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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesMr. Crewe's Career - Book 3 - Chapter 21. St. Giles Of The Blameless Life
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Mr. Crewe's Career - Book 3 - Chapter 21. St. Giles Of The Blameless Life Post by :nexus Category :Long Stories Author :Winston Churchill Date :May 2012 Read :2689

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Mr. Crewe's Career - Book 3 - Chapter 21. St. Giles Of The Blameless Life

BOOK III
CHAPTER XXI. ST. GILES OF THE BLAMELESS LIFE

The burden of the valley of vision: woe to the Honourable Adam B. Hunt! Where is he all this time? On the porch of his home in Edmundton, smoking cigars, little heeding the rising of the waters; receiving visits from the Honourables Brush Bascom, Nat Billings, and Jacob Botcher, and signing cheques to the order of these gentlemen for necessary expenses. Be it known that the Honourable Adam was a man of substance in this world's goods. To quote from Mr. Crewe's speech at Hull: "The Northeastern Railroads confer--they do not pay, except in passes. Of late years their books may be searched in vain for evidence of the use of political funds. The man upon whom they choose to confer your governorship is always able to pay the pipers." (Purposely put in the plural.)

Have the pipers warned the Honourable Adam of the rising tide against him? Have they asked him to gird up his loins and hire halls and smite the upstart hip and thigh? They have warned him, yes, that the expenses may be a little greater than ordinary. But it is not for him to talk, or to bestir himself in any unseemly manner, for the prize which he was to have was in the nature of a gift. In vain did Mr. Crewe cry out to him four times a week for his political beliefs, for a statement of what he would do if he were elected governor. The Honourable Adam's dignified answer was that he had always been a good Republican, and would die one. Following a time-honoured custom, he refused to say anything, but it was rumoured that he believed in the gold standard.

It is August, and there is rejoicing in--Leith. There is no doubt now that the campaign of the people progresses; no need any more for the true accounts of the meetings, in large print, although these are still continued. The reform rallies resemble matinees no longer, and two real reporters accompany Mr. Crewe on his tours. Nay, the campaign of education has already borne fruit, which the candidate did not hesitate to mention in his talks Edmundton has more trains, Kingston has more trains, and more cars. No need now to stand up for twenty miles on a hot day; and more cars are building, and more engines; likewise some rates have been lowered. And editors who declare that the Northeastern gives the State a pretty good government have, like the guinea pigs, long been suppressed.

In these days were many councils at Fairview and in the offices of the Honourable Hilary Vane at Ripton; councils behind closed doors, from which the councillors emerged with smiling faces that men might not know the misgivings in their hearts; councils, nevertheless, out of which leaked rumours of dissension and recrimination conditions hitherto unheard of. One post ran to meet another, and one messenger ran to meet another; and it was even reported--though on doubtful authority--after the rally in his town the Honourable Jacob Botcher had made the remark that, under certain conditions, he might become a reformer.

None of these upsetting rumours, however, were allowed by Mr. Bascom and other gentlemen close to the Honourable Adam B. Hunt to reach that candidate, who continued to smoke in tranquillity on the porch of his home until the fifteenth day of August. At eight o'clock that morning the postman brought him a letter marked personal, the handwriting on which he recognized as belonging to the Honourable Hilary Vane. For some reason, as he read, the sensations of the Honourable Adam were disquieting; the contents of the letter, to say the least, were peculiar. "To-morrow, at noon precisely, I shall be driving along the Broad Brook road by the abandoned mill--three miles towards Edmundton from Hull. I hope you will find it convenient to be there."

These were the strange words the Honourable Hilary had written, and the Honourable Adam knew that it was an order. At that very instant Mr. Hunt had been reading in the Guardian the account of an overflow meeting in Newcastle, by his opponent, in which Mr. Crewe had made some particularly choice remarks about him; and had been cheered to the echo. The Honourable Adam put the paper down, and walked up the street to talk to Mr. Burrows, the postmaster whom, with the aid of Congressman Fairplay, he had had appointed at Edmundton. The two racked their brains for three hours; and Postmaster Burrows, who was the fortunate possessor of a pass, offered to go down to Ripton in the interest of his liege lord and see what was up. The Honourable Adam, however, decided that he could wait for twenty-four hours.

The morning of the sixteenth dawned clear, as beautiful a summer's day for a drive as any man could wish. But the spirit of the Honourable Adam did not respond to the weather, and he had certain vague forebodings as his horse jogged toward Hull, although these did not take such a definite shape as to make him feel a premonitory pull of his coat-tails. The ruined mill beside the rushing stream was a picturesque spot, and the figure of the Honourable Hilary Vane, seated on the old millstone, in the green and gold shadows of a beech, gave an interesting touch of life to the landscape. The Honourable Adam drew up and eyed his friend and associate of many years before addressing him.

"How are you, Hilary?"

"Hitch your horse," said Mr. Vane.

The Honourable Adam was some time in picking out a convenient tree. Then he lighted a cigar, and approached Mr. Vane, and at length let himself down, cautiously, on the millstone. Sitting on his porch had not improved Mr. Hunt's figure.

"This is kind of mysterious, ain't it, Hilary?" he remarked, with a tug at his goatee.

"I don't know but what it is," admitted Mr. Vane, who did not look as though the coming episode were to give him unqualified joy.

"Fine weather," remarked the Honourable Adam, with a brave attempt at geniality.

"The paper predicts rain to-morrow," said the Honourable Hilary.

"You don't smoke, do you?" asked the Honourable Adam.

"No," said the Honourable Hilary.

A silence, except for the music of the brook over the broken dam.

"Pretty place," said the Honourable Adam; "I kissed my wife here once--before I was married."

This remark, although of interest, the Honourable Hilary evidently thought did not require an answer:

"Adam," said Mr. Vane, presently, "how much money have you spent so far?"

"Well," said Mr. Hunt, "it has been sort of costly, but Brush and the boys tell me the times are uncommon, and I guess they are. If that crazy cuss Crewe hadn't broken loose, it would have been different. Not that I'm uneasy about him, but all this talk of his and newspaper advertising had to be counteracted some. Why, he has a couple of columns a week right here in the Edmundton Courier. The papers are bleedin' him to death, certain."

"How much have you spent?" asked the Honourable Hilary.

The Honourable Adam screwed up his face and pulled his goatee thoughtfully.

"What are you trying to get at, Hilary," he inquired, "sending for me to meet you out here in the woods in this curious way? If you wanted to see me, why didn't you get me to go down to Ripton, or come up and sit on my porch? You've been there before."

"Times," said the Honourable Hilary, repeating, perhaps unconsciously, Mr. Hunt's words, "are uncommon. This man Crewe's making more headway than you think. The people don't know him, and he's struck a popular note. It's the fashion to be down on railroads these days."

"I've taken that into account," replied Mr. Hunt.

"It's unlucky, and it comes high. I don't think he's got a show for the nomination, but my dander's up, and I'll beat him if I have to mortgage my house."

The Honourable Hilary grunted, and ruminated.

"How much did you say you'd spent, Adam?"

"If you think I'm not free enough, I'll loosen up a little more," said the Honourable Adam.

"How free have you been?" said the Honourable Hilary.

For some reason the question, put in this form, was productive of results.

"I can't say to a dollar, but I've got all the amounts down in a book. I guess somewhere in the neighbourhood of nine thousand would cover it."

Mr. Vane grunted again.

"Would you take a cheque, Adam?" he inquired.

"What for?" cried the Honourable Adam.

"For the amount you've spent," said the Honourable Hilary, sententiously.

The Honourable Adam began to breathe with apparent difficulty, and his face grew purple. But Mr. Vane did not appear to notice these alarming symptoms. Then the candidate turned about, as on a pivot, seized Mr. Vane by the knee, and looked into his face.

"Did you come up here with orders for me to get out?" he demanded, with some pardonable violence. "By thunder, I didn't think that of my old friend, Hilary Vane. You ought to have known me better, and Flint ought to have known me better. There ain't a mite of use of our staying here another second, and you can go right back and tell Flint what I said. Flint knows I've been waiting to be governor for eight years, and each year it's been just a year ahead. You ask him what he said to me when he sent for me to go to New York. I thought he was a man of his word, and he promised me that I should be governor this year."

The Honourable Hilary gave no indication of being moved by this righteous outburst.

"You can be governor next year, when this reform nonsense has blown over," he said. "You can't be this year, even if you stay in the race."

"Why not?" the Honourable Adam asked pugnaciously.

"Your record won't stand it--not just now," said Mr. Vane, slowly.

"My record is just as good as yours, or any man's," said the Honourable Adam.

"I never run for office," answered Mr. Vane.

"Haven't I spent the days of my active life in the service of that road--and is this my reward? Haven't I done what Flint wanted always?"

"That's just the trouble," said the Honourable Hilary; "too many folks know it. If we're going to win this time, we've got to have a man who's never had any Northeastern connections."

"Who have you picked?" demanded the Honourable Adam, with alarming calmness.

"We haven't picked anybody yet," said Mr. Vane, "but the man who goes in will give you a cheque for what you've spent, and you can be governor next time."

"Well, if this isn't the d--dest, coldest-blooded proposition ever made, I want to know!" cried the Honourable Adam. "Will Flint put up a bond of one hundred thousand dollars that I'll be nominated and elected next year? This is the clearest case of going back on an old friend I ever saw. If this is the way you fellows get scared because a sham reformer gets up and hollers against the road, then I want to serve notice on you that I'm not made of that kind of stuff. When I go into a fight, I go in to stay, and you can't pull me out by the coat-tails in favour of a saint who's never done a lick of work for the road. You tell Flint that."

"All right, Adam," said Hilary.

Some note in Hilary's voice, as he made this brief answer, suddenly sobered the Honourable Adam, and sent a cold chill down his spine. He had had many dealings with Mr. Vane, and he had always been as putty in the chief counsel's hands. This simple acquiescence did more to convince the Honourable Adam that his chances of nomination were in real danger than a long and forceful summary of the situation could have accomplished. But like many weak men, the Honourable Adam had a stubborn streak, and a fatuous idea that opposition and indignation were signs of strength.

"I've made sacrifices for the road before, and effaced myself. But by thunder, this is too much!"

Corporations, like republics, are proverbially ungrateful. The Honourable Hilary might have voiced this sentiment, but refrained.

"Mr. Flint's a good friend of yours, Adam. He wanted me to say that he'd always taken care of you, and always would, so far as in his power. If you can't be landed this time, it's common sense for you to get out, and wait--isn't it? We'll see that you get a cheque to cover what you've put out."

The humour in this financial sacrifice of Mr. Flint's (which the unknown new candidate was to make with a cheque) struck neither the Honourable Adam nor the Honourable Hilary. The transaction, if effected, would resemble that of the shrine to the Virgin built by a grateful Marquis of Mantua--which a Jew paid for.

The Honourable Adam got to his feet.

"You can tell Flint," he said, "that if he will sign a bond of one hundred thousand dollars to elect me next time, I'll get out. That's my last word."

"All right, Adam," replied Mr. Vane, rising also.

Mr. Hunt stared at the Honourable Hilary thoughtfully; and although the gubernatorial candidate was not an observant man, he was suddenly struck by the fact that the chief counsel was growing old.

"I won't hold this against you, Hilary," he said.

"Politics," said the Honourable Hilary, "are business matters."

"I'll show Flint that it would have been good business to stick to me," said the Honourable Adam. "When he gets panicky, and spends all his money on new equipment and service, it's time for me to drop him. You can tell him so from me."

"Hadn't you better write him?" said the Honourable Hilary.

The rumour of the entry of Mr. Giles Henderson of Kingston into the gubernatorial contest preceded, by ten days or so, the actual event. It is difficult for the historian to unravel the precise circumstances which led to this candidacy. Conservative citizens throughout the State, it was understood, had become greatly concerned over the trend political affairs were taking; the radical doctrines of one candidate--propounded for very obvious reasons--they turned from in disgust; on the other hand, it was evident that an underlying feeling existed in certain sections that any candidate who was said to have had more or less connection with the Northeastern Railroads was undesirable at the present time. This was not to be taken as a reflection on the Northeastern, which had been the chief source of the State's prosperity, but merely as an acknowledgment that a public opinion undoubtedly existed, and ought to be taken into consideration by the men who controlled the Republican party.

This was the gist of leading articles which appeared simultaneously in several newspapers, apparently before the happy thought of bringing forward Mr. Giles Henderson had occurred to anybody. He was mentioned first, and most properly, by the editor of the "Kingston Pilot;" and the article, with comments upon it, ran like wildfire through the press of the State,--appearing even in those sheets which maintained editorially that they were for the Honourable Adam B. Hunt first and last and, all the time. Whereupon Mr. Giles Henderson began to receive visits from the solid men--not politicians of the various cities and counties. For instance, Mr. Silas Tredway of Ripton, made such a pilgrimage and, as a citizen who had voted in 1860 for Abraham Lincoln (showing Mr. Tredway himself to have been a radical once), appealed to Mr. Henderson to save the State.

At first Mr. Henderson would give no ear to these appeals, but shook his head pessimistically. He was not a politician--so much the better, we don't want a politician; he was a plain business man exactly what is needed; a conservative, level-headed business man wholly lacking in those sensational qualities which are a stench in the nostrils of good citizens. Mr. Giles Henderson admitted that the time had come when a man of these qualities was needed--but he was not the man. Mr. Tredway was the man--so he told Mr. Tredway; Mr. Gates of Brampton was the man--so he assured Mr. Gates. Mr. Henderson had no desire to meddle in politics; his life was a happy and a full one. But was it not Mr. Henderson's duty? Cincinnatus left the plough, and Mr. Henderson should leave the ledger at the call of his countrymen.

Mr. Giles Henderson was mild-mannered and blue-eyed, with a scanty beard that was turning white; he was a deacon of the church, a member of the school board, president of the Kingston National Bank; the main business of his life had been in coal (which incidentally had had to be transported over the Northeastern Railroads); and coal rates, for some reason, were cheaper from Kingston than from many points out of the State the distances of which were nearer. Mr. Henderson had been able to sell his coal at a lower price than any other large dealer in the eastern part of the State. Mr. Henderson was the holder of a large amount of stock in the Northeastern, inherited from his father. Facts of no special significance, and not printed in the weekly newspapers. Mr. Henderson lived in a gloomy Gothic house on High Street, ate three very plain meals a day, and drank iced water. He had been a good husband and a good father, and had always voted the Republican ticket. He believed in the gold standard, a high tariff, and eternal damnation. At last his resistance was overcome, and he consented to allow his name to be used.

It was used, with a vengeance. Spontaneous praise of Mr. Giles Henderson bubbled up all over the State, and editors who were for the Honourable Adam B. Hunt suddenly developed a second choice. No man within the borders of the commonwealth had so many good qualities as the new candidate, and it must have been slightly annoying to one of that gentleman's shrinking nature to read daily, on coming down to breakfast, a list of virtues attributed to him as long as a rate schedule. How he must have longed for the record of one wicked deed to make him human!

Who will pick a flaw in the character of the Honourable Giles Henderson? Let that man now stand forth.

The news of the probable advent of Mr. Giles Henderson on the field, as well as the tidings of his actual consent to be a candidate, were not slow in reaching Leith. And--Mr. Crewe's Bureau of Information being in perfect working order--the dastardly attempt on the Honourable Adam B. Hunt's coat-tails was known there. More wonders to relate: the Honourable Adam B. Hunt had become a reformer; he had made a statement at last, in which he declared with vigour that no machine or ring was behind him; he stood on his own merits, invited the minutest inspection of his record, declared that he was an advocate of good government, and if elected would be the servant of no man and of no corporation.

Thrice-blessed State, in which there were now three reform candidates for governor!

All of these happenings went to indicate confusion in the enemy's camp, and corresponding elation in Mr. Crewe's. Woe to the reputation for political sagacity of the gentleman who had used the words "negligible" and "monumental farce"! The tide was turning, and the candidate from Leith redoubled his efforts. Had he been confounded by the advent of the Honourable Giles? Not at all. Mr. Crewe was not given to satire; his methods, as we know, were direct. Hence the real author of the following passage in his speech before an overflow meeting in the State capital remains unknown:

"My friends," Mr. Crewe had said, "I have been waiting for the time when St. Giles of the Blameless Life would be pushed forward, apparently as the only hope of our so-called 'solid citizens.' (Prolonged laughter, and audible repetitions of Mr. Henderson's nickname, which was to stick.) I will tell you by whose desire St. Giles became a candidate, and whose bidding he will do if he becomes governor as blindly and obediently as the Honourable Adam B. Hunt ever did. (Shouts of "Flint!" and, "The Northeastern!") I see you know. Who sent the solid citizens to see Mr. Henderson? ("Flint!") This is a clever trick--exactly what I should have done if I'd been running their campaign--only they didn't do it early enough. They picked Mr. Giles Henderson for two reasons: because he lives in Kingston, which is anti-railroad and supported the Gaylord bill, and, because he never in his life committed any positive action, good or bad--and he never will. And they made another mistake--the Honourable Adam B. Hunt wouldn't back out." (Laughter and cheers.)

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