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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 13
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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 13 Post by :tomfra Category :Long Stories Author :Gouverneur Morris Date :May 2012 Read :2910

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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 13


Hannibal St. John's campaign for reelection to the senatorship was, owing to a grievous error in tact, of doubtful issue. A hue and cry arose against him among his constituents, and things in general fell out so unhappily that it looked toward the close of the contest as if he would be obliged to sit idle and dangle his heels, while the two halves of the country, pushing against each other, were rising in the middle like the hinge of a toggle-joint into the most momentous crisis in the nation's history. It looked as if the strong man, with his almost blasphemous intolerance of disunion, his columnlike power of supporting, and his incomparable intellect, was to stand in the background and watch the nightmare play from afar. He fought for his place in the forefront of the battle with a great fervor of bitterness, and the possibility of defeat weighed upon his glowering soul like a premature day of judgment. He knew himself to be the one man for the opportunity, and could his true feelings have found utterance, they would have said, "Damn us everlastingly in hell, but don't shelve us now!"

Opposed to St. John was a Mr. Bispham, of about quarter his height intellectually and integrally--a politician, simple, who went to war for loot. But he was blessed with a tremendous voice and an inexhaustible store of elemental, fundamental humor, upon the waves of which the ship bearing his banner floated high. It seemed that because of one glaring exhibition of tactlessness, and a lack of humor, a really important, valuable, and honest man was to lose the chance of serving his country to a designing whipper-snapper, who was without even the saving grace of violent and virulent prejudices. And so the world goes. It seemed at one time that St. John's chance was a ghost of a chance, and his friends, sons, and relatives, toiling headstrong by night and day, were brought up at the verge of despair. To make the situation even more difficult, St. John himself was prostrated with the gout, so that his telling oratory and commanding personality could not be brought to bear. Margaret was never far from her father's side, and she worked like a dog for him, writing to dictation till her hands became almost useless, and when the spasms of pain were great, leaving her work to kiss his old brow.

It was at this time that people all over the State began to take up a song with an inimitably catching tune. The words of this song held up Mr. Bispham in so shrewdly true and farcically humorous a light that even his own star began to titter and threatened to slip from its high place in the heavens. The song fell so absolutely on the head of the nail that Mr. Bispham, when he heard it for the first time, was convulsed with anger and talked of horse-whips. The second time he heard it, he drew himself up with dignity and pretended not to notice, and the third time he broke into a cold sweat, for he began to be afraid of those words and that tune. At a mass-meeting, while in the midst of a voluble harangue, somebody in the back of the hall punctuated--an absurd statement, which otherwise might have passed unnoticed, by whistling the first bar of the song. Mr. Bispham faced the tittering like a man, and endeavored to rehabilitate himself. But his hands had slipped on the handle of the audience, and the forensic rosin of Demosthenes would not have enabled him to regain his grip. He was cruelly assured of the fact by the hostile and ready-witted whistler. Again Mr. Bispham absurded. This time the tune broke out in all parts of the hall and was itself punctuated by catcalls and sotto-voce insults delivered with terrific shouts. Mr. Bispham's speech was hurriedly finished, and the peroration came down as flat as a skater who tries a grape-vine for the first time. He left the hall hurriedly, pale and nervous. The tune followed him down the street and haunted him to his room. The alarming takingness of it had gotten in at his ear, and as he was savagely undressing he caught himself in the traitorous act of humming it to himself.

Among others to leave the hall was a tall, slim young man with freckles across the bridge of his nose and very bright blue eyes. A party of young men accompanied him, and all were a little noisy, and, as they made the street, broke lustily into the campaign song. People said, "That's him," "That's O'Brien," "That's Aladdin O'Brien," "That's the man wrote it," and the like. The young men disappeared down the street singing at the tops of their voices, with interlardations of turbulent, mocking laughter.

Aladdin's song went all over the North, and his name became known in the land.

Hannibal St. John was not musical. There were only four tunes, and three of them were variations of "Carry Me Back to Old Virginia," that he recognized when he heard them. As he lay on his bed of pain, he heard the shrill whistle of his gardener piping in the garden below. Unconsciously the senator's well hand marked the time. All day, as he came and went about his business, the gardener kept whistling that tune, and the senator heard and reheard ever with increasing pleasure. And this was an extraordinary thing, for it was as difficult or nearly so to move Hannibal St. John with music as it must have been for Orpheus to get himself approached by rocks and stones and trees, and far more difficult than it ever was for the Pied Piper to achieve a following of brats and rats.

Margaret had been for a drive with a girl friend. She came home and to her father's side in great spirits.

"Oh, papa," she cried, "will you do me a favor?"

She read consent.

"Claire has got the wonderfulest song, and I want you to let her come in and sing it for you."

"A song?" said the senator, doubtfully.

"Papa de-e-ear, please."

He smiled grimly.

"If Claire will not be shocked by my appearance," he said against hope.

"Rubbish," cried Margaret, and flew out of the room.

There were a few preliminary gasps and giggles in the hall, and the two maidens, as sedate and demure as mice, entered. Claire was a little party, with vivacious manners and a comical little upturned face.

"How do you do, senator?" she said. "I'm so sorry you're laid up. Isn't it lovely out?" She advanced and shook his well hand.

"Won't you take a chair?" said the senator.

"I just ran in for a moment. Margaret and I thought maybe you'd like to hear the new campaign song that everybody's singing. My brother brought it up from Portland--" she paused, out of breath.

"It would afford me great pleasure," said the senator.

And forthwith Claire sang in a rollicking voice. The tune was the same as that which the gardener had been whistling. St. John recognized it in spite of the difference in the mediums and smiled. Then he smiled because of the words, and presently he laughed. It was the first real pleasure he had had in many a day.

"Everybody is wild about it," said Claire, when she had finished.

The senator was shaking with laughter.

"That's good," he said, "that's good."

"Papa," said Margaret, when Claire had gone, "who do you think wrote that song?"

"I don't know," said the senator. "But it's good."

"Aladdin wrote it," said Margaret.

"Upon my word!" said the senator.

Margaret knelt and threw her arms about her father's neck and blushed a lovely blush.

"Isn't it splendid?"

There was a ring at the front door, and a telegram was brought in.

"Read it, Peggy," said the senator. He used that name only when moved about something. The despatch was from the senator's youngest son, Hannibal, and read:

Do not worry; we are singing Bispham up a tree.

"And Aladdin wrote the song!" cried Margaret. "Aladdin wrote it!"

The senator's face clouded for a moment. He forced the cloud to pass.

"We must thank him," he said. "We must thank him."

Senator St. John was reelected by a small majority. Everybody admitted that it was due to Aladdin O'Brien's song. It was impossible to disguise the engaging childishness of the vote.

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