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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 14
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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 14 Post by :tomfra Category :Long Stories Author :Gouverneur Morris Date :May 2012 Read :2749

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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 14


As he went to his desk in the back room of the Portland "Spy" offices the morning after the election, Aladdin had an evil headache, and a subconscious hope that nobody would speak to him suddenly. He felt that his arms and legs might drop off if anybody did, and he could have sworn that he saw a gray sparrow with blue eyes run into a dark corner, and turn into a mouse. But he was quite free from penitence, as the occasion of this last offense had been joy and triumph, whereas that of his first had been sorrow. He lighted a bad cigar, put off his editorial till later, and covered a whole sheet of paper with pictures like these:

(Transcriber's note: These are simple sketches of birds and animals.)

He looked back with a certain smug satisfaction upon a hilarious evening beginning with a dinner at the club, which some of the older adherents of St. John had given him in gratitude for the part he had taken in the campaign. He remembered that he had not given a bad exhibition, and that noble prophecies had been made of his future by gentlemen in their cups, and that he himself, when just far enough gone to be courageous without being silly, had made a snappy little speech of thanks which had been received with great applause, and that later he had sung his campaign song and others, and that finally, in company with an ex-judge, whose hat was also decorated with a wreath of smilax, he had rolled amiably about the town in a hack, going from one place where drinks could be gotten to another, and singing with great fervor and patriotism:

Zhohn Brownzh bozhy liezh a mole-ring in zhe grave.

Aladdin thought over these things with pleasure, for he had fallen under the dangerous flattery of older men, and with less pleasure of the editorial which it was his immediate business to write. His brisk, crisp chief, Mr. Blankinship, came in for a moment, walking testily and looking like the deuce.

"So you've showed up, Aladdin, have you?" he said. "That's young blood. If any question of politics--I mean policy--arises, I leave it absolutely to you. I'm going back to bed. Can't you stop smoking that rotten cigar?"

Aladdin laughed aloud, and Mr. Blankinship endeavored to smile.

"Somewhere," he said, "in this transcendentally beautiful continent, Aladdin, there may be some one that feels worse than I do, but I doubt it." He turned to go.

"Won't Mr. Orde be here either?" said Aladdin.

"No; he's home in bed. You're editor-in-chief and everything else for the day, see? And I wish I was dead." Mr. Blankinship nodded, very slightly, for it hurt, and went out.

The misery of others is a great cure: with the first sight of Mr. Blankinship, Aladdin's headache had gone, and he now pounced upon fresh paper, got a notion out of the God-knows-where, wrote his editorial at full speed, and finished it without once removing the cigar from his mouth.

He had just done when the shrewd, inky little boy, who did everything about the "Spy" offices which nobody else would do, entered and said that a gentleman wanted to speak with Mr. O'Brien. Aladdin had the gentleman shown up, and recognized the oldest of Hannibal St. John's sons; he knew them well by sight, but it so happened that he had never met them. They were the three biggest and most clean-cut young men in Maine, measuring between six feet three and four; erect, massive, utterly composed, and, if anything, a little stronger than so many dray-horses. They were notable shots, great fishermen, and the whole State was beginning to speculate with excitement about their respective futures and the present almost glittering success of the law firm which they composed. The oldest was the tallest and the strongest. He had been known to break horseshoes and to tear a silver dollar in two. Iron was as sealing-wax in his huge hands. His habits were Spartan. The second son was almost a replica of the first--a little darker and a little less vivid. The third was like the others; but his face was handsomer, and not so strong. He was of a more gentle and winning disposition, for his life was not ignorant of the frailties. The girl to whom he had been engaged had died, and that had left a kind of sweetness, almost beseechingness, in his manner, very engaging in so tall and strong a man.

"Mr. O'Brien?" said John St. John.

Aladdin arose and held out his long, slender hand.

Aladdin had a way of moving which was very individual to himself, a slight, ever so slight, exaggeration of stride and gesture, a kind of captivating awkwardness and diffidence that was on the borderland of grace and assurance. Like all slender people who work much with their heads, he had a strong grip, but he felt that his hand was as inconsistent as an eel when St. John's closed over it.

"I came in for a moment," said St. John, "to say that we are all exceedingly grateful to you. Your song was a great factor in my father's reelection to the Senate. But we do not hold so much by the song as by the good will which you showed us in writing it. I want you to understand and believe that if I can ever be of the slightest service to you, I will go very far to render it."

"I'm as obliged as I can be," said Aladdin. "It's mighty good of you to come and talk to me like this, and except for the good will I have toward all your family, I don't deserve it a bit."

When John St. John had gone, the inky boy came to announce that another gentleman wished to speak with Mr. O'Brien.

The second gentleman proved to be the second brother, Hamilton St. John.

"Mr. O'Brien?" said he.

Aladdin shook hands with him.

"I came in for a moment," said Hamilton St. John, "for the pleasure of telling you how tremendously grateful we all are to you for your song, which was such a big factor in my father's redirection to the Senate. But I want to say, too, that we're more grateful for your good will than for the song, and if I can ever do you a service, I want you to feel perfectly free to come and ask it of me, whatever it is."

Aladdin could have laughed for joy. Margaret did not seem so far away as sometimes.

"I'm as obliged as I can be," he said. "It's mighty good of you to come and talk to me like this, and except for the good will I have toward all your family, I don't deserve it a bit, but I appreciate it just the same."

Presently Hamilton St. John departed.

Again the inky boy, and this time grinning.

"There's a gentleman would like to speak with you, sir," he said.

"Show him in," said Aladdin.

Hannibal St. John, Jr., entered.

"O'Brien," he said, "I've often heard my sister Margaret speak about you, and I've been meaning for ever so long to look you up. And I wish I'd done it before I had such an awfully good excuse as that song of yours, because I don't know how to thank you, quite. But I want you to understand that if at any time--rubbish, you know what I mean. Come up to the club, and we'll make a drink and talk things over."

He drew Aladdin's arm into his, and they went out.

Aladdin had never before felt so near Margaret.

He returned to the office in half an hour, happy and a slave. Hannibal St. John, Jr., had won the heart right out of him in ten minutes. He sat musing and dreaming. Was he to be one of those chosen?

"Gentleman to see you, sir."

"Show him in."

The inky snickered and hurried out. He could be heard saying with importance, "This way, sir. Look out for that press, sir. It's very dark in here, sir." And then, like a smart flunky in a house of condition, he appeared again at the door and announced

"Senator Hannibal St. John."

Aladdin sprang up.

The senator, still suffering from the gout, and leaning heavily on his whalebone cane, limped majestically in. There was an amiability on his face, which Aladdin had never seen there before. He placed a chair for his distinguished guest. The senator removed his high hat and stood it upon the edge of Aladdin's desk.

"My boy," he said,--the word tingled from Aladdin's ears to his heart, for it was a word of great approachment and unbending,--"I am very grateful for your efforts in my behalf. I will place honor where honor is due, and say that I owe my recent reflection to the United States Senate not so much to my more experienced political friends as to you. The present crisis in the affairs of the nation calls for men of feeling and honor, and not for politicians. I hope that you will not misconstrue me into a braggart if I say from the bottom of my heart I believe that, in returning a man of integrity and tradition to his seat in the Congress of the nation, you have rendered a service to the nation."

The senator paused, and Aladdin, still standing, waited for him to finish.

"After a week," said the senator, "I shall return to my duties in Washington. In the meanwhile, Margaret" (he had hitherto always referred to her before Aladdin as "my daughter") "and I are keeping open house, and if it will give you pleasure we shall be charmed" (the word fell from the senator's lips like a complete poem) "to have you make us a visit. Two of my sons will be at home, and other young people."

"Indeed, and it will give me pleasure!" cried Aladdin, falling into the least suspicion of a brogue.

"I will write a line to your chief," continued the senator, "and I have reason to believe that he will see you excused. We shall expect you to-morrow by the fourthirty."

"I'm ever so much obliged, sir," said Aladdin.

"My boy," said the senator, gravely, after a full minute's pause, "we are all concerned in your future, which promises to be a brilliant one. It rests with you. But, if an old man may be permitted a word of caution, it would be this: Let your chief recreation lie in your work; leave the other things. Do I make myself clear enough?" (Aladdin nodded guiltily.) "Leave the frailties to the dullards of this world."

He rose to go.

"My young friend," said the senator, "you have my best wishes."

Grimacing with the pain in his foot, limping badly, but always stately and impressive,--almost superimpending,--Hannibal St. John moved slowly out of the office.

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