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Title: The Boss, and How He Came to Rule New York
Author: Lewis, Alfred Henry
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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THE BOSS, AND HOW HE CAME TO RULE NEW YORK

By Alfred Henry Lewis

Author Of “Peggy O’Neal,” “President,” “Wolfvilledays,” Etc.

A. L. Burt Company, Publishers, New York

1903


[Illustration: 0005]



THE WORD OF PREFACE

It should be said in the beginning that these memoirs will not be
written by my own hand. I have no skill of pen and ink, and any relation
of length would be beyond my genius. The phrasing would fall to be
disreputable, and the story itself turn involved and to step on its own
toes, and mayhap with the last of it to fall flat on its face, unable
to proceed at all. Wherefore, as much for folk who are to read as for
my own credit, I shall have one who makes print his trade to write these
pages for me.

Nor shall I advance apology in this. If I plan for the construction of
a house, I call to my aid architects and artisans in wood and stone and
iron. I am not disgraced for that out of my own hands and head I do not
throw up the walls and lay on the roof of the edifice. Why, then, when
now I am about the paper-telling of my life, should I blush because I am
driven to seek the aid of him who makes an inkpot his profession? I am
like a lumber-yard or a stone-quarry, and full of the raw material for
this work; but I require one drilled of saw and chisel to carry off the
business of my housebuilding.

It would be the thing natural, should you who open these leaves put the
question of motive and ask why, when now I am retired, and should be
cautious with my threescore years, I come forth with confidences which,
aside from the mere sorrow of them, are like to prove less for my honor
than I might wish. Why is it that I who have removed my loneliness
and my millions to scenes of peace at least, may not leave well enough
alone? Why should I return with disclosures touching Tammany and the
inner history of that organization, when the dullest must apprehend only
trouble and pain as the foolish fruits of such garrulity?

To the cheer of ones still on the firing lines of Tammany effort, let me
promise to say no more of them than belongs of necessity to the story
of my own career. I aim towards the painting of no man’s picture save
my own. Also from first to last I will hold before the face of each old
friend the shield of an alias and never for a moment in name or feature
uncover him to the general eye.

As to why it pleases me to give the public my Tammany evolution, and
whether I hope for good or ill therefrom, I am not able to set forth.
There is that within my bosom to urge me to this work, that much I know;
the thing uncertain being--is it vanity, or is it remorse or a hunger
for sympathy to so ride me and force my frankness to top-speed? There
comes one thought: however black that robe of reputation which the truth
weaves for me, it will seem milk-white when laid side by side with what
Mendacity has invented and Malice sworn to as the story of my career.

Before I lift the latch of narration, I would have you pardon me a first
defensive word. Conceiving that, in the theory of politics, whatever the
practice may discover, there is such a commodity as morals and such a
ware as truth, and, remembering how much as the Chief of Tammany Hall I
have been condemned by purists and folk voluble for reform as a fashion
of City Satan, striving for all that was ebon in local conditions and
control, I would remind the reader--hoping his mind to be unbiased and
that he will hold fairly the scales for me--that both morals and truth
as questions will ever depend for their answer on environment and point
of view. The morality of one man is the sin of another, and the truth in
this mouth is the serpent lie in that. Having said this much, let me now
go forward without more of flourish or time to be eaten up with words.



THE BOSS



CHAPTER I--HOW THE BOSS CAME TO NEW YORK


MY father was a blacksmith, and he and my mother came out of Clonmel,
where I myself was born. There were four to our family, for besides my
father and mother, I owned a sister named Anne, she being my better in
age by a couple of years. Anne is dead now, with all those others I have
loved, and under the grass roots; but while she lived--and she did not
pass until after I had reached the size and manners of a man--she abode
a sort of second mother to me, and the littlest of my interests was her
chief concern.

That Anne was thus tenderly about my destinies, worked doubtless a deal
of fortunate good to me. By nature, while nothing vicious, I was as
lawless as a savage; and being resentful of boundaries and as set for
liberty as water down hill, I needed her influence to hold me in some
quiet order. That I have the least of letters is due wholly to Anne, for
school stood to me, child and boy, as hateful as a rainy day, and it was
only by her going with me to sit by my side and show me my blurred way
across the page that I would mind my book at all.

It was upon a day rearward more than fifty years when my father,
gathering together our slight belongings, took us aboard ship for
America. We were six weeks between Queenstown and New York; the ship my
father chose used sails, and there arose unfriendly seas and winds to
baffle us and set us back. For myself, I hold no clear memory of that
voyage, since I was but seven at the time. Nor could I have been called
good company; I wept every foot of the way, being sick from shore to
shore, having no more stomach to put to sea with then than I have now.

It was eight of the clock on a certain July night that my father, having
about him my mother and Anne and myself, came ashore at Castle Garden.
It being dark, and none to meet us nor place for us to seek, we slept
that night, with our coats to be a bed to us, on the Castle Garden
flags. If there were hardship to lurk in thus making a couch of the
stone floors, I missed the notice of it; I was as sound asleep as a tree
at midnight when we came out of the ship and for eight hours thereafter,
never once opening my eyes to that new world till the sun was up.

Indeed, one may call it in all candor a new world! The more since, by
the grace of accident, that first day fell upon the fourth of the month,
and it was the near, persistent roar of cannon all about us, beginning
with the break of day, to frighten away our sleep. My father and mother
were as simple as was I, myself, on questions of Western story, and
the fact of the Fourth of July told no news to them. Guns boomed; flags
flaunted; bands of music brayed; gay troops went marching hither and
yon; crackers sputtered and snapped; orators with iron throats swept
down on spellbound crowds in gales of red-faced eloquence; flaming
rockets when the sun went down streaked the night with fire! To these
manifestations my father and the balance of us gave admiring ear and
eye; although we were a trifle awed by the vehemence of an existence
in which we planned to have our part, for we took what we heard and
witnessed to be the everyday life of the place.

My father was by trade a blacksmith, and one fair of his craft. Neither
he nor my mother had much learning; but they were peaceful, sober folk
with a bent for work; and being sure, rain or shine, to go to church,
and strict in all their duties, they were ones to have a standing with
the clergy and the neighbors, It tells well for my father that within
the forty-eight hours to follow our landing at Castle Garden, he had a
roof above our heads, and an anvil to hammer upon; this latter at a
wage double the best that Clonmel might offer even in a dream. And so
we began to settle to our surroundings, and to match with them, and fit
them to ourselves; with each day Clonmel to gather a dimness, and we to
seem less strange and more at home, and in the last to feel as naturally
of America as though we had been born upon the soil.

It has found prior intimation that my earlier years ran as wild as a
colt, with no strong power save Anne’s to tempt me in a right direction.
My father, so far as his mood might promise, would have led me in paths
I should go; but he was never sharp to a condition, and with nothing to
him alert or quick he was one easily fooled, and I dealt with him as I
would. Moreover, he had his hands filled with the task of the family’s
support; for while he took more in wage for his day’s work than had ever
come to him before, the cost to live had equal promotion, and it is
to be doubted if any New York Monday discovered him with riches in his
pocket beyond what would have dwelt there had he stayed in Clonmel. But
whether he lacked temper or time, and whatever the argument, he cracked
no thong of authority over me; I worked out my days by patterns to
please myself, with never a word from him to check or guide me.

And my mother was the same. She had her house to care for; and in a
wash-tub day, and one when sewing machines were yet to find their birth,
a woman with a family to be a cook to, and she of a taste besides to see
them clothed and clean, would find her every waking hour engaged.
She was a housekeeper of celebration, was my mother, and a star for
neighboring wives to steer by; with floor and walls and everything about
her as spick and span as scouring soap and lye might make them. Pale,
work-worn, I still carry her on the skyline of my memory; and I recall
how her eye would light and her gray cheek show a flush when the priest
did us the credit of supper at our board, my father pulling down his
sleeves over his great hairy arms in deference to the exalted station of
the guest. It comes to this, however, that both my father and my mother,
in their narrow simplicities and time taken up with the merest arts of
living, had neither care nor commands for me. I came and I went by
my own clock, and if I gave the business thought, it was a thought of
gratitude to find myself so free.

To be sure I went now and then to my lessons. Anne had been brisk to
seek forth a school; for she refused to grow up in ignorance, and even
cherished a plan to one day teach classes from a book herself. Being
established, she drew me after her, using both persuasion and force to
that end, and to keep me in a way of enlightenment, invented a system
of rewards and punishments, mainly the former, by which according to my
merit I was to suffer or gain.

This temple of learning to which Anne lured me was nothing vast, being
no bigger than one room. In lieu of a blackboard there was a box of
clean white sand wherewith to teach dullards of my age and sort their
alphabet. That feat of education the pedagogue in charge--a somber
personage, he, and full of bitter muscularities--accomplished by tracing
the letter in the sand. This he did with the point of a hickory ruler,
which weapon was never out of his hand, and served in moments of
thickness as a wand of inspiration, being laid across the dull one’s
back by way of brightening his wits. More than once I was made wiser in
this fashion; and I found such stimulus to go much against the grain and
to grievously rub wrong-wise the fur of my fancy.

These hickory drubbings to make me quicker, falling as thickly as
October’s leaves, went short of their purpose. On the heels of one of
them I would run from my lessons for a week on end. To be brief with
these matters of schools and books and alphabets and hickory beatings,
I went to my classes for a day, only to hide from them for a week; as
might be guessed, the system collected but a scanty erudition.

It is a pity, too: that question of education cannot too much invite an
emphasis. It is only when one is young that one may be book-taught, just
as the time of spring is the time for seed. There goes a byword of an
old dog and a new trick, and I should say it meant a man when he is
thirty or forty with a book; for, though driven by all the power of
shame, I in vain strove with.

What was utmost in me to repair in middle years the loss of those
schooldays wasted away. I could come by no advance; the currents of
habitual ignorance were too strong and I made no head against them. You
think I pause a deal over my want of letters? I tell you it is the thing
I have most mourned in all my life.

When a fugitive from lessons, I would stay away from my home. This was
because I must manage an escape from Anne; should she find me I was
lost, and nothing for it save to be dragged again to school. The look of
grief in her brown eyes meant ever defeat for me. My only safety was to
turn myself out of doors and play the exile.

This vagabondage was pleasant enough, since it served to feed my native
vagrancy of temper. And I fared well, too; for I grew into a kind of
cateran, and was out of my sleeping lair with the sun to follow the
milkman and baker on their rounds. Coming betimes to the doors of
customers who still snored between their sheets, these merchants left
their wares in areas. That was all my worst need asked; by what time
they doubled the nearest corner I had made my swoop and was fed for the
whole of a day.

Moreover, I knew a way to pick up coppers. On a nearby corner in the
Bowery a great auction of horses was going. Being light and little, and
having besides a lively inclination for horses, I was thrown upon the
backs of ones put up for sale to show their paces. For each of these
mounts I came the better off by five cents, and on lucky days have made
as much as the half of a dollar at that trade. As for a bed, if it were
summer time, what should be finer than the docks? Or if winter, then the
fire-rooms of the tugs, with the engineers and stokers whereof I made
it my care to be friendly? I was always ready to throw off a line, or
polish a lantern, or, when a tug was at the wharf, run to the nearest
tap-room and fetch a pail of beer; for which good deeds the East River
went thickly dotted of my allies before ever I touched the age of ten.

These meager etchings give some picture of what was my earlier life, the
major share of which I ran wild about the streets. Neither my father nor
my mother lived in any command of me, and the parish priest failed as
dismally as did they when he sought to confine my conduct to a rule.
That hickory-wielding dominie, with his sandbox and alphabet, was a
priest; and he gave me such a distaste of the clergy that I rolled away
from their touch like quicksilver. Anne’s tears and the soft voice of
her were what I feared, and so I kept as much as possible beyond their
spell.

Coming now to a day when I began first to consider existence as a
problem serious, I must tell you how my lone sole claim to eminence
abode in the fact that, lung and limb, I was as strong and tireless as
any bison or any bear. It was my capital, my one virtue, the mark that
set me above my fellows. This story of vast strength sounds the more
strange, since I was under rather than above the common height, and
never, until when in later life I took on a thickness of fat, scaled
heavier than one hundred and forty pounds. Thus it stood, however, that
my muscle strength, even as a youth, went so far beyond what might be
called legitimate that it became as a proverb in the mouths of people.
The gift was a kind of genius; I tell of it particularly because it
turned to be the ladder whereby I climbed into the first of my fortunes.
Without it, sure, I never would have lifted myself above the gutter
levels of my mates, nor fingered a splinter of those millions that now
lie banked and waiting to my name and hand.



CHAPTER II--THE BOSS MEETS WITH POLITICS


IT was when I was in my fifteenth year that face to face I first met
politics. Or to fit the phrase more nearly with the fact, I should say
it was then when politics met me. Nor was that meeting in its incident
one soon to slip from memory. It carried for a darkling element the
locking of me in a graceless cell, and that is an adventure sure to
leave its impress. The more if one be young, since the trail of events
is ever deepest where the ground is soft. It is no wonder the business
lies in my mind like a black cameo. It was my first captivity, and there
will come on one no greater horror than seizes him when for the earliest
time he hears bars and bolts grate home behind him.

On that day, had one found and measured me he would not have called me
a child of thoughts or books or alcoves. My nature was as unkempt as the
streets. Still, in a turbid way and to broadest banks, the currents of
my sentiment were running for honesty and truth. Also, while I wasted no
space over the question, I took it as I took the skies above me that law
was for folk guilty of wrong, while justice even against odds of power
would never fail the weak and right. My eyes were to be opened; I was
to be shown the lesson of Tammany, and how law would bend and judges bow
before the mighty breath of the machine.

It was in the long shadows of an August afternoon when the Southhampton
boat was docked--a clipper of the Black Ball line. I stood looking on;
my leisure was spent about the river front, for I was as fond of the
water as a petrel. The passengers came thronging down the gang-plank;
once ashore, many of the poorer steerage sort stood about in misty
bewilderment, not knowing the way to turn or where to go.

In that far day a special trade had grown up among the piers; the men to
follow it were called hotel runners. These birds of prey met the
ships to swoop on newcomers with lie and cheat, and carry them away
to hostelries whose mean interests they served. These latter were the
poorest in town, besides being often dens of wickedness.

As I moved boy-like in and out among the waiting groups of immigrants,
a girl called to me. This girl was English, with yellow hair, and cheeks
red as apples. I remember I thought her beautiful, and was the more to
notice it since she seemed no older than myself. She was stark alone and
a trifle frightened.

“Boy,” said Apple Cheek, “boy, where can I go for to-night? I have
money, though not much, so it must not be a dear place.”

Before I could set my tongue to a reply, a runner known as Sheeny Joe
had Apple Cheek by the arm and was for leading her away.

“Come with me,” said Sheeny Joe to Apple Cheek; “I will show you to a
house, as neat as pins, and quiet as a church; kept it is by a Christian
lady as wears out her eyes with searching of the scriptures. You can
stay there as long as ever you likes for two shillin’ a day.”

This was reeled off by Sheeny Joe with a suave softness like the flow of
treacle. He was cunning enough to give the charge in shillings so as to
match the British ear and education of poor Apple Cheek.

“Where is this place?” asked Apple Cheek. I could see how she shrunk
from Sheeny Joe, with his eyes greedy and black, and small and shiny
like the eyes of a rat.

“You wouldn’t know the place, young lady,” returned Sheeny Joe; “but
it’s all right, with prayers and that sort of thing, both night and
mornin’. It’s in Water Street, the place is. Number blank, Water
Street,” repeated Sheeny Joe, giving a resort known as the Dead Rabbit.
“Come; which ones is your bundles? I’ll help you carry them.”

Now by general word, the Dead Rabbit was not unknown to me. It was
neither tavern nor boarding house, but a mill of vice, with blood on
its doorstep and worse inside. If ever prayers were said there they must
have been parcel of some Black Sanctus; and if ever a Christian went
there it was to be robbed and beaten, and then mayhap to have his throat
cut for a lesson in silence.

“You don’t want to go to that house,” said I, finding my voice and
turning to Apple Cheek. “You come to my mother’s; my sister will find
you a place to stay. The house he’s talkin’ about”--here I indicated
Sheeny Joe--“aint no tavern. It’s a boozin’ ken for crimps and thieves.”

Without a word, Sheeny Joe aimed a swinging blow at my head: Apple Cheek
gave a low scream. While somewhat unprepared for Sheeny Joe’s attack,
it falling so sharply sudden, I was not to be found asleep; nor would
I prove a simple conquest even to a grown man. My sinister strength,
almost the strength of a gorilla, would stand my friend.

Quick as a goat on my feet, and as soon to see a storm coming up as any
sailor, I leaped backward from the blow; and next, before Sheeny Joe
recovered himself, I was upon him with a wrestler’s twitch and trip
that tossed him high in the air like a rag. He struck on his head and
shoulders, the chimb of a cask against which he rolled cutting a fine
gash in his scalp.

With a whirl of oaths, Sheeny Joe tried to scramble to his feet; he was
shaken with rage and wonder to be thus outfaced and worsted by a boy. As
he gained his knees, and before he might straighten to his ignoble feet,
I dealt him a crashing blow between the eyes, or rather, on the bridge
of the nose, which latter feature for Sheeny Joe grew curved and beaky.
The blow was of the sort that boxers style a “hook,” and one nothing
good to stop. Over Sheeny Joe went with the kicking force of it, and lay
against the tier of casks, bleeding like tragedy, beaten, and yelling
“murder!”

Sheeny Joe, bleeding and roaring, and I by no means glutted, but still
hungry for his harm, were instantly the center of a gaping crowd that
came about us like a whirlpool. With the others arrived an officer of
the police.

“W’at’s the row here?” demanded the officer.

“Take him to the station!” cried Sheeny Joe, picking himself up, a
dripping picture of blood; “he struck me with a knuckle duster.”

“Not so fast, officer,” put in a reputable old gentleman. “Hear the
lad’s story first. The fellow was saying something to this girl. Nor
does he look as though it could have been for her benefit.”

“Tell me about it, youngster,” said the officer, not unkindly. My age
and weight, as against those of Sheeny Joe, told with this agent of
the peace, who at heart was a fair man. “Tell me what there is to this
shindy.”

“Why don’t you take him in?” screamed Sheeny Joe. “W’at have you to do
with his story?”

“Well, there’s two ends to an alley,” retorted the officer warmly. “I’ll
hear what the boy has to say. Do you think you’re goin’ to do all the
talkin’?”

“The first thing you’ll know,” cried Sheeny Joe fiercely, “I’ll have
them pewter buttons off your coat.”

“Oh, you will!” retorted the officer with a scowl. “Now just for that
I’ll take you in. A night in the jug will put the soft pedal on that
mouth of yours.” With that, the bluecoat seized Sheeny Joe, and there we
were, one in each of his hands.

For myself, I had not uttered a syllable. I was ever slow of speech, and
far better with my hands than my tongue. Apple Cheek, the cause of the
war, stood weeping not a yard away; perhaps she was thinking, if her
confusion allowed her thought, of the savageries of this new land to
which she was come. Apple Cheek might have taken herself from out the
hubbub by merely merging with the crowd; I think she had the coolness to
do this, but was too loyal. She owned the spirit, as it stood, to come
forward when I would not say a word to tell the officer the story. Apple
Cheek was encouraged to this steadiness by the reputable old gentleman.

Before, however, Apple Cheek could win to the end of the first sentence,
a burly figure of a man, red of face and broad as a door across the
shoulders, pushed his way through the crowd.

“What is it?” he asked, coming in front of the officer. “Turn that man
loose,” he continued, pointing to Sheeny Joe.

The red-faced man spoke in a low tone, but one of cool command. The
officer, however, was not to be readily driven from his ground; he
was new to the place and by nature an honest soul. Still, he felt an
atmosphere of power about the red-faced personage; wherefore, while he
kept strictest hold on both Sheeny Joe and myself, he was not wanting of
respect in his response.

“These two coves are under arrest,” said the officer, shaking Sheeny Joe
and myself like rugs by way of identification.

“I know,” said the other, still in the low cool tone. “All the same, you
turn this one loose.”

The officer still hesitated with a look of half-defiance. With that the
red-faced man lost temper.

“Take your hands off him, I tell you!” cried the redfaced man, a spark
of anger showing in his small gray eyes. “Do you know me? I’m Big
Kennedy. Did you never hear of Big John Kennedy of Tammany Hall? You
do what I say, or I’ll have you out in Harlem with the goats before
to-morrow night.”

With that, he of the red face took Sheeny Joe from between the officer’s
fingers; nor did the latter seek to detain him. The frown of authority
left his brow, and his whole face became overcast with a look of surly
submission.

“You should have said so at the jump,” remarked the officer sullenly.
“How was I to know who you are?”

“You’re all right,” returned the red-faced one, lapsing into an easy
smile. “You’re new to this stroll; you’ll be wiser by an’ by.”

“What’ll I do with the boy?” asked the officer.

“Officer,” broke in the reputable old gentleman, who was purple to the
point apoplectic; “officer, do you mean that you will take your orders
from this man?”

“Come, my old codger,” interrupted the red-faced one loftily, “stow
that. You had better sherry for Fift’ Avenue where you belong. If you
don’t, th’ gang down here may get tired, d’ye see, an’ put you in
the river.” Then to the officer: “Take the boy in; I’ll look him over
later.”

“An’ the girl!” screamed Sheeny Joe. “I want her lagged too.”

“An’ the girl, officer,” commanded the red-faced one. “Take her along
with the boy.”

Thus was the procession made up; the officer led Apple Cheek and myself
to the station, with Sheeny Joe, still bleeding, and the red-faced man
to be his backer, bringing up the rear.

At the station it was like the whirl and roar of some storm to me. It
was my first captivity--my first collision with the police, and my wits
were upside down. I recall that a crowd of people followed us, and were
made to stand outside the door.

The reputable old gentleman came also, and tried to interefere in behalf
of Apple Cheek and myself. At a sign from the red-faced man, who stood
leaning on the captain’s desk with all the confidence of life, that
potentate gave his sharp command.

“Screw out!” cried he, to the reputable old gentleman. “We don’t want
any of your talk!” Then to an officer in the station: “Put him out!”

“I’m a taxpayer!” shouted the reputable old gentleman furiously.

“You’ll pay a fine,” responded the captain with a laugh, “if you kick up
a row ‘round my station. Now screw out, or I’ll put you the wrong side of
the grate.”

The reputable old gentleman was thrust into the street with about as
much ceremony as might attend the delivery of a bale of goods at one’s
door. He disappeared, declaring he would have justice; at which a smile
widened the faces of the sophisticated officers, several of whom were
lounging about the room.

“He’ll have justice!” repeated the captain with a chuckle. “Say! he
aought to put that in the Joe Miller Joke-book.” Then to the red-faced
man, who still leaned against the desk, the image of autocracy sure of
itself: “What is it to be, Mr. Kennedy?”

“Why,” quoth the red-faced one, “you must lock this boy up. Yes, an’ the
girl, too; she had better go in for the night. I’ll take a look into th’
business, an’ let the judge know in the mornin’.”

“I don’t think, captain,” interposed the officer who brought us from the
docks, “there’s any use locking up these people. It was nothin’ but a
cheap muss on the pier.”

“Say! I don’t stand that!” broke in Sheeny Joe. “This party smashed me
with a bar of iron. The girl was in the play; an’ I say they’re both to
go in.”

“You ‘say,’” mocked the captain, in high scorn. “An’ who are you? Who is
this fellow?” he demanded, looking about him.

“He’s one of my people,” said the red-faced man, still coolly by the
desk.

“No more out of you!” snarled the captain to the kindly officer, as the
latter again tried to speak; “you get back to your beat!”

“An’ say!” cried the red-faced man, slowly rousing from his position
by the desk; “before you go, let me give you a word. You’re a sight too
gabby; you had better think more and say less, or you won’t last long
enough as a copper to wear out that new uniform. An’ if anybody asks,
tell him it was Big Kennedy that told you.”

They led me to a cell, while poor Apple Cheek, almost fainting, was
carried to another. As I was being taken away, Anne came rushing in. Bad
news is a creature of wings, and Anne had been told my adventures by
a small urchin who ran himself nearly to death in defeating two fellow
urchins for the privilege before I had reached the station.

Anne did not observe me as she came in, for I stood somewhat to the
rear, with several turnkeys and officers between. I could see the white
face of her, and how the lamps of a great alarm were lighted in her
eyes. Her voice was so low with terror I could not hear her words.
Evidently she was pleading, girl-fashion, for my liberty. The tones of
the captain, however, rose clear and high.

“That’ll do ye now,” said he in a manner of lordly insolence, looking
up from the desk to which he had returned. “If we put a prisoner on
the pavement every time a good-looking girl rushed in with a yarn about
bein’ his sister, we wouldn’t need no cells at all. This boy stays till
the judge takes a look at him in the mornin’. Meanwhile, you had better
get back to your window, or all the men will have left the street.”

At this, a mighty anger flamed up in my heart. I tore away from the
officer who had me by the shoulders, and, save that three others as
practiced in the sleight of it as football players instantly seized me,
I should have gone straight at the captain’s neck like a bulldog.

“I’ll have his life!” I foamed.

The next moment I was thrown into a cell. The door slammed; the lock
shot home; with that, my heart seemed to turn to water in my bosom and I
sank upon the stone floor of my cage.



CHAPTER III--THE BOSS SEES THE POWER OF TAMMANY


THAT night under lock and key was a night of laughed and screamed like
bedlam. Once I heard the low click of sobs, and thought it might be poor
unhappy Apple Cheek. The surmise went wide, for she was held in another
part of the prison.

It was in the first streaks of the morning before I slept. My slumbers
did not last long; it seemed as though I had but shut my eyes when a
loud rap of iron on iron brought me up, and there stood one armed of a
key so large it might have done for the gate of a giant’s castle. It was
this man hammering with his weapon on the grate of my cell that roused
me.

“Now then, young gallows-bird,” said the functionary, “be you ready for
court?”

The man, while rough, gave me no hard impression, for he wore a tolerant
grin and had eyes of friendly brown. These amiable signs endowed me with
courage to ask a question.

“What will they do with me?” I queried. I was long delirium. Drunken men
babbled and cursed and shouted; while a lunatic creature anxious, for I
had no experience to be my guide. “What will they do? Will they let me
go?”

“Sure! they’ll let you go.” My hopes gained their feet. “To
Blackwell’s.” My hopes lay prone again.

The turnkey, for such was the man’s station, had but humored me with
one of the stock jokes of the place. On seeing my distress, and perhaps
remembering that I should be something tender if years were to count,
and no frequent tenant of the cells with sensibilities trained to the
safe consistency of leather, he made me further reply.

“No, I’ll tell you the truth, youngster. If you plead guilty, an’
there’s no one there but the cop, it’ll be about ten dollars or twenty
days on the Island. But if Sheeny Joe comes ‘round to exhibit his nose,
or Big Kennedy shows up to stall ag’inst you, why I should say you might
take six months and call yourself in luck.”

There was nothing to brighten the eye in the story, and my ribs seemed
to inclose a heart of wood.

With a vile dozen to be my companions, frowsy, bleary creatures, some
shaking with the dumb ague of drink whose fires had died out, I was
driven along a narrow corridor, up a pair of stairs, and into a room of
respectable size! Its dimensions, however, would be its only claim to
respectability, for the walls and ceiling were smoke-blackened, while
the floor might have come the better off for a pailful of soap and
water.

Once within the room I found myself in a railed pen. Against the wall,
with a desk before him and raised above the herd by a platform, sat the
magistrate. There was a fence which divided the big room, and beyond and
leaning on it lolled the public, leering and listening, as hard an array
as one might wish to see. One might have sentenced the entire roomful to
the workhouse and made few mistakes.

Inside this fence, and gathered for the most part about the magistrate,
were those who had business with the court; officers, witnesses, friends
and enemies of the accused, with last although not least a collection of
the talent of the bar. Many of these latter were brisk Jews, and all of
them were marked by soiled linen, frayed elbows, greasy collars, and an
evident carelessness as to the state of their hands and faces. There
were boys to wait on these folk of law, a boy to each I should say. None
of these urchins was older than was I, and some no more than twelve.
They carried baize bags, chatted gravely while waiting the call of their
masters, and gave themselves strutting airs and brows of consequence.
These engaging children, in a spirit of loyalty, doubtless, showed
themselves as untainted of water as were their betters.

While I rehearse these sordid appearances as developed in the dim lights
which through the grimy windows fell across the scene, you are not to
suppose the notice of them preyed upon me. I was, in that hour, neither
so squeamish nor so observant as to make particular note of them, nor
was I to that degree the slave of soap in my own roving person, as to
justify the risk of strictures which might provoke retort. Besides, I
was thinking dolefully on that trip to Blackwell’s Island whereof the
future seemed so full, and my eyes scanned the judge on the bench rather
than lesser folk who were not so important in my affairs.

While in the mills of great misery, still I was steady enough. I turned
my gaze upon the magistrate, and sought in his looks and words, as he
went about the sorry destinies of other delinquents, some slant of what
I might look forward to for myself. The dignitary in question showed
lean and sallow and bald, with a sly face and an eye whereof the great
expression was one of sleepless self-interest. He did not come upon you
as either brave or good, but he had nothing brutal or vindictive, and
his timid mealy voice was shaken by a quaver that seemed a perpetual
apology for what judgments he from time to time would pass. His
sentences were invariably light, except in instances where some strong
influence from the outside, generally a politician or the agent of a big
company, arose to demand severity.

While within the railed pen with those other unfortunates whom the
dragnets of the police had brought to these mean shores, and in an
interval when my fascinated eyes were off the magistrate, I caught sight
of Anne and my father. They had seats inside the fence. The latter’s
face was clouded with simple trouble; he wore his Sunday coat, and
his hands, hard and showing the stains of his forge, roved in uneasy
alternation from his pockets to his lapels and back again. Anne’s young
eyes were worn and tired, for she had slept as little as had I and wept
much more the night before. I could not discover Apple Cheek, although I
looked about the room for her more than once. I had it in my hopes
that they had given Apple Cheek her freedom, and the thought was a
half-relief. Nothing of such decent sort had come to pass, however;
Apple Cheek was waiting with two or three harridans, her comrades of the
cells, in an adjoining room.

When my name was called, an officer of the court opened a gate in the
prisoner’s pen and motioned me to come forth.

“Hurry up!” said the officer, who was for expedition. “W’at’s the
trouble with your heels? You aint got no ball an’ chain on yet, you
know.”

Then he gave me a chair in front of the magistrate, where the man of
power might run me up and down with his shifty deprecatory eye.

“There was a girl brought in with him, your honor,” remarked the officer
at the gate.

“Have her out, then,” said the magistrate; whereupon Apple Cheek, a bit
disheveled and cheeks redder than ever with the tears she had shed, was
produced and given a seat by my side.

“Who complains of these defendants?” asked the magistrate in a mild
non-committal voice, glancing about the room.

“I do, your honor.”

It was Sheeny Joe who came pushing to the fore from a far corner. His
head had received the benefit of several bandages, and it gave me a
dullish joy to think it was I to furnish the reason of them.

The magistrate appeared to know Sheeny Joe, and to hold him in regard
at that. The moment my enemy declared himself as the complainant, and
no one springing up to take my part, the magistrate bent upon me a
stony glance that spoke plainly of those six months concerning which the
turnkey told. I gave up everything, myself and Apple Cheek, as surely
lost.

“Tell your story,” said the magistrate to Sheeny Joe. His manner was
full of commiseration for that unworthy. “What did he assault you with?”

“With a blackjack, your honor, or a piece of lead pipe,” replied Sheeny
Joe. “He struck me when I wasn’t lookin’. I’m busy trying to tell the
girl there w’at hotel she wants. He gives it to me over the head from
behind; then as I wheels, he smashes me across the nose. I couldn’t see
with w’at, but it was a bar of some kind, mebby iron, mebby lead. As I
goes down, I hears the sketch--the girl, I mean--sing out, ‘Kill him!’
The girl was eggin’ him on, your honor.”

Sheeny Joe unwound this string of lies without hitch or pause, and
withal so rapidly it fair stole my breath away. I felt the eyes of the
magistrate upon me; I knew my danger and yet could come by no words
for my own defense. I make no doubt, had it not been for a diversion
as unlooked-for as it was welcome, I would have been marked for prison
where I stood.

“I demand to be heard,” came suddenly, in a high angry voice. “What that
rogue has just uttered is all a pack of lies together!”

It was the reputable old gentleman of the evening before who thus
threw himself in the way of events. Being escorted through the press of
onlookers by an officer, the reputable old gentleman stood squarely in
front of the magistrate.

“I demand justice for that boy,” fumed the reputable old gentleman,
glaring at the magistrate, and growing crimson in the face; “I demand
a jury. As for the girl, she wasn’t ten minutes off the boat; her only
part in the offense would seem to be that this scoundrel,” pointing to
Sheeny Joe, “was striving to lure her to a low resort.”

“The Dead Rabbit a low resort!” cried Sheeny

Joe indignantly. “The place is as straight as a gun.”

“Will you please tell me who you are?” asked the magistrate of the
reputable old gentleman. He had resumed his non-committal look. The
confident vigor of the reputable old gentleman disconcerted him and made
him wary.

“I am a taxpayer,” said the reputable old gentleman; “yes,” donning an
air as though the thunders and lightnings of politics dwelt in the word,
“yes, your honor, a taxpayer. I do not know this boy, but here are his
father and sister to speak for him.” Then, as he caught sight of the
captain who had ordered him out of the station: “There is a man, your
honor, who by the hands of his minions drove me from a public police
office--me, a taxpayer!”

The captain grinned easily to find himself thus distinguished. The grin
irritated the reputable old gentleman, who was even more peppery than
reputable.

“Smile, sir!” cried the reputable old gentleman, shaking his wrathful
finger at the captain. “I shall have you before your superiors on
charges before I’m done!”

“That’s what they all say,” remarked the captain, stifling a yawn.

“One thing at a time, sir,” said the magistrate to the reputable
old gentleman. His attitude was wheedling and propitiatory. “Did I
understand you to say that the gentleman and the lady at your back are
the father and sister of this boy?”

My father and Anne had taken their stations to the rear of the reputable
old gentleman. The latter, looking around as if to identify them,
replied:

“If the court please, I’m told so.”

“Your honor,” broke in Sheeny Joe with a front of injury, “w’at’s that
got to do with his sandbaggin’ me? Am I to be murdered w’en peacefully
about me business, just ‘cause a guy’s got a father?”

“What were you saying to this girl?” asked the magistrate mildly of
Sheeny Joe, and indicating Apple Cheek with his eye where she sat
tearful and frightened by my side. “This gentleman”--the reputable old
gentleman snorted fiercely--“declares that you were about to lure her to
a low resort.”

“Your honor, it was the Dead Rabbit,” said Sheeny Joe.

“Is the Dead Rabbit,” observed the magistrate, to the captain, who was
still lounging about, “is the Dead Rabbit a place of good repute?”

“It aint no Astor House,” replied the captain, “but no one expects an
Astor House in Water Street.”

“Is it a resort for thieves?”

The magistrate still advanced his queries in a fashion apologetic and
subdued. The reputable old gentleman impressed him as one he would not
like to offend. Then, too, there was my father--an honest working-man by
plain testimony of his face. On the other hand stood Sheeny Joe, broken
of nose, bandaged, implacable. Here were three forces of politics,
according to our magistrate, who was thinking on a re-election; he would
prefer to please them all. Obviously, he in no sort delighted in his
present position, since whichever way he turned it might be a turn
toward future disaster for himself.

“Is the Dead Rabbit a resort for thieves?” again asked the magistrate.

“Well,” replied the captain judgmatically, “even a crook has got to go
somewhere. That is,” he added, “when he aint in hock.”

Where this criss-cross colloquy of justice or injustice might have left
me, and whether free or captive, I may only guess. The proceedings were
to gain another and a final interruption. This time it was the red-faced
man, he who had called himself “Big Kennedy,” to come panting into the
presence of the court. The red-faced man had hurried up the stairs,
three steps at a time, and it told upon his breathing.

The magistrate made a most profound bow to the red-faced man.
Remembering the somber prophecy of him with the big key, should “Big
Kennedy show up to Stall ag’inst me,” my hope, which had revived with
the stand taken by the reputable old gentleman, sunk now to lowest
marks.

“What will you have, Mr. Kennedy?” purred the magistrate obsequiously.

“Is the court going to dispose of the cases of this boy and this girl?”
 interrupted the reputable old gentleman warmly. “I demand a jury trial
for both of them. I am a taxpayer and propose to have justice.”

“Hold up, old sport, hold up!” exclaimed the redfaced man in cheerful
tones. He was addressing the reputable old gentleman. “Let me get to
work. I’ll settle this thing like throwin’ dice.”

“What do you mean, sir, by calling me an old sport?” demanded the
reputable old gentleman.

The red-faced man did not heed the question, but wheeled briskly on the
magistrate.

“Your honor,” said the red-faced man, “there’s nothin’ to this. Sheeny
Joe there has made a misdeal, that’s all. I’ve looked the case over,
your honor; there’s nothin’ in it; you can let the girl an’ the boy go.”

“But he said the Dead Rabbit was a drum for crooks!” protested Sheeny
Joe, speaking to the redfaced man.

“S’ppose he did,” retorted the other, “that don’t take a dollar out of
the drawer.”

“An’ he’s to break my nose an’ get away?” complained Sheeny Joe.

“Well, you oughter to take care of your nose,” said the red-faced man,
“an’ not go leavin’ it lyin’ around where a kid can break it.”

Sheeny Joe was not to be shaken off; he engaged in violent argument with
the red-faced man. Their tones, however, were now more guarded, and no
one might hear their words beyond themselves. While this went forward,
the magistrate, to save his dignity, perhaps, and not to have it look as
though he were waiting for orders, pretended to be writing in his book
of cases which lay open on his desk.

It was Sheeny Joe to bring the discussion between himself and the
red-faced man to an end. Throughout the whispered differences between
them, differences as to what should be my fate, Sheeny Joe showed hot
with fury, while the red-faced man was cool and conciliatory; his voice
when one caught some sound of it was coaxing.

“There’s been enough said!” cried Sheeny Joe, suddenly walking away from
the red-faced man. “No duck is goin’ to break my nose for fun.”

“The boy’s goin’ loose,” observed the red-faced man in placid
contradiction. “An’ the girl goes to her friends, wherever they be, an’
they aint at the Dead Rabbit.” Then in a blink the countenance of
the redfaced man went from calm to rage. He whirled Sheeny Joe by the
shoulder. “See here!” he growled, “one more roar out of you, an’ I’ll
stand you up right now, an’ it’s you who will take sixty days, or
my name aint Big John Kennedy. If you think that’s a bluff, call it.
Another yeep, an’ the boat’s waitin’ for you! You’ve been due at the
Island for some time.”

“That’s all right, Mr. Kennedy!” replied Sheeny Joe, his crest falling,
and the sharpest terror in his face, “that’s all right! You know me? Of
course it goes as you say! Did you ever know me to buck ag’inst you?”

The red-faced man smiled ferociously. The anger faded from his brow,
and leaving Sheeny Joe without further word, he again spoke to the
magistrate.

“The charges ag’inst these two children, your honor, are withdrawn.” He
spoke in his old cool tones. “Captain,” he continued, addressing that
dignitary, “send one of your plain-clothes people with this girl to find
her friends for her. Tell him he mustn’t make any mistakes.”

“The cases are dismissed,” said the magistrate, making an entry in his
book. He appeared relieved with the change in the situation; almost as
much, if that were possible, as myself. “The cases are dismissed; no
costs to be taxed. I think that is what you desire, Mr. Kennedy?”

“Yes, your honor.” Then coming over to where I sat, the red-faced man
continued: “You hunt me up to-morrow--Big John Kennedy--that’s my name.
Any cop can tell you where to find me.”

“Yes, sir,” I answered faintly.

“There’s two things about you,” said the red-faced man, rubbing my
stubble of hair with his big paw, “that’s great in a boy. You can hit
like the kick of a pony; an’ you can keep your mouth shut. I aint heard
a yelp out of you, mor’n if you was a Boston terrier.” This, admiringly.

As we left the magistrate’s office--the red-faced man, the reputable old
gentleman, my father, Apple Cheek, and myself, with Anne holding my
hand as though I were some treasure lost and regained--the reputable old
gentleman spoke up pompously to the red-faced man.

“I commend what you have done, sir; but in that connection, and as
a taxpayer, let me tell you that I resent your attitude towards the
magistrate. You issued your orders, sir, and conducted yourself toward
that officer of justice as though you owned him.”

“Well, what of it?” returned the red-faced man composedly. “I put him
there. What do you think I put him there for? To give me the worst of
it?”

“Sir, I do not understand your expressions!” said the reputable old
gentleman. “And I resent them! Yes, sir, I resent them as a taxpayer of
this town!”

“Say,” observed the red-faced man benignantly, “there’s nothin’ wrong
about you but your head. You had better take a term or two at night
school an’ get it put on straight. You say you’re a taxpayer; you’ve
already fired the fact at me about five times. An’ now I ask you:
Suppose you be?”

“Taxpayer; yes, sir, taxpayer!” repeated the reputable old gentleman,
in a mighty fume. “Do you intend to tell me there’s no meaning to the
word?”

“It means,” said the red-faced man in the slow manner of one who gives
instruction; “it means that if you’re nothin’ but a taxpayer--an’ I
don’t think you be or you’d have told us--you might as well sit down.
You’re a taxpayer, eh? All right; I’m a ward-leader of Tammany Hall.
You’re a taxpayer; good! I’m the man that settles how much you pay, d’ye
see!” Then, as though sympathy and disgust were blended: “Old man, you
go home and take a hard look at the map, and locate yourself. You don’t
know it, but all the same you’re in New York.”



CHAPTER IV--THE BOSS ENTERS THE PRIMARY GRADE OF POLITICS


PERHAPS you will say I waste space and lay too much of foolish stress
upon my quarrel with Sheeny Joe and its police-cell consequences. And
yet you should be mindful of the incident’s importance to me as the
starting point of my career. For I read in what took place the power of
the machine as you will read this printed page. I went behind the bars
by the word of Big John Kennedy; and it was by his word that I emerged
and took my liberty again. And yet who was Big John Kennedy? He was the
machine; the fragment of its power which molded history in the little
region where I lived. As mere John Kennedy he would be nothing. Or at
the most no more than other men about him. But as “Big John Kennedy,”
 an underchief of Tammany Hall, I myself stood witness while a captain of
police accepted his commands without a question, and a magistrate found
folk guilty or innocent at the lifting of his finger. Also, that sweat
of terror to sprinkle the forehead of Sheeny Joe, when in his moment of
rebellion he found himself beneath the wrathful shadow of the machine,
was not the least impressive element of my experience; and the tolerant
smile, that was half pity, half amusement, as Big Kennedy set forth
to the reputable old gentleman--who was only “a taxpayer”--the little
limits of his insignificance, deepened the effect upon my mind of what
had gone before.

True, I indulged in no such analysis as the above, and made no study of
the picture in its detail; but I could receive an impression just as
I might receive a blow, and in the innocence of my ignorance began
instantly to model myself upon the proven fact of a power that was above
law, above justice, and which must be consulted and agreed with, even
in its caprice, before existence could be profitable or even safe. From
that moment the machine to me was as obviously and indomitably abroad as
the pavement under foot, and must have its account in every equation
of life to the solution whereof I was set. To hold otherwise, and
particularly to act otherwise, would be to play the fool, with failure
or something worse for a reward.

Big Kennedy owned a drinking place. His barroom was his headquarters;
although he himself never served among his casks and bottles, having
barmen for that work. He poured no whisky, tapped no beer, donned no
apron, but sat at tables with his customers and laid out his campaigns
of politics or jubilated over victory, and seemed rather the visitor
than the proprietor in his own saloon. He owned shrewdness, force,
courage, enterprise, and was one of those who carry a pleasant
atmosphere that is like hypnotism, and which makes men like them. His
manner was one of rude frankness, and folk held him for a bluff, blunt,
genial soul, who made up in generosity what he lacked of truth.

And yet I have thought folk mistaken in Big Kennedy. For all his loud
openness and friendly roar, which would seem to tell his every thought,
the man could be the soul of cunning and turn secret as a mole. He was
for his own interest; he came and went a cold calculating trader of
politics; he never wasted his favors, but must get as much as he gave,
and indulged in no revenges except when revenge was needed for a lesson.
He did what men call good, too, and spent money and lost sleep in its
accomplishment. To the ill he sent doctors and drugs; he found work and
wages for idle men; he paid landlords and kept the roofs above the heads
of the penniless; where folk were hungry he sent food, and where they
were cold came fuel.

For all that, it was neither humanity nor any milk of kindness which
put him to these labors of grace; it was but his method of politics and
meant to bind men to him. They must do his word; they must carry out his
will; then it was he took them beneath the wing of his power and would
spare neither time nor money to protect and prosper them.

And on the other side, he who raised his head in opposition to Big
Kennedy was crushed; not in anger, but in caution. He weeded out
rebellion, and the very seed of it, with as little scruple and for the
same reason a farmer weeds a field.

It took me years to collect these truths of Big Kennedy. Nor was their
arrival when they did come one by one, to make a shade of change in my
regard for him. I liked him in the beginning; I liked him in the end;
he became that headland on the coasts of politics by which I steered my
course. I studied Big Kennedy as one might study a science; by the lines
of his conduct I laid down lines for my own; in all things I was his
disciple and his imitator.

Big Kennedy is dead now; and I will say no worse nor better of him than
this: He was a natural captain of men. Had he been born to a higher
station, he might have lighted a wick in history that would require
those ten thicknesses of darkness which belong with ten centuries, to
obscure. But no such thing could come in the instance of Big Kennedy;
his possibilities of eminence, like my own, were confined to Tammany and
its politics, since he had no more of education than have I. The time
has gone by in the world at large, and had in Big Kennedy’s day, when
the ignorant man can be the first man.

Upon the day following my release, as he had bid me.

I sought Big Kennedy. He was in his barroom, and the hour being
mid-morning I was so far lucky as to find him quite alone. He was quick
to see me, too, and seemed as full of a pleasant interest in me as
though my simple looks were of themselves good news. He did most of the
talking, for I sat backward and bashful, the more since I could feel his
sharp eyes upon me, taking my measure. Never was I so looked over and
so questioned, and not many minutes had come and gone before Big Kennedy
knew as much of me and my belongings as did I myself. Mayhap more; for
he weighed me in the scales of his experience with all the care of gold,
considering meanwhile to what uses I should be put, and how far I might
be expected to advance his ends.

One of his words I recall, for it gave me a glow of relief at the time;
at that it was no true word. It was when he heard how slightly I had
been taught of books.

“Never mind,” said he, “books as often as not get between a party’s legs
and trip him up. Better know men than books. There’s my library.” Here
he pointed to a group about a beer table. “I can learn more by studyin’
them than was ever found between the covers of a book, and make more out
of it.”

Big Kennedy told me I must go to work.

“You’ve got to work, d’ye see,” said he, “if it’s only to have an excuse
for livin’.”

Then he asked me what I could do. On making nothing clear by my
replies--for I knew of nothing--he descended to particulars.

“What do you know of horses? Can you drive one?”

My eye brightened; I might be trusted to handle a horse.

“An’ I’ll gamble you know your way about the East Side,” said he
confidently; “I’ll answer for that.” Then getting up he started for the
door, for no grass grew between decision and action with Big Kennedy.
“Come with me,” he said.

We had made no mighty journey when we stopped before a grocery. It was
a two-store front, and of a prosperous look, with a wealth of vegetables
and fruits in crates, and baskets, and barrels, covering half the
sidewalk. The proprietor was a rubicund German, who bustled forth at
sight of my companion.

“How is Mr. Kennedy?” This with exuberance. “It makes me prout that you
pay me a wisit.”

“Yes?” said the other dryly. Then, going directly to the point: “Here’s
a boy I’ve brought you, Nick. Let him drive one of your wagons. Give him
six dollars a week.”

“But, Mr. Kennedy,” replied the grocer dubiously, looking me over with
the tail of his eye, “I haf yet no wacancy. My wagons is all full.”

“I’m goin’ to get him new duds,” said Big Kennedy, “if that’s what
you’re thinkin’ about.”

Still, the grocer, though not without some show of respectful alarm,
insisted on a first position.

“If he was so well dressed even as you, Mr. Kennedy, yet I haf no
wacancy,” said he.

“Then make one,” responded Big Kennedy coolly. “Dismiss one of the boys
you have, d’ye see? At least two who work for you don’t belong in my
ward.” As the other continued doubtful Big Kennedy became sharp. “Come,
come, come!” he cried in a manner peremptory rather than fierce; “I
can’t wait all day. Don’t you feed your horses in the street? Don’t you
obstruct the sidewalks with your stuff? Don’t you sell liquor in your
rear room without a license? Don’t you violate a dozen ordinances? Don’t
the police stand it an’ pass you up? An’ yet you hold me here fiddlin’
and foolin’ away time!”

“Yes, yes, Mr. Kennedy,” cried the grocer, who from the first had sought
to stem the torrent of the other’s eloquence, “I was only try in’ to
think up w’ich horse I will let him drive alreatty. That’s honest! sure
as my name is Nick Fogel!”

Clothed in what was to me the splendors of a king, being indeed a full
new suit bought with Big Kennedy’s money, I began rattling about the
streets with a delivery wagon the very next day. As well as I could, I
tried to tell my thanks for the clothes.

“That’s all right,” said Big Kennedy. “I owe you that much for havin’
you chucked into a cell.”

While Grocer Fogel might have been a trifle slow in hiring me, once I
was engaged he proved amiable enough. I did my work well too, missing
few of the customers and losing none of the baskets and sacks. Grocer
Fogel was free with his praise and conceded my value. Still, since he
instantly built a platform in the street on the strength of my being
employed, and so violated a new and further ordinance upon which he
for long had had an eye, I have sometimes thought that in forming his
opinion of my worth he included this misdemeanor in his calculations.
However, I worked with my worthy German four years; laying down the
reins of that delivery wagon of my own will at the age of nineteen.

Nor was I without a profit in this trade of delivering potatoes and
cabbages and kindred grocery forage. It broadened the frontiers of my
acquaintance, and made known to me many of a solvent middle class, and
of rather a higher respectability than I might otherwise have met. It
served to clean up my manners, if nothing more, and before I was done,
that acquaintance became with me an asset of politics.

While I drove wagon for Grocer Fogel, my work of the day was over with
six o’clock. I had nothing to do with the care of the horses; I threw
the reins to a stable hand when at evening I went to the barn, and left
for my home without pausing to see the animals out of the straps or
their noses into the corn. Now, had I been formed with a genius for it,
I might have put in a deal of time at study. But nothing could have been
more distant from my taste or habit; neither then nor later did I engage
myself in any traffic with books, and throughout my life never opened a
half-dozen.

Still, considering those plans I had laid down for myself, and that
future of politics to which my ambition began to consider, I cannot
say I threw away my leisure. If my nose were not between the pages of
a book, my hands were within a pair of boxing gloves, and I, engaged
against this or that opponent, was leading or guarding, hitting or
stopping, rushing or getting away, and fitting to an utmost hand and
foot and eye and muscle for the task of beating a foeman black and blue
should the accidents or duties of life place one before me.

And I prospered with my boxing. I think I owned much native stomach for
the business, since in my sullen fashion I was as near the touch of true
happiness when in the midst of a mill as ever I hope to stand. My heart,
and with that word I mean courage, was of fighting sort. While I was
exceedingly cautious, my caution was based on courage. Men of this stamp
stay until the last and either conquer or fall. There be ones who have
courage, but their construction is the other way about. Their courage is
based on caution; such if hard bested run away. Should you seek the man
who will stand to the work of battle to the dour end, pick him whose
caution, coming first in the procession of his nature, is followed by
his courage, rather than that one whose caution follows his courage to
tap it on the shoulder, preach to it of peril, and counsel flight.

You are not to assume that I went about these boxing gymnastics because
of any savageries or blood-hunger dominant in my breast, or was moved
solely of that instinct by which the game-cock fights. I went to my
fist-studies as the result of thought and calculation. In my slow way
I had noted how those henchmen of the inner circle who surrounded Big
Kennedy--those who were near to him, and upon whom he most relied,
were wholly valued by him for the two matters of force of fist and that
fidelity which asks no question. Even a thicker intellect than mine
would have seen that to succeed as I proposed, I must be the gladiator.
Wherefore, I boxed and wrestled and perfected my muscles; also as
corollary I avoided drink and tobacco as I would two poisons.

And Big Kennedy, who had a little of his eye on me most of the time, was
so good as to approve. He applauded my refusal of alcohol and tobacco.
And he indorsed my determination to be a boxer.

“A man who can take care of himself with his hands,” said he, “an’ who
never lets whisky fool him or steal his head, can go far in this game of
politics. An’ it’s a pretty good game at that, is politics, and can be
brought to pay like a bank.”

It chanced that I met with an adventure which added to my celebration
in a way I could have wished. I was set upon by a drunken fellow--a
stranger. He was an invader, bent upon mischief and came from an
adjacent and a rival ward. I had offered no provocation; why he selected
me to be his victim and whether it were accident or design I cannot say.
Possibly I was pointed out to this drinking Hotspur as one from whose
conquest honor would flow; perhaps some enemy of the pattern of Sheeny
Joe had set him to it. All I know is that without challenge given, or
the least offer of warning, the creature bore down upon me, whirling his
fists like flails.

“You’re the party I’m lookin’ for!” was all he said.

In the mix-up to follow, and which I had neither time to consider
nor avoid, the visitor from that other ward was fully and indubitably
beaten. This was so evident that he himself admitted it when at the
finish of hostilities certain Samaritans gave him strong drink as a
restorative. It developed also that my assailant, in a shadowy subdued
way, was a kind of prizefighter, and by his own tribe deemed invincible.
My victory, therefore, made a noise in immediate circles; and I should
say it saved me from a deal of trouble and later strife, since it served
to place me in a class above the common. There came few so drunk or
so bold as to ask for trouble with me, and I found that this casual
battle--safe, too, because my prizefighter was too drunk to be
dangerous--had brought me a wealth of peace.

There dawned a day when Big Kennedy gave me a decisive mark of his
esteem. He presented me to his father. The elder Kennedy, white-haired
and furrowed of age, was known as “Old Mike.” He was a personage of
gravity and power, since his was the only voice in that region to which
Big Kennedy would yield. Wherefore to be of “Old Mike’s” acquaintance
shone in one’s favor like a title of knighthood.

Big Kennedy’s presentation speech, when he led me before his father,
was characteristic and peculiar. Old Mike was in the shadow of his front
porch, while three or four oldsters of the neighborhood, like a council
or a little court about a monarch, and all smoking short clay pipes,
were sitting about him.

“Here’s a pup,” cried Big Kennedy, with his hand on my shoulder, “I want
you to look over. He’s a great pup and ought to make a great dog.”

Old Mike glanced at me out of his twinkling gray eyes. After a moment he
said, addressing me:

“Come ag’in.”

That was all I had from Old Mike that journey.

Big Kennedy it should be said was a model for all sons. He kept his
father in ease and comfort in a house of his own. He was prone to have
Old Mike’s advice, particularly if what he proposed were a step novel or
one dangerous in its policy, and he never went to anything in the face
of Old Mike’s word. It wasn’t deference, it was faith; Big Kennedy
believed in the wisdom of Old Mike and relied upon it with a confidence
that was implicit. I shall have more to tell of Old Mike as my story
unrolls to the eye. If Big Kennedy were my example, Old Mike should be
called my mentor. Taking the cue from Big Kennedy, I came to own for Old
Mike that veneration which the youths of Ancient Greece felt for their
oracles, and as utterly accepted either his argument or conclusion. It
stood no wonder that I was impressed and played upon by this honor of an
introduction to Old Mike. To bring you before Old Mike and name you for
his consideration was the extremest proof of Big Kennedy’s regard. As
I’ve said, it glittered on one like the chain and spurs of knighthood,
and the fact of it gave me a pedestal among my fellows.

After my bout with that erring one who came out of his own ward to sup
grief at my hands, there began to collect about me a coterie of halfway
bruisers. This circle--and our enemies were quick to bestow upon it the
epithet of “gang”--never had formal organization. And while the members
were of the rougher sort, and each a man of his hands, the argument of
its coming together was not so much aggression as protection.

The town forty years ago was not a theater of peace and lambs’-wool
safety. One’s hand must keep one’s head, and a stout arm, backed by
a stout heart, traveled far. To leave one’s own ward, or even the
neighborhood where one lived, was to invite attack. In an alien ward,
one would be set upon and beaten to rags before one traveled a mile.
If one of the enemy were not equal to the business, others would lend a
hand. Whether it required one or two or three or twenty, the interloper
was fated to heir a drubbing. If his bones were not broken, he was
looked upon as fortunate, while those who had undertaken to correct his
wanderings went despised as bunglers who had slighted a task.

Now and then a war-party would make a sortie from their own region to
break windows and heads in the country of an enemy. Such hands often
descended upon the domain of Big Kennedy, and it was a notion of defense
against these Goths which brought the militant spirits I have mentioned
to my shoulder. It was we who must meet them, when they would make
desolate our territory. The police were of no use; they either walked
the other way in a spirit of cautious neutrality, or were driven into
hiding with a shower of stones.

By the common tongue, this coterie to collect at my back was named the
“Tin Whistle Gang.” Each member carried a whistle as part of his pocket
furniture. These were made of uniform pattern, and the same keen note,
like the screech of a hawk, was common to all.

The screaming fife-like song would bring out the Tin Whistles as hotly
bent for action as a colony of wasps. In those days, when might was
right, the sound of these whistles was a storm signal. Quiet people shut
their doors and drew their bolts, while apothecaries made ready to sell
lint and plasters.

It is required that I speak of the Tin Whistles in this place. I was now
for the first time to be called into political activity by Big Kennedy.
I was eighteen, and of a sober, steady, confident cast, and trustworthy
in a wordless way. Because I was sober of face and one not given to talk
or to laughter, men looked on me as five years better than my age; I
think these characteristics even imposed on Big Kennedy himself, for he
dealt with me as though I were a man full grown.

It was in the height of a campaign. Two days before the balloting, Big
Kennedy sent for me. There was a room to the rear of his bar. This room
was a holy of holies; no one entered there who was not established in
the confidence of Big Kennedy. It was a greater distinction even than
the acquaintance of Old Mike. Knowing these things, my brow flushed when
Big Kennedy led me into this sanctum of his policies.

“Now, if I didn’t trust you,” said Big Kennedy, looking me hard in the
eye, “if I didn’t trust you, you’d be t’other side of that door.” I said
nothing; I had found that silence pleased Big Kennedy, and I learned
early to keep my tongue between my teeth. Big Kennedy went on: “On
election day the polls will close at six o’clock. Half an hour before
they close, take that Bible Class of yours, the Tin Whistles, and drive
every one of the opposition workers an’ ticket peddlers away from the
polling place. You’ll know them by their badges. I don’t want anyone
hurt mor’n you have to. The less blood, the better. Blood’s news; it
gets into the papers. Now remember: half an hour before six, blow your
whistle an’ sail in. When you’ve got the other fellows on the run,
keep’em goin’. And don’t let’em come back, d’ye see.”



CHAPTER V--THE BATTLE OF THE BALLOTS


BIG KENNEDY’S commands concerning the Tin Whistles taught me that
lurking somewhere in the election situation he smelled peril to himself.
Commonly, while his methods might be a wide shot to the left of the
lawful, they were never violent. He must feel himself hard pressed to
call for fist and club. He lived at present cross-purposes with sundry
high spirits of the general organization; perhaps a word was abroad for
his disaster and he had heard some sigh of it. This would be nothing
wonderful; coarse as he seemed fibered, Big Kennedy had spun his web
throughout the ward as close-meshed as any spider, and any fluttering
proof of treason was certain to be caught in it.

The election, while the office at local bay came to be no weightier than
that of Alderman, was of moment to Big Kennedy. Defeat would mean
his eclipse, and might even spell his death of politics. To lose the
Alderman was to let fall the reins of ward direction. The Alderman and
his turtle-devouring fellows cracked the whip over the police whom they
appointed or dismissed, and the police were a ballot-engine not to be
resisted. He who held the Alderman, held the police; and he who had the
police, carried victory between his hands.

Doubtless it was some inner-circle treachery which Big Kennedy
apprehended. The regular opposition, while numerous and carrying on
its muster rolls the best respectability of the ward, lacked of that
organization which was the ridgepole of Big Kennedy’s supremacies.
It straggled, and was mob-like in its movements; and while, as I’ve
written, it showed strong in numbers, it was no more to be collected or
fashioned into any telling force for political effort than a flock of
grazing sheep. If there were to come nothing before him more formidable
than the regular opposition, Big Kennedy would go over it like a train
of cars and ask no aid of shoulder-hitters. Such innocent ones might
stand three deep about a ballot-box, and yet Big Kennedy would take from
it what count of votes he chose and they be none the wiser. It would
come to no more than cheating a child at cards.

The open opposition to Big Kennedy was made up of divers misfit
elements. At its head, as a sort of captain by courtesy, flourished
that reputable peppery old gentleman who aforetime took my part against
Sheeny Joe. A bit in love with his own eloquence, and eager for a forum
wherein to exercise it, the reputable old gentleman had named himself
for Alderman against Big Kennedy’s candidate. As a campaign scheme
of vote-getting--for he believed he had but to be heard to convince
a listener--the reputable old gentleman engaged himself upon what he
termed a house-to-house canvass.

It was the evening of that day whereon Big Kennedy gave me those orders
touching the Tin Whistles when the reputable old gentleman paid a visit
to Old Mike, that Nestor being as usual on his porch and comforting
himself with a pipe. I chanced to be present at the conversation,
although I had no word therein; I was much at Old Mike’s knee during
those callow days, having an appetite for his counsel.

“Good-evening, sir,” said the reputable old gentleman, taking a chair
which Old Mike’s politeness provided, “good-evening, sir. My name
is Morton--Mr. Morton of the Morton Bank. I live in Lafayette Place.
Incidentally, I am a candidate for the office of Alderman, and I thought
I’d take the freedom of a neighbor and a taxpayer and talk with you on
that topic of general interest.”

“Why then,” returned Old Mike, with a cynical grin, “I’m th’ daddy of
Big Jawn Kennedy, an’ for ye to talk to me would be loike throwin’ away
your toime.”

The reputable old gentleman was set aback by the news. Next he took
heart of grace.

“For,” he said, turning upon Old Alike a pleasant eye, although just a
dash of the patronizing showed in the curve of his brow, “if I should be
so fortunate as to explain to you your whole duty of politics, it might
influence your son. Your son, I understand, listens greatly to your
word.”

“He would be a ba-ad son who didn’t moind his own father,” returned Old
Mike. “As to me jooty av politics--it’s th’ same as every other man’s.
It’s the jooty av lookin’ out for meself.”

This open-air selfishness as declared by Old Mike rather served to shock
the reputable old gentleman.

“And in politics do you think first of yourself?” he asked.

“Not only first, but lasht,” replied Old Mike. “An’ so do you; an’ so
does every man.”

“I cannot understand the narrowness of your view,” retorted the
reputable old gentleman, somewhat austere and distant. “You are a
respectable man; you call yourself a good citizen?”

“Why,” responded Old Mike, for the other’s remark concluded with a
rising inflection like a question, “I get along with th’ p’lice; an’ I
get along with th’ priests--what more should a man say!”

“Are you a taxpayer?”

“I have th’ house,” responded Old Mike, with a smile.

The reputable old gentleman considered the other dubiously. Evidently he
didn’t regard Old Mike’s one-story cottage as all that might be desired
in the way of credentials. Still he pushed on.

“Have you given much attention to political economy?” This with an
erudite cough. “Have you made politics a study?”

“From me cradle,” returned Old Mike. “Every Irishman does. I knew so
much about politics before I was twinty-one, th’ British Government
would have transhported me av I’d stayed in Dublin.”

“I should think,” said the reputable old gentleman, with a look of one
who had found something to stand on, “that if you ran from tyranny in
Ireland, you would refuse here to submit to the tyranny of Tammany Hall.
If you couldn’t abide a Queen, how can you now put up with a Boss?”

“I didn’t run from th’ Queen, I ran from th’ laws,” said Old Mike. “As
for the Boss--everything that succeeds has a Boss. The President’s a
boss; the Pope’s a boss; Stewart’s a boss in his store down in City
Hall Park. That’s right; everything that succeeds has a boss. Nothing is
strong enough to stand the mishtakes av more than one man. Ireland would
have been free th’ long cinturies ago if she’d only had a boss.”

“But do you call it good citizenship,” demanded the reputable old
gentleman, not a trifle nettled by Old Mike’s hard-shell philosophy of
state; “do you call it good citizenship to take your orders from a boss?
You are loyal to Tammany before you are loyal to the City?”

“Shure!” returned Old Mike, puffing the puffs of him who is undisturbed.
“Do ye ever pick up a hand in a game av ca-ards?” The reputable old
gentleman seemed properly disgusted. “There you be then! City Government
is but a game; so’s all government, Shure, it’s as if you an’ me were
playin’ a game av ca-ards, this politics; your party is your hand, an’
Tammany is my hand. In a game of ca-ards, which are ye loyal to, is it
your hand or the game? Man, it’s your hand av coorse! By the same token!
I am loyal to Tammany Hall.”

That closed the discussion; the reputable old gentleman went his way,
and one might tell by his face that the question to assail him was
whether he had been in a verbal encounter with a Bedlamite or an
Anarchist. He did not recognize me, nor was I sorry. I liked the
reputable old gentleman because of that other day, and would not have
had him discover me in what he so plainly felt to be dangerous company.

“He’s a mighty ignorant man,” said Old Mike, pointing after the
reputable old gentleman with the stem of his pipe. “What this country
has mosht to fear is th’ ignorance av th’ rich.”

It stood perhaps ten of the clock on the morning of election day when,
on word sent me, I waited on Big Kennedy in his barroom. When he had
drawn me into his sanctum at the rear, he, as was his custom, came
pointedly to the purpose.

“There’s a fight bein’ made on me,” he said. “They’ve put out a lot of
money on the quiet among my own people, an’ think to sneak th’ play on
me.” While Big Kennedy talked, his eyes never left mine, and I could
feel he was searching me for any flickering sign that the enemy had been
tampering with my fealty. I stared back at him like a statue. “An’,”
 went on Big Kennedy, “not to put a feather-edge on it, I thought I’d run
you over, an’ see if they’d been fixin’ you. I guess you’re all right;
you look on the level.” Then swinging abruptly to the business of the
day; “Have you got your gang ready?”

“Yes,” I nodded.

“Remember my orders. Five-thirty is the time. Go for the blokes with
badges--th’ ticket peddlers. An’ mind! don’t pound’em, chase’em. Unless
they stop to slug with you, don’t put a hand on’em.”

Being thus re-instructed and about to depart, I made bold to ask Big
Kennedy if there were any danger of his man’s defeat. He shook his head.

“Not a glimmer,” he replied. “But we’ve got to keep movin’. They’ve put
out stacks of money. They’ve settled it to help elect the opposition
candidate--this old gent, Morton. They don’t care to win; they’re only
out to make me lose. If they could take the Alderman an’ the police away
from me, they would go in next trip an’ kill me too dead to skin. But
it’s no go; they can’t make th’ dock. They’ve put in their money; but
I’ll show’em a trick that beats money to a standstill.”

It was as I had surmised; Big Kennedy feared treachery and the underhand
support of the enemy by men whom he called his friends. For myself, I
would stand by him. Beg Kennedy was the only captain I knew.

To the commands of Big Kennedy, and their execution, I turned with
as ready a heart as ever sent duck to drink. No impulse to disobey or
desert so much as crossed my slope of thought. Tammany Hall has ever
been military in its spirit. Big Kennedy was my superior officer, I but
a subaltern; it was my province to accept his commands and carry them
forward without argument or pause.

In full and proper season, I had my Tin Whistles in hand. I did not
march them to the polling place in a body, since I was not one to
obstreperously vaunt or flaunt an enterprise in advance. Also, I was too
much the instinctive soldier to disclose either my force or my purpose,
and I knew the value of surprise.

There were a round twenty of my Tin Whistles, each a shoulder-hitter
and warm to shine in the graces of Big Kennedy. I might have recruited
a double strength, but there was no need. I had counted the foe; the
poll-tenders of the opposition numbered but ten; my twenty, and each a
berserk of his fists, ought to scatter them like a flock of sparrows. My
instructions given to my fellows were precisely Big Kennedy’s orders as
given to me; no blows, no blood unless made necessary by resistance.

As the time drew down for action, my Tin Whistles were scattered about,
sticking close to the elbows of the enemy, and waiting the signal. The
polling booth was a small frame construction, not much larger than a
Saratoga trunk. On other occasions it served as the office of a wood and
coal concern. The table, with the ballot-box thereon, stood squarely
in the door; behind it were the five or six officers--judges and tally
clerks--of election. There was a crush and crowd of Big Kennedy’s
clansmen to entirely surround the little building, and they so choked
up the path that ones who had still to vote couldn’t push through. There
arose, too, a deal of shoving and jostling, and all to a running uproar
of profanity; affairs appeared to be drifting towards the disorderly.

The reputable old gentleman, his face red with indignation, was moving
to and fro on the outskirts of the crowd, looking for a police officer.
He would have him cut a way through the press for those who still owned
votes. No officer was visible; the reputable old gentleman, even though
he searched with that zeal common of candidates anxious for success,
would have no aid from the constabulary.

“And this is the protection,” cried the reputable old gentleman,
striding up to Big Kennedy, and shaking a wrathful finger in his face,
“that citizens and taxpayers receive from the authorities! Here are
scores of voters who are being blocked from the polls and robbed of
their franchise. It’s an outrage!”

Big Kennedy smiled upon the reputable old gentleman, but made no other
reply.

“It’s an outrage!” repeated the reputable old gentleman in a towering
fury. “Do you hear? It’s an outrage on the taxpaying citizens of this
town!”

“Look out, old man!” observed a young fellow who stood at Big Kennedy’s
side, and who from his blackened hands and greasy blue shirt seemed to
be the engineer of some tug. “Don’t get too hot. You’ll blow a cylinder
head.”

“How dare you!” fumed the reputable old gentleman; “you, a mere boy by
comparison! how dare you address me in such terms! I’m old enough, sir,
to be your father! You should understand, sir, that I’ve voted for a
president eight times in my life.”

“That’s nothin’,” returned the other gayly; “I have voted for a
president eighty times before ten o’clock.”

In the midst of the laugh that followed this piece of characteristic
wit, Big Kennedy crossed to where I stood.

“Send your boys along!” said he. “Let’s see how good you are.”

My whistle screamed the signal. At the first sharp note, a cry went up:

“The Tin Whistles! The Tin Whistles!”

It was done in a moment; a pair to a man, my Tin Whistles were sending
their quarry down the streets as fast as feet might follow. And they
obeyed directions; not a blow was struck, no blood was drawn; there was
a hustling flurry, and the others took to their heels. The hard repute
of the Tin Whistles was such that no ten were wild enough to face them
or meet their charge.

As the Tin Whistles fell upon their victims, the press of men that
surged about the polling place began to shout, and strain, and tug.
Suddenly, the small building commenced to heave and lift suspiciously.
It was as though an earthquake were busy at its base. The mob about the
structure seemed to be rolling it over on its side. That would be
no feat, with men enough to set hand upon it and carry it off like a
parcel.

With the first heave there came shouts and oaths from those within.
Then arose a crashing of glass, and the table was cast aside, as the
threatened clerks and judges fought to escape through door and window.
In the rush and scamper of it, a sharp hand seized the ballot-box.

Ten minutes the riot raged. It was calmed by Big Kennedy, who forced
himself into the middle of the tumult, hurling men right and left with
his powerful hands as though they were sacks of bran, while he commanded
the peace in a voice like the roar of a lion.

Peace fell; the little building, which had not been overthrown, but only
rocked and tipped, settled again to a decorous safe solidity; the judges
and the clerks returned; the restored ballot-box again occupied the
table.

As that active one, who had saved the ballot-box when the downfall of
the building seemed threatened came edgewise through the throng, he
passed close to Big Kennedy. The latter gave him a sharp glance of
inquiry.

“I stuffed it full to the cover,” whispered the active one. “We win four
to one, an’ you can put down your money on that!”

Big Kennedy nodded, and the zealot who saved the ballot-box passed on
and disappeared.

When the Tin Whistles fell upon their prey, I started to go with them.
But in a moment I saw there was no call; the foe went off at top flight,
and my twenty would keep them moving. Thus reasoning, I turned again to
see what was going forward about the booth.

My interest was immediately engaged by the words and actions of the
reputable old gentleman, who, driven to frenzy, was denouncing. Big
Kennedy and all who wore his colors as scoundrels without measure or
mate.

“I defy both you and your plug-uglies,” he was shouting, flourishing his
fist in the face of Big Kennedy, who, busy with his own plans, did not
heed him. “This is a plot to stuff the ballot-box.”

The reputable old gentleman had gone thus far, when a hulking creature
of a rough struck him from behind with a sandbag. I sprang forward, and
fended away a second blow with my left arm. As I did so, I struck the
rough on the jaw with such vengeful force that, not only did he drop
like some pole-axed ox, but my right hand was fairly wrecked
thereby. Without pausing to discover my own condition or that of the
sandbag-wielding ruffian, I picked up the reputable old gentleman and
bore him out of the crowd.

The reputable old gentleman had come by no serious harm; he was stunned
a trifle, and his hat broken. With me to hold him up, he could stand on
his feet, though still dazed and addled from the dull power of the blow.
I beckoned a carriage which Big Kennedy had employed to bring the old
and infirm to the polling place. It came at my signal, and I placed the
reputable old gentleman inside, and told the driver to take him to his
home. The reputable old gentleman was murmuring and shaking his head
as he drove away. As I closed the carriage door, he muttered: “This
is barbarous! That citizens and taxpayers should receive such
treatment------” The balance was lost in the gride of the wheels.

The hurly-burly had now ceased; all was as calm and equal as a goose
pond.

“So you saved the old gentleman,” said Big Kennedy, as he came towards
me. “Gratitude, I s’pose, because he stood pal to you ag’inst Sheeny
Joe that time. Gratitude! You’ll get over that in time,” and Big Kennedy
wore a pitying look as one who dwells upon another’s weakness. “That was
Jimmy the Blacksmith you smashed. You’d better look out for him after
this.” My dander was still on end, and I intimated a readiness to look
out for Jimmy the Blacksmith at once.

“Mind your back now!” cautioned Big Kennedy, “and don’t take to gettin’
it up. Let things go as they lay. Never fight till you have to, d’ye
see! an’ never fight for fun. Don’t go lookin’ for th’ Blacksmith until
you hear he’s out lookin’ for you.” Then, as shifting the subject: “It’s
been a great day, an’ everything to run off as smooth an’ true as sayin’
mass. Now let’s go back and watch’em count the votes.”

“Did we beat them?” I asked.

“Snowed’em under!” said Big Kennedy.



CHAPTER VI--THE RED JACKET ASSOCIATION


BIG KENNEDY’S success at the election served to tighten the rivets of
his rule. It was now I looked to see him ferret forth and punish those
renegades who had wrought against him in the dark. To my amazement he
engaged himself in no such retaliatory labor. On the contrary he smiled
on all about him like the sun at noon. Was it folly or want of heart
that tied his hands? Assuredly it was error, and this I submitted to Old
Mike. That veteran of policy disagreed with this, meanwhile beaming upon
me in a way of fatherly cunning.

“Jawn knows his business,” said Old Mike. “Thim people didn’t rebel,
they sold out. That’s over with an’ gone by. Everybody’ll sell ye out
if he gets enough; that’s a rishk ye have to take. There’s that Limerick
man, Gaffney, however; ye’ll see something happen to Gaffney. He’s one
of thim patent-leather Micks an’ puts on airs. He’s schemin’ to tur-rn
Jawn down an’ take th’ wa-ard. Ye’ll see something happen to that
Limerick man, Gaffney.”

Gaffney made his money with flour and horse feed and hay and similar
goods. Also, as Old Mike said, Gaffney was ambitious. It was within the
week, when a midnight shower of stones smashed sash and glass and laid
waste that offensive merchant’s place of business. Gaffney restored his
sash and glass only to invite a second midnight storm of stones. Three
times were Gaffney’s windows smashed by hands unknown; and no police
officer would go within two blocks of Gaffney’s. In the end, Gaffney
came to Big Kennedy. The latter met him with a hectoring laugh.

“Why do you come to me?” asked Big Kennedy. “Somebody’s been trying to
smash the windows of my leadership for over a year, but I never went
howling about it to you.”

Gaffney showed not a little shaken. He asked, in a manner sullen yet
beaten, what he should do.

“I’d get out of th’ ward,” replied Big Kennedy as cool as ice.
“Somebody’s got it in for you. Now a man that’ll throw a brick will
light a match, d’ye see, an’ a feed store would burn like a tar barrel.”

“If I could sell out, I’d quit,” said Gaffney.

“Well,” responded Big Kennedy, “I always like to help a friend.”

Grocer Fogel bought Gaffney’s store, making a bargain.

This iron-bound lesson in practical politics I dwell on in full. I drew
from it some notion of the stern character of that science. Old Mike,
from the pinnacles of his hard experience, looked down to justify it.

“Gaffney would do th’ same,” said Old Mike, “if his ar-rm was long
enough. Politics is a game where losers lose all; it’s like war, shure,
only no one’s kilt--at any rate, not so many.”

As the days drew on, I grew in favor with Big Kennedy, and the blossom
thereof took this color.

“Why don’t you start a club?” he asked one afternoon, as we sat in his
sanctum. “You could bring two hundred young fellows together, couldn’t
you?”

“Yes,” I replied. I spoke doubtfully; the suggestion was of the
sharpest, and gave me no space to think. It was one, too, which asked
questions of the kind that don’t answer themselves. “But where would
they meet?” I put this after a pause.

“There’s the big lodgeroom over my saloon,” and Big Kennedy tossed his
stubby thumb towards the ceiling. “You could meet there. There’s a dumb
waiter from the bar to send up beer and smokes.”

“How about the Tin Whistles?” I hinted. “Would they do to build on?”

“Leave the Tin Whistles out. They’re all right as shoulder-hitters,
an’ a swifter gang to help at the polls, or break up the opposition’s
meetin’s, never walked the streets. But for a play of this kind, they’re
a little off color. Your Tin Whistles can join, man by man, but if they
do they must sing low. They mustn’t try to give the show; it’s the
back seat for them. What you’re out for now is the respectable young
workin’-man racket; that’s the lay.”

“But where’s the money?” said I. “These people I have in mind haven’t
much money.”

“Of course not,” retorted Big Kennedy confidently, “an’ what little they
have they want for beer. But listen: You get the room free. Then once
a year your club gives an excursion on the river; it ought to sell
hundreds of tickets because there’ll be hundreds of officeholders, an’
breweries, an’ saloon keepers, an’ that sort who’ll be crazy to buy’em.
If they aint crazy to start with, you ought to be able to make’em crazy
th’ first election that comes ‘round. The excursion should bring three
thousand dollars over an’ above expenses, d’ye see. Then you can give
balls in the winter an’ sell tickets. Then there’s subscriptions an’
hon’ry memberships. You’ll ketch on; there’s lots of ways to skin th’
cat. You can keep th’ club in clover an’ have some of the long green
left. That’s settled then; you organize a young men’s club. You be
president an’ treasurer; see to that. An’ now,” here Big Kennedy took me
by the shoulder and looked me instructively in the eye, “it’s time for
you to be clinchin’ onto some stuff for yourself. This club’s goin’ to
take a lot of your time. It’ll make you do plenty of work. You’re
no treetoad; you can’t live on air an’ scenery.” Big Kennedy’s look
deepened, and he shook me as one who demands attention. “You’ll be
president and treasurer, particularly treasurer; and I’ll chip you in
this piece of advice. A good cook always licks his fingers.” Here he
winked deeply.

This long speech was not thrown away. Big Kennedy, having delivered
himself, lapsed into silence, while I sat ruminating ways and means and
what initiatory steps I should take.

“What shall we call it?” I asked, as I arose to go.

“Give it an Indian name,” said Big Kennedy. “S’p-pose you call it the
Red Jacket Association.”

Within the fortnight the Red Jackets held their maiden meeting. It was
an hour rife of jubilation, fellowship, and cheer. While abstinence from
drink was my guiding phrase, I made no point of that kind in the conduct
of others, and a nearby brewery having contributed unlimited beer those
whom it pleased lacked no reason for a light heart.

As Big Kennedy had advised, I was chosen for the double responsibilities
of president and treasurer. I may say in my own compliment, however,
that these honors came drifting to my feet. There were reasons for this
aside from any stiffness of heart or fist-virtues which might be mine.
I have said that I was by disposition as taciturn as a tree, and this
wondrous gift of silence earned me the name of wisdom, I was looked
upon as one whose depth was rival to the ocean’s. Stronger still, as
the argument by which I rose, was my sobriety. The man who drinks, and
whether it be little or much, never fails to save his great respect for
him who sets whisky aside.

“An’ now,” remarked Big Kennedy, when the club had found fortunate
birth, “with these Red Jackets to make the decent front, th’ Tin
Whistles to fall back on for the rough work, and Gaffney out of th’ way,
I call th’ ward cleaned up. I’ll tell you this, my son: after th’ next
election you shall have an office, or there’s no such man as Big John
Kennedy.” He smote the table with his heavy hand until the glasses
danced.

“But I won’t be of age,” I suggested.

“What’s the difference?” said Big Kennedy. “We’ll play that you are,
d’ye see. There’ll be no one fool enough to talk about your age if I’m
at your side. We’ll make it a place in the dock department; that’ll be
about your size. S’ppose we say a perch where there’s twelve hundred
dollars a year, an’ nothin’ to do but draw th’ scads an’ help your
friends.”

Jimmy the Blacksmith was an under-captain of Big Kennedy’s and prevailed
as vote-master in the northern end of the ward. Within certain fixed
frontiers, which ran on one side within a block of my home, it was the
business of Jimmy the Blacksmith to have watch and ward. He had charge
of what meetings were held, and under the thumb of Big Kennedy carried
forward the campaign, and on election day got out the vote.

Having given the question its share of thought, I determined for myself
on a forward, upward step. My determination--heart and soul--became
agate-hard to drive Jimmy the Blacksmith from his place, and set up my
own rule over that slender kingdom.

Nor would I say aught to Big Kennedy of this private war which I
meditated. Not that he would have interfered either to thwart or aid me,
but by the ethics of the situation, to give him such notice was neither
proper nor expected. To fight Jimmy the Blacksmith for his crown was
not only right by every rule of ward justice, but it was the thing
encouraged as a plan best likely to bring the strongest to the fore.
Take what you may, keep what you can! was a Tammany statute; I would be
right enough in that overthrow of Jimmy the Blacksmith, I was bent upon,
if only I proved strong enough to bring it about. No, I was not to give
word of my campaign to Big Kennedy, it was none of his affair, and he
would prefer to be ignorant since he was bound to stand neutral. It is
policy thus to let the younger cocks try beak and spur among themselves;
it develops leadership, and is the one sure way of safety in picking out
your captains.

There was one drawback; I didn’t live within the region of which I would
make prize. However, ambition edged my wits and I bethought me of a plan
whereby I might plow around that stump.

It was my own good fortune that I had no love, but only hate, for Jimmy
the Blacksmith. I was yet so softened of a want of years, that had we
been friends I would have withheld myself from attacking him. Youth is
generous, wherefore youth is weak. It is not until age has stopped these
leaks in one’s nature, and one ceases to give and only lives to take and
keep, that one’s estate begins to take on fat. Have the word, therefore,
of him whose scars speak for his experience: that one will be wise who
regards generosity as a malady, a mere disease, and sets to cure it with
every sullen, cruel drug the case demands. I say it was my good luck to
hate Jimmy the Blacksmith. He had never condoned that election-day blow,
and I must confess there was reason for this hardness. His jaw had been
broken, and, though mended, it was still all of one side and made of him
a most forbidding spectacle. And he nursed a thought of revenge in his
breast; there came a light to his eye when we met that belongs with none
save him whose merest wish is murder. I would have had more than black
looks, but his heart was of a pale and treacherous family that can
strike no blow in front, and thus far the pathway of chance had not
opened for him to come upon me unaware. For all of which, not alone my
ambition, but my safety and my pleasure urged me about the destruction
of Jimmy the Blacksmith.

That epithet of the Blacksmith was born of no labors of the forge. Jimmy
the Blacksmith was no more a blacksmith than a bishop. If he ever did
a day’s work, then the fact was already so far astern upon the tides
of time that no eye of memory might discern it. The title was won in a
brawl wherein he slew a man. True to his nature, Jimmy slunk away
from his adversary and would not face him. He returned, carrying a
blacksmith’s fore-hammer. Creeping behind the other, Jimmy suddenly
cried, with an oath:

“I’ll clink your anvil for you!”

With that word, the hammer descended and the victim fell, skull crushed
like an eggshell. It required a deal of perjury to save the murderer
from noose and trap. I should not say he was set backward by this
bloodshed, since most men feared him for it and stepped out of his way,
giving him what he asked for in the name of their own safety. It was
for this work he was called the Blacksmith, and he carried the word as
though it were a decoration.

Such was the man on whose downfall I stood resolved and whose place I
meant to make my own. The thing was simple of performance too; all it
asked were secrecy and a little wit. There was a Tammany club, one of
regular sort and not like my Red Jacket Association, which was volunteer
in its character. It met in that kingdom of the Blacksmith’s as a little
parliament of politics. This club was privileged each year to name for
Big Kennedy’s approval a man for that post of undercaptain. The annual
selection was at hand. For four years the club had named Jimmy the
Blacksmith; there came never the hint for believing he would not be
pitched upon again.

Now be it known that scores of my Red Jackets were residents of the
district over which Jimmy the Blacksmith held sway. Some there were who
already belonged to his club. I gave those others word to join at once.
Also I told them, as they regarded their standing as Red Jackets, to be
present at that annual meeting.

The night arrived; the room was small and the attendance--except for my
Red Jackets--being sparse, my people counted for three-quarters of those
present. With the earliest move I took possession of the meeting, and
selected its chairman. Then, by resolution, I added the block in which
I resided to the public domain of the club. That question of residence
replied to, instead of Jimmy the Blacksmith, I was named ballot-captain
for the year. It was no more complex as a transaction than counting ten.
The fact was accomplished like scratching a match; I had set the foot of
my climbing on Jimmy the Blacksmith’s neck.

That unworthy was present; and to say he was made mad with the fury of
it would be to write with snow the color of his feelings.

“It’s a steal!” he cried, springing to his feet. The little bandbox of
a hall rang with his roarings. Then, to me: “I’ll fight you for it! You
don’t dare meet me in the Peach Orchard to-morrow at three!”

“Bring your sledge, Jimmy,” shouted some humorist; “you’ll need it.”

The Peach Orchard might have been a peach orchard in the days of
Peter Stuyvesant. All formal battles took place in the Peach Orchard.
Wherefore, and because the challenge for its propriety was not without
precedent, to the Peach Orchard at the hour named I repaired.

Jimmy the Blacksmith, however, came not. Someone brought the word
that he was sick; whereat those present, being fifty gentlemen with a
curiosity to look on carnage, and ones whose own robust health led them
to regard the term “sickness” as a synonym for the preposterous, jeered
the name of Jimmy the Blacksmith from their hearts.

“Jimmy the Cur! it ought to be,” growled one, whose disappointment over
a fight deferred was sore in the extreme.

Perhaps you will argue that it smacked of the underhand to thus steal
upon Jimmy the Blacksmith and take his place from him without due
warning given. I confess it would have been more like chivalry if I had
sent him, so to say, a glove and told my intentions against him. Also
it would have augmented labor and multiplied risk. The great thing is
to win and win cheaply; a victory that costs more than it comes to is
nothing but a mask for defeat.

“You’re down and out,” said Big Kennedy, when Jimmy the Blacksmith
brought his injuries to that chieftain. “Your reputation is gone too;
you were a fool to say ‘Peach Orchard’ when you lacked the nerve to make
it good. You’ll never hold up your head ag’in in th’ ward, an’ if I was
you I’d line out after Gaffney. This is a bad ward for a mongrel, Jimmy,
an’ I’d skin out.”

Jimmy the Blacksmith followed Gaffney and disappeared from the country
of Big Kennedy. He was to occur again in my career, however, as he who
reads on shall see, and under conditions which struck the color from
my cheek and set my heart to a trot with the terrors they loosed at its
heels.



CHAPTER VII--HOW THE BOSS WAS NAMED FOR ALDERMAN


NOW it was that in secret my ambition took a hearty start and would
vine-like creep and clamber. My triumph over Jimmy the Blacksmith added
vastly to my stature of politics. Moreover, the sly intrigue by which I
conquered began to found for me a fame. I had been locally illustrious,
if I may so set the term to work, for a granite fist and a courage as
rooted as a tree. For these traits the roughs revered me, and I may
say I found my uses and rewards. Following my conquest of that
under-captaincy, however, certain upper circles began to take account of
me; circles which, if no purer than those others of ruder feather, were
wont to produce more bulging profits in the pockets of their membership.
In brief, I came to be known for one capable and cunning of a plot, and
who was not without a genius for the executive.

With Big Kennedy I took high position. His relations with Jimmy
the Blacksmith never had been close; he had never unbuckled in any
friendship and felt for him nothing nearer than distrust. But for me
he held another pose. Big Kennedy, upon my elevation, fair made me his
partner in the ward, a partnership wherein, to speak commercially, I
might be said to have had an interest of one-fourth. This promotion
brought me pleasure; and being only a boy when all was said, while I
went outwardly quiet, my spirit in the privacy of my own bosom would on
occasion spread moderately its tail and strut.

Now, as time passed, I became like the shadow of Big Kennedy’s authority
throughout the ward; my voice was listened to and my word obeyed. I
should say, too, that I made it a first concern to carry the interest of
Big Kennedy ever on the crest of my thought. This should be called the
offspring neither of loyalty nor gratitude; I did it because it was
demanded of my safety and to curry advantage for myself. For all that
attitude of confident friendship, I was not put off my guard. Big
Kennedy never let my conduct roam beyond his ken. A first sign of an
interest outside his own would have meant my instant disappearance. He
would have plucked me of my last plume. With a breath he could reduce me
to be a beggarman where now I gave alms. Having, therefore, the measure
of his fell abilities, I was not so blind as to draw their horns my way.

Still, while I went tamely to heel at a word from Big Kennedy, I had
also resolved to advance. I meant before all was over to mount the
last summit of Tammany Hall. I laid out my life as architects lay out a
building; it would call for years, but I had years to give.

My work with Grocer Fogel had ended long ago. I now gave myself entirely
to the party, and to deepen the foundations of its power. Inside our
lines a mighty harmony prevailed. Big Kennedy and those headquarters
enemies who once schemed for his defeat had healed their differences and
the surface of events showed as serene as summer seas. About this time
a great star was rising in the Tammany sky; a new chief was gaining
evolution. Already, his name was first, and although he cloaked his
dictatorship with prudence, the sophisticated knew how his will was even
then as law and through his convenient glove of velvet felt his grip of
steel.

For myself, I closely observed the unfolding of his genius. His methods
as well as those of Big Kennedy were now my daily lesson. I had
ever before me in that formative, plastic hour the examples of these
past-masters of the art of domination.

It was well for me. A dictator is so much unlike a poet that he is made,
not born. He must build himself; and when completed he must save himself
from being torn to pieces. No one blunders into a dictatorship; one
might as well look to blunder upon some mountain peak. Even blunders
are amenable to natural law, and it can be taken as a truism that no one
blunders up hill.

Wherefore, he who would be dictator and with his touch determine the day
for pushing, struggling, rebelling thousands and mold their times for
them, must study. And study hard I did.

My Red Jackets received my most jealous care. They deserved that much
from me, since their existence offered measurably for my support. When
the day arrived, I was given that twelve-hundred-dollar place with the
docks, whereof Big Kennedy had spoken, and under his suggestion and to
the limits of my strength made what employ of it I might for my own and
my friends’ behoof. But those twelve hundred dollars would not go far
in the affairs of one who must for their franchises lead hither and yon
divers scores of folk, all of whom had but the one notion of politics,
that it was founded of free beer. There came, too, a procession of
borrowers, and it was a dull day when, in sums from a dime to a dollar,
I did not to these clients part with an aggregate that would have
supported any family for any decent week. There existed no door of
escape; these charges, and others of similar kidney, must be met and
borne; it was the only way to keep one’s hold of politics; and so Old
Mike would tell me.

“But it’s better,” said that deep one, “to lind people money than give
it to’em. You kape thim bechune your finger longer by lindin’.”

It was on the Red Jackets I leaned most for personal revenue. They were
my bread-winners. No Tammany organization, great or small, keeps books.
No man may say what is received, or what is disbursed, or name him who
gave or got; and that is as it should be. If it were otherwise, one’s
troubles would never earn an end. For the Red Jackets I was--to steal
a title from the general organization--not alone the treasurer, but the
wiskinskie. In this latter rôle I collected the money that came in.
Thus the interests, financial, of the Red Jackets were wholly within
my hands, and recalling what Big Kennedy had said anent a good cook, I
failed not to lick my fingers.

Money was in no wise difficult to get. The Red Jackets were formidable
both for numbers and influence, and their favor or resentment meant
a round one thousand votes. Besides, there stood the memorable Tin
Whistles, reckless, militant, ready for any midnight thing, and their
dim outlines, like a challenge or a threat, filled up the cloudy
background. Those with hopes or fears of office, and others who as
merchants or saloonkeepers, or who gambled, or did worse, to say naught
of builders who found the streets and pavements a convenient even though
an illegal resting place for their materials of bricks and lime and
lumber, never failed of response to a suggestion that the good Red
Jackets stood in need of help. Every man of these contributing gentry,
at their trades of dollar-getting, was violating law or ordinance, and
I who had the police at my beck could instantly contract their liberties
to a point that pinched. When such were the conditions, anyone with an
imagination above a shoemaker’s will see that to produce what funds
my wants demanded would be the lightest of tasks. It was like grinding
sugar canes, and as easily sure of steady sweet returns.

True, as an exception to a rule, one met now and again with him who for
some native bull-necked obstinacy would refuse a contribution. In such
event the secret of his frugality was certain to leak forth and spread
itself among my followers. It would not be required that one offer even
a hint. Soon as ever the tale of that parsimony reached the ear of a Tin
Whistle, disasters like a flock of buzzards collected about the saving
man. His windows were darkly broken like Gaffney’s. Or if he were a
grocer his wares would upset themselves about the pavements, his carts
of delivery break down, his harnesses part and fall in pieces, and he
beset to dine off sorrow in many a different dish.

And then and always there were the police to call his violative eye to
this ordinance, or hale him before a magistrate for that one. And there
were Health Boards, and Street Departments, who at a wink of Red Jacket
disfavor would descend upon a recalcitrant and provide burdens for his
life. With twenty methods of compulsion against him, and each according
to law, there arose no man strong enough to refuse those duties of
donation. He must support the fortunes of my Red Jackets or see his
own decline, and no one with a heart for commerce was long to learn the
lesson.

The great credit, however, in such coils was due the police. With them
to be his allies, one might not only finance his policies, but control
and count a vote; and no such name as failure.

“They’re the foot-stones of politics,” said Old Mike. “Kape th’ p’lice,
an’ you kape yourself on top.”

Nor was this the task complex. It was but to threaten them with the
powers above on the one hand, or on the other toss them individually
an occasional small bone of profit to gnaw, and they would stand to you
like dogs. I soon had these ins and outs of money-getting at the tips
of my tongue and my fingers, for I went to school to Big Kennedy and
Old Mike in the accomplishment, and I may tell you it was a branch of
learning they were qualified to teach.

Blackmail! cry you? Now there goes a word to that. These folk were
violating the law. What would you have?--their arrest? Let me inform you
that were the laws of the State and the town enforced to syllable and
letter, it would drive into banishment one-half the population. They
would do business at a loss; it would put up the shutters for over half
the town. Wherefore, it would be against the common interest to arrest
them.

And still you would have the law enforced? And if it were, what, let me
ask, would be the immediate response? These delinquents would be fined.
You would then be satisfied. What should be the corrective difference
between a fine paid to a court, and a donation paid to my Red Jackets?
The corrective influence in both should be the same, since in either
instance it is but a taking of dollars from the purses of the lawless.
And yet, you clamor, “One is blackmail and the other is justice!” The
separation I should say was academic rather than practical; and as for a
name: why then, I care nothing for a name.

I will, however, go this farther journey for my own defense. I have not
been for over twoscore years with Tammany and sixteen years its head,
without being driven to some intimate knowledge of my times, and those
principles of individual as well as communal action which underlie them
to make a motive. And now I say, that I have yet to meet that man, or
that corporation, and though the latter were a church, who wouldn’t
follow interest across a prostrate law, and in the chase of dollars
break through ordinance and statute as a cow walks through a cobweb.
And each and all they come most willingly to pay the prices of their
outlawry, and receivers are as bad as thieves--your price-payer as black
as your price-taker. Practically, the New York definition of an honest
man has ever gone that he is one who denounces any robbery in the
proceeds whereof he is not personally interested, and with that
definition my life has never failed to comply. If Tammany and Tammany
men have been guilty of receiving money from violators of law, they had
among their accomplices the town’s most reputable names and influences.
Why then should you pursue the one while you excuse the other? And are
you not, when you do so, quite as much the criminal as either?

When I was in the first year of my majority we went into a campaign
for the ownership of the town. Standing on the threshold of my earliest
vote, I was strung like a bow to win. My fervor might have gained a more
than common heat, because by decision of Big Kennedy I, myself, was put
down to make the run for alderman. There was a world of money against
us, since we had the respectable element, which means ever the rich, to
be our enemies.

Big Kennedy and I, after a session in his sanctum, resolved that not one
meeting should be held by our opponents within our boundaries. It was
not that we feared for the vote; rather it swung on a point of pride;
and then it would hearten our tribesmen should we suppress the least
signal of the enemy’s campaign.

Having limitless money, the foe decided for sundry gatherings. They also
outlined processions, hired music by the band, and bought beer by the
barrel. They would have their speakers to address the commons in halls
and from trucks.

On each attempt they were encountered and dispersed. More than once the
Red Jackets, backed by the faithful Tin Whistles, took possession of a
meeting, put up their own orators and adopted their own resolutions.
If the police were called, they invariably arrested our enemies, being
sapient of their own safety and equal to the work of locating the butter
on their personal bread. If the enemy through their henchmen or managers
made physical resistance, the Tin Whistles put them outside the hall,
and whether through door or window came to be no mighty matter.

At times the Red Jackets and their reserves of Tin Whistles would
permit the opposition to open a meeting. When the first orator had been
eloquent for perhaps five minutes, a phalanx of Tin Whistles would arise
in their places, and a hailstorm of sponges, soaking wet and each
the size of one’s head, would descend upon the rostrum. It was a
never-failing remedy; there lived never chairman nor orator who would
face that fusillade. Sometimes the lights were turned out; and again,
when it was an open-air meeting and the speakers to talk from a truck,
a bunch of crackers would be exploded under the horses and a runaway
occur. That simple device was sure to cut the meeting short by carrying
off the orators. The foe arranged but one procession; that was disposed
of on the fringe of our territory by an unerring, even if improper,
volley of eggs and vegetables and similar trumpery. The artillery used
would have beaten back a charge by cavalry.

Still the enemy had the money, and on that important point could
overpower us like ten for one, and did. Here and there went their
agents, sowing sly riches in the hope of a harvest of votes. To
counteract this still-hunt where the argument was cash, I sent the word
abroad that our people were to take the money and promise votes. Then
they were to break the promise.

“Bunco the foe!” was the watchword; “take their money and ‘con’ them!”

This instruction was deemed necessary for our safety. I educated our men
to the thought that the more money they got by these methods, the higher
they would stand with Big Kennedy and me. If it were not for this,
hundreds would have taken a price, and then, afraid to come back to
us, might have gone with the banners of the enemy for that campaign at
least. Now they would get what they could, and wear it for a feather
in their caps. They exulted in such enterprise; it was spoiling the
Egyptian; having filled their pockets they would return and make a brag
of the fact. By these schemes we kept our strength. The enemy parted
with money by the thousands, yet never the vote did they obtain. The
goods failed of delivery.

Sheeny Joe was a handy man to Big Kennedy. He owned no rank; but
voluble, active, well dressed, and ready with his money across a barroom
counter, he grew to have a value. Not once in those years which fell in
between our encounter on the dock and this time I have in memory, did
Sheeny Joe express aught save friendship for me. His nose was queer
of contour as the result of my handiwork, but he met the blemish in a
spirit of philosophy and displayed no rancors against me as the author
thereof. On the contrary, he was friendly to the verge of fulsome.

Sheeny Joe sold himself to the opposition, hoof and hide and horn. Nor
was this a mock disposal of himself, although he gave Big Kennedy and
myself to suppose he still held by us in his heart. No, it wasn’t the
money that changed him; rather I should say that for all his pretenses,
his hankerings of revenge against me had never slept. It was now he
believed his day to compass it had come. The business was no more no
less than a sheer bald plot to take my life, with Sheeny Joe to lie
behind it--the bug of evil under the dark chip.

It was in the early evening at my own home. Sheeny Joe came and called
me to the door, and all in a hustle of hurry.

“Big Kennedy wants you to come at once to the Tub of Blood,” said Sheeny
Joe.

The Tub of Blood was a hang-out for certain bludgeon-wielding thugs who
lived by the coarser crimes of burglary and highway robbery. It was
suspected by Big Kennedy and myself as a camping spot for “repeaters”
 whom the enemy had been at pains to import against us. We had it then in
plan to set the Tin Whistles to the sacking of it three days before the
vote.

On this word from Sheeny Joe, and thinking that some new programme was
afoot, I set forth for the Tub of Blood. As I came through the door, a
murderous creature known as Strong-Arm Dan was busy polishing glasses
behind the bar. He looked up, and giving a nod toward a door in the
rear, said:

“They want you inside.”

The moment I set foot within that rear door, I saw how it was a trap.
There were a round dozen waiting, and each the flower of a desperate
flock.

In the first surprise of it I did not speak, but instinctively got the
wall to my back. As I faced them they moved uneasily, half rising from
their chairs, growling, but speaking no word. Their purpose was to
attack me; yet they hung upon the edge of the enterprise, apparently in
want of a leader. I was not a yard from the door, and having advantage
of their slowness began making my way in that direction. They saw that
I would escape, and yet they couldn’t spur their courage to the leap.
It was my perilous repute as a hitter from the shoulder that stood my
friend that night.

At last I reached the door. Opening it with my hand behind me, my eyes
still on the glaring hesitating roughs, I stepped backward into the main
room.

“Good-night, gentlemen,” was all I said.

“You’ll set up the gin, won’t you?” cried one, finding his voice.

“Sure!” I returned, and I tossed Strong-Arm Dan a gold piece as I passed
the bar. “Give’em what they want while it lasts,” said I.

That demand for gin mashed into the teeth of my thoughts like the cogs
of a wheel. It would hold that precious coterie for twenty minutes. When
I got into the street, I caught the shadow of Sheeny Joe as he twisted
around the corner.

It was a half-dozen blocks from the Tub of Blood that I blew the
gathering call of the Tin Whistles. They came running like hounds to
huntsman. Ten minutes later the Tub of Blood lay a pile of ruins, while
Strong-Arm Dan and those others, surprised in the midst of that guzzling
I had paid for, with heads and faces a hash of wounds and blood and
the fear of death upon them, were running or staggering or crawling for
shelter, according to what strength remained with them.

“It’s plain,” said Big Kennedy, when I told of the net that Sheeny Joe
had spread for me, “it’s plain that you haven’t shed your milk-teeth
yet. However, you’ll be older by an’ by, an’ then you won’t follow off
every band of music that comes playin’ down the street. No, I don’t
blame Sheeny Joe; politics is like draw-poker, an’ everybody’s got a
right to fill his hand if he can. Still, while I don’t blame him, it’s
up to us to get hunk an’ even on th’ play.” Here Big Kennedy pondered
for the space of a minute. Then he continued: “I think we’d better make
it up-the-river--better railroad the duffer. Discipline’s been gettin’
slack of late, an’ an example will work in hot an’ handy. The next crook
won’t pass us out the double-cross when he sees what comes off in th’
case of Sheeny Joe.”



CHAPTER VIII--THE FATE OF SHEENY JOE


BIG KENNEDY’S suggestion of Sing Sing for Sheeny Joe did not fit with
my fancy. Not that a cropped head and a suit of stripes would have been
misplaced in the instance of Sheeny Joe, but I had my reputation to
consider. It would never do for a first bruiser of his day to fall back
on the law for protection. Such coward courses would shake my standing
beyond recovery. It would have disgraced the Tin Whistles; thereafter,
in that vigorous brotherhood, my commands would have earned naught save
laughter. To arrest Sheeny Joe would be to fly in the face of the Tin
Whistles and their dearest ethics. When to this I called Big Kennedy’s
attention, he laughed as one amused.

“You don’t twig!” said he, recovering a partial gravity. “I’m goin’ to
send him over th’ road for robbery.”

“But he hasn’t robbed anybody!”

Big Kennedy made a gesture of impatience, mixed with despair.

“Here!” said he at last, “I’ll give you a flash of what I’m out to do
an’ why I’m out to do it. I’m goin’ to put Sheeny Joe away to stiffen
discipline. He’s sold himself, an’ th’ whole ward knows it. Now I’m
goin’ to show’em what happens to a turncoat, as a hunch to keep their
coats on right side out, d’ye see.”

“But you spoke of a robbery!” I interjected; “Sheeny Joe has robbed no
one.”

“I’m gettin’ to that,” returned Big Kennedy, with a repressive wave of
his broad palm, “an’ I can see that you yourself have a lot to learn.
Listen: If I knew of any robbery Sheeny Joe had pulled off, I wouldn’t
have him lagged for that; no, not if he’d taken a jimmy an’ cracked
a dozen bins. There’d be no lesson in sendin’ a duck over th’ road
in that. Any old woman could have him pinched for a crime he’s really
pulled off. To leave an impression on these people, you must send a
party up for what he hasn’t done. Then they understand.”

For all Big Kennedy’s explanation, I still lived in the dark. I made no
return, however, either of comment or question; I considered that I had
only to look on, and Big Kennedy’s purpose would elucidate itself. Big
Kennedy and I were in the sanctum that opened off his barroom. He called
one of his barmen.

“Billy, you know where to find the Rat?” Then, when the other nodded:
“Go an’ tell the Rat I want him.”

“Who is the Rat?” I queried. I had never heard of the Rat.

“He’s a pickpocket,” responded Big Kennedy, “an’ as fly a dip as ever
nipped a watch or copped a leather.”

The Rat belonged on the west side of the town, which accounted for my
having failed of his acquaintance. Big Kennedy was sure his man would
find him.

“For he grafts nights,” said Big Kennedy, “an’ at this time of day it’s
a cinch he’s takin’ a snooze. A pickpocket has to have plenty of sleep
to keep his hooks from shakin’.”

While we were waiting the coming of the Rat, one of the barmen entered
to announce a caller. He whispered a word in Big Kennedy’s ear.

“Sure!” said he. “Tell him to come along.”

The gentleman whom the barman had announced, and who was a young
clergyman, came into the room. Big Kennedy gave him a hearty handshake,
while his red face radiated a welcome.

“What is it, Mr. Bronson?” asked Big Kennedy pleasantly; “what can I do
for you?”

The young clergyman’s purpose was to ask assistance for a mission which
he proposed to start near the Five Points.

“Certainly,” said Big Kennedy, “an’ not a moment to wait!” With that he
gave the young clergyman one hundred dollars.

When that gentleman, after expressing his thanks, had departed, Big
Kennedy sighed.

“I’ve got no great use for a church,” he said. “I never bought a gold
brick yet that wasn’t wrapped in a tract. But it’s no fun to get a
preacher down on you. One of’em can throw stones enough to smash every
window in Tammany Hall. Your only show with the preachers is to flatter
‘em;--pass’em out the flowers. Most of ‘em’s as pleased with flattery as
a girl. Yes indeed,” he concluded, “I can paste bills on ‘em so long as
I do it with soft soap.”

The Rat was a slight, quiet individual and looked the young physician
rather than the pickpocket. His hands were delicate, and he wore gloves
the better to keep them in condition. His step and air were as quiet as
those of a cat.

“I want a favor,” said Big Kennedy, addressing the Rat, “an’ I’ve got
to go to one of the swell mob to get it. That’s why I sent for you, d’ye
see! It takes someone finer than a bricklayer to do th’ work.”

The Rat was uneasily questioning my presence with his eye. Big Kennedy
paused to reassure him.

“He’s th’ straight goods,” said Big Kennedy, speaking in a tone wherein
were mingled resentment and reproach. “You don’t s’ppose I’d steer you
ag’inst a brace?”

The Rat said never a word, but his glance left me and he gave entire
heed to Big Kennedy.

“This is the proposition,” resumed Big Kennedy. “You know Sheeny Joe.
Shadow him; swing and rattle with him no matter where he goes. The
moment you see a chance, get a pocketbook an’ put it away in his
clothes. When th’ roar goes up, tell th’ loser where to look. Are you
on? Sheeny Joe must get th’ collar, an’ I want him caught with th’
goods, d’ye see.”

“I don’t have to go to court ag’inst him?” said the Rat interrogatively.

“No,” retorted Big Kennedy, a bit explosively. “You’d look about as well
in th’ witness box as I would in a pulpit. No, you shift th’ leather.
Then give th’ party who’s been touched th’ office to go after Sheeny
Joe. After that you can screw out; that’s as far as you go.”

It was the next evening at the ferry. Suddenly a cry went up.

“Thief! Thief! My pocketbook is gone!”

The shouts found source in a broad man. He was top-heavy with too much
beer, but clear enough to realize that his money had disappeared. The
Rat, sly, small, clean, inconspicuous, was at his shoulder.

“There’s your man!” whispered the Rat, pointing to Sheeny Joe, whose
footsteps he had been dogging the livelong day; “there’s your man!”

In a moment the broad man had thrown himself upon Sheeny Joe.

“Call the police!” he yelled. “He’s got my pocket-book!”

The officer pulled him off Sheeny Joe, whom he had thrown to the ground
and now clung to with the desperation of the robbed.

“Give me a look in!” said the officer, thrusting the broad man aside.
“If he’s got your leather we’ll find it.”

Sheeny Joe was breathless with the surprise and fury of the broad man’s
descent upon him. The officer ran his hand over the outside of Sheeny
Joe’s coat, holding him meanwhile fast by the collar. Then he slipped
his hand inside, and drew forth a chubby pocketbook.

“That’s it!” screamed the broad man, “that’s my wallet with over six
hundred dollars in it! The fellow stole it!”

“It’s a plant!” gasped Sheeny Joe, his face like ashes. Then to the
crowd: “Will somebody go fetch Big John Kennedy? He knows me; he’ll say
I’m square!”

Big Kennedy arrived at the station as the officer, whose journey was
slow because of the throng, came in with Sheeny Joe. Big Kennedy
heard the stories of the officer and the broad man with all imaginable
patience. Then a deep frown began to knot his brow. He waved Sheeny Joe
aside with a gesture that told of virtuous indignation.

“Lock him up!” cried Big Kennedy. “If he’d slugged somebody, even if
he’d croaked him, I’d have stuck to him till th’ pen’tentiary doors
pinched my fingers. But I’ve no use for a crook. Sing Sing’s th’ place
for him! It’s just such fine workers as him who disgrace th’ name of
Tammany Hall. They lift a leather, an’ they make Tammany a cover for th’
play.”

“Are you goin’ back on me?” wailed Sheeny Joe.

“Put him inside!” said Big Kennedy to the officer in charge of the
station. Then, to Sheeny Joe, with the flicker of a leer: “Why don’t you
send to the Tub of Blood?”

“Shall I take bail for him, Mr. Kennedy, if any shows up?” asked the
officer in charge.

“No; no bail!” replied Big Kennedy. “If anyone offers, tell him I don’t
want it done.”

It was three weeks later when Sheeny Joe was found guilty, and sentenced
to prison for four years. The broad man, the police officer, and divers
who at the time of his arrest were looking on, come forward as witnesses
against Sheeny Joe, and twelve honest dullards who called themselves a
jury, despite his protestations that he was “being jobbed,” instantly
declared him guilty. Sheeny Joe, following his sentence, was dragged
from the courtroom, crying and cursing the judge, the jury, the
witnesses, but most of all Big Kennedy.

Nor do I think Big Kennedy’s agency in drawing down this fate upon
Sheeny Joe was misunderstood by ones with whom it was meant to pass
for warning. I argue this from what was overheard by me as we left the
courtroom where Sheeny Joe was sentenced. The two in conversation were
walking a pace in advance of me.

“He got four spaces!” said one in an awed whisper.

“He’s dead lucky not to go for life!” exclaimed the other. “How much of
the double-cross do you guess now Big Kennedy will stand? I’ve seen a
bloke take a slab in th’ morgue for less. It was Benny the Bite; he gets
a knife between his slats.”

“What’s it all about, Jawn?” asked Old Mike, who later sat in private
review of the case of Sheeny Joe. “Why are you puttin’ a four-year
smother on that laad?”

“It’s gettin’ so,” explained Big Kennedy, “that these people of ours
look on politics as a kind of Virginny reel. It’s first dance on one
side an’ then cross to th’ other. There’s a bundle of money ag’inst us,
big enough to trip a dog, an’ discipline was givin’ way. Our men could
smell th’ burnin’ money an’ it made ‘em crazy. Somethin’ had to come off
to sober ‘em, an’ teach ‘em discipline, an’ make ‘em sing ‘Home, Sweet
Home’!”

“It’s all right, then!” declared Old Mike decisively.

“The main thing is to kape up th’ organization! Better twinty like that
Sheeny Joe should learn th’ lockstep than weaken Tammany Hall. Besides,
I’m not like th’ law. I belave in sindin’ folks to prison, not for what
they do, but for what they are. An’ this la-ad was a har-rd crackther.”

The day upon which Sheeny Joe went to his prison was election day.
Tammany Hall took possession of the town; and for myself, I was made an
alderman by a majority that counted into the skies.



CHAPTER IX--HOW BIG KENNEDY BOLTED


BEFORE I abandon the late election in its history to the keeping of time
past, there is an episode, or, if you will, an accident, which should
find relation. Of itself it would have come and gone, and been of brief
importance, save for an incident to make one of its elements, which in
a later pinch to come of politics brought me within the shadow of a
gibbet.

Busy with my vote-getting, I had gone to the docks to confer with the
head of a certain gang of stevedores. These latter were hustling up and
down the gangplanks, taking the cargo out of a West India coffee boat.
The one I had come seeking was aboard the vessel.

I pushed towards the after gangplank, and as I reached it I stepped
aside to avoid one coming ashore with a huge sack of coffee on his
shoulders. Not having my eyes about me, I caught my toe in a ringbolt
and stumbled with a mighty bump against a sailor who was standing on
the string-piece of the wharf. With nothing to save him, and a six-foot
space opening between the wharf and the ship, the man fell into the
river with a cry and a splash. He went to the bottom like so much
pig-iron, for he could not swim.

It was the work of a moment to throw off my coat and go after him. I was
as much at ease in the water as a spaniel, and there would be nothing
more dangerous than a ducking in the experiment. I dived and came up
with the drowning man in my grip. For all his peril, he took it coolly
enough, and beyond spluttering, and puffing, and cracking off a jargon
of oaths, added no difficulties to the task of saving his life. We
gained help from the dock, and it wasn’t five minutes before we found
the safe planks beneath our feet again.

The man who had gone overboard so unexpectedly was a keen small dark
creature of a Sicilian, and to be noticed for his black eyes, a red
handkerchief over his head, and ears looped with golden earrings.

“No harm done, I think?” said I, when we were both ashore again.

“I lose-a my knife,” said he with a grin, the water dripping from his
hair. He was pointing to the empty scabbard at his belt where he had
carried a sheath-knife.

“It was my blunder,” said I, “and if you’ll hunt me up at Big Kennedy’s
this evening I’ll have another for you.”

That afternoon, at a pawnshop in the Bowery, I bought a strange-looking
weapon, that was more like a single-edged dagger than anything else. It
had a buck-horn haft, and was heavy and long, with a blade of full nine
inches.

My Sicilian came, as I had told him, and I gave him the knife. He was
extravagant in his gratitude.

“You owe me nothing!” he cried. “It is I who owe for my life that you
save. But I shall take-a the knife to remember how you pull me out. You
good-a man; some day I pull you out--mebby so! who knows?”

With that he was off for the docks again, leaving me neither to hear nor
to think of him thereafter for a stirring handful of years.

It occurred to me as strange, even in a day when I gave less time to
thought than I do now, that my first impulse as an alderman should be
one of revenge. There was that police captain, who, in the long ago,
offered insult to Anne, when she came to beg for my liberty. “Better
get back to your window,” said he, “or all the men will have left the
street!” The memory of that evil gibe had never ceased to burn me with
the hot anger of a coal of fire, and now I resolved for his destruction.

When I told Big Kennedy, he turned the idea on his wheel of thought for
full two minutes.

“It’s your right,” said he at last. “You’ve got the ax; you’re entitled
to his head. But say! pick him up on proper charges; get him dead to
rights! That aint hard, d’ye see, for he’s as crooked as a dog’s hind
leg. To throw him for some trick he’s really turned will bunco these
reform guys into thinkin’ that we’re on th’ level.”

The enterprise offered no complexities. A man paid that captain money to
save from suppression a resort of flagrant immorality. The bribery
was laid bare; he was overtaken in this plain corruption; and next, my
combinations being perfect, I broke him as I might break a stick across
my knee. He came to me in private the following day.

“What have I done?” said he. “Can I square it?”

“Never!” I retorted; “there’s some things one can’t square.” Then I told
him of Anne, and his insult.

“That’s enough,” he replied, tossing his hand resignedly. “I can take my
medicine when it’s come my turn.”

For all that captain’s stoicism, despair rang in his tones, and as he
left me, the look in his eye was one to warm the cockles of my heart and
feed my soul with comfort.

“Speakin’ for myself,” said Big Kennedy, in the course of comment, “I
don’t go much on revenge. Still when it costs nothin’, I s’ppose
you might as well take it in. Besides, it shows folks that there’s a
dead-line in th’ game. The wise ones will figger that this captain held
out on us, or handed us th’ worst of it on th’ quiet. The example of him
gettin’ done up will make others run true.”

Several years slipped by wherein as alderman I took my part in the
town’s affairs. I was never a talking member, and gained no glory for my
eloquence. But what I lacked of rhetoric, I made up in stubborn loyalty
to Tammany, and I never failed to dispose of my vote according to its
mandates.

It was not alone my right, but my duty to do this. I had gone to the
polls the avowed candidate of the machine. There was none to vote for
me who did not know that my public courses would be shaped and guided by
the organization. I was free to assume, therefore, being thus elected as
a Tammany member by folk informed to a last expression of all that the
phrase implied, that I was bound to carry out the Tammany programmes and
execute the Tammany orders. Where a machine and its laws are known, the
people when they lift to office one proposed of that machine, thereby
direct such officer to submit himself to its direction and conform to
its demands.

There will be ones to deny this. And these gentry of denials will be
plausible, and furnish the thought of an invincible purity for their
assumptions. They should not, however, be too sure for their theories.
They themselves may be the ones in error. They should reflect
that wherever there dwells a Yes there lives also a No. These
contradictionists should emulate my own forbearance.

I no more claim to be wholly right for my attitude of implicit obedience
to the machine, than I condemn as wholly wrong their own position of
boundless denunciation. There is no man so bad he may not be defended;
there lives none so good he does not need defense; and what I say of a
man might with equal justice be said of any dogma of politics. As I set
forth in my preface, the true and the false, the black and the white in
politics will rest ever with the point of view.

During my years as an alderman I might have made myself a wealthy man.
And that I did not do so, was not because I had no profit of the place.
As the partner, unnamed, in sundry city contracts, riches came often
within my clutch. But I could not keep them; I was born with both hands
open and had the hold of money that a riddle has of water.

This want of a money wit is a defect of my nature. A great merchant late
in my life once said to me:

“Commerce--money-getting--is like a sea, and every man, in large or
little sort, is a mariner. Some are buccaneers, while others are sober
merchantmen. One lives by taking prizes, the other by the proper gains
of trade. You belong to the buccaneers by your birth. You are not a
business man, but a business wolf. Being a wolf, you will waste and
never save. Your instinct is to pull down each day’s beef each day.
You should never buy nor sell nor seek to make money with money. Your
knowledge of money is too narrow. Up to fifty dollars you are wise.
Beyond that point you are the greatest dunce I ever met.”

Thus lectured the man of markets, measuring sticks, and scales; and
while I do not think him altogether exact, there has been much in my
story to bear out what he said. It was not that I wasted my money in
riot, or in vicious courses. My morals were good, and I had no vices.
This was not much to my credit; my morals were instinctive, like
the morals of an animal. My one passion was for politics, and my one
ambition the ambition to lead men. Nor was I eager to hold office; my
hope went rather to a day when I should rule Tammany as its Chief. My
genius was not for the show ring; I cared nothing for a gilded place.
That dream of my heart’s wish was to be the power behind the screen,
and to put men up and take men down, place them and move them about, and
play at government as one might play at chess. Still, while I dreamed
of an unbridled day to come, I was for that the more sedulous to execute
the orders of Big Kennedy. I had not then to learn that the art of
command is best studied in the art of obedience.

To be entirely frank, I ought to name the one weakness that beset me,
and which more than any spendthrift tendency lost me my fortune as fast
as it flowed in. I came never to be a gambler in the card or gaming
table sense, but I was inveterate to wager money on a horse. While money
lasted, I would bet on the issue of every race that was run, and I was
made frequently bankrupt thereby. However, I have said enough of my want
of capacity to hoard. I was young and careless; moreover, with my place
as alderman, and that sovereignty I still held among the Red Jackets,
when my hand was empty I had but to stretch it forth to have it filled
again.

In my boyhood I went garbed of rags and patches. Now when money came,
I sought the first tailor of the town. I went to him drawn of his high
prices; for I argued, and I think sagaciously, that where one pays the
most one gets the best.

Nor, when I found that tailor, did I seek to direct him in his labors.
I put myself in his hands, and was guided to quiet blacks and grays, and
at his hint gave up thoughts of those plaids and glaring checks to which
my tastes went hungering. That tailor dressed me like a gentleman and
did me a deal of good. I am not one to say that raiment makes the man,
and yet I hold that it has much to do with the man’s behavior. I can say
in my own case that when I was thus garbed like a gentleman, my conduct
was at once controlled in favor of the moderate. I was instantly ironed
of those rougher wrinkles of my nature, which last, while neither noisy
nor gratuitously violent, was never one of peace.

The important thing was that these clothes of gentility gave me
multiplied vogue with ones who were peculiarly my personal followers.
They earned me emphasis with my Red Jackets, who still bore me aloft as
their leader, and whose favor I must not let drift. The Tin Whistles,
too, drew an awe from this rich yet civil uniform which strengthened my
authority in that muscular quarter. I had grown, as an alderman and that
one next in ward power to Big Kennedy, to a place which exempted me
from those harsher labors of fist and bludgeon in which, whenever the
exigencies of a campaign demanded, the Tin Whistles were still employed.
But I claimed my old mastery over them. I would not permit so hardy
a force to go to another’s hands, and while I no longer led their war
parties, I was always in the background, giving them direction and
stopping them when they went too far.

It was demanded of my safety that I retain my hold upon both the Tin
Whistles and the Red Jackets. However eminent I might be, I was by no
means out of the ruck, and my situation was to be sustained only by the
strong hand. The Tin Whistles and the Red Jackets were the sources of my
importance, and if my voice were heeded or my word owned weight it was
because they stood ever ready to my call. Wherefore, I cultivated their
favor, secured my place among them, while at the same time I forced them
to obey to the end that they as well as I be preserved.

Those clothes of a gentleman not only augmented, but declared my
strength. In that time a fine coat was an offense to ones more coarsely
clothed. A well-dressed stranger could not have walked three blocks on
the East Side without being driven to do battle for his life. Fine
linen was esteemed a challenge, and that I should be so arrayed and
go unscathed, proved not alone my popularity, but my dangerous repute.
Secretly, it pleased my shoulder-hitters to see their captain so garbed;
and since I could defend my feathers, they made of themselves another
reason of leadership. I was growing adept of men, and I counted on this
effect when I spent my money with that tailor.

While I thus lay aside for the moment the running history of events
that were as the stepping stones by which I crossed from obscurity
and poverty to power and wealth, to have a glance at myself in my more
personal attitudes, I should also relate my marriage and how I took a
wife. It was Anne who had charge of the business, and brought me this
soft victory. Had it not been for Anne, I more than half believe I
would have had no wife at all; for I was eaten of an uneasy awkwardness
whenever my fate delivered me into the presence of a girl. However
earnestly Anne might counsel, I had no more of parlor wisdom than a
savage, Anne, while sighing over my crudities and the hopeless thickness
of my wits, established herself as a bearward to supervise my conduct.
She picked out my wife for me, and in days when I should have been
a lover, but was a graven image and as stolid, carried forward the
courting in my stead.

It was none other than Apple Cheek upon whom Anne pitched--Apple Cheek,
grown rounder and more fair, with locks like cornsilk, and eyes of
even a deeper blue than on that day of the docks. Anne had struck out a
friendship for Apple Cheek from the beginning, and the two were much in
one another’s company. And so one day, by ways and means I was too much
confused to understand, Anne had us before the priest. We were made
husband and wife; Apple Cheek brave and sweet, I looking like a fool in
need of keepers.

Anne, the architect of this bliss, was in tears; and yet she must have
kept her head, for I remember how she recalled me to the proprieties of
my new station.

“Why don’t you kiss your bride!” cried Anne, at the heel of the
ceremony.

Anne snapped out the words, and they rang in my delinquent ears like a
storm bell. Apple Cheek, eyes wet to be a match for Anne’s, put up her
lips with all the courage in the world. I kissed her, much as one
might salute a hot flatiron. Still I kissed her; and I think to the
satisfaction of a church-full looking on; but I knew what men condemned
have felt on that journey to block and ax.

Apple Cheek and her choice of me made up the sweetest fortune of my
life, and now when I think of her it is as if I stood in a flood of
sunshine. So far as I was able, I housed her and robed her as though she
were the daughter of a king, and while I have met treason in others and
desertion where I looked for loyalty, I held her heart-fast, love-fast,
faith-fast, ever my own. She was my treasure, and when she died it was
as though my own end had come.

Big Kennedy and the then Chief of Tammany, during my earlier years as
alderman, were as Jonathan and David. They were ever together, and their
plans and their interests ran side by side. At last they began to fall
apart. Big Kennedy saw a peril in this too-close a partnership, and was
for putting distance between them. It was Old Mike who thus counseled
him. The aged one became alarmed by the raw and insolent extravagance of
the Chief’s methods.

“Th’ public,” said Old Mike, “is a sheep, while ye do no more than
just rob it. But if ye insult it, it’s a wolf. Now this man insults
th’ people. Better cut loose from him, Jawn; he’ll get ye all tor-rn to
pieces.”

The split came when, by suggestion of Old Mike and

Big Kennedy, I refused to give my vote as alderman to a railway company
asking a terminal. There were millions of dollars in the balance, and
without my vote the machine and the railway company were powerless. The
stress was such that the mighty Chief himself came down to Big Kennedy’s
saloon--a sight to make men stare!

The two, for a full hour, were locked in Big Kennedy’s sanctum; when
they appeared I could read in the black anger that rode on the brow of
the Chief how Big Kennedy had declined his orders, and now stood ready
to abide the worst. Big Kennedy, for his side, wore an air of confident
serenity, and as I looked at the pair and compared them, one black, the
other beaming, I was surprised into the conviction that Big Kennedy of
the two was the superior natural force. As the Chief reached the curb he
said:

“You know the meaning of this. I shall tear you in two in the middle an’
leave you on both sides of the street!”

“If you do, I’ll never squeal,” returned Big Kennedy carelessly. “But
you can’t; I’ve got you counted. I can hold the ward ag’inst all you’ll
send. An’ you look out for yourself! I’ll throw a switch on you yet
that’ll send you to th’ scrapheap.”

“I s’ppose you think you know what you’re doin’?” said the other
angrily.

“You can put a bet on it that I do,” retorted Big Kennedy. “I wasn’t
born last week.”

That evening as we sat silent and thoughtful, Big Kennedy broke forth
with a word.

“I’ve got it! You’re on speakin’ terms with that old duffer, Morton,
who’s forever talkin’ about bein’ a taxpayer. He likes you, since you
laid out Jimmy the Blacksmith that time. See him, an’ fill him up with
th’ notion that he ought to go to Congress. It won’t be hard; he’s sure
he ought to go somewhere, an’ Congress will fit him to a finish. In two
days he’ll think he’s on his way to be a second Marcy. Tell him that if
his people will put him up, we’ll join dogs with ‘em an’ pull down th’
place. You can say that we can’t stand th’ dishonesty an’ corruption
at th’ head of Tammany Hall, an’ are goin’ to make a bolt for better
government. We’ll send the old sport to Congress. He’ll give us a bundle
big enough to fight the machine, an’ plank dollar for dollar with it.
An’ it’ll put us in line for a hook-up with th’ reform bunch in th’
fight for th’ town next year. It’s the play to make; we’re goin’ to see
stormy weather, you an’ me, an’ it’s our turn to make for cover. We’ll
put up this old party, Morton, an’ give th’ machine a jolt. Th’ Chief’ll
leave me on both sides of th’ street, will he? I’ll make him think,
before he’s through, that he’s run ag’inst th’ pole of a dray.”



CHAPTER X--HOW JIMMY THE BLACKSMITH DIED


BIG KENNEDY was right; the reputable old gentleman rose to that lure
of Congress like any bass to any fly. It was over in a trice, those
preliminaries; he was proud to be thus called upon to serve the people.
Incidentally, it restored his hope in the country’s future to hear that
such tried war-dogs of politics as Big Kennedy and myself were making a
line of battle against dishonesty in place. These and more were said
to me by the reputable old gentleman when I bore him that word how Big
Kennedy and I were ready to be his allies. The reputable old gentleman
puffed and glowed with the sheer glory of my proposal, and seemed
already to regard his election as a thing secured.

In due course, his own tribe placed him in nomina-ton. That done, Big
Kennedy called a meeting of his people and declared for the reputable
old gentleman’s support. Big Kennedy did not wait to be attacked by
the Tammany machine; he took the initiative and went to open rebellion,
giving as his reason the machine’s corruption.

“Tammany Hall has fallen into the hands of thieves!” shouted Big
Kennedy, in a short but pointed address which he made to his
clansmen. “As an honest member of Tammany, I am fighting to rescue the
organization.”

In its way, the move was a master-stroke. It gave us the high ground,
since it left us still in the party, still in Tammany Hall. It gave us a
position and a battle-cry, and sent us into the conflict with a cleaner
fame than it had been our wont to wear.

In the beginning, the reputable old gentleman paid a pompous visit to
Big Kennedy. Like all who saw that leader, the reputable old gentleman
came to Big Kennedy’s saloon. This last was a point upon which Big
Kennedy never failed to insist.

“Th’ man,” said Big Kennedy, “who’s too good to go into a saloon, is too
good to go into politics; if he’s goin’ to dodge th’ one, he’d better
duck the’ other.”

The reputable old gentleman met this test of the barrooms, and qualified
for politics without a quaver. Had a barroom been the shelter of his
infancy, he could not have worn a steadier assurance. As he entered,
he laid a bill on the bar for the benefit of the public then and there
athirst. Next he intimated a desire to talk privately with Big Kennedy,
and set his course for the sanctum as though by inspiration. Big Kennedy
called me to the confab; closing the door behind us, we drew together
about the table.

“Let’s cut out th’ polite prelim’naries,” said Big Kennedy, “an’ come
down to tacks. How much stuff do you feel like blowin’ in?”

“How much should it take?” asked the reputable old gentleman.

“Say twenty thousand!” returned Big Kennedy, as cool as New Year’s Day.

“Twenty thousand dollars!” repeated the reputable old gentleman, with
wide eyes. “Will it call for so much as that?”

“If you’re goin’ to put in money, put in enough to win. There’s no sense
puttin’ in just enough to lose. Th’ other fellows will come into th’
district with money enough to burn a wet dog. We’ve got to break even
with ‘em, or they’ll have us faded from th’ jump.”

“But what can you do with so much?” asked the reputable old gentleman
dismally. “It seems a fortune! What would you do with it?”

“Mass meetin’s, bands, beer, torches, fireworks, halls; but most of all,
buy votes.”

“Buy votes!” exclaimed the reputable old gentleman, his cheek paling.

“Buy ‘em by th’ bunch, like a market girl sells radishes!” Then, seeing
the reputable old gentleman’s horror: “How do you s’ppose you’re goin’
to get votes? You don’t think that these dock-wallopers an’ river
pirates are stuck on you personally, do you?”

“But their interest as citizens! I should think they’d look at that!”

“Their first interest as citizens,” observed Big Kennedy, with a cynical
smile, “is a five-dollar bill.”

“But do you think it right to purchase votes?” asked the reputable old
gentleman, with a gasp.

“Is it right to shoot a man? No. Is it right to shoot a man if he’s
shootin’ at you? Yes. Well, these mugs are goin’ to buy votes, an’ keep
at it early an’ late. Which is why I say it’s dead right to buy votes to
save yourself. Besides, you’re th’ best man; it’s th’ country’s welfare
we’re protectin’, d’ye see!”

The reputable old gentleman remained for a moment in deep thought. Then
he got upon his feet to go.

“I’ll send my son to talk with you,” he said. Then faintly: “I guess
this will be all right.”

“There’s somethin’ you’ve forgot,” said Big Kennedy with a chuckle,
as he shook hands with the reputable old gentleman when the latter was
about to depart; “there’s a bet you’ve overlooked.” Then, as the other
seemed puzzled: “You aint got off your bluff about bein’ a taxpayer.
But, I understand! This is exec’tive session, an’ that crack about bein’
a taxpayer is more of a public utterance. You’re keepin’ it for th’
stump, most likely.”

“I’ll send my son to you to-night,” repeated the reputable old
gentleman, too much in the fog of Big Kennedy’s generous figures to heed
his jests about taxpayers. “He’ll be here about eight o’clock.”

“That’s right!” said Big Kennedy. “The sooner we get th’ oil, th’ sooner
we’ll begin to light up.”

The reputable old gentleman kept his word concerning his son and that
young gentleman’s advent. The latter was with us at eight, sharp, and
brought two others of hard appearance to bear him company as a kind of
bodyguard. The young gentleman was slight and superfine, with eyeglass,
mustache, and lisp. He accosted Big Kennedy, swinging a dainty cane the
while in an affected way.

“I’m Mr. Morton--Mr. James Morton,” he drawled. “You know my father.”

Once in the sanctum, and none save Big Kennedy and myself for company,
young Morton came to the question.

“My father’s running for Congress. But he’s old-fashioned; he doesn’t
understand these things.” The tones were confident and sophisticated. I
began to see how the eyeglass, the cane, and the lisp belied our caller.
Under his affectations, he was as keen and cool a hand as Big Kennedy
himself. “No,” he repeated, taking meanwhile a thick envelope from his
frock-coat, “he doesn’t understand. The idea of money shocks him, don’t
y’ know.”

“That’s it!” returned Big Kennedy, sympathetically. “He’s old-fashioned;
he thinks this thing is like runnin’ to be superintendent of a Sunday
school. He aint down to date.”

“Here,” observed our visitor, tapping the table with the envelope, and
smiling to find himself and Big Kennedy a unit as to the lamentable
innocence of his father, “here are twenty one-thousand-dollar bills.
I didn’t draw a check for reasons you appreciate. I shall trust you to
make the best use of this money. Also, I shall work with you through the
campaign.”

With that, the young gentleman went his way, humming a tune; and all as
though leaving twenty thousand dollars in the hands of some chance-sown
politician was the common employment of his evenings. When he was
gone, Big Kennedy opened the envelope. There they were; twenty
one-thousand-dollar bills. Big Kennedy pointed to them as they lay on
the table.

“There’s the reformer for you!” he said. “He’ll go talkin’ about Tammany
Hall; but once he himself goes out for an office, he’s ready to buy a
vote or burn a church! But say! that young Morton’s all right!” Here Big
Kennedy’s manner betrayed the most profound admiration. “He’s as flossy
a proposition as ever came down th’ pike.” Then his glance recurred
doubtfully to the treasure. “I wish he’d brought it ‘round by daylight.
I’ll have to set up with this bundle till th’ bank opens. Some fly guy
might cop a sneak on it else. There’s a dozen of my best customers, any
of whom would croak a man for one of them bills.”

The campaign went forward rough and tumble. Big Kennedy spent money
like water, the Red Jackets never slept, while the Tin Whistles met the
plug-uglies of the enemy on twenty hard-fought fields.

The only move unusual, however, was one made by that energetic
exquisite, young Morton. Young Morton, in the thick from the first, went
shoulder to shoulder with Big Kennedy and myself. One day he asked us
over to his personal headquarters.

“You know,” said he, with his exasperating lisp, and daintily adjusting
his glasses, “how there’s a lot of negroes to live over this way--quite
a settlement of them.”

“Yes,” returned Big Kennedy, “there’s about three hundred votes among
‘em. I’ve never tried to cut in on ‘em, because there’s no gettin’ a
nigger to vote th’ Tammany ticket.”

“Three hundred votes, did you say?” lisped the youthful manager. “I
shall get six hundred.” Then, to a black who was hovering about: “Call
in those new recruits.”

Six young blacks, each with a pleasant grin, marched into the room.

“There,” said young Morton, inspecting them with the close air of a
critic, “they look like the real thing, don’t they? Don’t you think
they’ll pass muster?”

“An’ why not?” said Big Kennedy. “I take it they’re game to swear to
their age, an’ have got sense enough to give a house number that’s in
th’ district?”

“It’s not that,” returned young Morton languidly. “But these fellows
aren’t men, old chap, they’re women, don’t y’ know! It’s the clothes
does it. I’m going to dress up the wenches in overalls and jumpers; it’s
my own little idea.”

“Say!” said Big Kennedy solemnly, as we were on our return; “that young
Morton beats four kings an’ an ace. He’s a bird! I never felt so
much like takin’ off my hat to a man in my life. An’ to think he’s a
Republican!” Here Big Kennedy groaned over genius misplaced. “There’s no
use talkin’; he ought to be in Tammany Hall.”

The district which was to determine the destinies of the reputable old
gentleman included two city wards besides the one over which Big Kennedy
held sway. The campaign was not two weeks old before it stood patent to
a dullest eye that Big Kennedy, while crowded hard, would hold his place
as leader in spite of the Tammany Chief and the best efforts he could
put forth. When this was made apparent, while the strife went forward
as fiercely as before, the Chief sent overtures to Big Kennedy. If that
rebellionist would return to the fold of the machine, bygones would be
bygones, and a feast of love and profit would be spread before him. Big
Kennedy, when the olive branch was proffered, sent word that he would
meet the Chief next day. He would be at a secret place he named.

“An’ tell him to come alone,” said Big Kennedy to the messenger. “That’s
th’ way I’ll come; an’ if he goes to ringin’ in two or three for this
powwow, you can say to him in advance it’s all off.”

Following the going of the messenger, Big Kennedy fell into a brown
study.

“Do you think you’ll deal in again with the Chief and the machine?” I
asked.

“It depends on what’s offered. A song an’ dance won’t get me.”

“But how about the Mortons? Would you abandon them?”

Big Kennedy looked me over with an eye of pity. Then he placed his hand
on my head, as on that far-off day in court.

“You’re learnin’ politics,” said Big Kennedy slowly, “an’ you’re showin’
speed. But let me tell you: You must chuck sentiment. Quit th’ Mortons?
I’ll quit ‘em in a holy minute if th’ bid comes strong enough.”

“Would you quit your friends?”

“That’s different,” he returned. “No man ought to quit his friends. But
you must be careful an’ never have more’n two or three, d’ye see. Now
these Mortons aint friends, they’re confed’rates. It’s as though we
happened to be members of the same band of porch-climbers, that’s all.
Take it this way: How long do you guess it would take the Mortons to
sell us out if it matched their little game? How long do you think we’d
last? Well, we’d last about as long as a drink of whisky.” Big Kennedy
met the Chief, and came back shaking his head in decisive negative.

“There’s nothin’ in it,” he said; “he’s all for playin’ th’ hog. It’s
that railway company’s deal. Your vote as Alderman, mind you, wins or
loses it! What do you think now he offers to do? I know what he gets. He
gets stock, say two hundred thousand dollars, an’ one hundred thousand
dollars in cold cash. An’ yet he talks of only splittin’ out fifteen
thousand for you an’ me! Enough said; we fight him!”

Jimmy the Blacksmith, when, in response to Big Kennedy’s hint, he
“followed Gaffney,” pitched his tent in the ward next north of our own.
He made himself useful to the leader of that region, and called together
a somber bevy which was known as the Alley Gang. With that care for
himself which had ever marked his conduct, Jimmy the Blacksmith, and
his Alley Gang, while they went to and fro as shoulder-hitters of
the machine, were zealous to avoid the Tin Whistles, and never put
themselves within their reach. On the one or two occasions when the Tin
Whistles, lusting for collision, went hunting them, the astute Alleyites
were no more to be discovered than a needle in the hay.

“You couldn’t find ‘em with a search warrant!” reported my disgusted
lieutenant. “I never saw such people! They’re a disgrace to th’ East
Side.”

However, they were to be found with the last of it, and it would have
been a happier fortune for me had the event fallen the other way.

It was the day of the balloting, and Big Kennedy and I had taken
measures to render the result secure. Not only would we hold our ward,
but the district and the reputable old gentleman were safe. Throughout
the morning the word that came to us from time to time was ever a white
one. It was not until the afternoon that information arrived of sudden
clouds to fill the sky. The news came in the guise of a note from young
Morton:

“Jimmy the Blacksmith and his heelers are driving our people from the
polls.”

“You know what to do!” said Big Kennedy, tossing me the scrap of paper.

With the Tin Whistles at my heels, I made my way to the scene of
trouble. It was full time; for a riot was on, and our men were winning
the worst of the fray. Clubs were going and stones were being thrown.

In the heart of it, I had a glimpse of Jimmy the Blacksmith, a slungshot
to his wrist, smiting right and left, and cheering his cohorts. The
sight gladdened me. There was my man, and I pushed through the crowd to
reach him. This last was no stubborn matter, for the press parted before
me like water.

Jimmy the Blacksmith saw me while yet I was a dozen feet from him. He
understood that he could not escape, and with that he desperately faced
me. As I drew within reach, he leveled a savage blow with the slungshot.
It would have put a period to my story if I had met it. The shot
miscarried, however, and the next moment I had rushed him and pinned him
against the walls of the warehouse in which the precinct’s polls were
being held.

“I’ve got you!” I cried, and then wrenched myself free to give me
distance.

I was to strike no blow, however; my purpose was to find an interruption
in midswing. While the words were between my teeth, something like
a sunbeam came flickering by my head, and a long knife buried itself
vengefully in Jimmy the Blacksmith’s throat. There was a choking gurgle;
the man fell forward upon me while the red torrent from his mouth
covered my hands. Then he crumpled to the ground in a weltering heap;
dead on the instant, too, for the point had pierced the spine. In a dumb
chill of horror, I stooped and drew forth the knife. It was that weapon
of the Bowery pawnshop which I had given the Sicilian.



CHAPTER XI--HOW THE BOSS STOOD AT BAY FOR HIS LIFE


WHEN I gave that knife to the Sicilian, I had not thought how on the
next occasion that I encountered it I should draw it from the throat of
a dead and fallen enemy. With the sight of it there arose a vision of
the dark brisk face, the red kerchief, and the golden earrings of him to
whom it had been presented. In a blurred way I swept the throng for his
discovery. The Sicilian was not there; my gaze met only the faces of
the common crowd--ghastly, silent, questioning, staring, as I stood with
knife dripping blood and the dead man on the ground at my feet. A police
officer was pushing slowly towards me, his face cloudy with apology.

“You mustn’t hold this ag’inst me,” said he, “but you can see yourself,
I can’t turn my blind side to a job like this. They’d have me pegged out
an’ spread-eagled in every paper of th’ town.”

“Yes!” I replied vaguely, not knowing what I said. “An’ there’s th’ big
Tammany Chief you’re fightin’,” went on the officer; “he’d just about
have my scalp, sure. I don’t see why you did it! Your heart must be
turnin’ weak, when you take to carryin’ a shave, an’ stickin’ people
like pigs!”

“You don’t think I killed him!” I exclaimed.

“Who else?” he asked.

The officer shrugged his shoulders and turned his hands palm upwards
with a gesture of deprecation. To the question and the gesture I made
no answer. It came to me that I must give my Sicilian time to escape. I
could have wished his friendship had taken a less tropical form; still
he had thrown that knife for me, and I would not name him until he had
found his ship and was safe beyond the fingers of the law. Even now I
think my course a proper one. The man innocent has ever that innocence
to be his shield; he should be ready to suffer a little in favor of ones
who own no such strong advantage.

It was nine of that evening’s clock before Big Kennedy visited me in the
Tombs. Young Morton came with him, clothed of evening dress and wearing
white gloves. He twisted his mustache between his kid-gloved finger and
thumb, meanwhile surveying the grimy interior--a fretwork of steel bars
and freestone--with looks of ineffable objection. The warden was with
them in his own high person when they came to my cell. That functionary
was in a mood of sullen uncertainty; he could not make out a zone of
safety for himself, when now Big Kennedy and the Tammany Chief were at
daggers drawn. He feared he might go too far in pleasuring the former,
and so bring upon him the dangerous resentment of his rival.

“We can’t talk here, Dave,” said Big Kennedy, addressing the warden,
after greeting me through the cell grate. “Bring him to your private
office.”

“But, Mr. Kennedy,” remonstrated the warden, “I don’t know about that.
It’s after lockin’-up hours now.”

“You don’t know!” repeated Big Kennedy, the specter of a threat peeping
from his gray eyes. “An’ you’re to hand me out a line of guff about
lockin’-up hours, too! Come, come, Dave; it won’t do to get chesty! The
Chief an’ I may be pals to-morrow. Or I may have him done for an’ on
th’ run in a month. Where would you be then, Dave? No more words, I say:
bring him to your private office.”

There was no gainsaying the masterful manner of Big Kennedy. The warden,
weakened with years of fear of him and his power, grumblingly undid the
bolts and led the way to his room.

“Deuced wretched quarters, I should say!” murmured young Morton,
glancing for a moment inside the cell. “Not at all worth cutting a
throat for.”

When we were in the warden’s room, that master of the keys took up a
position by the door. This was not to Big Kennedy’s taste.

“Dave, s’ppose you step outside,” said Big Kennedy.

“It’s no use you hearin’ what we say; it might get you into trouble,
d’ye see!” The last, insinuatingly.

“Mr. Kennedy, I’m afraid!” replied the warden, with the voice of one
worried. “You know the charge is murder. He’s here for killin’ Jimmy the
Blacksmith. I’ve no right to let him out of my sight.”

“To be sure, I know it’s murder,” responded Big Kennedy. “I’d be
plankin’ down bail for him if it was anything else. But what’s that got
to do with you skip-pin’ into th’ hall? You don’t think I’m goin’ to
pass him any files or saws, do you?”

“Really, Mr. Warden,” said young Morton, crossing over to where the
warden lingered irresolutely, “really, you don’t expect to stay and
overhear our conversation! Why, it would be not only impolite, but
perposterous! Besides, it’s not my way, don’t y’ know!” And here young
Morton put on his double eyeglass and ran the warden up and down with an
intolerant stare.

“But he’s charged, I tell you,” objected the warden, “with killin’ Jimmy
th’ Blacksmith. I can’t go to givin’ him privileges an’ takin’ chances;
I’d get done up if I did.”

“You’ll get done up if you don’t!” growled Big Kennedy.

“It is as you say,” went on young Morton, still holding the warden
in the thrall of that wonderful eyeglass, “it is quite true that this
person, James the Horseshoer as you call him, has been slain and will
never shoe a horse again. But our friend had no hand in it, as we stand
ready to spend one hundred thousand dollars to establish. And by
the way, speaking of money,”--here young Morton turned to Big
Kennedy--“didn’t you say as we came along that it would be proper to
remunerate this officer for our encroachments upon his time?”

“Why, yes,” replied Big Kennedy, with an ugly glare at the warden, “I
said that it might be a good idea to sweeten him.”

“Sweeten! Ah, yes; I recall now that sweeten was the term you employed.
A most extraordinary word for paying money. However,” and here young
Morton again addressed the warden, tendering him at the same time a
one-hundred-dollar bill, “here is a small present. Now let us have no
more words, my good man.”

The warden, softened by the bill, went out and closed the door. I could
see that he looked on young Morton in wonder and smelled upon him a
mysterious authority. As one disposed to cement a friendship just begun,
the warden, as he left, held out his hand to young Morton.

“You’re th’ proper caper!” he exclaimed, in a gush of encomium; “you’re
a gent of th’ right real sort!” Young Morton gazed upon the warden’s
outstretched hand as though it were one of the curious things of nature.
At. last he extended two fingers, which the warden grasped.

“This weakness for shaking hands,” said young Morton, dusting his gloved
fingers fastidiously, “this weakness for shaking hands on the part of
these common people is inexcusable. Still, on the whole, I did not think
it a best occasion for administering a rebuke, don’t y’ know, and so
allowed that low fellow his way.”

“Dave’s all right,” returned Big Kennedy. Then coming around to me: “Now
let’s get down to business. You understand how the charge is murder, an’
that no bail goes. But keep a stiff upper lip. The Chief is out to put
a crimp in you, but we’ll beat him just th’ same. For every witness he
brings, we’ll bring two. Do you know who it was croaked th’ Blacksmith?”

I told him of the Sicilian; and how I had recognized the knife as I drew
it from the throat of the dead man.

“It’s a cinch he threw it,” said Big Kennedy; “he was in the crowd an’
saw you mixin’ it up with th’ Blacksmith, an’ let him have it. Them
Dagoes are great knife throwers. Did you get a flash of him in the
crowd?”

“No,” I said, “there was no sign of him. I haven’t told this story to
anybody. We ought to give him time to take care of himself.”

“Right you are,” said Big Kennedy approvingly. “He probably jumped
aboard his boat; it’s even money he’s outside the Hook, out’ard bound,
by now.”

Then Big Kennedy discussed the case. I would be indicted and tried;
there was no doubt of that. The Chief, our enemy, had possession of the
court machinery; so far as indictment and trial were concerned he would
not fail of his will.

“An’ it’s th’ judge in partic’lar, I’m leary of,” said Big Kennedy
thoughtfully. “The Chief has got that jurist in hock to him, d’ye
see! But there’s another end to it; I’ve got a pull with the party who
selects the jury, an’ it’ll be funny if we don’t have half of ‘em our
way. That’s right; th’ worst they can hand us is a hung jury. If it
takes money, now,” and here Big Kennedy rolled a tentative eye on young
Morton, “if it should take money, I s’ppose we know where to look for
it?”

Young Morton had been listening to every word, and for the moment,
nothing about him of his usual languor. Beyond tapping his white
teeth with the handle of his dress cane, he retained no trace of those
affectations. I had much hope from the alert earnestness of young
Morton, for I could tell that he would stay by my fortunes to the end.

“What was that?” he asked, when Big Kennedy spoke of money.

“I said that if we have to buy any little thing like a juror or a
witness, we know where to go for the money.”

“Certainly!” he lisped, relapsing into the exquisite; “we shall buy the
courthouse should the purchase of that edifice become necessary to our
friend’s security.”

“Aint he a dandy!” exclaimed Big Kennedy, surveying young Morton in a
rapt way. Then coming back to me: “I’ve got some news for you that
you want to keep under your waistcoat. You know Billy Cassidy--Foxy
Billy--him that studied to be a priest? You remember how I got him a
post in th’ Comptroller’s office. Well, I sent for him not an hour ago;
he’s goin’ to take copies of th’ accounts that show what th’ Chief an’
them other highbinders at the top o’ Tammany have been doin’. I’ll have
the papers on ‘em in less’n a week. If we get our hooks on what I’m
after, an’ Foxy Billy says we shall, we’ll wipe that gang off th’
earth.”

“Given those documents, we shall, as you say, obliterate them,” chimed
in young Morton. “But speaking of your agent: Is this Foxy Billy as
astute as his name would imply?”

“He could go down to Coney Island an’ beat th’ shells,” said Big Kennedy
confidently.

“About the knife which gave James the Horseshoer his death wound,” said
young Morton. His tones were vapid, but his glance was bright enough.
“They’ve sent it to the Central Office. The detectives are sure
to discover the pawnbroker who sold it. I think it would be wise,
therefore, to carry the detectives the word ourselves. It will draw the
sting out of that wasp; it would, really. It wouldn’t look well to a
jury, should we let them track down-this information, while it will
destroy its effect if we ourselves tell them. I think with the start he
has, we can trust that Sicilian individual to take care of himself.”

This suggestion appealed to Big Kennedy as good. He thought, too, that
he and young Morton might better set about the matter without delay.

“Don’t lose your nerve,” said he, shaking me by the hand. “You are as
safe as though you were in church. I’ll crowd ‘em, too, an’ get this
trial over inside of six weeks. By that time, if Foxy Billy is any good,
we’ll be ready to give the Chief some law business of his own.”

“One thing,” I said at parting; “my wife must not come here. I wouldn’t
have her see me in a cell to save my life.”

From the moment of my arrival at the Tombs, I had not ceased to think of
Apple Cheek and her distress. Anne would do her best to comfort her; and
for the rest--why! it must be borne. But I could not abide her seeing me
a prisoner; not for her sake, but for my own.

“Well, good-by!” said young Morton, as he and Big Kennedy were taking
themselves away. “You need give yourself no uneasiness. Remember, you
are not only right, but rich; and when, pray, was the right, on being
backed by riches, ever beaten down?”

“Or for that matter, the wrong either?” put in Big Kennedy sagely. “I’ve
never seen money lose a fight.”

“Our friend,” said young Morton, addressing the warden, who had now
returned, and speaking in a high superior vein, “is to have everything
he wants. Here is my card. Remember, now, this gentleman is my friend;
and it is not to my fancy, don’t y’ know, that a friend of mine should
lack for anything; it isn’t, really!”

As Big Kennedy and young Morton reached the door, I bethought me for the
first time to ask the result of the election.

“Was your father successful?” I queried. “These other matters quite
drove the election from my head.”

“Oh, yes,” drawled young Morton, “my father triumphed. I forget the
phrase in which Mr. Kennedy described the method of his success, but
it was highly epigrammatic and appropriate. How was it you said the old
gentleman won?”

“I said that he won in a walk,” returned Big Kennedy. Then,
suspiciously: “Say you aint guying me, be you?”

“Me guy you?” repeated young Morton, elevating his brows. “I’d as soon
think of deriding a king with crown and scepter!”

My trial came on within a month. Big Kennedy had a genius for
expedition, and could hurry both men and events whenever it suited his
inclinations. When I went to the bar I was accompanied by two of the
leaders of the local guild of lawyers. These were my counsel, and they
would leave no stone unturned to see me free. Big Kennedy sat by my side
when the jury was empaneled.

“We’ve got eight of ‘em painted,” he whispered. “I’d have had all
twelve,” he continued regretfully, “but what with the challengin’, an’
what with some of ‘em not knowin’ enough, an’ some of ‘em knowin’ too
much, I lose four. However, eight ought to land us on our feet.”

There were no Irishmen in the panel, and I commented on the fact as
strange.

“No, I barred th’ Irish,” said Big Kennedy. “Th’ Irish are all right;
I’m second-crop Irish--bein’ born in this country--myself. But you don’t
never want one on a jury, especially on a charge of murder. There’s this
thing about a Mick: he’ll cry an’ sympathize with you an’ shake your
hand, an’ send you flowers; but just th’ same he always wants you
hanged.”

As Big Kennedy had apprehended, the Judge on the bench was set hard and
chill as Arctic ice against me; I could read it in his jadestone eye.
He would do his utmost to put a halter about my neck, and the look
he bestowed upon me, menacing and full of doom, made me feel lost and
gallows-ripe indeed. Suppose they should hang me! I had seen Sheeny Joe
dispatched for Sing Sing from that very room! The memory of it, with the
Judge lowering from the bench like a death-threat, sent a cold thought
to creep and coil about my heart and crush it as in the folds of a
snake.

There came the pawnbroker to swear how he sold me the knife those years
ago. The prosecution insisted as an inference drawn from this, that
the knife was mine. Then a round dozen stood up to tell of my rush
upon Jimmy the Blacksmith; and how he fell; and how, a moment later, I
fronted them with the red knife in my clutch and the dead man weltering
where he went down. Some there were who tried to say they saw me strike
the blow.

While this evidence was piling up, ever and again some timid juryman
would glance towards Big Kennedy inquiringly. The latter would send back
an ocular volley of threats that meant death or exile should that juror
flinch or fail him.

When the State ended, a score of witnesses took the stand in my behalf.
One and all, having been tutored by Big Kennedy, they told of the thrown
knife which came singing through the air like a huge hornet from the
far outskirts of the crowd. Many had not seen the hand that hurled the
knife; a few had been more fortunate, and described him faithfully as
a small lean man, dark, a red silk cloth over his head, and earrings
dangling from his ears.

“He was a sailorman, too,” said one, more graphic than the rest; “as I
could tell by the tar on his hands an’ a ship tattooed on th’ back of
one of ‘em. He stood right by me when he flung the knife.”

“Why didn’t you seize him?” questioned the State’s Attorney, with a
half-sneer.

“Not on your life!” said the witness. “I aint collarin’ nobody; I don’t
get policeman’s wages.”

The Judge gave his instructions to the jury, and I may say he did his
best, or worst, to drag me to the scaffold. The jurors listened; but
they owned eyes as well as ears, and for every word spoken by the
Judge’s tongue, Big Kennedy’s eyes spoke two. Also, there was that
faultless exquisite, young Morton, close and familiar to my side. The
dullest ox-wit of that panel might tell how I was belted about by strong
influences, and ones that could work a vengeance. Wherefore, when the
jury at last retired, there went not one whose mind was not made up, and
no more than twenty minutes ran by before the foreman’s rap on the door
announced them as prepared to give decision. They filed soberly in. The
clerk read the verdict.

“Not guilty!”

The Judge’s face was like thunder; he gulped and glared, and then
demanded:

“Is this your verdict?”

“It is,” returned the foreman, standing in his place; and his eleven
fellow jurors, two of whom belonged to my Red Jackets, nodded assent.

Home I went on wings. Anne met me in the hallway and welcomed me with a
kiss. She wore a strange look, but in my hurry for Apple Cheek I took no
particular heed of that.

“Where is she--where is my wife?” said I.

Then a blackcoat man came from the rear room; he looked the doctor and
had the smell of drugs about him. Anne glanced at him questioningly.

“I think he may come in,” he said. “But make no noise! Don’t excite
her!”

Apple Cheek, who was Apple Cheek no longer with her face hollowed and
white, was lying in the bed. Her eyes were big and bright, and the ghost
of a smile parted her wan lips.

“I’m so happy!” she whispered, voice hardly above a breath. Then with
weak hands she drew me down to her. “I’ve prayed and prayed, and I knew
it would come right,” she murmured.

Then Anne, who had followed me to the bedside, drew away the coverings.
It was like a revelation, for I had been told no word of it, nor so much
as dreamed of such sweet chances. The dear surprise of it was in one
sense like a blow, and I staggered on my feet as that day’s threats
had owned no power to make me. There, with little face upturned and
sleeping, was a babe!--our babe!

--Apple Cheek’s and mine!--our baby girl that had been born to us while
its father lay in jail on a charge of murder! While I looked, it opened
its eyes; and then a wailing, quivering cry went up that swept across my
soul like a tune of music.



CHAPTER XII--DARBY THE GOPHER


FOXY BILLY CASSIDY made but slow work of obtaining those papers asked
for to overthrow our enemy, the Chief. He copied reams upon reams of
contracts and vouchers and accounts, but those to wholly match the
crushing purposes of Big Kennedy were not within his touch. The
documents which would set the public ablaze were held in a safe, of
which none save one most trusted by the Chief, and deep in both his
plans and their perils, possessed the secret.

“That’s how the game stands,” explained Big Kennedy. “Foxy Billy’s up
ag’inst it. The cards we need are in th’ safe, an’ Billy aint got th’
combination, d’ye see.”

“Can anything be done with the one who has?”

“Nothin’,” replied Big Kennedy. “No, there’s no gettin’ next to th’
party with th’ combination. Billy did try to stand in with this duck;
an’ say! he turned sore in a second.”

“Then you’ve no hope?”

“Not exactly that,” returned Big Kennedy, as though revolving some
proposal in his mind. “I’ll hit on a way. When it comes to a finish, I
don’t think there’s a safe in New York I couldn’t turn inside out. But
I’ve got to have time to think.”

There existed strong argument for exertion on Big Kennedy’s part. Both
he and I were fighting literally for liberty and for life. Our sole
hope of safety layin the overthrow of the Chief; we must destroy or be
destroyed.

Big Kennedy was alive to the situation. He said as much when, following
that verdict of “Not guilty!” I thanked him as one who had worked most
for my defense.

“There’s no thanks comin’,” said Big Kennedy, in his bluff way. “I had
to break th’ Chief of that judge-an’-jury habit at th’ go-off. He’d have
nailed me next.”

Big Kennedy and I, so to phrase it, were as prisoners of politics.
Our feud with the Chief, as the days went by, widened to open war.
Its political effect was to confine us to our own territory, and we
undertook no enterprise which ran beyond our proper boundaries. It was
as though our ward were a walled town. Outside all was peril; inside
we were secure. Against the Chief and the utmost of his power, we could
keep our own, and did. His word lost force when once it crossed our
frontiers; his mandates fell to the ground.

Still, while I have described ourselves as ones in a kind of captivity,
we lived sumptuously enough on our small domain. Big Kennedy went about
the farming of his narrow acres with an agriculture deeper than ever. No
enterprise that either invaded or found root in our region was permitted
to go free, but one and all paid tribute. From street railways to push
carts, from wholesale stores to hand-organs, they must meet our levy or
see their interests pine. And thus we thrived.

However, for all the rich fatness of our fortunes, Big Kennedy’s designs
against the Chief never cooled. On our enemy’s side, we had daily proof
that he, in his planning, was equally sleepless. If it had not been for
my seat in the Board of Aldermen, and our local rule of the police which
was its corollary, the machine might have broken us down. As it was, we
sustained ourselves, and the sun shone for our ward haymaking, if good
weather went with us no farther.

One afternoon Big Kennedy of the suddenest broke upon me with an
exclamation of triumph.

“I have it!” he cried; “I know the party who will show us every paper in
that safe.”

“Who is he?” said I.

“I’ll bring him to you to-morrow night. He’s got a country place up th’
river, an’ never leaves it. He hasn’t been out of th’ house for almost
five years, but I think I can get him to come.” Big Kennedy looked as
though the situation concealed a jest. “But I can’t stand here talkin’;
I’ve got to scatter for th’ Grand Central.”

Who should this gifted individual be? Who was he who could come in from
a country house, which he had not quitted for five years, and hand
us those private papers now locked, and fast asleep, within the
Comptroller’s safe? The situation was becoming mysterious, and my
patience would be on a stretch until the mystery was laid bare. The sure
enthusiasm of Big Kennedy gave an impression of comfort. Big Kennedy was
no hare-brained optimist, nor one to count his chickens before they were
hatched.

When Big Kennedy came into the sanctum on the following evening, the
grasp he gave me was the grasp of victory.

“It’s all over but th’ yellin’!” said he; “we’ve got them papers in a
corner.”

Big Kennedy presented me to a shy, retiring person, who bore him
company, and who took my hand reluctantly. He was not ill-looking, this
stranger; but he had a furtive roving eye--the eye of a trapped animal.
His skin, too, was of a yellow, pasty color, like bad piecrust, and
there abode a damp, chill atmosphere about him that smelled of caves and
caverns.

After I greeted him, he walked away in a manner strangely unsocial, and,
finding a chair, sate himself down in a corner. He acted as might one
detained against his will and who was not the master of himself. Also,
there was something professional in it all, as though the purpose of
his presence were one of business. I mentioned in a whisper the queer
sallowness of the stranger.

“Sure!” said Big Kennedy. “It’s th’ prison pallor on him. I’ve got to
let him lay dead for a week or ten days to give him time to cover it
with a beard, as well as show a better haircut.”

“Who is he?” I demanded, my amazement beginning to sit up.

“He’s a gopher,” returned Big Kennedy, surveying the stranger with
victorious complacency. “Yes, indeed; he can go through a safe like th’
grace of heaven through a prayer meetin’.”

“Is he a burglar?”

“Burglar? No!” retorted Big Kennedy disgustedly; “he’s an artist. Any
hobo could go in with drills an’ spreaders an’ pullers an’ wedges, an’
crack a box. But this party does it by ear; just sits down before a
safe, an’ fumbles an’ fools with it ten minutes, an’ swings her open.
I tell you he’s a wonder! He knows th’ insides of a safe like a priest
knows th’ insides of a prayer-book.”

“Where was he?” I asked. “Where did you pick him up?” and here I took
a second survey of the talented stranger, who dropped his eyes on the
floor.

“The Pen,” said Big Kennedy. “The warden an’ me are old side-partners,
an’ I borrowed him. I knew where he was, d’ye see! He’s doin’ a stretch
of five years for a drop-trick he turned in an Albany bank. That’s
what comes of goin’ outside your specialty; he’d ought to have stuck to
safes.”

“Aren’t you afraid he’ll run?” I said. “You can’t watch him night and
day, and he’ll give you the slip.”

“No fear of his side-steppin’,” replied Big Kennedy confidently. “He’s
only got six weeks more to go, an’ it wouldn’t pay to slip his collar
for a little pinch of time like that. Besides, I’ve promised him five
hundred dollars for this job, an’ left it in th’ warden’s hands.”

“What’s his name?” I inquired.

“Darby the Goph.”

Big Kennedy now unfolded his plan for making Darby the Goph useful in
our affairs. Foxy Billy would allow himself to get behind in his labors
over the City books. In a spasm of industry he would arrange with his
superiors to work nights until he was again abreast of his duties. Foxy
Billy, night after night, would thus be left alone in the Comptroller’s
office. The safe that baffled us for those priceless documents would be
unguarded. Nothing would be thought by janitors and night watchmen of
the presence of Darby the Goph. He would be with Foxy Billy in the rôle
of a friend, who meant no more than to kindly cheer his lonely labors.

Darby the Goph would lounge and kill time while Foxy Billy moiled.

“There’s the scheme to put Darby inside,” said Big Kennedy in
conclusion. “Once they’re alone, he’ll tear th’ packin’ out o’ that
safe. When Billy has copied the papers, th’ game’s as simple as suckin’
eggs. We’ll spring ‘em, an’ make th’ Chief look like a dress suit at a
gasfitters’ ball.”

Big Kennedy’s programme was worked from beginning to end by Foxy Billy
and Darby the Goph, and never jar nor jolt nor any least of friction.
It ran out as smoothly as two and two make four. In the end, Big Kennedy
held in his fingers every evidence required to uproot the Chief. The ear
and the hand of Darby the Goph had in no sort lost their cunning.

“An’ now,” said Big Kennedy, when dismissing Darby the Goph, “you go
back where you belong. I’ve wired the warden, an’ he’ll give you that
bit of dough. I’ve sent for a copper to put you on th’ train. I don’t
want to take chances on you stayin’ over a day. You might get to
lushin’, an’ disgrace yourself with th’ warden.”

The police officer arrived, and Big Kennedy told him to see Darby the
Goph aboard the train.

“Don’t make no mistake,” said Big Kennedy, by way of warning. “He
belongs in Sing Sing, an’ must get back without fail to-night. Stay by
th’ train till it pulls out.”

“How about th’ bristles?” said the officer, pointing to the two-weeks’
growth of beard that stubbled the chin of the visitor. “Shall I have him
scraped?”

“No, they’ll fix his face up there,” said Big Kennedy. “The warden don’t
care what he looks like, only so he gets his clamps on him ag’in.”

“Here’s the documents,” said Big Kennedy, when Darby the Goph and his
escort had departed. “The question now is, how to give th’ Chief th’
gaff, an’ gaff him deep an’ good. He’s th’ party who was goin’ to leave
me on both sides of th’ street.” This last with an exultant sneer.

It was on my thoughts that the hand to hurl the thunderbolt we had been
forging was that of the reputable old gentleman. The blow would fall
more smitingly if dealt by him; his was a name superior for this duty to
either Big Kennedy’s or my own. With this argument, Big Kennedy declared
himself in full accord.

“It’ll look more like th’ real thing,” said he, “to have th’ kick come
from th’ outside. Besides, if I went to th’ fore it might get in my way
hereafter.”

The reputable old gentleman moved with becoming conservatism, not to say
dignity. He took the documents furnished by the ingenuity of Darby the
Goph, and the oil-burning industry of Foxy Billy, and pored over them
for a day. Then he sent for Big Kennedy. “The evidence you furnish
me,” said he, “seems absolutely conclusive. It betrays a corruption not
paralleled in modern times, with the head of Tammany as the hub of
the villainy. The town has been plundered of millions,” concluded the
reputable old gentleman, with a fine oratorical flourish, “and it is my
duty to lay bare this crime in all its enormity, as one of the people’s
Representatives.”

“An’ a taxpayer,” added Big Kennedy.

“Sir, my duty as a Representative,” returned the reputable old gentleman
severely, “has precedence over my privileges as a taxpayer.” Then, as
though the question offered difficulties: “The first step should be the
publication of these documents in a paper of repute.”

The reputable old gentleman had grounds for hesitation. Our enemy, the
Chief, was not without his allies among the dailies of that hour. The
Chief was popular in certain glutton circles. He still held to those
characteristics of a ready, laughing, generous recklessness that marked
him in a younger day when, as head of a fire company, with trousers
tucked in boots, red shirt, fire helmet, and white coat thrown over arm,
he led the ropes and cheered his men. But what were excellent as traits
in a fireman, became fatal under conditions where secrecy and a policy
of no noise were required for his safety. He was headlong, careless;
and, indifferent to discovery since he believed himself secure, the
trail of his wrongdoing was as widely obvious, not to say as unclean, as
was Broadway.

“Yes,” said the reputable old gentleman, “the great thing is to pitch
upon a proper paper.”

“There’s the _Dally Tory?_” suggested Big Kennedy. “It’s a very honest
sheet,” said the reputable old gentleman approvingly.

“Also,” said Big Kennedy, “the Chief has just cut it out of th’ City
advertisin’, d’ye see, an’ it’s as warm as a wolf.”

For these double reasons of probity and wrath, the _Daily Tory_ was
agreed to. The reputable old gentleman would put himself in touch with
the _Daily Tory_ without delay.

“Who is this Chief of Tammany?” asked the reputable old gentleman,
towards the close of the conference. “Personally, I know but little
about him.”

“He’d be all right,” said Big Kennedy, “but he was spoiled in the
bringin’ up. He was raised with th’ fire companies, an’ he made th’
mistake of luggin’ his speakin’ trumpet into politics.”

“But is he a deep, forceful man?”

“No,” returned Big Kennedy, with a contemptuous toss of the hand. “If
he was, you wouldn’t have been elected to Congress. He makes a brash
appearance, but there’s nothin’ behind. You open his front door an’
you’re in his back yard.”

The reputable old gentleman was bowing us out of his library, when Big
Kennedy gave him a parting word.

“Now remember: my name aint to show at all.”

“But the honor!” exclaimed the reputable old gentleman. “The honor of
this mighty reform will be rightfully yours. You ought to have it.”

“I’d rather have Tammany Hall,” responded Big Kennedy with a laugh, “an’
if I get to be too much of a reformer it might queer me. No, you go in
an’ do up th’ Chief. When he’s rubbed out, I intend to be Chief in his
place. I’d rather be Chief than have th’ honor you tell of. There’s more
money in it.”

“Do you prefer money to honor?” returned the reputable old gentleman,
somewhat scandalized.

“I’ll take th’ money for mine, every time,” responded Big Kennedy.
“Honor ought to have a bank account. The man who hasn’t anything but
honor gets pitied when he doesn’t get laughed at, an’ for my part I’m
out for th’ dust.”

Four days later the _Daily Tory_ published the first of its articles; it
fell upon our enemy with the force of a trip-hammer. From that hour the
assaults on the Chief gained never let or stay. The battle staggered on
for months. The public, hating him for his insolence, joined in hunting
him. One by one those papers, so lately his adorers, showed him their
backs.

“Papers sail only with the wind,” said Big Kennedy sagely, in commenting
on these ink-desertions of the Chief.

In the midst of the trouble, Old Mike began to sicken for his end. He
was dying of old age, and the stream of his life went sinking into his
years like water into sand. Big Kennedy gave up politics to sit by the
bedside of the dying old man. One day Old Mike seemed greatly to revive.

“Jawn,” he said, “you’ll be th’ Chief of Tammany. The Chief, now
fightin’ for his life, will lose. The mish-take he made was in robbin’
honest people. Jawn, he should have robbed th’ crim’nals an’ th’ law
breakers. The rogues can’t fight back, an’ th’ honest people can. An’
remember this: the public don’t care for what it hears, only for what it
sees. Never interfere with people’s beer; give ‘em clean streets; double
the number of lamp-posts--th’ public’s like a fly, it’s crazy over
lamps--an’ have bands playin’ in every par-rk. Then kape th’ streets
free of ba-ad people, tinhorn min, an’ such. You don’t have to drive ‘em
out o’ town, only off th’ streets; th’ public don’t object to dirt, but
it wants it kept in the back alleys. Jawn, if you’ll follow what I tell
you, you can do what else ye plaze. The public will go with ye loike a
drunkard to th’ openin’ of a new s’loon.”

“What you must do, father,” said Big Kennedy cheerfully, “is get well,
an’ see that I run things straight.”

“Jawn,” returned Old Mike, smiling faintly, “this is Choosday; by
Saturday night I’ll be dead an’ under th’ daisies.”

Old Mike’s funeral was a creeping, snail-like, reluctant thing of miles,
with woe-breathing bands to mark the sorrowful march. Big Kennedy never
forgot; and to the last of his power, the question uppermost in his
mind, though never in his mouth, was whether or not that one who sought
his favor had followed Old Mike to the grave.

The day of Old Mike’s funeral saw the destruction of our enemy, the
Chief. He fell with the crash of a tree. He fled, a hunted thing, and
was brought back to perish in a prison. And so came the end of him,
by the wit of Big Kennedy and the furtive sleighty genius of Darby the
Goph.



CHAPTER XIII--BIG KENNEDY AND THE MUGWUMPS


WHEN the old Chief was gone, Big Kennedy succeeded to his place as the
ruling spirit of the organization. For myself, I moved upward to become
a figure of power only a whit less imposing; for I stepped forth as
a leader of the ward, while in the general councils of Tammany I was
recognized as Big Kennedy’s adviser and lieutenant.

To the outside eye, unskilled of politics in practice, everything of
Tammany sort would have seemed in the plight desperate. The efforts
required for the overthrow of the old Chief, and Big Kennedy’s bolt in
favor of the forces of reform--ever the blood enemy of Tammany--had torn
the organization to fragments. A first result of this dismemberment
was the formation of a rival organization meant to dominate the local
Democracy. This rival coterie was not without its reasons of strength,
since it was upheld as much as might be by the State machine. The
situation was one which for a time would compel Big Kennedy to tolerate
the company of his reform friends, and affect, even though he privately
opposed them, some appearance of sympathy with their plans for the
purification of the town.

“But,” observed Big Kennedy, when we considered the business between
ourselves, “I think I can set these guys by the ears. There aint a man
in New York who, directly or round th’ corner, aint makin’ money through
a broken law, an’ these mugwumps aint any exception. I’ve invited three
members of the main squeeze to see me, an’ I’ll make a side bet they get
tired before I do.”

In deference to the invitation of Big Kennedy, there came to call upon
him a trio of civic excellence, each a personage of place. Leading
the three was our longtime friend, the reputable old gentleman. Of the
others, one was a personage whose many millions were invested in real
estate, the rentals whereof ran into the hundreds of thousands, while
his companion throve as a wholesale grocer, a feature of whose business
was a rich trade in strong drink.

Big Kennedy met the triumvirate with brows of sanctimony, and was a
moral match for the purest. When mutual congratulations over virtue’s
late successes at the ballot box, and the consequent dawn of whiter
days for the town, were ended, Big Kennedy, whose statecraft was of the
blunt, positive kind, brought to the discussional center the purpose of
the meeting.

“We’re not only goin’ to clean up th’ town, gents,” said Big Kennedy
unctuously, “but Tammany Hall as well. There’s to be no more corruption;
no more blackmail; every man an’ every act must show as clean as a dog’s
tooth. I s’ppose, now, since we’ve got th’ mayor, th’ alderman, an’ th’
police, our first duty is to jump in an’ straighten up th’ village?”
 Here Big Kennedy scanned the others with a virtuous eye.

“Precisely,” observed the reputable old gentleman. “And since the most
glaring evils ought to claim our earliest attention, we should compel
the police, without delay, to go about the elimination of the disorderly
elements--the gambling dens, and other vice sinks. What do you say,
Goldnose?” and the reputable old gentleman turned with a quick air to
him of the giant rent-rolls.

“Now on those points,” responded the personage of real estate dubiously,
“I should say that we ought to proceed slowly. You can’t rid the
community of vice; history shows it to be impossible.” Then, with a
look of cunning meaning: “There exist, however, evils not morally bad,
perhaps, that after all are violations of law, and get much more in the
way of citizens than gambling or any of its sister iniquities.” Then,
wheeling spitefully on the reputable old gentleman: “There’s the
sidewalk and street ordinances: You know the European Express Company,
Morton? I understand that you are a heaviest stockholder in it. I went
by that corner the other day and I couldn’t get through for the jam
of horses and trucks that choked the street. There they stood, sixty
horses, thirty trucks, and the side street fairly impassable. I
scratched one side of my brougham to the point of ruin--scratched off my
coat-of-arms, in fact, on the pole of one of the trucks. I think that to
enforce the laws meant to keep the street free of obstructions is more
important, as a civic reform, than driving out gamblers. These latter
people, after all, get in nobody’s way, and if one would find them one
must hunt for them. They are prompt with their rents, too, and ready to
pay a highest figure; they may be reckoned among the best tenants to be
found.”

The real estate personage was red in the face when he had finished this
harangue. He wiped his brow and looked resentfully at the reputable old
gentleman. That latter purist was now in a state of great personal heat.

“Those sixty horses were being fed, sir,” said he with spirit. “The barn
is more than a mile distant; there’s no time to go there and back during
the noon hour. You can’t have the barn on Broadway, you know. That would
be against the law, even if the value of Broadway property didn’t put it
out of reach.”

“Still, it’s against the law to obstruct the streets,” declared the
real-estate personage savagely, “just as much as it is against the law
to gamble. And the trucks and teams are more of a public nuisance, sir!”

“I suppose,” responded the reputable old gentleman, with a sneer,
“that if my express horses paid somebody a double rent, paid it to you,
Goldnose, for instance, they wouldn’t be so much in the way.” Then, as
one exasperated to frankness: “Why don’t you come squarely out like a
man, and say that to drive the disorderly characters from the town would
drive a cipher or two off your rents?”

“If I, or any other real-estate owner,” responded the baited one
indignantly, “rent certain tenements, not otherwise to be let, to
disorderly characters, whose fault is it? I can’t control the town for
either its morals or its business. The town grows up about my property,
and conditions are made to occur that practically condemn it. Good
people won’t live there, and the property is unfit for stores or
warehouses. What is an owner to do? The neighborhood becomes such that
best people won’t make of it a spot of residence. It’s either no rent,
or a tenant who lives somewhat in the shade. Real-estate owners, I
suppose, are to be left with millions of unrentable property on their
hands; but you, on your side, are not to lose half an hour in taking
your horses to a place where they might lawfully be fed? What do you
say, Casebottle?” and the outraged real-estate prince turned to the
wholesale grocer, as though seeking an ally.

“I’m inclined, friend Goldnose,” returned the wholesale grocer suavely,
“I’m inclined to think with you that it will be difficult to deal with
the town as though it were a camp meeting. Puritanism is offensive
to the urban taste.” Here the wholesale grocer cleared his throat
impressively.

“And so,” cried the reputable old gentleman, “you call the suppression
of gamblers and base women, puritanism? Casebottle, I’m surprised!”

The wholesale grocer looked nettled, but held his peace. There came a
moment of silence. Big Kennedy, who had listened without interference,
maintaining the while an inflexible morality, took advantage of the
pause.

“One thing,” said he, “about which I think you will all agree, is that
every ginmill open after hours, or on Sunday, should be pinched, and
no side-doors or speakeasy racket stood for. We can seal th’ town up as
tight as sardines.”

Big Kennedy glanced shrewdly at Casebottle. Here was a move that would
injure wholesale whisky. Casebottle, however, did not immediately
respond; it was the reputable old gentleman who spoke.

“That’s my notion,” said he, pursing his lips. “Every ginmill ought to
be closed as tight as a drum. The Sabbath should be kept free of that
disorder which rum-drinking is certain to breed.”

“Well, then,” broke in Casebottle, whose face began to color as his
interests began to throb, “I say that a saloon is a poor man’s club. If
you’re going to close the saloons, I shall be in favor of shutting up
the clubs. I don’t believe in one law for the poor and another for the
rich.”

This should offer some impression of how the visitors agreed upon a
civil policy. Big Kennedy was good enough to offer for the others, each
of whom felt himself somewhat caught in a trap, a loophole of escape.

“For,” explained Big Kennedy, “while I believe in rigidly enforcin’
every law until it is repealed, I have always held that a law can be
tacitly repealed by th’ people, without waitin’ for th’ action of some
skate legislature, who, comin’ for th’ most part from th’ cornfields,
has got it in for us lucky ducks who live in th’ town. To put it this
way: If there’s a Sunday closin’ law, or a law ag’inst gamblers, or
a law ag’inst obstructin’ th’ streets, an’ th’ public don’t want it
enforced, then I hold it’s repealed by th’ highest authority in th’
land, which is th’ people, d’ye see!”

“Now, I think that very well put,” replied the real-estate personage,
with a sigh of relief, while the wholesale grocer nodded approval. “I
think that very well put,” he went on, “and as it’s getting late, I
suggest that we adjourn for the nonce, to meet with our friend, Mr.
Kennedy, on some further occasion. For myself, I can see that he and the
great organization of which he is now, happily, the head, are heartily
with us for reforming the shocking conditions that have heretofore
persisted in this community. We have won the election; as a corollary,
peculation and blackmail and extortion will of necessity cease. I think,
with the utmost safety to the public interest, we can leave matters to
take their natural course, without pushing to extremes. Don’t you think
so, Mr. Kennedy?”

“Sure!” returned that chieftain. “There’s always more danger in too much
steam than in too little.”

The reputable old gentleman was by no means in accord with the
real-estate personage; but since the wholesale grocer cast in his voice
for moderation and no extremes, he found himself in a hopeless minority
of no one save himself. With an eye of high contempt, therefore, for
what he described as “The reform that needs reform,” he went away with
the others, and the weighty convention for pure days was over.

“An’ that’s th’ last we’ll see of ‘em,” said Big Kennedy, with a laugh.
“No cat enjoys havin’ his own tail shut in th’ door; no man likes th’
reform that pulls a gun on his partic’lar interest. This whole reform
racket,” continued Big Kennedy, who was in a temper to moralize, “is, to
my thinkin’, a kind of pouter-pigeon play. Most of ‘em who go in for
it simply want to swell ‘round. Besides the pouter-pigeon, who’s in
th’ game because he’s stuck on himself, there’s only two breeds of
reformers. One is a Republican who’s got ashamed of himself; an’ th’
other is some crook who’s been kicked out o’ Tammany for graftin’
without a license.”

“Would your last include you and me?” I asked. I thought I might hazard
a small jest, since we were now alone.

“It might,” returned Big Kennedy, with an iron grin. Then, twisting
the subject: “Now let’s talk serious for two words. I’ve been doin’ th’
bunco act so long with our three friends that my face begins to ache
with lookin’ pious. Now listen: You an’ me have got a long road ahead of
us, an’ money to be picked up on both sides. But let me break this off
to you, an’ don’t let a word get away. When you do get th’ stuff, don’t
go to buildin’ brownstone fronts, an’ buyin’ trottin’ horses, an’ givin’
yourself away with any Coal-Oil Johnny capers. If we were Republicans
or mugwumps it might do. But let a Democrat get a dollar, an’ there’s a
warrant out for him before night. When you get a wad, bury it like a dog
does a bone. An’ speakin’ of money; I’ve sent for th’ Chief of Police..
Come to think of it, we’d better talk over to my house. I’ll go there
now, an’ you stay an’ lay for him. When he shows up, bring him to me.
There won’t be so many pipin’ us off over to my house.”

Big Kennedy left the Tammany headquarters, where he and the good
government trio had conferred, and sauntered away in the direction
of his habitat. The Chief of Police did not keep me in suspense. Big
Kennedy was not four blocks away when that blue functionary appeared.

“I’m to go with you to his house,” said I.

The head of the police was a bloated porpoise-body of a man, oily,
plausible, masking his cunning with an appearance of frankness. As for
scruple; why then the sharks go more freighted of a conscience.

Big Kennedy met the Chief of Police with the freedom that belongs with
an acquaintance, boy and man, of forty years. In a moment they had
gotten to the marrow of what was between them.

“Of course,” said Big Kennedy, “Tammany’s crippled just now with not
havin’ complete swing in th’ town; an’ I’ve got to bunk in more or less
with the mugwumps. Still, we’ve th’ upper hand in th’ Board of Aldermen,
an’ are stronger everywhere than any other single party. Now you
understand;” and here Big Kennedy bent a keen eye on the other. “Th’
organization’s in need of steady, monthly contributions. We’ll want ‘em
in th’ work I’m layin’ out. I think you know where to get ‘em, an’ I
leave it to you to organize th’ graft. You get your bit, d’ye see! I’m
goin’ to name a party, however, to act as your wardman an’ make th’
collections. What sort is that McCue who was made Inspector about a week
ago?”

“McCue!” returned the Chief of Police in tones of surprise. “That man
would never do! He’s as honest as a clock!”

“Honest!” exclaimed Big Kennedy, and his amazement was a picture. “Well,
what does he think he’s doin’ on th’ force, then?”

“That’s too many for me,” replied the other. Then, apologetically: “But
you can see yourself, that when you rake together six thousand men, no
matter how you pick ‘em out, some of ‘em’s goin’ to be honest.”

“Yes,” assented Big Kennedy thoughtfully, “I s’ppose that’s so, too.
It would be askin’ too much to expect that a force, as you say, of six
thousand could be brought together, an’ have ‘em all crooked. It was
Father Considine who mentioned this McCue; he said he was his cousin an’
asked me to give him a shove along. It shows what I’ve claimed a dozen
times, that th’ Church ought to keep its nose out o’ politics. However,
I’ll look over th’ list, an’ give you some good name to-morrow.”

“But how about th’ town?” asked the Chief of Police anxiously. “I want
to know what I’m doin’. Tell me plain, just what goes an’ what don’t.”

“This for a pointer, then,” responded Big Kennedy. “Whatever goes has
got to go on th’ quiet. I’ve got to keep things smooth between me an’
th’ mugwumps. The gamblers can run; an’ I don’t find any fault with even
th’ green-goods people. None of ‘em can beat a man who don’t put himself
within his reach, an’ I don’t protect suckers. But knucks, dips,
sneaks, second-story people, an’ strong-arm men have got to quit. That’s
straight; let a trick come off on th’ street cars, or at th’ theater, or
in the dark, or let a crib get cracked, an’ there’ll be trouble between
you an’ me, d’ye see! An’ if anything as big as a bank should get done
up, why then, you send in your resignation. An’ at that, you’ll be dead
lucky if you don’t do time.”

“There’s th’ stations an’ th’ ferries,” said the other, with an
insinuating leer. “You know a mob of them Western fine-workers are
likely to blow in on us, an’ we not wise to ‘em--not havin’ their mugs
in the gallery. That sort of knuck might do business at th’ depots
or ferries, an’ we couldn’t help ourselves. Anyway,” he concluded
hopefully, “they seldom touch up our own citizens; it’s mostly th’
farmers they go through.”

“All right,” said Big Kennedy cheerfully, “I’m not worryin’ about what
comes off with th’ farmers. But you tell them fine-workers, whose mugs
you haven’t got, that if anyone who can vote or raise a row in New York
City goes shy his watch or leather, th’ artist who gets it can’t come
here ag’in. Now mind: You’ve got to keep this town so I can hang my
watch on any lamp-post in it, an’ go back in a week an’ find it hasn’t
been touched. There’ll be plenty of ways for me an’ you to get rich
without standin’ for sneaks an’ hold-ups.”

Big Kennedy, so soon as he got possession of Tammany, began divers
improvements of a political sort, and each looking to our safety and
perpetuation. One of his moves was to break up the ward gangs, and this
included the Tin Whistles.

“For one thing, we don’t need ‘em--you an’ me,” said he. “They could
only help us while we stayed in our ward an’ kept in touch with ‘em. The
gangs strengthen th’ ward leaders, but they don’t strengthen th’ Chief.
So we’re goin’ to abolish ‘em. The weaker we make th’ ward leaders, the
stronger we make ourselves. Do you ketch on?” and Big Kennedy nudged me
significantly.

“You’ve got to disband, boys,” said I, when I had called the Tin
Whistles together. “Throw away your whistles. Big Kennedy told me that
the first toot on one of ‘em would get the musician thirty days on the
Island. It’s an order; so don’t bark your shins against it.”

After Big Kennedy was installed as Chief, affairs in their currents for
either Big Kennedy or myself went flowing never more prosperously. The
town settled to its lines; and the Chief of Police, with a wardman whom
Big Kennedy selected, and who was bitten by no defect of integrity like
the dangerous McCue, was making monthly returns of funds collected for
“campaign purposes” with which the most exacting could have found no
fault. We were rich, Big Kennedy and I; and acting on that suggestion of
concealment, neither was blowing a bugle over his good luck.

I could have been happy, being now successful beyond any dream that
my memory could lay hands on, had it not been for Apple Cheek and her
waning health. She, poor girl, had never been the same after my trial
for the death of Jimmy the Blacksmith; the shock of that trouble bore
her down beyond recall. The doctors called it a nervous prostration, but
I think, what with the fright and the grief of it, that the poor child
broke her heart. She was like something broken; and although years went
by she never once held up her head. Apple Cheek faded slowly away, and
at last died in my arms.

When she passed, and it fell upon me like a pall that Apple Cheek had
gone from me forever, my very heart withered and perished within me.
There was but one thing to live for: Blossom, my baby girl. Anne came
to dwell with us to be a mother to her, and it was good for me what Anne
did, and better still for little Blossom. I was no one to have Blossom’s
upbringing, being ignorant and rude, and unable to look upon her without
my eyes filling up for thoughts of my lost Apple Cheek. That was
a sharpest of griefs--the going of Apple Cheek! My one hope lay in
forgetfulness, and I courted it by working at politics, daylight and
dark.

It would seem, too, that the blow that sped death to Apple Cheek had
left its nervous marks on little Blossom. She was timid, hysterical,
terror-whipped of fears that had no form. She would shriek out in the
night as though a fiend frighted her, and yet could tell no story of it.
She lived the victim of a vast formless fear that was to her as a demon
without outlines or members or face. One blessing: I could give the
trembling Blossom rest by holding her close in my arms, and thus she has
slept the whole night through. The “frights,” she said, fled when I was
by.

In that hour, Anne was my sunshine and support; I think I should have
followed Apple Cheek had it not been for Blossom, and Anne’s gentle
courage to hold me up. For all that, my home was a home of clouds and
gloom; waking or sleeping, sorrow pressed upon me like a great stone. I
took no joy, growing grim and silent, and far older than my years.

One evening when Big Kennedy and I were closeted over some enterprise
of politics, that memorable exquisite, young Morton, was announced.
He greeted us with his old-time vacuity of lisp and glance, and after
mounting that double eyeglass, so potent with the herd, he said:
“Gentlemen, I’ve come to make some money.”



CHAPTER XIV--THE MULBERRY FRANCHISE


THAT’S my purpose in a nutshell,” lisped young Morton; “I’ve decided to
make some money; and I’ve come for millions.” Here he waved a delicate
hand, and bestowed upon Big Kennedy and myself his look of amiable
inanity.

“Millions, eh?” returned Big Kennedy, with his metallic grin. “I’ve seen
whole fam’lies taken the same way. However, I’m glad you’re no piker.”

“If by ‘piker,’” drawled young Morton, “you mean one of those cheap
persons who play for minimum stakes, I assure you that I should scorn
to be so described; I should, really! No, indeed; it requires no more of
thought or effort to play for millions than for ten-dollar bills.”

“An’ dead right you are!” observed Big Kennedy with hearty emphasis. “A
sport can buck faro bank for a million as easily as for a white chip.
That is, if he can find a game that’ll turn for such a bundle, an’ has
th’ money to back his nerve. What’s true of faro is true of business.
So you’re out for millions! I thought your old gent, who’s into fifty
enterprises an’ has been for as many years, had long ago shaken
down mankind for a whole mountain of dough. The papers call him a
multimillionaire.”

Young Morton, still with the empty smile, brought forth a cigarette
case. The case, gold, was adorned with a ruby whereon to press when one
would open it, and wore besides the owner’s monogram in diamonds. Having
lighted a cigarette, he polished his eyeglass with a filmy handkerchief.
Re-establishing the eyeglass on his high patrician nose, he again shone
vacuously upon Big Kennedy.

That personage had watched these manifestations of fastidious culture
in a spirit of high delight. Big Kennedy liked young Morton; he had long
ago made out how those dandyisms were no more than a cover for what fund
of force and cunning dwelt beneath. In truth, Big Kennedy regarded young
Morton’s imbecilities as a most fortunate disguise. His remark would
show as much. As young Morton--cigarette just clinging between his lips,
eye of shallow good humor--bent towards him, he said, addressing me:

“Say! get onto that front! That look of not knowin’ nothin’ ought
by itself to cash in for half a million! Did you ever see such a
throw-off?” and here Big Kennedy quite lost himself in a maze of
admiration. Recovering, however, and again facing our caller, he
repeated: “Yes, I thought your old gent had millions.”

“Both he and the press,” responded young Morton, “concede that he has;
they do, really! Moreover, he possesses, I think, the evidence of it in
a cord or two of bonds and stocks, don’t y’ know! But in what fashion,
pray, does that bear upon my present intentions as I’ve briefly laid
them bare?”

“No fashion,” said Big Kennedy, “only I’d naturally s’ppose that when
you went shy on th’ long green, you’d touch th’ old gentleman.”

“Undoubtedly,” returned young Morton, “I could approach my father with
a request for money--that is if my proposal were framed in a spirit of
moderation, don’t y’ know!--say one hundred thousand dollars. But such
a sum, in my present temper, would be but the shadow of a trifle. I
owe five times the amount; I do, really! I’ve no doubt I’m on Tiffany’s
books for more than one hundred thousand, while my bill at the florist’s
should be at least ten thousand dollars, if the pen of that brigand of
nosegays has kept half pace with his rapacity. However,” concluded young
Morton, breaking into a soft, engaging laugh, “since I intend, with your
aid, to become the master of millions, such bagatelles are unimportant,
don’t y’ know.”

“Certainly!” observed Big Kennedy in a consolatory tone; “they don’t
amount to a deuce in a bum deck. Still, I must say you went in up to
your neck on sparks an’ voylets. I never saw such a plunger on gewgaws
an’ garlands since a yard of cloth made a coat for me.”

“Those bills arose through my efforts to make grand opera beautiful. I
set the prima donna ablaze with gems; and as for the stage, why, it was
like singing in a conservatory; it was really!”

“Well, let that go!” said Big Kennedy, after a pause. “I shall be glad
if through my help you make them millions. If you do, d’ye see, I’ll
make an armful just as big; it’s ag’inst my religion to let anybody grab
off a bigger piece of pie than I do when him an’ me is pals. It would
lower my opinion of myself. However, layin’ guff aside, s’ppose you butt
in now an’ open up your little scheme. Let’s see what button you think
you’re goin’ to push.”

“This is my thought,” responded young Morton, and as he spoke the
eyeglass dropped from its aquiline perch, and under the heat of a
real animation those mists of affectation were dissipated; “this is my
thought: I want a street railway franchise along Mulberry Avenue, the
length of the Island.”

“Go on,” said Big Kennedy.

“It’s my plan to form a corporation---Mulberry Traction. There’ll be
eight millions of preferred stock at eight per cent. I can build and
equip the road with that. In addition, there’ll be ten millions of
common stock.”

“Have you th’ people ready to take th’ preferred?”

“Ready and waiting. If I had the franchise, I could float those eight
millions within ten days.”

“What do you figger would be th’ road’s profits?”

“It would carry four hundred thousand passengers a day, and take in
twenty thousand dollars. The operating expenses would not exceed an
annual four millions and a half. That, after the eight per cent, on
the preferred were paid, would leave over two millions a year on the
common--a dividend of twenty per cent., or five per cent, every quarter.
You can see where such returns would put the stock. You, for your ride,
would go into the common on the ground floor.”

“We’ll get to how I go in, in a minute,” responded Big Kennedy dryly.
He was impressed by young Morton’s proposal, and was threshing it out in
his mind as they talked. “Now, see here,” he went on, lowering his
brows and fixing his keen gray glance on young Morton, “you mustn’t get
restless if I ask you questions. I like to tap every wheel an’ try every
rivet on a scheme or a man before I hook up with either.”

“Ask what you please,” said young Morton, as brisk as a terrier.

“I’ll say this,” observed Big Kennedy. “That traction notion shows that
you’re a hogshead of horse sense. But of course you understand that
you’re going to need money, an’ plenty of it, before you get th’
franchise. I can take care of th’ Tammany push, perhaps; but there’s
highbinders up to your end of th’ alley who’ll want to be greased.”

“How much do you argue that I’ll require as a preliminary to the grant
of the franchise?” asked young Morton, interrupting Big Kennedy.

“Every splinter of four hundred thousand.”

“That was my estimate,” said young Morton; “but I’ve arranged for twice
that sum.”

“Who is th’ Rothschild you will get it from?”

“My father,” replied young Morton, and now he lapsed anew into his
manner of vapidity. “Really, he takes an eighth of the preferred at
par--one million! I’ve got the money in the bank, don’t y’ know!”

“Good!” ejaculated Big Kennedy, with the gleam which never failed to
sparkle in his eye at the mention of rotund riches.

“My father doesn’t know my plans,” continued young Morton, his indolence
and his eyeglass both restored. “No; he wouldn’t let me tell him; he
wouldn’t, really! I approached him in this wise:

“‘Father,’ said I, ‘you are aware of the New York alternative?’

“‘What is it?’ he asked.

“‘Get money or get out.’

“‘Well!’ said he.

“‘Father, I’ve decided not to move. Yes, father; after a full
consideration of the situation, I’ve resolved to make, say twenty or
thirty millions for myself; I have, really! It’s quite necessary, don’t
y’ know; I am absolutely bankrupt. And I don’t like it; there’s nothing
comfortable in being bankrupt, it so deucedly restricts a man. Besides,
it’s not good form. I’ve evolved an idea, however; there’s a business I
can go into.’

“‘Store?’ he inquired.

“‘No, no, father,’ I replied, for the odious supposition quite upset me;
‘it’s nothing so horribly vulgar as trade; it’s a speculation, don’t y’
know. There’ll be eight millions of preferred stock; you are to take a
million. Also, you are to give me the million at once.’

“‘What is this speculation?’ he asked. ‘If I’m to go in for a million, I
take it you can entrust me with the outlines.’

“‘Really, it was on my mind to do so,’ I replied.

“‘My scheme is this: I shall make an alliance with Mr. Kennedy.’

“‘Stop, stop!’ cried my father hastily. ‘On the whole, I don’t care to
hear your scheme. You shall have the money; but I’ve decided that it
will reflect more glory upon you should you bring things to an issue
without advice from me. Therefore, you need tell me no more; positively,
I will not hear you.’”

“It was my name made him leary,” observed Big Kennedy, with the
gratified face of one who has been paid a compliment. “When you said
‘Kennedy,’ he just about figgered we were out to get a kit of tools
an’ pry a shutter off th’ First National. It’s th’ mugwump notion of
Tammany, d’ye see! You put him onto it some time, that now I’m Chief
I’ve got center-bits an’ jimmies skinned to death when it comes to
makin’ money.”

“I don’t think it was your name,” observed young Morton. “He’s beginning
to learn, however, about my voting those three hundred wenches in
overalls and jumpers, don’t y’ know, and it has taught him to distrust
my methods as lacking that element of conservatism which he values so
much. It was that which came uppermost in his memory, and it occurred
to him that perhaps the less he knew about my enterprises the sounder he
would sleep. Is it not remarkable, how fondly even an advanced man like
my father will cling to the moss-grown and the obsolete?”

“That’s no dream neither!” exclaimed Big Kennedy, in earnest coincidence
with young Morton. “It’s this old fogy business on th’ parts of people
who ought to be leadin’ up th’ dance for progress, that sends me to bed
tired in th’ middle of th’ day!” And here Big Kennedy shook his head
reproachfully at gray ones whose sluggishness had wounded him.

“My father drew his check,” continued young Morton. “He couldn’t let it
come to me, however, without a chiding. Wonderful, how the aged like
to lord it over younger folk with rebukes for following in their
footsteps--really!

“‘You speak of bankruptcy,’ said my father, sucking in his cheeks.
‘Would it violate confidence should you tell me how you come to be in
such a disgraceful predicament?’ This last was asked in a spirit of
sarcasm, don’t y’ know.

“‘It was by following your advice, sir,’ said I.

“‘Following my advice!’ exclaimed my father. ‘What do you mean, sir? Or
are you mad?’

“‘Not at all,’ I returned. ‘Don’t you recall how, when I came from
college, you gave me a world of advice, and laid particular stress on
my establishing a perfect credit? “Nothing is done without credit,” you
said on that occasion; “and it should be the care of a young man, as
he enters upon life, to see to it that his credit is perfect in every
quarter of trade. He should extend his credit with every opportunity.”
 This counsel made a deep impression upon me, it did, really! and so I’ve
extended my credit wherever I saw a chance until I owe a half-million.
I must say, father, that I think it would have saved me money, don’t
y’ know, had you told me to destroy my credit as hard as I could. In
fostering my credit, I but warmed a viper.’”

Young Morton paused to fire another cigarette, while the pucker about
the corner of his eye indicated that he felt as though he had turned the
laugh upon his father. Following a puff or two, he returned gravely to
Mulberry Traction.

“Do you approve my proposition?” he asked of Big Kennedy, “and will you
give me your aid?”

“The proposition’s all hunk,” said Big Kennedy. “As to my aid: that
depends on whether we come to terms.”

“What share would you want?”

“Forty per cent, of th’ common stock,” responded Big Kennedy. “That’s
always th’ Tammany end; forty per cent.”

Young Morton drew in his lips. The figure seemed a surprise. “Do you
mean that you receive four millions of the common stock, you paying
nothing?” he asked at last.

“I don’t pony for a sou markee. An’ I get th’ four millions, d’ye see!
Who ever heard of Tammany payin’ for anything!” and Big Kennedy glared
about the room, and sniffed through his nose, as though in the presence
of all that might be called preposterous.

“But if you put in no money,” remonstrated young Morton, “why should
you have the stock? I admit that you ought to be let in on lowest terms;
but, after all, you should put in something.”

“I put in my pull,” retorted Big Kennedy grimly. “You get your franchise
from me.”

“From the City,” corrected young Morton.

“I’m the City,” replied Big Kennedy; “an’ will be while I’m on top of
Tammany, an’ Tammany’s on top of th’ town.” Then, with a friendliness
of humor: “Here, I like you, an’ I’ll go out o’ my way to educate you
on this point. You’re fly to some things, an’ a farmer on others. Now
understand: The City’s a come-on--a sucker--an’ it belongs to whoever
picks it up. That’s me this trip, d’ye see! Now notice: I’ve got no
office; I’m a private citizen same as you, an’ I don’t owe no duty to
th’ public. Every man has his pull--his influence. You’ve got your pull;
I’ve got mine. When a man wants anything from th’ town, he gets his
pull to work. In this case, my pull is bigger than all th’ other pulls
clubbed together. You get that franchise or you don’t get it, just as I
say. In short, you get it from me--get it by my pull, d’ye see! Now why
shouldn’t I charge for th’ use of my pull, just as a lawyer asks his
fee, or a bank demands interest when it lends? My pull’s my pull; it’s
my property as much as a bank’s money is th’ bank’s, or a lawyer’s
brains is the lawyer’s. I worked hard to get it, an’ there’s hundreds
who’d take it from me if they could. There’s my doctrine: I’m a private
citizen; my pull is my capital, an’ I’m as much entitled to get action
on it in favor of myself as a bank has to shave a note. That’s why
I take forty per cent. It’s little enough: The franchise will be
four-fifths of th’ whole value of th’ road; an’ all I have for it is
two-fifths of five-ninths, for you’ve got to take into account them
eight millions of preferred.”

Young Morton was either convinced of the propriety of what Big Kennedy
urged, or saw--the latter is the more likely surmise--that he must
agree if he would attain success for his enterprise. He made no more
objection, and those forty per cent, in favor of Big Kennedy were looked
upon as the thing adjusted.

“You spoke of four hundred thousand dollars as precedent to the
franchise,” said young Morton. “Where will that go?”

“There’s as many as thirty hungry ones who, here an’ there an’ each in
our way, must be met an’ squared.”

“How much will go to your fellows?”

“Most of th’ Tammany crowd I can beat into line. But there’s twelve who
won’t take orders. They were elected as ‘Fusion’ candidates, an’ they
think that entitles ‘em to play a lone hand. Whenever Tammany gets th’
town to itself, you can gamble! I’ll knock their blocks off quick. You
ask what it’ll take to hold down th’ Tammany people? I should say two
hundred thousand dollars. We’ll make it this way: I’ll take thirty per
cent, instead of forty of th’ common, an’ two hundred thousand in coin.
That’ll be enough to give us th’ Tammany bunch as solid as a brick
switch shanty.”

“That should do,” observed young Morton thoughtfully.

When young Morton was about to go, Big Kennedy detained him with a final
query.

“This aint meant to stick pins into you,” said Big Kennedy, “but, on th’
dead! I’d like to learn how you moral an’ social high-rollers reconcile
yourselves to things. How do you agree with yourself to buy them votes
needed to get th’ franchise? Not th’ ones I’ll bring in, an’ which you
can pretend you don’t know about; but them you’ll have to deal with
personally, d’ye see!”

“There’ll be none I’ll deal with personally, don’t y’ know,” returned
young Morton, getting behind his lisp and eyeglass, finding them a
refuge in what was plainly an embarrassed moment, “no; I wouldn’t do
anything with the vulgar creatures in person. They talk such awful
English, it gets upon my nerves--really! But I’ve retained Caucus &
Club; they’re lawyers, only they don’t practice law, they practice
politics. They’ll attend to those low details of which you speak. For me
to do so wouldn’t be good form. It would shock my set to death, don’t y’
know!”

“That’s a crawl-out,” observed Big Kennedy reproachfully, “an’ it aint
worthy of you. Why don’t you come to th’ center? You’re goin’ to give
up four hundred thousand dollars to get this franchise. You don’t think
it’s funny--you don’t do it because you like it, an’ are swept down in a
gust of generosity. An’ you do think it’s wrong.”

“Really, now you’re in error,” replied young Morton earnestly, but
still clinging to his lisp and his languors. “As you urge, one has
scant pleasure in paying this money. On the contrary, I shall find it
extremely dull, don’t y’ know! But I don’t call it wrong. I’m entitled,
under the law, and the town’s practice--a highly idiotic one, this
latter, I concede!--of giving these franchises away, to come forward
with my proposition. Since I offer to build a perfect road, and to run
it in a perfect manner, I ought, as a matter of right--always bearing
in mind the town’s witless practice aforesaid--to be granted this
franchise. But those officers of the city who, acting for the city,
should make the grant, refuse to do their duty by either the city or
myself, unless I pay to each of them, say ten thousand dollars; they
do, really! What am I to do? I didn’t select those officers; the public
picked them out. Must I suffer loss, and go defeated of my rights,
because the public was so careless or so ignorant as to pitch upon those
improper, or, if you will, dishonest officials? I say, No. The fault is
not mine; surely the loss should not be mine. I come off badly enough
when I submit to the extortion. No, it is no more bribery, so far as
I am involved, than it is bribery when I surrender my watch to that
footpad who has a pistol at my ear. In each instance, the public should
have saved me and has failed, don’t y’ know. The public, thus derelict,
must not denounce me when, under conditions which its own neglect has
created, I take the one path left open to insure myself; it mustn’t,
really!”

Young Morton wiped the drops from his brow, and I could tell how he was
deeply in earnest in what he thus put forward. Big Kennedy clapped him
lustily on the back.

“Put it there!” he cried, extending his hand. “I couldn’t have said it
better myself, an’ I aint been doin’ nothin’ but buy aldermen since I
cut my wisdom teeth. There’s one last suggestion, however: I take it,
you’re onto the’ fact that Blackberry Traction will lock horns with us
over this franchise. We parallel their road, d’ye see, an’ they’ll try
to do us up.” Then to me: “Who are th’ Blackberry’s pets in th’ Board?”

“McGinty and Doloran,” I replied.

“Keep your peepers on them babies. You can tell by th’ way they go
to bat, whether th’ Blackberry has signed up to them to kill our
franchise.”

“I can tell on the instant,” I said.

“That has all been anticipated,” observed young Morton. “The president
of Blackberry Traction is a member of my club; we belong in the same
social set. I foresaw his opposition, and I’ve provided for it; I have,
really! McGinty and Doloran, you say? The names sound like the enemy.
Please post me if those interesting individuals move for our disfavor.”

And now we went to work. Whatever was demanded of the situation as it
unfolded found prompt reply, and in the course of time Mulberry Traction
was given its franchise. The Blackberry at one crisis came forward to
work an interruption; the sudden hot enmity of McGinty and Doloran was
displayed. I gave notice of it to young Morton.

“I’ll arrange the matter,” he said. “At the next meeting of the Board I
think they will be with us, don’t y’ know.”

It was even so; and since Big Kennedy, with my aid, discharged every
responsibility that was his, the ordinance granting the franchise went
through, McGinty and Doloran voting loudly with the affirmative. They
were stubborn caitiffs, capable of much destructive effort, and their
final tameness won upon my surprise. I put the question of it to young
Morton.

“This is the secret of that miracle,” said he. “The president of
Blackberry has been a Wall Street loser, don’t y’ know, for more than a
year--has lost more than he could honestly pay. And yet he paid! Where
did he get the money? At first I asked myself the question in a feeling
of lazy curiosity. When I decided to organize our Mulberry Traction, I
asked it in earnest; I did, really! I foresaw my friend’s opposition,
and was seeking a weapon against him. Wherefore I looked him over
with care, trying to determine where he got his loans. Now, he was the
president, and incidentally a director, of the Confidence Trust Company.
I bought stock in the Confidence. Then I drew into my interest that
employee who had charge of the company’s loans. I discovered that our
Blackberry president had borrowed seven millions from the Trust
Company, giving as security a collection of dogs and cats and chips and
whetstones, don’t y’ know! That was wrong; considering his position
as an officer of the company, it was criminal. I made myself master of
every proof required to establish his guilt in court. Then I waited.
When you told me of those evil symptoms manifested by McGinty and
Doloran, I took our president into the Fifth Avenue window of the club
and showed him those evidences of his sins. He looked them over, lighted
a cigar, and after musing for a moment, asked if the help of McGinty and
Doloran for our franchise would make towards my gratification. I told
him I would be charmed--really! You know the rest. Oh, no; I did not do
so rude a thing as threaten an arrest. It wasn’t required. Our president
is a highly intellectual man. Besides, it wouldn’t have been clubby; and
it would have been bad form. And,” concluded young Morton, twirling
his little cane, and putting on that look of radiant idiocy, “I’ve an
absolute mania for everything that’s form, don’t y’ know.”



CHAPTER XV--THAT GAS COMPANY INJUNCTION


YOUNG MORTON was president of Mulberry Traction. When the franchise
came sound and safe into the hands of Mulberry, young Morton evolved a
construction company and caused himself to be made president and manager
thereof. These affairs cleared up, he went upon the building of his road
with all imaginable spirit. He was still that kid-gloved, eve-glassed
exquisite of other hours, but those who dealt with him in his
road-building knew in him a hawk to see and a lion to act in what he
went about. Big Kennedy was never weary of his name, and glowed at its
merest mention.

“He’s no show-case proposition!” cried Big Kennedy exultantly. “To look
at him, folks might take him for a fool. They’d bring him back, you bet!
if they did. You’ve got to see a party in action before you can tell
about him. A mudscow will drift as fast as an eight-oared shell; it’s
only when you set ‘em to goin’ endwise, an’ give ‘em a motive, you begin
to get onto th’ difference.”

One day young Morton told me how the Gas Company had lodged suit against
Mulberry.

“They’ve gotten a beastly injunction, they have, really!” said he.
“They say we’re digging, don’t y’ know, among their pipes and mains. The
hearing is put down for one week from to-day.”

“The Gas Company goes vastly out of its way in this!” observed the
reputable old gentleman indignantly.

He had arrived in company with young Morton. When now the franchise was
obtained, and those more devious steps for Mulberry advancement had been
taken, the reputable old gentleman began to feel a vigorous interest in
his son’s enterprise. The reputable old gentleman had grown proud of his
son, and it should be conceded that young Morton justified the paternal
admiration.

“Let us go over to Tammany Hall,” said I, “and talk with Big Kennedy.”

We found Big Kennedy in cheerful converse with the Reverend Bronson,
over the latter’s Five Points Mission. He and the dominie were near Big
Kennedy’s desk; in a far corner lolled a drunken creature, tattered,
unshorn, disreputable, asleep and snoring in his chair. As I entered the
room, accompanied by the reputable old gentleman and young Morton, Big
Kennedy was giving the Reverend Bronson certain hearty assurances of his
good will.

“I’ll see to it to-day,” Big Kennedy was saying. “You go back an’ deal
your game. I’ll have two cops detailed to every meetin’, d’ye see, an’
their orders will be to break their night-sticks over th’ head of th’
first duck that laughs or makes a row. You always come to me for what
you want; you can hock your socks I’ll back you up. What this town needs
is religious teachin’ of an elevated kind, an’ no bunch of Bowery bums
is goin’ to give them exercises th’ smother. An’ that goes!”

“I’m sure I’m much obliged,” murmured the Reverend Bronson, preparing to
take himself away. Then, turning curious: “May I ask who that lost and
abandoned man is?” and he indicated the drunkard, snoring in his chair.

“You don’t know him,” returned Big Kennedy, in a tone of confident,
friendly patronage. “Just now he’s steeped in bug juice to th’ eyes,
an’ has been for a week. But I’m goin’ to need him; so I had him brought
in.”

“Of what earthly use can one who has fallen so low be put to?” asked the
Reverend Bronson. Then, with a shudder: “Look at him!”

“An’ that’s where you go wrong!” replied Big Kennedy, who was in one of
his philosophical humors. “Now if it was about morals, or virtue, or th’
hereafter, I wouldn’t hand you out a word. That’s your game, d’ye see,
an’ when it’s a question of heaven, you’ve got me beat. But there’s
other games, like Tammany Hall for instance, where I could give you
cards an’ spades. Now take that sot there: I know what he can do, an’
what I want him for, an’ inside of a week I’ll be makin’ him as useful
as a corkscrew in Kentucky.”

“He seems a most unpromising foundation upon which to build one’s hope,”
 said the Reverend Bronson dubiously.

“He aint much to look at, for fair!” responded Big Kennedy, in his large
tolerant way. “But you mustn’t bet your big stack on a party’s looks.
You can’t tell about a steamboat by th’ coat of paint on her sides;
you must go aboard. Now that fellow”--here he pointed to the sleeping
drunkard--“once you get th’ booze out of him, has a brain like a
buzzsaw. An’ you should hear him talk! He’s got a tongue so acid it
would eat through iron. The fact is, th’ difference between that soak
an’ th’ best lawyer at the New York bar is less’n one hundred dollars.
I’ll have him packed off to a Turkish bath, sweat th’ whisky out of him,
have him shaved an’ his hair cut, an’ get him a new suit of clothes.
When I’m through, you won’t know him. He’ll run sober for a month, which
is as long as I’ll need him this trip.”

“And will he then return to his drunkenness?” asked the Reverend
Bronson.

“Sure as you’re alive!” said Big Kennedy. “The moment I take my hooks
off him, down he goes.”

“What you say interests me! Why not send him to my mission, and let me
compass his reform.”

“You might as well go down to th’ morgue an’ try an’ revive th’ dead.
No, no, Doctor; that duck is out of humanity’s reach. If you took him in
hand at your mission, he’d show up loaded some night an’ tip over your
works. Better pass him up.”

“If his case is so hopeless, I marvel that you tolerate him.”

The Reverend Bronson was a trifle piqued at Big Kennedy for thinking his
influence would fall short of the drunkard’s reform.

“You aint onto this business of bein’ Chief of Tammany,” responded Big
Kennedy, with his customary grin. “I always like to do my work through
these incurables. It’s better to have men about you who are handicapped
by some big weakness, d’ye see! They’re strong on th’ day you need ‘em,
an’ weak when you lay ‘em down. Which makes it all the better. If
these people were strong all th’ year ‘round, one of ‘em, before we got
through, would want my job, an’ begin to lay pipes to get it. Some time,
when I wasn’t watchin’, he might land th’ trick at that. No, as hands to
do my work, give me fellows who’ve got a loose screw in their machinery.
They’re less chesty; an’ then they work better, an’ they’re safer.
I’ve only one man near me who don’t show a blemish. That’s him,” and he
pointed to where I sat waiting with young Morton and the reputable old
gentleman. “I’ll trust him; because I’m goin’ to make him Boss when I
get through; an’ he knows it. That leaves him without any reason for
doin’ me up.”

Big Kennedy called one of his underlings, and gave him directions to
have the sleeping drunkard conveyed instantly to a bath-house.

“Get th’ kinks out of him,” said he; “an’ bring him back to me in four
days. I want to see him as straight as a string, an’ dressed as though
for a weddin’. I’m goin’ to need him to make a speech, d’ye see! at that
mugwump ratification meetin’ in Cooper Union.”

When the Reverend Bronson, and the drunken Cicero, in care of his
keeper, had gone their several ways, Big Kennedy wheeled upon us. He was
briefly informed of the troubles of Mulberry Traction.

“If them gas crooks don’t hold hard,” said he, when young Morton had
finished, “we’ll have an amendment to th’ city charter passed at
Albany, puttin’ their meters under th’ thumb an’ th’ eye of th’ Board of
Lightin’ an’ Supplies. I wonder how they’d like that! It would cut sixty
per cent, off their gas bills. However, mebby th’ Gas Company’s buttin’
into this thing in th’ dark. What judge does the injunction come up
before?”

“Judge Mole,” said young Morton.

“Mole, eh?” returned Big Kennedy thoughtfully. “We’ll shift th’ case
to some other judge. Mole won’t do; he’s th’ Gas Company’s judge, d’ye
see.”

“The Gas Company’s judge!” exclaimed the reputable old gentleman, in
horrified amazement.

Big Kennedy, at this, shone down upon the reputable old gentleman like a
benignant sun.

“Slowly but surely,” said he, “you begin to tumble to th’ day an’
th’ town you’re livin’ in. Don’t you know that every one of our giant
companies has its own judge? Why! one of them Captains of Industry, as
th’ papers call ‘em, would no more be without his judge than without his
stenographer.”

“In what manner,” snorted the reputable old gentleman, “does one of our
great corporations become possessed of a judge?”

“Simple as sloppin’ out champagne!” returned Big Kennedy. “It asks us to
nominate him. Then it comes up with his assessment, d’ye see!--an’ I’ve
known that to run as high as one hundred thousand--an’ then every year
it contributes to our various campaigns, say fifty thousand dollars a
whirl. Oh! it comes high to have your own private judge; but if you’re
settin’ into a game of commerce where th’ limit’s higher than a cat’s
back, it’s worth a wise guy’s while.”

“Come, come!” interposed young Morton, “we’ve no time for moral and
political abstractions, don’t y’ know! Let’s get back to Mulberry
Traction. You say Judge Mole won’t do. Can you have the case set down
before another judge?”

“Easy money!” said Big Kennedy. “I’ll have Mole send it over to Judge
Flyinfox. He’ll knock it on th’ head, when it comes up, an’ that’s th’
last we’ll ever hear of that injunction.”

“You speak of Judge Flyinfox with confidence,” observed the reputable
old gentleman, breaking in. “Why are you so certain he will dismiss the
application for an injunction?”

“Because,” retorted Big Kennedy, in his hardy way, “he comes up for
renomination within two months. He’d look well throwin’ the harpoon into
me right now, wouldn’t he?” Then, as the double emotions of wrath and
wonder began to make purple the visage of the reputable old gentleman:
“Look here: you’re more’n seven years old. Why should you think a judge
was different from other men? Haven’t you seen men crawl in th’ sewer
of politics on their hands an’ knees, an’ care for nothin’ only so they
crawled finally into th’ Capitol at Albany? Is a judge any better than
a governor? Or is either of ‘em any better than other people? While
Tammany makes th’ judges, do you s’ppose they’ll be too good for th’
organization? That last would be a cunnin’ play to make!”

“But these judges,” said the reputable old gentleman. “Their terms are
so long and their salaries so large, I should think they would defy you
and your humiliating orders.”

“Exactly,” returned Big Kennedy, with the pleasant air of one aware of
himself, “an’ that long term an’ big salary works square th’ other way.
There’s so many of them judges that there’s one or two to be re-elected
each year. So we’ve always got a judge whose term is on th’ blink, d’ye
see! An’ he’s got to come to us--to me, if you want it plain--to get
back. You spoke of th’ big salary an’ th’ long term. Don’t you see that
you’ve only given them guys more to lose? Now th’ more a party has to
lose, th’ more he’ll bow and scrape to save himself. Between us, a judge
within a year or so of renomination is th’ softest mark on th’ list.”

The reputable old gentleman expressed unbounded indignation, while Big
Kennedy laughed.

“What’re you kickin’ about?” asked Big Kennedy, when he had somewhat
recovered. “That’s the ‘Boss System.’ Just now, d’ye see! it’s water
on your wheel, so you oughtn’t to raise th’ yell. But to come back
to Mulberry Traction: We’ll have Mole send th’ case to Flyinfox; an’
Flyinfox will put th’ kybosh on it, if it comes up. But I’ll let you
into a secret. Th’ case’ll never come up; th’ Gas Company will go back
to its corner.”

“Explain,” said young Morton eagerly.

“Because I’ll tell ‘em to.”

“Do you mean that you’ll go to the Gas Company,” sneered the reputable
old gentleman, “and give its officers orders the same as you say you
give them to the State’s and the City’s officers?”

“Th’ Gas Company’ll come to me, an’ ask for orders.”

The reputable old gentleman drew a long breath, while his brows worked
up and down.

“And dare you tell me,” he cried, “that men of millions--our leading men
of business, will come to you and ask your commands?”

“My friend,” replied Big Kennedy gravely, “no matter how puffed up an’
big these leadin’ men of business get to be, th’ Chief of Tammany is a
bigger toad than any. Listen: th’ bigger the target th’ easier th’ shot.
If you’ll come down here with me for a month, I’ll gamble you’ll meet
an’ make th’ acquaintance of every business king in th’ country. An’
you’ll notice, too, that they’ll take off their hats, an’ listen to what
I say; an’ in th’ end, they’ll do what I tell ‘em to do.” Big Kennedy
glowered impressively upon the reputable old gentleman. “That sounds
like a song that is sung, don’t it?” Then turning to me: “Tell th’
Street Department not to give th’ Gas Company any more permits to open
streets until further orders. An’ now”--coming back to the reputable old
gentleman--“can’t you see what’ll come off?”

The reputable old gentleman looked mystified. Young Morton, for his
part, began to smile.

“He sees!” exclaimed Big Kennedy, pointing to young Morton. “Here’s
what’ll happen. Th’ Gas Company has to have two hundred permits a day to
tear open th’ streets. After that order reaches the Street Commissioner,
it won’t get any.”

“‘Better see the Boss,’ the Street Commissioner will whisper, when the
Gas Company asks what’s wrong.

“The next day one of th’ deck hands will come to see me. I’ll turn him
down; th’ Chief of Tammany don’t deal with deck hands. The next day th’
Gas Company will send th’ first mate. The mate’ll get turned down; th’
Chief of Tammany deals with nobody less’n a captain, d’ye see! On th’
third day, or to put it like a prophet, say next Friday--since this
is Tuesday--th’ president of th’ Gas Company will drive here in his
brougham. I’ll let him wait ten minutes in the outer room to take the
swell out of his head. Then I’ll let him in, an’, givin’ him th’ icy
eye, I’ll ask: ‘What’s th’ row?’ Th’ Gas Company will have been three
days without permits to open th’ streets;--its business will be at a
standstill;--th’ Gas Company’ll be sweatin’ blood. There’ll be th’ Gas
Company’s president, an’ here’ll be Big John Kennedy. I think that even
you can furnish th’ wind-up. As I tell you, now that I’ve had time to
think it out, th’ case will be withdrawn. Still, to make sure, we’ll
have Mole send th’ papers over to Flyinfox, just as though we had
nowhere except th’ courts to look for justice.”

On Monday, the day before the case was to have been called, the Gas
Company, humbled and made penitent with a stern paucity of “permits,”
 dismissed its petition for an injunction against Mulberry Traction, and
young Morton returned to his career, unchecked of a court’s decree.

“Father,” said young Morton, as we came from our interview with Big
Kennedy, “I’m not sure that the so-called Boss System for the Government
of Cities is wholly without its advantages, don’t y’ know!” And here
young Morton puffed a complacent, not to say superior, cigarette.

“Humph!” retorted the reputable old gentleman angrily. “Every Esau,
selling his birthright for a mess of pottage, would speak the same.”

“Esau with a cigarette--really!” murmured young Morton, giving a
ruminative puff. “But I say, father, it isn’t a mess of pottage, don’t
y’ know, it’s a street railway.”

As Mulberry Traction approached completion, the common stock reached
forty. At that point Big Kennedy closed out his interest. Snapping the
catchlock behind us, to the end that we be alone, he tossed a dropsical
gray envelope on the table.

“There’s two hundred thousand dollars’ worth of Uncle Sam’s bonds,” said
he. “That’s your end of Mulberry Traction.”

“You’ve sold out?”

“Sold out an’ got one million two hundred thousand.”

“The stock would have gone higher,” said I. “You would have gotten more
if you’d held on.”

“Wall Street,” returned Big Kennedy, with a cautious shake of the head,
“is off my beat. I’m afraid of them stock sharps; I feel like a come-on
th’ minute I begin to talk with one, an’ I wouldn’t trust ‘em as far as
I could throw a dog by th’ tail. I break away as fast as ever I can, an’
chase back to Fourteenth Street, where I’m wise to th’ game. I’ve seen
suckers like me who took a million dollars into Wall Street, an’
came out in a week with nothin’ but a pocket full of canceled postage
stamps.”

“I’ve been told,” said I with a laugh, and going with Big Kennedy’s
humor, “that two hundred years ago, Captain Kidd, the pirate, had his
home on the site of the present Stock Exchange.”

“Did he?” said Big Kennedy. “Well, I figger that his crew must
have lived up an’ down both sides of the street from him, an’ their
descendants are still holdin’ down th’ property. An’ to think,” mused
Big Kennedy, “that Trinity Church stares down th’ length of Wall Street,
with th’ graves in th’ Trinity churchyard to remind them stock wolves of
th’ finish! I’m a hard man, an’ I play a hard game, but on th’ level!
if I was as big a robber as them Wall Street sharps, I couldn’t look
Trinity Church in th’ face!” Then, coming back to Mulberry Traction and
to me: “I’ve put it in bonds, d’ye see! Now if I was you, I’d stand pat
on ‘em just as they are. Lay ‘em away, an’ think to yourself they’re for
that little Blossom of yours.”

At the name of Blossom, Big Kennedy laid his heavy hand on mine as might
one who asked a favor. It was the thing unusual. Big Kennedy’s rough
husk gave scanty promise of any softness of sentiment to lie beneath.
Somehow, the word and the hand brought the water to my eyes.’

“It is precisely what I mean to do,” said I. “Blossom is to have it, an’
have it as it is--two hundred thousand dollars in bonds.”

Big Kennedy, with that, gave my hand a Titan’s grip in indorsement of my
resolve.

Blossom was growing up a frail, slender child, and still with her
frightened eyes. Anne watched over her; and since Blossom lacked in
sturdiness of health, she did not go to a school, but was taught by
Anne at home. Blossom’s love was for me; she clung to me when I left the
house, and was in my arms the moment the door opened upon my return. She
was the picture of my lost Apple Cheek, wanting her roundness, and my
eyes went wet and weary with much looking upon her.

My home was quiet and, for me, gloomy. Anne, I think, was happy in a
manner pensive and undemonstrative. As for Blossom, that terror she drew
in from her mother when the latter was struck by the blow of my arrest
for the death of Jimmy the Blacksmith, still held its black dominion
over her fancy; and while with time she grew away from those agitations
and hysterias which enthralled her babyhood, she lived ever in a
twilight of melancholy that nothing could light up, and from which her
spirit never emerged. In all her life I never heard her laugh, and her
smile, when she did smile, was as the soul of a sigh. And so my house
was a house of whispers and shadows and silences as sad as death--a
house of sorrow for my lost Apple Cheek, and fear for Blossom whose life
was stained with nameless mourning before ever she began to live at all.

Next door to me I had brought my father and mother to dwell. Anne, who
abode with me, could oversee both houses. The attitude of Big Kennedy
towards Old Mike had not been wanting in effect upon me. The moment my
money was enough, I took my father from his forge, and set both him and
my mother to a life of workless ease. I have feared more than once that
this move was one not altogether wise. My people had been used to labor,
and when it was taken out of their hands they knew not where to turn
with their time. They were much looked up to by neighbors for the power
and position I held in the town’s affairs; and each Sunday they could
give the church a gold piece, and that proved a mighty boon to their
pride. But, on the whole, the leisure of their lives, and they unable
to employ it, carked and corroded them, and it had not a little to do in
breaking down their health. They were in no sense fallen into the vale
of years, when one day they were seized by a pneumonia and--my mother
first, with her patient peasant face! and my father within the week that
followed--passed both to the other life.

And now when I was left with only Blossom and Anne to love, and to be
dear and near to me, I went the more among men, and filled still more
my head and hands and heart with politics. I must have action, motion.
Grief walked behind me; and, let me but halt, it was never long in
coming up.

Sundry years slipped by, and the common routine work of the organization
engaged utterly both Big Kennedy and myself. We struggled heartily, and
had our ups and our downs, our years of black and our years of white.
The storm that wrecked Big Kennedy’s predecessor had left Tammany in
shallow, dangerous waters for its sailing. Also Big Kennedy and I were
not without our personal enemies. We made fair weather of it, however,
particularly when one considers the broken condition of Tammany, and the
days were not desolate of their rewards.

Now ensues a great heave upward in my destinies.

One evening I came upon Big Kennedy, face gray and drawn, sitting as
still as a church. Something in the look or the attitude went through me
like a lance.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“There was a saw-bones here,” said he, “pawin’ me over for a
life-insurance game that I thought I’d buy chips in. He tells me my
light’s goin’ to flicker out inside a year. That’s a nice number to
hand a man! Just as a sport finds himself on easy street, along comes
a scientist an’ tells him it’s all off an’ nothin’ for it but the
bone-yard! Well,” concluded Big Kennedy, grimly lighting a cigar, “if
it’s up to me, I s’ppose I can hold down a hearse as good as th’ next
one. If it’s th’ best they can do, why, let her roll!”



CHAPTER XVI--THE BOSS IS DEAD; LONG LIVE THE BOSS!


BIG KENNEDY could not live a year; his doom was written. It was the
word hard to hear, and harder to believe, of one who, broad, burly,
ruddy with the full color of manhood at its prime, seemed in the very
feather of his strength. And for all that, his hour was on its way.
Death had gained a lodgment in his heart, and was only pausing to
strengthen its foothold before striking the blow. I sought to cheer him
with the probability of mistake on the side of ones who had given him
this dark warning of his case.

“That’s all right,” responded Big Kennedy in a tone of dogged dejection;
“I’m up ag’inst it just th’ same. It didn’t need th’ doctor to put me
on. More’n once I’ve felt my heart slip a cog. I shall clean up an’
quit. They say if I pull out an’ rest, I may hang on for a year. That’s
th’ tip I’ve got, an’ I’m goin’ to take it. I’m two millions to th’
good, an’ when all is done, why, that’s enough.”

Big Kennedy declared for a vacation; the public announcement went for
it that he would rest. I was to take control as a fashion of Boss by
brevet.

“Of course,” said Big Kennedy when we talked privately of the situation,
“you understand. I’m down an’ out, done for an’ as good as dead right
now. But it’s better to frame th’ play as I’ve proposed. Don’t change
th’ sign over th’ door for a month or two; it’ll give you time to
stiffen your grip. There’s dubs who would like th’ job, d’ye see, an’ if
they found an openin’ they’d spill you out of th’ place like a pup out
of a basket. It’s for you to get your hooks on th’ levers, an’ be in
control of th’ machine before I die.” Then, with a ghastly smile: “An’
seein’ it’s you, I’ll put off croakin! till th’ last call of th’ board.”

Big Kennedy, seeking that quiet which had been the physician’s
prescription, went away. When, later by ten months, he came back, his
appearance was a shock to me. The great, bluff man was gone, and he who
feebly took me by the hand seemed no more than a weak shadow of that
Big John Kennedy whom I had followed. The mere looks of him were like a
knife-stab. He stayed but a day, and then returned to his retreat in the
silent hills. Within a month Big Kennedy was dead.

“You’ve got things nailed,” said he, on the last evening, “an’ I’m glad
it’s so. Now let me give you a few points; they may help you to hold
down your place as Boss. You’re too hungry for revenge; there’s your
weakness. The revenge habit is worse than a taste for whisky. Th’ best
you can say for it is it’s a waste of time. When you’ve downed a man,
stop. To go on beatin’ him is like throwin’ water on a drowned rat.

“When it comes to handin’ out th’ offices an’ th’ contracts, don’t play
fav’rites. Hand every man what’s comin’ to him by th’ rules of th’ game.
It’ll give you more power to have men say you’ll do what’s square, than
that you’ll stick by your friends. Good men--dead-game men, don’t want
favors; they want justice.

“Never give a man the wrong office; size every man up, an’ measure him
for his place th’ same as a tailor does for a suit of clothes. If you
give a big man a little office, you make an enemy; if you give a little
man a big office, you make trouble.

“Flatter th’ mugwumps. Of course, their belfry is full of bats; but
about half th’ time they have to be your pals, d’ye see, in order to be
mugwumps. An’ you needn’t be afraid of havin’ ‘em around; they’ll never
ketch onto anything. A mugwump, as some wise guy said, is like a man
ridin’ backward in a carriage; he never sees a thing until it’s by.

“Say ‘No’ nineteen times before you say ‘Yes’ once. People respect th’
man who says ‘No,’ an’ his ‘Yes’ is worth more where he passes it out.
When you say ‘No,’ you play your own game; when you say ‘Yes,’ you’re
playin’ some other duck’s game. ‘No,’ keeps; ‘Yes,’ gives; an’ th’ gent
who says ‘No’ most will always be th’ biggest toad in his puddle.

“Don’t be fooled by a cheer or by a crowd. Cheers are nothin’ but a
breeze; an’ as for a crowd, no matter who you are, there would always be
a bigger turn-out to see you hanged than to shake your mit.

“Always go with th’ current; that’s th’ first rule of leadership. It’s
easier; an’ there’s more water down stream than up.

“Think first, last, an’ all th’ time of yourself. You may not be of
account to others, but you’re the whole box of tricks to yourself. Don’t
give a man more than he gives you. Folks who don’t stick to that steer
land either in bankruptcy or Bloomin’dale.

“An’ remember: while you’re Boss, you’ll be forced into many things
ag’inst your judgment. The head of Tammany is like th’ head of a snake,
an’ gets shoved forward by the tail. Also, like th’ head of a snake, th’
Boss is th’ target for every rock that is thrown.

“Have as many lieutenants as you can; twenty are safer than two. Two
might fake up a deal with each other to throw you down; twenty might
start, but before they got to you they’d fight among themselves.

“Have people about you who distrust each other an’ trust you. Keep th’
leaders fightin’ among themselves. That prevents combinations ag’inst
you; an’ besides they’ll do up each other whenever you say the word,
where every man is hated by the rest.

“Always pay your political debts; but pay with a jolly as far as it’ll
go. If you find one who won’t take a jolly, throw a scare into him and
pay him with that. If he’s a strong, dangerous mug with whom a jolly
or a bluff won’t work, get him next to you as fast as you can. If you
strike an obstinate party, it’s th’ old rule for drivin’ pigs. If you
want ‘em to go forward, pull ‘em back by th’ tails. Never trust a man
beyond his interest; an’ never love the man, love what he does.

“The whole science of leadership lies in what I’ve told you, an’ if you
can clinch onto it, you’ll stick at th’ top till you go away, like I do
now, to die. An’ th’ last of it is, don’t get sentimental--don’t take
politics to heart. Politics is only worth while so long as it fills your
pockets. Don’t tie yourself to anything. A political party is like a
street car; stay with it only while it goes your way. A great partisan
can never be a great Boss.”

When I found myself master of Tammany, my primary thought was to be
cautious. I must strengthen myself; I must give myself time to take
root. This was the more necessary, for not only were there a full score
of the leaders, any one of whom would prefer himself for my place, but
the political condition was far from reassuring. The workingman--whom as
someone said we all respect and avoid--was through his unions moving to
the town’s conquest. It was as that movement of politics in the land
of the ancient Nile. Having discovered a Moses, the hand-workers would
offer him for the mayoralty on the issue of no more bricks without
straw.

Skilled to the feel of sentiment, I could gauge both the direction
and the volume of the new movement. Nor was I long in coming to the
knowledge that behind it marched a majority of the people. Unless
checked, or cheated, that labor uprising would succeed; Tammany and its
old-time enemies would alike go down.

This news, self-furnished as a grist ground of the mills of my own
judgment, stimulated me to utmost action. It would serve neither my
present nor my future should that battle which followed my inauguration
be given against me. I was on my trial; defeat would be the signal for
my overthrow. And thus I faced my first campaign as Boss.

That rebellion of the working folk stirred to terror the conservatives,
ever the element of wealth. Each man with a share of stock to shrink in
value, or with a dollar loaned and therefore with security to shake, or
with a store through the plate-glass panes of which a mob might hurl
a stone, was prey to a vast alarm. The smug citizen of money, and of
ease-softened hands, grew sick as he reflected on the French Revolution;
and he predicted gutters red with blood as the near or far finale
should the town’s peasantry gain the day. It was then those rich ones,
panic-bit, began to ask a succor of Tammany Hall. There were other
septs, but Tammany was the drilled, traditional corps of political
janissaries. Wherefore, the local nobility, being threatened, fled to it
for refuge.

These gentry of white faces and frightened pocket-books came to me by
ones and twos and quartettes; my every day was filled with them; and
their one prayer was for me to make a line of battle between them and
that frowning peril of the mob. To our silken worried ones, I replied
nothing. I heard; but I kept myself as mute for hope or for fear as any
marble.

And yet it was sure from the beginning that I must make an alliance with
my folk of purple. The movement they shuddered over was even more of a
menace to Tammany than it was to them. It might mean dollars to them,
but for Tammany it promised annihilation, since of every five who went
with this crusade, four were recruited from the machine.

Fifth Avenue, in a fever, did not realize this truth. Nor was I one to
enlighten my callers. Their terror made for the machine; it could be
trained to fill the Tammany treasure chest with a fund to match those
swelling fears, the reason of its contribution. I locked up my tongue;
it was a best method to augment a mugwump horror which I meant should
find my resources.

Young Morton, still with his lisp, his affectations, his scented gloves,
and ineffable eyeglass, although now no longer “young,” but like myself
in the middle journey of his life, was among my patrician visitors.
Like the others, he came to urge a peace-treaty between Tammany and the
mugwumps, and he argued a future stored of fortune for both myself and
the machine, should the latter turn to be a defense for timid deer from
whom he came ambassador.

To Morton I gave particular ear. I was never to forget that loyalty
wherewith he stood to me on a day of trial for the death of Jimmy the
Blacksmith. If any word might move me it would be his. Adhering to a
plan, however, I had as few answers for his questions as I had for those
of his mates, and wrapped myself in silence like a mantle.

Morton was so much his old practical self that he bade me consider a
candidate and a programme.

“Let us nominate my old gentleman for mayor,” said he. “He’s very old;
but he’s clean and he’s strong, don’t y’ know. Really he would draw
every vote to his name that should of right belong to us.”

“That might be,” I returned; “but I may tell you, and stay within the
truth, that if your father got no more votes than should of right be
his, defeat would overtake him to the tune of thousands. Add the machine
to the mugwumps, and this movement of labor still has us beaten
by twenty thousand men. That being the case, why should I march
Tammany--and my own fortune, too--into such a trap?”

“What else can you do?” asked Morton.

“I can tell you what was in my mind,” said I. “It was to go with this
labor movement and control it.”

“That labor fellow they’ve put up would make the worst of mayors.
You and Tammany would forever be taunted with the errors of his
administration. Besides, the creature’s success would vulgarize the
town; it would, really!”

“He is an honest man,” said I.

“Honest, yes; but what of that? Honesty is the commonest trait of
ignorance. There should be something more than honesty, don’t y’ know,
to make a mayor. There be games like draw poker and government where
to be merely honest is not a complete equipment. Besides, think of the
shock of such a term of hobnails in the City Hall. If you, with your
machine, would come in, we could elect my old gentleman over him or any
other merely honest candidate whom those vulgarians could put up; we
could, really!”

“Tell me how,” said I.

“There would be millions of money,” lisped Morton, pausing to select a
cigarette; “since Money would be swimming for dear life. All our fellows
at the club are scared to death--really! One can do anything with money,
don’t y’ know.”

“One can’t stop a runaway horse with money,” I retorted; “and this labor
movement is a political runaway.”

“With money we could build a wall across its course and let those idiots
of politics run against it. My dear fellow, let us make a calculation.
Really, how many votes should those labor animals overrun us, on the
situation’s merits?”

“Say twenty-five thousand.”

“This then should give so experienced a hand as yourself some shade of
comfort. The Master of the Philadelphia Machine, don’t y’ know, is one
of my railway partners. ‘Old chap,’ said he, when I told him of the
doings of our New York vandals, ‘I’ll send over to you ten thousand men,
any one of whom would loot a convent. These common beggars must be put
down! The example might spread to Philadelphia.’ So you see,” concluded
Morton, “we would not be wanting in election material. What should ten
thousand men mean?”

“At the least,” said I, “they should count for forty thousand. A man
votes with a full beard; then he votes with his chin shaved; then he
shaves the sides of his face and votes with a mustache; lastly he votes
with a smooth face and retires to re-grow a beard against the
next campaign. Ten thousand men should tally forty thousand votes.
Registration and all, however, would run the cost of such an enterprise
to full five hundred thousand dollars.”

“Money is no object,” returned Morton, covering a yawn delicately with
his slim hand, “to men who feel that their fortunes, don’t y’ know, and
perhaps their lives, are on the cast. Bring us Tammany for this one war,
and I’ll guarantee three millions in the till of the machine; I
will, really! You would have to take those ten thousand recruits from
Philadelphia into your own hands, however; we Silk Stockings don’t own
the finesse required to handle such a consignment of goods. Besides, if
we did, think what wretched form it would be.”

To hide what was in my thought, I made a pretense of considering the
business in every one of its angles. There was a minute during which
neither of us spoke.

“Why should I put the machine,” I asked at last, “in unnecessary peril
of the law? This should be a campaign of fire. Every stick of those
three millions you speak of would go to stoke the furnaces. I will do as
well, and win more surely, with the labor people.”

“But do you want to put the mob in possession?” demanded Morton,
emerging a bit from his dandyisms. “I’m no purist of politics; indeed,
I think I’m rather practical than otherwise, don’t y’ know. I am free
to say, however, that I fear a worst result should those savages of a
dinner-can and a dollar-a-day, succeed--really! You should think once in
a while, and particularly in a beastly squall like the present, of the
City itself.”

“Should I?” I returned. “Now I’ll let you into an organization tenet.
Tammany, blow high, blow low, thinks only of itself.”

“You would be given half the offices, remember.”

“And the Police?”

“And the Police.”

“Tammany couldn’t keep house without the police,” said I, laughing.
“You’ve seen enough of our housekeeping to know that.”

“You may have the police, and what else you will.”

“Well,” said I, bringing the talk to a close, “I can’t give you an
answer now. I must look the situation in the eyes. To be frank, I don’t
think either the Tammany interest or my own runs with yours in this. I,
with my people, live at the other end of the lane.”

While Morton and I were talking, I had come to a decision. I would name
the reputable old gentleman for mayor. He was stricken of years; but
I bethought me how for that very reason he might be, when elected, the
easier to deal with. But I would keep my resolve from Morton. There was
no stress of hurry; the election was months away. I might see reason
to change. One should ever put off his contract-making until the last.
Besides, Morton would feel the better for a surprise.

Before I went to an open alliance with the mugwumps, I would weaken the
labor people. This I might do by pretending to be their friend.
There was a strip of the labor candidate’s support which was rabid
anti-Tammany. Let me but seem to come to his comfort and aid, and every
one of those would desert him.

Within the week after my talk with Morton, I sent a sly scrap of news
to the captains of labor. They were told that I had given utterance
to sentiments of friendship for them and their man. Their taste to
cultivate my support was set on edge. These amateurs of politics came
seeking an interview. I flattered their hopes, and spoke in high terms
of their candidate, his worth and honesty. The city could not be in
safer hands.

There were many interviews. It was as an experience, not without a side
to amuse, since my visitors, while as pompous as turkey cocks, were as
innocently shallow as so many sheep. Many times did we talk; and I gave
them compliments and no promises.

My ends were attained. The papers filled up with the coming partnership
between the labor movement and the machine, and those berserks of
anti-Tammany, frothing with resentment against ones who would sell
themselves into my power as the price of my support, abandoned the
laborites in a body. There were no fewer than five thousand of these to
shake the dust of labor from their feet. When I had driven the last of
them from the labor champion, by the simple expedient of appearing to be
his friend, I turned decisively my back on him. Also, I at once called
Tammany Convention--being the first in the field--and issued those
orders which named the reputable old gentleman.

There arose a roar and a cheer from my followers at this, for they read
in that name a promise of money knee-deep; and what, than that word,
should more brighten a Tammany eye! I was first, with the machine at
my back, to walk upon the field with our reputable old gentleman. The
mugwumps followed, adopting him with all dispatch; the Republicans,
proper, made no ticket; two or three straggling cliques and split-offs
of party accepted the reputable old gentleman’s nomination; and so the
lines were made. On the heels of the conventions, the mugwump leaders
and I met and merged our tickets, I getting two-thirds and surrendering
one-third of those names which followed that of the reputable old
gentleman for the divers offices to be filled.

When all was accomplished, the new situation offered a broad foundation,
and one of solvency and depth, whereon to base a future for both Tammany
and myself. It crystallized my power, and my grip on the machine was set
fast and hard by the sheer effect of it. The next thing was to win at
the polls; that would ask for studied effort and a quickness that must
not sleep, for the opposition, while clumsy, straggling, and unwieldly
with no skill, overtopped us in strength by every one of those thousands
of which I had given Morton the name.

“Really, you meant it should be a surprise,” observed Morton, as he
grasped my hand. It was the evening of the day on which the Tammany
Convention named the reputable old gentleman. “I’ll plead guilty; it
was a surprise. And that’s saying a great deal, don’t y’ know. To be
surprised is bad form, and naturally I guard myself against such a
vulgar calamity. But you had me, old chap! I was never more baffled
and beaten than when I left you. I regarded the conquest of the City by
those barbarians as the thing made sure. Now all is changed. We will go
in and win; and not a word I said, don’t y’ know, shall be forgotten and
every dollar I mentioned shall be laid down. It shall, ’pon honor!”



CHAPTER XVII--THE REPUTABLE OLD GENTLEMAN IS MAYOR


THE Philadelphia machine was a training school for repeaters. Those
ten thousand sent to our cause by Morton’s friend, went about their work
like artillerymen about their guns. Each was good for four votes. As one
of the squad captains said:

“There’s got to be time between, for a party to change his face an’
shift to another coat an’ hat. Besides, it’s as well to give th’ judges
an hour or two to get dim to your mug, see!”

Big Kennedy had set his foot upon the gang spirit, and stamped out of
existence such coteries as the Tin Whistles and the Alley Gang, and I
copied Big Kennedy in this. Such organizations would have been a threat
to me, and put it more in reach of individual leaders to rebel against
an order. What work had been done by the gangs was now, under a better
discipline and with machine lines more tightly drawn, transacted by the
police.

When those skillful gentry, meant to multiply a ballot-total, came in
from the South, I called my Chief of Police into council. He was that
same bluff girthy personage who, aforetime, had conferred with Big
Kennedy. I told him what was required, and how his men, should occasion
arise, must foster as far as lay with them the voting purposes of our
colonists.

“You can rely on me, Gov’nor,” said the Chief. He had invented this
title for Big Kennedy, and now transferred it to me. “Yes, indeed, you
can go to sleep on me doin’ my part. But I’m bothered to a standstill
with my captains. Durin’ th’ last four or five years, th’ force has
become honeycombed with honesty; an’, may I be struck! if some of them
square guys aint got to be captains.”

“Should any get in your way,” said I, “he must be sent to the outskirts.
I shall hold you for everything that goes wrong.”

“I guess,” said the Chief thoughtfully, “I’ll put the whole racket in
charge of Gothecore. He’ll keep your emigrants from Philadelphia walkin’
a crack. They’ll be right, while Gothecore’s got his peeps on ‘em.”

“Has Gothecore had experience?”

“Is Bill Gothecore wise? Gov’nor, I don’t want to paint a promise so
brilliant I can’t make good, but Gothecore is th’ most thorough workman
on our list. Why, they call him ‘Clean Sweep Bill!’ I put him in th’
Tenderloin for six months, an’ he got away with everything but th’ back
fence.”

“Very well,” said I, “the care of these colonists is in your hands.
Here’s a list of the places where they’re berthed.”

“You needn’t give ‘em another thought, Gov’nor,” observed the Chief.
Then, as he arose to depart: “Somethin’s got to be done about them
captains turnin’ square. They act as a scare to th’ others. I’ll tell
you what: Make the price of a captaincy twenty thousand dollars. That’ll
be a hurdle no honest man can take. Whoever pays it, we can bet on as a
member of our tribe. One honest captain queers a whole force; it’s like
a horse goin’ lame.” This last, moodily.

In the eleventh hour, by our suggestion and at our cost, the Republican
managers put up a ticket. This was made necessary by certain inveterate
ones who would unite with nothing in which Tammany owned a part. As
between us and the labor forces, they would have offered themselves to
the latter. They must be given a ticket of their own whereon to waste
themselves.

The campaign itself was a whirlwind of money. That princely fund
promised by Morton was paid down to me on the nail, and I did not stint
or save it when a chance opened to advance our power by its employment.
I say “I did not stint,” because, in accord with Tammany custom, the
fund was wholly in my hands.

As most men know, there is no such post as that of Chief of Tammany
Hall. The office is by coinage, and the title by conference, of the
public. There exists a finance committee of, commonly, a dozen names. It
never meets, and the members in ordinary are ‘to hear and know no
more about the money of the organization than of sheep-washing among
Ettrick’s hills and vales. There is a chairman; into his hands all
moneys come. These, in his care and name, and where and how and if he
chooses, are put in bank. He keeps no books; he neither gives nor
takes a scrap of paper, nor so much as writes a letter of thanks, in
connection with such treasurership. He replies to no one for this
money; he spends or keeps as he sees fit, and from beginning to end has
the sole and only knowledge of either the intake or the outgo of the
millions of the machine. The funds are wholly in his possession. To
borrow a colloquialism, “He is the Man with the Money,” and since money
is the mainspring of practical politics, it follows as the tail the
kite, and without the intervention of either rule or statute, that he
is The Boss. Being supreme with the money, he is supreme with the men of
the machine, and it was the holding of this chairmanship which gave me
my style and place as Chief.

The position is not wanting in its rewards. Tammany, for its own safety,
should come forth from each campaign without a dollar. There is no
argument to carry over a residue from one battle to the next. It is not
required, since Tammany, from those great corporations whose taxes and
liberties it may extend or shrink by a word, may ever have what money
it will; and it is not wise, because the existence of a fund between
campaigns would excite dissension, as this leader or that one conceived
some plan for its dissipation. It is better to upturn the till on the
back of each election, and empty it in favor of organization peace. And
to do this is the duty of the Chairman of the Finance Committee; and I
may add that it is one he was never known to overlook.

There was nothing notable in that struggle which sent the reputable old
gentleman to the city fore as Mayor, beyond the energy wherewith the
work required was performed. Every move ran off as softly sure as could
be wished. The police did what they should. Those visitors from below
turned in for us full forty thousand votes, and then quietly received
their wages and as quietly went their way. I saw to it that, one and
all, they were sharply aboard the ferryboats when their work was done.
No one would care for them, drunken and mayhap garrulous, about the
streets, until after the last spark of election interest had expired.
The polls were closed: the count was made; the laborites and their Moses
was beaten down, and the reputable old gentleman was declared victor by
fifteen thousand. Those rich ones, late so pale, revived the color in
their cheeks; and as for Tammany and myself, we took deep breaths, and
felt as ones from whose shoulders a load had been lifted.

It was for me a fortunate upcome; following that victory, my leadership
could no more be shaken than may the full-grown oaks. Feeling now my
strength, I made divers machine changes of the inner sort. I caused my
executive leaders to be taken from the assembly districts, rather than
from the wards. There would be one from each; and since there was
a greater number of districts than wards, the executive array was
increased. I smelled safety for myself in numbers, feeling, as Big
Kennedy advised, the more secure with twenty than with two. Also the new
situation gave the leaders less influence with the Aldermen, when now
the frontiers of the one no longer matched those of the other. I had
aimed at this; for it was my instant effort on becoming Chief to collect
within my own fingers every last thread of possible authority. I wanted
the voice of my leadership to be the voice of the storm; all others I
would stifle to a whisper.

While busy within the organization, deepening and broadening the
channels of my power, I did not neglect conditions beyond the walls.
I sent for the leaders of those two or three bands of Democracy which
professed themselves opposed to Tammany Hall. I pitched upon my men as
lumber folk in their log-driving pitch upon the key-logs in a “jam.” I
loosened them with office, or the promise of it, and they instantly came
riding down to me on the currents of self-interest, and brought with
them those others over whom they held command.

Within the twelvemonth Tammany was left no rival within the lines of the
regular party; I had, either by purring or by purchase, brought about
the last one’s disappearance. It was a fair work for the machine, and I
could feel the gathering, swelling confidence of my followers uplifting
me as the deep sea uplifts a ship.

There was a thorn with that rose of leadership, nor did my hand escape
its sting. The papers in their attacks upon me were as incessant as they
were vindictive, and as unsparing as they were unfair. With never a fact
set forth, by the word of these unmuzzled and uncaring imprints I stood
forth as everything that was thievish, vile, and swart.

While I made my skin as thick against these shafts as I could, since I
might neither avoid nor return them, still they pierced me and kept me
bleeding, and each new day saw ever a new wound to my sensibilities. It
is a bad business--these storms of black abuse! You have but to fasten
upon one, even an honest one, the name of horse-thief and, behold you!
he will steal a horse. Moreover, those vilifications of types become
arrows to glance aside and bury themselves in the breasts of ones
innocent.

Blossom was grown now to be a grave stripling girl of fifteen. Anne
conceived that she should be taught in a school. She, herself, had
carried Blossom to a considerable place in her books, but the finishing
would be the better accomplished by teachers of a higher skill,
and among children of Blossom’s age. With this on her thought, Anne
completed arrangements with a private academy for girls, one of superior
rank; and to this shop of learning, on a certain morning, she conveyed
Blossom. Blossom was to be fitted with a fashionable education by those
modistes of the intellectual, just as a dressmaker might measure her,
and baste her, and stitch her into a frock.

But insult and acrid grief were lying there in ambush for
Blossom--Blossom, then as ever, with her fear-haunted eyes. She was home
before night, tearful, hysterical--crying in Anne’s arms. There had been
a cartoon in the papers. It showed me as a hairy brutal ape, the city
in the shape of a beautiful woman fainting in my arms, and a mighty rock
labeled “Tammany” in one hand, ready to hurl at my pursuers. The whole
was hideous; and when one of the girls of the school showed it to
Blossom, and taunted her with this portrait of her father, it was more
than heart might bear. She fled before the outrage of it, and would
never hear the name of school again. This ape-picture was the thing
fearful and new to Blossom, for to save her, both Anne and I had been
at care to have no papers to the house. The harm was done, however;
Blossom, hereafter, would shrink from all but Anne and me, and when she
was eighteen, save for us, the priest, and an old Galway serving woman
who had been her nurse, she knew no one in the whole wide world.

The reputable old gentleman made a most amazing Major. He was puffed
with a vanity that kissed the sky. Honest, and by nature grateful, he
was still so twisted as to believe that to be a good Mayor one must
comport himself in an inhuman way.

“Public office is a public trust!” cried he, quoting some lunatic
abstractionist.

The reputable old gentleman’s notion of discharging this trust was
to refuse admittance to his friends, while he sat in council with his
enemies. To show that he was independent, he granted nothing to ones
who had builded him; to prove himself magnanimous, he went truckling to
former foes, preferring them into place. As for me, he declined every
suggestion, refused every name, and while there came no open rupture
between us, I was quickly taught to stay away.

“My luck with my father,” said Morton, when one day we were considering
that lofty spirit of the reputable old gentleman, “is no more flattering
than your own, don’t y’ know. He waves me away with a flourish. I
reminded him that while he might forget me as one who with trowel and
mortar had aided to lay the walls of his career, he at least should
remember that I was none the less his son; I did, really! He retorted
with the story of the Roman father who in his rôle as judge sentenced
his son to death. Gad! he seemed to regret that no chance offered for
him to equal though he might not surpass that noble example. Speaking
seriously, when his term verges to its close, what will be your course?
You know the old gentleman purposes to succeed himself. And, doubtless,
since such is mugwump thickness, he’ll be renominated.”

“Tammany,” said I, “will fight him. We’ll have a candidate on a straight
ticket of our own. His honor, your father, will be beaten.”

“On my soul! I hope so,” exclaimed Morton. “Don’t you know, I expect
every day to find him doing something to Mulberry Traction--trying to
invalidate its franchise, or indulging in some similar piece of humor. I
shall breathe easier with my parent returned to private life--really!”

“Never fear; I’ll have the city in the hollow of my hand within the
year,” said I.

“I will show you where to find a million or two in Wall Street, if you
do,” he returned.

The downfall of the reputable old gentleman was already half
accomplished. One by one, I had cut the props from beneath him. While he
would grant me no contracts, and yield me no offices for my people,
he was quite willing to consider my advice on questions of political
concern. Having advantage of this, I one day pointed out that it was
un-American to permit certain Italian societies to march in celebration
of their victories over the Pope long ago. Why should good Catholic
Irish-Americans be insulted with such exhibitions! These Italian
festivals should be kept for Italy; they do not belong in America.
The reputable old gentleman, who was by instinct more than half a Know
Nothing, gave warm assent to my doctrines, and the festive Italians did
not celebrate.

Next I argued that the reputable old gentleman should refuse his
countenance to the Irish exercises on St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish were
no better than the Italians. He could not make flesh of one and fish
of the other. The reputable old gentleman bore testimony to the lucid
beauty of my argument by rebuffing the Irish in a flame of words in
which he doubted both their intelligence and their loyalty to the land
of their adoption. In another florid tirade he later sent the Orangemen
to the political right-about. The one powerful tribe he omitted to
insult were the Germans, and that only because they did not come within
his reach. Had they done so, the reputable old gentleman would have
heaped contumely upon them with all the pleasure in life.

It is not needed that I set forth how, while guiding the reputable old
gentleman to these deeds of derring, I kept myself in the background. No
one knew me as the architect of those wondrous policies. The reputable
old gentleman stood alone; and in the inane fullness of his vanity took
a deal of delight in the uproar he aroused.

There was an enemy of my own. He was one of those elegant personalities
who, in the elevation of riches and a position to which they are born,
find the name of Tammany a synonym for crime. That man hated me, and
hated the machine. But he loved the reputable old gentleman; and, by his
name and his money, he might become of utmost avail to that publicist in
any effort he put forth to have his mayorship again.

One of the first offices of the city became vacant, that of chamberlain.
I heard how the name of our eminent one would be presented for the
place. That was my cue. I instantly asked that the eminent one be named
for that vacant post of chamberlain. It was the earliest word which the
reputable old gentleman had heard on the subject, for the friends of the
eminent one as yet had not broached the business with him.

When I urged the name of the eminent one, the reputable old gentleman
pursed up his lips and frowned. He paused for so long a period that I
began to fear lest he accept my suggestion. To cure such chance, I broke
violently in upon his cogitations with the commands of the machine.

“Mark you,” I cried, in the tones wherewith I was wont in former and
despotic days to rule my Tin Whistles, “mark you! there shall be no
denial! I demand it in the name of Tammany Hall.”

The sequel was what I sought; the reputable old gentleman elevated his
crest. We straightway quarreled, and separated in hot dudgeon. When the
select bevy who bore among them the name of the eminent one arrived upon
the scene, the reputable old gentleman, metaphorically, shut the door in
their faces. They departed in a rage, and the fires of their indignation
were soon communicated to the eminent one.

As the result of these various sowings, a nodding harvest of enemies
sprung up to hate and harass the reputable old gentleman. I could tell
that he would be beaten; he, with the most formidable forces of politics
against him solid to a man! To make assurance sure, however, I secretly
called to me the Chief of Police. In a moment, the quiet order was
abroad to close the gambling resorts, enforce the excise laws against
saloons, arrest every contractor violating the ordinances regulating
building material in the streets, and generally, as well as
specifically, to tighten up the town to a point that left folk gasping.

No one can overrate the political effect of this. New York has no home.
It sits in restaurants and barrooms day and night. It is a city of
noisome tenements and narrow flats so small that people file themselves
away therein like papers in a pigeonhole.

These are not homes: they grant no comfort; men do not seek them until
driven by want of sleep. It is for the cramped reasons of flats and
tenements that New York is abroad all night. The town lives in the
streets; or, rather, in those houses of refreshment which, open night
and day, have thrown away their keys.

This harsh enforcement of the excise law, or as Old Mike put it,
“Gettin’ bechune th’ people an’ their beer,” roused a wasps’ nest
of fifty thousand votes. The reputable old gentleman was to win the
stinging benefit, since he, being chief magistrate, must stand the brunt
as for an act of his administration.

Altogether, politically speaking, my reputable old gentleman tossed and
bubbled in a steaming kettle of fish when he was given his renomination.
For my own side, I put up against him a noble nonentity with a historic
name. He was a mere jelly-fish of principle--one whose boneless
convictions couldn’t stand on their own legs. If the town had looked at
my candidate, it would have repudiated him with a howl. But I knew my
public. New York votes with its back to the future. Its sole thought is
to throw somebody out of office--in the present instance, the offensive
reputable old gentleman--and this it will do with never a glance at that
one who by the effect of the eviction is to be raised to the place.
No, I had no apprehensions; I named my jelly-fish, and with a straight
machine-made ticket, mine from truck to keel, shoved boldly forth. This
time I meant to own the town.



CHAPTER XVIII--HOW THE BOSS TOOK THE TOWN


THE reputable old gentleman was scandalized by what he called my
defection, and told me so. That I should put up a ticket against him was
grossest treason.

“And why should I not?” said I. “You follow the flag of your interest; I
but profit by your example.”

“Sir!” cried the reputable old gentleman haughtily, “I have no interest
save the interest of The public.”

“So you say,” I retorted, “and doubtless so you think.” I had a desire
to quarrel finally and for all time with the reputable old gentleman,
whose name I no longer needed, and whose fame as an excise purist would
now be getting in my way. “You deceive yourself,” I went on. “Your prime
motive is to tickle your own vanity with a pretense of elevation. From
the pedestal of your millions, and the safe shelter of a clean white
shirt, you patronize mankind and play the prig. That is what folk say of
you. As to what obligation in your favor rests personally upon myself,
I have only to recall your treatment of my candidate for that place of
chamberlain.”

“Do you say men call me a prig?” demanded the reputable old gentleman
with an indignant start. He ignored his refusal of the eminent one as
chamberlain.

“Sir, I deny the term ‘prig.’ If such were my celebration, I should not
have waited to hear it from you.”

“What should you hear or know of yourself?” said I. “The man looking
from his window does not see his own house. He who marches with it,
never sees the regiment of which he is a unit. No more can you, as
mayor, see yourself, or estimate the common view concerning you. It
is your vanity to seem independent and above control, and you have
transacted that vanity at the expense of your friends. I’ve stood by
while others went that road, and politically at least it ever led down
hill.”

That was my last conference with the reputable old gentleman. I went
back to Fourteenth Street, and called on my people of Tammany to do
their utmost. Nor should I complain of their response, for they went
behind their batteries with the cool valor of buccaneers.

There was but one question which gave me doubt, and that was the
question of the Australian ballot, then a novelty in our midst.
Theretofore, a henchman of the machine went with that freeman to the
ballot-box, and saw to it how he put no cheat upon his purchasers. Now
our commissioners could approach a polls no nearer than two hundred
feet; the freeman went in alone, took his folded ticket from the judges,
retired to privacy and a pencil, and marked his ballot where none might
behold the work. Who then could know that your mercenary, when thus
removed from beneath one’s eye and hand, would fight for one’s side? I
may tell you the situation was putting a wrinkle in my brow when Morton
came lounging in.

“You know I’ve nothing to do with the old gentleman’s campaign,” said
he, following a mouthful or two of commonplace, and puffing the
while his usual cigarette. “Gad! I told him that I had withdrawn from
politics; I did, really! I said it was robbing me of all fineness; and
that I must defend my native purity of sensibility, don’t y’ know, and
preserve it from such sordid contact.

“‘Father,’ said I, ‘you surely would not, for the small cheap glory of a
second term, compel me into experiences that must leave me case-hardened
in all that is spiritual?’

“No, he made no reply; simply turned his back upon me in merited
contempt. Really, I think he was aware of me for a hypocrite. It was
beastly hard to go back on the old boy, don’t y’ know! But for what I
have in mind it was the thing to do.”

Now, when I had him to counsel with, I gave Morton my troubles over the
Australian law. The situation, generally speaking, showed good; the more
because there were three tickets in the field. Still, nothing was sure.
We must work; and we must omit no usual means of adding to our strength.
And the Australian law was in our way.

“Really, you’re quite right,” observed Morton, polishing his eyeglass
meditatively. “To be sure, these beasts of burden, the labor element,
have politically gone to pieces since our last campaign. But they are
still wandering about by twos and threes, like so many lost sheep, and
unless properly shepherded--and what a shepherd’s crook is money!--they
may fall into the mouths of opposition wolves, don’t y’ know. What
exasperating dullards these working people are! I know of but one
greater fool than the working man, and that is the fool he works for!
And so you say this Australian law breeds uncertainty for our side?”

“There is no way to tell how a man votes.”

Morton behind that potent eyeglass narrowed his gaze to the end of his
nose, and gave a full minute to thought. Then his eyes, released from
contemplation of his nose, began to brighten. I placed much reliance
upon the fertility of our exquisite, for all his trumpery affectations
of eyeglass and effeminate mannerisms, and I waited with impatience for
him to speak.

“Really, now,” said he, at last, “how many under the old plan would
handle your money about each polling place?”

“About four,” I replied. “Then at each polling booth there would be a
dozen pullers-in, to bring up the voters, and go with them to see that
they put in the right ballots. This last, you will notice, is by the
Australian system made impossible.”

“It is the duty of artillery people,” drawled Morton, “whenever the
armor people invent a plate that cannot be perforated by guns in being,
don’t y’ know, to at once invent a gun that shall pierce it. The same
holds good in politics. Gad! we must invent a gun that shall knock a
hole through this Australian armor; we must, really! A beastly system, I
should call it, which those beggarly Australians have constructed! It’s
no wonder: they are all convicts down there, and it would need a felon
to devise such an interference. However, this is what I suggest. You
must get into your hands, we’ll put it, five thousand of the printed
ballots in advance of election day. This may be secretly done, don’t y’
know, by paying the printers where the tickets are being struck off. A
printer is such an avaricious dog; he is, really! The tickets would be
equally distributed among those men with the money whom you send about
the polling places. A ballot in each instance should be marked with the
cross for Tammany Hall before it is given to the recruit. He will then
carry it into the booth in his pocket. Having received the regular
ticket from the hands of the judges, he can go through the form of
retiring, don’t y’ know; then reappear and give in the ticket which was
marked by your man of the machine.”

“And yet,” said I breaking in, “I do not see how you’ve helped the
situation. The recruit might still vote the ticket handed him by the
judges, for all our wisdom. Moreover, it would be no easy matter to get
hold of fifty thousand tickets, all of which we would require to make
sure. Five thousand we might manage, but that would not be enough.”

“You should let me finish; you should, really!” returned Morton. “One
would not pay the recruit until he returned to that gentleman of finance
with whom he was dealing, don’t y’ know, and put into his hands the
unmarked ballot with which the judges had endowed him. That would prove
his integrity; and it would also equip your agent with a new fresh
ballot against the next recruit. Thus you would never run out of
ballots. Gad! I flatter myself, I’ve hit upon an excellent idea, don’t
y’ know!” and with that, Morton began delicately to caress his mustache,
again taking on his masquerade of the ineffably inane.

Morton’s plan was good; I saw its merits in a flash. He had proposed
a sure system by which the machine might operate in spite of that
antipodean law. We used it too, and it was half the reason of our
victory. Upon its proposal, I extended my compliments to Morton.

“Really, it’s nothing,” said he, as though the business bored him. “Took
the hint from football, don’t y’ know. It is a rule of that murderous
amusement, when you can’t buck the center, to go around the ends. But I
must have a ride in the park to rest me; I must, really! I seldom permit
myself to think--it’s beastly bad form to think--and, therefore, when
I do give my intelligence a canter, it fatigues me beyond expression.
Well, good-by! I shall see you when I am recuperated. Meanwhile, you
must not let that awful parent of mine succeed; it would be our ruin,
don’t y’ know!” and Morton glared idiotically behind the eyeglass at
the thought of the reputable old gentleman flourishing through a second
term. “Yes, indeed,” he concluded, “the old boy would become a perfect
juggernaut!”

Morton’s plan worked to admiration. The mercenary was given a ballot,
ready marked; and later he returned with the one which the judges gave
him, took his fee, and went his way.

In these days, when the ballot furnished, by the judges is stamped on
the back, each with its separate number in red ink, which number is set
opposite a voter’s name at the time he receives the ballot, and all to
be verified when he brings it again to the judges for deposit in the
box, the scheme would be valueless. There lies no open chance for the
substitution of a ready-made ballot, because of the deterrent number in
red ink.

Under these changed conditions, however, as Morton declared they must,
the gunners of party have invented both the projectile and the rifle to
pierce this new and stronger plate. The party emblems, the Eagle, the
Star, the Ship, and other totems of partisanship, are printed across the
head of the ticket in black accommodating ink. The recruit now makes his
designating cross with a pencil that is as soft as fresh paint. Then
he spreads over the head of the ticket, as he might a piece of blotting
paper, a tissue sheet peculiarly prepared. A gentle rub of the fingers
across the tissue, stains it plainly with the Eagle, the Star, the Ship,
and the entire procession of totems; also, it takes with the rest an
impression of that penciled cross. This tissue, our recruit brings to
that particular paymaster of the forces with whom he is in barter, and a
glance answers the query was the vote made right or wrong. If “right” the
recruit has his reward; if “wrong,” he is spurned from the presence as
one too densely ignorant to be of use.

The reputable old gentleman, when the vote came on, was overpowered; he
retired to private life, inveighing against republics for that they were
ungrateful. My jelly-fish of historic blood took his place as mayor, and
Tammany dominated every corner of the town. My word was absolute
from the bench of the jurist to the beat of the policeman; the second
greatest city in the world, with every dollar of its treasure, was in my
hands to do with it as I would. I drew a swelling sense of comfort from
the situation which my breast had never known.

And yet, I was not made mad by this sudden grant of power. I knew by
the counsel of Big Kennedy, and the dungeon fate of that Boss who was
destroyed, that I must light a lamp of caution for my journeyings.
Neither the rôle of bully, nor the bluff method of the highwayman, would
serve; in such rough event, the people, overhanging all, would be upon
one like an avalanche. One must proceed by indirection and while the
common back was turned; one, being careful, might bleed the public while
it slept.

When the town in its threads was thus wholly in my hands, with every
office, great or small, held by a man of the machine, Morton came to
call upon me.

“And so you’re the Czar!” said he.

“You have the enemy’s word for it,” I replied. “‘Czar’ is what they call
me in their papers when they do not call me ‘rogue.’”

“Mere compliments, all,” returned Morton airily. “Really, I should
feel proud to be thus distinguished. And yet I’m surprised! I was just
telling an editor of one of our rampant dailies: ‘Can’t you see,’ said
I, ‘that he who speaks ill of his master speaks ill of himself? To call
a man a scoundrel or an ignoramus, is to call him weak, since neither
is a mark of strength. And when you term him scoundrel and ignoramus who
has beaten you, you but name yourself both viler, weaker still. Really,’
I concluded, ‘if only to preserve one’s own standing, one should ever
speak well of one’s conqueror, don’t y’ know!’ But it was of no use;
that ink-fellow merely scowled and went his way. However, to discuss a
theory of epithet was not my present purpose. Do you recall how, on the
edge of the campaign, I said that if you would but win the town I’d lead
you into millions?”

“Yes,” said I, “you said something of the sort.”

“You must trust me in this: I understand the market better than you do,
don’t y’ know. Perhaps you have noticed that Blackberry Traction is very
low--down to ninety, I think?”

“No,” I replied, “the thing is news to me. I know nothing of stocks.”

“It’s as well. This, then, is my road to wealth for both of us. As a
first move, don’t y’ know, and as rapidly as I can without sending it
up, I shall load myself for our joint account with we’ll say--since I’m
sure I can get that much--forty thousand shares of Blackberry. It will
take me ten days. When I’m ready, the president of Blackberry will call
upon you; he will, really! He will have an elaborate plan for extending
Blackberry to the northern limits of the town; and he will ask, besides,
for a half-dozen cross-town franchises to act as feeders to the main
line, and to connect it with the ferries. Be slow and thoughtful with
our Blackberry president, but encourage him. Gad! keep him coming to you
for a month, and on each occasion seem nearer to his view. In the end,
tell him he can have those franchises--cross-town and extensions--and,
for your side, go about the preliminary orders to city officers. It
will send Blackberry aloft like an elevator, don’t y’ know! Those forty
thousand shares will go to one hundred and thirty-five--really!”

Two weeks later Morton gave me the quiet word that he held for us a
trifle over forty thousand shares of Blackberry which he had taken at an
average of ninety-one. Also, he had so intrigued that the Blackberry’s
president would seek a meeting with me to consider those extensions, and
discover my temper concerning them.

The president of Blackberry and I came finally together in a parlor of
the Hoffman House, as being neutral ground. I found him soft-voiced,
plausible, with a Hebrew cast and clutch. He unfurled his blue-prints,
which showed the proposed extensions, and what grants of franchises
would be required.

At the beginning, I was cold, doubtful; I distrusted a public approval
of the grants, and feared the public’s resentment.

“Tammany must retain the people’s confidence,” said I. “It can only do
so by protecting jealously the people’s interests.”

The president of Blackberry shrugged his shoulders. He looked at me
hard, and as one who waited for my personal demands. He would not speak,
but paused for me to begin. I could feel it in the air how a halfmillion
might be mine for the work of asking. I never said the word, however; I
had no mind to put my hand into that dog’s mouth.

Thus we stood; he urging, I considering the advisability of those
asked-for franchises. This was our attitude throughout a score of
conferences, and little by little I went leaning the Blackberry way.

To be sure, the secret of our meetings was whispered in right quarters,
and every day found fresh buyers for Blackberry. Meanwhile, the shares
climbed high and ever higher, until one bland April morning they stood
at one hundred and thirty-seven.

Throughout my series of meetings with the president of Blackberry, I had
seen no trace of Morton. For that I cared nothing, but played my part
slowly so as to give him time, having confidence in his loyalty, and
knowing that my interest was his interest, and I in no sort to
be worsted. On that day when Blackberry showed at one hundred and
thirty-seven, Morton appeared. He laid down a check for an even million
of dollars.

“I’ve been getting out of Blackberry for a week,” said he, with his air
of delicate lassitude. “I found that it was tiring me, don’t y’ know;
I did really! Besides, we’ve done enough: No gentlemen ever makes more
than one million on a single turn; it’s not good form.” That check,
drawn to my order, was the biggest of its kind I’d ever handled. I took
it up, and I could feel a pringling to my finger-ends with the contact
of so much wealth all mine. I envied my languid friend his genius for
coolness and aplomb. He selected a cigarette, and lighted it as though
a million here and there, on a twist of the market, was a commonest of
affairs. When I could command my voice, I said:

“And now I suppose we may give Blackberry its franchises?”

“No, not yet,” returned Morton. “Really, we’re not half through. I’ve
not only gotten rid of our holdings, but I’ve sold thirty-five thousand
shares the other way. It was a deuced hard thing to do without sending
the stock off--the market is always so beastly ready to tumble, don’t
y’ know. But I managed it; we’re now short about thirty-five thousand
shares at one hundred and thirty-seven.”

“What then?” said I.

“On the whole,” continued Morton, with just a gleam of triumph behind
his eyeglass, “on the whole, I think I should refuse Blackberry, don’t
y’ know. The public interest would be thrown away; and gad! the people
are prodigiously moved over it already, they are, really! It would be
neither right nor safe. I’d come out in an interview declaring that a
grant of what Blackberry asks for would be to pillage the town. Here,
I’ve the interview prepared. What do you say? Shall we send it to the
_Daily Tory_?”

The interview appeared; Blackberry fell with a crash. It slumped fifty
points, and Morton and I were each the better by fairly another million.
Blackberry grazed the reef of a receivership so closely that it rubbed
the paint from its side.



CHAPTER XIX--THE SON OF THE WIDOW VAN FLANGE


WHEN now I was rich with double millions, I became harrowed of new
thoughts and sown with new ambitions. It was Blossom to lie at the roots
of it--Blossom, looking from her window of young womanhood upon a world
she did not understand, and from which she drew away. The world was like
a dark room to Blossom, with an imagined fiend to harbor in every
corner of it. She must go forth among people of manners and station.
The contact would mend her shyness; with time and usage she might find
herself a pleasant place in life. Now she lived a morbid creature of
sorrow which had no name--a twilight soul of loneliness--and the thought
of curing this went with me day and night.

Nor was I unjustified of authority.

“Send your daughter into society,” said that physician to whom I put the
question. “It will be the true medicine for her case. It is her nerves
that lack in strength; society, with its dinners and balls and fêtes
and the cheerful hubbub of drawing rooms, should find them exercise, and
restore them to a complexion of health.”

Anne did not believe with that savant of nerves. She distrusted my
society plans for Blossom.

“You think they will taunt her with the fact of me,” I said, “like that
one who showed her the ape cartoon as a portrait of her father. But
Blossom is grown a woman now. Those whom I want her to meet would be
made silent by politeness, even if nothing else might serve to stay
their tongues from such allusions. And I think she would be loved among
them, for she is good and beautiful, and you of all should know how she
owns to fineness and elevation.”

“But it is not her nature,” pleaded Anne. “Blossom would be as much hurt
among those men and women of the drawing rooms as though she walked,
barefooted, over flints.”

For all that Anne might say, I persisted in my resolve. Blossom must be
saved against herself by an everyday encounter with ones of her own age.
I had more faith than Anne. There must be kindness and sympathy in the
world, and a countenance for so much goodness as Blossom’s. Thus she
should find it, and the discovery would let in the sun upon an existence
now overcast with clouds.

These were my reasonings. It would win her from her broodings and those
terrors without cause, which to my mind were a kind of insanity that
might deepen unless checked.

Full of my great design, I moved into a new home--a little palace in its
way, and one to cost me a penny. I cared nothing for the cost; the house
was in the center of that region of the socially select. From this fine
castle of gilt, Blossom should conquer those alliances which were to
mean so much for her good happiness.

Being thus fortunately founded, I took Morton into my confidence. He was
a patrician by birth and present station; and I knew I might have both
his hand and his wisdom for what was in my heart. When I laid open my
thought to Morton, he stood at gaze like one planet-struck, while that
inevitable eyeglass dropped from his amazed nose.

“You must pardon my staring,” said he, at last. “It was a beastly rude
thing to do. But, really, don’t y’ know, I was surprised that one
of force and depth, and who was happily outside society, should find
himself so badly guided as to seek to enter it.”

“You, yourself, are in its midst.”

“That should be charged,” he returned, “to accident rather than design.
I am in the midst of society, precisely as some unfortunate tree might
be found in the middle of its native swamp, and only because being born
there I want of that original energy required for my transplantation.
I will say this,” continued Morton, getting up to walk the floor; “your
introduction into what we’ll style the Four Hundred, don’t y’ know,
might easily be brought about. You have now a deal of wealth; and that
of itself should be enough, as the annals of our Four Hundred offer
ample guaranty. But more than that, stands the argument of your power,
and how you, in your peculiar fashion, are unique. Gad, for the latter
cause alone, swelldom would welcome you with spread arms; it would,
really! But believe me, if it were happiness you came seeking you would
miss it mightily. There is more laughter in Third Avenue than in Fifth.”

“But it is of my Blossom I am thinking,” I cried. “For myself I am not
so ambitious.”

“And what should your daughter,” said Morton, “find worth her young
while in society? She is, I hear from you, a girl of sensibility. That
true, she would find nothing but disappointment in this region you think
so select. Do you know our smart set? Sir, it is composed of savages in
silk.” Morton, I found, had much the manner of his father, when stirred.
“It is,” he went on, “that circle where discussion concerns itself with
nothing more onerous than golf or paper-chases or singlestickers or polo
or balls or scandals; where there is no literature save the literature
of the bankbook; where snobs invent a pedigree and play at caste; where
folk give lawn parties to dogs and dinners to which monkeys come as
guests of honor; where quarrels occur over questions of precedence
between a mosquito and a flea; where pleasure is a trade, and idleness
an occupation; in short, it is that place where the race, bruised of
riches, has turned cancerous and begun to rot.”

“You draw a vivid picture,” said I, not without a tincture of derision.
“For all that, I stick by my determination, and ask your help. I tell
you it is my daughter’s life or death.”

Morton, at this, relapsed into his customary attitude of moral, mental
Lah-de-dah, and his lisp and his drawl and his eyeglass found their
usual places. He shrugged his shoulders in his manner of the superfine.

“Why then,” said he, “and seeing that you will have no other way for it,
you may command my services. Really, I shall be proud to introduce
you, don’t y’ know, as one who, missing being a monkey by birth, is now
determined to become one by naturalization. Now I should say that a way
to begin would be to discover a dinner and have you there as a guest. I
know a society queen who will jump at the chance; she will have you at
her chariot wheel like another Caractacus in another Rome, and parade
you as a latest captive to her social bow and spear. I’ll tell her; it
will offer an excellent occasion for you to declare your intentions and
take out your first papers in that Apeland whereof you seem so strenuous
to become a citizen.”

While the work put upon me by my place as Boss had never an end, but
filled both my day and my night to overflowing, it brought with it
compensation. If I were ground and worn away on the wheel of my position
like a knife on a grindstone, still I was kept to keenest edge, and
I felt that joy I’ve sometimes thought a good blade must taste in the
sheer fact of its trenchant quality. Besides, there would now and then
arrive a moment which taught me how roundly I had conquered, and touched
me with that sense of power which offers the highest pleasure whereof
the soul of man is capable. Here would be an example of what I mean,
although I cannot believe the thing could happen in any country save
America or any city other than New York.

It was one evening at my own door, when that judge who once sought to
fix upon me the murder of Jimmy the Blacksmith, came tapping for an
interview. His term was bending towards the evening of its close, and
the mean purpose of him was none better-than to just plead for his place
again. I will not say the man was abject; but then the thought of his
mission, added to a memory of that relation to each other in which it
was aforetime our one day’s fate to have stood, choked me with contempt.
I shall let his conduct go by without further characterization; and yet
for myself, had our fortunes been reversed and he the Boss and I the
Judge, before I had been discovered in an attitude of office-begging
from a hand I once plotted to kill, I would have died against the wall.
But so it was; my visitor would labor with me for a renomination.

My first impulse was one of destruction; I would put him beneath the
wheel and crush out the breath of his hopes. And then came Big Kennedy’s
warning to avoid revenge when moved of nothing broader than a reason of
revenge.

I sat and gazed mutely upon that judge for a space; he, having told
his purpose, awaited my decision without more words. I grew cool, and
cunning began to have the upper hand of violence in my breast. If I cast
him down, the papers would tell of it for the workings of my vengeance.
If, on the quiet other hand, he were to be returned, it would speak
for my moderation, and prove me one who in the exercise of power lifted
himself above the personal. I resolved to continue him; the more since
the longer I considered, the clearer it grew that my revenge, instead of
being starved thereby, would find in it a feast.

“You tried to put a rope about my neck,” said I at last.

“I was misled as to the truth.”

“Still you put a stain upon me. There be thousands who believe me guilty
of bloodshed, and of that you shall clear me by printed word.”

“I am ever ready to repair an error.”

Within a week, with black ink and white paper, my judge in peril set
forth how since my trial he had gone to the ends of that death of Jimmy
the Blacksmith in its history. I was, he said, an innocent man, having
had neither part nor lot therein.

I remember that over the glow of triumph wherewith I read his words,
there came stealing the chill shadow of a hopeless grief. Those phrases
of exoneration would not recall poor Apple Cheek; nor would they restore
Blossom to that poise and even balance from which she had been shaken on
a day before her birth. For all the sorrow of it, however, I made good
my word; and I have since thought that whether our judge deserved the
place or no, to say the least he earned it.

Every man has his model, and mine was Big John Kennedy. This was in
a way of nature, for I had found Big Kennedy in my boyhood, and it is
then, and then only, when one need look for his great men. When once you
have grown a beard, you will meet with few heroes, and make to yourself
few friends; wherefore you should the more cherish those whom your
fortunate youth has furnished.

Big Kennedy was my exemplar, and there arose few conditions to frown
upon me with a problem to be solved, when I did not consider what Big
Kennedy would have done in the face of a like contingency. Nor was I
to one side of the proprieties in such a course. Now, when I glance
backward down that steep aisle of endeavor up which I’ve come, I recall
occasions, and some meant for my compliment, when I met presidents,
governors, grave jurists, reverend senators, and others of tallest
honors in the land. They talked and they listened, did these mighty
ones; they gave me their views and their reasons for them, and heard
mine in return; and all as equal might encounter equal in a commerce of
level terms. And yet, choose as I may, I have not the name of him who
in a pure integrity of force, or that wisdom which makes men follow, was
the master of Big John Kennedy. My old chief won all his wars within the
organization, and that is the last best test of leadership. He made no
backward steps, but climbed to a final supremacy and sustained himself.
I was justified in steering by Big Kennedy. Respect aside, I would have
been wrecked had I not done so. That man who essays to live with no
shining example to show his feet the path, is as one who wanting a
lantern, and upon a moonless midnight, urges abroad into regions utterly
unknown.

Not alone did I observe those statutes for domination which Big Kennedy
both by precept and example had given me, but I picked up his alliances;
and that one was the better in my eyes, and came to be observed with
wider favor, who could tell of a day when he carried Big Kennedy’s
confidence. It was a brevet I always honored with my own.

One such was the Reverend Bronson, still working for the regeneration
of the Five Points, He often came to me for money or countenance in his
labors, and I did ever as Big Kennedy would have done and heaped up the
measure of his requests.

It would seem, also, that I had more of the acquaintance of this good
man than had gone to my former leader. For one thing, we were more
near in years, and then, too, I have pruned my language of those slangy
rudenesses of speech which loaded the conversation of Big Kennedy, and
cultivated in their stead softness and a verbal cleanliness which put
the Reverend Bronson at more ease in my company. I remember with what
satisfaction I heard him say that he took me for a person of education.

It was upon a time when I had told him of my little learning; for the
gloom of it was upon me constantly, and now and then I would cry out
against it, and speak of it as a burden hard to bear. I shall not soon
forget the real surprise that showed in the Reverend Bronson’s face, nor
yet the good it did me.

“You amaze me!” he cried. “Now, from the English you employ I should not
have guessed it. Either my observation is dulled, or you speak as much
by grammar as do I, who have seen a college.”

This was true by more than half, since like many who have no glint of
letters, and burning with the shame of it, I was wont to listen closely
to the talk of everyone learned of books; and in that manner, and by
imitation, I taught myself a decent speech just as a musician might
catch a tune by ear.

“Still I have no education,” I said, when the Reverend Bronson spoke of
his surprise.

“But you have, though,” returned he, “only you came by that education
not in the common way.”

That good speech alone, and the comfort of it to curl about my heart,
more than repaid me for all I ever did or gave by request of the
Reverend Bronson; and it pleases me to think I told him so. But I fear I
set down these things rather in vanity than to do a reader service, and
before patience turns fierce with me, I will get onward with my story.

One afternoon the Reverend Bronson came leading a queer bedraggled boy,
whose years--for all he was stunted and beneath a size--should have been
fourteen.

“Can’t you find something which this lad may do?” asked the Reverend
Bronson. “He has neither father nor mother nor home--he seems utterly
friendless. He has no capacity, so far as I have sounded him, and, while
he is possessed of a kind of animal sharpness, like the sharpness of a
hawk or a weasel, I can think of nothing to set him about by which he
could live. Even the streets seem closed to him, since the police for
some reason pursue him and arrest him on sight. It was in a magistrate’s
court I found him. He had been dragged there by an officer, and would
have been sent to a reformatory if I had not rescued him.”

“And would not that have been the best place for him?” I asked, rather
to hear the Reverend Bronson’s reply, than because I believed in my own
query. Aside from being a born friend of liberty in a largest sense, my
own experience had not led me to believe that our reformatories reform.
I’ve yet to hear of him who was not made worse by a term in any prison.
“Why not send him to a reformatory?” said I again.

“No one should be locked up,” contended the Reverend Bronson, “who
has not shown himself unfit to be free. That is not this boy’s case, I
think; he has had no chance; the police, according to that magistrate
who gave him into my hands, are relentless against him, and pick him up
on sight.”

“And are not the police good judges of these matters?”

“I would not trust their judgment,” returned the Reverend Bronson.
“There are many noble men upon the rolls of the police.” Then, with a
doubtful look: “For the most part, however, I should say they stand at
the head of the criminal classes, and might best earn their salaries by
arresting themselves.”

At this, I was made to smile, for it showed how my reverend visitor’s
years along the Bowery had not come and gone without lending him some
saltiness of wit.

“Leave the boy here,” said I at last, “I’ll find him work to live by,
if it be no more than sitting outside my door, and playing the usher to
those who call upon me.”

“Melting Moses is the only name he has given me,” said the Reverend
Bronson, as he took his leave. “I suppose, if one might get to it, that
he has another.”

“Melting Moses, as a name, should do very well,” said I.

Melting Moses looked wistfully after the Reverend Bronson when the
latter departed, and I could tell by that how the urchin regretted the
going of the dominie as one might regret the going of an only friend.
Somehow, the lad’s forlorn state grew upon me, and I made up my mind to
serve as his protector for a time at least. He was a shrill child of the
Bowery, was Melting Moses, and spoke a kind of gutter dialect, one-half
slang and the other a patter of the thieves that was hard to understand.
My first business was to send him out with the janitor of the building
to have him thrown into a bathtub, and then buttoned into a new suit of
clothes.

Melting Moses submitted dumbly to these improvements, being rather
resigned than pleased, and later with the same docility went home to
sleep at the janitor’s house. Throughout the day he would take up his
post on my door and act as herald to what visitors might come.

Being washed and combed and decently arrayed, Melting Moses, with black
eyes and a dark elfin face, made no bad figure of a boy. For all his
dwarfishness, I found him surprisingly strong, and as active as a
monkey. He had all the love and loyalty of a collie for me, and within
the first month of his keeping my door, he would have cast himself into
the river if I had asked him for that favor.

Little by little, scrap by scrap, Melting Moses gave me his story. Put
together in his words, it ran like this:

“Me fadder kept a joint in Kelly’s Alley; d’ name of-d’ joint was d’
Door of Death, see! It was a hot number, an’ lots of trouble got pulled
off inside. He used to fence for d’ guns an’ dips, too, me fadder did;
an’ w’en one of ‘em nipped a super or a rock, an’ wanted d’ quick dough,
he brought it to me fadder, who chucked down d’ stuff an’ no questions
asked. One day a big trick comes off--a jooeler’s winder or somet’ing
like dat. Me fadder is in d’ play from d’ outside, see! An’ so w’en
dere’s a holler, he does a sneak an’ gets away, ’cause d’ cops is layin’
to pinch him. Me fadder gets put wise to this be a mug who hangs out
about d’ Central Office. He sherries like I says.

“At dat, d’ Captain who’s out to nail me fadder toins sore all t’rough.
W’en me fadder sidesteps into New Joisey or some’ers, d’ Captain sends
along a couple of his harness bulls from Mulberry Street, an’ dey
pinches me mudder, who aint had nothin’ to do wit’ d’ play at all.
Dey rings for d’ hurry-up wagon, an’ takes me mudder to d’ station. D’
Captain he gives her d’ eye, an’ asts where me fadder is. She says she
can’t put him on, ‘cause she aint on herself. Wit’ dat, dis Captain
t’rows her d’ big chest, see! an’ says he’ll give her d’ t’ree degrees
if she don’t cough up d’ tip. But she hands him out d’ old gag: she aint
on. So then, d’ Captain has her put in a cell; an’ nothin’ to eat.

“After d’ foist night he brings her up ag’in.

“‘Dat’s d’ number one d’gree,’ says he.

“But still me mudder don’t tell, ’cause she can’t. Me fadder aint such a
farmer as to go leavin’ his address wit’ no one.

“D’ second night dey keeps me mudder in a cell, an’ toins d’ hose on d’
floor so she can’t do nothin’ but stan’ ‘round--no sleep! no chuck! no
nothin’!

“‘Dat’s d’ number two d’gree,’ says d’ bloke of a Captain to me mudder.
‘Now where did dat husband of yours skip to?’

“But me mudder couldn’t tell.

“‘Give d’ old goil d’ dungeon,’ says d’ Captain; ‘an’ t’row her in a
brace of rats to play wit’.’

“An’ now dey locks me mudder in a place like a cellar, wit’ two rats to
squeak an’ scrabble about all night, an’ t’row a scare into her.

“An’ it would too, only she goes dotty.

“Next day, d’ Captain puts her in d’ street. But w’at’s d’ use? She’s
off her trolley. She toins sick; an’ in a week she croaks. D’ sawbones
gets her for d’ colleges.”

Melting Moses shed tears at this.

“Dat’s about all,” he concluded. “W’en me mudder was gone, d’ cops
toined in to do me. D’ Captain said he was goin’ to clean up d’ fam’ly;
so he gives d’ orders, an’ every time I’d show up on d’ line, I’d get d’
collar. It was one of dem times, w’en d’ w’itechoker, who passes me on
to you, gets his lamps on me an’ begs me off from d’ judge, see!”

Melting Moses wept a deal during his relation, and I was not without
being moved by it myself. I gave the boy what consolation I might, by
assuring him that he was safe with me, and that no policeman should
threaten him. A tale of trouble, and particularly if told by a child,
ever had power to disturb me, and I did not question Melting Moses
concerning his father and mother a second time.

My noble nonentity--for whom I will say that he allowed me to finger
him for offices and contracts, as a musician fingers the keyboard of a
piano, and play upon him what tunes of profit I saw fit--was mayor, and
the town wholly in my hands, with a Tammany man in every office, when
there occurred the first of a train of events which in their passage
were to plow a furrow in my life so deep that all the years to come
after have not served to smooth it away. I was engaged at my desk, when
Melting Moses announced a caller.

“She’s a dame in black,” said Melting Moses; “an’ she’s of d’ Fift’
Avenoo squeeze all right.”

Melting Moses, now he was fed and dressed, went through the days with
uncommon spirit, and when not thinking on his mother would be gay
enough. My visitors interested him even more than they did me, and he
announced but few without hazarding his surmise as to both their origins
and their errands.

“Show her in!” I said.

My visitor was a widow, as I could see by her mourning weeds. She was
past middle life; gray, with hollow cheeks, and sad pleading eyes.

“My name is Van Flange,” said she. “The Reverend Bronson asked me to
call upon you. It’s about my son; he’s ruining us by his gambling.”

Then the Widow Van Flange told of her son’s infatuation; and how
blacklegs in Barclay Street were fleecing him with roulette and faro
bank.

I listened to her story with patience. While I would not find it on my
programme to come to her relief, I aimed at respect for one whom the
Reverend Bronson had endorsed. I was willing to please that good man,
for I liked him much since he spoke in commendation of my English.
Besides, if angered, the Reverend Bronson would be capable of trouble.
He was too deeply and too practically in the heart of the East Side;
he could not fail to have a tale to tell that would do Tammany Hall no
good, but only harm. Wherefore, I in no wise cut short the complaints
of the Widow Van Flange. I heard her to the end, training my face to
sympathy the while, and all as though her story were not one commonest
of the town.

“You may be sure, madam,” said I, when the Widow Van Flange had
finished, “that not only for the Reverend Bronson’s sake, but for your
own, I shall do all I may to serve you. I own no personal knowledge of
that gambling den of which you speak, nor of those sharpers who conduct
it. That knowledge belongs with the police. The number you give,
however, is in Captain Gothecore’s precinct. We’ll send for him if
you’ll wait.” With that I rang my desk bell for Melting Moses. “Send for
Captain Gothecore,” said I. At the name, the boy’s black eyes flamed up
in a way to puzzle. “Send a messenger for Captain Gothecore; I want him
at once.”



CHAPTER XX--THE MARK OF THE ROPE


WHILE the Widow Van Flange and I sat waiting the coming of Gothecore,
the lady gave me further leaves of her story. The name of Van Flange was
old. It had been honorable and high in the days of Wouter Van Twiller,
and when the town was called New Amsterdam. The Van Flanges had found
their source among the wooden shoes and spinning-wheels of the ancient
Dutch, and were duly proud. They had been rich, but were now reduced,
counting--she and her boy--no more than two hundred thousand dollars for
their fortune.

This son over whom she wept was the last Van Flange; there was no one
beyond him to wear the name. To the mother, this made his case the more
desperate, for mindful of her caste, she was borne upon by pride of
family almost as much as by maternal love. The son was a drunkard; his
taste for alcohol was congenital, and held him in a grip that could
not be unloosed. And he was wasting their substance; what small riches
remained to them were running away at a rate that would soon leave
nothing.

“But why do you furnish him money?” said I.

“You should keep him without a penny.”

“True!” responded the Widow Van Flange, “but those who pillage my son
have found a way to make me powerless. There is a restaurant near this
gambling den. The latter, refusing him credit and declining his checks,
sends him always to this restaurant-keeper. He takes my son’s check,
and gives him the money for it. I know the whole process,” concluded
the Widow Van Flange, a sob catching in her throat, “for I’ve had my son
watched, to see if aught might be done to save him.”

“But those checks,” I observed, “should be worthless, for you have told
me how your son has no money of his own.”

“And that is it,” returned the Widow Van Flange.

“I must pay them to keep him from prison. Once, when I refused, they
were about to arrest him for giving a spurious check. My own attorney
warned me they might do this. My son, himself, takes advantage of it. I
would sooner be stripped of the last shilling, than suffer the name
of Van Flange to be disgraced. Practicing upon my fears, he does not
scruple to play into the hands of those who scheme his downfall. You may
know what he is about, when I tell you that within the quarter I have
been forced in this fashion to pay over twenty-seven thousand dollars.
I see no way for it but to be ruined,” and her lips twitched with the
despair she felt.

While the Widow Van Flange and I talked of her son and his down-hill
courses, I will not pretend that I pondered any interference. The
gamblers were a power in politics. The business of saving sons was none
of mine; but, as I’ve said, I was willing, by hearing her story, to
compliment the Reverend Bronson, who had suggested her visit. In the
end, I would shift the burden to the police; they might be relied upon
to find their way through the tangle to the advantage of themselves and
the machine.

Indeed, this same Gothecore would easily dispose of the affair. Expert
with practice, there was none who could so run with the hare while
pretending to course with the hounds. Softly, sympathetically, he would
talk with the Widow Van Flange; and she would depart in the belief that
her cause had found a friend.

As the Widow Van Flange and I conversed, we were brought to sudden
silence by a strange cry. It was a mad, screeching cry, such as might
have come from some tigerish beast in a heat of fury. I was upon my feet
in a moment, and flung open the door.

Gothecore was standing outside, having come to my message. Over from him
by ten feet was Melting Moses, his shoulders narrowed in a feline way,
crouching, with brows drawn down and features in a snarl of hate. He was
slowly backing away from Gothecore; not in fear, but rather like some
cat-creature, measuring for a spring.

On his side, Gothecore’s face offered an equally forbidding picture.
He was red with rage, and his bulldog jaws had closed like a trap.
Altogether, I never beheld a more inveterate expression, like malice
gone to seed.

I seized Melting Moses by the shoulder, and so held him back from flying
at Gothecore with teeth and claws.

“He killed me mudder!” cried Melting Moses, struggling in my fingers
like something wild.

When the janitor with whom Melting Moses lived had carried him off--and
at that, the boy must be dragged away by force--I turned to Gothecore.

“What was the trouble?”

“Why do you stand for that young whelp?” he cried. “I won’t have it!”

“The boy is doing you no harm.”

“I won’t have it!” he cried again. The man was like a maniac.

“Let me tell you one thing,” I retorted, looking him between the eyes;
“unless you walk with care and talk with care, you are no better than
a lost man. One word, one look, and I’ll snuff you out between my thumb
and finger as I might a candle.”

There must have been that which showed formidable in my manner,
for Gothecore stood as though stunned. The vicious insolence of the
scoundrel had exploded the powder in my temper like a coal of fire. I
pointed the way to my room.

“Go in; I’ve business with you.”

Gothecore seemed to recall himself to steadiness. Without more words, he
entered my door.

With as much dignity as I might summon in the track of such a storm, I
presented him to the Widow Van Flange. She had heard the sound of our
differences; but, taken with her own troubles, she made no account of
them. The Widow Van Flange received the rather boorish salutation of
Gothecore in a way politely finished. Upon my hint, she gave him her
story. Gothecore assumed a look at once professional and deprecatory.

“An’ now you’re done, Madam,” said Gothecore, giving that slight police
cough by which he intimated for himself a limitless wisdom, “an’ now
you’re done, Madam, let me chip in a word. I know your son; I’ve knowed
Billy Van Flange, now, goin’ on three year--ever since he comes out o’
college. I don’t want to discourage you, Madam; but, to put it to you on
th’ square, Billy Van Flange is a warm member. I leave it to you to say
if I aint right. Yes, indeed! he’s as hot a proposition as ever went
down th’ line.”

Here the eye of Gothecore wandered towards the ceiling, recalling the
mad pranks of young Van Flange.

“But these gamblers are destroying him!” moaned the Widow Van Flange.
“Is there no way to shield him? Surely, you should know how to punish
them, and keep him out of their hands!”

“I know that gang of card sharps in Barclay Street,” remarked Gothecore;
“an’ they’re a bunch of butes at that! But let me go on: I’ll tell you
what we can do; and then I’ll tell you why it won’t be fly to do it. In
th’ finish, however, it will all be up to you, Madam. We’ll act on any
steer you hand us. If you say ‘pinch,’ pinch goes.

“But as I was tellin’: I’m dead onto Billy Van Flange; I know him like
a gambler knows an ace. He hits up th’ bottle pretty stiff at that, an’
any man who finds him sober has got to turn out hours earlier than I do.
An’ I’ll tell you another thing, Madam: This Billy Van Flange is a tough
mug to handle. More’n once, I’ve tried to point him for home, an’
every time it was a case of nothin’ doin’. Sometimes he shed tears,
an’ sometimes he wanted to scrap; sometimes he’d give me th’ laugh,
an’ sometimes he’d throw a front an’ talk about havin’ me fired off th’
force. He’d run all the way from th’ sob or th’ fiery eye, to th’ gay
face or th’ swell front, accordin’ as he was jagged.”

While Gothecore thus descanted, the Widow Van Flange buried her face in
her handkerchief. She heard his every word, however, and when Gothecore
again consulted the ceiling, she signed for him to go on.

“Knowin’ New York as I do,” continued Gothecore, “I may tell you, Madam,
that every time I get my lamps on that son of yours, I hold up my mits
in wonder to think he aint been killed.” The Widow Van Flange started;
her anxious face was lifted from the handkerchief. “That’s on th’ level!
I’ve expected to hear of him bein’ croaked, any time this twelve
months. Th’ best I looked for was that th’ trick wouldn’t come off in
my precinct. He carries a wad in his pocket; an’ he sports a streak of
gilt, with a thousand-dollar rock, on one of his hooks; an’ I could put
you next to a hundred blokes, not half a mile from here, who’d do him up
for half th’ price. That’s straight! Billy Van Flange, considerin’ th’
indoocements he hangs out, an’ th’ way he lays himself wide open to th’
play, is lucky to be alive.

“Now why is he alive, Madam? It is due to them very gamblin’ ducks in
Barclay Street. Not that they love him; but once them skin gamblers
gets a sucker on th’ string, they protect him same as a farmer does his
sheep. They look on him as money in th’ bank; an’ so they naturally see
to it that no one puts his light out.

“That’s how it stands, Madam!” And now Gothecore made ready to bring
his observations to a close. This Billy Van Flange, like every other
rounder, has his hangouts. His is this deadfall on Barclay Street, with
that hash-house keeper to give him th’ dough for his checks. Now I’ll
tell you what I think. While he sticks to th’ Barclay Street mob, he’s
safe. You’ll get him back each time. They’ll take his stuff; but they’ll
leave him his life, an’ that’s more than many would do.

“Say th’ word, however, an’ I can put th’ damper on. I can fix it so
Billy Van Flange can’t gamble nor cash checks in Barclay Street. They’ll
throw him out th’ minute he sticks his nut inside the door. But I’ll put
you wise to it, Madam: If I do, inside of ninety days you’ll fish him
out o’ th’ river; you will, as sure as I’m a foot high!”

The face of the Widow Van Flange was pale as paper now, and her bosom
rose and fell with new terrors for her son. The words of Gothecore
seemed prophetic of the passing of the last Van Flange.

“Madam,” said Gothecore, following a pause, “I’ve put it up to you. Give
me your orders. Say th’ word, an’ I’ll have th’ screws on that Barclay
Street joint as fast as I can get back to my station-house.”

“But if we keep him from going there,” said the Widow Van Flange, with
a sort of hectic eagerness, “he’ll find another place, won’t he?” There
was a curious look in the eyes of the Widow Van Flange. Her hand was
pressed upon her bosom as if to smother a pang; her handkerchief went
constantly to her lips. “He would seek worse resorts?”

“It’s a cinch, Madam!”

“And he’d be murdered?”

“Madam, it’s apples to ashes!”

The eyes of the Widow Van Flange seemed to light up with an unearthly
sparkle, while a flush crept out in her cheek. I was gazing upon these
signs with wonder regarding them as things sinister, threatening ill.

Suddenly, she stood on her feet; and then she tottered in a blind,
stifled way toward the window as though feeling for light and air.
The next moment, the red blood came trickling from her mouth; she fell
forward and I caught her in my arms.

“It’s a hemorrhage!” said Gothecore.

The awe of death lay upon the man, and his coarse voice was stricken to
a whisper.

“Now Heaven have my soul!” murmured the dying woman. Then: “My son! oh,
my son!”

There came another crimson cataract, and the Widow Van Flange was dead.

“This is your work!” said I, turning fiercely to Gothecore.

“Or is it yours?” cries he.

The words went over my soul like the teeth of a harrow. Was it my work?

“No, Chief!” continued Gothecore, more calmly, and as though in answer
to both himself and me, “it’s the work of neither of us. You think that
what I said killed her. That may be as it may. Every word, however, was
true. I but handed her th’ straight goods.”

The Widow Van Flange was dead; and the thought of her son was in her
heart and on her lips as her soul passed. And the son, bleared and
drunken, gambled on in the Barclay Street den, untouched. The counters
did not shake in his hand, nor did the blood run chill in his veins, as
he continued to stake her fortune and his own in sottish ignorance.

One morning, when the first snow of winter was beating in gusty swirls
against the panes, Morton walked in upon me. I had not seen that
middle-aged fop since the day when I laid out my social hopes and fears
for Blossom. It being broad September at the time, Morton had pointed
out how nothing might be done before the snows.

“For our society people,” observed Morton, on that September occasion,
“are migratory, like the wild geese they so much resemble. At this time
they are leaving Newport for the country, don’t y’ know. They will not
be found in town until the frost.”

Now, when the snow and Morton appeared together, I recalled our
conversation. I at once concluded that his visit had somewhat to do with
our drawing-room designs. Nor was I in the wrong.

“But first,” said he, when in response to my question he had confessed
as much, “let us decide another matter. Business before pleasure; the
getting of money should have precedence over its dissipation; it should,
really! I am about to build a conduit, don’t y’ know, the whole length
of Mulberry, and I desire you to ask your street department to take no
invidious notice of the enterprise. You might tell your fellows that it
wouldn’t be good form.”

“But your franchise does not call for a conduit.”

“We will put it on the ground that Mulberry intends a change to the
underground trolley--really! That will give us the argument; and I
think, if needs press, your Corporation Counsel can read the law that
way. He seems such a clever beggar, don’t y’ know!”

“But what do you want the conduit for?”

“There’s nothing definite or sure as yet. My notion, however, is to
inaugurate an electric-light company. The conduit, too, would do for
telephone or telegraph, wires. Really, it’s a good thing to have; and my
men, when this beastly weather softens a bit, might as well be about the
digging. All that’s wanted of you, old chap, is to issue your orders
to the department people to stand aloof, and offer no interruptions. It
will be a great asset in the hands of Mulberry, that conduit; I shall
increase the capital stock by five millions, on the strength of it.”

“Your charter isn’t in the way?”

“The charter contemplates the right on the part of Mulberry to change
its power, don’t y’ know. We shall declare in favor of shifting to the
underground trolley; although, really, we won’t say when. The necessity
of a conduit follows. Any chap can see that.”

“Very well!” I replied, “there shall be no interference the city. If the
papers grumble, I leave you and them to fight it out.”

“Now that’s settled,” said Morton, producing his infallible cigarette,
“let us turn to those social victories we have in contemplation. I take
it you remain firm in your frantic resolutions?”

“I do it for the good of my child,” said I.

“As though society, as presently practiced,” cried Morton, “could be for
anybody’s good! However, I was sure you would not change. You know the
De Mudds? One of our best families, the De Mudds--really! They are on
the brink of a tremendous function. They’ll dine, and they’ll dance, and
all that sort of thing. They’ve sent you cards, the De Mudds have; and
you and your daughter are to come. It’s the thing to do; you can conquer
society in the gross at the De Mudds.”

“I’m deeply obliged,” said I. “My daughter’s peculiar nervous condition
has preyed upon me more than I’ve admitted. The physician tells me that
her best hope of health lies in the drawing-rooms.”

“Let us trust so!” said Morton. “But, realty, old chap, you ought to be
deucedly proud of the distinction which the De Mudds confer upon you.
Americans are quite out of their line, don’t y’ know! And who can
blame them? Americans are such common beggars; there’s so many of them,
they’re vulgar. Mamma DeMudd’s daughters--three of them--all married
earls. Mamma DeMudd made the deal herself; and taking them by the lot,
she had those noblemen at a bargain; she did, really! Five millions was
the figure. Just think of it! five millions for three earls! Why, it was
like finding them in the street!

“‘But what is he?’ asked Mamma DeMudd, when I proposed you for her
notice.

“‘He’s a despot,’ said I, ‘and rules New York. Every man in town is his
serf.’

“When Mamma DeMudd got this magnificent idea into her head, she was
eager to see you; she was, really.

“However,” concluded Morton, “let us change the subject, if only to
restore my wits. The moment I speak of society, I become quite idiotic,
don’t y’ know!”

“Speaking of new topics, then,” said I, “let me ask of your father. How
does he fare these days?”

“Busy, exceeding busy!” returned Morton. “He’s buying a home in New
Jersey. Oh, no, he won’t live there; but he requires it as a basis for
declaring that he’s changed his residence, don’t y’ know! You’d wonder,
gad! to see how frugal the old gentleman has grown in his old age. It’s
the personal property tax that bothers him; two per cent, on twenty
millions come to quite a sum; it does, really! The old gentleman doesn’t
like it; so he’s going to change his residence to New Jersey. To be
sure, while he’ll reside in New Jersey, he’ll live here.

“‘It’s a fribble, father,’ said I, when he set forth his little game.
‘Why don’t you go down to the tax office, and commit perjury like a man?
All your friends do.’

“But, really! he couldn’t; and he said so. The old gentleman lacks in
those rugged characteristics, required when one swears to a point-blank
lie.”

When Morton was gone, I gave myself to pleasant dreams concerning
Blossom. I was sure that the near company and conversation of those men
and women of the better world, whom she was so soon to find about her,
would accomplish all for which I prayed. Her nerves would be cooled;
she would be drawn from out that hypochondria into which, throughout her
life, she had been sinking as in a quicksand.

I had not unfolded either my anxieties or my designs to Blossom. Now I
would have Anne tell her of my plans. Time would be called for wherein
to prepare the necessary wardrobe. She should have the best artistes;
none must outshine my girl, of that I was resolved. These dress-labors,
with their selections and fittings, would of themselves be excellent.
They would employ her fancy, and save her from foolish fears of the De
Mudds and an experience which she might think on as an ordeal. I never
once considered myself--I, who was as ignorant of drawing-rooms as a
cart-horse! Blossom held my thoughts. My heart would be implacable until
it beheld her, placed and sure of herself, in the pleasant midst of
those most elevated circles, towards which not alone my faith, but my
admiration turned its eyes. I should be proud of her station, as well as
relieved on the score of her health, when Blossom, serene and even and
contained, and mistress of her own house, mingled on equal terms with
ones who had credit as the nobility of the land.

Was this the dream of a peasant grown rich? Was it the doting vision of
a father mad with fondness? Why should I not so spread the nets of my
money and my power as to ensnare eminence and the world’s respect for
this darling Blossom of mine? Wherein would lie the wild extravagance
of the conceit? Surely, there were men in every sort my inferiors, and
women, not one of whom was fit to play the rôle of maid to Blossom, who
had rapped at this gate, and saw it open unto them.

Home I went elate, high, walking on air. Nor did I consider how weak it
showed, that I, the stern captain of thousands, and with a great city
in my hands to play or labor with, should be thus feather-tickled with
a toy! It was amazing, yes; and yet it was no less sweet:--this building
of air-castles to house my Blossom in!

It stood well beyond the strike of midnight as I told Anne the word that
Morton had brought. Anne raised her dove’s eyes to mine when I was done,
and they were wet with tears. Anne’s face was as the face of a nun, in
its self-sacrifice and the tender, steady disinterest that looked from
it.

Now, as I exulted in a new bright life to be unrolled to the little
tread of Blossom, I saw the shadows of a sorrow, vast and hopeless,
settle upon Anne. At this I halted. As though to answer my silence, she
put her hand caressingly upon my shoulder.

“Brother,” said Anne, “you must set aside these thoughts for Blossom of
men and women she will never meet, of ballrooms she will never enter,
of brilliant costumes she will never wear. It is one and all impossible;
you do not understand.”

With that, irritated of too much opposition and the hateful mystery of
it, I turned roughly practical.

“Well!” said I, in a hardest tone, “admitting that I do not understand;
and that I think on men and women she will never meet, and ballrooms
she will never enter. Still, the costumes at least I can control, and
it will mightily please me if you and Blossom at once attend to the
frocks.”

“You do not understand!” persisted Anne, with sober gentleness. “Blossom
would not wear an evening dress.”

“Anne, you grow daft!” I cried. “How should there be aught immodest in
dressing like every best woman in town? The question of modesty is a
question of custom; it is in the exception one will find the indelicate.
I know of no one more immodest than a prude.”

“Blossom is asleep,” said Anne, in her patient way. Then taking a
bed-candle that burned on a table, she beckoned me. “Come; I will show
you what I mean. Make no noise; we must not wake Blossom. She must never
know that you have seen. She has held this a secret from you; and I, for
her poor sake, have done the same.”

Anne opened the door of Blossom’s room. My girl was in a gentle slumber.
With touch light as down, Anne drew aside the covers from about her
neck.

“There,” whispered Anne, “there! Look on her throat!”

Once, long before, a man had hanged himself, and I was called. I had
never forgotten the look of those marks which belted the neck of that
self-strangled man. Encircling the lily throat of Blossom, I saw the
fellows to those marks--raw and red and livid!

There are no words to tell the horror that swallowed me up. I turned
ill; my reason stumbled on its feet. Anne led me from the room.

“The mark of the rope!” I gasped. “It is the mark of the rope!”



CHAPTER XXI--THE REVEREND BRONSON’S REBELLION


WHAT should it be?--this gallows-brand to show like a bruised ribbon of
evil about the throat of Blossom! Anne gave me the story of it. It was
a birthmark; that hangman fear which smote upon the mother when, for the
death of Jimmy the Blacksmith, I was thrown into a murderer’s cell, had
left its hideous trace upon the child. In Blossom’s infancy and in her
earliest childhood, the mark had lain hidden beneath the skin as seeds
lie buried and dormant in the ground. Slowly, yet no less surely, the
inveterate years had quickened it and brought it to the surface; it had
grown and never stopped--this mark! and with each year it took on added
sullenness. The best word that Anne could give me was that it would so
continue in its ugly multiplication until the day of Blossom’s death.
There could be no escape; no curing change, by any argument of medicine
or surgery, was to be brought about; there it glared and there it would
remain, a mark to shrink from! to the horrid last. And by that token,
my plans of a drawing room for Blossom found annihilation. Anne had
said the truth; those dreams that my girl should shine, starlike, in the
firmament of high society, must be put away.

It will have a trivial sound, and perchance be scoffed at, when I say
that for myself, personally, I remember no blacker disappointment than
that which overtook me as I realized how there could come none of those
triumphs of chandeliers and floors of wax. Now as I examine myself,
I can tell that not a little of this was due to my own vanity, and a
secret wish I cherished to see my child the equal of the first.

And if it were so, why should I be shamed? Might I not claim integrity
for a pride which would have found its account in such advancement? I
had been a ragged boy about the streets. I had grown up ignorant; I
had climbed, if climbing be the word, unaided of any pedigree or any
pocketbook, into a place of riches and autocratic sway. Wherefore, to
have surrounded my daughter with the children of ones who had owned
those advantages which I missed--folk of the purple, all!--and they to
accept her, would have been a victory, and to do me honor. I shall
not ask the pardon of men because I longed for it; nor do I scruple to
confess the blow my hopes received when I learned how those ambitions
would never find a crown.

Following my sight of that gallows mark, I sat for a long time
collecting myself. It was a dreadful thing to think upon; the more,
since it seemed to me that Blossom suffered in my stead. It was as if
that halter, which I defeated, had taken my child for a revenge.

“What can we do?” said I, at last.

I spoke more from an instinct of conversation, and because I would have
the company of Anne’s sympathy, than with the thought of being answered
to any purpose. I was set aback, therefore, by her reply.

“Let Blossom take the veil,” said Anne. “A convent, and the good work of
it, would give her peace.”

At that, I started resentfully. To one of my activity, I, who needed the
world about me every moment--struggling, contending, succeeding--there
could have come no word more hateful. The cell of a nun! It was as
though Anne advised a refuge in the grave. I said as much, and with no
special choice of phrases.

“Because Heaven in its injustice,” I cried, “has destroyed half her
life, she is to make it a meek gift of the balance? Never, while I live!
Blossom shall stay by me; I will make her happy in the teeth of Heaven!”
 Thus did I hurl my impious challenge. What was to be the return, and the
tempest it drew upon poor Blossom, I shall unfold before I am done. I
have a worm of conscience whose slow mouth gnaws my nature, and you may
name it superstition if you choose. And by that I know, when now I sit
here, lonesome save for my gold, and with no converse better than the
yellow mocking leer of it, that it was this, my blasphemy, which wrought
in Heaven’s retort the whole of that misery which descended to dog my
girl and drag her down. How else shall I explain that double darkness
which swallowed up her innocence? It was the bolt of punishment, which
those skies I had outraged, aimed at me.

Back to my labors of politics I went, with a fiercer heat than ever. My
life, begun in politics, must end in politics. Still, there was a mighty
change. I was not to look upon that strangling mark and escape the
scar of it. I settled to a savage melancholy; I saw no pleasant moment.
Constantly I ran before the hound-pack of my own thoughts, a fugitive,
flying from myself.

Also, there came the signs visible, and my hair was to turn and lose
its color, until within a year it went as white as milk. Men, in the
idleness of their curiosity, would notice this, and ask the cause. They
were not to know; nor did Blossom ever learn how, led by Anne, I had
crept upon her secret. It was a sorrow without a door, that sorrow of
the hangman’s mark; and because we may not remedy it, we will leave it,
never again to be referred to until it raps for notice of its own black
will.

The death of the Widow Van Flange did not remove from before me the
question of young Van Flange and his degenerate destinies. The Reverend
Bronson took up the business where it fell from the nerveless fingers of
his mother on that day she died.

“Not that I believe he can be saved,” observed the Reverend Bronson;
“for if I am to judge, the boy is already lost beyond recall. But there
is such goods as a pious vengeance--an anger of righteousness!--and I
find it in my heart to destroy with the law, those rogues who against
the law destroy others. That Barclay Street nest of adders must be
burned out; and I come to you for the fire.”

In a sober, set-faced way, I was amused by the dominie’s extravagance.
And yet I felt a call to be on my guard with him. Suppose he were to
dislodge a stone which in its rolling should crash into and crush the
plans of the machine! The town had been lost before, and oftener than
once, as the result of beginnings no more grave. Aside from my liking
for the good man, I was warned by the perils of my place to speak him
softly.

“Well,” said I, trying for a humorous complexion, “if you are bound for
a wrestle with those blacklegs, I will see that you have fair play.”

“If that be true,” returned the Reverend Bronson, promptly, “give me
Inspector McCue.”

“And why Inspector McCue?” I asked. The suggestion had its baffling
side. Inspector McCue was that honest one urged long ago upon Big
Kennedy by Father Considine. I did not know Inspector McCue; there
might lurk danger in the man. “Why McCue?” I repeated. “The business of
arresting gamblers belongs more with the uniformed police. Gothecore is
your proper officer.”

“Gothecore is not an honest man,” said the Reverend Bronson, with
sententious frankness. “McCue, on the other hand, is an oasis in the
Sahara of the police. He can be trusted. If you support him he will
collect the facts and enforce the law.”

“Very well,” said I, “you shall take McCue. I have no official control
in the matter, being but a private man like yourself. But I will speak
to the Chief of Police, and doubtless he will grant my request.”

“There is, at least, reason to think so,” retorted the Reverend Bronson
in a dry tone.

Before I went about an order to send Inspector McCue to the Reverend
Bronson, I resolved to ask a question concerning him. Gothecore should
be a well-head of information on that point; I would send for Gothecore.
Also it might be wise to let him hear what was afoot for his precinct.
He would need to be upon his defense, and to put others interested upon
theirs.

Melting Moses, who still stood warder at my portals, I dispatched upon
some errand. The sight of Gothecore would set him mad. I felt sorrow
rather than affection for Melting Moses. There was something unsettled
and mentally askew with the boy. He was queer of feature, with the
twisted fantastic face one sees carved on the far end of a fiddle.
Commonly, he was light of heart, and his laugh would have been comic had
it not been for a note of the weird which rang in it. I had not asked
him, on the day when he went backing for a spring at the throat of
Gothecore, the reason of his hate. His exclamation, “He killed me
mudder!” told the story. Besides, I could have done no good. Melting
Moses would have given me no reply. The boy, true to his faith of Cherry
Hill, would fight out his feuds for himself; he would accept no one’s
help, and regarded the term “squealer” as an epithet of measureless
disgrace.

When Gothecore came in, I caught him at the first of it glowering
furtively about, as though seeking someone.

“Where is that Melting Moses?” he inquired, when he saw how I observed
him to be searching the place with his eye.

“And why?” said I.

“I thought I’d look him over, if you didn’t mind. I can’t move about
my precinct of nights but he’s behind me, playin’ th’ shadow. I want to
know why he pipes me off, an’ who sets him to it.”

“Well then,” said I, a bit impatiently, “I should have thought a
full-grown Captain of Police was above fearing a boy.”

Without giving Gothecore further opening, I told him the story of the
Reverend Bronson, and that campaign of purity he would be about.

“And as to young Van Flange,” said I. “Does he still lose his money in
Barclay Street?”

“They’ve cleaned him up,” returned Gothecore. “Billy Van Flange is gone,
hook, line, and sinker. He’s on his uppers, goin’ about panhandlin’ old
chums for a five-dollar bill.”

“They made quick work of him,” was my comment.

“He would have it,” said Gothecore. “When his mother died th’ boy got
his bridle off. Th’ property--about two hundred thousand dollars--was
in paper an’ th’ way he turned it into money didn’t bother him a bit.
He came into Barclay Street, simply padded with th’ long
green--one-thousand-dollar bills, an’ all that--an’ them gams took it
off him so fast he caught cold. He’s dead broke; th’ only difference
between him an’ a hobo, right now, is a trunk full of clothes.”

“The Reverend Bronson,” said I, “has asked for Inspector McCue. What
sort of a man is McCue?” Gothecore wrinkled his face into an expression
of profound disgust.

“Who’s McCue?” he repeated. “He’s one of them mugwump pets. He makes a
bluff about bein’ honest, too, does McCue. I think he’d join a church,
if he took a notion it would stiffen his pull.”

“But is he a man of strength? Can he make trouble?”

“Trouble?” This with contempt. “When it comes to makin’ trouble, he’s a
false alarm.”

“Well,” said I, in conclusion, “McCue and the dominie are going into
your precinct.”

“I’ll tell you one thing,” returned Gothecore, his face clouding up, “I
think it’s that same Reverend Bronson who gives Melting Moses th’ office
to dog me. I’ll put Mr. Whitechoker onto my opinion of th’ racket, one
of these days.”

“You’d better keep your muzzle on,” I retorted. “Your mouth will get you
into trouble yet.”

Gothecore went away grumbling, and much disposed to call himself
ill-used.

During the next few days I was to receive frequent visits from the
Reverend Bronson. His mission was to enlist me in his crusade against
the gamblers. I put him aside on that point.

“You should remember,” said I, as pleasantly as I well could, “that I am
a politician, not a policeman. I shall think of my party, and engage in
no unusual moral exploits of the sort you suggest. The town doesn’t want
it done.”

“The question,” responded the Reverend Bronson warmly, “is one of
law and morality, and not of the town’s desires. You say you are a
politician, and not a policeman. If it comes to that, I am a preacher,
and not a policeman. Still, I no less esteem it my duty to interfere for
right. I see no difference between your position and my own.”

“But I do. To raid gamblers, and to denounce them, make for your success
in your profession. With me, it would be all the other way. It is quite
easy for you to adopt the path you do. Now I am not so fortunately
placed.”

“You are the head of Tammany Hall,” said the Reverend Bronson solemnly.
“It is a position which loads you with responsibility, since your power
for good or bad in the town is absolute. You have but to point your
finger at those gambling dens, and they would wither from the earth.”

“Now you do me too much compliment,” said I. “The Chief of Tammany is a
much weaker man than you think. Moreover, I shall not regard myself as
responsible for the morals of the town.”

“Take young Van Flange,” went on the Reverend Bronson, disregarding my
remark. “They’ve ruined the boy; and you might have saved him.”

“And there you are mistaken,” I replied. “But if it were so, why should
I be held for his ruin? ‘I am not my brother’s keeper.’”

“And so Cain said,” responded the Reverend Bronson. Then, as he was
departing: “I do not blame you too much, for I can see that you are the
slave of your position. But do not shield yourself with the word that
you are not your brother’s keeper. You may be made grievously to feel
that your brother’s welfare is your welfare, and that in his destruction
your own destruction is also to be found.”

Men have rallied me as superstitious, and it may be that some grains
of truth lie buried in that charge. Sure it is, that this last from the
Reverend Bronson was not without its uncomfortable effect. It pressed
upon me in a manner vaguely dark, and when he was gone, I caught
myself regretting the “cleaning up,” as Gothecore expressed it, of the
dissolute young Van Flange.

And yet, why should one feel sympathy for him who, by his resolute
viciousness, struck down his own mother? If ever rascal deserved ruin,
it was he who had destroyed the hopes of one who loved him before all!
The more I considered, the less tender for the young Van Flange I grew.
And as to his destruction carrying personal scathe for me, it might
indeed do, as a flourish of the pulpit, to say so, but it was a thought
too far fetched, as either a warning or a prophecy, to justify one in
transacting by its light his own existence, or the affairs of a great
organization of politics. The end of it was that I smiled over a
weakness that permitted me to be disturbed by mournful forebodes, born
of those accusing preachments of the Reverend Bronson.

For all that my reverend mentor was right; the sequel proved how those
flames which licked up young Van Flange were to set consuming fire to my
own last hope.

It would seem that young Van Flange, as a topic, was in everybody’s
mouth. Morton, having traction occasion for calling on me, began to talk
of him at once.

“Really!” observed Morton, discussing young Van Flange, “while he’s
a deuced bad lot, don’t y’ know, and not at all likely to do Mulberry
credit, I couldn’t see him starve, if only for his family. So I set him
to work, as far from the company’s money as I could put him, and on the
soberish stipend of nine hundred dollars a year. I look for the best
effects from those nine hundred dollars; a chap can’t live a double life
on that; he can’t, really!”

“And you call him a bad lot,” said I.

“The worst in the world,” returned Morton. “You see young Van Flange is
such a weakling; really, there’s nothing to tie to. All men are vicious;
but there are some who are strong enough to save themselves. This fellow
isn’t.”

“His family is one of the best,” said I.

For myself, I’ve a sincere respect for blood, and some glimpse of it
must have found display in my face.

“My dear boy,” cried Morton, “there’s no more empty claptrap than this
claptrap of family.” Here Morton adorned his high nose with the eyeglass
that meant so much with him, and surveyed me as from a height. “There’s
nothing in a breed when it comes to a man.”

“Would you say the same of a horse or a dog?”

“By no means, old chap; but a dog or a horse is prodigiously a different
thing, don’t y’ know. The dominant traits of either of those noble
creatures are honesty, courage, loyalty--they’re the home of the
virtues. Now a man is another matter. He’s an evil beggar, is a man;
and, like a monkey, he has virtues only so far as you force him to adopt
them. As Machiavelli says: ‘We’re born evil, and become good only by
compulsion.’ Now to improve a breed, as the phrase is, makes simply for
the promotion of what are the dominant traits of the creature one has in
hand. Thus, to refine or emphasize the horse and the dog, increases them
in honesty, loyalty, and courage since such are top-traits with those
animals. With a monkey or a man, and by similar argument, the more you
refine him, the more abandoned he becomes. Really,” and here Morton
restored himself with a cigarette, “I shouldn’t want these views to find
their way to my club. It would cause the greatest row ever in our set;
it would, really! I am made quite ill to only think of it.”

“What would you call a gentleman, then?” I asked.

Morton’s theories, while I in no manner subscribed to them, entertained
me.

“What should I call a gentleman? Why I should call him the caricature of
a man, don’t y’ know.”

The Reverend Bronson had been abroad in his campaign against those
sharpers of Barclay Street for perhaps four weeks. I understood, without
paying much heed to the subject, that he was seeking the evidence of
their crimes, with a final purpose of having them before a court. There
had been no public stir; the papers had said nothing. What steps
had been taken were taken without noise. I doubted not that the
investigation would, in the finish, die out. The hunted ones of Barclay
Street were folk well used to the rôle of fugitive, and since Gothecore
kept them informed of the enemy’s strategy, I could not think they would
offer the Reverend Bronson and his ally, McCue, any too much margin.

As yet, I had never seen this McCue. By that, I knew him to be an honest
man. Not that one is to understand how none save a rogue would come to
me. I need hardly explain, however, that every policeman of dark-lantern
methods was eagerly prone to make my acquaintance. It was a merest
instinct of caution; the storm might break and he require a friend. Now
this McCue had never sought to know me, and so I argued that his record
was pure white.

This did not please me; I preferred men upon whom one might have some
hold. These folk of a smooth honesty go through one’s fingers like
water, and no more of a grip to be obtained upon one of them than upon
the Hudson. I made up my mind that I would see this McCue.

Still I did not send for him; it was no part of my policy to exhibit
concern in one with whom I was strange, and who later might open his
mouth to quote it against me. McCue, however, was so much inclined to
humor my desire, that one afternoon he walked into my presence of his
own free will.

“My name is McCue,” said he, “Inspector McCue.” I motioned him to a
chair. “I’ve been told to collect evidence against certain parties in
Barclay Street,” he added. Then he came to a full stop.

While I waited for him to proceed in his own way and time, I studied
Inspector McCue. He was a square-shouldered man, cautious, keen,
resolute; and yet practical, and not one to throw himself away in the
jaws of the impossible. What he had come to say, presently proved my
estimate of him. On the whole, I didn’t like the looks of Inspector
McCue.

“What is your purpose?” I asked at last. “I need not tell you that I
have no official interest in what you may be about. Still less have I a
personal concern.”

Inspector McCue’s only retort was a grimace that did not add to his
popularity. Next he went boldly to the object of his call.

“What I want to say is this,” said he. “I’ve collected the evidence I
was sent after; I can lay my hands on the parties involved as keepers
and dealers in that Barclay Street den. But I’m old enough to know that
all the evidence in the world won’t convict these crooks unless the
machine is willing. I’m ready to go ahead and take my chances. But I’m
not ready to run against a stone wall in the dark. I’d be crazy, where
no good can come, to throw myself away.”

“Now this is doubtless of interest to you,” I replied, putting some
impression of distance into my tones, “but what have I to do with the
matter?”

“Only this,” returned McCue. “I’d like to have you tell me flat, whether
or no you want these parties pinched.”

“Inspector McCue,” said I, “if that be your name and title, it sticks in
my head that you are making a mistake. You ask me a question which you
might better put to your chief.”

“We won’t dispute about it,” returned my caller; “and I’m not here to
give offense. I am willing to do my duty; but, as I’ve tried to explain,
I don’t care to sacrifice myself if the game’s been settled against me
in advance. You speak of my going to the chief. If arrests are to be
made, he’s the last man I ought to get my orders from.”

“If you will be so good as to explain?” said I.

“Because, if I am to go on, I must begin by collaring the chief. He’s
the principal owner of that Barclay Street joint.”

This was indeed news, and I had no difficulty in looking grave.

“Captain Gothecore is in it, too; but his end is with the restaurant
keeper. That check-cashing racket was a case of flam; there was a
hold-out went with that play. The boy, Van Flange, was always drunk,
and the best he ever got for, say a five-hundred-dollar check, was
three hundred dollars. Gothecore was in on the difference. There’s the
lay-out. Not a pleasant outlook, certainly; and not worth attempting
arrests about unless I know that the machine is at my back.”

“You keep using the term ‘machine,’” said I coldly. “If by that you mean
Tammany Hall, I may tell you, sir, that the ‘machine’ has no concern in
the affair. You will do your duty as you see it.”

Inspector McCue sat biting his lips. After a moment, he got upon his
feet to go.

“I think it would have been better,” said he, “if you had met me
frankly. However, I’ve showed you my hand; now I’ll tell you what my
course will be. This is Wednesday. I must, as you’ve said yourself, do
my duty. If--mark you, I say ‘If’--if I am in charge of this case on
Saturday, I shall make the arrests I’ve indicated.”

“Did you ever see such gall!” exclaimed the Chief of Police, when I
recounted my conversation with Inspector McCue. Then, holding up his
pudgy hands in a manner of pathetic remonstrance: “It shows what I told
you long ago. One honest man will put th’ whole force on th’ bum!”

Inspector McCue, on the day after his visit, was removed from his place,
and ordered to a precinct in the drear far regions of the Bronx. The
order was hardly dry on the paper when there descended upon me the
Reverend Bronson, his eyes glittering with indignation, and a protest
against this Siberia for Inspector McCue apparent in his face.

“And this,” cried the Reverend Bronson, as he came through the door,
“and this is what comes to an officer who is willing to do his duty!”

“Sit down, Doctor,” said I soothingly, at the same time placing a chair;
“sit down.”



CHAPTER XXII--THE MAN OF THE KNIFE


WHEN the first gust was over, the Reverend Bronson seemed sad rather
than enraged. He reproached the machine for the failure of his effort
against that gambling den.

“But why do you call yourself defeated?” I asked. It was no part of my
purpose to concede, even by my silence, that either I or Tammany was
opposed to the Reverend Bronson. “You should put the matter to the test
of a trial before you say that.”

“What can I do without Inspector McCue? and he has been removed from the
affair. I talked with him concerning it; he told me himself there was no
hope.”

“Now, what were his words?” said I, for I was willing to discover how
far Inspector McCue had used my name.

“Why, then,” returned the Reverend Bronson, with a faint smile at the
recollection, “if I am to give you the precise words, our talk ran
somewhat like this:

“‘Doctor, what’s the use?’ said Inspector McCue. ‘We’re up against it;
we can’t move a wheel.’

“‘There’s such a word as law,’ said I, advancing much, the argument you
have just now given me; ‘and such a thing as justice.’

“‘Not in the face of the machine,’ responded Inspector McCue. ‘The will
of the machine stands for all the law and all the justice that we’re
likely to get. The machine has the courts, the juries, the prosecuting
officers, and the police. Every force we need is in its hands.
Personally, of course, they couldn’t touch you; but if I were to so much
as lift a finger, I’d be destroyed. Some day I, myself, may be chief;
and if I am, for once in a way, I’ll guarantee the decent people of this
town a run for their money.’

“‘And yet,’ said I, ‘we prate of liberty!’

“‘Liberty!’ cried he. ‘Doctor, our liberties are in hock to the
politicians, and we’ve lost the ticket.’”

It was in my mind to presently have the stripes and buttons off the
loquacious, honest Inspector McCue. The Reverend Bronson must have
caught some gleam of it in my eye; he remonstrated with a gentle hand
upon my arm.

“Promise me that no more harm shall come to McCue,” he said. “I ought
not to have repeated his words. He has been banished to the Bronx; isn’t
that punishment enough for doing right?”

“Yes,” I returned, after a pause; “I give you my word, your friend is
in no further peril. You should tell him, however, to forget the name,
‘machine.’ Also, he has too many opinions for a policeman.”

The longer I considered, the more it was clear that it would not be a
cautious policy to cashier McCue. It would make an uproar which I
did not care to court when so near hand to an election. It was not
difficult, therefore, to give the Reverend Bronson that promise, and I
did it with a good grace.

Encouraged by my compliance, the Reverend Bronson pushed into an
argument, the object of which was to bring me to his side for the town’s
reform.

“Doctor,” said I, when he had set forth what he conceived to be my duty
to the premises, “even if I were disposed to go with you, I would have
to go alone. I could no more take Tammany Hall in the direction you
describe, than I could take the East River. As I told you once before,
you should consider our positions. It is the old quarrel of theory and
practice. You proceed upon a theory that men are what they should be; I
must practice existence upon the fact of men as they are.”

“There is a debt you owe Above!” returned the Reverend Bronson, the
preacher within him beginning to struggle.

“And what debt should that be?” I cried, for my mind, on the moment, ran
gloomily to Blossom. “What debt should I owe there?--I, who am the most
unhappy man in the world!”

There came a look into the eyes of the Reverend Bronson that was at once
sharp with interrogation and soft with sympathy. He saw that I had
been hard wounded, although he could not know by what; and he owned the
kindly tact to change the course of his remarks.

“There is one point, sure,” resumed the Reverend Bronson, going backward
in his trend of thought, “and of that I warn you. I shall not give up
this fight. I began with an attack upon those robbers, and I’ve been
withstood by ones who should have strengthened my hands. I shall now
assail, not alone the lawbreakers, but their protectors. I shall attack
the machine and the police. I shall take this story into every paper
that will print it; I shall summon the pulpits to my aid; I shall
arouse the people, if they be not deaf or dead, to wage war on those who
protect such vultures in their rapine for a share of its returns. There
shall be a moral awakening; and you may yet conclude, when you sit down
in the midst of defeat, that honesty is after all the best policy, and
that virtue has its reward.”

The Reverend Bronson, in the heat of feeling, had risen from the chair,
and declaimed rather than said this, while striding up and down. To
him it was as though my floor were a rostrum, and the private office of
Tammany’s Chief, a lecture room. I am afraid I smiled a bit cynically at
his ardor and optimism, for he took me in sharp hand, “Oh! I shall not
lack recruits,” said he, “and some will come from corners you might
least suspect. I met your great orator, Mr. Gutterglory, but a moment
ago; he gave me his hand, and promised his eloquence to the cause of
reform.”

“Nor does that surprise me,” said I. Then, with a flush of wrath: “You
may say to orator Gutterglory that I shall have something to remind him
of when he takes the stump in your support.”

My anger over Gutterglory owned a certain propriety of foundation. He
was that sodden Cicero who marred the scene when, long before, I called
on Big Kennedy, with the reputable old gentleman and Morton, to consult
over the Gas Company’s injunction antics touching Mulberry Traction.
By some wonderful chance, Gutterglory had turned into sober walks. Big
Kennedy, while he lived, and afterward I, myself, had upheld him, and
put him in the way of money. He paid us with eloquence in conventions
and campaigns, and on show occasions when Tammany would celebrate a
holiday or a victory. From low he soared to high, and surely none was
more pleased thereby than I. On every chance I thrust him forward; and
I was sedulous to see that always a stream of dollar-profit went running
his way.

Morton, I remember, did not share my enthusiasm. It was when I suggested
Gutterglory as counsel for Mulberry.

“But really now!” objected Morton, with just a taint of his old-time
lisp, “the creature doesn’t know enough. He’s as shallow as a skimming
dish, don’t y’ know.”

“Gutterglory is the most eloquent of men,” I protested.

“I grant you the beggar is quite a talker, and all that,” retorted
Morton, twirling that potential eyeglass, “but the trouble is, old
chap, that when we’ve said that, we’ve said all. Gutterglory is a mere
rhetorical freak. He ought to take a rest, and give his brain a chance
to grow up with his vocabulary.”

What Morton said had no effect on me; I clung to Gutterglory, and made
his life worth while. I was given my return when I learned that for
years he had gone about, unknown to me, extorting money from people with
the use of my name. Scores have paid peace-money to Gutterglory, and
thought it was I who bled them. So much are we at the mercy of rascals
who win our confidence!

It was the fact of his learning that did it. I could never be called
a good judge of one who knew books. I was over prone to think him of
finest honor who wrote himself a man of letters, for it was my weakness
to trust where I admired. In the end, I discovered the villain duplicity
of Gutterglory, and cast him out; at that, the scoundrel was rich with
six figures to his fortune, and every dime of it the harvest of some
blackmail in my name.

He became a great fop, did Gutterglory; and when last I saw him--it
being Easter Day, as I stepped from the Cathedral, where I’d been with
Blossom--he was teetering along Fifth Avenue, face powdered and a glow
of rouge on each cheekbone, stayed in at the waist, top hat, frock coat,
checked trousers, snowy “spats” over his patent leathers, a violet in
his buttonhole, a cane carried endwise in his hand, elbows crooked,
shoulders bowed, the body pitched forward on his toes, a perfect picture
of that most pitiful of things--an age-seamed doddering old dandy! This
was he whom the Reverend Bronson vaunted as an ally!

“You are welcome to Gutterglory,” said I to my reverend visitor on that
time when he named him as one to become eloquent for reform. “It but
proves the truth of what Big John Kennedy so often said: Any rogue,
kicked out of Tammany Hall for his scoundrelisms, can always be sure of
a job as a ‘reformer.’”

“Really!” observed Morton, when a few days later I was telling him of
the visit of the Reverend Bronson, “I’ve a vast respect for Bronson. I
can’t say that I understand him--working for nothing among the scum and
rubbish of humanity!--for personally I’ve no talent for religion, don’t
y’ know! And so he thinks that honesty is the best policy!”

“He seemed to think it not open to contradiction.”

“Hallucination, positive hallucination, my boy! At-least, if taken in a
money sense; and ‘pon my word! that’s the only sense in which it’s worth
one’s while to take anything--really! Honesty the best policy! Why, our
dominie should look about him. Some of our most profound scoundrels are
our richest men. Money is so much like water, don’t y’ know, that it
seems always to seek the lowest places;” and with that, Morton went
his elegant way, yawning behind his hand, as if to so much exert his
intelligence wearied him.

For over nine years--ever since the death of Big Kennedy--I had kept the
town in my hands, and nothing strong enough to shake my hold upon
it. This must have its end. It was not in the chapter of chance that
anyone’s rule should be uninterrupted. Men turn themselves in bed, if
for no reason than just to lie the other way; and so will your town turn
on its couch of politics. Folk grow weary of a course or a conviction,
and to rest themselves, they will put it aside and have another in its
place. Then, after a bit, they return to the old.

In politics, these shifts, which are really made because the community
would relax from some pose of policy and stretch itself in new
directions, are ever given a pretense of morality as their excuse. There
is a hysteria to arise from the crush and jostle of the great city.
Men, in their crowded nervousness, will clamor for the new. This is also
given the name of morals. And because I was aware how these conditions
of restlessness and communal hysteria ever subsist, and like a magazine
of powder ask but the match to fire them and explode into fragments
whatever rule might at the time exist, I went sure that some day,
somehow the machine would be overthrown. Also, I went equally certain
how defeat would be only temporary, and that before all was done, the
town would again come back to the machine.

You’ve seen a squall rumple and wrinkle and toss the bosom of a lake? If
you had investigated, you would have learned how that storm-disturbance
was wholly of the surface. It did not bite the depths below. When the
gust had passed, the lake--whether for good or bad--re-settled to its
usual, equal state. Now the natural conditions of New York are machine
conditions. Wherefore, I realized, as I’ve written, that no gust of
reformation could either trouble it deeply or last for long, and that
the moment it had passed, the machine must at once succeed to the
situation.

However, when the Reverend Bronson left me, vowing insurrection, I had
no fears of the sort immediate. The times were not hysterical, nor ripe
for change. I would re-carry the city; the Reverend Bronson--if his
strength were to last that long--with those moralists he enlisted, might
defeat me on some other distant day. But for the election at hand I was
safe by every sign.

As I pored over the possibilities, I could discern no present argument
in his favor. He himself might be morally sure of machine protection
for those men of Barclay Street. But to the public he could offer no
practical proof. Should he tell the ruin of young Van Flange, no one
would pay peculiar heed. Such tales were of the frequent. Nor would
the fate of young Van Flange, who had employed his name and his fortune
solely as the bed-plates of an endless dissipation, evoke a sympathy.
Indeed those who knew him best--those who had seen him then, and who saw
him now at his Mulberry Traction desk, industrious, sober, respectable
in a hall-bedroom way on his narrow nine hundred a year, did not scruple
to declare that his so-called ruin was his regeneration, and that those
card-criminals who took his money had but worked marvels for his good.
No; I could not smell defeat in the contest coming down. I was safe for
the next election; and the eyes of no politician, let me tell you, are
strong enough to see further than the ballot just ahead. On these facts
and their deductions, while I would have preferred peace between the
Reverend Bronson and the machine, and might have conceded not a little
to preserve it, I based no present fears of that earnest gentleman, nor
of any fires of politics he might kindle.

And I would have come through as I forejudged, had it not been for that
element of the unlooked-for to enter into the best arranged equation,
and which this time fought against me. There came marching down upon me
a sudden procession of blood in a sort of red lockstep of death. In it
was carried away that boy of my door, Melting Moses, and I may say that
his going clouded my eye. Gothecore went also; but I felt no sorrow
for the death of that ignobility in blue, since it was the rock of his
murderous, coarse brutality on which I split. There was a third to die,
an innocent and a stranger; however, I might better give the story of it
by beginning with a different strand.

In that day when the Reverend Bronson and Inspector McCue worked for the
condemnation of those bandits of Barclay Street, there was one whom they
proposed as a witness when a case should be called in court. This man
had been a waiter in the restaurant which robbed young Van Flange, and
in whose pillage Gothecore himself was said to have had his share.

After Inspector McCue was put away in the Bronx, and the Reverend
Bronson made to give up his direct war upon the dens, this would-be
witness was arrested and cast into a cell of the station where Gothecore
held sway. The Reverend Bronson declared that the arrested one had been
seized by order of Gothecore, and for revenge. Gothecore, ignorant,
cruel, rapacious, violent, and with never a glimmer of innate fineness
to teach him those external decencies which go between man and man as
courtesy, gave by his conduct a deal of plausibility to the charge.

“Get out of my station!” cried Gothecore, with a rain of oath upon oath;
“get out, or I’ll have you chucked out!” This was when the Reverend
Bronson demanded the charge on which the former waiter was held. “Do
a sneak!” roared Gothecore, as the Reverend Bronson stood in silent
indignation. “I’ll have no pulpit-thumper doggin’ me! You show your
mug in here ag’in, an’ you’ll get th’ next cell to that hash-slingin’
stoolpigeon of yours. You can bet your life, I aint called Clean Sweep
Bill for fun!”

As though this were not enough, there arrived in its wake another bit of
news that made me, who was on the threshold of my campaign to retain the
town, bite my lip and dig my palms with the anger it unloosed within
me. By way of added fuel to flames already high, that one waiter, but
the day before prisoner to Gothecore, must be picked up dead in the
streets, head club-battered to a pulp.

Who murdered the man?

Half the town said Gothecore.

For myself, I do not care to dwell upon that poor man’s butchery, and
my veins run fire to only think of it. There arises the less call for
elaboration, since within hours--for it was the night of that very day
on which the murdered man was found--the life was stricken from the
heart of Gothecore. He, too, was gone; and Melting Moses had gone with
him. By his own choice, this last, as I have cause to know.

“I’ll do him before I’m through!” sobbed Melting Moses, as he was held
back from Gothecore on the occasion when he would have gone foaming for
his throat; “I’ll get him, if I have to go wit’ him!”

It was the Chief of Police who brought me word. I had sent for him with
a purpose of charges against Gothecore, preliminary to his dismissal
from the force. Aside from my liking for the Reverend Bronson, and the
resentment I felt for the outrage put upon him, Gothecore must go as a
defensive move of politics.

The Chief’s eye, when he arrived, popped and stared with a fishy horror,
and for all the coolness of the early morning his brow showed clammy
and damp. I was in too hot a hurry to either notice or remark on these
phenomena; I reeled off my commands before the visitor could find a
chair.

“You’re too late, Gov’nor,” returned the Chief, munching uneasily, his
fat jowls working. “For once in a way, you’ve gone to leeward of the
lighthouse.”

“What do you mean?” said I.

Then he told the story; and how Gothecore and Melting Moses were taken
from the river not four hours before.

“It was a fire in th’ box factory,” said the Chief; “that factory
‘buttin’ on th’ docks. Gothecore goes down from his station. The night’s
as dark as the inside of a cow. He’s jimmin’ along th’ edge of th’
wharf, an’ no one noticin’ in particular. Then of a sudden, there’s an
oath an’ a big splash.

“‘Man overboard!’ yells some guy.

“The man overboard is Gothecore. Two or three coves come chasin’ up to
lend a hand.

“‘Some duck jumps after him to save him,’ says this party who yells
‘overboard!’ ‘First one, an’ then t’other, hits th’ water. They oughter
be some’ers about.’

“That second party in th’ river was Melting Moses. An’ say! Gov’nor, he
didn’t go after Gothecore to save him; not he! Melting Moses had shoved
Gothecore in; an’ seein’ him swimmin’ hard, an’ likely to get ashore,
he goes after him to cinch th’ play. I’ll tell you one thing: he cinches
it. He piles himself on Gothecore’s back, an’ then he crooks his right
arm about Gothecore’s neck--the reg’lar garotte hug! an’ enough to choke
th’ life out by itself. That aint th’ worst.” Here the Chief’s voice
sunk to a whisper. “Melting Moses had his teeth buried in Gothecore’s
throat. Did you ever unlock a bulldog from his hold? Well, it was easy
money compared to unhookin’ Melting Moses from Gothecore. Sure! both was
dead as mackerels when they got ‘em out; they’re on th’ ice right now.
Oh, well!” concluded the Chief; “I told Gothecore his finish more’n
once. ‘Don’t rough people around so, Bill,’ I’d say; ‘you’ll dig up more
snakes than you can kill.’ But he wouldn’t listen; he was all for th’
strong-arm, an’ th’ knock-about! It’s a bad system. Nothin’s lost by
bein’ smooth, Gov’nor; nothin’s lost by bein’ smooth!” and the Chief
sighed lugubriously; after which he mopped his forehead and looked
pensively from the window.

Your river sailor, on the blackest night, will feel the tide for its
ebb or flow by putting his hand in the water. In a manner of speaking,
I could now as plainly feel the popular current setting against the
machine. It was like a strong flood, and with my experience of the town
and its tempers I knew that we were lost. That murdered man who might
have been a witness, and the violence done to the Reverend Bronson, were
arguments in everybody’s mouth.

And so the storm fell; the machine was swept away as by a flood. There
was no sleight of the ballot that might have saved the day; our money
proved no defense. The people fell upon Tammany and crushed it, and the
town went from under my hand.

Morton had seen disaster on its way.

“And, really! I don’t half like it,” observed that lounging king of
traction. “It will cost me a round fifty thousand dollars, don’t y’
know! Of course, I shall give Tammany the usual fifty thousand, if only
for the memory of old days. But, by Jove! there’s those other chaps.
Now they’re going to win, in the language of our departed friend, Mr.
Kennedy, I’ll have to ‘sweeten’ them. It’s a deuced bore contributing to
both parties, but this time I can’t avoid it--really!” and Morton stared
feebly into space, as though the situation held him helpless with its
perplexities.

There is one worth-while matter to be the offspring of defeat. A beaten
man may tell the names of his friends. On the day after I scored a
victory, my ante-rooms had been thronged. Following that disaster to
the machine, just chronicled, I sat as much alone as though Fourteenth
Street were the center of a pathless waste.

However, I was not to be wholly deserted. It was in the first shadows
of the evening, when a soiled bit of paper doing crumpled duty as a card
was brought me. I glanced at it indifferently. I had nothing to give;
why should anyone seek me? There was no name, but my interest flared up
at this line of identification:

“The Man of the Knife!”



CHAPTER XXIII--THE WEDDING OF BLOSSOM


GRAY, weather-worn, beaten of years, there in the door was my Sicilian!
I observed, as he took a seat, how he limped, with one leg drawn and
distorted. I had him in and gave him a chair.

My Sicilian and I sat looking one upon the other. It was well-nigh the
full quarter of a century since I’d clapped eyes on him. And to me
the thing marvelous was that I did not hate him. What a procession
of disasters, and he to be its origin, was represented in that little
weazened man, with his dark skin, monkey-face, and eyes to shine like
beads! That heart-breaking trial for murder; the death of Apple Cheek;
Blossom and the mark of the rope;--all from him! He was the reef upon
which my life had been cast away! These thoughts ran in my head like a
mill-race; and yet, I felt only a friendly warmth as though he were some
good poor friend of long ago.

My Sicilian’s story was soon told. He had fallen into the hold of a
vessel and broken his leg. It was mended in so bad a fashion that he
must now be tied to the shore with it and never sail again. Could I find
him work?--something, even a little, by which he might have food and
shelter? He put this in a manner indescribably plaintive.

Then I took a thought full of the whimsical. I would see how far a
beaten Chief of Tammany Hall might command. There were countless small
berths about the public offices and courts, where a man might take a
meager salary, perhaps five hundred dollars a year, for a no greater
service than throwing up a window or arranging the papers on a desk.
These were within the appointment of what judges or officers prevailed
in the departments or courtrooms to which they belonged. I would offer
my Sicilian for one.

And I had a plan. I knew what should be the fate of the fallen. I had
met defeat; also, personally, I had been the target of every flinging
slander which the enemy might invent. It was a time when men would fear
my friendship as much as on another day they had feared my power. I was
an Ishmael of politics. The timid and the time-serving would shrink away
from me.

There might, however, be found one who possessed the courage and the
gratitude, someone whom I had made and who remembered it, to take my
orders. I decided to search for such a man. Likewise (and this was my
plan) I resolved--for I knew better than most folk how the town would be
in my hands again--to make that one mayor when a time should serve.

“Come with me,” said I. “You shall have a berth; and I’ve nothing now to
do but seek for it.”

There was a somber comicality to the situation which came close
to making me laugh--I, the late dictator, abroad begging a
five-hundred-dollar place!

Twenty men I went to; and if I had been a leper I could not have filled
them with a broader terror. One and all they would do nothing. These
fools thought my downfall permanent; they owed everything to me, but
forgot it on my day of loss. They were of the flock of that Frenchman
who was grateful only for favors to come. Tarred with the Tammany stick
as much as was I, myself, each had turned white in a night, and must
mimic mugwumpery, when now the machine was overborne. Many were those
whom I marked for slaughter that day; and I may tell you that in a later
hour, one and all, I knocked them on the head.

Now in the finish of it, I discovered one of a gallant fidelity, and
who was brave above mugwump threat. He was a judge; and, withal, a man
indomitably honest. But as it is with many bred of the machine, his
instinct was blindly military. Like Old Mike, he regarded politics as
another name for war. To the last, he would execute my orders without
demur.

With this judge, I left my Sicilian to dust tables and chairs for
forty dollars a month. It was the wealth of Dives to the poor broken
sailorman, and he thanked me with tears on his face. In a secret,
lock-fast compartment of my memory I put away the name of that judge. He
should be made first in the town for that one day’s work.

My late defeat meant, so far as my private matters were involved,
nothing more serious than a jolt to my self-esteem. Nor hardly that,
since I did not blame myself for the loss of the election. It was the
fortune of battle; and because I had seen it on its way, that shaft of
regret to pierce me was not sharpened of surprise.

My fortunes were rolling fat with at least three millions of dollars,
for I had not held the town a decade to neglect my own good. If it had
been Big Kennedy, now, he would have owned fourfold as much. But I was
lavish of habit; besides being no such soul of business thrift as was my
old captain. Three millions should carry me to the end of the journey,
however, even though I took no more; there would arise no money-worry to
bark at me. The loss of the town might thin the flanks of my sub-leaders
of Tammany, but the famine could not touch me.

While young Van Flange had been the reason of a deal that was unhappy in
my destinies, I had never met the boy. Now I was to see him. Morton sent
him to me on an errand of business; he found me in my own house just as
dinner was done. I was amiably struck with the look of him. He was tall
and broad of shoulder, for he had been an athlete in his college and
tugged at an oar in the boat.

My eye felt pleased with young Van Flange from the beginning; he was as
graceful as an elm, and with a princely set of the head which to my
mind told the story of good blood. His manner, as he met me, became
the sublimation of deference, and I could discover in his air a tacit
flattery that was as positive, even while as impalpable, as a perfume.
In his attitude, and in all he did and said, one might observe the
aristocrat. The high strain of him showed as plain as a page of print,
and over all a clean delicacy that reminded one of a thoroughbred colt.

While we were together, Anne and Blossom came into the room. This last
was a kind of office-place I had at home, where the two often visited
with me in the evening.

It was strange, the color that painted itself in the shy face of
Blossom. I thought, too, that young Van Flange’s interest stood a bit on
tiptoe. It flashed over me in a moment:

“Suppose they were to love and wed?”

The question, self-put, discovered nothing rebellious in my breast. I
would abhor myself as a matchmaker between a boy and a girl; and yet, if
I did not help events, at least, I wouldn’t interrupt them. If it were
to please Blossom to have him for a husband: why then, God bless the
girl, and make her day a fair one!

Anne, who was quicker than I, must have read the new glow in Blossom’s
face and the new shine in her eyes. But her own face seemed as friendly
as though the picture gave her no pang, and it reassured me mightily to
find it so.

Young Van Flange made no tiresome stay of it on this evening. But he
came again, and still again; and once or twice we had him in to dinner.
Our table appeared to be more complete when he was there; it served to
bring an evenness and a balance, like a ship in trim. Finally he was in
and out of the house as free as one of the family.

For the earliest time in life, a quiet brightness shone on Blossom that
was as the sun through mists. As for myself, delight in young Van Flange
crept upon me like a habit; nor was it made less when I saw how he had a
fancy for my girl, and that it might turn to wedding bells. The thought
gave a whiter prospect of hope for Blossom; also it fostered my own
peace, since my happiness hung utterly by her.

One day I put the question of young Van Flange to Morton.

“Really, now!” said Morton, “I should like him vastly if he had a
stronger under jaw, don’t y’ know. These fellows with chins like cats’
are a beastly lot in the long run.”

“But his habits are now good,” I urged. “And he is industrious, is he
not?”

“Of course, the puppy works,” responded Morton; “that is, if you’re to
call pottering at a desk by such a respectable term. As for his habits,
they are the habits of a captive. He’s prisoner to his poverty. Gad! one
can’t be so deucedly pernicious, don’t y’ know, on nine hundred a year.”
 Then, with a burst of eagerness: “I know what you would be thinking. But
I say, old chap, you mustn’t bank on his blood. Good on both sides, it
may be; but the blend is bad. Two very reputable drugs may be combined
to make a poison, don’t y’ know!”

There the matter stuck; for I would not tell Morton of any feeling my
girl might have for young Van Flange. However, Morton’s view in no wise
changed my own; I considered that with the best of motives he might
still suffer from some warping prejudice.

There arose a consideration, however, and one I could not look in the
face. There was that dread birthmark!--the mark of the rope! At last I
brought up the topic of my fears with Anne.

“Will he not loathe her?” said I. “Will his love not change to hate when
he knows?”

“Did your love change?” Anne asked.

“But that is not the same.”

“Be at peace, then,” returned Anne, taking my hand in hers and pressing
it. “I have told him. Nor shall I forget the nobleness of his reply: ‘I
love Blossom,’ said he; ‘I love her for her heart.’”

When I remember these things, I cannot account for the infatuation of us
two--Anne and myself. The blackest villain of earth imposed himself upon
us as a saint! And I had had my warning. I should have known that he who
broke a mother’s heart would break a wife’s.

Now when the forces of reform governed the town, affairs went badly for
that superlative tribe, and each day offered additional claim for the
return of the machine. Government is not meant to be a shepherd of
morals. Its primal purposes are of the physical, being no more than to
safeguard property and person. That is the theory; more strongly still
must it become the practice if one would avoid the enmity of men. He
whose morals are looked after by the powers that rule, grows impatient,
and in the end, vindictive. No mouth likes the bit; a guardian is never
loved. The reform folk made that error against which Old Mike warned Big
Kennedy: They got between the public and its beer.

The situation, thus phrased, called for neither intrigue nor labor on my
own part. I had but to stay in my chair, and “reform” itself would drive
the people into Tammany’s arms.

In those days I had but scanty glimpses of the Reverend Bronson.
However, he now and then would visit me, and when he did, I think I read
in his troubled brow the fear of machine success next time. Morton was
there on one occasion when the Reverend Bronson came in. They were well
known to one another, these two; also, they were friends as much as men
might be whose lives and aims went wide apart.

“Now the trouble,” observed Morton, as the two discussed that backward
popularity of the present rule, “lies in this: Your purist of politics
is never practical. He walks the air; and for a principle, he fixes
his eyes on a star. Besides,” concluded Morton, tapping the Reverend
Bronson’s hand with that invaluable eyeglass, “you make a pet, at the
expense of statutes more important, of some beggarly little law like the
law against gambling.”

“My dear sir,” exclaimed the Reverend Bronson, “surely you do not defend
gambling.”

“I defend nothing,” said Morton; “it’s too beastly tiresome, don’t y’
know. But, really, the public is no fool; and with a stock-ticker and a
bucket shop on every corner, you will hardly excite folk to madness over
roulette and policy.”

“The policy shops stretch forth their sordid palms for the pennies of
the very poor,” said the Reverend Bronson earnestly.

“But, my boy,” retorted Morton, his drooping inanity gaining a color,
“government should be concerned no more about the poor man’s penny than
the rich man’s pound. However, if it be a reason, why not suppress the
barrooms? Gad! what more than your doggery reaches for the pennies of
the poor?”

“There is truth in what you say,” consented the Reverend Bronson
regretfully. “Still, I count for but one as an axman in this wilderness
of evil; I can fell but one tree at a time. I will tell you this,
however: At the gates of you rich ones must lie the blame for most of
the immoralities of the town. You are guilty of two wrongs: You are not
benevolent; and you set a bad moral example.”

“Really!” replied Morton, “I, myself, think the rich a deuced bad lot;
in fact, I hold them to be quite as bad as the poor, don’t y’ know. But
you speak of benevolence--alms-giving, and that sort of thing. Now I’m
against benevolence. There is an immorality in alms just in proportion
as there’s a morality to labor. Folk work only because they lack money.
Now you give a man ten dollars and the beggar will stop work.”

“Let me hear,” observed the Reverend Bronson, amused if not convinced,
“what your remedy for the town’s bad morals would be.”

“Work!” replied Morton, with quite a flash of animation. “I’d make every
fellow work--rich and poor alike. I’d invent fardels for the idle. The
only difference between the rich and the poor is a difference of cooks
and tailors--really! Idleness, don’t y’ know, is everywhere and among
all classes the certain seed of vice.”

“You would have difficulty, I fear,” remarked the Reverend Bronson, “in
convincing your gilded fellows of the virtuous propriety of labor.”

“I wouldn’t convince them, old chap, I’d club them to it. It is a
mistake you dominies make, that you are all for persuading when you
should be for driving. Gad! you should never coax where you can drive,”
 and Morton smiled vacantly.

“You would deal with men as you do with swine?”

“What should be more appropriate? Think of the points of resemblance.
Both are obstinate, voracious, complaining, cowardly, ungrateful,
selfish, cruel! One should ever deal with a man on a pig basis.
Persuasion is useless, compliment a waste. You might make a bouquet
for him--orchids and violets--and, gad! he would eat it, thinking it a
cabbage. But note the pleasing, screaming, scurrying difference when
you smite him with a brick. Your man and your hog were born knowing all
about a brick.”

“The rich do a deal of harm,” remarked the Reverend Bronson
thoughtfully. “Their squanderings, and the brazen spectacle thereof,
should be enough of themselves to unhinge the morals of mankind. Think
on their selfish vulgar aggressions! I’ve seen a lake, once the open
joy of thousands, bought and fenced to be a play space for one rich man;
I’ve looked on while a village where hundreds lived and loved and had
their pleasant being, died and disappeared to give one rich man room; in
the brag and bluster of his millions, I’ve beheld a rich man rearing a
shelter for his crazy brain and body, and borne witness while he bought
lumber yards and planing mills and stone quarries and brick concerns
and lime kilns with a pretense of hastening his building. It is all a
disquieting example to the poor man looking on. Such folk, dollar-loose
and dollar-mad, frame disgrace for money, and make the better sentiment
of better men fair loathe the name of dollar. And yet it is but a
sickness, I suppose; a sort of rickets of riches--a Saint Vitus dance
of vast wealth! Such go far, however, to bear out your parallel of the
swine; and at the best, they but pile exaggeration on imitation and
drink perfumed draff from trough of gold.”

The Reverend Bronson as he gave us this walked up and down the floor
as more than once I’d seen him do when moved. Nor did he particularly
address himself to either myself or Morton until the close, when he
turned to that latter personage. Pausing in his walk, the Reverend
Bronson contemplated Morton at some length; and then, as if his thoughts
on money had taken another path, and shaking his finger in the manner of
one who preferred an indictment, he said:

“Cato, the Censor, declared: ‘It is difficult to save that city from
ruin where a fish sells for more than an ox.’ By the bad practices of
your vulgar rich, that, to-day, is a description of New York. Still,
from the public standpoint, I should not call the luxury it tells of,
the worst effect of wealth, nor the riches which indulge in such luxury
the most baleful riches. There be those other busy black-flag millions
which maraud a people. They cut their way through bars and bolts of
government with the saws and files and acids of their evil influence--an
influence whose expression is ever, and simply, bribes. I speak of
those millions that purchase the passage of one law or the downfall of
another, and which buy the people’s officers like cattle to their
will. But even as I reproach those criminal millions, I marvel at their
blindness. Cannot such wealth see that in its treasons--for treason it
does as much as any Arnold--it but undermines itself? Who should need
strength and probity in government, and the shelter of them, more than
Money? And yet in its rapacity without eyes, it must ever be using the
criminal avarice of officials to pick the stones and mortar from the
honest foundations of the state!”

The Reverend Bronson resumed his walking up and down. Morton, the
imperturbable, lighted a cigarette and puffed bland puffs as though
he in no fashion felt himself described. Not at all would he honor the
notion that the reverend rhetorician was talking either of him or at
him, in his condemnation of those pirate millions.

“I should feel alarmed for my country,” continued the Reverend Bronson,
coming back to his chair, “if I did not remember that New York is not
the nation, and how a sentiment here is never the sentiment there. The
country at large has still its ideals; New York, I fear, has nothing
save its appetites.”

“To shift discussion,” said Morton lightly, “a discussion that would
seem academic rather than practical, and coming to the City and what you
call its appetites, let me suggest this: Much of that trouble of
which you speak arises by faults of politics as the latter science is
practiced by the parties. Take yourself and our silent friend.” Here
Morton indicated me: “Take the two parties you represent. Neither was
ever known to propose an onward step. Each of you has for his sole
issue the villainies of the other fellow; the whole of your cry is the
iniquity of the opposition; it is really! I’ll give both of you this for
a warning. The future is to see the man who, leaving a past to bury a.
past, will cry ‘Public Ownership!’ or some equally engaging slogan. Gad!
old chap, with that, the rabble will follow him as the rats followed the
pied piper of Hamelin. The moralist and the grafter will both be left,
don’t y’ know!” Morton here returned into that vapidity from which, for
the moment, he had shaken himself free. “Gad!” he concluded, “you will
never know what a passion to own things gnaws at your peasant in his
blouse and wooden shoes until some prophetic beggar shouts ‘Public
Ownership!’ you won’t, really!”

“Sticking to what you term the practical,” said the Reverend Bronson,
“tell me wherein our reform administration has weakened itself.”

“As I’ve observed,” responded Morton, “you pick out a law and make a pet
of it, to the neglect of criminal matters more important. It is
your fad--your vanity of party, to do this. Also, it is your heel of
Achilles, and through it will come your death-blow.” Then, as if weary
of the serious, Morton went off at a lively tangent: “Someone--a very
good person, too, I think, although I’ve mislaid his name--observed:
‘Oh, that mine enemy would write a book!’ Now I should make it: ‘Oh,
that mine enemy would own a fad!’ Given a fellow’s fad, I’ve got him.
Once upon a time, when I had a measure of great railway moment--really!
one of those measures of black-flag millions, don’t y’ know!--pending
before the legislature at Albany, I ran into a gentleman whose name
was De Vallier. Most surprising creature, this De Vallier! Disgustingly
honest, too; but above all, as proud as a Spanish Hidalgo of his name.
Said his ancestors were nobles of France under the Grand Monarch, and
that sort of thing. Gad! it was his fad--this name! And the bitterness
wherewith he opposed my measure was positively shameful. Really, if the
floor of the Assembly--the chap was in the Assembly, don’t y’ know--were
left unguarded for a moment, De Vallier would occupy it, and call
everybody but himself a venal rogue of bribes. There was never anything
more shocking!

“But I hit upon an expedient. If I could but touch his fad--if I might
but reach that name of De Vallier, I would have him on the hip. So with
that, don’t y’ know, I had a bill introduced to change the fellow’s name
to Dummeldinger. I did, ’pon my honor! The Assembly adopted it gladly.
The Senate was about to do the same, when the horrified De Vallier threw
himself at my feet. He would die if he were called Dummeldinger!

“The poor fellow’s grief affected me very much; my sympathies are easily
excited--they are, really! And Dummeldinger was such a beastly name! I
couldn’t withstand De Vallier’s pleadings. I caused the bill changing
his name to be withdrawn, and in the fervor of his gratitude, De Vallier
voted for that railway measure. It was my kindness that won him; in his
relief to escape ‘Dummeldinger,’ De Vallier was ready to die for me.”

It was evening, and in the younger hours I had pulled my chair before
the blaze, and was thinking on Apple Cheek, and how I would give the
last I owned of money and power to have her by me. This was no uncommon
train; I’ve seen few days since she died that did not fill my memory
with her image.

Outside raged a threshing storm of snow that was like a threat for
bitterness, and it made the sticks in the fireplace snap and sparkle in
a kind of stout defiance, as though inviting it to do its worst.

In the next room were Anne and Blossom, and with them young Van Flange.
I could hear the murmur of their voices, and at intervals a little laugh
from him.

An hour went by; the door between opened, and young Van Flange, halting
a bit with hesitation that was not without charm, stepped into my
presence. He spoke with grace and courage, however, when once he was
launched, and told me his love and asked for Blossom. Then my girl came,
and pressed her face to mine. Anne, too, was there, like a blessing and
a hope.

They were married:--my girl and young Van Flange. Morton came to my aid;
and I must confess that it was he, with young Van Flange, who helped us
to bridesmaids and ushers, and what others belong with weddings in their
carrying out. I had none upon whom I might call when now I needed wares
of such fine sort; while Blossom, for her part, living her frightened
life of seclusion, was as devoid of acquaintances or friends among the
fashionables as any abbess might have been.

The street was thronged with people when we drove up, and inside the
church was such a jam of roses and folk as I had never beheld. Wide was
the curious interest in the daughter of Tammany’s Chief; and Blossom
must have felt it, for her hand fluttered like a bird on my arm as, with
organ crashing a wedding march, I led her up the aisle. At the altar
rail were the bishop and three priests. And so, I gave my girl away.

When the ceremony was done, we all went back to my house--Blossom’s
house, since I had put it in her name--for I would have it that they
must live with me. I was not to be cheated of my girl; she should not
be lost out of my arms because she had found a husband’s. It wrought
a mighty peace for me, this wedding, showing as it did so sure of
happiness to Blossom. Nor will I say it did not feed my pride. Was it
a slight thing that the blood of the Clonmel smith should unite itself
with a strain, old and proud and blue beyond any in the town? We made
one family of it; and when we were settled, my heart filled up with a
feeling more akin to content than any that had dwelt there for many a
sore day.



CHAPTER XXIV--HOW VAN FLANGE WENT INTO STOCKS


IT was by the suggestion of young Van Flange himself that he became
a broker. His argument I think was sound; he had been bred to no
profession, and the floor of the Exchange, if he would have a trade,
was all that was left him. No one could be of mark or consequence in New
York who might not write himself master of millions. Morton himself said
that; and with commerce narrowing to a huddle of mammoth corporations,
how should anyone look forward to the conquest of millions save through
those avenues of chance which Wall Street alone provided? The Stock
Exchange was all that remained; and with that, I bought young Van Flange
a seat therein, and equipped him for a brokerage career. I harbored no
misgivings of his success; no one could look upon his clean, handsome
outlines and maintain a doubt.

Those were our happiest days--Blossom’s and mine. In her name, I split
my fortune in two, and gave young Van Flange a million and a half
wherewith to arm his hands for the fray of stocks. Even now, as I look
backward through the darkness, I still think it a million and a half
well spent. For throughout those slender months of sunshine, Blossom
went to and fro about me, radiating a subdued warmth of joy that was
like the silent glow of a lamp. Yes, that money served its end. It made
Blossom happy, and it will do me good while I live to think how that was
so.

Morton, when I called young Van Flange from his Mulberry desk to send
him into Wall Street, was filled with distrust of the scheme.

“You should have him stay with Mulberry,” said he. “If he do no good, at
least he will do no harm, and that, don’t y’ know, is a business record
far above the average. Besides, he’s safer; he is, really!”

This I did not like from Morton. He himself was a famous man of stocks,
and had piled millions upon millions in a pyramid of speculation. Did
he claim for himself a monopoly of stock intelligence? Van Flange was as
well taught of books as was he, and came of a better family. Was it that
he arrogated to his own head a superiority of wit for finding his way
about in those channels of stock value? I said something of this sorb to
Morton.

“Believe me, old chap,” said he, laying his slim hand on my shoulder,
“believe me, I had nothing on my mind beyond your own safety, and the
safety of that cub of yours. And I think you will agree that I have
exhibited a knowledge of what winds and currents and rocks might
interrupt or wreck one in his voyages after stocks.”

“Admitting all you say,” I replied, “it does not follow that another may
not know or learn to know as much.”

“But Wall Street is such a quicksand,” he persisted. “Gad! it swallows
nine of every ten who set foot in it. And to deduce safety for another,
because I am and have been safe, might troll you into error. You should
consider my peculiar case. I was born with beak and claw for the game.
Like the fish-hawk, I can hover above the stream of stocks, and swoop
in and out, taking my quarry where it swims. And then, remember my
arrangements. I have an agent at the elbow of every opportunity. I have
made the world my spy, since I pay the highest price for information. If
a word be said in a cabinet, I hear it; if a decision of court is to be
handed down, I know it; if any of our great forces or monarchs of the
street so much as move a finger, I see it. And yet, with all I know, and
all I see, and all I hear, and all my nets and snares as complicated as
the works of a watch, added to a native genius, the best I may do is
win four times in seven. In Wall Street, a man meets with not alone the
foreseeable, but the unforeseeable; he does, really! He is like a man in
a tempest, and may be struck dead by some cloud-leveled bolt while you
and he stand talking, don’t y’ know!”

Morton fell a long day’s journey short of convincing me that Wall Street
was a theater of peril for young Van Flange. Moreover, the boy said
true; it offered the one way open to his feet. Thus reasoning, and led
by my love for my girl and my delight to think how she was happy, I did
all I might to further the ambitions of young Van Flange, and embark him
as a trader of stocks. He took office rooms in Broad Street; and on the
one or two occasions when I set foot in them, I was flattered as well as
amazed by the array of clerks and stock-tickers, blackboards, and
tall baskets, which met my untaught gaze. The scene seemed to buzz and
vibrate with prosperity, and the air was vital of those riches which it
promised.

It is scarce required that I say I paid not the least attention to young
Van Flange and his business affairs. I possessed no stock knowledge,
being as darkened touching Wall Street as any Hottentot. More than that,
my time was taken up with Tammany Hall. The flow of general feeling
continued to favor a return of the machine, for the public was becoming
more and sorely irked of a misfit “reform” that was too tight in one
place while too loose in another. There stood no doubt of it; I had only
to wait and maintain my own lines in order, and the town would be my
own again. It would yet lie in my lap like a goose in the lap of a Dutch
woman; and I to feather-line my personal nest with its plumage to what
soft extent I would. For all that, I must watch lynx-like my own forces,
guarding against schism, keeping my people together solidly for the
battle that was to be won.

Much and frequently, I discussed the situation with Morton. With his
traction operations, he had an interest almost as deep as my own. He
was, too, the one man on whose wisdom of politics I had been educated to
rely. When it became a question of votes and how to get them, I had yet
to meet Morton going wrong.

“You should have an issue,” said Morton. “You should not have two, for
the public is like a dog, don’t y’ know, and can chase no more than just
one rabbit at a time. But one you should have--something you could point
to and promise for the future. As affairs stand--and gad! it has been
that way since I have had a memory--you and the opposition will go into
the campaign like a pair of beldame scolds, railing at one another.
Politics has become a contest of who can throw the most mud. Really, the
town is beastly tired of both of you--it is, ‘pon my word!”

“Now what issue would you offer?”

“Do you recall what I told our friend Bronson? Public Ownership should
be the great card. Go in for the ownership by the town of street
railways, water works, gas plants, and that sort of thing, don’t y’
know, and the rabble will trample on itself to vote your ticket.”

“And do you shout ‘Municipal Ownership!’--you with a street railway to
lose?”

“But I wouldn’t lose it. I’m not talking of anything but an issue. It
would be a deuced bore, if Public Ownership actually were to happen.
Besides, for me to lose my road would be the worst possible form! No,
I’m not so insane as that. But it doesn’t mean, because you make Public
Ownership an issue, that you must bring it about. There are always ways
to dodge, don’t y’ know. And the people won’t care; the patient beggars
have been taught to expect it. An issue is like the bell-ringing before
an auction; it is only meant to call a crowd. Once the auction begins,
no one remembers the bell-ringing; they don’t, really!”

“To simply shout ‘Public Ownership:’” said I, “would hardly stir the
depths. We would have to get down to something practical--something
definite.”

“It was the point I was approaching. Really! what should be better now
than to plainly propose--since the route is unoccupied, and offers
a field of cheapest experiment--a street railway with a loop around
Washington Square, and then out Fifth Avenue to One Hundred and Tenth
Street, next west on One Hundred and Tenth Street to Seventh Avenue, and
lastly north on Seventh Avenue until you strike the Harlem River at the
One Hundred and Fifty-fifth Street bridge?”

“What a howl would go up from Fifth Avenue!” said I.

“If it were so, what then? You are not to be injured by silk-stocking
clamor. For each cry against you from the aristocrats, twenty of the
peasantry would come crying to your back; don’t y’, know! Patrician
opposition, old chap, means ever plebeian support, and you should do
all you may, with wedge and maul of policy, to split the log along those
lines. Gad!” concluded Morton, bursting suddenly into self-compliments;
“I don’t recall when I was so beastly sagacious before--really!”

“Now I fail to go with you,” I returned. “I have for long believed that
the strongest force with which the organization had to contend, was its
own lack of fashion. If Tammany had a handful or two of that purple and
fine linen with which you think it so wise to quarrel, it might rub some
of the mud off itself, and have quieter if not fairer treatment from a
press, ever ready to truckle to the town’s nobility. Should we win next
time, it is already in my plans to establish a club in the very heart of
Fifth Avenue. I shall attract thither all the folk of elegant fashion
I can, so that, thereafter, should one snap a kodak on the machine, the
foreground of the picture will contain a respectable exhibition of lofty
names. I want, rather, to get Tammany out of the gutter, than arrange
for its perpetual stay therein.”

“Old chap,” said Morton, glorying through his eyeglass, “I think I
shall try a cigarette after that. I need it to resettle my nerves; I do,
really. Why, my dear boy! do you suppose that Tammany can be anything
other than that unwashed black sheep it is? We shall make bishops of
burglars when that day dawns. The thing’s wildly impossible, don’t y’
know! Besides, your machine would die. Feed Tammany Hall on any diet
of an aristocracy, and you will unhinge its stomach; you will, ’pon my
faith!”

“You shall see a Tammany club in fashion’s center, none the less.”

“Then you don’t like ‘Public Ownership?’” observed Morton, after a
pause, the while twirling his eyeglass. “Why don’t you then go in for
cutting the City off from the State, and making a separate State of it?
You could say that we suffer from hayseed tyranny, and all that. Really!
it’s the truth, don’t y’ know; and besides, we City fellows would gulp
it down like spring water.”

“The City delegation in Albany,” said I, “is too small to put through
such a bill. The Cornfields would be a unit to smother it.”

“Not so sure about the Cornfields!” cried Morton. “Of course it would
take money. That provided, think of the wires you could pull. Here are
a half-dozen railroads, with their claws and teeth in the country
and their tails in town. Each of them, don’t y’ know, as part of its
equipment, owns a little herd of rustic members. You could step on the
railroad tail with the feet of your fifty city departments, and torture
it into giving you its hayseed marionettes for this scheme of a new
State. Pon my word! old chap, it could be brought about; it could,
really!”

“I fear,” said I banteringly, “that after all you are no better than
a harebrained theorist. I confess that your plans are too grand for
my commonplace powers of execution. I shall have to plod on with those
moss-grown methods which have served us in the past.”

It would seem as though I had had Death to be my neighbor from the
beginning, for his black shadow was in constant play about me. One day
he would take a victim from out my very arms; again he would grimly step
between me and another as we sat in talk. Nor did doctors do much good
or any; and I have thought that all I shall ask, when my own time comes,
is a nurse to lift me in and out of bed, and for the rest of it, why!
let me die.

It was Anne to leave me now, and her death befell like lightning from an
open sky. Anne was never of your robust women; I should not have said,
however, that she was frail, since she was always about, taking the
whole weight of the house to herself, and, as I found when she was gone,
furnishing the major portion of its cheerfulness. That was what misled
me, doubtless; a brave smile shone ever on her face like sunlight, and
served to put me off from any thought of sickness for her.

It was her heart, they said; but no such slowness in striking as when
Big Kennedy died. Anne had been abroad for a walk in the early cool of
the evening. When she returned, and without removing her street gear,
she sank into a chair in the hall.

“What ails ye, mem?” asked the old Galway wife that had been nurse to
Blossom, and who undid the door to Anne; “what’s the matter of your pale
face?”

“An’ then,” cried the crone, when she gave me the sorry tale of it, “she
answered wit’ a sob. An’ next her poor head fell back on the chair, and
she was by.”

Both young Van Flange and I were away from the house at the time of it;
he about his business, which kept him often, and long, into the night;
and I in the smothering midst of my politics. When I was brought home,
they had laid Anne’s body on her bed. At the foot on a rug crouched the
old nurse, rocking herself forward and back, wailing like a banshee.
Blossom, whose cheek was whitened with the horror of our loss, crept to
my side and stood close, clutching my hand as in those old terror-ridden
baby days when unseen demons glowered from the room-comers. It was no
good sight for Blossom, and I led her away, the old Galway crone at the
bed’s foot keening her barbarous mourning after us far down the hall.

Blossom was all that remained with me now. And yet, she would be enough,
I thought, as I held her, child-fashion, in my arms that night to comfort
her, if only I might keep her happy.

Young Van Flange worked at his trade of stocks like a horse. He was into
it early and late, sometimes staying from home all night. I took pride
to think how much more wisely than Morton I had judged the boy.

Those night absences, when he did not come in until three of the
morning, and on occasion not at all, gave me no concern. My own business
of Tammany was quite as apt to hold me; for there are events that must
be dealt with in the immediate, like shooting a bird on the wing. A
multitude of such were upon me constantly, and there was no moment of
the day or night that I could say beforehand would not be claimed
by them. When this was my own case, it turned nothing difficult to
understand how the exigencies of stocks might be as peremptory.

One matter to promote a growing fund of confidence in young Van Flange
was his sobriety. The story ran--and, in truth, his own mother had told
it--of his drunkenness, when a boy fresh out of his books, and during
those Barclay Street days when he went throwing his patrimony to the
vultures. That was by and done with; he had somehow gotten by the
bottle. Never but once did he show the flush of liquor, and that fell
out when he had been to a college dinner. I had always understood how
it was the custom to retire drunk from such festivals, wherefore that
particular inebriety gave me scant uneasiness. One should not expect a
roaring boy about town to turn deacon in a day.

Blossom was, as I’ve said, by nature shy and secret, and never one to
relate her joys or griefs. While she and he were under the same roof
with me, I had no word from her as to her life with young Van Flange,
and whether it went bright, or was blurred of differences. Nor do I
believe that in those days there came aught to harrow her, unless it
were the feeling that young Van Flange showed less the lover and more
like folk of fifty than she might have wished.

Once and again, indeed, I caught on her face a passing shade; but her
eyes cleared when I looked at her, and she would come and put her arms
about me, and by that I could not help but see how her marriage had
flowered life’s path for her. This thought of itself would set off a
tune in my heart like the songs of birds; and I have it the more sharply
upon my memory, because it was the one deep happiness I knew. The
shadows I trapped as they crossed the brow of Blossom, I laid to a
thought that young Van Flange carried too heavy a load of work. It might
break him in his health; and the fear had warrant in hollow eyes and a
thin sallowness of face, which piled age upon him, and made him resemble
twice his years.

Towards me, the pose of young Van Flange was that one of respectful
deference which had marked him from the start. Sometimes I was struck
by the notion that he was afraid of me; not with any particularity of
alarm, but as a woman might fear a mastiff, arguing peril from latent
ferocities and a savagery of strength.

Still, he in no wise ran away; one is not to understand that; on the
contrary he would pass hours in my society, explaining his speculations
and showing those figures which were the record of his profits. I was
glad to listen, too; for while I did not always grasp a meaning, being
stock-dull as I’ve explained, what he said of “bull” and “bear” and
“short” and “long,” had the smell of combat about it, and held me
enthralled like a romance.

There were instances when he suggested speculations, and now and then as
high as one thousand shares. I never failed to humor him, for I thought
a negative might smack of lack of confidence--a thing I would not think
of, if only for love of Blossom. I must say that my belief in young Van
Flange was augmented by these deals, which turned unflaggingly, though
never largely, to my credit.

It was when I stood waist-deep in what arrangements were preliminary
to my battle for the town, now drawing near and nearer, that young Van
Flange approached me concerning Blackberry Traction.

“Father,” said he--for he called me “father,” and the name was pleasant
to my ear--“father, if you will, we may make millions of dollars like
turning hand or head.”

Then he gave me a long story of the friendship he had scraped together
with the president of Blackberry--he of the Hebrew cast and clutch, whom
I once met and disappointed over franchises.

“Of course,” said young Van Flange, “while he is the president of
Blackberry, he has no sentimental feelings concerning the fortunes of
the company. He is as sharp to make money as either you or I. The truth
is this: While the stock is quoted fairly high, Blackberry in fact is
in a bad way. It is like a house of cards, and a kick would collapse it
into ruins. The president, because we are such intimates, gave me the
whole truth of Blackberry. Swearing me to secrecy, he, as it were,
lighted a lantern, and led me into the darkest corners. He showed me the
books. Blackberry is on the threshold of a crash. The dividends coming
due will not be paid. It is behind in its interest; and the directors
will be driven to declare an immense issue of bonds. Blackberry stock
will fall below twenty; a receiver will have the road within the year.
To my mind, the situation is ready for a coup. We have but to sell and
keep selling, to take in what millions we will.”

There was further talk, and all to similar purpose. Also, I recalled the
ease with which Morton and I, aforetime, took four millions between us
out of Blackberry.

“Now I think,” said I, in the finish of it, “that Blackberry is my gold
mine by the word of Fate itself. Those we are to make will not be the
first riches I’ve had from it.”

Except the house we stood in, I owned no real estate; nor yet that,
since it was Blossom’s, being her marriage gift from me. From the first
I had felt an aversion for houses and lots. I was of no stomach
to collect rents, squabble with tenants over repairs, or race to
magistrates for eviction. This last I should say was the Irish in my
arteries, for landlords had hectored my ancestors like horseflies. My
wealth was all in stocks and bonds; nor would I listen to anything else.
Morton had his own whimsical explanation for this:

“There be those among us,” said he, “who are nomads by instinct--a sort
of white Arab, don’t y’ know. Not intending offense--for, gad! there are
reasons why I desire to keep you good-natured--every congenital criminal
is of that sort; he is, really! Such folk instinctively look forward
to migration or flight. They want nothing they can’t pack up and depart
with in a night, and would no more take a deed to land than a dose of
arsenic. It’s you who are of those migratory people. That’s why you
abhor real estate. Fact, old chap! you’re a born nomad; and it’s in your
blood to be ever ready to strike camp, inspan your teams, and trek.”

Morton furnished these valuable theories when he was investing my money
for me. Having no belief in my own investment wisdom, I imposed the task
upon his good nature. One day he brought me my complete possessions in a
wonderful sheaf of securities. They were edged, each and all, with gold,
since Morton would accept no less.

“There you are, my boy,” said he, “and everything as clean as running
water, don’t y’ know. Really, I didn’t think you could be trusted, if
it came on to blow a panic, so I’ve bought for you only stuff that can
protect itself.”

When young Van Flange made his Blackberry suggestions, I should say
I had sixteen hundred thousand dollars worth of these bonds and
stocks--mostly the former--in my steel box. I may only guess concerning
it, for I could not reckon so huge a sum to the precise farthing. It was
all in the same house with us; I kept it in a safe I’d fitted into the
walls, and which was so devised as to laugh at either a burglar or a
fire. I gave young Van Flange the key of that interior compartment which
held these securities; the general combination he already possessed.

“There you’ll find more than a million and a half,” said I, “and that,
with what you have, should make three millions. How much Blackberry can
you sell now?”

“We ought to sell one hundred and fifty thousand shares. A drop of
eighty points, and it will go that far, would bring us in twelve
millions.”

“Do what you think best,” said I. “And, mind you: No word to Morton.”

“Now I was about to suggest that,” said young Van Flange.

Morton should not know what was on my slate for Blackberry. Trust him?
yes; and with every hope I had. But it was my vanity to make this move
without him. I would open his eyes to it, that young Van Flange, if not
so old a sailor as himself, was none the less his equal at charting a
course and navigating speculation across that sea of stocks, about the
treacherous dangers whereof it had pleased him so often to patronize me.



CHAPTER XXV--PROFIT AND LOSS; MAINLY THE LATTER


SINCE time began, no man, not even a king, has been better obeyed in
his mandates, than was I while Chief of Tammany Hall. From high to low,
from the leader of a district to the last mean straggler in the ranks,
one and all, they pulled and hauled or ran and climbed like sailors in a
gale, at the glance of my eye or the toss of my finger. More often than
once, I have paused in wonder over this blind submission, and asked
myself the reason. Particularly, since I laid down my chiefship, the
query has come upon my tongue while I remembered old days, to consider
how successes might have been more richly improved or defeats, in their
disasters, at least partially avoided.

Nor could I give myself the answer. I had no close friendships among my
men; none of them was my confidant beyond what came to be demanded of
the business in our hands. On the contrary, there existed a gulf between
me and those about me, and while I was civil--for I am not the man, and
never was, of wordy violences--I can call myself nothing more.

If anything, I should say my people of politics feared me, and that a
sort of sweating terror was the spur to send them flying when I gave an
order. There was respect, too; and in some cases a kind of love like a
dog’s love, and which is rather the homage paid by weakness to strength,
or that sentiment offered of the vine to the oak that supports its
clamberings.

Why my men should stand in awe of me, I cannot tell. Certainly, I was
mindful of their rights; and, with the final admonitions of Big Kennedy
in my ears, I avoided favoritisms and dealt out justice from an even
hand. True, I could be stern when occasion invited, and was swift to
destroy that one whose powers did not match his duty, or who for a bribe
would betray, or for an ambition would oppose, my plan.

No; after Big Kennedy’s death, I could name you none save Morton
whose advice I cared for, or towards whom I leaned in any thought
of confidence. Some have said that this distance, which I maintained
between me and my underlings, was the secret of my strength. It may have
been; and if it were I take no credit, since I expressed nothing save a
loneliness of disposition, and could not have borne myself otherwise
had I made the attempt. Not that I regretted it. That dumb concession
of themselves to me, by my folk of Tammany, would play no little part
in pulling down a victory in the great conflict wherein we were about to
engage.

Tammany Hall was never more sharply organized. I worked over the
business like an artist over an etching. Discipline was brought to
a pitch never before known. My district leaders were the pick of the
covey, and every one, for force and talents of executive kind, fit to
lead a brigade into battle. Under these were the captains of election
precincts; and a rank below the latter came the block captains--one for
each city block. Thus were made up those wheels within wheels which,
taken together, completed the machine. They fitted one with the other,
block captains with precinct captains, the latter with district leaders,
and these last with myself; and all like the wheels and springs and
ratchets and regulators of a clock; one sure, too, when wound and oiled
and started, to strike the hours and announce the time of day in local
politics with a nicety that owned no precedent.

There would be a quartette of tickets; I could see that fact of four
corners in its approach, long months before the conventions. Besides the
two regular parties, and the mugwump-independents--which tribe, like the
poor, we have always with us--the laborites would try again. These had
not come to the field in any force since that giant uprising when we
beat them down with the reputable old gentleman. Nor did I fear them
now. My trained senses told me, as with thumb on wrist I counted
the public pulse, how those clans of labor were not so formidable by
three-fourths as on that other day a decade and more before.

Of those three camps of politics set over against us, that one to be the
strongest was the party of reform. This knowledge swelled my stock of
courage, already mounting high. If it were no more than to rout the
administration now worrying the withers of the town, why, then! the
machine was safe to win.

There arose another sign. As the days ran on, rich and frequent, first
from one big corporation and then another--and these do not give until
they believe--the contributions of money came rolling along. They would
buy our favor in advance of victory. These donations followed each other
like billows upon a beach, and each larger than the one before, which
showed how the wind of general confidence was rising in our favor. It
was not, therefore, my view alone; but, by this light of money to our
cause, I could see how the common opinion had begun to gather head that
the machine was to take the town again.

This latter is often a decisive point, and one to give victory of
itself. The average of intelligence and integrity in this city of New
York is lower than any in the land. There are here, in proportion to
a vote, more people whose sole principle is the bandwagon, than in any
other town between the oceans. These “sliders,” who go hither and yon,
and attach themselves to this standard or ally themselves with that one,
as the eye of their fancy is caught and taught by some fluttering signal
of the hour to pick the winning side, are enough of themselves to decide
a contest. Wherefore, to promote this advertisement among creatures of
chameleon politics, of an approaching triumph for the machine, and it
being possible because of those contributed thousands coming so early
into my chests, I began furnishing funds to my leaders and setting them
to the work of their regions weeks before the nearest of our enemies had
begun to think on his ticket.

There was another argument for putting out this money. The noses of my
people had been withheld from the cribs of office for hungry months upon
months. The money would arouse an appetite and give their teeth an edge.
I looked for fine work, too, since the leanest wolves are ever foremost
in the hunt.

Emphatically did I lay it upon my leaders that, man for man, they must
count their districts. They must tell over each voter as a churchman
tells his beads. They must give me a true story of the situation, and I
promised grief to him who brought me mistaken word. I will say in their
compliment that, by the reports of my leaders on the day before the
poll, I counted the machine majority exact within four hundred votes;
and that, I may tell you, with four tickets in the conflict, and a whole
count which was measured by hundreds of thousands, is no light affair. I
mention it to evidence the hair-line perfection to which the methods of
the machine had been brought.

More than one leader reported within five votes of his majority, and
none went fifty votes astray.

You think we overdid ourselves to the point ridiculous, in this
breathless solicitude of preparation? Man! the wealth of twenty Ophirs
hung upon the hazard. I was in no mood to lose, if skill and sleepless
forethought, and every intrigue born of money, might serve to bring
success.

Morton--that best of prophets!--believed in the star of the machine.

“This time,” said he, “I shall miss the agony of contributing to the
other fellows, don’t y’ know. It will be quite a relief--really! I must
say, old chap, that I like the mugwump less and less the more I see of
him. He’s so deucedly respectable, for one thing! Gad! there are
times when a mugwump carries respectability to a height absolutely
incompatible with human existence. Besides, he is forever walking a
crack and calling it a principle. I get tired of a chalkline morality.
It’s all such deuced rot; it bores me to death; it does, really! One
begins to appreciate the amiable, tolerant virtues of easy, old-shoe
vice.”

Morton, worn with this long harangue, was moved to recruit his moody
energies with the inevitable cigarette. He puffed recuperative puffs for
a space, and then he began:

“What an angelic ass is this city of New York! Why! it doesn’t know as
much as a horse! Any ignorant teamster of politics can harness it, and
haul with it, and head it what way he will. I say, old chap, what are
the round-number expenses of the town a year?”

“About one hundred and twenty-five millions.”

“One hundred and twenty-five millions--really! Do you happen to know the
aggregate annual profits of those divers private companies that control
and sell us our water, and lighting, and telephone, and telegraph, and
traction services?--saying nothing of ferries, and paving, and all that?
It’s over one hundred and fifty millions a year, don’t y’ know! More
than enough to run the town without a splinter of tax--really! That’s
why I exclaim in rapture over the public’s accommodating imbecility.
Now, if a private individual were to manage his affairs so much like a
howling idiot, his heirs would clap him in a padded cell, and serve the
beggar right.”

“I think, however,” said I, “that you have been one to profit by those
same idiocies of the town.”

“Millions, my boy, millions! And I’m going in for more, don’t y’ know.
There are a half-dozen delicious things I have my eye on. Gad! I shall
have my hand on them, the moment you take control.”

“I make you welcome in advance,” said I. “Give me but the town again,
and you shall pick and choose.”

In season, I handed my slate of names to the nominating committee to be
handed by them to the convention.

At the head, for the post of mayor, was written the name of that bold
judge who, in the presence of my enemies and on a day when I was down,
had given my Sicilian countenance. Such folk are the choice material
of the machine. Their characters invite the public; while, for their
courage, and that trick to be military and go with closed eyes to the
execution of an order, the machine can rely upon them through black and
white. My judge when mayor would accept my word for the last appointment
and the last contract in his power, and think it duty.

And who shall say that he would err? It was the law of the machine; he
was the man of the machine; for the public, which accepted him, he was
the machine. It is the machine that offers for every office on the list;
the ticket is but the manner or, if you please, the mask. Nor is this
secret. Who shall complain then, or fasten him with charges, when my
judge, made mayor, infers a public’s instruction to regard himself
as the vizier of the machine?--its hand and voice for the town’s
government?

It stood the day before the polls, and having advantage of the usual
lull I was resting myself at home. Held fast by the hooks of politics, I
for weeks had not seen young Van Flange, and had gotten only glimpses of
Blossom. While lounging by my fire--for the day was raw, with a wind off
the Sound that smelled of winter--young Van Flange drove to the door in
a brougham.

That a brisk broker should visit his house at an hour when the floor of
the Exchange was tossing with speculation, would be the thing not looked
for; but I was too much in a fog of politics, and too ignorant of stocks
besides, to make the observation. Indeed, I was glad to see the boy,
greeting him with a trifle more warmth than common.

Now I thought he gave me his hand with a kind of shiver of reluctance.
This made me consider. Plainly, he was not at ease as we sat together.
Covering him with the tail of my eye, I could note how his face carried
a look, at once timid and malignant.

I could not read the meaning, and remained silent a while with the mere
riddle of it. Was he ill? The lean yellowness of his cheek, and the dark
about the hollow eyes, were a hint that way, to which the broken stoop
of the shoulders gave added currency.

Young Van Flange continued silent; not, however, in a way to promise
sullenness, but as though his feelings were a gag to him. At last I
thought, with a word of my own, to break the ice.

“How do you get on with your Blackberry?” said I.

It was not that I cared or had the business on the back of my mind; I
was too much buried in my campaign for that; but Blackberry, with young
Van Flange, was the one natural topic to propose.

As I gave him the name of it, he started with the sudden nervousness
of a cat. I caught the hissing intake of his breath, as though a
knife pierced him. What was wrong? I had not looked at the reported
quotations, such things being as Greek to me. Had he lost those
millions? I could have borne it if he had; the better, perhaps, since I
was sure in my soul that within two days I would have the town in hand,
and I did not think to find my old paths so overgrown but what I’d make
shift to pick my way to a second fortune.

I was on the hinge of saying so, when he got possession of himself. Even
at that he spoke lamely, and with a tongue that fumbled for words.

“Oh, Blackberry!” cried he. Then, after a gulping pause: “That twist
will work through all right. It has gone a trifle slow, because, by
incredible exertions, the road did pay its dividends. But it’s no more
than a matter of weeks when it will come tumbling.”

This, in the beginning, was rambled off with stops and halts, but in the
wind-up it went glibly enough.

What next I would have said, I cannot tell; nothing of moment, one may
be sure, for my mind was running on other things than Blackberry up or
down. It was at this point, however, when we were interrupted. A message
arrived that asked my presence at headquarters.

As I was about to depart, Blossom came into the room.

I had no more than time for a hurried kiss, for the need set forth in
the note pulled at me like horses.

“Bar accidents,” said I, as I stood in the door, “tomorrow night we’ll
celebrate a victory.”

Within a block of my gate, I recalled how I had left certain papers I
required lying on the table. I went back in some hustle of speed, for
time was pinching as to that question of political detail which tugged
for attention.

As I stepped into the hallway, I caught the tone of young Van Flange
and did not like the pitch of it. Blossom and he were in the room to the
left, and only a door between us.

In a strange bristle of temper, I stood still to hear. Would the
scoundrel dare harshness with my girl? The very surmise turned me savage
to the bone!

Young Van Flange was speaking of those two hundred thousand dollars in
bonds with which, by word of Big Kennedy, I had endowed Blossom in a day
of babyhood. When she could understand, I had laid it solemnly upon her
never to part with them. Under any stress, they would insure her against
want; they must never be given up. And Blossom had promised.

These bonds were in a steel casket of their own, and Blossom had the
key. As I listened, young Van Flange was demanding they be given to
him; Blossom was pleading with him, and quoting my commands. My girl was
sobbing, too, for the villain urged the business roughly. I could not
fit my ear to every word, since their tones for the most were dulled to
a murmur by the door. In the end, with a lift of the voice, I heard him
say:

“For what else should I marry you except money? Is one of my blood to
link himself with the daughter of the town’s great thief, and call it
love? The daughter of a murderer, too!” he exclaimed, and ripping out
an oath. “A murderer, yes! You have the red proof about your throat!
Because your father escaped hanging by the laws of men, heaven’s law is
hanging you!”

As I threw wide the door, Blossom staggered and fell to the floor. I
thought for the furious blink of the moment, that he had struck her.
How much stronger is hate than love! My dominant impulse was to avenge
Blossom rather than to save her. I stood in the door in a white flame
of wrath that was like the utter anger of a tiger. I saw him bleach and
shrink beneath his sallowness.

As I came towards him, he held up his hands after the way of a boxing
school. That ferocious strength, like a gorilla’s, still abode with me.
I brushed away his guard as one might put aside a trailing vine. In a
flash I had him, hip and shoulder. My fingers sunk into the flesh like
things of steel; he squeaked and struggled as does the rabbit when
crunched up by the hound.

With a swing and a heave that would have torn out a tree by its roots,
I lifted him from his feet. The next moment I hurled him from me. He
crashed against the casing of the door; then he slipped to the floor as
though struck by death itself.

Moved of the one blunt purpose of destruction, I made forward to seize
him again. For a miracle of luck, I was withstood by one of the servants
who rushed in.

“Think, master; think what you do!” he cried.

In a sort of whirl I looked about me. I could see how the old Galway
nurse was bending over Blossom, crying on her for her “Heart’s dearie!”
 My poor girl was lying along the rug like some tempest-broken flower.
The stout old wife caught her up and bore her off in her arms.

The picture of my girl’s white face set me ablaze again. I turned the
very torch of rage!

“Be wise, master!” cried that one who had restrained me before. “Think
of what you do!”

The man’s hand on my wrist, and the earnest voice of him, brought me to
myself. A vast calm took me, as a storm in its double fury beats flat
the surface of the sea. I turned my back and walked to the window.

“Have him away, then!” cried I. “Have him out of my sight, or I’ll tear
him to rags and ribbons where he lies!”



CHAPTER XXVI--THE VICTOR AND THE SPOILS


FOR all the cry and call of politics, and folk to see me whom I would
not see, that night, and throughout the following day--and even though
the latter were one of election Fate to decide for the town’s mastery--I
never stirred from Blossom’s side. She, poor child! was as one desolate,
dazed with the blow that had been dealt her. She lay on her pillow,
silent, and with the stricken face that told of the heart-blight fallen
upon her.

Nor was I in much more enviable case, although gifted of a rougher
strength to meet the shock. Indeed, I was taught by a despair that
preyed upon me, how young Van Flange had grown to be the keystone of my
arch of single hope, now fallen to the ground. Blossom’s happiness had
been my happiness, and when her breast was pierced, my own brightness
of life began to bleed away. Darkness took me in the folds of it as in
a shroud; I would have found the grave kinder, but I must remain to be
what prop and stay I might to Blossom.

While I sat by my girl’s bed, there was all the time a peril that kept
plucking at my sleeve in a way of warning. My nature is of an inveterate
kind that, once afire and set to angry burning, goes on and on in
ever increasing flames like a creature of tow, and with me helpless to
smother or so much as half subdue the conflagration. I was so aware
of myself in that dangerous behalf that it would press upon me as a
conviction, even while I held my girl’s hand and looked into her vacant
eye, robbed of a last ray of any peace to come, that young Van Flange
must never stray within my grasp. It would bring down his destruction;
it would mean red hands for me and nothing short of murder. And, so,
while I waited by Blossom’s side, and to blot out the black chance of
it, I sent word for Inspector McCue.

The servants, on that day of awful misery, conveyed young Van Flange
from the room. When he had been revived, and his injuries dressed--for
his head bled from a gash made by the door, and his shoulder had been
dislocated--he was carried from the house by the brougham that brought
him, and which still waited at the gate. No one about me owned word of
his whereabouts. It was required that he be found, not more for his sake
than my own, and his destinies disposed of beyond my reach.

It was to this task I would set Inspector McCue. For once in a way, my
call was for an honest officer. I would have Inspector McCue discover
young Van Flange, and caution him out of town. I cared not where he
went, so that he traveled beyond the touch of my fingers, already
itching for the caitiff neck of him.

Nor did I think young Van Flange would resist the advice of Inspector
McCue. He had reasons for flight other than those I would furnish. The
very papers, shouted in the streets to tell how I had re-taken the town
at the polls, told also of the failure of the brokerage house of Van
Flange; and that young Van Flange, himself, was a defaulter and his
arrest being sought by clients on a charge of embezzling the funds which
had been intrusted to his charge. The man was a fugitive from justice;
he lay within the menace of a prison; he would make no demur now when
word and money were given him to take himself away.

When Inspector McCue arrived, I greeted him with face of granite. He
should have no hint of my agony. I went bluntly to the core of the
employ; to dwell upon the business would be nothing friendly to my
taste.

“You know young Van Flange?” Inspector McCue gave a nod of assent.

“And you can locate him?”

“The proposition is so easy it’s a pushover.”

“Find him, then, and send him out of the town; and for a reason, should
he ask one, you may say that I shall slay him should we meet.”

Inspector McCue looked at me curiously. He elevated his brow, but in the
end he said nothing, whether of inquiry or remark. Without a reply he
took himself away. My face, at the kindliest, was never one to speak of
confidences or invite a question, and I may suppose the expression of
it, as I dealt with Inspector McCue, to have been more than commonly
repellent.

There abode another with whom I wanted word; that one was Morton; for
hard by forty years he had not once failed me in a strait. I would ask
him the story of those Blackberry stocks. A glance into my steel box had
showed me the bottom as bare as winter boughs. The last scrap was
gone; and no more than the house that covered us, and those two hundred
thousand dollars in bonds that were Blossom’s, to be left of all our
fortune.

My temper was not one to mourn for any loss of money; and yet in this
instance I would have those steps that led to my destruction set forth
to me. If it were the president of Blackberry Traction who had taken
my money, I meditated reprisal. Not that I fell into any heat of hatred
against him; he but did to me what Morton and I a few years further back
had portioned out to him. For all that, I was coldly resolved to have my
own again. I intended no stock shifts; I would not seek Wall Street for
my revenge. I knew a sharper method and a surer. It might glisten less
with elegance, but it would prove more secure. But first, I would have
the word of Morton.

That glass of exquisite fashion and mold of proper form, albeit
something grizzled, and like myself a trifle dimmed of time, tendered
his congratulations upon my re-conquest of the town. I drew him straight
to my affair of Blackberry.

“Really, old chap,” said Morton, the while plaintively disapproving of
me through those eyeglasses, so official in his case, “really, old
chap, you walked into a trap, and one a child should have seen. That
Blackberry fellow had the market rigged, don’t y’ know. I could have
saved you, but, my boy, I didn’t dare. You’ve such a beastly temper when
anyone saves you. Besides, it isn’t good form to wander into the stock
deals of a gentleman, and begin to tell him what he’s about; it isn’t,
really.”

“But what did this Blackberry individual do?” I persisted.

“Why, he let you into a corner, don’t y’ know! He had been quietly
buying Blackberry for months. He had the whole stock of the road in his
safe; and you, in the most innocent way imaginable, sold thousands of
shares. Now when you sell a stock, you must buy; you must, really! And
there was no one from whom to buy save our sagacious friend. Gad! as the
business stood, old chap, he might have had the coat off your back!” And
Morton glared in horror over the disgrace of the situation.

While I took no more than a glimmer of Morton’s meaning, two things were
made clear. The Blackberry president had stripped me of my millions; and
he had laid a snare to get them.

“Was young Van Flange in the intrigue?”

“Not in the beginning, at least. There was no need, don’t y’ know. His
hand was already into your money up to the elbow.”

“What do you intend by saying that young Van Flange was not in the
affair in the beginning?”

“The fact is, old chap, one or two things occurred that led me to think
that young Van Flange discovered the trap after he’d sold some eight or
ten thousand shares. There was a halt, don’t y’ know, in his operations.
Then later he went on and sold you into bankruptcy. I took it from
young Van Flange’s manner that the Blackberry fellow might have had some
secret hold upon him, and either threatened him, or promised him, or
perhaps both, to get him to go forward with his sales; I did, really.
Young Van Flange didn’t, in the last of it, conduct himself like a free
moral or, I should say, immoral agent.”

“I can’t account for it,” said I, falling into thought; “I cannot
see how young Van Flange could have been betrayed into the folly you
describe.”

“Why then,” said Morton, a bit wearily, “I have but to say over what
you’ve heard from me before. Young Van Flange was in no sort that man of
gifts you held him to be; now really, he wasn’t, don’t y’ know! Anyone
might have hoodwinked him. Besides, he didn’t keep up with the markets.
While I think it beastly bad form to go talking against a chap when he’s
absent, the truth is, the weak-faced beggar went much more to Barclay
than to Wall Street. However, that is only hearsay; I didn’t follow
young Van Flange to Barclay Street nor meet him across a faro layout by
way of verification.”

Morton was right; and I was to hear a worse tale, and that from
Inspector McCue.

“Would have been here before,” said Inspector McCue when he came to
report, “but I wanted to see our party aboard ship, and outside Sandy
Hook light, so that I might report the job cleaned up.”

Then clearing his throat, and stating everything in the present tense,
after the police manner, Inspector McCue went on.

“When you ask me can I locate our party, I says to myself, ‘Sure thing!’
and I’ll put you on to why. Our party is a dope fiend; it’s a horse to a
hen at that very time he can be turned up in some Chink joint.”

“Opium?” I asked in astonishment. I had never harbored the thought.

“Why, sure! That’s the reason he shows so sallow about the gills, and
with eyes like holes burnt in a blanket. When he lets up on the bottle,
he shifts to hop.”

“Go on,” said I.

“Now,” continued Inspector McCue, “I thought I knew the joint in which
to find our party. One evenin’, three or four years ago, when the
Reverend Bronson and I are lookin’ up those Barclay Street crooks, I see
our party steerin’ into Mott Street. I goes after him, and comes upon
him in a joint where he’s hittin’ the pipe. The munk who runs it has
just brought him a layout, and is cookin’ the pill for him when I shoves
in.

“Now when our party is in present trouble, I puts it to myself, that
he’s sure to be goin’ against the pipe. It would be his idea of gettin’
cheerful, see! So I chases for the Mott Street hang-out, and there’s our
party sure enough, laid out on a mat, and a roll of cotton batting under
his head for a pillow. He’s in the skies, so my plan for a talk right
then is all off. The air of the place is that thick with hop it would
have turned the point of a knife, but I stays and plays my string out
until he can listen and talk.

“When our party’s head is again on halfway straight, and he isn’t such a
dizzy Willie, I puts it to him that he’d better do a skulk.

“‘You’re wanted,’ says I, ‘an’ as near as I make the size-up, you’ll
take about five spaces if you’re brought to trial. You’d better chase;
and by way of the Horn, at that. If you go cross-lots, you might get
the collar on a hot wire from headquarters, and be taken off the train.
Our party nearly throws a faint when I says ‘embezzlement.’ It’s the
first tip he’d had, for I don’t think he’s been made wise to so much as
a word since he leaves here. It put the scare into him for fair; he was
ready to do anything I say.’

“‘Only,’ says he, ‘I don’t know what money I’ve got. And I’m too dippy
to find out.’

“With that, I go through him. It’s in his trousers pocket I springs a
plant--fifteen hundred dollars, about.

“‘Here’s dough enough and over,’ says I; and in six hours after, he’s
aboard ship.

“She don’t get her lines off until this morning, though; but I stays by,
for I’m out to see him safe beyond the Hook.”

“What more do you know of young Van Flange?” I asked. “Did you learn
anything about his business habits?”

“From the time you start him with those offices in Broad Street, our
party’s business habits are hop and faro bank. The offices are there;
the clerks and the blackboards and the stock tickers and the tape
baskets are there; but our party, more’n to butt in about three times
a week and leave some crazy orders to sell Blackberry Traction, is never
there. He’s either in Mott Street, and a Chink cookin’ hop for him;
or he’s in Barclay Street with those Indians, and they handin’ him out
every sort of brace from an ‘end-squeeze’ or a ‘balance-top,’ where they
give him two cards at a clatter, to a ‘snake’ box, where they kindly
lets him deal, but do him just the same. Our party lose over a
half-million in that Barclay Street deadfall during the past Year.”

“I must, then,” said I, and I felt the irony of it, “have been
indirectly contributing to the riches of our friend, the Chief of
Police, since you once told me he was a principal owner of the Barclay
Street place.”

Inspector McCue shrugged his shoulders professionally, and made no
response. Then I questioned him as to the charge of embezzlement; for I
had not owned the heart to read the story in the press.

“It’s that Blackberry push,” replied Inspector McCue, “and I don’t think
it’s on the level at that. It looks like the Blackberry president--and,
by the way, I’ve talked with the duffer, and took in all he would
tell--made a play to get the drop on our party. And although the trick
was put up, I think he landed it. He charges now that our party is a
welcher, and gets away with a bunch of bonds--hocked ‘em or something
like that--which this Blackberry guy gives him to stick in as margins
on some deal. As I say, I think it’s a put-up job. That Blackberry
duck--who is quite a flossy form of stock student and a long shot from
a slouch--has some game up his sleeve. He wanted things rigged so’s he
could put the clamps on our party, and make him do as he says, and pinch
him whenever it gets to be a case of must. So he finally gets our party
where he can’t holler. I makes a move to find out the inside story; but
the Blackberry sport is a thought too swift, and he won’t fall to my
game. I gives it to him dead that he braced our party, and asks him,
Why? At that he hands me the frozen face, springs a chest, and says he’s
insulted.

“But the end of it is this: Our party is now headed for Frisco. When he
comes ashore, the cops out there will pick him up and keep a tab on him;
we can always touch the wire for his story down to date. Whenever you
say the word, I can get a line on him.”

“Bring me no tales of him!” I cried. “I would free myself of every
memory of the scoundrel!”

That, then, was the story--a story of gambling and opium! It was these
that must account for the sallow face, stooped shoulders, hollow eyes,
and nights away from home. And the man of Blackberry, from whom Morton
and I took millions, had found in the situation his opportunity. He laid
his plans and had those millions back. Also, it was I, as it had been
others, to now suffer by Barclay Street.

“And now,” observed Inspector McCue, his hand on the door, but turning
with a look at once inquisitive and wistful--the latter, like the
anxious manner of a good dog who asks word to go upon his hunting--“and
now, I suppose, you’ll be willin’ to let me pull that outfit in Barclay
Street. I’ve got ‘em dead to rights!” The last hopefully.

“If it be a question,” said I, “of where a man shall lose His money, for
my own part, I have no preference as to whether he is robbed in Barclay
Street or robbed in Wall. We shall let the Barclay Street den alone, if
you please. The organization has its alliances. These alliances cannot
be disturbed without weakening the organization. I would not make the
order when it was prayed for by the mother of young Van Flange, and she
died with the prayer on her lips. I shall not make it now when it is I
who am the sufferer. It must be Tammany before all; on no slighter terms
can Tammany be preserved.”

Inspector McCue made no return to this, and went his way in silence. It
was a change, however, from that other hour when I had been with him
as cold and secret as a vault. He felt the flattery of my present
confidence, and it colored him with complacency as he took his leave.

Roundly, it would be two months after the election before Tammany took
charge of the town. The eight weeks to intervene I put in over that list
of officers to be named by me through the mayor and the various chiefs
of the departments. These places--and they were by no means a stinted
letter, being well-nigh thirty thousand--must be apportioned among the
districts, each leader having his just share.

While I wrought at these details of patronage, setting a man’s name to a
place, and all with fine nicety of discrimination to prevent jealousies
and a thought that this or that one of my wardogs had been wronged, a
plan was perfecting itself in my mind. The thought of Blossom was ever
uppermost. What should I do to save the remainder of her life in peace?
If she were not to be wholly happy, still I would buckler her as far as
lay with me against the more aggressive darts of grief. There is such a
word as placid, and, though one be fated to dwell with lasting sorrow,
one would prefer it as the mark of one’s condition to others of
tumultuous violence. There lies a choice, and one will make it, even
among torments. How could I conquer serenity for Blossom?--how should
I go about it to invest what further years were hers with the restful
blessings of peace? That was now the problem of my life, and at last I
thought it solved.

My decision was made to deal with the town throughout the next regime
as with a gold mine. I would work it night and day, sparing neither
conscience nor sleep; I would have from it what utmost bulk of treasure
I might during the coming administration of the town’s affairs. The game
lay in my palm; I would think on myself and nothing but myself; justice
and right were to be cast aside; the sufferings of others should be no
more to me than mine had been to them. I would squeeze the situation
like a sponge, and for its last drop. Then laying down my guiding staff
as Chief, I would carry Blossom, and those riches I had heaped together,
to regions, far away and new, where only the arch of gentle skies should
bend above her days! She should have tranquillity! she should find rest!
That was my plan, my hope; I kept it buried in my breast, breathed of it
to no man, not even the kindly Morton, and set myself with all of that
ferocious industry which was so much the badge of my nature to its
carrying forth. Four years; and then, with the gold of a Monte Cristo,
I would take Blossom and go seeking that repose which I believed must
surely wait for us somewhere beneath the sun!

While I was engaged about those preliminaries demanded of me if the
machine were to begin its four-years’ reign on even terms of comfort,
Morton was often at my shoulder with a point or a suggestion. I was glad
to have him with me; for his advice in a fog of difficulty such as mine,
was what chart and lighthouse are to mariners.

One afternoon while Morton and I were trying to hit upon some man of
education to take second place and supplement the ignorance of one
whom the equities of politics appointed to be the head of a rich but
difficult department, the Reverend Bronson came in.

We three--the Reverend Bronson, Morton, and myself--were older now than
on days we could remember, and each showed the sere and yellow of his
years. But we liked each other well; and, although in no sort similar
in either purpose or bent, I think time had made us nearer friends than
might have chanced with many who were more alike.

On this occasion, while I engaged myself with lists of names and lists
of offices, weighing out the spoils, Morton and the Reverend Bronson
debated the last campaign, and what in its conclusion it offered for the
future.

“I shall try to be the optimist,” said the Reverend Bronson at last,
tossing up a brave manner. “Since the dying administration was not so
good as I hoped for, I trust the one to be born will not be so bad as I
fear. And, as I gather light by experience, I begin to blame officials
less and the public more. I suspect how a whole people may play the
hypocrite as much as any single man; nor am I sure that, for all its
clamors, a New York public really desires those white conditions of
purity over which it protests so much.”

“Really!” returned Morton, who had furnished ear of double interest to
the Reverend Bronson’s words, “it is an error, don’t y’ know, to give
any people a rule they don’t desire. A government should always match a
public. What do you suppose would become of them if one were to suddenly
organize a negro tribe of darkest Africa into a republic? Why, under
such loose rule as ours, the poor savage beggars would gnaw each other
like dogs--they would, really! It would be as depressing a solecism as a
Scotchman among the stained glasses, the frescoes, and the Madonnas of
a Spanish cathedral; or a Don worshiping within the four bare walls and
roof of a Highland kirk. Whatever New York may pretend, it will always
be found in possession of that sort of government, whether for virtue
or for vice, whereof it secretly approves.” And Morton surveyed the good
dominie through that historic eyeglass as though pleased with what he’d
said.

“But is it not humiliating?” asked the Reverend Bronson. “If what you
say be true, does it not make for your discouragement?”

“No more than does the vulgar fact of dogs and horses, don’t y’ know!
Really, I take life as it is, and think only to be amused. I remark
on men, and upon their conditions of the moral, the mental, and the
physical!--on the indomitable courage of restoration as against the
ceaseless industry of decay!--on the high and the low, the good and the
bad, the weak and the strong, the right and the wrong, the top and the
bottom, the past and the future, the white and the black, and all those
other things that are not!--and I laugh at all. There is but one thing
real, one thing true, one thing important, one thing at which I
never laugh!--and that is the present. But really!” concluded Morton,
recurring to affectations which for the moment had been forgot, “I’m
never discouraged, don’t y’ know! I shall never permit myself an
interest deep enough for that; it wouldn’t be good form. Even those
beastly low standards which obtain, as you say, in New York do not
discourage me. No, I’m never discouraged--really!”

“You do as much as any, by your indifference, to perpetuate those
standards,” remarked the Reverend Bronson in a way of mournful severity.

“My dear old chap,” returned Morton, growing sprightly as the other
displayed solemnity, “I take, as I tell you, conditions as I find them,
don’t y’ know! And wherefore no? It’s all nature: it’s the hog to
its wallow, the eagle to its crag;--it is, really! Now an eagle in a
mud-wallow, or a hog perching on a crag, would be deuced bad form!
You see that yourself, you must--really!” and our philosopher glowered
sweetly.

“I shall never know,” said the Reverend Bronson, with a half-laugh,
“when to have you seriously. I cannot but wish, however, that the town
had better luck about its City Hall.”

“Really, I don’t know, don’t y’ know!” This deep observation Morton
flourished off in a profound muse. “As I’ve said, the town will get
what’s coming to it, because it will always get what it wants. It always
has--really! And speaking of ‘reform’ as we employ the term in politics:
The town, in honesty, never desires it; and that’s why somebody must
forever attend on ‘reform’ to keep it from falling on its blundering
nose and knees by holding it up by the tail. There are people who’ll
take anything you give them, even though it be a coat of tar and
feathers, and thank you for it, too,--the grateful beggars! New York
resembles these. Some chap comes along, and offers New York ‘reform.’
Being without ‘reform’ at the time, and made suddenly and sorrowfully
mindful of its condition, it accepts the gift just as a drunkard takes a
pledge. Like the drunkard, however, New York is apt to return to its old
ways--it is, really!”

“One thing,” said the Reverend Bronson as he arose to go, and laying
his hand on my shoulder, “since the Boss of Tammany, in a day of the
machine, is the whole government and the source of it, I mean to come
here often and work upon our friend in favor of a clean town.”

“And you will be welcome, Doctor, let me say!” I returned.

“Now I think,” said Morton meditatively, when the Reverend Bronson had
departed, “precisely as I told our excellent friend. A rule should ever
fit a people; and it ever does. A king is as naturally the blossom of
the peasantry he grows on as is a sunflower natural to that coarse
stem that supports its royal nod-dings, don’t y’ know. A tyranny, a
despotism, a monarchy, or a republic is ever that flower of government
natural to the public upon which it grows. Really!--Why not? Wherein
lurks the injustice or the inconsistency of such a theory? What good
is there to lie hidden in a misfit? Should Providence waste a man’s
government on a community of dogs? A dog public should have dog
government:--a kick and a kennel, a chain to clank and a bone to gnaw!”

With this last fragment of wisdom, the cynical Morton went also his way,
leaving me alone to chop up the town--as a hunter chops up the carcass
of a deer among his hounds--into steak and collop to feed my hungry
followers.

However much politics might engage me, I still possessed those hundred
eyes of Argus wherewith to watch my girl. When again about me she had no
word for what was past. And on my side, never once did I put to her the
name of young Van Flange. He was as much unmentioned by us as though he
had not been. I think that this was the wiser course. What might either
Blossom or I have said to mend our shattered hopes?

Still, I went not without some favor of events. There came a support to
my courage; the more welcome, since the latter was often at its ebb. It
was a strangest thing at that! While Blossom moved with leaden step, and
would have impressed herself upon one as weak and wanting sparkle, she
none the less began to gather the color of health. Her cheeks, before
of the pallor of snow, wore a flush like the promise of life. Her face
gained rounder fullness, while her eyes opened upon one with a kind of
wide brilliancy, that gave a look of gayety. It was like a blessing! Nor
could I forbear, as I witnessed it, the dream of a better strength for
my girl than it had been her luck to know; and that thought would set me
to my task of money-getting with ever a quicker ardor.

Still, as I’ve said, there was the side to baffle. For all those roses
and eyes like stars, Blossom’s breath was broken and short, and a little
trip upstairs or down exhausted her to the verge of pain. To mend her
breathing after one of these small household expeditions, she must find
a chair, or even lie on a couch. All this in its turn would have set my
fears to a runaway if it had not been for that fine glow in her cheeks
to each time restore me to my faith.

When I put the question born of my uneasiness, Blossom declared herself
quite well, nor would she give me any sicklier word. In the end my fears
would go back to their slumbers, and I again bend myself wholly to that
task of gold.

Good or bad, to do this was when all was said the part of complete
wisdom. There could be nothing now save my plan of millions and a final
pilgrimage in quest of peace. That was our single chance; and at it, in
a kind of savage silence, night and day I stormed as though warring with
walls and battlements.



CHAPTER XXVII--GOLD CAME, AND DEATH STEPPED IN


NOW, when I went about refurnishing my steel box with new millions, I
turned cautious as a fox. I considered concealment, and would hide my
trail and walk in all the running water that I might. For one matter,
I was sick and sore with the attacks made upon me by the papers, which
grew in malignant violence as the days wore on, and as though it were
a point of rivalry between them which should have the black honor of
hating me the most. I preferred to court those type-cudgelings as little
as stood possible, and still bring me to my ends.

The better to cover myself, and because the mere work of it would be too
weary a charge for one head and that head ignorant of figures, I called
into my service a cunning trio who were, one and all, born children
of the machine. These three owned thorough training as husbandmen of
politics, and were ones to mow even the fence corners. That profit of
the game which escaped them must indeed be sly, and lie deep and close
besides. Also, they were of the invaluable brood that has no tongue, and
any one of the triangle would have been broken upon the wheel without a
syllable of confession disgracing his lips.

These inveterate ones, who would be now as my hand in gathering together
that wealth which I anticipated, were known in circles wherein they
moved and had their dingy being, as Sing Sing Jacob, Puffy the Merchant,
and Paddy the Priest. Paddy the Priest wore a look of sanctity, and it
was this impression of holiness to confer upon him his title. It might
have been more consistent with those virtues of rapine dominant of
his nature, had he been hailed Paddy the Pirate, instead. Of Sing Sing
Jacob, I should say, that he had not served in prison. His name was
given him because, while he was never granted the privilege of stripes
and irons, he often earned the same. In what manner or at what font
Puffy the Merchant received baptism, I never learned. That he came
fit for my purpose would find sufficient indication in a complaining
compliment which Paddy the Priest once paid him, and who said in
description of Puffy’s devious genius, that if one were to drive a nail
through his head it would come forth a corkscrew.

These men were to be my personal lieutenants, and collect my gold for
me. And since they would pillage me with as scanty a scruple as though
I were the foe himself, I must hit upon a device for invoking them to
honesty in ny affairs. It was then I remembered the parting words of
Big Kennedy. I would set one against the others; hating each other,
they would watch; and each would be sharp with warning in my ear should
either of his fellows seek to fill a purse at my expense.

To sow discord among my three offered no difficulties; I had but to say
to one what the others told of him, and his ire was on permanent end. It
was thus I separated them; and since I gave each his special domain
of effort, while they worked near enough to one another to maintain a
watch, they were not so thrown together as to bring down among them open
war.

It will be required that I set forth in half-detail those various
municipal fields and meadows that I laid out in my time, and from which
the machine was to garner its harvest. You will note then, you who are
innocent of politics in its practical expressions and rewards, how
the town stood to me as does his plowlands to a farmer, and offered
as various a list of crops to careful tillage. Take for example the
knee-deep clover of the tax department. Each year there was made a whole
valuation of personal property of say roundly nine billions of dollars.
This estimate, within a dozen weeks of its making, would be reduced
to fewer than one billion, on the word of individuals who made the
law-required oaths. No, it need not have been so reduced; but the
reduction ever occurred since the machine instructed its tax officers to
act on the oath so furnished, and that without question.

That personage in tax peril was never put to fret in obtaining one to
make the oath. If he himself lacked hardihood and hesitated at perjury,
why then, the town abounded in folk of a daring easy veracity. Of all
that was said and written, of that time, in any New York day, full
ninety-five per cent, was falsehood or mistake. Among the members of
a community, so affluent of error and mendacity, one would not long go
seeking a witness who was ready, for shining reasons, to take whatever
oath might be demanded. And thus it befell that the affidavits were
ever made, and a reduction of eight billions and more, in the assessed
valuation of personal property, came annually to be awarded. With a
tax levy of, say, two per cent. I leave you to fix the total of those
millions saved to ones assessed, and also to consider how far their
gratitude might be expected to inure to the yellow welfare of the
machine--the machine that makes no gift of either its forbearance or its
help!

Speaking in particular of the town, and what opportunities of riches
swung open to the machine, one should know at the start how the whole
annual expense of the community was roughly one hundred and twenty-five
millions. Of these millions twenty went for salaries to officials; forty
were devoted to the purchase of supplies asked for by the public needs;
while the balance, sixty-five millions, represented contracts for paving
and building and similar construction whatnot, which the town was bound
to execute in its affairs.

Against those twenty millions of salaries, the machine levied an annual
private five per cent. Two-thirds of the million to arise therefrom,
found their direct way to district leaders; the other one-third was
paid into the general coffer. Also there were county officers, such
as judges, clerks of court, a sheriff and his deputies: and these,
likewise, were compelled from their incomes to a yearly generosity of
not fewer than five per cent.

Of those forty millions which were the measure for supplies, one-fifth
under the guise of “commissions” went to the machine; while of the
sixty-five millions, which represented the yearly contracts in payments
made thereon, the machine came better off with, at the leanest of
estimates, full forty per cent, of the whole.

Now I have set forth to you those direct returns which arose from the
sure and fixed expenses of the town. Beyond that, and pushing for
the furthest ounce of tallow, I inaugurated a novelty. I organized a
guaranty company which made what bonds the law demanded from officials;
and from men with contracts, and those others who furnished the town’s
supplies. The annual charge of the company for this act of warranty
was two per cent, on the sum guaranteed; and since the aggregate
thus carried came to about one hundred millions, the intake from
such sources--being for the most part profit in the fingers of the
machine--was annually a fair two millions. There were other rills to
flow a revenue, and which were related to those money well-springs
registered above, but they count too many and too small for mention
here, albeit the round returns from them might make a poor man stare.

Of those other bottom-lands of profit which bent a nodding harvest
to the sickle of the machine, let me make a rough enumeration. The
returns--a bit sordid, these!--from poolrooms, faro banks and disorderly
resorts and whereon the monthly charge imposed for each ran all the way
from fifty to two thousand dollars, clinked into the yearly till, four
millions. The grog shops, whereof at that time there was a staggering
host of such in New York City of-the-many-sins! met each a draft of
twenty monthly dollars. Then one should count “campaign contributions.”
 Of great companies who sued for favor there were, at a lowest census,
five who sent as tribute from twenty to fifty thousand dollars each.
Also there existed of smaller concerns and private persons, full one
thousand who yielded over all a no less sum than one million. Next came
the police, with appointment charges which began with a patrolman at
four hundred dollars, and soared to twenty thousand when the matter was
the making of a captain.

Here I shall close my recapitulation of former treasure for the machine;
I am driven to warn you, however, that the half has not been told.
Still, if you will but let your imagination have its head, remembering
how the machine gives nothing away, and fails not to exert its pressures
with every chance afforded it, you may supply what other chapters belong
with the great history of graft.

When one considers a Tammany profit, one will perforce be driven to the
question: What be the expenses of the machine? The common cost of an
election should pause in the neighborhood of three hundred thousand
dollars. Should peril crowd, and an imported vote be called for by the
dangers of the day, the cost might carry vastly higher. No campaign,
however, in the very nature of the enterprise and its possibilities of
expense, can consume a greater fund than eight hundred thousand. That
sum, subtracted from the income of the machine as taken from those
sundry sources I’ve related, will show what in my time remained for
distribution among my followers.

And now that brings one abreast the subject of riches to the Boss
himself. One of the world’s humorists puts into the mouth of a character
the query: What does a king get? The answer would be no whit less
difficult had he asked: What does a Boss get? One may take it, however,
that the latter gets the lion’s share. Long ago I said that the wealth
of Ophir hung on the hazard of the town’s election. You have now some
slant as to how far my words should be regarded as hyperbole. Nor must I
omit how the machine’s delegation in a legislature, or the little flock
it sends to nibble on the slopes of Congress, is each in the hand of
the Boss to do with as he will, and it may go without a record that the
opportunities so provided are neither neglected nor underpriced.

There you have the money story of Tammany in the bowels of the town.
Those easy-chair economists who, over their morning coffee and waffles,
engage themselves for purity, will at this point give honest rage the
rein. Had I no sense of public duty? Was the last spark of any honesty
burned out within my bosom? Was nothing left but dead embers to be a
conscience to me? The Reverend Bronson--and I had a deep respect for
that gentleman--put those questions in his time.

“Bear in mind,” said he when, after that last election, I again had
the town in my grasp, “bear in mind the welfare and the wishes of the
public, and use your power consistently therewith.”

“Now, why?” said I. “The public of which you tell me lies in two pieces,
the minority and the majority. It is to the latter’s welfare--the good
of the machine--I shall address myself. Be sure, my acts will gain the
plaudits of my own people, while I have only to go the road you speak of
to be made the target of their anger. As to the minority--those who
have vilified me, and who still would crush me if they but had the
strength--why, then, as Morton says, I owe them no more than William
owed the Saxons when after Hastings he had them under his feet.”

When the new administration was in easy swing, and I had time to look
about me, I bethought me of Blackberry and those three millions taken
from the weakness and the wickedness of young Van Flange. I would have
those millions back or know the secret of it.

With a nod here and a hand-toss there--for the shrug of my shoulders or
the lift of my brows had grown to have a definition among my people--I
brewed tempests for Blackberry. The park department discovered it in a
trespass; the health board gave it notice of the nonsanitary condition
of its cars; the street commissioner badgered it with processes because
of violations of laws and ordinances; the coroner, who commonly wore
a gag, gave daily news of what folk were killed or maimed through the
wantonness of Blackberry; while my corporation counsel bestirred himself
as to whether or no, for this neglect or that invasion of public right,
the Blackberry charter might not be revoked.

In the face of these, the president of Blackberry--he of the Hebrew cast
and clutch--stood sullenly to his guns. He would not yield; he would not
pay the price of peace; he would not return those millions, although he
knew well the argument which was the ground-work of his griefs.

The storm I unchained beat sorely, but he made no white-flag signs. I
admired his fortitude, while I multiplied my war.

It was Morton who pointed to that final feather which broke the camel’s
back.

“Really, old chap,” observed Morton, that immortal eyeglass on nose and
languid hands outspread, “really, you haven’t played your trumps, don’t
y’ know.”

“What then?” cried I, for my heart was growing hot.

“You recall my saying to our friend Bronson that, when I had a chap
against me whom I couldn’t buy, I felt about to discover his fad or his
fear--I was speaking about changing a beggar’s name, and all that, don’t
y’ know?”

“Yes,” said I, “it all comes back.”

“Exactly,” continued Morton. “Now the fear that keeps a street-railway
company awake nights is its fear of a strike. There, my dear boy, you
have your weapon. Convey the information to those Blackberry employees,
that you think they get too little money and work too long a day. Let
them understand how, should they strike, your police will not repress
them in any crimes they see fit to commit. Really, I think I’ve hit
upon a splendid idea! Those hirelings will go upon the warpath, don’t y’
know! And a strike is such a beastly thing!--such a deuced bore! It is,
really!”

Within the fortnight every Blackberry wheel was stopped, and every
employee rioting in the streets. Cars were sacked; what men offered for
work were harried, and made to fly for very skins and bones. Meanwhile,
the police stood afar off with virgin-batons, innocent of interference.

Four days of this, and those four millions were paid into my hand; the
Blackberry president had yielded, and my triumph was complete. With
that, my constabulary remembered law and order, and, descending upon the
turbulent, calmed them with their clubs. The strike ended; again were
the gongs of an unharassed Blackberry heard in the land.

And now I draw near the sorrowful, desperate end--the end at once of my
labors and my latest hope. I had held the town since the last battle
for well-nigh three and one-half years. Throughout this space affairs
political preserved themselves as rippleless as a looking-glass, and
nothing to ruffle with an adverse wind. Those henchmen--my boys of the
belt, as it were--Sing Sing Jacob, Puffy the Merchant, and Paddy the
Priest, went working like good retrievers at their task of bringing
daily money to my feet.

Nor was I compelled to appear as one interested in the profits of the
town’s farming, and this of itself was comfort, since it served to keep
me aloof from any mire of those methods that were employed.

It is wonderful how a vile source for a dollar will in no wise daunt a
man, so that he be not made to pick it from the direct mud himself. If
but one hand intervene between his own and that gutter which gave it up,
both his conscience and his sensibilities are satisfied to receive it.
Of all sophists, self-interest is the sophist surest of disciples; it
will carry conviction triumphant against what fact or what deduction may
come to stand in the way, and, with the last of it, “The smell of all
money is sweet.”

But while it was isles of spice and summer seas with my politics,
matters at home went ever darker with increasing threat. Blossom
became weaker and still more weak, and wholly from a difficulty in her
breathing. If she were to have had but her breath, her health would have
been fair enough; and that I say by word of the physician who was there
to attend her, and who was a gray deacon of his guild.

“It is her breathing,” said he; “otherwise her health is good for any
call she might make upon it.”

It was the more strange to one looking on; for all this time while
Blossom was made to creep from one room to another, and, for the most
part, to lie panting upon a couch, her cheeks were round and red as
peaches, and her eyes grew in size and brightness like stars when the
night is dark.

“Would you have her sent away?” I asked of the physician. “Say but the
place; I will take her there myself.”

“She is as well here,” said he. Then, as his brows knotted with the
problem of it: “This is an unusual case; so unusual, indeed, that during
forty years of practice I have never known its fellow. However, it is no
question of climate, and she will be as well where she is. The better;
since she has no breath with which to stand a journey.”

While I said nothing to this, I made up my mind to have done with
politics and take Blossom away. It would, at the worst, mean escape from
scenes where we had met with so much misery. That my present rule of the
town owned still six months of life before another battle, did not move
me. I would give up my leadership and retire at once. It would lose me
half a year of gold-heaping, but what should that concern? What mattered
a handful of riches, more or less, as against the shoreless relief of
seclusion, and Blossom in new scenes of quiet peace? The very newness
would take up her thoughts; and with nothing about to recall what had
been, or to whisper the name of that villain who hurt her heart to the
death, she might have even the good fortune to forget. My decision was
made, and I went quietly forward to bring my politics to a close.

It became no question of weeks nor even days; I convened my district
leaders, and with the few words demanded of the time, returned them
my chiefship and stepped down and out. Politics and I had parted; the
machine and I were done.

At that, I cannot think I saw regret over my going in any of the faces
which stared up at me. There was a formal sorrow of words; but the great
expression to to seize upon each was that of selfish eagerness. I, with
my lion’s share of whatever prey was taken, would be no more; it was the
thought of each that with such the free condition he would be like to
find some special fatness not before his own.

Well! what else should I have looked for?--I, who had done only justice
by them, why should I be loved? Let them exult; they have subserved
my purpose and fulfilled my turn. I was retiring with the wealth of
kings:--I, who am an ignorant man, and the son of an Irish smith! If my
money had been put into gold it would have asked the strength of eighty
teams, with a full ton of gold to a team, to have hauled it out of
town--a solid procession of riches an easy half-mile in length! No
Alexander, no Cæsar, no Napoleon in his swelling day of conquest,
could have made the boast! I was master of every saffron inch of forty
millions!

That evening I sat by Blossom’s couch and told her of my plans. I made
but the poor picture of it, for I have meager power of words, and am
fettered with an imagination of no wings. Still, she smiled up at me as
though with pleasure--for her want of breath was so urgent she could
not speak aloud, but only whisper a syllable now and then--and, after a
while, I kissed her, and left her with the physician and nurse for the
night.

It was during the first hours of the morning when I awoke in a sweat
of horror, as if something of masterful menace were in the room. With a
chill in my blood like the touch of ice, I thought of Blossom; and with
that I began to huddle on my clothes to go to her.

The physician met me at Blossom’s door. He held me back with a gentle
hand on my breast.

“Don’t go in!” he said.

That hand, light as a woman’s, withstood me like a wall. I drew back
and sought a chair in the library--a chair of Blossom’s, it was--and sat
glooming into the darkness in a wonder of fear.

What wits I possess have broad feet, and are not easily to be staggered.
That night, however, they swayed and rocked like drunken men, under the
pressure of some evil apprehension of I knew not what. I suppose now I
feared death for Blossom, and that my thoughts lacked courage to look
the surmise in the face.

An hour went by, and I still in the darkened room. I wanted no lights.
It was as though I were a fugitive, and sought in the simple darkness
a refuge and a place wherein to hide myself. Death was in the house,
robbing me of all I loved; I knew that, and yet I felt no stab of agony,
but instead a fashion of dumb numbness like a paralysis.

In a vague way, this lack of sharp sensation worked upon my amazement.
I remember that, in explanation of it, I recalled one of Morton’s tales
about a traveler whom a lion seized as he sat at his campfire; and how,
while the lion crunched him in his jaws and dragged him to a distance,
he still had no feel of pain, but--as I had then--only a numbness and
fog of nerves.

While this went running in my head, I heard the rattle of someone at the
street door, and was aware, I don’t know how, that another physician had
come. A moment later my ear overtook whisperings in the hall just beyond
my own door.

Moved of an instinct that might have prompted some threatened animal
to spy out what danger overhung him, I went, cat-foot, to the door and
listened. It was the two physicians in talk.

“The girl is dead,” I heard one say.

“What malady?” asked the other.

“And there’s the marvel of it!” cries the first. “No malady at all, as
I’m a doctor! She died of suffocation. The case is without a parallel.
Indubitably, it was that birthmark--that mark as of a rope upon her
neck. Like the grip of destiny itself, the mark has been growing and
tightening about her throat since ever she lay in her cradle, until now
she dies of it. A most remarkable case! It is precisely as though she
were hanged--the congested eye, the discolored face, the swollen tongue,
aye! and about her throat, the very mark of the rope!”

Blossom dead! my girl dead! Apple Cheek, Anne, Blossom, all gone, and
I to be left alone! Alone! The word echoed in the hollows of my empty
heart as in a cavern! There came a blur, and then a fearful whirling;
that gorilla strength was as the strength of children; my slow knees
began to cripple down! That was the last I can recall; I fell as if
struck by a giant’s mallet, and all was black.



CHAPTER XXVIII--BEING THE EPILOGUE


WHAT should there be more? My house stands upon a hill; waving, sighing
trees are ranked about it, while to the eastward I have the shimmering
stretches of the river beneath my feet. From a wooden seat between two
beeches, I may see the fog-loom born of the dust and smoke of the city
far away. At night, when clouds lie thick and low, the red reflection of
the city’s million lamps breaks on the sky as though a fire raged.

It is upon my seat between the beeches that I spend my days. Men would
call my life a stagnant one; I care not, since I find it peace. I have
neither hopes nor fears nor pains nor joys; there come no exaltations,
no depressions; within me is a serenity--a kind of silence like the
heart of nature.

At that I have no dimness; I roll and rock for hours on the dead swells
of old days, while old faces and old scenes toss to and fro like seaweed
with the tides of my memory. I am prey to no regrets, to no ambitions;
my times own neither currents nor winds; I have outlived importance
and the liking for it; and all those little noises that keep the world
awake, I never hear.

My Sicilian, with his earrings and his crimson headwear of silk, is with
me; for he could not have lived had I left him in town, being no more
able to help himself than a ship ashore. Here he is busy and happy over
nothing. He has whittled for himself a trio of little boats, and he
sails them on the pond at the lawn’s foot. One of these he has named the
Democrat, while the others are the Republican and the Mugwump. He sails
them against each other; and I think that by some marine sleight he
gives the Democrat the best of it, since it ever wins, which is not true
of politics. My Sicilian has just limped up the hill with a story of
how, in the last race, the Republican and the Mugwump ran into one
another and capsized, while the Democrat finished bravely.

Save for my Sicilian, and a flock of sable ravens that by their tameness
and a confident self-sufficiency have made themselves part of the
household, I pass the day between my beeches undisturbed. The ravens are
grown so proud with safety that, when I am walking, they often hold
the path against me, picking about for the grains my Sicilian scatters,
keeping upon me the while a truculent eye that is half cautious,
half defiant. In the spring I watch these ravens throughout their
nest-building, they living for the most part in the trees about my
house. I’ve known them to be baffled during a whole two days, when winds
were blowing and the swaying of the branches prevented their labors.

Now and then I have a visit from Morton and the Reverend Bronson. The
pair are as they were, only more age-worn and of a grayer lock. They
were with me the other day; Morton as faultless of garb as ever, and
with eyeglass as much employed, the Reverend Bronson as anxious as in
the old time for the betterment of humanity. The spirit of unselfishness
never flags in that good man’s breast, although Morton is in constant
bicker with him concerning the futility of his work.

“The fault isn’t in you, old chap,” said Morton, when last they were
with me; “it isn’t, really. But humanity in the mass is such a beastly
dullard, don’t y’ know, that to do anything in its favor is casting
pearls before swine.”

“Why, then,” responded the Reverend Bronson with a smile, “if I were
you, I should help mankind for the good it gave me, without once
thinking on the object of my generosity.”

“But,” returned Morton, “I take no personal joy from helping people.
Gad! it wearies me. Man is such a perverse beggar; he’s ever wrong end
to in his affairs. The entire race is like a horse turned round in its
stall, and with its tail in the fodder stands shouting for hay. If men,
in what you call their troubles, would but face the other way about,
nine times in ten they’d be all right. They wouldn’t need help--really!”

“And if what you say be true,” observed the Reverend Bronson, who was as
fond of argument as was Morton, “then you have outlined your duty. You
say folk are turned wrong in their affairs. Then you should help them to
turn right.”

“Really now,” said Morton, imitating concern, “I wouldn’t for the world
have such sentiments escape to the ears of my club, don’t y’ know, for
it’s beastly bad form to even entertain them, but I lay the trouble you
seek to relieve, old chap, to that humbug we call civilization; I do,
‘pon my word!”

“Do you cry out against civilization?”

“Gad! why not? I say it is an artifice, a mere deceit. Take ourselves:
what has it done for any of us? Here is our friend”--Morton dropped his
hand upon my shoulder--“who, taking advantage of what was offered of our
civilization, came to be so far victorious as to have the town for
his kickball. He was a dictator; his word was law among three
millions--really! To-day he has riches, and could pave his grounds
with gold. He was these things, and had these things, from the hand
of civilization; and now, at the end, he sits in the center of sadness
waiting for death. Consider my own case: I, too, at the close of my
juice-drained days, am waiting for death; only, unlike our friend, I
play the cynic and while I wait I laugh.”

“I was never much to laugh,” I interjected.

“The more strange, too, don’t y’ know,” continued Morton, “since you are
aware of life and the mockery of it, as much as I. I may take it that
I came crying into this world, for such I understand to be the beastly
practice of the human young. Had I understood the empty jest of it, I
should have laughed; I should, really!”

“Now with what do you charge civilization?” asked the Reverend Bronson.

“It has made me rich, and I complain of that. The load of my millions
begins to bend my back. A decent, wholesome savagery would have
presented no such burdens.”

“And do you uplift savagery?”

“I don’t wonder you’re shocked, old chap, for from our civilized
standpoint savagery is such deuced bad form. But you should consider;
you should, really! Gad! you know that civilized city where we dwell;
you know its civilized millions, fretting like maggots, as many as four
thousand in a block; you know the good and the evil ground of those
civilized mills! Wherein lieth a triumph over the red savage who abode
upon the spot three centuries ago? Who has liberty as had that savage?
He owned laws and respected them; he had his tribe, and was a patriot
fit to talk with William Tell. He fought his foe like a Richard of
England, and loved his friend like a Jonathan. He paid neither homage to
power nor taxes to men, and his privileges were as wide as the world’s
rim. His franchises of fagot, vert, and venison had never a limit; he
might kill a deer a day and burn a cord of wood to its cookery. As for
his religion: the test of religion is death; and your savage met death
with a fortitude, and what is fortitude but faith, which it would bother
Christians to parallel. It may be said that he lived a happier life, saw
more of freedom, and was more his own man, than any you are to meet in
Broadway.”

Morton, beneath his fluff of cynicism, was a deal in earnest. The
Reverend Bronson took advantage of it to say:

“Here, as you tell us, are we three, and all at the end of the journey.
Here is that one who strove for power: here is that one who strove for
wealth; here is that one who strove to help his fellow man. I give you
the question: Brushing civilization and savagery aside as just no more
than terms to mark some shadowy difference, I ask you: Who of the three
lives most content?--for it is he who was right.”

“By the way!” said Morton, turning to me, as they were about to depart,
and producing a scrap of newspaper, “this is what a scientist writes
concerning you. The beggar must have paid you a call, don’t y’ know.
At first, I thought it a beastly rude thing to put in print; but, gad!
the more I dwell upon it, the more honorable it becomes. This is what he
says of you:

“‘There was a look in his eye such as might burn in the eye of an old
wolf that has crept away in solitude to die. As I gazed, there swept
down upon me an astounding conviction. I felt that I was in the presence
of the oldest thing in the world--a thing more ancient than the Sphinx
or aged pyramids. This once Boss, silent and passive and white and
old, and waiting for the digging of his grave, is what breeders call a
“throw-back”--a throw-back, not of the generations, but of the ages. In
what should arm him for a war of life against life, he is a creature of
utter cunning, utter courage, utter strength. He is a troglodyte; he
is that original one who lived with the cave bear, the mastodon, the
sabertoothed tiger, and the Irish elk.’”

They went away, the Reverend Bronson and Morton, leaving me alone on my
bench between the beeches, while the black ravens picked and strutted
about my feet, and my Sicilian on the lake at the lawn’s foot matching
his little ships for another race.

THE END





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