IN WHICH A MOUSE HELPS A LION
I did not dare communicate my suspicions
to my “dear friend” Roebuck. As it
was, with each refusal I had seen his confidence in
me sink; if he should get an inkling how near to utter
disaster I and my candidate were, he would be upon
me like a tiger upon its trainer when he slips.
I reasoned out my course while we were descending
from the fifth “king’s” office to
our cab: If the negotiations with the opposition
should be successful, I should not get a cent; if
they should fail, Wall Street would be frantic to
get its contributions into my hand; therefore, the
only sane thing to do was to go West, and make such
preparations as I could against the worst.
“Let’s go back to the
Holland,” said I to Roebuck, in a weary, bored
tone. “These people are a waste of time.
I’ll start home to-night, and when they see
in the morning papers that I’ve left for good,
they may come to their senses. But they’ll
have to hunt me out. I’ll not go near them
again. And when they come dragging themselves
to you, don’t forget how they’ve treated
Roebuck was silent, glancing furtively
at me now and then, not knowing what to think.
“How is it possible to win without them?”
he finally said. “This demagogue Scarborough
has set the people crazy. I can’t imagine
what possesses these men of property with interests
throughout the country. They are inviting ruin.”
I smiled. “My dear Roebuck,”
I replied, “do you suppose I’m the man
to put all my eggs into one basket and
that basket Wall Street?”
And I refused to talk any more politics
with him. We dined together, I calm and in the
best of spirits; we went to a musical farce, and he
watched me glumly as I showed my lightness of heart.
Then I went alone, at midnight, to the Chicago Express
sleeper to lie awake all night staring
at the phantoms of ruin that moved in dire panorama
before me. In every great affair there is a crisis
at which one must stake all upon a single throw.
I had staked all upon Wall Street. Without its
contributions, Woodruff’s arrangements could
not be carried out.
When I descended at the Fredonia station
I found De Milt waiting for me. He had news that
was indeed news. I shall give it here more consecutively
than my impatience for the event permitted him to give
it to me.
About ten days before, a paragraph
in one of Burbank’s “pilgrimage”
speeches had been twisted by the reporter so that it
seemed a personal attack upon Scarborough. As
Burbank was a stickler for the etiquette of campaigning,
he not only sent out a denial and a correction but
also directed De Milt to go to Scarborough’s
home at Saint X, Indiana, and convey the explanation
in a personal message. De Milt arrived at Saint
X at eight in the evening. As he was leaving
the parlor car he saw a man emerge from its drawing-room,
make a hasty descent to the platform, hurriedly engage
a station hack and drive away. De Milt had an
amazing memory for identities something
far rarer than memory merely for faces. He was
convinced he knew that man; and being shrewd and quick
of thought, he jumped into a trap and told the driver
to follow the hack which was just disappearing.
A few minutes’ driving and he saw it turn in
at a gateway.
“Whose place is that?” he asked.
“The old Gardiner homestead,”
was the answer. “President Scarborough
De Milt did not discuss this rather
premature entitling of Senator Scarborough. He
said: “Oh I’ve made a mistake,”
descended and sent his trap away. Scarborough’s
house was quiet, not a soul about, lights in only
a few windows. De Milt strolled in at the open
gates and, keeping out of view, made a detour of the
gardens, the “lay” of which he could see
by the starlight. He was soon in line with the
front door his man was parleying with a
servant. “Evidently he’s not expected,”
thought my chief of publicity.
Soon his man entered. De Milt,
keeping in the shadows, moved round the house until
he was close under open windows from which came light
and men’s voices. Peering through a bush
he saw at a table-desk a man whom he recognized as
Senator Scarborough. Seated opposite him, with
a very uneasy, deprecating expression on his face,
was John Thwing, president of the Atlantic and Western
System, and Senator Goodrich’s brother-in-law.
De Milt could not hear what Thwing
was saying, so careful was that experienced voice
to reach only the ears for whom its insinuating subtleties
were intended. But he saw a puzzled look come
into Scarborough’s face, heard him say:
“I don’t think I understand you, John.”
Thwing unconsciously raised his voice
in his reply, and De Milt caught “satisfactory
assurances from you that these alarming views and
intentions attributed to you are false, and they’ll
be glad to exert themselves to elect you.”
Scarborough smiled. “Impossible,”
he said. “Very few of them would support
me in any circumstances.”
“You are mistaken, Hampden,”
was Thwing’s answer. “On the contrary,
Scarborough interrupted with an impatient
motion of his head. “Impossible!”
he repeated. “But in any case, why should
they send you to me? My speeches speak for themselves.
Surely no intelligent man could fancy that my election
would mean harm to any legitimate business, great
or small, East or West. You’ve known me
for twenty years, Thwing. You needn’t come
to me for permission to reassure your friends such
of them as you can honestly reassure.”
“I have been reassuring them,”
Thwing answered. “I tell them that you
are about the last man in the world to permit mob rule.”
“Precisely,” said Scarborough.
“I purpose to continue to do what I can to break
up the mob that is being led on by demagogues disguised
as captains of industry and advance agents of prosperity led
on to pillage the resources of the country, its riches
and its character.”
This ought to have put Thwing on his
guard. But, convinced that the gods he worshiped
must be the gods of all men, whatever they might profess,
he held to his purpose.
“Still, you don’t quite
follow me,” he persisted. “You’ve
said some very disquieting things against some of
my friends of course, they understand that
the exigencies of campaigning, the necessity of rousing
the party spirit, the
Thwing stopped short; De Milt held
his breath. Scarborough was leaning forward,
was holding Thwing’s eyes with one of those looks
that grip. “Do you mean,” said he,
“that, if I’ll assure these friends of
yours that I don’t mean what I say, they’ll
buy me the presidency?”
“My dear Hampden,” expostulated
Thwing, “nothing of the sort. Simply that
the campaign fund which Burbank must get to be elected
won’t go to him, but will be at the disposal
of your national committee. My friends, naturally,
won’t support their enemies.”
De Milt, watching Scarborough, saw
him lower his head, his face flushing deeply.
“Believe me, Hampden,”
continued Thwing, “without our support Burbank
is beaten, and you are triumphantly elected not
otherwise. But you know politics; I needn’t
tell you. You know that the presidency depends
upon getting the doubtful element in the doubtful
Scarborough stood, and, without lifting
his eyes, said in a voice very different from his
strong, clear tones of a few minutes before: “I
suppose in this day no one is beyond the reach of insult.
I have thought I was. I see I have been mistaken.
And it is a man who has known me twenty years and
has called me friend, who has taught me the deep meaning
of the word shame. The servant will show you the
door.” And he left Thwing alone in the
I had made De Milt give me the point
of his story as soon as I saw its drift. While
he was going over it in detail, I was thinking out
all the bearings of Scarborough’s refusal upon
“Has Senator Goodrich seen Governor
Burbank yet?” I asked De Milt in a casual tone,
when he had told how he escaped unobserved in Thwing’s
wake and delivered Burbank’s message the next
“I believe he’s to see
him by appointment to-morrow,” replied De Milt.
So my suspicion was well-founded.
Goodrich, informed of his brother-in-law’s failure,
was posting to make peace on whatever terms he could
honeyfugle out of my conciliation-mad candidate.
A few minutes later I shut myself
in with the long-distance telephone and roused Burbank
from bed and from sleep. “I am coming by
the first train to-morrow,” I said. “I
thought you’d be glad to know that I’ve
made satisfactory arrangements in New York unexpectedly
“That’s good excellent,”
came the reply. I noted an instant change of
tone which told me that Burbank had got, by some underground
route, news of my failure in New York and had been
preparing to give Goodrich a cordial reception.
“If Goodrich comes, James,”
I went on, “don’t see him till I’ve
A pause, then in a strained voice:
“But I’ve given him an appointment at
“Put him off till noon.
I’ll be there at eleven. It’s imperative.”
That last word with an accent I did not like to use,
but knew how to use and when.
Another pause, then: “Very
well, Harvey. But we must be careful about him.
De Milt has told you how dangerous he is, hasn’t
“Yes how dangerous
he tried to be.” I was about to add that
Goodrich was a fool to permit any one to go to such
a man as Scarborough with such a proposition; but
I bethought me of Burbank’s acute moral sensitiveness
and how it would be rasped by the implication of his
opponent’s moral superiority. “We’re
past the last danger, James. That’s all.
Sleep sound. Good night.”
“Good night, old man,”
was his reply in his pose’s tone for affection.
But I could imagine him posing there in his night shirt,
the anger against me snapping in his eyes.
On the train the next morning, De
Milt, who had evidently been doing a little thinking,
said, “I hope you won’t let it out to Cousin
James that I told you Goodrich was coming to see him.”
“Certainly not,” I replied,
not losing the opportunity to win over to myself one
so near to my political ward. “I’m
deeply obliged to you for telling me.”
And presently I went on: “By the way, has
anything been done for you for your brilliant work
at Saint X?”
“Oh, that’s all right,”
he said, “I guess Cousin James’ll look
after me unless he forgets about it.”
“Cousin James” had always had the habit
of taking favors for granted unless reward was pressed
for; and since he had become a presidential candidate,
he was inclining more than ever to look on a favor
done him as a high privilege which was its own reward.
I made no immediate reply to De Milt;
but just before we reached the capital, I gave him
a cheque for five thousand dollars. “A little
expression of gratitude from the party,” said
I. “Your reward will come later.”
From that hour he was mine, for he knew now by personal
experience that “the boys” were right in
calling me appreciative.
It is better to ignore a debt than to pay with words.