A CERTAIN fallen angel (politeness toward his numerous and influential friends forbids me to mention his name abruptly) lately entered into the body of Mr. Ananias Pullwool, of Washington, D. C.
As the said body was a capacious one, having been greatly enlarged circumferentially since it acquired its full longitude, there was accommodation in it for both the soul of Pullwool himself (it was a very little one) and for his distinguished visitant. Indeed, there was so much room in it that they never crowded each other, and that Pullwool hardly knew, if he even so much as mistrusted, that there was a chap in with him. But other people must have been aware of this double tenantry, or at least must have been shrewdly suspicious of it, for it soon became quite common to hear fellows say, “ Pullwool has got the Devil in him.”
There was, indeed, a remarkable change — a change not so much moral as physical and mental — in this gentleman’s ways of deporting and behaving himself. From being logy in movement and slow if not absolutely dull in mind, he became wonderfully agile and energetic. He had been a lobbyist, and he remained a lobbyist still, but such a different one, so much more vigorous, eager, clever, and impudent, that his best friends (if he could be said to have any friends) scarcely knew him for the same Pullwool. His fat fingers were in the buttonholes of congressmen from the time when they put those buttonholes on in the morning to the time when they took them off at night. He seemed to be at one and the same moment treating some honorable member in the bar-room of the Arlington, and running another honorable member to cover in the committee-rooms of the Capitol. He log-rolled bills which nobody else believed could be logrolled, and he pocketed fees which absolutely and point-blank refused to go into other people’s pockets. During this short period of his life he was the most successful and famous lobbyist in Washington, and the most sought after by the most rascally and desperate claimants of unlawful millions.
But, like many another man who has the Devil in him, Mr. Pullwool ran his luck until he ran himself into trouble. An investigating committee pounced upon him ; he was put in confinement for refusing to answer questions ; his filchings were held up to the execration of the envious both by virtuous members and a virtuous press ; and when he at last got out of durance he found it good to quit the District of Columbia for a season. Thus it happened that Mr. Pullwool and his eminent lodger took the cars and went to and fro upon the earth seeking what they might devour.
In the course of their travels they arrived in a little State, which may have been Rhode Island, or may have been Connecticut, or may have been one of the Pleiades, but which at all events had two capitals. Without regard to Morse’s Gazetteer, or to whatever other Gazetteer may now be in currency, we shall affirm that one of these capitals was called Slowburg and the other Fastburg. For some hundreds of years (let us say five hundred, in order to be sure and get it high enough) Slowburg and Fastburg had shared between them, turn and turn about, year on and year off, all the gubernatorial and legislative pomps and emoluments that the said State had to bestow. On the 1st of April of every odd year, the governor, preceded by citizen soldiers, straddling or curvetting through the mud, — the governor, followed by twenty barouches full of eminent citizens, who were not known to be eminent at any other time, but who made a rush for a ride on this occasion as certain old ladies do at funerals,— the governor, taking off his hat to pavements full of citizens of all ages, sizes, and colors, who did not pretend to be eminent,— the governor, catching a fresh cold at every corner, and wishing the whole thing were passing at the equator, — the governor triumphally entered Slowburg, — observe, Slowburg,—read his always enormously long message there, and convened the legislature there. On the 1st of April of every even year the same governor, or a better one who had succeeded him, went through the same ceremonies in Fastburg. Each of these capitals boasted, or rather blushed over, a shabby old barn of a State-House, and each of them maintained a company of foot-guards, and ditto of horse-guards, the latter very loose in their saddles. In each the hotels and boarding-houses had a full year and a lean year, according as the legislature sat in the one or in the other. In each there was a loud call for fresh shad and stewed oysters, or a comparatively feeble call for fresh shad and stewed oysters, under the same biennial conditions.
Such was the oscillation of grandeur and power between the two cities. It was an old-time arrangement, and like many other old-fashioned things, as for instance wood fires in open fireplaces, it had not only its substantial merits but its superficial inconveniences. Every year certain ancient officials were obliged to pack up hundreds of public documents and expedite them from Fastburg to Slowburg, or from Slowburg back to Fastburg. Every year there was an expense of a few dollars on this account, which the State treasurer figured up with agonies of terror, and which the opposition roared at as if the administration could have helped it. The State-Houses were two mere deformities of patched plaster and leprous whitewash ; they were such shapeless, graceless, dilapidated wigwams, that no sensitive patriot could look at them without wanting to fly to the uttermost parts of the earth ; and yet it was not possible to build new ones, and hardly possible to obtain appropriations enough to shingle out the weather ; for Fastburg would vote no money to adorn Slowburg, and Slowburg was equally niggardly towards Fastburg. The same jealousy produced the same frugality in the management of other public institutions, so that the patients of the lunatic asylum were not much better lodged and fed than the average sane citizen, and the gallows-birds in the State’s prison were brought down to a temperance which caused admirers of that species of fowl to tremble with indignation. In short, the two capitals were as much at odds as the two poles of a magnet, and the results of this repulsion were not all of them worthy of hysterical admiration.
But advantages seesawed with disadvantages. In this double-ender of a State, political jobbery was at fault, because it had no head-quarters. It could not get together a ring ; it could not raise a corps of lobbyists. Such few axe-grinders as there were had to dodge back and forth between the Fastburg grindstone and the Slowburg grindstone, without ever fairly getting their tools sharpened. Legislature here and legislature there ; it was like guessing at a pea between two thimbles ; you could hardly ever put your finger on the right one. Then what one capital favored the other disfavored ; and between them appropriations were kicked and hustled under the table ; the grandest of railroad schemes shrunk into waste-paper baskets ; in short, the public treasury was next door to the unapproachable. Such, indeed, was the desperate condition of lobbyists in this State, that, had it contained a single philanthropist of the advanced radical stripe, he would surely have brought in a bill for their relief and encouragement.
Into the midst of this happily divided community dropped Mr. Ananias Pullwool with the Devil in him. It remains to be seen whether this pair could figure up anything worth pocketing out of the problem of two capitals.
It was one of the even years, and the legislature met in Fastburg, and the little city was brimful. Mr. Pullwool with difficulty found a place for himself without causing the population to slop over. Of course he went to a hotel, for he needed to make as many acquaintances as possible, and he knew that a bar was a perfect hot-house for ripening such friendships as he cared for. He took the best room he could get; and as soon as chance favored, he took a better one, with parlor attached ; and on the sideboard in the parlor he always had cigars and decanters. The result was that in a week or so he was on jovial terms with several senators, numerous members of the lower house, and all the members of the “ third house.” But lobbying did not work in Fastburg as Mr. Pullwool had found it to work in other capitals. He exhibited the most dazzling double-edged axes, but nobody would grind them ; he pointed out the most attractive and convenient of logs for rolling, but nobody would put a lever to them.
“ What the doose does this mean ? ” he at last inquired of Mr. Josiah Dicker, a member who had smoked dozens of his cigars and drunk quarts out of his decanters. “ I don’t understand this little old legislature at all, Mr. Dicker. Nobody wants to make any money ; at least, nobody has the Spirit to try to make any. And yet the State is full ; never been bled a drop ; full as a tick. What does it mean ? ”
Mr. Dicker looked disconsolate. Perhaps it may be worth a moment’s time to explain that he could not well look otherwise. Broken in fortune and broken in health, he was a failure and knew it. His large forehead showed power, and he was in fact a lawyer of some ability; and still he could not support his family, could not keep a mould of mortgages from creeping all over his house-lot, and had so many creditors that he could not walk the streets comfortably. The trouble lay in hard drinking, with its resultant waste of time, infidelity to trust, and impatience of application. Thin, haggard, duskily pallid, deeply wrinkled at forty, his black eyes watery and set in baggy circles of a dull brown, his lean dark hands shaky and dirty, his linen wrinkled and buttonless, his clothing frayed and unbrushed, he was an impersonation of failure. He had gone into the legislature with a desperate hope of somehow finding money in it, and as yet he had discovered nothing more than his beggarly three dollars a day, and he felt himself more than ever a failure. No wonder that he wore an air of profound depression, approaching to absolute wretchedness and threatening suicide.
He looked the more cast down by contrast with the successful Mr. Pullwool, gaudily alight with satin and jewelry, and shining with conceit. Pullwool, by the way, although a dandy (that is, such a dandy as one sees in gambling-saloons and behind liquorbars), was far from being a thing of beauty. He was so obnoxiously gross and shapeless, that it seemed as if he did it on purpose and to be irritating. His fat head was big enough to make a dwarf of, hunchback and all. His mottled cheeks were vast and pendulous to that degree that they inspired the imaginative beholder with terror, as reminding him of avalanches and landslides which might slip their hold at the slightest shock, and plunge downward in a path of destruction. One puffy eyelid drooped in a sinister way ; obviously that was the eye that the Devil had selected for his own ; he kept it well curtained for purposes of concealment. Looking out of this peep-hole, the Satanic badger could see a short, thick nose, and by leaning forward a little, he could get a glimpse of a broad chin of several stories. Another unpleasing feature was a full set of false teeth, which grinned in a ravenous fashion that was truly disquieting, as if they were capable of devouring the whole internal revenue. Finally, this continent of a physiognomy was diversified by a gigantic hairy wart, which sprouted defiantly from the temple nearest the game eye, as though Lucifer had accidentally poked one of his horns through. Mr. Dicker, who was a sensitive, squeamish man (as drunkards sometimes are, through bad digestion and shaky nerves), could hardly endure the sight of this wart, and always wanted to ask Pullwool why he did n’t cut it off.
“What’s the meaning of it all?” persisted the Washington wire-puller, surveying the Fastburg wire-puller with bland superiority, much as the city mouse may have surveyed the country mouse.
“ Two capitals,” responded Dicker, withdrawing his nervous glance from the wart, and locking his hands over one knee to quiet their trembling.
Mr. Pullwool, having the Old Harry in him, and being consequently full of all malice and subtlety, perceived at once the full scope and force of the explanation.
“ I see,” he said, dropping gently back into his arm-chair, with the plethoric, soft movement of a subsiding pillow. The puckers of his cumbrous eyelids drew a little closer together ; his bilious eyes peered out cautiously between them, like sallow assassins watching through curtained windows ; for a minute or so he kept up what might without hyperbole be called a devil of a thinking.
“ I’ve got it,” he broke out at last. “ Dicker, I want you to bring in a bill to make Fastburg the only capital.”
“ What is the use ? ” asked the legislator, looking more disconsolate, more hopeless than ever. “ Slowburg will oppose it and beat it.”
“ Never you mind,” persisted Mr. Pullwool. “ You bring in your little bill and stand up for it like a man. There’s money in it. You don’t see it ? Well, I do ; I’m used to seeing money in things ; and in this case I see it plain. As sure as whiskey is whiskey, there’s money in it.”
Mr. Pullwool’s usually dull and, so to speak, extinct countenance was fairly alight and aflame with exultation. It was almost a wonder that his tallowy person did not gutter beneath the blaze, like an over-fat candle under the flaring of a wick too large for it.
“ Well, I ’ll bring in the bill,” agreed Mr. Dicker, catching the enthusiasm of his counsellor and shaking off his lethargy. He perceived a dim promise of fees, and at the sight his load of despondency dropped away from him, as Christian’s burden loosened in presence of the cross. He looked a little like the confident, resolute Tom Dicker, who twenty years before had graduated from college, the brightest, bravest, most eloquent fellow in his class, and the one who seemed to have before him the finest future.
“Snacks ! ” said Mr. Pullwool.
At this brazen word Mr. Dicker’s countenance fell again ; he was ashamed to talk so frankly about plundering his fellow-citizens; “a little grain of conscience turned him sour.”
“ I will take pay for whatever I can do as a lawyer,” he stammered.
“ Get out ! ” laughed the Satanic one. “You just take all there is a going! You need it bad enough. I know when a man’s hard up. I know the signs. I’ve been as bad off as you ; had to look all ways for five dollars ; had to play second fiddle and say thanky. But what I offer you ain't a second fiddle. It’s as good a chance as my own. Even divides. One half to you, and one half to me. You know the people and I know the ropes. It’s a fair bargain. What do you say ? ”
Mr. Dicker thought of his decayed practice and his unpaid bills ; and, flipping overboard his little grain of conscience, he said, “ Snacks.”
“All right,” grinned Pullwool, his teeth gleaming alarmingly. “ Word of a gentleman,” he added, extending his pulpy hand, loaded with ostentatious rings, and grasping Dicker’s recoiling fingers. “ Harness up your little bill as quick as you can and drive it like Jehu. Fastburg to be the only capital. Slowburg no claims at all, historical, geographical, or economic. The old arrangement a humbug; as inconvenient as a fifth wheel of a coach ; costs the State thousands of greenbacks every year. Figure it all up statistically and dab it over with your shiniest rhetoric and make a big thing of it every way. That’s what you’ve got to do ; that’s your little biz. I ’ll tend to the rest.”
“ I don’t quite see where the money is to come from,” observed Mr. Dicker.
“ Leave that to me,” said the veteran of the lobbies ; “ my name is Pullwool and I know how to pull the wool over men’s eyes, and then I know how to get at their britches-pockets. You bring in your bill and make your speech. Will you do it ? ”
“ Yes,” answered Dicker, bolting all scruples in another half-tumbler of brandy.
He kept his word. As promptly as parliamentary forms and mysteries would allow, there was a bill under the astonished noses of honorable lawgivers, removing the seat of legislation from Slowburg and centring it in Fastburg, This bill Mr. Thomas Dicker supported with that fluency and fiery enthusiasm of oratory which had for a time enabled him to show as the foremost man of his State. Great was the excitement, great the rejoicing and anger. The press of Fastburg sent forth shrieks of exultation, and the press of Slowburg responded with growlings of disgust. The two capitals and the two geographical sections which they represented were ready to fire Parrot guns at each other, without regard to life and property in the adjoining regions of the earth. If there was a citizen of the little Commonwealth who did not hear of this bill and did not talk of it, it was because that citizen was as deaf as a post and as dumb as an oyster. Ordinary political distinctions were forgotten, and the old party-whips could not manage their very wheel-horses, who went snorting and kicking over the traces in all directions. In short, both in the legislature and out of it, nothing was thought of but the question of the removal of the capital.
Among the loudest of the agitators was Mr. Pullwool; not that he cared one straw whether the capital went to Fastburg, or to Slowburg, or to Ballyhack ; but for the money which he thought he saw in the agitation he did care mightily, and to get that money he labored with a zeal which was not of this world alone. At the table of his hotel and in the bar-room of the same institution and in the lobbies of the legislative hall and in editorial sanctums and barbers’ shops and all other nooks of gossip, he trumpeted the claims of Fastburg as if that little city were the New Jerusalem and deserved to be the metropolis of the sidereal universe. All sorts of trickeries, too ; he sent spurious telegrams and got fictitious items into the newspapers ; he lied through every medium known to the highest civilization. Great surely was his success, for the row which he raised was tremendous. But a row alone was not enough ; it was the mere breeze upon the surface of the waters; the treasure-ship below was still to be drawn up and gutted.
“ It will cost money,” he whispered confidentially to capitalists and landowners. “ We must have the sinews of war, or we can’t carry it on. There ’s your city lots goin’ to double in value, if this bill goes through. What per cent will you pay on the advance ? That’s the question. Put your hands in your pockets and pull ’em out full, and put back ten times as much. It’s a sure investment ; warranted to yield a hundred per cent ; the safest and biggest thing agoing.”
Capitalists and land-owners and merchants hearkened and believed and subscribed. The slyest old hunks in Fastburg put a faltering forefinger into his long pocket-book, touched a greenback which had been laid away there as neatly as a corpse in its coffin, and resurrected it for the use of Mr. Pullwool. By tens, by twenties, by fifties, and by hundreds the dollars of the ambitious citizens of the little metropolis were charmed into the porte-monnaie of this rattlesnake of a lobbyist.
“ I never saw a greener set,” chuckled Pullwool. “By jiminy, I believe they ’d shell out for a bill to make their town a seaport, if it was a hundred miles from a drop of water.”
But he was not content with individual subscriptions, and conscientiously scorned himself until he had got at the city treasury.
“ The corporation must pony up,” he insisted, with the mayor. “This bill is just shaking in the wind for lack of money. Fastburg must come down with the dust. You ought to see to it. What are you chief magistrate for? Ain’t it to tend to the welfare of the city? Look here, now; you call the common council together ; secret session, you understand. You call ’em together and let me talk to ’em. I want to make the loons comprehend that it’s their duty to vote something handsome for this measure.”
The mayor hummed and hawed one way, and then he hawed and hummed the other way, and the result was that he granted the request. There was a secret session in the council-room, with his honor at the top of the long, green table, with a row of more or less respectable functionaries on either side of it, and with Mr. Pullwool and the Devil at the bottom. Of course, it is not to be supposed that this last-named personage was visible to the others, or that they had more than a vague suspicion of his presence. Had he fully revealed himself, had he plainly exhibited his horns and hoofs, or even so much as uncorked his perfume-bottle of brimstone, it is more than probable that the city authorities would have been exceedingly scandalized, and they might have adjourned the session. As it was, seeing nothing more disagreeable than the obese form of the lobbyist, they listened calmly while he unfolded his project.
Mr. Pullwool spoke at length, and to Fastburg ears eloquently. Fastburg must be the sole capital ; it had every claim, historical, geographical, and commercial, to that distinction ; it ought, could, would, and should be the sole capital ; that was about the substance of his exordium.
“ But, gentlemen, it will cost,” he went on. “ There is an unscrupulous and furious opposition to the measure. The other side — those fellows from Slowburg and vicinity —are putting their hands into their britches-pockets. You must put your hands into yours. The thing will be worth millions to Fastburg. But it will cost thousands. Are you ready to fork over ? Are you ready ?”
“What’s the figure?” asked one of the councilmen. “ What do you estimate ? ”
“ Gentlemen, I shall astonish some of you,” answered Mr. Pullwool, cunningly. It was well put; it was as much as to say, “ I shall astonish the green ones ; of course, the really strong heads among you won’t be in the least bothered.” “ I estimate,” he continued, “ that the city treasury will have to put up a good round sum, say a hundred thousand dollars, be it more or less.”
A murmur of surprise, of chagrin, and of something like indignation ran along the line of official mustaches. “Nonsense,” “The dickens,” “Can’t be done,” “ We can’t think of it,” broke out several councilmen, in a distinctly unparliamentary manner.
“ Gentlemen, one moment,” pleaded Pullwool, passing his greasy smile around the company, as though it were some kind of refreshment. “ Look at the whole job; it’s a big job. We must have lawyers ; we must have newspapers in all parts of the State ; we must have writers to work up the historical claims of the city ; we must have fellows to buttonhole honorable members ; we must have fees for honorable members themselves. How can you do it for less ? ”
Then he showed a schedule ; so much to this wire-puller and that and the other ; so much apiece to so many able editors ; so much for eminent legal counsel ; finally, a trifle for himself. And one hundred thousand dollars or thereabouts was what the schedule footed up, turn it whichever way you would.
Of course, this common council of Fastburg did not dare to vote such a sum for such a purpose. Mr. Pullwool had not expected that it would ; all that he had hoped for was the half of it; but that half he got.
“ Did they do it ? ” breathlessly inquired Tom Dicker of him, when he returned to the hotel.
“ They done it,” calmly, yet triumphantly, responded Mr. Pullwool.
“Thunder!” exclaimed the amazed Dicker. “You are the most extraordinary man ! You must have the very Devil in you ! ”
Instead of being startled by this alarming supposition, Mr. Pullwool looked gratified. People thus possessed generally do look gratified when the possession is alluded to.
But the inspired lobbyist did not pass his time in wearing an aspect of satisfaction. When there was money to get and to spend he could run his fat off almost as fast as if he were pouring it into candle-moulds. The ring — the famous capital ring of Fastburg — must be seen to, its fingers greased, and its energy quickened. Before he rolled his apple-dumpling of a figure into bed that night, he had interviewed Smith and Brown the editors, Jones and Robinson the lawyers. Smooth and Slow the literary characters, various lobbyists and various lawgivers.
“ Work, gentlemen, and capitalize Fastburg and get your dividends,” was his inspiring message to one and all. He promised Smith and Brown ten dollars for every editorial, and five dollars for every humbugging telegram, and two dollars for every telling item. Jones and Robinson were to have five hundred dollars apiece for concurrent legal statements of the claim of the city ; Smooth and Slow, as being merely authors and so not accustomed to obtain much for their labor, got a hundred dollars between them for working up the case historically. To the lobbyists and members Pullwool was munificent ; It seemed as if those gentlemen could not be paid enough for their “ influence ” ; as if they alone had that kind of time which is money. Only, while dealing liberally with them, the inspired one did not forget himself. A thousand for Mr. Sly; yes, Mr. Sly was to receipt for a thousand ; but he must let half of it stick to the Pullwool fingers. The same arrangement was made with Mr. Green and Mr. Sharp and Mr. Bummer and Mr. Pickpurse and Air. Buncombe. It was a game of snacks, half to you and half to me ; and sometimes it was more than snacks, — a thousand for you two and a thousand for me too.
With such a greasing of the wheels, you may imagine that the machinery of the ring worked to a charm. In the city and in the legislature and throughout the State there was the liveliest buzzing and humming and clicking of political wheels and cranks and cogs that had ever been known in those hitherto pastoral localities. The case of Fastburg against Slowburg was put in a hundred ways and proved as sure as it was put. It really seemed to the eager burghers as if they already heard the clink of hammers on a new State-House and beheld a perpetual legislature sitting on their fences and curbstones until the edifice should be finished. The great wire-puller and his gang of stipendiaries were the objects of popular gratitude and adoration. The landlord of the hotel which Mr. Pullwool patronized actually would not take pay for that gentleman’s board.
“No, sir!” declared this simple Boniface, turning crimson with enthusiasm. “ You are going to put thousands of dollars into my purse, and I ’ll take nothing out of yours. And any little thing in the way of cigars and whiskey that you want, sir, why, call for it. It’s my treat, sir.”
“Thank you, sir,” kindly smiled the great man. “ That’s what I call the square thing. Mr. Boniface, you are a gentleman and a scholar ; and I ’ll mention your admirable house to my friends. By the way, I shall have to leave you for a few days.”
“ Going to leave us ! ” exclaimed Mr. Boniface, aghast. “ I hope not till this job is put through.”
“ I must run about a bit,” muttered Pullwool, confidentially. “ A little turn through the State, you understand, to stir up the country districts. Some of the members ain’t as hot as they should be, and I want to set their constituents after them. Nothing like getting on a few deputations.”
“ O, exactly!” chuckled Mr. Boniface, ramming his hands into his pockets and cheerfully jingling a bunch of keys and a penknife, for lack of silver. It was strange indeed that he should actually see the Devil in Mr. Pullwool’s eye and should not have a suspicion that he was in danger of being humbugged by him. “ And your rooms ? ” he suggested. “ How about them ? ”
“ I keep them,” replied the lobbyist, grandly, as if blaspheming the expense — to Boniface. “ Our friends must have a little hole to meet in. And while you are about it, Mr. Boniface, see that they get something to drink and smoke ; and we ’ll settle it between us.”
“ Pre—cisely!” laughed the landlord, as much as to say, “My treat !”
And so Mr. Pullwool, that Pericles and Lorenzo de’ Medici rolled in one, departed for a season from the city which he ruled and blessed. Did he run about the State and preach and crusade in behalf of Fastburg, and stir up the bucolic populations to stir up their representatives in its favor? Not a bit of it ; the place that he went to and the only place that he went to was Slowburg ; yes, covering up his tracks in his usual careful style, he made direct for the rival of Fastburg. What did he propose to do there? O, how can we reveal the whole duplicity and turpitude of Ananias Pullwool ? The subject is too vast for a merely human pen ; it requires the literary ability of a recording angel. Well, we must get our feeble lever under this boulder of wickedness as we can, and do our faint best to expose all the reptiles and slimy things beneath it.
The first person whom this apostle of lobbyism called upon in Slowburg was the mayor of that tottering capital.
“ My name is Pullwool,” he said to the official, and he said it with an almost enviable ease of impudence, for he was used to introducing himself to people who despised and detested him. “ I want to see you confidentially about this capital ring which is making so much trouble.”
“ I thought you were in it,” replied the mayor, turning very red in the face, for he had heard of Mr. Pullwool as the leader of said ring ; and being an iracund man, he was ready to knock his head off.
“ In it ! ” exclaimed the possessed one. “ I wish I was. It’s a fat thing. More than fifty thousand dollars paid out already ! ”
“ Good gracious ! ” exclaimed the mayor, in despair.
“ By the way, this is between ourselves,” added Pullwool. “ You take it so, I hope. Word of honor, eh ? ”
“ Why, if you have anything to communicate that will help us, why, of course I promise secrecy,” stammered the mayor. “ Yes, certainly ; word of honor.”
“Well, I’ve been looking about among those fellows a little,” continued Ananias. “ I’ve kept my eyes and ears open. It ’s a way I have. And I’ve learned a thing or two that it will be to your advantage to know. Yes, sir ! fifty thousand dollars !— the city has voted it and paid it, and the ring has got it. That’s why they are all working so. And depend upon it, they ’ll carry the legislature and turn Slowburg out to grass, unless you wake up and do something.”
“By heavens!” exclaimed the iracund mayor, turning red again. “ It’s a piece of confounded rascality. It ought to be exposed.”
“No, don’t expose it,” put in Mr. Pullwool, somewhat alarmed. “ That game never works. Of course they ’d deny it and swear you down, for bribing witnesses is as easy as bribing members. I ’ll tell you what to do. Beat them at their own weapons. Raise a purse that will swamp theirs. That’s the way the world goes. It’s an auction. The highest bidder gets the article.”
Well, the result of it all was that the city magnates of Slowburg did just what had been done by the city magnates of Fastburg, only, instead of voting fifty thousand dollars into the pockets of the ring, they voted sixty thousand. With a portion of this money about him, and with authority to draw for the rest on proper vouchers, Mr. Pullwool, his tongue in his cheek, bade farewell to his new allies. As a further proof of the ready wit and solid impudence of this sublime politician and model of American statesmen, let me here introduce a brief anecdote. Leaving Slowburg by the cars, he encountered a gentleman from Fastburg, who saluted him with tokens of amazement, and said, “ What are you doing here, Mr. Pullwool ? ”
“ O, just breaking up these fellows a a little,” whispered the man with the Devil in him. “ They were making too strong a fight. I had to see some of them,” putting one hand behind his back and rubbing his fingers together, to signify that there had been a taking of bribes. “ But be shady about it. For the sake of the good cause, keep quiet. Mum’s the word.”
The reader can imagine how briskly the fight between the two capitals reopened when Mr. Pullwool re-entered the lobby. Slowburg now had its adherents, and they struggled like men who saw money in their warfare, and they struggled not in vain. To cut a very long story very short, to sum the whole of an exciting drama in one sentence, the legislature kicked overboard the bill to make Fastburg the sole seat of government. Nothing had come of the whole row, except that the pair of simple little cities had spent over one hundred thousand dollars, and that the capital ring, fighting on both sides and drawing pay from both sides, had lined its pockets, while the great creator of the ring had crammed his to bursting.
“ What does this mean, Mr. Pullwool ? ” demanded the partially honest and entirely puzzled Tom Dicker, when he had discovered by an unofficial count of noses how things were going, “ Fastburg has spent all its money for nothing. It won’t be sole capital after all.”
“ I never expected it would be,” replied Pullwool, so tickled by the Devil that was in him that he could not help laughing. “ I never wanted it to be. Why, it would spoil the little game. This is a trick that can be played every year.”
“ Oh ! ! ” exclaimed Mr. Dicker, and was dumb with astonishment for a minute.
“ Did n’t you see through it before ? ” grinned the grand master of all guile and subtlety.
“ I did not,” confessed Mr. Dicker, with a mixture of shame and abhorrence. “Well,” he presently added, recovering himself, “shall we settle ?”
“ O, certainly, if you are ready,” smiled Pullwool, with the air of a man who has something coming to him.
“ And what, exactly, will be my share ? ” asked Dicker, humbly.
“What do you mean ?” stared Pullwool, apparently in the extremity of amazement.
“ You said snacks, did n’t you ? ” urged Dicker, trembling violently.
“ Well, snacks it is,” replied Pullwool. “ Have n’t you had a thousand ? ”
“ Yes,” admitted Dicker.
“ Then you owe me five hundred ? ”
Mr. Dicker did not faint, though he came very near it, but he staggered out of the room as white as a sheet, for he was utterly crushed by this diabolical impudence.
That very day Mr. Pullwool left for Washington, and the Devil left for his place, each of them sure to find the other when he wanted him, if indeed their roads lay apart.
J. W. DeForest.