impressions, but I was very
soon perfectly sure that these two young people were in love with each
other and that they both knew it, but that they had given each other
up. I was sure, too, that they were both under Hector’s spell, and
preposterous as it may seem, that they were under his _will_, and
that Hector’s plans included Miss Rainey for himself.

It was a mighty pretty evening; full of flower-smells and breezes from
the woods, which began just across the village street. Joe sat in a
sort of doubled-up fashion he had, his thin hands clasped like a strap
round his knees. She sat straight and trim, both of them looking out
toward where the twilight was fading. As the darkness came on I could
barely make them out, a couple of quiet shadows, seemingly as far away
from the group about the lamp-lit doorway where Hector sat, as if they
were alone on big Jupiter who was setting up to be the whole thing,
far out yonder in the lonely sky.

By and by, the moon oozed round from behind the house and leaked
through the trees and I could see them plainer, two silhouettes
against the foliage of some bright lilac-bushes. Joe hadn’t budged,
but the back of Miss Rainey’s head wasn’t toward me as it had been
before; it was her profile. She was leaning back a little, against a
post, and looking at Joe--just looking at him. Neither of them spoke a
word the whole time, and somehow I felt they didn’t need to, and that
what they had to say to each other had never been spoken and never
would be. It was mighty pretty--and sad, too.

I felt so sorry for them, but it made me more or less impatient with
Hector, and with Joe--especially with Joe, I think. It seemed to me he
needn’t have taken his temperament so hopelessly.  But what’s the use
of judging? When a man has a temperament like that, people who haven’t
can’t tell what he’s got to contend with.

That Fourth of July speech gave Hector his chance. His district
managers and the Trimmer faction saw they could use him; and they sent
him round stumping the district. Two campaigns later the State
Committee was using him, and parts of his speeches were being printed
in all the party papers over the State. Locally, I suppose you might
say, he had become a famous man; at least he acted like one--not that
there was any essential change in him. His style had undergone a large
improvement, however; his language was less mixed-up, and he seemed
clear-headed enough on “questions of the day,” showing himself to be
well-informed and of a fine judgment.

In these things I thought I saw the hand of Laura Rainey. The teacher
was helping him.  The seriousness of his face had increased, he had
always entirely lacked humour; yet the spell he managed to cast over
his audiences was greater.  He never once failed to “get them going,”
 as they say. At twenty-nine he was no longer called “a rising young
orator”; no, he was usually introduced as the “Hon. Hector J. Ransom,
the Silver-tongued Lochinvar of the West.”

Things hadn’t changed much at Greenville.  Mary had always been so
proud of Hector that she hadn’t inflated any more on account of his
wider successes. She couldn’t, because she hadn’t any room left for
it.

Joe Lane still went on his periodical sprees quite regularly, about
one week every three months, and he was the least offensive tippler I
ever knew. He came up to the city during one of his lapses, and called
at my office. He was dressed with unusual care (he was always a good
deal of a dandy), and he did not stagger nor slush his syllables;
indeed, the only way I could have told what was the matter with him,
at first, was by the solemn preoccupation of his expression. A little
black pickaninny followed him, grinning and carrying a big bundle,
covered with a new lace window-curtain.

“I am but a bearer of votive flowers,” Joe said, bowing. Then turning
to the little darky, he waved his hand loftily. “Unveil the offering!”

The pickaninny did so, removing the lace curtain to reveal a shiny new
coal-bucket in which was a lump of ice, whereon reposed a pair of
white kid gloves and a large wreath of artificial daisies.

“With love,” said Joe. “From Hector.” And he stalked majestically out.

There was a card on the wreath, which Joe had inscribed: “To announce
the betrothal. No regrets.”

Sure enough, the next morning I had a letter from Mary, telling me
that Hector and Miss Rainey were engaged, that they had been so
without announcing it, for several years, and she feared the
engagement must last much longer before they could be married. So did
I, for all of Hector’s glittering had brought him very little
money. While he had some law practice, of course it was small, in
Greenville, and what he had he neglected. Nor was he a good lawyer. I
knew him to be heavily in debt to Lane, whose father had died lately,
leaving Joe fairly well off; and I knew also that this debt sat very
lightly on Hector. I judged so, because in the matter of the advances
I had made for his education, I never heard him refer to
them. Probably he forgot all about it, having so many more important
things to think of.

Mary was right: it was a very long engagement.  It had lasted seven
years in all, when Passley Trimmer declared himself a candidate for
the nomination for Governor and gave Hector the great chance he had
been waiting for. Hector “came out” for Trimmer, and came out strong.
He worked for him day and night, and he was one of the best cards in
Trimmer’s hand.

It was easy enough to understand: Trimmer’s nomination would leave his
seat in Congress vacant and the Trimmer crowd would throw it to
Hector.

You could see that the “young Lochinvar” was really a power, and I
think they counted on him almost as much as on the personal machine
Trimmer had built up. Most of all, they counted on Hector’s speech,
nominating Trimmer, to stampede the convention. If it was to be done,
Hector was the man to do it. There’s no doubt in the world of the
extraordinary capacity he had for whirling a crowd along into a kind
of insane enthusiasm. He could make his audience enthusiastic about
_anything_; he could have brought them to their feet waving and
cheering for Ben Butler himself, if he had set out to do it. I believe
that most of us who were against Trimmer were more afraid of Hector’s
stampeding the convention than of Trimmer’s machine and all the money
he was spending.

I was working all I knew for another man, Henderson, of my county, and
our delegation would go into the convention sixty-three solid for
Henderson, first, last, and all the time. On that account I had to
play Barras again to the young Napoleon. He came to see me, and made
one of his orations, imploring me to swing half of our delegation for
Trimmer on the first ballot, and all of it on the second.

“But they count on me!” he declaimed. “They count on me to turn you!
Is a man to be denied by his own flesh and blood? Are the ties of
relationship nothing? Can’t you see that my whole future is put in
jeopardy by your refusal? Here is my opportunity at last and you
endanger it.  My marriage and my fortune depend on it; the cup is at
my lips. My long years of toil and preparation, the bitter, bitter
waiting--are these things to go for nothing? I tell you that if you
refuse me you may blast the most sacred hopes that ever dwelt in a
human breast!”

I only smoked on, and so he did “the jury pathetic,” and he was
sincere in it, too.

“Have you no heart?” he inquired, his voice shaking. “Can you think
calmly of my mother?  Remember the years she has waited to see this
recognition come to her son! Am I to go back to her and tell her that
your answer was ‘No’?  I ask you to think of her, I ask you to put
self out of your thoughts, to forget your own interests for once, and
to think of my mother, waiting in the old home in the quiet village
street where you knew her in her bright girlhood.  Remember that she
awaits your answer; forget _me_ if you will, but remember what it
means to _her_, I say, and _then_ if there is a stone in
your breast, instead of a human heart, speak the word ‘No’!”

I spoke it, and, as he had to catch his train, he departed more in
anger than in sorrow, leaving me to my conscience, he told me. At the
door he turned.

“I warn you,” he said, “that this faction of yours shall go down to
defeat! Trimmer will win this fight, and I shall take his seat in
Congress!  That is my first stepping-stone, and I _will_ take it!
I have worked too hard and waited too long, for such as you to
successfully oppose me. I tell you that we shall meet in the
convention, and you and your machine will be broken! The rewards,
then, to us, the victors!”

“Why, of course,” I said, “if you win.”

The Trimmer people were strong with the State Executive Committee,
and, in spite of us, worked things a good deal their own way. They
took the convention away from the State Capital to Greenville, which
was, of course, a great advantage for Trimmer. The fact is, that most
of the best people in that district didn’t like him, but you know how
we all are: he _was_ one _of_ them, and as soon as it seemed
he had a chance to beat men from other parts of the State, they began
to shout themselves black in the face for their own. When I went down
there, the day before the convention, the place was one mass of
Trimmer flags, banners, badges, transparencies, buttons, and brass
bands.

I went around to see Mary right away, and while she wasn’t exactly
cold to me--the dear woman never could be that to anybody--she was
different; her eyes met mine sadly and her old, sweet voice was a
little tremulous, as if she were sorry that I had done something
wrong.

I didn’t stay long. I started back to the Henderson headquarters in
the hotel, but on my way I passed a big store-room on a corner of the
Square, which Trimmer had fitted up as his own headquarters. There was
quite a crowd of the boys going in and out, looking cheerful, fresh
cigars in their mouths, and a drink or two inside, band coming down
the street, everything the way an old-timer likes to see it.

Passley Trimmer himself came out as I was going by, and with him were
his brother, Link, and two or three other men, among them a
weasel-faced little fellow named Hugo Siffles, who kept a drug-store
on the next corner. Hugo wasn’t anybody; nobody ever paid any
attention to him at all; but he was one of those empty-headed village
talkers who are always trying to look as if they were behind the
scenes, always trying to walk with important people. Everybody knows
them. They whisper to the undertaker at funerals; and during campaigns
they have something confidential to communicate to United States
Senators. They meddle and intrude and waste as much time for you as
they can.

When Trimmer saw me, he held out his hand.  “Hello, Ben! I hear you’re
not _for_ me!” he said cordially.

“How are you running?” I came back at him, laughing.

“Oh, we’re going to beat you,” he answered, in the same way.

“Well, you’ll see a good run, first, I expect!”

He walked along with me, Link and the others following a little way
behind; but Hugo Siffles, of course, walking with us, partly to listen
and tell at the drug-store later, and partly to look like state
secrets.

“Sorry you couldn’t see your way to join us,” Trimmer said. “But we’ll
win out all right, anyway.  I shouldn’t think that would be much of a
disappointment to you, though. It will be a great thing for one of
your family.”

“Oh, yes,” I said, “Hector.”

Trimmer took on a little of his benevolent statesman’s manner, which
they nearly all get in time. “I have the greatest confidence in that
young man’s future,” he said. “He may go to the very top. All he needs
is money. I speak to you as a relative: he ought to drop that
school-teacher and marry a girl with money. He could, easily enough.”

That made me a little ugly. “Oh, no,” I said.  “He can make plenty in
Congress outside of his salary, can’t he? I understand some of them
do.”

Of course Trimmer didn’t lose his temper; instead, he laughed out
loud, and then put his hand on my shoulder.

“Look here,” he said. “I’m his friend and you’re his cousin. He’s one
of my own crowd and I have his best interests at heart. That isn’t the
girl for him. He tells me that, for a long while, she used to advise
him against having too much to do with _me_, until he showed her
that winning my influence in his favour was his only chance to
rise. Now, if _you_ have his best interests at heart, as I have,
you’ll help persuade him to let her go.  Why shouldn’t he marry
better? She’s not so young any longer, and she’s pretty much lost her
looks. And then, you know people will talk--”

“Talk about what?” I said.

“Well, if he goes to Congress, and, with his prospects, throws himself
away on a skinny little old-maid school-teacher in the backwoods, one
that he’s been making love to for years, they might say almost
anything. Why can’t he hand her over to Joe Lane? I’m sure--”

“That’ll do,” I interrupted roughly. “I suppose you’ve been talking
that way to Hector?”

“Why, certainly. I have his best interests at--”

“Good-day, _sir_!” I said, and turned in at the hotel and left
him, with Hugo Siffles’s little bright pig’s eyes peeking at me round
Trimmer’s shoulder.

Sore enough I was, and cursing Trimmer and Hector in my heart, so that
when some one knocked on my door, while I was washing up for supper, I
said “Come in!” as if I were telling a dog to get out.

It was Joe Lane and he was pretty drunk. He walked over to the bed and
caught himself unsteadily once or twice. I’d never seen him stagger
before. He didn’t speak until he had sat down on the coverlet; then he
shaded his eyes with his hand and stared at me as if he wanted to make
sure that it _was_ I.

“I’ve just been down to Hugo Siffles’s drugstore,” he said, speaking
very slowly and carefully, “and Hugo was telling a crowd about a
conver--conversation between you and Passley Trimmer. He said Trimmer
said Hector Ransom ought to drop Miss Rainey--and ‘hand her over to
Joe Lane,’ Is that true?”

“Yes,” I answered. “The beast said that.”

“There was more,” Joe said heavily. “More that im--implied--might be
taken to imply scandal, which I believe Trimmer did not seriously
intend--but thought--thought might be used as an argument with Hector
to persuade him to jilt her?”

“Yes.”

“What was said ex---actly? It is being repeated about town in various
forms. I want to know.”

Like a fool I told him the whole thing. I didn’t think, didn’t dream,
of course, what was in that poor, drunken, devoted head, and I wanted
to blow off my own steam, I was so hot.

He sat very quietly until I had finished; then he took his head in
both hands and rocked himself gently to and fro upon the bed, and I
saw tears trickling down his cheeks. It was a wretched spectacle in a
way, he being drunk and crying like a child, but I don’t think I
despised him.

“And she so true,” he sobbed, “so good, so faithful to him! She’s
given him her youth, her whole sweet youth--all of it for him!” He got
to his feet and went to the door.

“Hold on, Joe,” I said, “where are you going?”

“‘Nother drink!” he said, and closed the door behind him.

After supper I went to work with Henderson and three or four others in
a little back-room in our headquarters; and we were hard at it when
one of the boys held up his hand and said: “Listen!”

The sounds of a big disturbance came in through the open windows:
shouting and yelling, and crowds running in the streets below. The
town had been so noisy all evening that I thought nothing of it. “It’s
only some delegation getting in,” I said. “Go on with the lists.”

But I’d no more than got the words out of my mouth than the noise
rolled into the outer rooms of our headquarters like a wave, and there
was a violent hammering on the door of our room, some one calling my
name in a loud frightened voice. I threw open the door and Hugo
Siffles fell in, his pig’s eyes starting out of his pale, foolish
face.

“Come with me!” he shouted, all in one breath, and laying hold of me
by the lapel of my coat, tried to drag me after him. “There’s hell to
pay! Joe Lane came into Trimmer’s headquarters, drunk, twenty minutes
ago, and slapped Passley Trimmer’s face for what he said to us this
afternoon. Link Trimmer came in, a minute later, drunk too, and heard
what had happened.  He followed Joe to Hodge’s saloon and shot
him. They’ve carried him to the drug-store and he’s asked to speak to
you.”

I had the satisfaction of kicking that little cuss through the door
ahead of me, though I knew it was myself I ought to have kicked.

It was true that Joe had asked to speak to me, but when I reached the
drug-store the doctor wouldn’t let me come into the back-room where he
lay, so I sat on a stool in the store. They’d turned all the people
out, except four or five friends of Joe’s; and the glass doors and the
windows were solid with flattened faces, some of them coloured by the
blue and green lights so that it sickened me, and all staring
horribly. After about four years the doctor’s assistant came out to
get something from a shelf and I jumped at him, getting mighty little
satisfaction, you can be sure.

“It seems to be very serious indeed,” was all he would say. I knew
that for myself, because one of the men in the store had told me that
it was in the left side.

Half-an-hour after this--by the clock--the young man came out again
and called us in to carry Joe home. It was not more than a hundred
yards to the old Lane place, and six of us, walking very slowly,
carried him on a cot through the crowd. He was conscious, for he
thanked us in a weakish whisper, when we lifted him carefully into his
own bed. Then the doctor sent us all out except the assistant, and we
went to the front porch and waited, hating the crowd that had lined up
against the fence and about the gate.  They looked like a lot of
buzzards; I couldn’t bear the sight of them, so I went back into the
little hall and sat down near Joe’s door.

After a while the assistant opened the door, holding a glass pitcher
in his hand.

“Here,” he said, when he saw me, “will you fill this with cold water
from the well?”

I took it and hurried out to the kitchen, where four or five people
were sitting and glumly whispering around an old coloured woman, Joe’s
cook, who was crying and rocking herself in a chair. I hushed her up
and told her to show me the pump. It was in an orchard behind the
house, and was one of those old-fashioned things that sound like a
siren whistle with the hiccups.

It took me about five minutes to get the water up, and when I got back
to Joe’s room, a woman was there with the doctors. It was Miss Rainey.
She had her hat off, her sleeves were rolled up and, though her face
was the whitest I ever saw, she was cool and steady. It was she who
took the water from me at the door.

I heard low voices in the parlour, where a lamp was lit, and I went in
there. Mary was sitting on a sofa, with a handkerchief hard against
her eyes, and Hector was standing in the middle of the room, saying
over and over, “My God!” and shaking. I went to the sofa and sat by
Mary with my hand on her shoulder.

“To think of it!” Hector moaned. “To think of its coming at such a
time! To think of what it means to me!”

His mother spoke to him from behind her handkerchief: “You mustn’t do
it; you _can’t_ Hector--oh, you can’t, you _can’t._”

For answer he struck himself desperately across the forehead with the
palm of his hand.

“What is it,” I asked, “that your mother wants you not to do?”

“She wants me to give up Trimmer--to refuse to make the nominating
speech for him to-morrow.”

“You’ve _got_ to give him up!” cried his mother; and then went on
with reiterations as passionate as they were weak and broken in
utterance.  “You can’t make the speech, you can’t do it, you
_can’t--“_

“Then I’m done for!” he said. “Don’t you see what a frightful blow
this pitiful, drunken folly of poor Joe’s has dealt Trimmer’s
candidaoy?  Don’t you see that they rely on me more than ever,
_now_? Are you so blind you don’t see that I am the only man who
can save Trimmer the nomination? If I go back on him now, he’s done
for and I’m done for with him! It’s my only chance!”

“No, no,” she sobbed, “you’ll have other chances; you’ll have plenty
of chances, dear; you’re young--”

“My only chance,” he went on rapidly, ignoring her, “and if I can
carry it through, it will mean everything to me. The tide’s running
strong against Trimmer to-night, and I am the only man in the world
who can turn it the other way. If I go into the convention for him,
faithful to him, and, out of the highest sense of justice, explain
that, even though Lane has been my closest friend, he was in the wrong
and that--”

Mary rose to her feet and went to her son and clung to him. “No, no!”
 she cried; “no, _no_!”

“I’ve got to!” he said.

“What is that you must do, Hector?” It was Miss Rainey’s voice, and
came from just behind me. She was standing in the doorway that led
from the hall, and her eyes were glowing with a brilliant, warm
light. We all started as she spoke, and I sprang up and turned toward
her.

“He’s going to get well,” she said, understanding me. “They say it is
surely so!”

At that Mary ran and threw her arms about her and kissed her--and I
came near it! Hector gave a sort of shout of relief and sank into a
chair.

“What is that you must do, Hector?” Miss Rainey said again in her
steady voice.

“Stick to Trimmer!” he explained. “Don’t you see that I must? He needs
me now more than ever, and it’s my only chance.”

Miss Rainey looked at him over Mary’s shoulder. She looked at him a
long while before she spoke. “You know why Mr. Lane struck that blow?”

“Oh, I suppose so,” he answered uneasily. “At least Siffles--”

“Yes,” she said. “You know. What are you going to do?”

“The right thing!” Hector rose and walked toward her. “I put right
before all. I shall be loyal and I shall be just. It might have been a
terribly hard thing to carry through, but, since dear old Joe will
recover, I know I can do it.”

The girl’s eyes widened suddenly, while the warm glow in them flashed
into a fiery and profound scrutiny.

“You are going to make the nominating speech,” she said. It was not a
question but a declaration, in the tone of one to whom he stood wholly
revealed.

“Yes,” he answered eagerly. “I knew you would see: it’s my chance, my
whole career--”

But his mother, turning swiftly, put her hand over his mouth, though
it was to Miss Rainey that she cried:

“Oh, don’t let him say it--he can’t; you mustn’t let him!”

The girl drew her gently away and put an arm about her, saying: “Do
you think _I_ could stop him?”

“But do you wish to stop me?” asked Hector sadly, as he stepped toward
her. “Do you set yourself not only in the way of my great chance, but
against justice and truth? Don’t you see that I must do it?”

“It is your chance--yes. I see the truth, Hector.”  Her eyes had
fallen and she looked at him no more, but, with a little movement away
from him, offered her hand to him at arm’s length. It was done in a
curious way, and he looked perplexed for a second, and then
frightened. He dropped her hand, and his lips twitched.

“Laura,” he said, and could not go on.

“You must go now,” she said to all three of us. “The house should be
very quiet. I shall be his nurse, and the doctor will stay all
night. Isn’t it beautiful that Joe is going to get well!”

She went out quickly, before Hector could detain her, back to the room
where Lane was.

       *       *       *       *       *

There’s no need my telling you the details of that convention:
Henderson was beaten from the start, and Hector’s speech was all that
happened.  If he hadn’t made it, there might have been a consolidation
on a dark horse, for feeling was high against Trimmer. It isn’t an
easy thing to go into a convention with a brother locked up in jail on
a charge of attempted murder!

I’ll never forget Hector’s rising to make that speech. There wasn’t
any cheering, there was a dead, cold hush. This wasn’t because his
magnetism had deserted him; indeed, I don’t think it had ever before
been felt so strongly. He was white as white paper, and his face had a
look of suffering; altogether I believe I couldn’t give a better
notion of him than saying that he somehow made me think of Hamlet.

He began in a very low but very penetrating voice, and I don’t think
anybody in the farthest corner missed a single clear-cut syllable from
the first. As I may have indicated, I had never been a warm admirer of
his, but with all my prejudice, I think I admired him when he stood up
to his task that day. For the effect he intended, his speech was a
masterpiece, no less. I saw it before he had finished three
sentences. And he delivered it, knowing that even while he did so he
was losing the woman he loved; for Hector did love Laura Rainey, next
to himself, and she had been part of his life and necessary to
him. But though the heavens fell, he stuck to what he had set out to
do, and did it masterfully.

Not that what he said could bear the analysis of a cool mind: nothing
that Hector ever did or said has been able to do that. But for the
purpose, it was perfect. For once he began at the beginning, without
rhetoric, and he made it all the more effective by beginning with
himself.

“Doubtless there are many among you who think it strange to see me
rise to fulfil the charge with which you know me to be intrusted. My
oldest and most intimate friend lies wounded on a bed of suffering,
stricken down by the hand of another friend whose heart is in the
cause for which I have risen. Therefore, you might well question me;
you might well say: ‘To whom is your loyalty?’ Well might I ask myself
that same question. And I will give you my answer: ‘There are things
beyond the personal friendship of man and man, things greater than
individual differences and individual tragedies, things as far higher
and greater than these as the skies of God are higher than the roof of
a child’s doll-house. These higher things are the good of the State
and the Law of Justice!’”

That brought the first applause; and Trimmer’s people, seeing the
crowd had taken Hector’s point, sprang to their feet and began to
cheer. At a tense moment, such as this, cheering is often hypnotic,
and good managers know how to make use of it on the floor. The noise
grew thunderous, and when it subsided Hector was master of the
convention. Then, for the first time, I saw how far he would go--and
why. I had laughed at him all my life, but now I believed there was
“something in him,” as they say. The Lord knows what, but it was
there; and as I looked at him and listened it seemed to me that the
world was at his feet.

He was infinitely daring, yet he skirted the cause of the quarrel with
perfect tact: “The misinterpretation of a few careless and kindly
words, said in passing, and repeated, with garbling additions, to a
man who was not himself....  The brooding of a mind most unhappily
beset with alcohol.... A blow resented by a too devoted but too
violent kinsman....”

Then, with the greatest skill, and rather quietly, he passed to a
eulogium of Trimmer’s public career, gradually increasing the warmth
of his praise but controlling it as perfectly as he controlled the
enthusiasm and excitement which followed each of his points. For
myself, I only looked away from him once, and caught a glimpse of
Henderson looking sick.

Hector finished with a great stroke. He went back to the original
theme. “You ask me where my duty lies!” His great voice rose and rang
through the hall magnificently: “I reply--‘first to my State and her
needs’! Is that answer enough? If it be necessary that I should answer
for my personal loyalty to one man or another then I ask _you_:
Shall it go to the friend who, without cause, struck the first blow?
Shall it go to that other friend who went out hot-headed and struck
back to avenge a brother’s wrongs?  Is it only between these that
I--and many of you--are to choose to-day? Is there not a
_third_?’  I tell you that I have chosen, and that my loyalty and
all my strength are devoted to that other, to that man who has
suffered most of all, to him who received a blow and did not avenge
it, because in his greatness he knew that his assailant knew not what
he did!”

That carried them off their feet. Hector had turned Trimmer’s greatest
danger into the means of victory. The Trimmer people led one of those
extraordinary hysterical processions round the aisles that you see
sometimes in a convention (a thing I never get used to), and it was
all Trimmer, or rather, it was all Hector. Trimmer was nominated on
the first ballot.

There was a recess, and I hurried out, meaning to slip round to Joe
Lane’s for a moment to find out how he was. I’d seen the doctor in the
morning and he said his patient had passed a good night and that Miss
Rainey was still there.  “I think she’s going to stay,” he added, and
smiled and shook hands with me.

Joe’s old darkey cook let me in, and, after a moment, came to say I
might go into Mr. Lane’s room; Mr. Lane wanted to see me.

Joe was lying very flat on his back, but with his face turned toward
the door, and beside him sat Laura Rainey, their thin hands clasped
together. I stopped on the threshold with the door half opened.

“Come in,” said Joe weakly. “Hector made it, I’m sure.”

“Yes,” I answered, and in earnest. “He’s a great man.”

Joe’s face quivered with a pain that did not come from his hurt. “Oh,
it’s knowing that, that makes me feel like such a scoundrel,” he
said. “I suppose you’ve come to congratulate me.”

“Yes,” I said, “the doctor says it’s a wonderful case, and that you’re
one of the lucky ones with a charmed life, thank God!”

Joe smiled sadly at Miss Rainey. “He hasn’t heard,” he said. Then she
gave me her left hand, aot relinquishing Joe’s with her right.

“We were married this morning,” she said, “just after the convention
began.”

The tears came into Joe’s eyes as she spoke.  “It’s a shame, isn’t
it?” he said to me. “You must see it so. And I the kind of man I am,
the town drunkard--”

Then his wife leaned over and kissed his forehead.

“Even so it was right--and so beautiful for me,” she said.



PART II



MRS. PROTHEROE


When Alonzo Tawson took his seat as the Senator from Stackpole in the
upper branch of the General Assembly of the State, an expression of
pleasure and of greatness appeared to be permanently imprinted upon
his countenance.  He felt that if he had not quite arrived at all
which he meant to make his own, at least he had emerged upon the arena
where he was to win it, and he looked about him for a few other strong
spirits with whom to construct a focus of power which should control
the senate. The young man had not long to look, for within a week
after the beginning of the session these others showed themselves to
his view, rising above the general level of mediocrity and timidity,
party-leaders and chiefs of faction, men who were on their feet
continually, speaking half-a-dozen times a day, freely and loudly. To
these, and that house at large, he felt it necessary to introduce
himself by a speech which must prove him one of the elect, and he
awaited impatiently an opening.

Alonzo had no timidity himself. He was not one of those who first try
their voices on motions to adjourn, written in form and handed out to
novices by presiding officers and leaders. He was too conscious of his
own gifts, and he had been “accustomed to speaking” ever since his
days in the Stackpole City Seminary. He was under the impression,
also, that his appearance alone would command attention from his
colleagues and the gallery. He was tall; his hair was long, with a
rich waviness, rippling over both brow and collar, and he had, by
years of endeavour, succeeded in moulding his features to present an
aspect of stern and thoughtful majesty whenever he “spoke.”

The opportunity to show his fellows that new greatness was among them
delayed not over-long, and Senator Rawson arose, long and bony in his
best clothes, to address the senate with a huge voice in denunciation
of the “Sunday Baseball Bill,” then upon second reading. The classical
references, which, as a born orator, he felt it necessary to
introduce, were received with acclamations which the gavel of the
Lieutenant-Governor had no power to still.

“What led to the De-cline and Fall of the Roman Empire?” he
exclaimed. “I await an answer from the advocates of this
_de_-generate measure! I _demand_ an answer from them! Let
me hear from them on _that_ subject! Why don’t they speak up?
They can’t give one. Not because they ain’t familiar with history, no
sir! That’s not the reason! It’s because they _daren’t,_ because
their answer would have to go on record _against_ ‘em! Don’t any
of you try to raise it against me that I ain’t speakin’ to the point,
for I tell you that when you encourage Sunday Baseball, or any kind of
Sabbath-breakin’ on Sunday, you’re tryin’ to start this State on the
downward path that beset Rome! _I’ll_ tell you what ruined
it. The Roman Empire started out to be the greatest nation on earth,
and they had a good start, too, just like the United States has got
to-day. _Then_ what happened to ‘em? Why, them old ancient
fellers got more interested in athletic games and gladiatorial combats
and racing and all kinds of out-door sports, and bettin’ on ‘em, than
they were in oratory, or literature, or charitable institutions and
good works of all kinds! At first they were moderate and the country
was prosperous.  But six days in the week wouldn’t content ‘em, and
they went at it all the time, so that at last they gave up the seventh
day to their sports, the way this bill wants _us_ to do, and from
that time on the result was _de_-generacy and _de_-gredation!
You better remember _that_ lesson, my friends, and don’t try to
sink this State to the level of Rome!”

When Alonzo Rawson wiped his dampened brow, and dropped into his
chair, he was satisfied to the core of his heart with the effect of
his maiden effort. There was not one eye in the place that was not
fixed upon him and shining with surprise and delight, while the kindly
Lieutenant-Governor, his face very red, rapped for order.  The young
senator across the aisle leaned over and shook Alonzo’s hand
excitedly.

“That was beautiful, Senator Rawson!” he wispered. “I’m _for_ the
bill, but I can respect a masterly opponent.”

“I thank you, Senator Truslow,” Alonzo returned graciously. “I am
glad to have your good opinion, Senator.”

“You have it, Senator,” said Truslow enthusiastically.  “I hope you
intend to speak often?”

“I do, Senator. I intend to make myself heard,” the other answered
gravely, “upon all questions of moment.”

“You will fill a great place among us, Senator!”

Then Alonzo Rawson wondered if he had not underestimated his neighbour
across the aisle; he had formed an opinion of Truslow as one of small
account and no power, for he had observed that, although this was
Truslow’s second term, he had not once demanded recognition nor
attempted to take part in a debate.  Instead, he seemed to spend most
of his time frittering over some desk work, though now and then he
walked up and down the aisles talking in a low voice to various
senators. How such a man could have been elected at all, Alonzo failed
to understand. Also, Truslow was physically inconsequent, in his
colleague’s estimation--“a little insignificant, dudish kind of a
man,” he had thought; one whom he would have darkly suspected of
cigarettes had he not been dumbfounded to behold Truslow smoking an
old black pipe in the lobby. The Senator from Stackpole had looked
over the other’s clothes with a disapproval that amounted to
bitterness. Truslow’s attire reminded him of pictures in New York
magazines, or the drees of boys newly home from college, he didn’t
know which, but he did know that it was contemptible. Consequently,
after receiving the young man’s congratulations, Alonzo was conscious
of the keenest surprise at his own feeling that there might be
something in him after all.

He decided to look him over again, more carefully to take the measure
of one who had shown himself so frankly an admirer. Waiting,
therefore, a few moments until he felt sure that Truslow’s gaze had
ceased to rest upon himself, he turned to bend a surreptitious but
piercing scrutiny upon his neighbour. His glance, however, sweeping
across Truslow’s shoulder toward the face, suddenly encountered
another pair of eyes beyond, so intently fixed upon himself that he
started. The clash was like two search-lights meeting--and the
glorious brown eyes that shot into Alonzo’s were not the eyes of
Truslow.

Truslow’s desk was upon the outer aisle, and along the wall were
placed comfortable leather chairs and settees, originally intended for
the use of members of the upper house, but nearly always occupied by
their wives and daughters, or “lady-lobbyists,” or other women
spectators. Leaning back with extraordinary grace, in the chair
nearest Truslow, sat the handsomest woman Alonzo had ever seen in his
life. Her long coat of soft grey fur was unrecognizable to him in
connection with any familiar breed of squirrel; her broad flat hat of
the same fur was wound with a grey veil, underneath which her heavy
brown hair seemed to exhale a mysterious glow, and never, not even in
a lithograph, had he seen features so regular or a skin so clear! And
to look into her eyes seemed to Alonzo like diving deep into clear
water and turning to stare up at the light.

His own eyes fell first. In the breathless awkwardness that beset him
they seemed to stumble shamefully down to his desk, like a country-boy
getting back to his seat after a thrashing on the teacher’s
platform. For the lady’s gaze, profoundly liquid as it was, had not
been friendly.

Alonzo Rawson had neither the habit of petty analysis, nor the
inclination toward it; yet there arose within him a wonder at his own
emotion, at its strangeness and the violent reaction of it. A moment
ago his soul had been steeped in satisfaction over the figure he had
cut with his speech and the extreme enthusiasm which had been accorded
it--an extraordinarily pleasant feeling: suddenly this was gone, and
in its place he found himself almost choking with a dazed sense of
having been scathed, and at the same time understood in a way in which
he did not understand himself. And yet--he and this most unusual lady
had been so mutually conscious of each other in their mysterious
interchange that he felt almost acquainted with her. Why, then, should
his head be hot with resentment? Nobody had _said_ anything to
him!

He seized upon the fattest of the expensive books supplied to him by
the State, opened it with emphasis and began not to read it, with
abysmal abstraction, tinglingly alert to the circumstance that Truslow
was holding a low-toned but lively conversation with the unknown.  Her
laugh came to him, at once musical, quiet and of a quality which
irritated him into saying bitterly to himself that he guessed there
was just as much refinement in Stackpole as there was in the Capital
City, and just as many old families!  The clerk calling his vote upon
the “Baseball Bill” at that moment, he roared “No!” in a tone which
was profane. It seemed to him that he was avenging himself upon
somebody for something and it gave him a great deal of satisfaction.

He returned immediately to his imitation of Archimedes, only relaxing
the intensity of his attention to the text (which blurred into jargon
before his fixed gaze) when he heard that light laugh again. He pursed
his lips, looked up at the ceiling as if slightly puzzled by some
profound question beyond the reach of womankind; solved it almost
immediately, and, setting his hand to pen and paper, wrote the capital
letter “O” several hundred times on note-paper furnished by the
State. So oblivious was he, apparently, to everything but the question
of statecraft which occupied him, that he did not even look up when
the morning’s session was adjourned and the lawmakers began to pass
noisily out, until Truslow stretched an arm across the aisle and
touched him upon the shoulder.

“In a moment, Senator!” answered Alonzo in his deepest chest tones. He
made it a very short moment, indeed, for he had a wild, breath-taking
suspicion of what was coming.

“I want you to meet Mrs. Protheroe, Senator,” said Truslow, rising, as
Rawson, after folding his writings with infinite care, placed them in
his breast pocket.

“I am pleased to make your acquaintance, ma’am,” Alonzo said in a
loud, firm voice, as he got to his feet, though the place grew vague
about him when the lady stretched a charming, slender, gloved hand to
him across Truslow’s desk.  He gave it several solemn shakes.

“We shouldn’t have disturbed you, perhaps?”  she asked, smiling
radiantly upon him. “You were at some important work, I’m afraid.”

He met her eyes again, and their beauty and the thoughtful kindliness
of them fairly took his breath. “I am the chairman, ma’am,” he
replied, swallowing, “of the committee on drains and dikes.”

“I knew it was something of great moment,” she said gravely, “but I
was anxious to tell you that I was interested in your speech.”

A few minutes later, without knowing how he had got his hat and coat
from the cloak-room, Alonzo Rawson found himself walking slowly
through the marble vistas of the State house to the great outer doors
with the lady and Truslow.  They were talking inconsequently of the
weather, and of various legislators, but Alonzo did not know it. He
vaguely formed replies to her questions and he hardly realized what
the questions were; he was too stirringly conscious of the rich quiet
of her voice and of the caress of the grey fur of her cloak when the
back of his hand touched it--rather accidentally--now and then, as
they moved on together.

It was a cold, quick air to which they emerged and Alonzo, daring to
look at her, found that she had pulled the veil down over her face,
the colour of which, in the keen wind, was like that of June roses
seen through morning mists. At the curb a long, low, rakish black
motor-car was in waiting, the driver a mere swaddled cylinder of fur.

Truslow, opening the little door of the tonneau, offered his hand to
the lady. “Come over to the club, Senator, and lunch with me,” he
said.  “Mrs. Protheroe won’t mind dropping us there on her way.”

That was an eerie ride for Alonzo, whose feet were falling upon
strange places. His pulses jumped and his eyes swam with the tears of
unlawful speed, but his big ungloved hand tingled not with the cold so
much as with the touch of that divine grey fur upon his little finger.

“You intend to make many speeches, Mr.  Truslow tells me,” he heard
the rich voice saying.

“Yes ma’am,” he summoned himself to answer.  “I expect I will. Yes
ma’am.” He paused, and then repeated, “Yes ma’am.”

She looked at him for a moment. “But you will do some work, too, won’t
you?” she asked slowly.

Her intention in this passed by Alonzo at the time. “Yes ma’am,” he
answered. “The committee work interests me greatly, especially drains
and dikes.”

“I have heard,” she said, as if searching his opinion, “that almost as
much is accomplished in the committee-rooms as on the floor?
There--and in the lobby and in the hotels and clubs?”

“I don’t have much to do with that!” he returned quickly. “I guess
none of them lobbyists will get much out of me! I even sent back all
their railroad tickets. They needn’t come near me!”

After a pause which she may have filled with unexpressed admiration,
she ventured, almost timidly: “Do you remember that it was said that
Napoleon once attributed the secret of his power over other men to one
quality?”

“I am an admirer of Napoleon,” returned the Senator from Stackpole. “I
admire all great men.”

“He said that he held men by his reserve.”

“It can be done,” observed Alonzo, and stopped, feeling that it was
more reserved to add nothing to the sentence.

“But I suppose that such a policy,” she smiled upon him inquiringly,
“wouldn’t have helped him much with women?”

“No,” he agreed immediately. “My opinion is that a man ought to tell a
_good_ woman everything.  What is more sacred than--”

The car, turning a corner much too quickly, performed a gymnastic
squirm about an unexpected street-car and the speech ended in a gasp,
as Alonzo, not of his own volition, half rose and pressed his cheek
closely against hers. Instantaneous as it was, his heart leaped
violently, but not with fear. Could all the things of his life that
had seemed beautiful have been compressed into one instant, it would
not have brought him even the suggestion of the wild shock of joy of
that one, wherein he knew the glamorous perfume of Mrs.  Protheroe’s
brown hair and felt her cold cheek firm against his, with only the
grey veil between.

“I’m afraid this driver of mine will kill me some day,” she said,
laughing and composedly straightening her hat. “Do you care for big
machines?”

“Yes ma’am,” he answered huskily. “I haven’t been in many.”

“Then I’ll take you again,” said Mrs. Protheroe.  “If you like I’ll
come down to the State house and take you out for a run in the
country.”

“When?” said the lost young man, staring at her with his mouth
open. “When?”

“Saturday afternoon if you like. I’ll be there at two.”

They were in front of the club and Truslow had already jumped
out. Mrs. Protheroe gave him her hand and they exchanged a glance
significant of something more than a friendly goodbye.  Indeed, one
might have hazarded that there was something almost businesslike about
it. The confused Senator from Stackpole, climbing out reluctantly,
observed it not, nor could he have understood, even if he had seen,
that delicate signal which passed between his two companions.

When he was upon the ground Mrs. Protheroe extended her hand without
speaking, but her lips formed the word, “Saturday.” Then she was
carried away quickly, while Alonzo, his heart hammering, stood looking
after her, born into a strange world, the touch of the grey fur upon
his little finger, the odour of her hair faintly about him, one side
of his face red, the other pale.

“To-day is Wednesday,” he said, half aloud.

“Come on, Senator.” Truslow took his arm and turned him toward the
club doors.

The other looked upon his new friend vaguely.  “Why, I forgot to thank
her for the ride,” he exclaimed.

“You’ll have other chances, Senator,” Truslow assured
him. “Mrs. Protheroe has a hobby for studying politics and she expects
to come down often. She has plenty of time--she’s a widow, you know.”

“I hope you didn’t think,” responded Alonzo indignantly, “that I
thought she was a married woman!”

After lunch they walked back to the State house together, Truslow
regarding his thoughtful companion with sidelong whimsicalness. Mrs.
Protheroe’s question, suggestive of a difference between work and
speechmaking, had recurred to Alonzo, and he had determined to make
himself felt, off the floor as well as upon it. He set to this with a
fine energy, that afternoon, in his committee-room, and the Senator
from Stackpole knew his subject. On drains and dikes he had no
equal. He spoke convincingly to his colleagues of the committee upon
every bill that was before them, and he compelled their humblest
respect. He went earnestly at it, indeed, and sat very late that
night, in his room at a nearby boarding house, studying bills, trying
to keep his mind upon them and not to think of his strange morning and
of Saturday. Finally his neighbour in the next room, Senator Ezra
Trumbull, long abed, was awakened by his praying and groaned
slightly. Trumbull meant to speak to Rawson about his prayers, for
Trumbull was an early one to bed and they woke him every night.  The
partition was flimsy and Alonzo addressed his Maker in the loud voice
of one accustomed to talking across wide out-of-door spaces. Trumbull
considered it especially unnecessary in the city; though, as a citizen
of a county which loved but little his neighbour’s district, he felt
that in Stackpole there was good reason for a person to shout his
prayers at the top of his voice and even then have small chance to
carry through the distance.  Still, it was a delicate matter to
mention and he put it off from day to day.

Thursday passed slowly for Alonzo Rawson, nor was his voice lifted in
debate. There was little but routine; and the main interest of the
chamber was in the lobbying that was being done upon the “Sunday
Baseball Bill” which had passed to its third reading and would come up
for final disposition within a fortnight. This was the measure which
Alonzo had set his heart upon defeating. It was a simple enough bill:
it provided, in substance, that baseball might be played on Sunday by
professionals in the State capital, which was proud of its league
team.  Naturally, it was denounced by clergymen, and deputations of
ministers and committees from women’s religious societies were
constantly arriving at the State house to protest against its
passage. The Senator from Stackpole reassured all of these with whom
he talked, and was one of their staunchest allies and supporters. He
was active in leading the wavering among his colleagues, or even the
inimical, out to meet and face the deputations. It was in this
occupation that he was engaged, on Friday afternoon, when he received
a shock.

A committee of women from a church society was waiting in the
corridor, and he had rounded-up a reluctant half-dozen senators and
led them forth to be interrogated as to their intentions regarding the
bill. The committee and the lawmakers soon distributed themselves into
little argumentative clumps, and Alonzo found himself in the centre of
these, with one of the ladies who had unfortunately--but, in her
enthusiasm, without misgivings--begun a reproachful appeal to an
advocate of the bill whose name was Goldstein.

“Senator Goldstein,” she exclaimed, “I could not believe it when I
heard that you were in favour of this measure! I have heard my husband
speak in the highest terms of your old father. May I ask you what
_he_ thinks of it? If you voted for the desecration of Sunday by
a low baseball game, could you dare go home and face that good old
man?”

“Yes, madam,” said Goldstein mildly; “we are _both_ Jews.”

A low laugh rippled out from near-by, and Alonzo, turning almost
violently, beheld his lady of the furs. She was leaning back against a
broad pilaster, her hands sweeping the same big coat behind her, her
face turned toward him, but her eyes, sparklingly delighted, resting
upon Goldstein.  Under the broad fur hat she made a picture as
enraging, to Alonzo Rawson, as it was bewitching. She appeared not to
see him, to be quite unconscious of him--and he believed it.  Truslow
and five or six members of both houses were about her, and they all
seemed to be bending eagerly toward her. Alonzo was furious with her.

Her laugh lingered upon the air for a moment, then her glance swept
round the other way, omitting the Senator from Stackpole, who,
immediately putting into practice a reserve which would have
astonished Napoleon, swung about and quitted the deputation without a
word of farewell or explanation. He turned into the cloakroom and
paced the floor for three minutes with a malevolence which awed the
coloured attendants into not brushing his coat; but, when he returned
to the corridor, cautious inquiries addressed to the tobacconist,
elicited the information that the handsome lady with Senator Truslow
had departed.

Truslow himself had not gone. He was lounging in his seat when Alonzo
returned and was genially talkative. The latter refrained from
replying in kind, not altogether out of reserve, but more because of a
dim suspicion (which rose within him, the third time Truslow called
him “Senator” in one sentence) that his first opinion of the young man
as a light-minded person might have been correct.

There was no session the following afternoon, but Alonzo watched the
street from the windows of his committee-room, which overlooked the
splendid breadth of stone steps leading down from the great doors to
the pavement. There were some big bookcases in the room, whose glass
doors served as mirrors in which he more and more sternly regarded the
soft image of an entirely new grey satin tie, while the conviction
grew within him that (arguing from her behaviour of the previous day)
she would not come, and that the Stackpole girls were nobler by far at
heart than many who might wear a king’s-ransom’s-worth of jewels round
their throats at the opera-house in a large city. This sentiment was
heartily confirmed by the clock when it marked half-past two. He faced
the bookcase doors and struck his breast, his open hand falling across
the grey tie with tragic violence; after which, turning for the last
time to the windows, he uttered a loud exclamation and, laying hands
upon an ulster and a grey felt hat, each as new as the satin tie, ran
hurriedly from the room. The black automobile was waiting.

“I thought it possible you might see me from a window,” said
Mrs. Protheroe as he opened the little door.

“I was just coming out,” he returned, gasping for breath. “I
thought--from yesterday--you’d probably forgotten.”

“Why ‘from yesterday’?” she asked.

“I thought--I thought--” He faltered to a stop as the full, glorious
sense of her presence overcame him. She wore the same veil.

“You thought I did not see you yesterday in the corridor?”

“I thought you might have acted more--more--”

“More cordially?”

“Well,” he said, looking down at his hands, “more like you knew we’d
been introduced.”

At that she sat silent, looking away from him, and he, daring a quick
glance at her, found that he might let his eyes remain upon her face.
That was a dangerous place for eyes to rest, yet Alonzo Rawson was
anxious for the risk. The car flew along the even asphalt on its way
to the country like a wild goose on a long slant of wind, and, with
his foolish fury melted inexplicably into honey, Alonzo looked at
her--and looked at her--till he would have given an arm for another
quick corner and a street-car to send his cheek against that veiled,
cold cheek of hers again. It was not until they reached the alternate
vacant lots and bleak Queen Anne cottages of the city’s ragged edge
that she broke the silence.

“You were talking to some one else,” she said almost inaudibly.

“Yes ma’am, Goldstein, but--”

“Oh, no!” She turned toward him, lifting her hand. “You were quite the
lion among ladies.”

“I don’t know what you mean, Mrs. Protheroe,” he said, truthfully.

“What were you talking to all those women about?”

“It was about the ‘Sunday Baseball Bill.’”

“Ah! The bill you attacked in your speech, last Wednesday?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“I hear you haven’t made any speeches since then,” she said
indifferently.

“No ma’am,” he answered gently. “I kind of got the idea that I’d
better lay low for a while at first, and get in some quiet hard work.”

“I understand. You are a man of intensely reserved nature.”

“With men,” said Alonzo, “I am. With ladies I am not so much so. I
think a good woman ought to be told--”

“But you are interested,” she interrupted, “in defeating that bill?”

“Yes ma’am,” he returned. “It is an iniquitous measure.”

“Why?”

“Mrs. Protheroe!” he exclaimed, taken aback.  “I thought all the
ladies were against it. My own mother wrote to me from Stackpole that
she’d rather see me in my grave than votin’ for such a bill, and I’d
rather see myself there!”

“But are you sure that you understand it?”

“I only know it desecrates the Sabbath. That’s enough for me!”

She leaned toward him and his breath came quickly.

“No. You’re wrong,” she said, and rested the tips of her fingers upon
his sleeve.

“I don’t understand why--why you say that,” he faltered. “It sounds
kind of--surprising to me--”

“Listen,” she said. “Perhaps Mr. Truslow told you that I am studying
such things. I do not want to be an idle woman; I want to be of use to
the world, even if it must be only in small ways.”

“I think that is a noble ambition!” he exclaimed.  “I think all good
women ought--”

“Wait,” she interrupted gently. “Now, that bill is a worthy one,
though it astonishes you to hear me say so. Perhaps you don’t
understand the conditions. Sunday is the labouring-man’s only day of
recreation--and what recreation is he offered?”

“He ought to go to church,” said Alonzo promptly.

“But the fact is that he doesn’t--not often--not at _all_ in the
afternoon. Wouldn’t it be well to give him some wholesome way of
employing his Sunday afternoons? This bill provides for just that, and
it keeps him away from drinking too, for it forbids the sale of liquor
on the grounds.”

“Yes, I know,” said Alonzo plaintively. “But it ain’t _right_! I
was raised to respect the Sabbath and--”

“Ah, that’s what you should do! You think _I_ could believe in
anything that wouldn’t make it better and more sacred?”

“Oh, no, ma’am!” he cried reproachfully.  “It’s only that I don’t
see--”

“I am telling you.” She lifted her veil and let him have the full
dazzle of her beauty. “Do you know that many thousands of labouring
people spend their Sundays drinking and carousing about the low
country road-houses because the game is played at such places on
Sunday? They go there because they never get a chance to see it played
in the city. And don’t you understand that there would be no Sunday
liquor trade, no working-men poisoning themselves every seventh day in
the low groggeries, as hundreds of them do now, if they had something
to see that would interest them?--something as wholesome and fine as
this sport would be, under the conditions of this bill; something to
keep them in the open air, something to bring a little gaiety into
their dull lives!” Her voice had grown louder and it shook a little,
with a rising emotion, though its sweetness was only the more
poignant. “Oh, my dear Senator,” she cried, “don’t you _see_ how
wrong you are? Don’t you want to _help_ these poor people?”

Her fingers, which had tightened upon his sleeve, relaxed and she
leaned back, pulling the veil down over her face as if wishing to
conceal from him that her lips trembled slightly; then resting her arm
upon the leather cushions, she turned her head away from him, staring
fixedly into the gaunt beech woods, lining the country road along
which they were now coursing. For a time she heard nothing from him,
and the only sound was the monotonous chug of the machine.

“I suppose you think it rather shocking to hear a woman talking
practically of such common-place things,” she said at last, in a cold
voice, just loud enough to be heard.

“No ma’am,” he said huskily.

“Then what _do_ you think?” she cried, turning toward him again
with a quick imperious gesture.

“I think I’d better go back to Stackpole,” he answered very slowly,
“and resign my job. I don’t see as I’ve got any business in the
Legislature.”

“I don’t understand you.”

He shook his head mournfully. “It’s a simple enough matter. I’ve
studied out a good many bills and talked ‘em over and I’ve picked up
some influence and--”

“I know you have.” she interrupted eagerly.  “Mr. Truslow says that
the members of your drains and dikes committee follow your vote on
every bill.”

“Yes ma’am,” said Alonzo Rawson meekly, “but I expect they oughtn’t
to. I’ve had a lesson this afternoon.”

“You mean to say--”

“I mean that I didn’t know what I was doing about that baseball
bill. I was just pig-headedly goin’ ahead against it, not knowing
nothing about the conditions, and it took a lady to show me what they
were. I would have done a wrong thing if you hadn’t stopped me.”

“You mean,” she cried, her splendid eyes widening with excitement and
delight; “you mean that you---that you--”

“I mean that I will vote for the bill!” He struck his clenched fist
upon his knee. “I come to the Legislature to do _right_!”

“You will, ah, you _will_ do right in this!” Mrs.  Protheroe
thrust up her veil again and her face was flushed and radiant with
triumph. “And you’ll work, and you’ll make a speech for the bill?”

At this the righteous exaltation began rather abruptly to simmer down
in the soul of Alonzo Rawson. He saw the consequences of too violently
reversing, and knew how difficult they might be to face.

“Well, not--not exactly,” he said weakly.  “I expect our best plan
would be for me to lay kind of low and not say any more about the bill
at all. Of course, I’ll quit workin’ against it; and on the roll-call
I’ll edge up close to the clerk and say ‘Aye’ so that only him’ll hear
me. That’s done every day--and I--well, I don’t just exactly like to
come out too publicly for it, after my speech and all I’ve done
against it.”

She looked at him sharply for a short second, and then offered him her
hand and said: “Let’s shake hands _now_, on the vote. Think what
a triumph it is for me to know that I helped to show you the right.”

“Yes ma’am,” he answered confusedly, too much occupied with shaking
her hand to know what he said. She spoke one word in an undertone to
the driver and the machine took the very shortest way back to the
city.

After this excursion, several days passed, before Mrs. Protheroe came
to the State house again.  Rawson was bending over the desk of Senator
Josephus Battle, the white-bearded leader of the opposition to the
“Sunday Baseball Bill,” and was explaining to him the intricacies of a
certain drainage measure, when Battle, whose attention had wandered,
plucked his sleeve and whispered:

“If you want to see a mighty pretty woman that’s doin’ no good here,
look behind you, over there in the chair by the big fireplace at the
back of the room.”

Alonzo looked.

It was she whose counterpart had been in his dream’s eye every moment
of the dragging days which had been vacant of her living presence.  A
number of his colleagues were hanging over her almost idiotically; her
face was gay and her voice came to his ears, as he turned, with the
accent of her cadenced laughter running through her talk like a chime
of tiny bells flitting through a strain of music.

“This is the third time she’s been here,” said Battle, rubbing
his beard the wrong way. “She’s lobbyin’ for that infernal
Sabbath-Desecration bill, but we’ll beat her, my son.”

“Have you made her acquaintance, Senator?”  asked Alonzo stiffly.

“No, sir, and I don’t want to. But I knew her father--the slickest old
beat and the smoothest talker that ever waltzed up the pike. She
married rich; her husband left her a lot of real estate around here,
but she spends most of her time away. Whatever struck her to come down
and lobby for that bill I don’t know _yet_--but I will! Truslow’s
helping her to help himself; he’s got stock in the company that runs
the baseball team, but what she’s up to--well, I’ll bet there’s a
nigger in the woodpile _some_where!”

“I expect there’s a lot of talk like that!” said Alonzo, red with
anger, and taking up his papers abruptly.

“Yes, _sir_!” said Battle emphatically, utterly misunderstanding
the other’s tone and manner.  “Don’t you worry, my son. We’ll kill
that venomous bill right here in this chamber! We’ll kill it so dead
that it won’t make one flop after the axe hits it. You and me and some
others’ll tend to _that_! Let her work that pretty face and those
eyes of hers all she wants to! I’m keepin’ a little lookout, too--and
I’ll--”

He broke off, for the angry and perturbed Alonzo had left him and gone
to his own desk.  Battle, slightly surprised, rubbed his beard the
wrong way and sauntered out to the lobby to muse over a cigar. Alonzo,
loathing Battle with a great loathing, formed bitter phrases
concerning that vicious-minded old gentleman, while for a moment he
affected to be setting his desk in order. Then he walked slowly up the
aisle, conscious of a roaring in his ears (though not aware how red
they were) as he approached the semicircle about her.

He paused within three feet of her in a sudden panic of timidity, and
then, to his consternation, she looked him squarely in the face, over
the shoulders of two of the group, and the only sign of recognition
that she exhibited was a slight frown of unmistakable repulsion, which
appeared between her handsome eyebrows.

It was very swift; only Alonzo saw it; the others had no eyes for
anything but her, and were not aware of his presence behind them, for
she did not even pause in what she was saying.

Alonzo walked slowly away with the wormwood in his heart. He had not
grown up among the young people of Stackpole without similar
experiences, but it had been his youthful boast that no girl had ever
“stopped speaking” to him without reason, or “cut a dance” with him
and afterward found opportunity to repeat the indignity.

“What have I _done_ to _her?_” was perhaps the hottest cry
of his soul, for the mystery was as great as the sting of it.

It was no balm upon that sting to see her pass him at the top of the
outer steps, half an hour later, on the arm of that one of his
colleagues who had been called the “best-dressed man in the
Legislature.”  She swept by him without a sign, laughing that same
laugh at some sally of her escort, and they got into the black
automobile together and were whirled away and out of sight by the
impassive bundle of furs that manipulated the wheel.

For the rest of that afternoon and the whole of that night no man,
woman, or child heard the voice of Alonzo Rawson, for he spoke to
none.  He came not to the evening meal, nor was he seen by any who had
his acquaintance. He entered his room at about midnight, and Trumbull
was awakened by his neighbour’s overturning a chair.  No match was
struck, however, and Trumbull was relieved to think that the Senator
from Stackpole intended going directly to bed without troubling to
light the gas, and that his prayers would soon be over. Such was not
the case, for no other sound came from the room, nor were Alonzo’s
prayers uttered that night, though the unhappy statesman in the next
apartment could not get to sleep for several hours on account of his
nervous expectancy of them.

After this, as the day approached upon which hung the fate of the bill
which Mr. Josephus Battle was fighting, Mrs. Protheroe came to the
Senate Chamber nearly every morning and afternoon.  Not once did she
appear to be conscious of Alonzo Rawson’s presence, nor once did he
allow his eyes to delay upon her, though it cannot be truthfully said
that he did not always know when she came, when she left, and with
whom she stood or sat or talked. He evaded all mention or discussion
of the bill or of Mrs. Protheroe; avoided Truslow (who, strangely
enough, was avoiding _him_) and, spending upon drains and dikes
all the energy that he could manage to concentrate, burned the
midnight oil and rubbed salt into his wounds to such marked effect
that by the evening of the Governor’s Reception--upon the morning
following which the mooted bill was to come up--he offered an
impression so haggard and worn that an actor might have studied him
for a makeup as a young statesman going into a decline.

Nevertheless, he dressed with great care and bitterness, and placed
the fragrant blossom of a geranium--taken from a plant belonging to
his landlady--in the lapel of his long coat before he set out.

And yet, when he came down the Governor’s broad stairs, and wandered
through the big rooms, with the glare of lights above him and the
shouting of the guests ringing in his ears, a sense of emptiness beset
him; the crowded place seemed vacant and without meaning. Even the
noise sounded hollow and remote--and why had he bothered about the
geranium? He hated her and would never look at her again--but why was
she not there?

By-and-by, he found himself standing against a wall, where he had been
pushed by the press of people. He was wondering drearily what he was
to do with a clean plate and a napkin which a courteous negro had
handed him, half-an-hour earlier, when he felt a quick jerk at his
sleeve. It was Truslow, who had worked his way along the wall and who
now, standing on tiptoe, spoke rapidly but cautiously, close to his
ear.

“Senator, be quick,” he said sharply, at the same time alert to see
that they were unobserved.  “Mrs. Protheroe wants to speak to you at
once.  You’ll find her near the big palms under the stairway in the
hall.”

He was gone--he had wormed his way half across the room--before the
other, in his simple amazement could answer. When Alonzo at last found
a word, it was only a monosyllable, which, with his accompanying
action, left a matron of years, who was at that moment being pressed
fondly to his side, in a state of mind almost as dumbfounded as his
own. “_Here!_” was all he said as he pressed the plate and napkin
into her hand and departed forcibly for the hall, leaving a
spectacular wreckage of trains behind him.

The upward flight of the stairway left a space underneath, upon which,
as it was screened (save for a narrow entrance) by a thicket of palms,
the crowd had not encroached. Here were placed a divan and a couple of
chairs; there was shade from the glare of gas, and the light was dim
and cool. Mrs. Protheroe had risen from the divan when Alonzo entered
this grotto, and stood waiting for him.

He stopped in the green entrance-way with a quick exclamation.

She did not seem the same woman who had put such slights upon him,
this tall, white vision of silk, with the summery scarf falling from
her shoulders. His great wrath melted at the sight of her; the pain of
his racked pride, which had been so hot in his breast, gave way to a
species of fear.  She seemed not a human being, but a bright spirit of
beauty and goodness who stood before him, extending two fine arms to
him in long, white gloves.

She left him to his trance for a moment, then seized both his hands in
hers and cried to him in her rapturous, low voice: “Ah, Senator, you
have come! I _knew_ you understood!”

“Yes ma’am,” he whispered chokily.

She drew him to one of the chairs and sank gracefully down upon the
divan near him.

“Mr. Truslow was so afraid you wouldn’t,” she went on rapidly, “but I
was sure. You see I didn’t want anybody to suspect that I had any
influence with you. I didn’t want them to know, even, that I’d talked
to you. It all came to me after the first day that we met. You see
I’ve believed in you, in your power and in your reserve, from the
first. I want all that you do to seem to come from yourself and not
from me or any one else. Oh, I _believe_ in great, strong men who
stand upon their own feet and conquer the world for themselves! That’s
_your_ way, Senator Rawson.  So, you see, as they think I’m
lobbying for the bill, I wanted them to believe that your speech for
it to-morrow comes from your own great, strong mind and heart and your
sense of right, and not from any suggestion of mine.”

“My speech!” he stammered.

“Oh, I know,” she cried; “I know you think I don’t believe much in
speeches, and I don’t ordinarily, but a few, simple, straightforward
and vigorous words from you, to-morrow, may carry the bill through.
You’ve made such _progress_, you’ve been so _reserved_, that you’ll
carry great weight--and there are three votes of the drains and dikes
that are against us now, but will follow yours absolutely. Do you
think I would have ‘cut’ _you_ if it hadn’t been _best_?”

“But I--”

“Oh, I know you didn’t actually promise me to speak, that day. But I
knew you would when the time came! I knew that a man of power goes
over _all_ obstacles, once his sense of _right_ is aroused!
I _knew_--I never doubted it, that once _you_ felt a thing
to be right you would strike for it, with all your great strength--at
all costs--at all--”

“I can’t--I--I--can’t!” he whispered nervously. “Don’t you see--don’t
you see--I--”

She leaned toward him, lifting her face close to his. She was so near
him that the faint odour of her hair came to him again, and once more
the unfortunate Senator from Stackpole risked a meeting of his eyes
with hers, and saw the light shining far down in their depths.

At this moment the shadow of a portly man who was stroking his beard
the wrong way projected itself upon them from the narrow, green
entrance to the grotto. Neither of them perceived it.

Senator Josephus Battle passed on, but when Alonzo Rawson emerged, a
few moments later, he was pledged to utter a few simple,
straightforward and vigorous words in favour of the bill. And--let the
shame fall upon the head of the scribe who tells it--he had kissed
Mrs. Protheroe!

The fight upon the “Sunday Baseball Bill,” the next morning, was the
warmest of that part of the session, though for a while the reporters
were disappointed. They were waiting for Senator Battle, who was
famous among them for the vituperative vigour of his attacks and for
the kind of personalities which made valuable copy. And yet, until the
debate was almost over, he contented himself with going quietly up and
down the aisles, whispering to the occupants of the desks, and writing
and sending a multitude of notes to his colleagues. Meanwhile, the
orators upon both sides harangued their fellows, the lobby, the
unpolitical audience, and the patient presiding officer to no effect,
so far as votes went.  The general impression was that the bill would
pass.

Alonzo Rawson sat, bent over his desk, his eyes fixed with gentle
steadiness upon Mrs.  Protheroe, who occupied the chair wherein he had
first seen her. A senator of the opposition was finishing his
denunciation, when she turned and nodded almost imperceptibly to the
young man.

He gave her one last look of pathetic tenderness and rose.

“The Senator from Stackpole!”

“I want,” Alonzo began, in his big voice: “I want to say a few simple,
straightforward but vigorous words about this bill. You may remember I
spoke against it on its second reading--”

“You did _that_!” shouted Senator Battle suddenly.

“I want to say now,” the Senator from Stackpole continued, “that at
that time I hadn’t studied the subject sufficiently. I didn’t know the
conditions of the case, nor the facts, but since then a great light
has broke in upon me--”

“I should say it had! I saw it break!” was Senator Battle’s second
violent interruption.

When order was restored, Alonzo, who had become very pale, summoned
his voice again. “I think we’d ought to take into consideration that
Sunday is the working-man’s only day of recreation and not drive him
into low groggeries, but give him a chance in the open air to indulge
his love of wholesome sport--”

“Such as the ancient Romans enjoyed!” interposed Battle vindictively.

“No, sir!” Alonzo wheeled upon him, stung to the quick. “Such a sport
as free-born Americans and _only_ free-born Americans can play in
this, wide world--the American game of baseball, in which no other
nation of the _Earth_ is our equal!”

This was a point scored and the cheering lasted two minutes. Then the
orator resumed:

“I say: ‘Give the working-man a chance!’ Is his life a happy one? You
know it ain’t! Give him his one day. _Don’t_ spoil it for him with
your laws--he’s only got one! I’m not goin’ to take up any more of
your time, but if there’s anybody here who thinks my well-considered
opinion worth following I say: ‘_Vote for this bill_.’ It is right and
virtuous and ennobling, and it ought to be passed!  I say: ‘_Vote for
it_.’”

The reporters decided that the Senator from Stackpole had “wakened
things up.” The gavel rapped a long time before the chamber quieted
down, and when it did, Josephus Battle was on his feet and had
obtained the recognition of the chair.

“I wish to say, right here,” he began, with a rasping leisureliness,
“that I hope no member of this honoured body will take my remarks as
personal or unparliamentary--_but_”--he raised a big forefinger and
shook it with menace at the presiding officer, at the same time
suddenly lifting his voice to an unprintable shriek--“I say to _you_,
sir, that the song of the siren has been _heard_ in the land, and the
call of Delilah has been answered! When the Senator from Stackpole
rose in this chamber, less than three weeks ago, and denounced this
iniquitous measure, I heard him with pleasure--we _all_ heard him with
pleasure--_and_ respect! In spite of his youth and the poor quality of
his expression, _we_ listened to him. _We_ knew he was sencere! What
has caused the change in him? What _has_, I ask? I shall not tell you,
upon this floor, but I’ve taken mighty good care to let most of you
know, during the morning, either by word of mouth or by _note_ of
hand!  Especially those of you of the drains and dikes and others who
might follow this young Samson, whose locks have been shore! _I’ve_
told you all about that, and more--_I’ve_ told you the _inside_
history of some _facts_ about the bill that I will not make public,
because I am too confident of our strength to defeat this devilish
measure, and prefer to let our vote speak our opinion of it! Let me
not detain you longer. _I_ thank you!”

Long before he had finished, the Senator from Stackpole was being held
down in his chair by Truslow and several senators whose seats were
adjacent; and the vote was taken amid an uproar of shouting and
confusion. When the clerk managed to proclaim the result over all
other noises, the bill was shown to be defeated and “killed,” by a
majority of five votes.

A few minutes later, Alonzo Rawson, his neckwear disordered and his
face white with rage, stumbled out of the great doors upon the trail
of Battle, who had quietly hurried away to his hotel for lunch as soon
as he had voted.

The black automobile was vanishing round a corner. Truslow stood upon
the edge of the pavement staring after it ruefully:

“Where is Mrs. Protheroe?” gasped the Senator from Stackpole.

“She’s gone,” said the other.

“Gone where?”

“Gone back to Paris. She sails day after tomorrow.  She just had time
enough to catch her train for New York after waiting to hear how the
vote went. She told me to tell you good-bye, and that she was
sorry. Don’t stare at me Rawson! I guess we’re in the same
boat!--Where are you going?” he finished abruptly.

Alonzo swung by him and started across the street. “To find Battle!”
 the hoarse answer came back.

The conquering Josephus was leaning meditatively upon the counter of
the cigar-stand of his hotel when Alonzo found him. He took one look
at the latter’s face and backed to the wall, tightening his grasp upon
the heavy-headed ebony cane it was his habit to carry, a habit upon
which he now congratulated himself.

But his precautions were needless. Alonzo stopped out of reaching
distance.

“You tell me,” he said in a breaking voice; “you tell me what you
meant about Delilah and sirens and Samsons and inside facts! You tell
me!”

“You wild ass of the prairies,” said Battle, “I saw you last night
behind them pa’ms! But don’t you think I told it--or ever will! I just
passed the word around that she’d argued you into her way of thinkin’,
same as she had a good many others.  And as for the rest of it, I
found out where the mgger in the woodpile was, and I handed that out,
too. Don’t you take it hard, my son, but I told you her husband left
her a good deal of land around here. She owns the ground that they use
for the baseball park, and her lease would be worth considerable more
if they could have got the right to play on Sundays!”

Senator Trumbull sat up straight, in bed, that night, and, for the
first time during his martyrdom, listened with no impatience to the
prayer which fell upon his ears.

“O, Lord Almighty,” through the flimsy partition came the voice of
Alonzo Rawson, quaveringly, but with growing strength: “Aid Thou me to
see my way more clear! I find it hard to tell right from wrong, and I
find myself beset with tangled wires. O God, I feel that I am
ignorant, and fall into many devices. These are strange paths wherein
Thou hast set my feet, but I feel that through Thy help, and through
great anguish, I am learning!”



GREAT MEN’S SONS


Mme. Bernhardt and M. Coquelin were playing “L’Aiglon.” Toward the end
of the second act people began to slide down in their seats, shift
their elbows, or casually rub their eyes; by the close of the third,
most of the taller gentlemen were sitting on the small of their backs
with their knees as high as decorum permitted, and many were openly
coughing; but when the fourth came to an end, active resistance
ceased, hopelessness prevailed, the attitudes were those of the
stricken field, and the over-crowded house was like a college chapel
during an interminable compulsory lecture. Here and there--but most
rarely--one saw an eager woman with bright eyes, head bent forward and
body spellbound, still enchantedly following the course of the play.
Between the acts the orchestra pattered ragtime and inanities from the
new comic operas, while the audience in general took some heart.  When
the play was over, we were all enthusiastic; though our admiration,
however vehement in the words employed to express it, was somewhat
subdued as to the accompanying manner, which consisted, mainly, of
sighs and resigned murmurs. In the lobby a thin old man with a
grizzled chin-beard dropped his hand lightly on my shoulder, and
greeted me in a tone of plaintive inquiry:

“Well, son?”

Turning, I recognized a patron of my early youth, in whose woodshed I
had smoked my first cigar, an old friend whom I had not seen for
years; and to find him there, with his long, dust-coloured coat, his
black string tie and rusty hat brushed on every side by opera cloaks
and feathers, was a rich surprise, warming the cockles of my
heart. His name is Tom Martin; he lives in a small country town, where
he commands the trade in Dry Goods and Men’s Clothing; his speech is
pitched in a high key, is very slow, sometimes whines faintly; and he
always calls me “Son.”

“What in the world!” I exclaimed, as we shook hands.

“Well,” he drawled, “I dunno why I shouldn’t be as meetropolitan as
anybody. I come over on the afternoon accommodation for the show.
Let’s you and me make a night of it. What say, son?”

“What did you think of the play?” I asked, as we turned up the street
toward the club.

“I think they done it about as well as they could.”

“That all?”

“Well,” he rejoined with solemnity, “there was a heap _of_ it,
wasn’t there!”

We talked of other things, then, until such time as we found ourselves
seated by a small table at the club, old Tom somewhat uneasily
regarding a twisted cigar he was smoking and plainly confounded by the
“carbonated” syphon, for which, indeed, he had no use in the world.
We had been joined by little Fiderson, the youngest member of the
club, whose whole nervous person jerkily sparkled “L’Aiglon”
 enthusiasm.

“Such an evening!” he cried, in his little spiky voice. “Mr. Martin,
it does one good to realize that our country towns are sending
representatives to us when we have such things; that they wish to get
in touch with what is greatest in Art.  They should do it often. To
think that a journey of only seventy miles brings into your life the
magnificence of Rostand’s point of view made living fire by the genius
of a Bernhardt and a Coquelin!”

“Yes,” said Mr. Martin, with a curious helplessness, after an ensuing
pause, which I refused to break, “yes, sir, they seemed to be doing it
about as well as they could.”

Fiderson gasped slightly. “It was magnificent!  Those two great
artists! But over all the play--the play! Romance new-born; poesy
marching with victorious banners; a great spirit breathing!  Like
‘Cyrano’--the birth-mark of immortality on this work!”

There was another pause, after which old Tom turned slowly to me, and
said: “Homer Tibbs’s opened up a cigar-stand at the deepo.  Carries a
line of candy, magazines, and fruit, too. Home’s a hustler.”

Fiderson passed his hand through his hair.

“That death scene!” he exclaimed at me, giving Martin up as a log
accidentally rolled in from the woods. “I thought that after ‘Wagram’
I could feel nothing more; emotion was exhausted; but then came that
magnificent death!  It was tragedy made ecstatic; pathos made into
music; the grandeur of a gentle spirit, conquered physically but
morally unconquerable! Goethe’s ‘More Light’ outshone!”

Old Tom’s eyes followed the smoke of his perplexing cigar along its
heavy strata in the still air of the room, as he inquired if I
remembered Orlando T. Bickner’s boy, Mel. I had never heard of him,
and said so.

“No, I expect not,” rejoined Martin. “Prob’ly you wouldn’t; Bickner
was Governor along in _my_ early days, and I reckon he ain’t
hardly more than jest a name to you two. But _we_ kind of thought
he was the biggest man this country had ever seen, or was goin’ to
see, and he _was_ a big man. He made one president, and could
have been it himself, instead, if he’d be’n willing to do a kind of
underhand trick, but I expect without it he was about as big a man as
anybody’d care to be; Governor, Senator, Secretary of State--and just
owned his party! And, my law!--the whole earth bowin’ down to him;
torchlight processions and sky-rockets when he come home in the night;
bands and cannon if his train got in, daytime; home-folks so proud of
him they couldn’t see; everybody’s hat off; and all the most important
men in the country following at his heels--a country, too, that’d put
up consider’ble of a comparison with everything Napoleon had when he’d
licked ‘em all, over there.

“Of course he had enemies, and, of course, year by year, they got to
be more of ‘em, and they finally downed him for good; and like other
public men so fixed, he didn’t live long after that. He had a son,
Melville, mighty likable young fellow, studyin’ law when his paw
died. I was livin’ in their town then, and I knowed Mel Bickner pretty
well; he was consider’ble of a man.

“I don’t know as I ever heard him speak of that’s bein’ the reason,
but I expect it may’ve be’n partly in the hope of carryin’ out some of
his paw’s notions, Mel tried hard to git into politics; but the old
man’s local enemies jumped on every move he made, and his friends
wouldn’t help any; you can’t tell why, except that it generally
_is_ thataway. Folks always like to laugh at a great man’s son
and say _he_ can’t amount to anything. Of course that comes
partly from fellows like that ornery little cuss we saw to-night,
thinkin’ they’re a good deal because somebody else done something, and
the somebody else happened to be their paw; and the women run after
‘em, and they git low-down like he was, and so on.”

“Mr. Martin,” interrupted Fiderson, with indignation, “will you kindly
inform me in what way ‘L’Aiglon’ was ‘low-down’?”

“Well, sir, didn’t that huntin’-lodge appointment kind of put you in
mind of a camp-meetin’ scandal?” returned old Tom quietly. “It did
me.”

“But--”

“Well, sir, I can’t say as I understood the French of it, but I read
the book in English before I come up, and it seemed to me he was
pretty much of a low-down boy; yet I wanted to see how they’d make him
out; hearin’ it was, thought, the country over, to be such a great
_play_; though to tell the truth all I could tell about
_that_ was that every line seemed to end in ‘awze’; and ‘t they
all talked in rhyme, and it did strike me as kind of enervatin’ to be
expected to believe that people could keep it up that long; and that
it wasn’t only the boy that never quit on the subject of himself and
his folks, but pretty near any of ‘em, if he’d git the chanst, did the
same thing, so’t almost I sort of wondered if Rostand wasn’t that
kind.”

“Go on with Melville Bickner,” said I.

“What do you expect,” retorted Mr. Martin with a vindictive gleam in
his eye, “when you give a man one of these here spiral staircase
cigars? Old Peter himself couldn’t keep straight along one subject if
he tackled a cigar like this.  Well, sir, I always thought Mel had a
mighty mean time of it. He had to take care of his mother and two
sisters, his little brother and an aunt that lived with them; and
there was mighty little to do it on; big men don’t usually leave much
but debts, and in this country, of course, a man can’t eat and spend
long on his paw’s reputation, like that little Dook of Reishtod--”

“I beg to tell you, Mr. Martin--” Fiderson began hotly.

Martin waved his bony hand soothingly.

“Oh, I know; they was money in his mother’s family, and they give him
his vittles and clothes, and plenty, too. _His_ paw didn’t leave
much either--though he’d stole more than Boss Tweed. I suppose--and,
just lookin’ at things from the point of what they’d _earned_,
his maw’s folks had stole a good deal, too; or else you can say they
were a kind of public charity; old Metternich, by what I can learn,
bein’ the only one in the whole possetucky of ‘em that really
_did_ anything to deserve his salary--” Mr. Martin broke off
suddenly, observing that I was about to speak, and continued:

“Mel didn’t git much law practice, jest about enough to keep the house
goin’ and pay taxes.  He kept workin’ for the party jest the same and
jest as cheerfully as if it didn’t turn him down hard every time he
tried to git anything for himself. They lived some ways out from town;
and he sold the horses to keep the little brother in school, one
winter, and used to walk in to his office and out again, twice a day,
over the worst roads in the State, rain or shine, snow, sleet, or
wind, without any overcoat; and he got kind of a skimpy, froze-up look
to him that lasted clean through summer. He worked like a mule, that
boy did, jest barely makin’ ends meet. He had to quit runnin’ with the
girls and goin’ to parties and everything like that; and I expect it
may have been some hard to do; for if they ever _was_ a boy loved
to dance and be gay, and up to anything in the line of fun and
junketin’ round, it was Mel Bickner. He had a laugh I can hear
yet--made you feel friendly to everybody you saw; feel like stoppin’
the next man you met and shakin’ hands and havin’ a joke with him.

“Mel was engaged to Jane Grandis when Governor Bickner died. He had to
go and tell her to take somebody else--it was the only thing to do. He
couldn’t give Jane anything but his poverty, and she wasn’t used to
it. They say she offered to come to him anyway, but he wouldn’t hear
of it, and no more would he let her wait for him; told her she mustn’t
grow into an old maid, lonely, and still waitin’ for the lightning to
strike him--that is, his luck to come; and actually advised her to
take ‘Gene Callender, who’d be’n pressin’ pretty close to Mel for her
before the engagement. The boy didn’t talk to her this way with tears
in his eyes and mourning and groaning. No, sir! It was done
_cheerful_; and so much so that Jane never _was_ quite sure
afterwerds whether Mel wasn’t kind of glad to git rid of her or
not. Fact is, they say she quit speakin’ to him. Mel _knowed_; a
state of puzzlement or even a good _mad’s_ a mighty sight better
than bein’ all harrowed up and grief-stricken. And he never give
her--nor any one else--a chanst to be sorry for him. His maw was the
only one heard him walk the floor nights, and after he found, out she
could hear him he walked in his socks.

“Yes, sir! Meet that boy on the street, or go up in his office, you’d
think that he was the gayest feller in town. I tell you there wasn’t
anything pathetic about Mel Bickner! He didn’t believe in it. And at
home he had a funny story every evening of the world, about something
‘d happened during the day; and ‘d whistle to the guitar, or git his
maw into a game of cards with his aunt and the girls. Law! that boy
didn’t believe in no house of mourning. He’d be up at four in the
morning, hoein’ up their old garden; raised garden-truck for their
table, sparrow-grass and sweet corn--yes, and roses, too; always had
the house full of roses in June-time; never _was_ a house
sweeter-smellin’ to go into.

“Mel was what I call a useful citizen. As I said, I knowed him well. I
don’t recollect I ever heard him speak of himself, nor yet of his
father but once--for _that_, I reckon, he jest couldn’t; and for
himself; I don’t believe it ever occurred to him.

“And he was a _smart_ boy. Now, you take it, all in all, a boy
can’t be as smart as Mel was, and work as hard as he did, and not
_git_ somewhere--in this State, anyway! And so, about the fifth
year, things took a sudden change for him; his father’s enemies and
his own friends, both, had to jest about own they was beat. The crowd
that had been running the conventions and keepin’ their own men in all
the offices, had got to be pretty unpopular, and they had the sense to
see that they’d have to branch out and connect up with some mighty
good men, jest to keep the party in power. Well, sir, Mel had got to
be about the most popular and respected man in the county. Then one
day I met him on the street; he was on his way to buy an overcoat, and
he was lookin’ skimpier and more froze-up and genialer than ever. It
was March, and up to jest that time things had be’n hardest of all for
Mel. I walked around to the store with him, and he was mighty happy;
goin’ to send his mother north in the summer, and the girls were goin’
to have a party, and Bob, his little brother, could go to the best
school in the country in the fall. Things had come his way at last,
and that very morning the crowd had called him in and told him they
were goin’ to run him for county clerk.

“Well, sir, the next evening I heard Mel was sick. Seein’ him only the
day before on the street, out and well, I didn’t think anything of
it--thought prob’ly a cold or something like that; but in the morning
I heard the doctor said he was likely to die. Of course I couldn’t
hardly believe it; thing like that never _does_ seem possible,
but they all said it was true, and there wasn’t anybody on the street
that day that didn’t look blue or talked about anything else. Nobody
seemed to know what was the matter with him exactly, and I reckon the
doctor did jest the wrong thing for it. Near as I can make out, it was
what they call appendicitis nowadays, and had come on him in the
night.

“Along in the afternoon I went out there to see if there was anything
I could do. You know what a house in that condition is like. Old Fes
Bainbridge, who was some sort of a relation, and me sat on the stairs
together outside Mel’s room.  We could hear his voice, clear and
strong and hearty as ever. He was out of pain; and he had to die with
the full flush of health and strength on him, and he knowed it. Not
_wantin’_ to go, through the waste and wear of a long sickness,
but with all the ties of life clinchin’ him here, and success jest
comin.’ We heard him speak of us, amongst others, old Fes and me;
wanted ‘em to be sure not forget to tell me to remember to vote for
Fillmore if the ground-hog saw his shadow election year, which was an
old joke I always had with him. He was awful worried about his mother,
though he tried not to show it, and when the minister wanted to pray
fer him, we heard him say, ‘No, sir, you pray fer my mamma!’  That was
the only thing that was different from his usual way of speakin’; he
called his mother ‘mamma, and he wouldn’t let ‘em pray for him
neither; not once; all the time he could spare for their prayin’ was
put in for her.

“He called in old Fes to tell him all about his life insurance. He’d
carried a heavy load of it, and it was all paid up; and the sweat it
must have took to do it you’d hardly like to think about. He give
directions about everything as careful and painstaking as any day of
his life.  He asked to speak to Fes alone a minute, and later I helped
Fes do what he told him. ‘Cousin Fes,’ he says, ‘it’s bad weather, but
I expect mother’ll want all the flowers taken out to the cemetery and
you better let her have her way.  But there wouldn’t be any good of
their stayin’ there; snowed on, like as not. I wish you’d wait till
after she’s come away, and git a wagon and take ‘em in to the
hospital. You can fix up the anchors and so forth so they won’t look
like funeral flowers.’

“About an hour later his mother broke out with a scream, sobbin’ and
cryin’, and he tried to quiet her by tellin’ over one of their
old-time family funny stories; it made her worse, so he quit.  ‘Oh,
Mel,’ she says, ‘you’ll be with your father--’

“I don’t know as Mel had much of a belief in a hereafter; certainly he
wasn’t a great churchgoer.  ‘Well,’ he says, mighty slow, but hearty
and smiling, too, ‘if I see father, I--guess--I’ll--be--pretty--
well--fixed!’  Then he jest lay still, tryin’ to quiet her and pettin’
her head.  And so--that’s the way he went.”

Fiderson made one of his impatient little gestures, but Mr. Martin
drowned his first words with a loud fit of coughing.

“Well, sir,” he observed, “I read that ‘Leg-long’ book down home; and
I heard two or three countries, and especially ourn, had gone middling
crazy over it; it seemed kind of funny that _we_ should, too, so I
thought I better come up and see it for myself, how it _was_, on the
stage, where you could _look_ at it; and--I expect they done it as
well as they could. But when that little boy, that’d always had his
board and clothes and education free, saw that he’d jest about talked
himself to death, and called for the press notices about his
christening to be read to him to soothe his last spasms--why, I wasn’t
overly put in mind of Melville Bickner.”

Mr. Martin’s train left for Plattsville at two in the morning. Little
Fiderson and I escorted him to the station. As the old fellow waved us
good-bye from within the gates, Fiderson turned and said:

“Just the type of sodden-headed old pioneer that you couldn’t hope to
make understand a beautiful thing like ‘L’Aiglon’ in a thousand
years. I thought it better not to try, didn’t you?”





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