MRS. VAREMBERG IS RELEASED.
MRS. VAREMBERG’S first explanation to herself of Barclay’s visit was that he had been moved by the exciting events described to abandon the peculiar reserve he had manifested of late, and had come back to her somewhat in the old way.
She had sat down at once and written him a note of sympathy, and had learned by public hearsay something of the circumstances of the case.
“ It is fortunate you were so well insured,” she said ; “ the fire will not prove an unmixed calamity, after all. You can now rebuild, and incorporate in the new factory all your favorite ideas.”
“ I do not think of rebuilding,” he replied, in a grave way, in which she already found something ominous.
u Not rebuild ? You are surely not going to give up your plans, and allow a business of such importance to lapse entirely ? ”
“ The partnership had been dissolved before the fire took place. Maxwell was obliged to withdraw, by the condition of his health, and 1 could not go on alone. I had already prepared to wind the business up, or transfer it to other hands. I have no longer any pretext for staying. I am going away from Keevvaydin for good.”
His companion gave him a startled, pathetic glance that seemed to search his very soul. Then she affected to receive tlie news of his departure, as Barclay had tried to convey it, 'with an entirely decorous calmness.
“ And your army of hands,” she said, “ thus thrown out of employment, — it will be a severe blow to them ; but of course you could not be expected to stay on their account alone.”
“ I have done what I could for them.
I trust they will not suffer till they can obtain places in other shops.”
“ Well, we shall all be sorry you are going; you will be much missed. Yes, this has been an unfortunate fire indeed.”
Her lips trembled, and her eyes fell uneasily to the floor instead of meeting his. The conversation seemed already to languish; there appeared to be little more to say.
Barclay had come in with his hat and stick, and sat on the edge of a sofa, with a sort of temporary air, as if momentarily about to move. Mrs. Varemberg sat near him in a high-backed, carved-oak chair. She leaned back presently, and found a support for her head against it, as with a patient languor of suffering. Her lover involuntarily noted this pose, as he had so often studied before every other varied phase of her aspect. Was it really some transcendent charm in her, that was visible to all others as well, or was it only the glamour of his affection? — for she was always beautiful to him. In every attitude, whether sitting, standing, reclining, whether moving or at rest, he could have called to her with delight to stay and be pictured. There was nothing bizarre or operatic in her type ; she was full of a gentle repose. In her weakness she had seemed to him like a flower that the dew and sunshine might yet wholly revive; bent on its stalk, but not broken.
“ Must I leave thee Paradise, — leave these happy walks and shades ? ” Barclay half quoted to himself, as he wistfully gazed. He knew well that it would have been far better not to have come to pay his respects in person. He ought to have followed his first intention, and only written to her : he could have pretended that some sudden business exigency had prevented him from doing anything else.
They talked in the wretched, perfunctory way that people do who have, on every ground of prudence, to avoid the one topic on which their thoughts are burningly alive. But when it appeared that all Barclay’s preparations were complete and he was to leave town the very next day, Mrs. Varemberg started with an agitation she could not overcome. She said to herself that she had counted upon more time. Not that a little time more or less, or a few more meetings, should have made any great difference, it is true ; but she thought that, with a proper interval, while he was still in the place, she might somehow have better reconciled herself to the idea.
“ Men are fortunate,” she commented, in a dreary tone : “ they can go ; life is full of distractions for them. It is always women who must remain.”
“ Come, why need we take a serious tone ? ” rejoined Paul Barclay, assuming a brisk cordiality, to cover the critical moment of the good-by. “ There ! ” taking both her hands into his, and giving them a hearty pressure, “ we shall meet again, of course; people always do, you know. It will probably not be long till then.”
Mrs. Varemberg had arisen, and stood by a scroll-fashioned end of the sofa, and she now leaned against it for support.
“ See what a little sympathy and companionship can do,” she said. “ It seems as if I could not bear to have you go.” She affected a plaintive smile, but her look was pitifully wistful and forlorn.
This was fatuous conduct, if there were any real intention to adhere to the proprieties, to part without explanation, but it was involuntary. A tide of feeling was rising beyond the power of either to control. Barclay had nerved up all his fortitude for himself, but he had not expected to have to contend against her weakness as well.
“ I have been a little distraction to you ; is not that all, dear Virginia ? ” he said, taking affectionately the name they had used in their familiar correspondence. He spoke coaxingly, soothingly, like some strong elder brother. “ You will find others who will answer the purpose just as well. We know how it is in these cases ; it is not so much the particular person, as some one, any one, to fill a sort of weary, aching void. Am I not right? ”
“ I wonder if it be so ? Yes, perhaps it is so,” she answered in a dreamy way, and there were tones in her voice that suggested the sighing of the wind through lonesome pines.
This partial agreement with him, even though he had sought it, gave him an acute pang. A violent struggle was going on within him. It was not what he had wished to hear.
“So, then, good-by!” he resumed. “ I expect soon to hear that you have got rid of all your troubles, and are the gayest of the gay.”
“ We were such good friends,” she said in a retrospective way, disregarding this at first. “ We seemed to have so many things in common. Do you know, it has often been a pleasure to me to know that you were in the place, even when I never saw you. And I am such a poor creature of habit; the few things that are agreeable in my life take such a hold on me now. What shall I do without you ? I shall die ; that is the way I shall come to the end of my troubles.”
Tears, or almost tears, for him. from such a source ? It was incredible, bewildering. The final stage was reached. Overcome by his emotions, Paul Barclay found no further obstacles potent enough to resist the extremes to which he was led. He threw aside all his austere resolutions, or rather he fell upon them, feeling their sharp reproof, as a defeated Roman general might have fallen upon his sword.
“ Can it be, dear child, that you love me ? ” he demanded passionately. “ Can it be that, after all this time, I have won the priceless treasure of your affection ? ”
“ Love you? Yes, it must be that I do, — I love you dearly. Why should I not tell you, since my heart is so full of it.”And you, — you have cared fur me, too ? ”
“ Oh, I adore you, I worship you. Why do I not find words to tell you all that I feel ? You are all that is loveliest and best in womankind.”
Forgetful of all else but this moment of rapture, he called her “precious” and “darling” and “sweet one.” He caressed with soft touches of infinite tenderness the fine hair growing upon her temples, and mingled half-murmured words aud kisses indistinguishably.
“ Ah, why could not this have been years before ? ” she asked him presently. “Ykni said to me once you wondered that all others did not love me in those times : why, then, did not you ? ”
“ Did you not know that I did ? Ah, no, I have been but too plainly assured by your conduct since that you did not, — fool and novice that I was. I knew little how to gain the favor of women. You were my only thought. To have won you would have been the paradise of my wildest dreams, and to lose you has been the shaping power of my whole existence.”
“ And I thought you were only my friend. How unobservant I too must have been ! Shall I tell you that I used to wish it were otherwise ? Shall I even confess that it was to try you I first made a pretense of encouraging Varemberg ? But then there came a time when you seemed to grow utterly indifferent towards me, and I let myself be drawn, without any proper consideration, into this match that many things conspired to foster.”
“ That must have been in my period of pique and moping. After I had gone, in my turmoil of mind, to ask your father’s consent and aid to make you a formal proposal of marriage, and been refused by him, I cared little, and perhaps hardly knew, what I did.”
“ You made my father a proposal for my hand,” exclaimed his listener, in extreme astonishment, “ and 1 was never told of it ? Oh, when, when, was this ? ”
Barclay recalled the date, and, by a comparison of times and seasons, they found that it must have been much before the Varemberg affair was at all advanced.
“ And all these wicked, wasted years might have been spared ! ” commented Mrs. Varemberg, in stupefaction and dismay. Oh, what ruin, — what ruin !
“ And it is true, dearest, that you might have loved me even then ? ” Barclay soon recommenced.
“ I am sure that I might, that I did. I feel so towards you now that I cannot conceive of ever having felt any differently. And yet perhaps I was wayward in those times, and you were a little over-reserved with me. I think I was a trifle afraid of you, as if you were looking down at me from a superior height. But your line qualities had impressed me, your consideration for me had touched me, even then. Others — my father — should have been wise for me. Oh, Paul, why were we so baffled and misled ? Why was I not guided aright ? I can never forgive him.”
Barclay essayed to reassure her. “ He would never have deliberately planned his own daughter’s unhappiness,” he said. “ He too must have been deceived. It is easily supposable that he may have thought there were many more desirable suitors for your hand than myself,” said Barclay.
Did he need any amends to a wounded self-love for the past, surely He must have felt that he had them now. He found himself advanced to the post of honor, not only at present, but beyond all competitors from the first. he was not merely a solace and refuge in the troubles of her life, — though, in his unselfish devotion to her, he was prepared to be content with even that, — but the first choice of her heart, in all its freshness.
What was now to be done ? The inexorable pressure of the situation returned upon them.
“ 3Iust you go ? ” asked Mrs. Varemberg, in persuasive tones, soft as the cooing of a ring-dove. “ Why must you go ? Ah, yes, you have no pretext for staying. You need a pretext for staying ; I alone am not sufficient— Do not mind me ! ” she broke off; “ it is only my weakness that talks in this way.”
“ Listen to me, dearest Florence,” said the lover gravely. “ After what has happened I must surely go, even if there had not existed the most imperative of reasons before; we both know it. As to me, when I leave here, I cannot say what I shall do or where I shall go. I must not see you, nor scarcely communicate with you. But this one thing is certain beyond change: you have become a vital part of my life, and I can never hereafter separate you from it. Let us do this: let us agree to be true to each other, to wait for each other. Perhaps Heaven, in its mercy, will yet be propitious to us.”
“ You must not make such a promise,” protested Florence, in a kind of horror. “You must not tie yourself to one with so hopeless a future as mine. It is folly ; it is wickedness. I beg of you not to do it; I beg of you to go and forget me.”
“ Do not fancy it will be hard,” went on Barclay, disregarding her in his turn. “ To be true to you, though you should never be mine, will he far easier than to replace you, or seek any other consolation whatever. I have loved you once and forever ; if I may never have you, I will die as I have lived, but I will not lower the sweet ideal I have so long entertained.”
“ Paul, dear Paul, you must not wait for me,” she insisted, “ The world is so wide ; I am not vain enough to think it does not contain a great many attractive women. You are calculated to inspire, as you are to give, affection. You will meet some one who is far more worthy of you than I. I shall cease to be the baneful influence I have been in your life, I shall fade into a mere phantom, and you will be happy, as you deserve.”
“ What you ask me to do would not be in my power, even if I wished it. Do I not know myself ? Have I not been tried by too many tests, already ? ”
“ Put why must you go ? ” she pleaded weakly. “ Why can we not be only friends, and all go on as before ? ”
“ The tongues of calumny have already begun to wag. In staying, on the old basis, even if it were possible, I should soon do you great harm in the public repute. No, there is nothing else but for me to go. You and I are clear-headed ; we are not of that weak class who allow themselves to be blinded by passion, entangled by wretched sophistries.”
“ What if I were to say I do not care ? 1 do not care, — I do not care.
What spell has this feeling cast over me ? I cannot see my way any longer as to what is right and what is wrong. Why are we made so ? Must the deepest and truest affection be forever balked ? ”
“ It is said,” answered Barclay ruefully, “ that an honorable man ought to protect a woman even against herself.”
“ Perhaps that is what he does when he does not love her,” she rejoined, with a reckless skepticism.
“ That is what he does, darling, when he loves her in the purest and holiest way — as I love you.”
“ And you will go ? Oh, you are still here — we are talking together — I cannot realize it. But to-morrow ! to wake and find you gone, and to know that 1 shall never see you again ! And then, all the to-morrows, to-morrows, to-morrows ! ”
“ Our fate is hard! ” cried Barclay in response. He was stirred beyond measure by this pathetic lament for him. He was but human ; he abandoned his self-control, so hardly maintained, and began to rage, in his turn, at the toils in which they found themselves taken. “ I must run away with you or from you,” he said. He proposed that she should fly with him. He beset her again on the subject of divorce. He broke out into violent expressions against David Lane and against Varemberg. “He will die, — he must die!” he exclaimed excitably, in reference to this latter. “It is not just. Why does such vileness cumber the earth ? ”
His companion recoiled. The vehemence of Barclay restored to her in a certain degree her own calmer and better judgment. In a brief flash of intuition perhaps both had a glimpse, as it were, into the crimes to which weak and struggling souls are driven by the pressure of circumstances not unlike their own.
“ He is still young,” said Mrs. Varemberg. “ Perhaps he will yet live to reform and become a useful and honorable member of society. And, dear Paul, life is too short for us both not to be in the right.”
“ Give me, then, what words of comfort you can,” said Barclay, gloomily resigned, “ for my exile ; for I am going.”
“Dear Paul”—she began, hesitatingly.
“ I have asked you for a promise,” he broke in again. “ Let us agree that we will be true to each other as long as we live, and that you will be mine if it ever be possible.”
“ How can I resist your entrancing words ? How can I really refuse anything you ask me ? Yes, I will promise ; I will be yours, — with what joy aud happiness ! — if I am ever free, if Heaven ever permits it to be so.”
Barclay held her for a brief instant more in his arms, as if he would, somehow, by this last embrace, have protected her from the hardship of her destiny. Then he went quickly out at the door, looking neither to the right nor the left. In the hall was David Lane, who had just come down the stairs, and who cast at him a glance of keen and singular suspicion.
Barclay hurried away, without a word, to his own abode in the grassy square under the ægis of the Golden Justice. He had already said his farewells to the good Thorn brooks, who expressed a genuine sorrow at having him leave the place. By daylight of next morning he was on board the train, and had ostensibly taken his last look on Keewaydin. He was to pay a brief visit to the colony established on his lands in Marathon County; he would go round the city, on his return, and proceed to the East by another way.
David Lane seemed either to have witnessed or divined something of the manner of parting just described. He entered the drawing-room, with a sternly resentful air, and stood above the form of his daughter, who had thrown herself down, in grief, in a corner of the sofa. Her eyes were red with weeping, but when she caught the gaze of her father she showed no trace of embarrassment ; her look was even more stern and resentful than his own.
“ Is this man your lover? ” demanded David Lane.
“Yes,” she answered simply.
“You tell me this in your sober senses, and you suffer him to embrace you almost publicly ?”
“ Do you mean to drag our name in the mire of disgrace ? ”
The irony of the question smote upon him even as ne asked it. Well indeed did it become him to frame reproaches on the subject of the family honor, — he who had done so much to preserve it!
“ We love each other,” she answered, smiling proudly, “ but do not fear that I shall disgrace our name. It is only now for the first time that he has spoken to me, and he is going away; I shall probably never see him again. I do not know why I should hold to any scruples for your sake, since you have had so few where my happiness was concerned,” she went on; “but do not be alarmed, for I repeat, I shall do our name no discredit.”
“What am I to understand from these words ? ” David Lane queried, trembling. It was evident that the exalted principles of his daughter had to some extent failed in the ordeal; that an explanation — always to have been dreaded — had at last taken place between these two. But to what extent had it gone ? What had it involved ?
“ It was you who wrecked my life, — you who ought to have been strong and wise for me. Why did you do it ? Why did you conceal from me the offer of marriage this man had made ? ”
“Would it have made a difference?” he demanded eagerly. “ Would you have married him ?”
“ I am sure I loved him even then. If you had told me, we should both have been happy.”
Her father could give her no valid reasons for his conduct; he could by no means allege the real one, so he took refuge in tergiversation. “ Much that happened in those times is now vague to me,” he said. “I was full of anxieties and cares in other ways. I suppose I could not have attached the real importance to it. I had long thought of you as one who knew your own mind ; and if Barclay had not made his feelings clear to you, it did not seem as if any formal statement by me could have much effect. Surely I was mistaken. I meant to act for the best.”
He followed his strenuous disclaimers of wrong intent with warm protestations of fatherly affection which came from a full and agonized heart. Like Jephthah, he had sacrificed his daughter. Like Jephthah, he might have said, “ Alas, ray daughter 1 thou hast deceived me and art thyself deceived.”
Mrs. Varemberg now gave way to convulsive weeping, in which her resentment disappeared. Only an overburdening sense of the sadness of her lot remained. She went broken from the room, her father conducting her to the door, and pressing a cold kiss on her forehead.
David Lane was prepared for a renewal of her petition for divorce. He did not know now how he could resist it. With some wretched design, perhaps, of being beforehand with her in it, when he next saw her, he introduced the subject himself. He was all but completely broken at this time, and ready to accede to anything she might propose. But, curiously enough, it was now she herself who stood firm.
“ No,” she said, in opposition, “ what is not justified by natural right and justice cannot be justified by my poor human weakness.”
Her father was proud of her spirit and high standard of conduct, which made him but the more remorseful and compassionate of her pains. But would she always remain as firm on this point? A radical change in her situation almost immediately occurred, and put this question forever aside. Barclay had been gone but a single day, when the mail brought Mrs. Varemberg a letter in a familiar handwriting. She found it beside her plate at the breakfast table. It was post-marked San Francisco. She turned pale at sight of it, and did not dare to open it in person, but passed it on to her father, and listened to hear what he should tell her of its contents.
“My poor child!” he said, glancing sympathetically across at her, and began to read. The letter was substantially as follows: —
“ I find myself rather unexpectedly in your part of the world. It is not so near, it is true, and yet not so far away, either. I have lately arrived here from the Sandwich Islands. The climate there did not suit me, and there were various disagreeable adventures — But all that is a long story, like a good deal more that is behind me, and of which you will, no doubt, be glad to hear in due time. Finding myself thus favored in my whereabouts, the idea occurs to me of dropping down upon you, by way of a little surprise. It will interest me to see the pleasant retirement to which you betook yourself from Belgium,— without the formality of asking my permission, be it remembered. This note is by way of announcement that I shall set out immediately by the train, and I trust that you will be ready, on my arrival, with some pleasant proposition for settling our late small differences, and again establishing for ourselves the customary domestic hearth. Naturally, you are still my wife ; I have not relinquished any claim to you. I tire of living this Bohemian life ; it has many discomforts ; and I have no doubt that you will be glad to join with me in the plan of making of ourselves once more a comfortable pair of bons bourgeois. I am sure these domestic tastes will commend themselves to your most respectable father, — to whom the assurance of my high consideration, — and he will lend us a trifle of pecuniary aid to carry them into effect.”
The letter was signed by Varemberg.
“ It is infamous ! ” said the reader of it, in hot indignation. “ He dares to threaten us ? He will come this way ? But do not fear him, Florence. He shall rue the day; he shall have a warm reception awaiting him.”
But his words fell upon unconscious ears ; she who should have heard them had fallen into a pitiable swoon, and Mrs. Clinton and the maids were actively applying restoratives.
Nor was this the last of the malign intruder from a past life. On the contrary, it was but the beginning of a speedy end. The same night, a loud ringing aroused the house some time after it had retired to slumber. A telegraphic dispatch was brought in and handed up to David Lane, who came to the top of the stairs to receive it. The servants felt sure that the master of the house had received bad news. He read his dispatch with but a sombre visage, turned towards Mrs. Varemberg’s apartments, turned away again, then turned back once more, and went heavily and knocked at his daughter’s door.
A friend and neighbor, from Keewaydin, informed him that he, the friend, was the survivor of a fatal railroad accident, already briefly mentioned in the afternoon papers. An Eastern-bound overland train had been precipitated down a lofty embankment near Omaha, through the snapping of a rail in the severe cold, and several lives had been lost. Among the dead the sender of the dispatch had recognized the son-in-law of David Lane, having known him slightly abroad, and had fully identified him by means of papers found on the body.
Thus the tragic incubus was removed. Varemberg was no more, and his widow was free, to live, to marry, as she pleased.
Saved as she was from the very spring of the tiger, Mrs. Varemberg was yet afflicted by a certain remorse, as if she were somehow responsible for this dreadful taking-off of the ill-fated partner who had been her nightmare and her bane. She had allowed her thoughts to dwell, though never so remotely, on this consummation, and it was as if her wish had been forged into a weapon with which the deed was done. Broken by so many shocks, she succumbed to an acute illness. During its continuance she was by no means in a condition to communicate with Barclay, even had she so desired. Added to this, it would have been extremely difficult for any one to say, in this his first impetuous plunge away from all the interests by which he had so long been bound, where he was.
THE “ PEOPLE’S CANDIDATE.”
Paul Barclay had formed no definite programme for his flight or his future. In seeking first the remote colony on his wild lands in the upper part of the State, he but obeyed the common instinct that so often drives the unhappy to the refuge of solitude and nature.
His colony now presented to view a number of log houses and a considerable space of cleared land. The shriek of a portable saw-mill rose upon the ear, together with the dull thud of the woodman’s axe; and the stumps of the felled pine-trees, scattered numerously in and about the new settlement, showed through the snow — which still lay deep on the ground in this northerly latitude — like a species of envious fangs, snarling at the growth of this humble little Carthage.
Barclay remained at this lonely spot nearly a fortnight. In his fierce need of action and change, he took the axe into his own hands, and smote ringing strokes upon the great trees. Again, with his gun, he followed large wild game through the forest long days together, till, at night, he was ready to drop with fatigue, and was incapable of thought.
The sociable agent of the colony tried his best to entertain him, but his resources were few. He brought home some newspapers, from long rides he took to the nearest hamlet, and read out bits of these in the evening. Politics were beginning to be interesting. The municipal caldron at Keewaydin was bubbling actively, and nominations for mayor were in order. Barclay had little concern with all these things. But, among the rest, as they sat around the stove one evening, in the rude main cabin, just before their usual primitive hour for bed, the agent hit upon a bit about the railway accident and the fate of Varemberg.
“ Tough times for travelers, these days,” said he, " the cold spells snappin’ the rails so. I see that foreign son-inlaw of David Lane’s is dead; killed out Omaha way.”
Then, indeed, his listener paid attention. He bounded to his feet, and seized the paper with his own hands. Yes, it was so. Yaremberg was dead! She was free ! But the date of the paper was almost ten days back. Why had he not heard from her ? Why had she not sent to him in all this time ? How could she ? Had he not purposely buried himself in these inaccessible wilds ?
Night though it was, the best horse of the camp was got out, and he had himself driven off on the instant. He made a railway connection at daybreak, and by night of the next day was again in Keewaydin.
The dress of Mrs. Varemberg confirmed the truth of the news he had heard, the moment he set eyes upon her. She was in mourning of the lighter sort, following in a purely formal way the conventional customs made and provided. She had recovered from her illness, but was still weighed upon by the effects of it and the experiences she had passed through. She was grave, undemonstrative, not like her former self. She gave the full details of the catastrophe. She said her father had been in person to Omaha, found the remains of her husband, given them decent burial, forwarded the papers found about him to his surviving relatives in Europe, and offered, by cable, to hold himself at their disposition for any further orders. All was absolutely over well-nigh a week before.
“ And now 1 now ! now ! ” exclaimed Barclay joyously, when he thought he had listened to sufficient on this subject.
His reference to their last meeting and all that it implied was unmistakable, but Mrs. Varemberg did not yet respond to his ardor. She had fallen, in fact, into a pensive and morbid condition, in which she thought the planning of any attractive manner of life for herself henceforth all but criminal.
“ You did not send for me ? You did not wish to have me with you at once ? ” said her lover, in reproachful questiouing.
“ I did not know where you were. I knew that you would hear.”
“ You have changed. What is this ? I do not understand you.”
“ I cannot pretend to feel any sorrow for him, — that would be too much, — but his dreadful fate shocked me so that it seemed to leave no place for other and softer feelings. It seems as if / had done it. 01),” she broke out, “after all that has happened, with such memories behind us, is it not too late ? Can there be auy happy future possible to one so wretched as I have been ? No. no. let us abandon the thought of it.”
Barclay hastened to combat these gloomy views with all his might. “ The future is wholly ours ; with it we will redeem the past,” he protested, vigorously. “ Oh, think of all we may yet do !”
“ Think of all we must both remember ! ”
“ In the olden times,” he argued, “ beautiful temples were thrown down, and their fragments incorporated into other buildings. We have a record ot one mediaeval cathedral built upon a foundation entirely of lovely broken statues. From such a seed, as it were, could hardly fail to spring perfections of a new order. Let us try to regard our lives hereafter as something like that, but the more valuable and the sweeter for the weird hopes, the lost illusions, that underlie them.”
The warmth of his convictious gradually impressed itself upon her, and kindled her own anew.
“ Our union must not be delayed beyond the earliest feasible moment,” he urged. “ We must concede only the most imperative delays. We have so little time now in which to be happy, and we must not lose a moment of it.”
The two arrived at a complete understanding, and then they wished to have the consent of David Lane to their formal engagement. It was not necessarily to be made public till a decorous period of mourning had passed. Mrs. Varemberg was willing to make this concession to what popular opinion was assumed to be, though she had in very truth been widowed several years; but on all other accounts, the peace of mind of both, the comfort of Barclay in his footing in the house, it was desirable that in the eyes of David Lane they should be known to be finally and once for all betrothed. As soon as was convenient and seemly, therefore, they presented themselves before him for that purpose.
That unhappy man had expected such a visit from the first moment of the arrival of the telegram acquainting him with Varemberg’s fate ; he was alive to its importance, and in a measure prepared to meet it. Though driven so near to the wall, he proposed to resist his perverse fate to the last. Even now, could he see this couple united ? Nothing had changed in the main situation, — his motive power for so many years. Was it not for their own sakes he had opposed and must still oppose them ? His horror of their union rested upon the dread that his confession must one day come down from the Golden Justice, and ruin them all. Could any one have assured him of the folly of this foreboding, they might have married and welcome, the sooner the better, — for it had often wrung his heart to see them suffer. But who could assure him of this ? The thought was his constant companion, the source of his neverending mental turmoil. He met the applicants, therefore, with a grave front of firm denial.
“ Do you think I will let my daughter go ? ” he said, in the course of talk, turning directly towards Barclay. “ Do you ask me to give up my only real companion, the mainstay of my declining years ? ”
“ But we need not go, papa,” appealed his daughter, answering in person. “We will both stay with you, if you desire it. You will only have two children instead of one.”
The pair were astonished, discomfited, at a refusal they had had no reason to expect. The discussion grew almost acrimonious. Barclay withdrew. He felt that, for his own part, he could no longer continue in it with dignity. Mrs. Varemberg remained, and prosecuted the argument further. David Lane was quibbling, evasive, and morose. Driven from one position to another, he began to take on a much-badgered, hunted sort of manner. He called the proposition to which they had desired to obtain his consent one showing unseemly, almost indecent, haste.
His daughter, looking at him, wondering, with her large, grave eyes, demanded. —
“ Tell me your real reasons for opposing us ! ”
But he was still elusive. “ I am not convinced that you really love him.” he said. “Most likely it is only a matter of passing association and habit. You have injudiciously allowed him to come here too much; you have seen no one else. But now that you are going out into the world again, you will meet with others ; you will find some one ” —
His listener stopped him short, indignant, and keenly hurt that the sincerity of her love could be questioned.
“ I love him devotedly,” she said ; “he has every quality to win the admiration and esteem of a woman. After all that I have told you, do not still try to treat me like a child. If I do not marry him, I shall never marry at all.”
“ Well, then, I see my way clearly. I cannot consent,” he answered doggedly, as if returning his ultimatum. “ All this is for your own good, if you did but know it.”
“ Then we must act without your consent. We are of an age to regulate our own affairs.”
“ Florence ! ” he appealed, pathetically.
“ Give me some reasons for this most extraordinary conduct. I am willing to hear and overcome them all.”
“ Let me think. Give me time to think,” he rejoined. “ We will return to this subject again.”
He dashed his hand across his forehead in a distracted way, and left the house.
No sooner was he without than he directed his steps in search of Ives Wilson, and found the editor at the latter’s office in the building of the Morning Index.
“ I wish to be mayor,” said Lane, entering abruptly, and broaching the subject with hardly more ado.
The editor of the Index was proof against many surprises, but this was beyond him. A proposition so considerably outside of his usual category took away his breath.
“ The place has already been promised to DeBow; he is as good as elected.” he urged, deprecatingly, in order to gain time to collect his scattered ideas.
“ I wish to be mayor,” repeated his patron and benefactor. “ Let us understand that positively, — that is settled ; let us talk only of how it is to be done.”
“We might sow discord in the nominating conventions, I suppose, and organize a bolt,” said the editor, with the air of bending his whole mind to the problem, since to dismiss it was impossible. “ I have it,” he added, presently. “ What do you say to a People’s Candidate ? ”
“ A ‘ People’s Candidate ’ ? ”
“Yes; we can thunder against the ‘ rings ’ about corruption in municipal affairs, and the like. We can call for a cleaning out of the Augean stables, and the uniting of all good citizens, without distinction of party, upon a reform nominee, a citizen of high character, like yourself. We might make it appear that the movement had been a long time maturing under the surface.”
“Good!” assented David Lane. “Let it be that or whatever else you like, so that the object is surely accomplished.”
He attended but little to the vein of cynical humor in which the other outlined his plan.
“ Expenses, no doubt, will be heavier than usual, but you shall have an ample margin. Do not hold back from anything that may be necessary, on that account.”
“It is gratifying to see you again in the political field,” said Ives Wilson, “ but I confess I don’t quite understand it on the instant. At one time, we used to beg and implore you to take much more important offices than this, and you would not do it; and now, after all the high honors you have held, you seek a smaller one of your own accord.”
“ I am tired of rusting out in idleness. I want occupation.”
This was all the explanation ever vouchsafed ; and it really mattered very little to this adviser what the true reason was, since it was made to his advantage. But had he guessed for a thousand years he would never have hit upon it. He would never have divined the wild, extraordinary resource that remained to David Lane, in taking the office of mayor, — a resource which he was at last driven to use by the sight of his daughter’s distress and the sound of her reproaches in his ears.
There had always been a bare possibility that the confession might be removed by design from the Golden Justice, and David Lane had sometimes revolved it dimly, with other vagrant thoughts on the subject. But by what agency, if it ever needed doing, could it be done ? It was a mission too delicate to entrust to the most confidential employee in the world. To so entrust it would be but to subject one’s self to blackmail, with the certainty of the ultimate disclosure of the secret besides. No, none but himself must touch the paper. If he could pass a night in the building, he might, under cover of darkness, climb to the dome, and, with good fortune, effect an opening into the statue and possess himself of the confession. Now, he could not conceal himself in the edifice, nor could he ask permission to remain, He must have the right to stay unquestioned. But who had the right to stay ? In the first place, the janitor, an honest German, Anton Klopp, who had long held this post. Next, the city officers, — mayor, comptroller, city clerk, and the like. The only one of these positions he could allow himself to seek and fill without too strong eccentricity and suspicion was that of mayor.
We have seen that he had taken steps to be made once more mayor of Keewaydin. Would he, then, with his honors, his years, and infirmities upon him, attempt in person so wild and hazardous an undertaking as that hinted at? With his hands by his sides he had felt the muscles of his legs, as he came along to the interview with the editor, tested them again by long strides, and nerved himself for the feat with Spartan determination.
There was no time to lose. Ives Wilson, a Machiavelian wire-puller of great vigor, initiated the campaign forthwith. The Index began at once to contain letters, — written in the office, — signed “ Many Tax-Payers,” “ Many Citizens,” “ Veritas,” and “ Justitia,” demanding that the Augean stables be cleaned out and the era of corruption be brought to its close; that the party slates be broken, and a man of conspicuous probity be placed in the field. A People’s Candidate was called for, and the name of David Lane suggested. The editor affected to think it no more than fair to give these manifestoes of a popular ferment the courtesy of print.
The clamor — in the office of the Index— increased, till it seemed impossible to resist. Then the paper took the air of putting itself formally at the head. Ives Wilson now privately convened a little knot of skillful persons, with whom he had been much in the habit of working in matters of this description ; these communicated the impetus to a larger coterie, and this to others in turn, so that presently the ward primaries were feeling the influence profoundly. The “ slate ” was not broken, in the convention of the principal party, as had been proposed; the new movement had begun too late to be able to capture the nomination from DeBow ; but David Lane’s followers organized a bolt. They went to the weaker political faction, which, being already prepared, and naturally expecting defeat any way, was found only too glad to strike hands with the bolters, and make Lane the nominee of both, on a fusion ticket.
Some of his old associates came to him regretfully, and urged him not to allow himself to be used as an instrument of disruption in the party with which they had all so long been identified. But they little knew how slight a matter party fealty had now become to him they addressed, under the stimulus of his new motives.
“ I have put myself in the hands of my friends,” he responded, with artful dissimulation. “ I should not now consider it fair to them to withdraw, without their express command.”
When all this was settled, he returned to the momentous subject which had come up between him and his daughter.
“ I am tired of rusting in idleness,” he said. “ If there is a possibility of losing you, I must have new occupations. I am going to run for mayor. Let the matter of which you have spoken to me stand till that is over.”
“ But I cannot see the slightest connection between the two.”
“ Leave it to me. You will find me reasonable. Success brings good temper,” he rejoined ; and when she still urged her point, he added, positively, “ I will not decide till the election is over.”
Still, this was something tangible to tell. The period of delay would not be long. Mrs. Varemberg reported it to her impatient lover, and they were fain to wait, possessing their souls in comparative patience.
A large store that happened to be vacant in Telson’s Block, on the principal thoroughfare, was taken for David Lane’s headquarters, and a canvas banner, with the usual atrocious portrait of the candidate, was hung across the street, in front of it. From this nucleus a great activity was organized. Printed circulars and free editions of the Index were mailed in profusion. There were kept in stock the flaming yellow and pink sheet posters for the fences and dead-walls. A great wagon, papered with these same sheet posters, and containing a deeptoned bell, patrolled the streets by day, distributing documents, and made the campaign headquarters its rendezvous. From there, also, torchlight processions were sent forth at night. The managers, with hats tilted very much backward or very much forward, as the case might be, sat around a long table covered with an untidy litter of papers,— as was the floor, with cigar stumps added, — or anon received visitors confidentially in small boxes, temporarily partitioned off with pine boards, at the rear.
Here maps were spread open, and the sectional interests of the town studied, district by district. What motives might be best appealed to ? What springs of tradition, habit, self-interest, local pride or prejudice, caste or nationality, might be played upon — as the musician plays upon his instrument — to catch votes?
One ward was well to do and “ aristocratic,” and another composed largely of small mechanics ; one was German, another Polish ; one had a large freethinking element clustered around the turner-halls, another was Lutheran, another Irish Catholic.
“ Shall we stir up the religious question again ? ” demanded Ives Wilson, with a cheerful nonchalance, in these consultations. On the whole, it was decided to do so. “ Wo have more to gain than lose by it,” be said.
Some old “ Know Nothing ” record, as it W’as called, of Jim DeBow’s was unearthed. He was asserted to have been hostile to immigration at an early day, and to have said in public that he wished an ocean of fire rolled between us and all Europe, that foreigners might be kept out. He was said to have made remarks — a propos of a request for a subscription to a church fair — insulting to the religious opinions of a large aud worthy section of voters.
In every ingenious way, in short, Ives Wilson exemplified, in the Index, what he had meant by his principle of hitting hard. DeBow’s party, on the other hand, were no novices in tactics of this kind, and they returned the onslaught with interest. It was made a reproach to David Lane, at one and the same time, that he was a drunkard, because he had wide on his table, and a " temperance fanatic,” inasmuch as he had at one time signed a request for some sort of limited restriction of the number of saloons and the demoralizing sale of liquor. For his injury with the proletariat, he was shown to be a monopolist ; was charged, since his residence abroad, with foreign ideas, and with entertaining aggrandizing designs against the liberties of the place which could scarcely have been carried out by any other than a Russian despot, at the head of all his legions.
In this campaign, too, the early marriage of James DeBow below his station was, oddly enough, sought to be turned to account. It was suggested in some artful, demagogical way that this marriage had been deliberately contracted with the express desire of allying himself the more thoroughly with the great, warm democratic heart of the people.
So the fray raged ; sophistries, criminations, and recriminations filled the air, and the preliminary papers in numerous libel suits were served.
The managers no doubt laughed in their sleeves, like the augurs of old, at the credulity they utilized, the passions they fomented ; while the masses, poor souls, wrangled, fought, and vituperated, sowing seeds of bitterness that would not be extirpated till a better education should show their descendants the flimsiuess of the means by which they had been duped. The Golden Justice — for she was at the bottom of all this, like Bellona, the goddess of discord, instead of the symbol of rectitude and peace — became once more the cause of a violent municipal upheaval. The stir extended afar, to the august Senate at Washington, and might even alter the destinies of the nation ; for it so happened that if Rossraore — whose election depended upon that of James DeBow — were not returned, the balance of power in the Senate would be changed, and the complexion of several measures of leading importance altered.
Paul Barclay, having such a vital issue depending upon it, was naturally very keenly alive to Lane’s success in the contest. lie now confronted political life, for the first time, in a personal way and at close quarters. As a student of republican institutions, be saw much to shock the fastidious and make the judicious grieve. During the campaign he continued to see Airs. Yaremberg more or less frequently, but always under the shadow of the restraint and opposition that hampered them. His visits galled David Lane. Perhaps they even goaded him on, with the view of insuring absolute success in his project, to measures to which he might not otherwise have been driven. Ives Wilson aimed to lose no point for him that indefatigable effort could secure; but perhaps it is only fair to suppose that the candidate did not know all that was done in his name.
David Lane’s name headed a call to the Hon. Franz Hofnagel, of Minnesota, to fix a day when he would deliver Ids famous address on the German Fatherland, and another asking the eloquent Father Finnegan for his oration on Hibernian Saints and Heroes. Subscriptions were made to worthy objects, goods not at all needed were bought of deserving tradesmen, and small sums of money were loaned, or otherwise judiciously placed, where they would do the most good.
Barclay had set the considerable force of men remaining under his orders, by way of keeping them in occupation, to clearing up the debris at Barclay’s Island. and otherwise putting it to rights. It began to look as though the burned factory might yet be replaced by a new and more imposing one. Ives Wilson took occasion to apprise him, one day, that a number of these men, unless especially prevented, were going to vote for Jim DeBow, with whose party all their affiliations lay.
“ What are you going to do about it ? ” Wilson asked.
I had not thought of doing anything. What do you advise ? ”
“ I would find out just who they are, and then have a special extra run of work on election day for that particular class of men. I would ask them to stay home from voting and help me out. They could do that much, any way; it’s a mighty poor hand that won’t help his employer over a tight pinch of work now and then. If there were any that did n’t want to do it, I’d let it get gently insinuated into their minds, somehow, that their services would be dispensed with altogether at the earliest opportunity.”
There was an element of the amusing in this, as in most else that Ives Wilson did. He passed in such a light, airy, birdlike way over all things, both good and evil, that it was difficult to attribute personal iniquity to him, even when most perverse; it was almost as if he belonged to some different and less responsible order of beings.
“ But see here, Wilson,” said Barclay, “ there’s an original bent of mental and moral obliquity about you that I have often noticed, and I won’t say is not at times quite entertaining ; but, once for all, leave me out of your crooked propositions. I ’ve had enough of them. You’ve favored me with a good deal too much of them, in fact.”
“ Oh ! ” said Wilson, slightly sobered.
“ Do you want to know what my individual opinion about these matters is?”
“ Certainly, my dear fellow, — certainly.”
“ Well, it is this : considering that the suffrage is the only safeguard of the state of society in which we live, and that without it no redress of the most heinous evils and grievances that might arise would be possible, those who tamper with it are the greatest rascals in the entire category, and their offense ought to be visited with the severest penalties known to the law, — which ought, indeed, to enact penalties of new severity for their especial benefit.”
“ But, see here,” said the editor, in his turn, “ I thought you were on David Lane’s side in this matter.”
“ I am, ’ and he half muttered to himself, thinking of the white arms that awaited to be thrown around him, as the prize of victory, “ You would hardly doubt it if you knew what I had at stake.” He went on, “ But my men are going to vote as they please, for all that.”
“ My dear boy,” Wilson concluded, preserving his imperturbable good-nature, — “ my dear boy, of course one would not undertake anything off-color, to aid what he positively knew to be wrong; but where the cause is a good one, like this, where it’s a cause that ought to prevail any way, why, that makes it a very different thing, don’t you see? ‘ Use all the weapons at your hand ! Fight the devil with fire ! ’ say I. Besides, voters, like readers, ought to be influenced: they expect it; they require it; they don’t understand anything else.”
Ives Wilson thought so well of this anecdote that he took occasion to report it to his principal, David Lane, setting it forth as the fantastic notions of a novice in politics, and " one of the humors of the campaign.”
The voters referred to were saved to David Lane, however, though by a different means. All at once a committee, very rough and ready in appearance, comprising the sardonic Hoolan among its numbers, waited upon Barclay, and tendered him a nomination for alderman. The regular nominee for the district had been discovered, at the last moment, to be ineligible, by reason of having neglected to take out his full naturalization papers. A semi-official meeting had been held, largely influenced, it afterwards appeared, by Barclay’s own workingmen ; his name had been broached in this meeting, and acclaimed with enthusiasm, and a duly appointed committee came to offer him the candidacy. Barclay was astonished at the unexpected honor. He wavered, deliberated, took time for his answer. He found himself brought face to face with the first step in what might be the enlightened political career of which he had once thought. A position as alderman must certainly give him experience of an intimate, practical sort that would prove useful as he went farther on. There could be little doubt, too, that he could find measures enough of a useful sort with which to occupy himself during his actual term of service, if he should stay ; and if he should not stay, — why, one can always resign. It gave him a sort of modest thrill that the office — still an honorable one in a community not yet greatly corrupted — had sought him without the slightest intimation on his part that he had desired political preferment. On the expiration of the hour he had reserved to make his decision, he returned his acknowledgments to the honest committee, declared himself greatly flattered at this manifestation of their favor, and accepted their nomination. Once “ the young boss,” as they called him, was in the field, his men identified themselves warmly with his whole campaign, and no solicitation was needed to obtain their support for any interests he was known to favor.
As soon as he was put in nomination, he began to be besieged, in the usual way, by that horde of good-for-nothings, political “ strikers ” of one sort and another, who seek their profit from aspirants for office. Keepers of small saloons desired funds, as they said, to distribute among their respective clienteles. A foreign-looking man, calling himself a professor of music, declared himself possessed of such potent influence among his fellow-countrymen that he had but to hand them a certain ticket to have it voted without question. lie was willing, for a consideration, to hand them the tickets of Barclay. Some members of the Twilight Social Club asserted that the club meant to vote “ the right ticket ” in any event, but were certain it could not be brought out to anything like a full strength without funds. Two separate individuals, each on his own account, offered to dicker for the entire vote of a populous mechanics’ boarding-house. A hand-to-hand conflict well-nigh arose between the two men, who had inadvertently happened in at the same time. The right to dispose of their pretended merchandise was first claimed by a small, puny man, whose name, it appeared, was Th-omas Madigan, and who was the keeper in person of the boarding-house. But this claim was fiercely contested by a burly, unshaven Dennis Tully, who was, or had been, an assistant of his.
“It’s me as the place belongs to. Who else but me cud put them boys to work?” protested Madigan, plaintively. “ Who else but me wud have the in fluence ? ”
“ He’s a greenhorn, so he is,” explained Tully contemptuously. “ It was me learned him the boardin’-house business. Nobody can put them boys to work but me.”
But Barclay sent all these to the right-about, and they departed, breathing threatenings and slaughter. They were to use the influence he had refused to his total ruin, but, after all, they did him no great harm. Some repaired with their grumbling to campaign headquarters, where perhaps they met with a certain solace from Ives Wilson, who was universally affable at this time.
The final act of the campaign was a “grand central rally” at the Exposition Building. At this meeting, Barclay was given a seat among the important guests on the platform, and he found his name entered as one among the long list of vice-presidents.
An orator, introduced as “ a business man,” first demanded, “ What is leather worth ? What is lumber worth ? What are any commodities worth, in times like these ? The rascals,’’ he said, “ have stolen us poor. The mills and workshops must be reopened, the wheels of industry must once more go round.”
Next an ex-postmaster, who had a certain ready-made trick of enthusiasm in his oratory, declared that he had just risen from a sick-bed, to be present at this meeting. " My heart was in the cause,” he said, “ and no mortal power could have kept me away. Hot words of burning indignation rise unbidden to my lips, as I think of the issues of this hour. This is no ordinary crisis, no small or mean occasion. We are here, in our might, to grapple the entrenched forces of corruption in a last, desperate, life-and-death struggle. Nor are we alone in this contest: other eyes are turned to us from afar; other hearts will take courage from us to shake off the chains of their bondage, or, should we be so recreant to ourselves as to fail, will sink down with our failure into the night of Plutonian darkness.”
The speaker indulged in gurglings, whisperings, bellowings, and lachrymose breakings of the voice, in prodigious risings on the toes and heels and bendings of the knees, and in poundings of an emphatic fist. The audience cheered, howled, and cut into him, at times, with random interruptions.
He was followed by Ives Wilson, who “ reviewed the situation ” and “ pictured the wants of the hour,” — phrases from the press report in his paper. “ Why does the reckless faction of our opponents spend money like water ? ” he demanded.
“ O tempora! O mores ! ” murmured Paul Barclay to himself, in his seat among the honorary vice-presidents of the meeting.
“ Why are they making this desperate fight to retain their grip upon the public treasury ? ” Wilson went on.
It happened that, when he was asking why t he enemy had not, during their tenure of office, done certain very rosecolored things, which he represented as desirable, an interrupting voice cried out, “ Because they have n’t got the brains, begod ! ”
“ My friend says, because they have not the brains,” be went on, proposing to turn the distraction to his oratorical account in the usual way ; “ but I will show my good friend that he is wrong. I deny that it is brains they lack; it is the common honesty to apply them.”
“ Always deny a fact!” shouted the disturber, who now elbowed his way hastily to the front.
The audience, at sight of him, recognized a familiar figure, a Tony Scoville, one of those harmless imbeciles or lunatics — once a man of prominence in the place — of which almost every locality has its own specimen, who was, as it were, the municipal jester in ordinary to Keewaydin. His specialty of late was meetings of all kinds. He was repulsed from the front, but with a good deal of kindness, after all, and genially expelled from the building. Wilson, crestfallen at having condescended to argue with this kind of opponent, presently sat down.
David Lane was naturally the central figure of the rally. He sat for a considerable time, with an abstracted air, listening to the glowing panegyrics which were pronounced upon him by Wilson and others.
When some fervid speaker had demanded, “ Why are we here ? Why do I see this vast concourse of my fellowcitizens, this assemblage representing all that is best and grandest in Keewaydin, drawn together before me ? ” the answer, “ Why, indeed ? ” had echoed pathetically in the dark depths of his inner consciousness. His thoughts had lingered incessantly upon his real purpose. When introduced to the audience he seemed rather dazed by the crowd and hubbub. His address was but brief.
“ I am not a man of many words,” said he. “ I should greatly prefer to be known to yon as a man of action. Nor am I a stranger among you. As an earnest of what I will try to do in the future, I can only refer you to my record in the past. [This record, as we know, was of the most unexceptionable.] I cannot expect to have wholly escaped some enemies, some calumniators, in my long residence here of forty years, but I shall make no attempt to refute their aspersions now. I am content to be judged by my friends and neighbors ; I leave myself with confidence in your hands.”
Finally, great rounds of applause went up that made the roof-tree ring. The assemblage poured out into the streets, carrying their enthusiasm with them. The campaign was over, and the Index characterized it next day, in the more florid head-lines, as having ended in “ A Blaze of Glory,” as having been “ A Magnificent Reform Demonstration for David Lane, the People’s Candidate.”
THE ELECTION OF A MAYOR.
Election day, when it at last arrived, was gray, overcast, raw, and cold. The ice in the bay, after having once gone out, apparently for good, had returned again, locked vessels in its embrace, and given an aspect of almost Arctic desolation. The ticket-peddlers of either side stood about the booths, stamping their chilly feet for warmth. To guard against dreaded imitations, they had not been served with their ballots—which had been carefully bunched and ready, at headquarters, the night before — till daybreak ; but even this precaution, in the sequel, did not prove wholly effectual.
The opening hours of the fight were like those combats of picket and skirmish lines of armies that precede a general engagement. A few honest laborers. who did not propose to utilize the occasion as a holiday, were the first to deposit their votes, which they did en route to their regular day’s work. Then came a lull, and then, soon after the comfortable breakfast-time of the wellto-do classes, the action began in earnest.
In the course of the morning, rumors of defections, betrayals, treasons, stratagems, and spoils, affecting both sides, grew rife. Split tickets, scratched tickets, and pure counterfeits — rudely executed, it is true, but calculated to deceive the unwary — made their appearance in the field. Discarded ballots strewed the ground around the polling places as thick as leaves at Valombrosa. Cripples and octogenarians were ferreted out, and brought to the polls in hacks. Mr. Welby Golf, local on the Index, proved an excellent hand at this kind of service. He triumphantly secured the whole boarding-house of Madigan from both rival claimants to its control, and next aided to save the votes of a large omnibus-load of Bohemians, brought, in charge of their foreman, from the Eagle File Works. Some of DeBow’s agents endeavored to snatch away from these last, as they alighted, the Lane ballots with which they were already supplied, and substitute their own in place of them, crying, —
“ You are free men. You needn’t vote any ticket only the one you please.”
This attempt was strenuously resisted ; the Bohemian foreman shouted to his men various strong adjurations, of which conflicting accounts were afterwards given. There was a spirited contest, which almost came to an exchange of blows, but the victory remained with the Lane party, as aforesaid.
This was a halcyon day for the floating population of nondescript characters who waited on street corners and the like for odd jobs. The most obscure figure in the community now took on a real importance, through his possession of the proud gift of the suffrage. Blithe agents went about with more funds in their pockets than they needed for their own wants, and showed themselves most amiably disposed to make all things merry wherever they moved. Like band - masters, they raised their batons for a peculiar music, and all the idle and conscienceless might dance. There were pocket-money and refreshments galore, with but very slight service to render in return.
It leaked out that Ludwig Trapschuh, who had been extremely noisy in the meeting for the nomination, was among the backsliders from the Lane party. What ? Not that Ludwig Trapschuh of the Chippewa Street bridge, who owed his very place to David Lane, and whose niece had been so long the recipient of the magnate’s bounty ? It was not possible ! Yes, — tell it not in Gath nor dwell upon it too long in Askelon, — so it was. The bridge-tender, in his usual financial straits, and lured by a liberal gratuity in ready money from the DeBowites, had proved recreant. Early in the day, he had entered upon a course of dissimulation. His treachery was intended at first to be only wily and foxlike, but, by little and little, as the heat of the day drew on. the trammels of prudence were more and more thrown off, and it resembled open rebellion and defiance. He was found to have distributed with his own hands, and to be a centre of supply for, bogus Lane ballots. These counterfeited a peculiar design, of an axe in a bundle of fasces, — adopted as a bordering for the express purpose of protecting the ticket from imitation,— and also put up at the head the name of James DeBow as the People’s Reform Candidate, instead of that of David Lane. It was a rude affair, it is true, but still sufficient to impose upon the unwary. He was proved, among other things, to have accosted a group of Mecklenburg wood-sawyers in Market Square, and reproached them, with affected surprise, for hanging about there and waiting for jobs, instead of availing themselves of the high privilege of citizenship on a day like this.
“ How we can vote?” their spokesman inquired of him in reply. “ We bin not long enough in that country.”
“ Oh, that’s all right; I make it all right, all right,” he had answered cheerfully.
With the aid of his hopeful son Barney and some other henchmen appointed to do his bidding, he had made them pass their time agreeably, and seen, in the course of the day, that they voted in one precinct or another. They were sworn in, under the forms of law, by fraudulent affidavits.
He led the half-grown boy, Nicodem Kraska. to deposit a ballot, as though of full age. He endeavored to induce one of the more active ticket-peddlers for David Lane (it was through this man’s fidelity that his treason was first disclosed) to go away home and “ lie down into bed,”—so his expression was framed, — offering for this service the sum of twenty dollars.
For the making of voters by affidavit, notaries-public were stationed at most of the voting precincts, in the interest of both sides. This was done for the benefit of all those who had not been able to register properly on the days appointed by law, and who could give a valid excuse for their absence. Little Notary-Public Kroeger, one of the gossips of the Johannisberger House, was also a renegade to Lane’s cause. It had been arranged that he should play into Ludwig Trapschuh’s hands in all this important part of the proceedings. The voters who were made by him, in his ostensible work for David Lane, were supplied, to a man, with DeBow tickets.
In this process, the would-be voter was required to make oath that he was a lawful elector and a resident of the ward and precinct to whicn he purported to belong, and he must show sufficient cause for not having presented himself before. This paper must then be further guaranteed under oath by some person being a householder in the same ward and precinct.
Trapschuh and his son Barney stretched their wide acquaintance to the utmost. The obscurity of the Held with which they dealt, the uncouth names and speech and peculiar manners and customs of the Polish and lower German element, which was their chief constituency, promoted the success of their plans, and no doubt also added an element of recklessness in carrying them out. Most of the electors thus made were of so rude a character as only to be able to affix a rude cross-mark to their affidavits, instead of their names.
The modus operandi was afterwards shown, in evidence, to be somewhat as follows. A group would be brought in by their purveyor, for instance, to the back room of Chezefski’s saloon, at the Railroad Avenue precinct, in which back room Notary Kroeger was at his work. The front room of the same establishment was occupied as the polling place.
“Well, why didn’t you register ?” asked the notary, when this part was reached in its order, pausing a moment, with pen raised in air, for the reply.
The applicant was often too stupid to allege even the simplest excuse.
“Was you sick?” prompted the notary, in a cut-and-dried way.
“ Yes, I was sick,” returned the man, full of wonder at the brilliant invention that could suggest so deft a plea.
One of the Trapschuhs, or their assistants, certified to this, as a householder and a resident of this, that, or the other ward and precinct, as the case might be. When there came an apparent hitch, and a knot of unidentified persons stood irresolutely about the room, needing a sponsor, at a nod from Ludwig Trapschuh one Wenzel Haller, a teamster from the House of Correction, stepped forward, and cried in a hearty way, —
“ Hello! I know all these men. They want to vote for DeBow. Why don’t you swear ’em in ? ”
“ You are a householder ? ” asked Kroeger, proceeding expeditiously to do so.
“ Yes, of course I’m a householder. That’s just what I am, — a householder, every time.”
A new batch was brought in by Joe Skinsky, a Polish butcher, but the teamster, Haller, possibly with some remote fear of consequences, now objected to being utilized any further. “ Let somebody else know these,” he said doggedly. “ I done enough.”
“ You know me, any way, Haller,” said one of the men confidently, pushing his way to the front, prompted by Trapschuh.
“ Where I seen you before ? ” inquired the teamster, blinking at him in far more than doubt.
“ Oh, down by the city limits,” was the answer, in a large way, generously covering a sufficient field.
“ Well, I sign this one,” consented Haller, grumbling; “but, by jinks! that’s all.”
He sat down, and began once more to affix his signature, laboriously thrusting out his tongue in the process.
“ Ah — a — a ! sign ’em up, sign ’em up ! Don’t wait till next Christmas ! ” cried Barney Trapschuh, in his rowdy way.
“ Sign ’em yourselluf ! ” exclaimed Haller, jumping up in dudgeon, upon this, and refusing to have anything more to do with his task.
This was gleefully taken, however, as a genuine permit; and on no better authorization, in fact, as was shown in court, a dozen more affidavits were framed and signed by the notary and others, as Haller’s agents, all certifying that the persons respectively named within were qualified electors, residents of the proper ward and precinct, and had been totally incapacitated by illness from registering.
Paul Barclay was at general headquarters several times during the day. Once as he came out, in the afternoon, he met with Mrs. Varemberg. Her presence there seemed like a breath of some rare fragrance that had wafted from a higher region into the rude turmoil of this exclusive strife of men. She had just pulled up at the curbstone, in her phaeton, and George Woodburn — a young lawyer, who was having his first practice to-day in active politics — had gone to her, to give her what scanty news might as yet be bad of the fortunes of the day. Young Woodburn resigned his place to Barclay, as one calculated to speak with greater authority than himself, and left him with her.
“ I was so impatient and nervous,” said the fair driver, “ that I could not stay in the house. I had to come out and try to get some idea of how things are going. My father has kept himself closely shut up in his room, and has not given me a scrap of information.”
She had not, of late, had the common feminine attitude of scorn towards politics, and it was a pleasure to talk to her on that subject as on others. She insisted on Barclay’s getting into the phaeton beside her, and desired an intelligent opinion on the causes making for or against success.
“ It is too early for anything of value,” returned Barclay. “ There is a rumor of trouble for us in the Polish quarter, which was supposed to be sound for your father, without question, on account of its natural party affiliations. What the extent of it will be it is impossible to say. The DeBowites have been working there under the surface. It is even said that a sermon was preached in DeBow’s favor in the church. It is a district where a great deal of crookedness can be covered up.”
They drove some little while together. looking on, from a distance, at characteristic sights of the election. Mrs. Varemberg’s anxiety indicated the extent of the interest she felt to be depending, for them, upon the result. Since her father was so set upon the post of mayor, she thought nothing ought to be neglected that could take away the pretext for opposing them further on that score. Barclay alighted near the Railroad Avenue precinct. He stood a moment to murmur blessings after her dear figure, as she drove away, and then, in accordance with a promise he had made to her, plunged into the thick of the fray, to see what mischief he could discover and frustrate in person. It was he who, acting upon information conveyed to him, finally unmasked the Trapschuhs. The counterfeit Lane ballots, made as heretofore described, were traced from son to father. When confronted with his part in this knavery, the latter indignantly denied it. He held that Barney had been imposed upon, through not being, as he said, “a good-educated ” person. He showed how he had nothing but Lane ballots, and all marked with a peculiar Polish mark of his own, so that ignorant voters who received them from him might be sure they were voting the right ticket, even though they could not read it. Johnny Maguire and another stalwart hand of Barclay’s, however, dexterously sprang upon him, at the risk of a breach of the peace, and " in the twinkling of a bed-post,” as the former expressed it, had searched his pockets, and found them full of the bogus Lane ballots, all marked in precisely the same manner.
This particular precinct was found given over, well-nigh wholly, to the hands of the enemy. As it transpired, the DeBowites had secured, at the beginning, two of the three inspectors. and these had finally induced their colleague, of the Lane persuasion, to go home on plea of illness, and leave them to fill the vacancy and retain the unquestioned control of affairs. This defection, though important, was but a small portion of the Polish quarter, the bulk of which held to David Lane.
As the lines of voters lengthened before the polling places towards evening, the DeBow managers might have sighed, like Wellington at Waterloo, “for night or Bliicher.” Anything in the nature of delay or obstruction of the vote would, all day long, have been advantageous to them. Their inspectors at the Railroad Avenue precinct adopted the Fabian policy with all their art. One of them put his head out of the window at noon, and cried, “ Hear ye! hear ye! the polls are closed for half an hour; ” and they took this time for a comfortable luncheon, while the electors waited. On two separate occasions, later, a head was put out, a voice called, “ Hear ye! hear ye ! ” and the polls were closed a considerable time, while they listened to confused wrangling of the friends of some men unable to show their full citizen papers, whom they admitted by a back door. Once, Skin sky, the butcher, came out rubbing his hands, and gleefully announced, —
“ They are turning the house the top-side on the bottom, in there.”
The delayed voters, suspecting artifice, but unable to prevent it, fumed without. They jostled and pushed, jeered the inspectors, shouted that they were free men, and that they would not be kept there all day. All at once a cry went up : —
“ Them men from down Muckwonago Road has got the small-pox among ’em ! ”
A mob, in affected horror, hustled the persons thus indicated—who indeed had no small-pox, but were simply good DeBow voters, for all the trickery was not confined to one side, as has been said — out of the line, and promptly filled their places, which had been near the front.
This manoeuvre came too late, however, to have any political effect. The day was well on towards its close at the time, and it presently expired as if with a tangible noise. Boom ! came the sound of a distant signal gun, — the piece regularly fired on the grounds of the fine Soldiers’ Home, on the outskirts, to mark the exact time of sunset. Its report had not fully died away before the polling-window shut with a bang. The election was over, and the waiting voters without sent up yells of rage and discomfiture at their lot.
Long past the customary time, that evening, the returns of the election were not yet in. Even those who waited in hope till a very late hour of the night were forced at last to go to bed without them. Nor did the papers of the next day, nor even of the next, contain them. The result as to some of the minor officers was known, it is true. Paul Barclay, for instance, was elected alderman of Keewaydin, and Christian Idak, landlord of the Johannisberger House, was defeated. But a deal of close scrutiny was needed before it should be known who was to be the next mayor.
During these days, the rain fell almost continuously, beating in a sodden way the political banners, possibly forgotten in the excitement, — as if it said, “ A plague o’ both your houses ! ” — and adding to the depression of those spirits that had already sufficient to make them gloomy. After noon, on the fourth day, Mrs. Varemberg was with her father, when a messenger arrived with all speed, bringing him an announcement.
“ Is it good news, papa ? Tell me quickly,” demanded Mrs. Varemberg, scanning his features, — upon which no ray of elation appeared, — and unable to await his slow words.
“ I am elected,” he answered impassively.
You are elected? You are successful, and yet — you show no pleasure in it ? ” she said, uneasy and alarmed.
“ My majority is of but nine votes. They will not let me rest easy with it. So slender a margin offers too great a premium for contest. It will be disputed.”
William Henry Bishop„