To begin with, I am going to call things by their real name. At first
glance this statement will give you a shiver of terror, that is, if you
happen to be a maiden lady or a gentleman with reversible cuffs. But
your shivers will be without reason. Prue may read, and modest Prue’s
mama; for it isn’t going to be a naughty story; on the contrary,
grandma’s spring medicines are less harmless. Yet, there is a parable to
expound and a moral to point out; but I shall leave these to your own
It has always appealed to me as rather a silly custom on a
story-teller’s part to invent names for the two great political parties
of the United States; and for my part, I am going to call a Democrat a
Democrat and a Republican a Republican, because these titles are not so
hallowed in our time as to be disguised in print and uttered in a bated
breath. There is no _lèse-majesté_ in America.
Men inclined toward the evil side of power will be found in all parties,
and always have been. Unlike society, the middle class in politics
usually contains all the evil elements. In politics the citizen becomes
the lowest order, and the statesman the highest; and, thanks to the
common sense of the race, these are largely honest and incorruptible.
When these become disintegrated, a republic falls.
Being a journalist and a philosopher, I look upon both parties with
tolerant contempt. The very nearness of some things disillusions us; and
I have found that only one illusion remains to the newspaper man, and
that is that some day he’ll get out of the newspaper business. I vote as
I please, though the family does not know this. The mother is a
Republican and so is the grandmother; and loving peace in the house, I
dub myself a Republican till that moment when I enter the voting-booth.
Then I become an individual who votes as his common sense directs.
The influence of woman in politics is no inconsiderable matter. The
great statesman may flatter himself that his greatness is due to his
oratorical powers; but his destiny is often decided at the
breakfast-table. Why four-fifths of the women lean toward Republicanism
is something no mere historian can analyze.
In my town politics had an evil odor. For six years a Democrat had been
mayor, and for six years the town had been plundered. For six years the
Republicans had striven, with might and main, to regain the power …
and the right to plunder. It did not matter which party ruled, graft
(let us omit the quotation marks) was the tocsin. The citizens were
robbed, openly or covertly, according to the policy of the party in
office. There was no independent paper in town; so, from one month’s end
to another it was leaded editorial vituperation. Then Caliban revolted.
An independent party was about to be formed.
The two bosses, however, were equal to the occasion. They immediately
hustled around and secured as candidates for the mayoralty two prominent
young men whose honesty and integrity were unimpeachable. Caliban, as is
his habit, sheathed his sword and went back to his bench, his desk, or
whatever his occupation was.
On the Republican side they nominated a rich young club-man. Now, as you
will readily agree, it is always written large on the political banner
that a man who is rich has no incentive to become a grafter. The public
is ever willing to trust its funds to a millionaire. The Democrats, with
equal cunning, brought forward a brilliant young attorney, whose income
was rather moderate but whose ability and promise were great. The
Democratic organs hailed his nomination with delight.
“We want one of the people to represent us, not one of the privileged
class.” You see, there happened to be no rich young Democrat available.
These two candidates were close personal friends. They had been chums
from boyhood and had been graduated from the same college. They belonged
to the same clubs, and were acknowledged to be the best horsemen in
town. As to social prominence, neither had any advantage over the other,
save in the eyes of matrons who possessed marriageable (and extravagant)
daughters. Williard, the Republican nominee, was a handsome chap,
liberal-minded and generous-hearted, without a personal enemy in the
world. I recollect only one fault: he loved the world a little too well.
The opposition organs, during the heat of the campaign, dropped vague
hints regarding dinners to singers and actresses and large stakes in
poker games. Carrington, his opponent, was not handsome, but he had a
fine clean-cut, manly face, an intrepid eye, a resolute mouth, and a
tremendous ambition. He lived well within his income, the highest
recommendation that may be paid to a young man of these days.
He threw himself into the fight with all the ardor of which his nature
was capable; whereas Williard was content to let the machine direct his
movements. The truth is, Williard was indifferent whether he became
mayor or not. To him the conflict was a diversion, a new fish to
Lucullus; and when the Democratic organs wrote scathing editorials about
what they termed his profligate career, he would laugh and exhibit the
articles at the club. It was all a huge joke. He made very few speeches,
and at no time could he be forced into the foreign districts. He
complained that his olfactory nerve was too delicately educated. The
leaders swallowed their rancor; there was nothing else for them to do.
In Williard’s very lack of ambition lay his strength. Poverty would have
made a great man out of him; but riches have a peculiar way of numbing
the appreciation of the greater and simpler things in life.
Carrington went everywhere; the Poles hurrahed for him, the Germans, the
Irish, the Huns and the Italians. And he made no promises which he did
not honestly intend to fulfil. To him the fight meant everything; it
meant fame and honor, a comfortable addition to his income, and
Washington as a finality. He would purify the Democrats while he
annihilated the pretensions of the Republicans. He was what historians
call an active dreamer, a man who dreams and then goes forth to
accomplish things. His personality was engaging.
Besides all this (for the secret must be told) Carrington was in love
and wished to have all these things to lay at the feet of his beloved,
even if she returned them. You will regularly find it to be true that
the single man is far more ambitious than his married brother. The
latter invariably turns over the contract to his wife.
Williard was deeply in love, too, with Senator Gordon’s lovely daughter,
and Senator Gordon was that mysterious power which directed the
Republican forces in his section of the state. So you may readily
believe that Carrington was forced to put up a better fight than
Williard, who stood high in Senator Gordon’s favor. The girl and the two
young men had been friends since childhood, and nobody knew whether she
cared for either of them in the way they desired. Everybody in town, who
was anybody, understood the situation; and everybody felt confident that
Williard was most likely to win. The girl never said anything, even to
her intimate friends; but when the subject was brought up, she smiled in
a way that dismissed it.
Such was the political situation at the beginning of the municipal
campaign. There have been like situations in any number of cities which
boast of one hundred thousand inhabitants or more; perhaps in your town,
and yours, and yours. That bugaboo of the politician, reform, brings
round this phenomenon about once in every eight years. For a while the
wicked ones promise to be good, and you will admit that that helps.
It was amusing to follow the newspapers. They vilified each other,
ripped to shreds the character of each candidate, recalled boyhood
escapades and magnified them into frightful crimes, and declared in turn
that the opposition boss should land in the penitentiary if it took all
the type in the composing-rooms to do it. What always strikes me as odd
is that, laughter-loving people that we are, nobody laughs during these
foolish periods. Instead, everybody goes about, straining his conscience
and warping his common sense into believing these flimsy campaign lies,
these political roorbacks.
When Williard and Carrington met at the club, at the Saturday-night
luncheons, they avoided each other tactfully, each secretly longing to
grasp the other’s hand and say: “Don’t believe a word of it, old boy;
it’s all tommy-rot.” But policy held them at arm’s length. What would
the voters say if they heard that their respective candidates were
hobnobbing at a private club? Carrington played billiards in the
basement while Williard played a rubber at whist up stairs; and the
Saturday rides out to the country club became obsolete. Only a few
cynics saw the droll side of the situation; and they were confident that
when the election was over the friendship would be renewed all the more
strongly for the tension.
One night, some weeks before the election, Williard dined alone with the
senator at the Gordon home. Betty Gordon was dining elsewhere. With the
cognac and cigars, the senator drew out a slip of paper, scrutinized it
for a space, then handed it to his protégé.
“That’s the slate. How do you like it?”
Williard ran his glance up and down the columns. Once he frowned.
“What’s the matter?” asked the senator shrewdly.
“I do not like the idea of Matthews for commissioner of public works.
He’s a blackleg,–there’s no getting around that. He practically runs
that faro-bank above his down-town saloon. Can’t you put some one else
in his place?”
The senator filliped the ash from the end of his cigar.
“Honestly, my boy, I agree with your objection; but the word is given,
and if we turn him down now, your friend Carrington will stand a pretty
fair show of being the next mayor.”
“You might get a worse one,” Williard laughed. “Jack is one of the
finest fellows in the world,”–loyally.
“Not a bit of doubt; but politically,” said the senator, laughing, “he
is a rascal, a man without a particle of character, and all that. But
personally speaking, I would that this town had more like him. Win or
lose, he will always be welcome in this house. But this Matthews matter;
you will have to swallow him or be swallowed.”
“He’s a rascal.”
“Perhaps he is. Once you are elected, however, you can force him out,
and be hanged to him. Just now it would be extremely dangerous. My boy,
politics has strange bed-fellows, as the saying goes. These men are
necessary; to fight them is to cut your own throat. No one knows just
how they get their power; but one morning you wake up and find them
menacing you, and you have to placate them and toss them sops.”
“I might at least have been consulted.”
“I appreciated your antagonism beforehand. Politics is a peculiar
business. A man must form about himself a shell as thick as a turtle’s,
or his feelings are going to be hurt. Now, if you would like to change
any of these smaller offices, the health department doesn’t matter. What
do you say?”
“Oh, if Matthews remains on the slate, I do not care to alter the rest
of it. But I warn you that I shall get rid of him at the earliest
“Just as you like.”
The senator smiled covertly. Matthews was one of his henchmen in the
larger matters of state. His name had been the first to appear on the
slate, and the senator was determined that it should remain there. Not
that he had any liking for the man; simply he was one of the wheels
which made the machine run smoothly. The senator knew his power of
persuasion; he knew Williard’s easy-going nature; but he also knew that
these easy-going persons are terribly stubborn at times. He was obliged
to hold on to Matthews. The gubernatorial campaign was looming up for
the ensuing year, and the senator was curious to learn the real power
that went with the seal of a governor of a first-class state.
There fell an intermission to the conversation. Williard smoked
thoughtfully. He recalled the years during which he had accepted the
generous hospitality of this house, and the love he held for the host’s
daughter. Only since his return from abroad had he learned the strength
of his sentiment. Heretofore he had looked upon the girl as a sister,
jolly, talented, a fine dancer, a daring rider, a good comrade. He had
been out of the country for three years. On his return he had found
Betty Gordon a beautiful woman, and he had silently surrendered. As yet
he had said nothing, but he knew that she knew. Yet he always saw the
shadow of Carrington, old Jack Carrington. Well, let the best man win!
“I can find a way to dispose of Matthews,” he said finally.
“I dare say.”
But Williard did not know the tenacity with which some men cling to
office. The senator did.
Here the servant ushered in two lieutenants of the senator’s. One was an
ex-consul and the other was the surveyor of customs, who was not
supposed to dabble in local politics.
“Everything is agreeable to Mr. Williard,” the senator answered in reply
to the questioning looks of his subordinates. “He vows, however, that he
will shake Matthews when he gets the chance.”
The new arrivals laughed.
“We’ll put you through, young man,” said the ex-consul; “and one of
these fine days we shall send you to France. That’s the place for a man
of your wit and wealth.”
Williard smiled and lighted a fresh cigar. He did possess the reputation
of being a clever wit, and in his secret heart he would much prefer a
consulate or a secretaryship at the French embassy. He thoroughly
detested this indiscriminate hand-shaking which went with local
But Matthews stuck in his gorge, and he wondered if Carrington was
going through any like ordeal, and if Carrington would submit so
readily…. Why the deuce didn’t Betty return? It was almost nine
Presently her sunny countenance appeared in the doorway, and Williard
dropped his cigar joyfully and rose. It was worth all the politics in
“Gentlemen, you will excuse me,” he said.
“Go along!” the senator cried jovially. “We can spare you.”
As indeed they very well could!
In a minute Williard was in the music-room.
“I really do not know that I ought to shake hands with you, Dick,” began
Betty, tossing her hat on the piano. “You have deceived me for years.”
“Deceived you! What do you mean?”–mightily disturbed.
“Wait a moment.” She brought forth a paper. “Sit down in front of me.
This is going to be a court of inquiry, and your sins shall be passed
in review.” He obeyed meekly. “Now listen,” the girl went on, mischief
in her eyes; “this paper says horrid things about you. It claims that
you have given riotous dinners to actresses and comic-opera singers. I
classify them because I do not think comic-opera singers are actresses.”
“Rot!” said Williard, crossing his legs and eying with pleasure the
contours of her face. “Jolly rot!”
“You mustn’t say ‘jolly’ in this country; it’s English, and they’ll be
accusing you of it.”
“Well, bally rot; how will that go?”
“That isn’t very pretty, but it will pass. Now, to proceed. They say
that your private life is profligate.”
“Oh, come now, Betty!” laughing diffidently.
“They say that you gamble at poker and win and lose huge sums.”
“Your father plays poker in Washington; I’ve seen him.”
“He’s not on trial; _you_ are. Furthermore,” went on the girl, the
twinkle going from her eye, leaving it searching yet unfathomable, “this
editor says that you are only a dummy in this game of politics, and that
once you are mayor, your signature will be all that will be required of
you. That is to say, you will be nothing but a puppet in the hands of
the men who brought about your election.”
Williard thought of Matthews, and the smile on his lips died.
“Now, Dick, this paper says that it seeks only the truth of things, and
admits that you possess certain engaging qualities. What am I to
“Betty, you know very well that they’ll have me robbing the widows
before election.” He was growing restless. He felt that this trial
wasn’t all play. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather talk of something else.
Politics, politics, morning, noon and night until my ears ache!”
“Or burn,” suggested the girl. “The things they say about your private
life–I don’t care for them. I know that they are not truths. But the
word ‘puppet’ annoys me.” She laid aside the paper.
“Have I ever acted like a dummy, Betty? In justice to me, have I?” He
“Not in ordinary things.”
“No one has ever heard that I broke a promise.”
“Or that I was cowardly.”
“Well, if I am elected, I shall fool certain persons. I am easy-going; I
confess to that impeachment; but I have never been crossed
“They’ll know how to accomplish their ends without crossing you. That’s
a part of the politician’s business.”
“If I am elected, I’ll study ways and means. Hang it, I wasn’t running
after office. They said that they needed me. As a property owner I had
to surrender. I am not a hypocrite; I never was. I can’t go honestly
among the lower classes and tell them that I like them, shake their
grimy hands, hobnob with them at caucuses and in gloomy halls. I am not
a politician; my father was not before me; it isn’t in my blood. I
haven’t the necessary ambition. Carrington’s grandfather was a
war-governor; mine was a planter in the South. Now, Carrington has
ambition enough to carry him to the presidency; and I hope he’ll get it
some day, and make an ambassador out of me. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t
rich, so that I might enjoy life as some persons do. To have something
to fight for constantly! I am spoiled.”
He wheeled his chair toward the fire and rested his elbows on his knees.
“He’s very handsome,” thought the girl; but she sighed.
That same evening Carrington and McDermott, the Democratic leader, met
by appointment in the former’s law-offices. McDermott was a wealthy
steel-manufacturer who had held various state and national offices. As
a business man his policy was absolute honesty. He gave liberal wages,
met his men personally, and adjusted their differences. There were as
many Republicans as Democrats in his employ. Politics never entered the
shop. Every dollar in his business had been honestly earned. He was a
born leader, kindly, humorous, intelligent. But once he put on his silk
hat and frock coat, a metamorphosis, strange and incomprehensible, took
place. He became altogether a different man; cold, purposeful,
determined, bitter, tumbling over obstacles without heart or conscience,
using all means to gain his devious ends; scheming, plotting,
undermining this man or elevating that, a politician in every sense of
the word; cunning, astute, long-headed, far-seeing. He was not suave
like his old enemy, the senator; he was blunt because he knew the
fullness of his power. But for all his bluntness, he was, when need said
must, a diplomat of no mean order. If he brought about a shady election,
he had the courage to stand by what he had done. He was respected and
The present incumbent in the city hall was no longer of use to him. He
was wise enough to see that harm to his power would come about in case
the reform movement got headway; he might even be dethroned. So his
general’s eye had lighted on Carrington, as the senator’s had lighted on
Williard; only he had mistaken his man where the senator had not.
“My boy,” he began, “I’m going to lecture you.”
“Go ahead,” said Carrington. “I know what the trouble is. I crossed out
Mr. Murphy’s name from the list you fixed up for my inspection.”
“And his name must go back,”–smiling. “We can’t afford to turn him down
at this late day.”
“I can,” said the protégé imperturbably and firmly.
For a moment their glances met and clashed.
“You must always remember the welfare of the party,”–gently.
“And the people,” supplemented the admonished one.
“Of course,”–with thin lips. “But Murphy’s name must stand. We depend
upon the eighth ward to elect you, and Murphy holds it in his palm. Your
friend Williard will be forced to accept Matthews for the same reason.
It’s a game of chess, but a great game.”
“Matthews? I don’t believe it. Williard would not speak to him on the
street, let alone put him on the ticket.”
“Wait and see.”
“He’s a blackleg, a gambler, worse than Murphy.”
“And what is your grievance against Murphy? He has always served the
“Not to speak of Mr. Murphy.”
“What has he done?”
“He has sold his vote three times in the common council. He sold it once
for two thousand dollars in that last pavement deal. I have been rather
observant. Let him remain alderman; I can not see my way clear to
appoint him to a position in the city hall.”
McDermott’s eyes narrowed. “Your accusations are grave. If Murphy
learns, he may make you prove it.”
Carrington remained silent for a few minutes, his face in thoughtful
repose; then having decided to pursue a certain course, he reached into
a pigeon-hole of his desk and selected a paper which he gave to
McDermott. The latter studied the paper carefully. From the paper his
glance traveled to the face of the young man opposite him. He wondered
why he hadn’t taken more particular notice of the cleft chin and the
blue-gray eyes. Had he made a mistake? Was the young fellow’s honesty
greater than his ambition? McDermott returned the paper without comment.
“Is that proof enough?” Carrington asked, a bit of raillery in his
“You should have told me of this long ago.”
“I hadn’t the remotest idea that Murphy’s name would turn up. You can
very well understand that I can not consider this man’s name as an
“Why hasn’t it been turned over to the district attorney?”
“The plaintiff is a patient man. He left it to me. It is a good sword,
and I may have to hold it over Mr. Murphy’s neck.”
“The Democratic party in this county needs a strong tonic in the nature
of a clean bill. I want my appointees men of high standing; I want them
honest; I want them not for what they have done, but what they may do.”
McDermott smiled again. “I have made a mistake in not coming to you
earlier. There is a great future for a man of your kidney, Carrington.
You have a genuine talent for politics. You possess something that only
a dozen men in a hundred thousand possess, a tone. Words are empty
things unless they are backed by a tone. Tone holds the auditor,
convinces him, directs him if by chance he is wavering. You are a born
orator. Miller retires from Congress next year. His usefulness in
Washington has passed. How would you like to succeed him?”
Insidious honey! Carrington looked out of the window. Washington! A
seat among the Seats of the Mighty! A torch-light procession was passing
through the street below, and the noise of the fife and drum rose. The
world’s applause; the beating of hands, the yells of triumph, the
laudation of the press,–the world holds no greater thrill than this.
Art and literature stand pale beside it. But a worm gnawed at the heart
of this rose, a cancer ate into the laurel. Carrington turned. He was by
no means guileless.
“When I accepted this nomination, I did so because I believed that the
party was in danger, and that, if elected, I might benefit the people. I
have remained silent; I have spoken but little of my plans; I have made
few promises. Mr. McDermott, I am determined, first and foremost, to be
mayor in all the meaning of the word. I refuse to be a figure-head. I
have crossed out Murphy’s name because he is a dishonest citizen. Yes, I
am ambitious; but I would forego Washington rather than reach it by
shaking Murphy’s hand.” The blood of the old war-governor tingled in
his veins at that moment.
“It must be replaced,”–quietly.
“In face of that document?”
“In spite of it.”
“Listen to reason, my boy; you are young, and you have to learn that in
politics there’s always a bitter pill with the sweet. To elect you I
have given my word to Murphy that he shall have the office.”
“You may send Mr. Murphy to me,” said Carrington curtly. “I’ll take all
“This is final?”
“It is. And I am surprised that you should request this of me.”
“He will defeat you.”
“So be it.”
McDermott was exceedingly angry, but he could not help admiring the
young man’s resoluteness and direct honesty.
“You are making a fatal mistake. I shall make an enemy of the man, and I
shall not be able to help you. I have a great deal at stake. If we lose
the eighth, we lose everything, and for years to come.”
“Perhaps. One dishonest step leads to another, and if I should sanction
this man, I should not hesitate at greater dishonesty. My honesty is my
bread and butter … and my conscience.”
“Corporations have no souls; politics has no conscience. Williard….”
“My name is Carrington,”–abruptly. “In a matter of this kind I can not
permit myself to be subjected to comparisons. You brought about my
present position in municipal affairs.”
“We had need of you, and still need you,” confessed the other
reluctantly. “The party needs new blood.”
“You are a clever man, Mr. McDermott; you are a leader; let me appeal to
your better judgment. Murphy is a blackguard, and he would be in any
party, in any country. In forcing him on me, you rob me of my
McDermott shrugged. “In this case he is a necessary evil. The success
of the party depends upon his good will. Listen. Will you find, in all
this wide land, a ruling municipality that is incorrupt? Is there not a
fly in the ointment whichever way you look? Is not dishonesty fought
with dishonesty; isn’t it corruption against corruption? Do you believe
for a minute that you can bring about this revolution? No, my lad; no.
This is a workaday world; Utopia is dreamland. You can easily keep your
eye on this man. If he makes a dishonest move, you can find it in your
power to remove him effectually. But I swear to you that he is
“Well, I will assume the risk of his displeasure.”
“Show him your document, and tell him that if he leaves you in the lurch
at the polls, you’ll send him to prison. That’s the only way out.”
McDermott thought he saw light.
“Make a blackmailer of myself? Hardly.”
“I am sorry.” McDermott rose. “You are digging a pit for a very bright
“If you are defeated, there is no possible method of sending you to
Washington in Miller’s place. You must have popularity to back you. I
have observed that you are a very ambitious young man.”
“Not so ambitious as to obscure my sense of right.”
“I like your pluck, my boy, though it stands in your own light. I’ll do
all I can to pacify Murphy. Good night and good luck to you.” And
McDermott made his departure.
Carrington remained motionless in his chair, studying the night. So much
for his dreams! He knew what McDermott’s “I’ll do what I can” meant. If
only he had not put his heart so thoroughly into the campaign! Was there
any honesty? Was it worth while to be true to oneself? Murphy controlled
nearly four hundred votes. For six years the eighth ward had carried the
Democratic party into victory. Had he turned this aside? For years the
elections had been like cheese-parings; and in ten years there hadn’t
been a majority of five hundred votes on either side. If Murphy was a
genuine party man, and not a leech, he would stand square for his party
and not consider personal enmity. What would he do when he heard from
McDermott that he (Carrington) had deliberately crossed him off the
ticket of appointees?
From among some old papers in a drawer Carrington produced the portrait
of a young girl of sixteen in fancy dress. When he had studied this a
certain length of time, he took out another portrait: it was the young
girl grown into superb womanhood. The eyes were kind and merry, the
mouth beautiful, the brow fine and smooth like a young poet’s, a nose
with the slightest tilt; altogether a high-bred, queenly, womanly face,
such as makes a man desire to do great things in the world. Carrington
had always loved her. He had gone through the various phases: the boy,
the diffident youth, the man. (Usually it takes three women to bring
about these changes!) There was nothing wild or incoherent in his love,
nothing violent or passionate; rather the serene light, the steady
burning light, that guides the ships at sea; constant, enduring, a sure
As he studied the face from all angles, his jaws hardened. He lifted his
chin defiantly. He had the right to love her; he had lived cleanly, he
had dealt justly to both his friends and his enemies, he owed no man, he
was bound only to his mother, who had taught him the principles of manly
living. He had the right to love any woman in the world…. And there
was Williard,–handsome, easy-going old Dick! Why was it written that
their paths must cross in everything? Yes, Dick loved her, too, but with
an affection that had come only with majority. Williard had everything
to offer besides. Should he step down and aside for his friend? Did
friendship demand such a sacrifice? No! Let Williard fight for her as he
(Carrington) intended to fight for her; and if Williard won, there would
be time then to surrender.
It was almost twelve when the scrub-woman aroused him from his reveries.
He closed his desk and went home, his heart full of battle. He would
put up the best fight that was in him, for love and for fame; and if he
lost he would still have his manhood and self-respect, which any woman
might be proud to find at her feet, to accept or decline. He would go
into Murphy’s own country and fight him openly and without secret
weapons. He knew that he held it in his power to coerce Murphy, but that
Neither of the candidates slept well that night.
So the time went forward. The second Tuesday in November was but a
fortnight off. Carrington fought every inch of ground. He depended but
little, if any, upon McDermott’s assistance, though that gentleman came
gallantly to his rescue, as it was necessary to save his own scalp. It
crept into the papers that there was a rupture between Murphy and the
Democratic candidate. The opposition papers cried in glee; the others
remained silent. Murphy said nothing when questioned; he simply smiled.
Carrington won the respect of his opponents. The laboring classes saw
in him a Moses, and they hailed him with cheers whenever they saw him.
There were many laughable episodes during the heat of the campaign; but
Carrington knew how and when to laugh. He answered questions from the
platform, and the ill-mannered were invariably put to rout by his
good-natured wit. Once they hoisted him on top of a bar in an obscure
saloon. His shoulders touched the gloomy ceiling, and he was forced to
address the habitués, with his head bent like a turtle’s, his nose and
eyes offended by the heat and reek of kerosene and cheap tobacco. They
had brought him there to bait him; they carried him out on their
shoulders. To those who wanted facts he gave facts; to some he told
humorous stories; and to others he spoke his sincere convictions.
Meantime Williard took hold of affairs, but in a bored fashion. He did
the best he knew how, but it wasn’t the best that wins high places in
the affections of the people.
The betting was even.
Election day came round finally–one of those rare days when the pallid
ghost of summer returns to view her past victories, when the broad wings
of the West go a-winnowing the skies, and the sun shines warm and
grateful. On that morning a change took place in Carrington’s heart. He
became filled with dread. After leaving the voting-polls early in the
morning, he returned to his home and refused to see any one. He even had
the telephone wires cut. Only his mother saw him, and hovered about him
with a thousand kindly attentions. At the door she became a veritable
dragon; not even telegraph messengers could pass her or escape her
At six in the evening Carrington ordered around his horse. He mounted
and rode away into the hill country south of the city, into the cold
crisp autumn air. There was fever in his veins that needed cooling;
there were doubts and fears in his mind that needed clearing. He wanted
that sense of physical exhaustion which makes a man indifferent to
The day passed and the night came. Election night! The noisy,
good-natured crowds in the streets, the jostling, snail-moving crowds!
The illuminated canvas-sheets in front of the newspaper offices! The
blare of horns, the cries, the yells, the hoots and hurrahs! The petty
street fights! The stalled surface-cars, the swearing cabbies, the
venders of horns and whistles, the newsboys hawking their extras! It is
the greatest of all spectacular nights; humanity comes out into the
The newspaper offices were yellow with lights. It was a busy time. There
was a continuous coming and going of messengers, bringing in returns.
The newspaper men took off their coats and rolled up their sleeves.
Figures, figures, thousands of figures to sift and resift! Filtering
through the various noises was the maddening click of the telegraph
instruments. Great drifts of waste paper littered the floors. A sandwich
man served coffee and sandwiches. The chief distributed cigars.
Everybody was writing, writing. Five men were sent out to hunt for
Carrington, but none could find him. His mother refused to state where
he had gone; in fact, she knew nothing save that he had gone horseback
At nine there was a gathering at the club. Williard was there, and all
who had charge of the wheels within wheels. They had ensconced
themselves in the huge davenports in the bow-window facing the street,
and had given orders to the steward to charge everything that night to
Senator Gordon. A fabulous number of corks were pulled; but gentlemen
are always orderly.
Williard, however, seemed anything but happy. He had dined at the
senator’s that evening, and something had taken place there which the
general public would never learn. He was gloomy, and the wine he drank
only added to his gloom.
The younger element began to wander in, carrying those execrable
rooster-posters. A gay time ensued.
Carrington had ridden twelve miles into the country. At eight o’clock
the temperature changed and it began to snow. He turned and rode back
toward the city, toward victory or defeat. Sometimes he went at a
canter, sometimes at a trot. By and by he could see the aureola from the
electric lights wavering above the city. Once he struck a wind-match and
glanced at his watch. Had he lost or had he won? A whimsical inspiration
came to him. He determined to hear victory or defeat from the lips of
the girl he loved. The snow fell softly into his face and melted. His
hair became matted over his eyes; his gauntlets dripped and the reins
became slippery; a steam rose from the horse’s body, a big-hearted
hunter on which he had ridden many a mile.
“Good boy!” said Carrington; “we’ll have it first from her lips.”
Finally he struck the asphalt of the city limits, and he slowed down to
a walk. He turned into obscure streets. Whenever he saw a bonfire, he
It was ten o’clock when he drew up in front of the Gordon home. He tied
his horse to the post with the hitching-chain and knotted the reins so
that they would not slip over the horse’s head, wiped his face with his
handkerchief, and walked bravely up to the veranda. There were few
lights. Through the library window he saw the girl standing at the
telephone. He prayed that she might be wholly alone. After a moment’s
hesitation he pressed the button and waited.
Betty herself came to the door. She peered out.
“What is it?” she asked.
“I did not expect that you would recognize me,” said Carrington,
“John? Where in the world did you come from?”–taking him by the arm and
dragging him into the hall. “Good gracious!”
“The truth is, Betty, I took to my heels at six o’clock, and have been
riding around the country ever since.” He sent her a penetrating glance.
“Come in to the fire,” she cried impulsively. “You are cold and wet and
“Only wet,” he admitted as he entered the cheerful library. He went
directly to the blazing grate and spread out his red, wet, aching hands.
He could hear her bustling about; it was a pleasant sound. A chair
rolled up to the fender; the rattle of a tea-table followed. It was all
very fine. “I ought to be ashamed to enter a house in these reeking
clothes,” he said; “but the temptation was too great.”
“You are always welcome, John,”–softly.
His keen ear caught the melancholy sympathy in her tone. He shrugged. He
had lost the fight. Had he won, she would already have poured forth her
“Sit down,” she commanded, “while I get the tea. Or would you prefer
“The tea, by all means. I do not need brandy to bolster up my courage.”
He sat down.
She left the room and returned shortly with biscuit and tea. She filled
a cup, put in two lumps of sugar, and passed the cup to him.
“You’ve a good memory,” he said, smiling at her. “It’s nice to have
one’s likes remembered, even in a cup of tea. I look as if I had been to
war, don’t I?”
She buttered a biscuit. He ate it, not because he was hungry, but
because her fingers had touched it. It was a phantom kiss. He put the
“Now, which is it; have I been licked, or have I won?”
“What!” she cried; “do you mean to tell me you do not know?” She gazed
at him bewilderedly.
“I have been four hours in the saddle. I know nothing, save that which
instinct and the sweet melancholy of your voice tell me. Betty, I’ve
been licked, haven’t I, and old Dick has gone and done it, eh?”
The girl choked for a moment; there was a sob in her throat.
Carrington reached over and tapped the hearth with his riding-crop,
absent-mindedly. The girl gazed at him, her eyes shining in a mist of
unshed tears…. She longed to reach out her hand and smooth the
furrows from his care-worn brow, to brush the melting crystals of snow
from his hair; longed to soothe the smart of defeat which she knew was
burning his heart. She knew that only strong men suffer in silence.
From a half-opened window the night breathed upon them, freighted with
the far-off murmur of voices.
“I confess to you that I built too much on the outcome. I am ambitious;
I want to be somebody, to take part in the great affairs of the world. I
fought the very best I knew how. I had many dreams. Do you recollect the
verses I used to write to you when we were children? There was always
something of the poet in me, and it is still there, only it no longer
develops on paper. I had looked toward Washington … even toward you,
Silence. The girl sat very still. Her face was white and her eyes large.
“I am honest. I can see now that I have no business in politics….” He
laughed suddenly and turned toward the girl. “I was on the verge of
wailing. I’m licked, and I must begin all over again. Dick will make a
good mayor, that is, if they leave him alone…. Whimsical, wasn’t it,
of me, coming here to have you tell me the news.” He looked away.
The girl smiled and held out her hand to him, and as he did not see it,
laid it gently on his sleeve.
“It does not matter, John. Some day you will realize all your ambitions.
You are not the kind of man who gives up. Defeat is a necessary step to
greatness; and you will become great. I am glad that you came to me.”
She knew now; all her doubts were gone, all the confusing shadows.
Carrington turned and touched her hand with his lips.
“Why did you come to me?” she asked with fine courage.
His eyes widened. “Why did I come to you? If I had won I should have
told you. But I haven’t won; I have lost.”
“Does that make the difference so great?”
“It makes the difficulty greater.”
“Tell me!”–with a voice of command.
They both rose suddenly, rather unconsciously, too. Their glances held,
magnet and needle-wise. Across the street a bonfire blazed, and the
ruddy light threw a mellow rose over their strained faces.
“I love you,” he said simply. “That is what drew me here, that is what
has always drawn me here. But say nothing to me, Betty. God knows I am
not strong enough to suffer two defeats in one night. God bless you and
make you happy!”
He turned and took a few steps toward the door.
“If it were not defeat … if it were victory?” she said, in a kind of
whisper, her hands tense on the back of her chair.
The senator came in about midnight. He found his daughter asleep in a
chair before a half-dead fire. There was a tender smile on her lips. He
touched her gently.
“It is you, daddy?” Her glance traveled from his florid countenance to
the clock. “Mercy! I have been dreaming these two hours.”
“What do you suppose Carrington did to-night?”–lighting a cigar.
“What did he do?”
“Came into the club and congratulated Williard publicly.”
“He did that?” cried the girl, her cheeks dyeing exquisitely.
“Did it like a man, too.” The senator dropped into a chair. “It was a
great victory, my girl.”
Betty smiled. “Yes, it was.”