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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Cost - Chapter 20. A Man In His Might
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The Cost - Chapter 20. A Man In His Might Post by :Jigger Category :Long Stories Author :David Graham Phillips Date :May 2012 Read :1576

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The Cost - Chapter 20. A Man In His Might


Olivia came to attend the convention as Fred was a delegate from Marion County. Pauline and Gladys accepted her invitation and shared her box--the convention was held in the Saint X Grand Opera House, the second largest auditorium in the state. Pauline, in the most retired corner, could not see the Marion County delegation into which Scarborough went by substitution. But she had had a glimpse of him as she came in--he was sitting beside Fred Pierson and was gazing straight ahead, as if lost in thought. He looked tired and worn, but not cast down.

"You should have been here, Polly, when Scarborough came in," said Olivia, who was just in front of her. "They almost tore the roof off. He's got the audience with him, even if the delegates aren't. A good many of the delegates applauded, too," she added--but in a significantly depressed tone.

"Why isn't he a candidate, Mrs. Pierson?" asked Gladys.

"They wanted him to be, of course," replied Olivia, "and I think it was a mistake that he didn't consent. But he wouldn't hear of it. He said it simply wouldn't do for him to make the fight to carry the convention for himself. He said that, even if he were nominated, the other side would use it against him."

"That seems reasonable," said Gladys.

"But it isn't," replied Olivia. "He may not know it but he can lead men where they wouldn't go for his merely sending them."

"I suppose it was his modesty," suggested Gladys.

"Modesty's a good deal of a vice, especially in a leader," replied Olivia.

There was an hour of dullness--routine business, reports of committees, wearisome speeches. But, like every one of those five thousand people, Pauline was in a fever of anticipation. For, while it was generally assumed that Scarborough and his friends had no chance and while Larkin was apparently carrying everything through according to program, still it was impossible to conceive of such a man as Scarborough accepting defeat on test votes tamely taken. He would surely challenge. Larkin watched him uneasily, wondering at what point in the proceedings the gage would be flung down. Even Merriweather could not keep still, but flitted about, his nervousness of body contrasting strangely with his calmness of face; himself the most unquiet man in the hall, he diffused quiet wherever he paused.

At last came the call for nominations. When the secretary of the convention read Cass from the roll of counties, a Larkin henchman rose and spoke floridly for twenty minutes on the virtues of John Frankfort, put up as the Larkin "draw-fire," the pretended candidate whose prearranged defeat was to be used on the stump as proof that Boss Larkin and his gang had been downed. At the call of Hancock County, another--a secret--Larkin henchman rose to eulogize "that stanch foe of corporate corruption and aggression, Hancock County's favorite son, the people's judge, Judge Edward Howel Graney!" Then the roll-call proceeded amid steadily rising excitement which abruptly died into silence as the clerk shouted, with impressive emphasis, "Wayne!" That was the home county of the Scarborough candidate. A Wayne delegate rose and in a single sentence put ex-Governor Bowen in nomination. There was a faint ripple of applause which was instantly checked. A silence of several seconds and--

"Mr. Chairman, and gentle--"

It was the voice Pauline knew so well. She could not see him, but that voice seemed to make him visible to her. She caught her breath and her heart beat wildly. He got no further into seconding Bowen's nomination than the middle of the fourth word. There may have been ears offended by the thunder-clap which burst in that theater, but those ears were not Pauline's, were not in Olivia Pierson's box. And then came tumbling and roaring, huge waves of adulation, with his name shouted in voices hoarse and voices shrill like hissing foam on the triumphant crests of billows. And Pauline felt as if she were lifted from her bodily self, were tossing in a delirium of ecstasy on a sea of sheer delight.

And now he was on the platform, borne there above the shoulders of a hundred men. He was standing pale and straight and mighty. He stretched out his hand, so large and strong, and somehow as honest as his eyes; the tempest stilled. He was speaking--what did he say? She hardly heard, though she knew that it was of and for right and justice--what else could that voice utter or the brain behind those proud features think? With her, and with all there, far more than his words it was his voice, like music, like magic, rising and falling in thrilling inflections as it wove its spell of gold and fire. Whenever he paused there would be an instant of applause--a huge, hoarse thunder, the call of that mysterious and awful and splendid soul of the mass--an instant full of that one great, deep, throbbing note, then silence to hear him again.

Scarborough had measured his task--to lift that convention from the slough of sordidness to which the wiles and bribes of Dumont and his clique had lured it; to set it in the highroad of what he believed with all his intensity to be the high-road of right. Usually he spoke with feeling strongly repressed; but he knew that if he was to win that day against such odds he must take those delegates by surprise and by storm, must win in a suddenly descended whirlwind of passion that would engulf calculation and craft, sordidness and cynicism. He made few gestures; he did not move from the position he had first taken. He staked all upon his voice; into it he poured all his energy, all his fire, all his white-hot passion for right and justice, all his scorn of the base and the low.

"Head above heart, when head is right," he had often said. "But when head is wrong, then heart above head." And he reached for hearts that day.

Five minutes, and delegates and spectators were his captives. Fifteen minutes, and he was riding a storm such as comes only when the fountains of the human deeps are broken up. Thirty minutes and he was riding it as its master, was guiding it where he willed.

In vain Larkin sought to rally delegates round the shamed but steadfast nucleus of the bribed and the bossed. In vain his orator moved an adjournment until "calmness and reason shall be restored." The answer made him shrink and sink into his seat. For it was an awful, deafening roll of the war-drums of that exalted passion which Scarborough had roused.

The call of counties began. The third on the list--Bartholomew--was the first to say what the people longed to hear. A giant farmer, fiery and freckled, rose and in a voice like a blast from a bass horn bellowed: "Bartholomew casts her solid vote for Hampden Scarborough!"

Pauline had thought she heard that multitude speak before. But she now knew she had heard hardly more than its awakening whisper. For, with the pronouncing of that name, the tempest really burst. She sprang to her feet, obeying the imperious inward command which made every one in that audience and most of the delegates leap up. And for ten long minutes, for six hundred cyclonic seconds, the people poured out their passionate adoration. At first Scarborough flung out his arms, and all could see that he was shouting some sort of protest. But they would not hear him now. He had told them WHAT to do. He must let them say HOW to do it.

Pauline looked out at those flaming thousands with the maddest emotions streaming like lightning from their faces. But she looked without fear. They--she--all were beside themselves; but it was no frenzy for blood or for the sordid things. It was the divine madness of the soldier of the right, battling for THE CAUSE, in utter forgetfulness of self and selfishness. "Beautiful! Beautiful!" she murmured, every nerve tingling. "I never knew before how beautiful human beings are!"

Finally the roll-call could proceed. Long before it was ended the necessary votes had been cast for Scarborough, and Larkin rose to move that the nomination be made unanimous--Larkin, beaten down in the open, was not the man to die there; he hastened to cover where he could resume the fight in the manner most to his liking. Again Scarborough was borne to the platform; again she saw him standing there--straight and mighty, but deathly pale, and sad--well he might be bowed by the responsibility of that mandate, given by the god-in-man, but to be executed by and through plain men. A few broken, hesitating words, and he went into the wings and left the theater, applause sweeping and swirling after him like a tidal wave.

Pauline, coming out into the open, looked round her, dazed. Why, it was the same work-a-day world as before, with its actions so commonplace and selfish, with only its impulses fine and high. If these moments of exaltation could but last, could but become the fixed order and routine of life! If high ideal and courage ruled, instead of low calculation and fear! She sighed, then her eyes shone.

"At least I have seen!" she thought. "At least I have lived one of those moments when the dreams come true. And 'human being' has a new meaning for me."

Two men, just behind her in the crowd, were talking of Scarborough. "A demagogue!" sneered one.

"A demi-god," retorted the other. And Pauline turned suddenly and gave him a look that astonished and dazzled him.

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