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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Candidate: A Political Romance - Chapter 4. The First Speech
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The Candidate: A Political Romance - Chapter 4. The First Speech Post by :lingstar Category :Long Stories Author :Joseph A. Altsheler Date :May 2012 Read :3149

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The Candidate: A Political Romance - Chapter 4. The First Speech


When Harley started at an early hour for the vast hall in which Mr. Grayson was to speak, he realized that there was full cause for the trepidation of his feminine kind--perhaps in such moments women tremble for their men more than they ever tremble for themselves--and he had plenty of sympathy for Mrs. Grayson and Miss Morgan. The city, astir with the coming speech, was free to express in advance its opinion of it, both vocally and through its press, which was fairly divided--that is, one-half was convinced that it would be an overwhelming triumph, and the other half was equally sure that it would be a failure just as overwhelming.

Harley had in his pocket a copy of his own paper--the _Gazette_--the latest to reach him, and he had read it with the greatest care, but he saw that it remained independent; so far, it neither endorsed nor attacked Grayson; and, also, he had a telegram from his editor instructing him to narrate the events of the evening with the strictest impartiality, not only as concerned facts, but, above all, to transmit the exact color and atmosphere of the occasion. "I know that this is hard to do," he said, but with the deft and useful little compliment that a wise employer knows how to put in at the end, he added: "I am sure that you can do it." And he knew his man; Harley would certainly do it.

Harley, seated in an obscure corner of the stage, but one offering many points of vantage for his own view, saw the vast crowd come quickly into the hall, among the largest in the world, and he heard the hum of voices, in which he thought he could distinguish two notes, one of favor and one of attack. Yet the audience was orderly, and on the whole the element of curiosity prevailed. The correspondent, quick to read such signs, saw that the people had an open mind in regard to Jimmy Grayson; it was left to the candidate to make his own impression. Churchill took a seat near him and began to annoy him with depreciatory remarks about Grayson, not spoken to Harley in particular, but to the wide world. Hobart once said that Churchill needed no audience, preferring to talk to the air, which could make no reply of its own, but must return an echo.

Harley saw Mrs. Grayson and her niece slip quietly into a box, sitting well back, where they could be seen but little by the audience; and then, knowing that Mr. Grayson had arrived, he went behind the wings, where the candidate sat waiting.

Mr. Grayson received him with a calm and pleasant word; if his family were in a tremble, he was not; at least he was able to hide any apprehension that he might feel, and he remarked, jestingly: "It is apparent that I will have an audience, Mr. Harley; they will not ignore me."

"No, you are a good puller," rejoined Harley.

There were some dry preliminaries--introductory remarks by the chairman and other necessary bores--and then the audience began to call for Grayson. The speech would be reported in full by short-hand, for which mechanical work the staff correspondent always hires a member of that guild, and Harley was free for the present. He resolved to go into the box with Mrs. Grayson and Miss Morgan, but he changed his mind when he glanced at their faces. There was pallor in their cheeks, and their whole attitude was of strained and intense waiting. For them the crucial moment had come, and Harley had too much humanity to disturb them, even with well-meant efforts, at such a moment.

The hum in the crowd increased to a roar, a thunderous call for Grayson, but there was a pause on the stage, where no figures moved. The chairman glanced uneasily towards the wings and shuffled in his seat as if he did not know what to do, but his apprehension did not last long.

The candidate appeared, coming forward with a steady step, his face pale and apparently inexpressive; but Harley could see that the eyes, usually so calm, were lighted up by a fire from within. Suddenly all his fear for Grayson sank away; it came upon him with the finality of a lightning flash that here was a man who would not fail, and by an unknown impulse he looked from the candidate to the box in which Miss Morgan sat. She seemed to have read his faith in his eyes, for a look of relief, even joy, came over her face.

This intuition of the two was justified, as the candidate did not have to conquer his audience. He held it in his spell from the opening sentence; the golden and compelling oratory, afterwards so famous, was here poured before the greater world for the first time. Harley listened to the periods, smooth but powerful, and he could not throw off their charm; some things were said of which he was not sure, and others with which he positively disagreed, but for the time they all seemed true. Jimmy Grayson believed them--there could be no doubt of it; every word was tinged with the vivid hue of sincerity--that was why they held the audience in a spell that it could not escape; these were convictions, not arguments that he was speaking, and the people received them as such. Moreover, he was always clear and direct, he had a Greek precision of speech, and there was none in the audience who could not follow him.

Harley, no orator himself, had in the course of his profession heard much oratory, some good, much bad, and even now he struggled against the charm of Grayson's voice and manner, and sought to see what lay behind them. Was there back of this golden veil any great originating or executive power, or was he, like so many others who speak well, a voice and nothing more? An orator might win the Presidency of the United States, but his gift would not necessarily qualify him to administer the office. It was a tribute to Harley's power of will or detachment that he was able at such a time to ask himself such a question.

But he forgot these after-thoughts in the pleasurable sympathy that his view of the candidate's wife and niece aroused. Their faces were illumined with joy. Feeling his spell so strongly themselves, they knew without looking that the audience felt it, too, and the evening could be no fuller for them. Here he was, a hero not only for his womenkind, but for all whom his womenkind could see, and Harley thought that under the influence of this feeling Miss Morgan's features had become very soft and feminine. The curve of the jaw was gentle rather than firm, and now in her softer moments it seemed to Harley that something might be made of this mountain girl, say by the deft hands of an Eastern and older woman. Then he blushed at himself for such a condescending thought, and turned to his task--that is, the effort to reproduce for readers in New York, the next morning, the atmosphere of that evening in a Chicago hall, and the exact relation that Mr. Grayson, the people, and the events of the hour bore to each other.

Harley was a conscientious man, interested in his work, and when he gave the last page of the despatch to a telegraph-boy the speech was nearly over. He said emphatically that it was a success, that the audience was brought thoroughly under the spell, but whether this spell would endure after the candidate was gone he did not undertake to prophesy. The coldest and most critical seeker after truth and nothing but the truth could have found no fault with what he wrote.

He gave the last page of the despatch to the telegraph-boy, and entered the secluded box that held Mrs. Grayson and Miss Morgan. Two elderly Chicago men, who played at politics and who were warm enthusiasts for Grayson, were there, and Harley was introduced to them. But he talked to them only as long as politeness demanded, and then, with all sincerity, he congratulated Mrs. Grayson on her husband's triumph.

"I never had a doubt of it," she replied, her voice tremulous, and honestly forgetful in the glory of the moment of all the fears that had been assailing her a few hours ago. "I knew what he could do."

Harley turned presently to Miss Morgan, and he spoke in the same vein to her, but she asked, with some asperity, "Did you think he could fail?"

"Failure is possible, I suppose, in the case of anybody."

"But you do not know our Western spirit."

"I am learning."

Her gentleness was gone. She resented what she chose to consider an attempt at patronage of the West, and Harley again was made the target for the arrows of her sarcasm. Yet he did not resent it with his original acerbity; custom was dulling the sharp edge of her weapons, and, instead of wounding him, they rather provoked and drew him on. He was able to reply lightly, to suggest vaguely the crudities of Idaho, and to incite her to yet more strenuous battle for her beloved mountains.

But both ceased to talk, because the candidate was approaching his climax, and the grand swell of his speech had in it a musical quality that did not detract from its power to carry conviction. Then he closed, and the thunders of applause rose again and again. At last, after bowing many times to the gratified audience, he came back to the box, and his niece, her eyes shining with delight, sprang up, as if driven by an impulse, and, throwing her arms about his neck, kissed him. The act was seen by many, and it was applauded, but Harley did not like it; her emotion seemed to him too youthful, to smack too little of restraint--in short, to be too Western. Despite himself, he frowned, and when she turned back towards the box she saw the frown still upon his face. There was an instant fiery flash in her eye, and she drew herself up as if in haughty defiance, but she said nothing then, nor did she speak later when she left with the Graysons, merely giving him a cold good-night bow.

Harley lingered a little with the other correspondents, and was among the last to leave the building. He was thinking of the Idaho girl, but he did not fail to notice what was going on, and he saw a group of middle-aged or elderly men, the majority of them portly in figure and autocratic in bearing, follow the trail of Jimmy Grayson. Although familiar with the faces of only one or two in the group, he knew instinctively who they were. It was a gathering of the great, moneyed men of the party, eager to see the attitude of Grayson upon affairs that concerned them intimately, and prompt to take action in accordance. They were the guardians of "vested" interests, interests watched over as few things in this world are, and they were resolved to see that they took no harm. But the speech of the night had been general in its nature, a preliminary as it were, and Harley judged that they would do nothing as yet but skirmish upon the outskirts, keeping a wary eye for the main battle when it should be joined.

"Did you notice them?" asked white-haired Tremaine in his ear.

"Oh yes," replied Harley, who knew at once what he meant; "I watched them leave the hall."

"One gets to know them instinctively," said Tremaine. "I've seen them like a herd of bull-dogs--if such animals travelled in herds--on the heels of every presidential candidate for the last forty years, and that covers ten campaigns. But I suppose they have as much right to look after their interests as the farmer or mechanic has to look after his."

"Yet it is worth while to watch them," said Harley, and all in the group concurred.

They were to leave in the afternoon for Milwaukee, which gave plenty of time for rest, and Harley, who needed it, slept late. But when he rose and dressed he went forth at once, after his habit, for the morning papers, buying them all in order to weigh as well as he could the Chicago opinion of Grayson. The first that he picked up was sensational in character, and what he saw on the front page did not please him at all. There was plenty of space devoted to Grayson, but almost as much was given to an incident of the evening as to Grayson himself. There was a huge picture of a beautiful young girl throwing her arms around Jimmy Grayson's neck, and kissing him enthusiastically. The two occupied the centre of the stage close to the footlights, and twenty thousand people were frantically cheering the spectacle. By the side of this picture was another, a perfectly correct portrait of Miss Morgan, evidently taken from a photograph, and under it were the lines: "Jimmy Grayson's Egeria--the Beautiful Young Girl Who Furnishes the Western Fire for His Speeches."

And then in two columns of leaded type, under a pyramid of head-lines, was told the story of Sylvia Morgan. Flushed with enthusiasm, the account said, she had come from Idaho to help her uncle, the candidate. Although only eighteen years of age--she was twenty-two--she had displayed a most remarkable perception and grasp of politics and of great issues. It was she, with her youthful zeal, who inspired Mr. Grayson and his friends with courage for a conflict against odds. He consulted her daily about his speeches; it was she who always put into them some happy thought, some telling phrase that was sure to captivate the people. In a pinch she could make a speech herself, and she would probably be seen on the stump in the West. And she was as beautiful as she was intellectual and eloquent; she would be the most picturesque feature of this or any campaign ever waged in America. It continued in this vein for two columns, employing all the latest devices of the newest and yellowest journalism, of which the process is quite simple, provided you have no conscience--that is, you take a grain of fact and you build upon it a mountain of fancy, and the mountain will be shaped according to the taste of the builder.

Harley would have laughed--these things always seemed to him childish or flippant rather than wicked--if it had not been for the photograph. That was too real; it was exactly like Sylvia Morgan, and it implied connivance between the newspaper and some body else. In Idaho it might have one look, but here in Chicago it would have another, and in New York it would have still another and yet worse. She ought to see the true aspect of these things. To Harley, reared with the old-fashioned Southern ideals, from which he never departed, it was all inexpressibly distasteful--he did not stop to ask himself why he should be more concerned about the picture of Miss Morgan than those of many other women whom he saw in the newspapers--and his feeling was not improved by the entrance of Churchill and his sneering comment.

"A good picture of her," said Churchill. "These Western girls like such things. Of course she sent it to the newspaper office."

"I do not know anything of the kind, nor do you, I think," replied Harley, with asperity. "Nor am I aware that the West is any fonder than the East of notoriety."

"Have it any way you wish," said Churchill, superciliously. "But I fail to see why you should disturb yourself so much over the matter."

His tone was so annoying that Harley felt like striking him, but instead ignored him, and Churchill strolled carelessly on, humming a tune, as he had seen insolent people on the stage do in such moments.

Harley thrust the newspaper into his pocket, and went into one of the ladies' parlors, where he saw Miss Morgan sitting by a window and looking out at the hasty life of Chicago. She did not hear his approach until he was very near, and then, starting at the sound of his footsteps, she looked up, and her cheeks flushed.

"It should be a happy day for you," said Harley, "and I suppose that you are enjoying the triumph."

"Why should I not?" she replied. "I have a share in it."

"So you have, and the press has recognized it."

"What do you mean?"

"I was just looking at a very good picture of you," said Harley, and he spread the paper before her, hoping that she would express surprise and distaste. But she showed neither.

"Oh, I've seen that already," she said, quite coolly. "Don't you think it a good picture?"

"I have no fault to find with the likeness," replied Harley, with some meaning in his tone.

"Then what fault have you to find?"

Harley was embarrassed, and hesitated, seeking for the right words--what did it matter to him if she failed to show the reserve that he thought part of a gentlewoman's nature.

"You infer more than I meant," he said, at last. "I merely felt surprise that they should have obtained a photograph so quickly."

The slightly deepened flush in her cheeks remained and she surveyed him with the same cool air of defiance.

"They would have had a picture, anyhow, something made up; was it not better, then, to furnish them a real one than to have a burlesque published?"

"It's hardly usual," said Harley, more embarrassed than ever. "But really, Miss Morgan, I have no right to speak of it in any connection."

"No, but you were intending to do so. It was in your eye when I looked up and saw you coming towards me."

Her voice had grown chilly, and her gaze was fixed on Harley. The Western girl certainly had dignity and reserve when she wished them, but he did not believe that she chose the right moments to display these admirable qualities.

"I did not know that I had such a speaking countenance," said Harley. "And even if so, you must not forget that you might read it wrong."

"I do not think so," she said, still chilly, and, glancing up at the clock, she added: "It is almost twelve, and I promised Aunt Anna to be with her a half-hour ago."

At the door she paused, turned back, and a flashing smile illuminated her face for a moment.

"Oh, Mr. Harley," she said, "don't you wish some newspaper would print your picture?"

Then she was gone, leaving him flushed and irritated. He was angry, both at her and himself; at himself because he had expected to rebuke her, to show her indirectly and in a delicate way where she was wrong, and he had never even got as far as the attack. It was he who had been put upon the defence, when he had not expected to be in such a state, and his self-satisfaction suffered. But he told himself that she was a crude Western girl, and that it was nothing to him if she forced herself into the public gaze in a bold and theatrical manner.

A little later all left for Milwaukee, where Mr. Grayson was to make another great speech in the evening, and Harley again refrained from joining the group that soon gathered around Miss Morgan, and Mrs. Grayson, also, who, being in a very happy mood, made a loan of her presence as a chaperon, she said, although, being a young woman still, it gave her pleasure to hear them speak of her husband's brilliant triumph the night before, and to enjoy the atmosphere of success that enveloped the car.

The run from Chicago to Milwaukee is short, but Harley, despite his pique--he was young and naturally of a cheerful temperament--might have joined them before their arrival if his attention had not been attracted by another group, that body of portly, middle-aged men, heavy with wealth and respectability, who had silently cast a dark shadow upon the meeting at Chicago. They were men of power, men whose brief words went far, and they held in their hands strings that controlled many and vast interests when they pulled them, and their hands were always on the strings. They were not like the great, voluble public; they worked, by choice and by opportunity, in silence and the dark, and their kind has existed in every rich country from Babylonia to the United States of America. They were the great financial magnates of Jimmy Grayson's party, and nothing that he might do could escape their notice and consideration. It was more than likely that in the course of the campaign he would feel a great power pressing upon him, and he would not be able to say who propelled it.

Harley knew some of these men by name; one, the leader of the party, a massive, red-faced man, was the Honorable Clinton Goodnight, a member of the Lower House of Congress from New York, but primarily a manufacturer, a man of many millions; and the younger and slenderer man, with the delicately trimmed and pointed beard, was Henry Crayon, one of the shrewdest bankers in Wall Street. These two, at least, he knew by face, but no trained observer could doubt that the others were of the same kind.

Although silent and as yet casting only a shadow, Harley felt that sooner or later these men would cause trouble. He had an intuition that the campaign before them was going to be the most famous in the Union, dealing with mighty issues and infused with powerful personalities. Great changes had occurred in the country in the last few years, its centre of gravity was shifting, and the election in November would decide many things. He felt as if all the forces were gathering for a titanic conflict, and his heart thrilled with the omens and presages. It was a pleasurable thrill, too, because he was going to be in the thick of it, right beside the general of one of the great armies.

When they reached Milwaukee, Harley and all the correspondents went to the same hotel with the Graysons, and they remarked jocularly to the nominee that they would watch over him now night and day until the first Tuesday in November, and he, being a man of tact and human sympathies, without any affectations, was able to be a good fellow with them all, merely a first among his equals.

There was a great crowd at the station, ready to welcome the candidate, and the sound of shouting and joyous welcome arose; but Harley, anxious to reach the hotel, slipped from the throng and sprang into a carriage, one of a number evidently waiting for the Grayson party. It was a closed vehicle, and he did not notice until he sat down that it was already occupied, at least in part, by a lady. Then he sprang up, red-faced and apologetic, but the lady laughed--a curious little laugh, ironic, but not wholly unpleasant--and put out a detaining hand, detaining by way of gesture, because she did not touch him.

"You are very much surprised to find me here, Mr. Harley," said Miss Morgan. "You thought, of course, that I would be in the centre of that crowd, receiving applause and shaking hands, just as if I were a candidate, like my uncle James. You would not believe me if I told you that I came here to escape it."

"Why shouldn't I believe it?"

"Because I am going to tell you that your displeasure over the picture has made me feel so badly that I am resolved to do better, to be more modest, more retiring."

"Miss Morgan, you do me wrong," said Harley, with reddening face. "I have had no such thoughts."

"You fib in a good cause, but you cannot deceive me; I read your thoughts, but I am very forgiving, and I am resolved that we shall have a pleasant ride to the hotel together. Now, entertain me, tell me about that war, of which you saw so much."

She was not in jest, and she compelled him to talk. It was far from the station to the hotel, and she revealed a knowledge of the world's affairs that Harley thought astonishing in one coming from the depths of the Idaho mountains. She touched, too, upon the things that interested him most, and drew him on until he was talking with a zest and interest that permitted no self-consciousness. Resolved that he would not tell what he had seen, and by nature reserved, he was, within five minutes, under her deft questions, in the middle of a long narrative of events on the other side of the world. He saw her listening, her eyes bright, her lips slightly parted, and he knew that he held her attention. He was aware, too, that he was flattered by the interest that he had been able to create in the mind of this Idaho girl whose opinion he had been holding so cheaply.

"I envy a man," she said, at last, sighing a little. "You can go where you please and do what you please. Even our 'advanced women' have less liberty than the man who is not advanced at all. And yet I do not want to be a man. That, I suppose, is a paradox."

Harley was about to make a light reply, something in the tone of perforced compliment, but a glimpse of her caused him to change his mind. She seemed to have a touch of genuine sadness, and, instead, he said nothing.

When the carriage reached the ladies' entrance of the hotel they were still silent, and as Harley helped her from the carriage her manner was unchanged. The little touch of sadness was yet there, and it appealed to him. She surprised his look of sympathy, and the color in her cheeks increased.

"I am tired," she said. "I just begin to realize how greatly so much travelling and so many crowds weigh upon one."

Then, with the first smile of comradeship that she had given him, she went into the hotel.

The Graysons, Miss Morgan, Harley, Hobart, and a few others formed a family group again at the table, when they dined that evening, and all the tensity and anxiety visible the day before was gone. Mr. Grayson's success in Chicago had been too complete, too sweeping to leave doubt of its continuance; he would be the hero and leader of his party, not a weight upon it, and the question now was whether or not the party had votes enough; hence there was a certain light and joyous air about them which gave to their short stay in the dining-room a finer flavor than any that a _chef could add.

Churchill, of the _Monitor_, was not one of this party. Churchill did not confine his criticisms to his professional activities, but had a disposition to carry them into private life, injecting roughness into social intercourse, which ought to be smooth and easy. Therefore, somewhat to his own surprise, which ought not to have been the case, he had not become a member of this family group, and had much to say about the "frivolous familiarity" of Jimmy Grayson and "his lack of dignity."

But on this evening Churchill had no desire to sit at table with the Graysons, because he felt that something great was going to happen in his life. For more than a day, now, he had been on the trail of a mighty movement that he believed hidden from all save himself and those behind this movement. He, too, had noticed the appearance at Chicago of the heavy, rich, elderly men, and he had spoken to one or two of them with all the respect and deference that their eminent position in the financial world drew from every writer of the _Monitor_. And his deference had been rewarded, because that afternoon he received a hint, and it came from no less a personage than the Honorable Clinton Goodnight himself, a hint that Churchill rightly thought was worth much to him.

There was another large hotel in Milwaukee, and it was to this that the financiers had gone, having ascertained first that Grayson would not be there; nor did they intend to go to the speech that evening. They had already, in the address at Chicago, weighed accurately the power of Jimmy Grayson with his party, and with wary old eyes, long used to watching the world and its people, they had seen that it would be great. Hence he was a man to be handled with skill and care, to be led, not knowing that he was led, by a bridle invisible to all save those who held it--but they, the financiers, would know very well who held it.

It was these men to whom Churchill came, having slipped quietly away from his associates, drawn by a hint that he might secure an interview of great importance, two columns in length and exclusive. Churchill was a true product of the _Monitor_, a worshipper of accomplished facts, a supporter of every old convention, believing that anything new or in rough attire was bad. Although he would have denied it if accused, he nearly always confounded manners with morals, and to him the opinion of Europe was final. Hence the _Monitor and Churchill were well suited to each other. Moreover, Churchill enjoyed the society of the great--that is, of those who seemed to him to be the great--and he had an admirable flexibility of temperament; while easily able and willing to be very nasty to those whom he thought of an inferior grade, he was equally able and willing to be extremely deferential to those whose grade he considered superior. He was also intolerant in opinion, thinking that any one who differed from him on the subjects of the day was necessarily a scoundrel, wherein he was again in perfect accord with the _Monitor_.

It was, therefore, with an acute delight, blossoming into exultation, that Churchill slipped away from his associates and hastened towards the hotel where the financial magnates were staying. These were really great men, not the productions of a moment, thrown briefly into the lime-light, but solid like the pyramids. Mr. Goodnight must be worth forty millions, at the least, and he was a power in many circles. Churchill thrilled with delight that such a being should hint to him to come and be talked to, and he was more than ever conscious of his own superiority to his professional associates.

Churchill was not awed by the hotel clerk, but haughtily asked that his card be sent at once to Mr. Goodnight, and he concealed his pride when the message came back that he be shown up as soon as possible. He received it as the natural tribute to his importance, and he took his time as he followed the guiding hall-boy. But at the door of Mr. Goodnight his manner changed; it became deferential, as befitted modest merit in the presence of true and recognized greatness.

Mr. Goodnight was hospitable; there was no false pride about him; he was able in being great to be simple also, and Mr. Crayon and the others present shared his attractive manner.

"Ah, Mr. Churchill," he said, as he shook hands heartily with the correspondent, "it gives me pleasure, indeed, to welcome you here. We noticed your bearing in Chicago, and we were impressed by it. We therefore had an additional pleasure when we learned that you were the correspondent of the _Monitor_, New York's ablest and most conservative journal. The American press grows flippant and unreliable nowadays, Mr. Churchill, but the waves of sensationalism wash in vain around the solid base of the old _Monitor_. There she stands, as steady as ever, a genuine light-house in the darkness."

Mr. Goodnight, being a member of Congress, was able to acquire and to exhibit at convenient times a certain poetical fervor which impressed several kinds of people. Now his associates rubbed their hands in admiration, and Churchill flushed with pleasure. A compliment to the _Monitor was also a compliment to him, for was he not the very spirit and essence of the _Monitor_?

"Before we get to business," continued Mr. Goodnight, in the most gratifyingly intimate manner, "suppose we have something just to wet our throats and promote conversation. This town, I believe, is famous for beer, but it is not impossible to get champagne here; in any event, we shall try it."

He rang, the champagne was brought, opened, and drunk, and Churchill glowed with his sense of importance. These were men of many millions, twice his age, but he was now one with them. Certainly none of his associates would have been invited by them to such a conference, and he was able to appreciate the fact.

"We want you, Mr. Churchill, to tell us something about Grayson," said Mr. Goodnight, in a most kindly tone; "not what all the world knows, those superficial facts which the most careless observer may glean, but something intimate and personal; we want you to give us an insight into his character, from which we may judge what he is likely to do or become. You know that he is from the West, the Far West, likely to be afflicted with local and provincial views, not to say heresies, and great vested interests within his own party feel a little shaky about him. We cannot have a revolutionary, or even a parochial, character in the presidential chair. Those interests which are the very bulwark of the public must be respected. We must watch over him, and in order to know how and what to watch, we must have information. We rely upon you to furnish us this information."

Churchill was intensely gratified at this tribute to his merit, but he was resolved not to show it even to these great men. Instead, he carelessly emptied his champagne glass, rubbed his chin thoughtfully, and then asked with a certain fulness of implication:

"Upon what precise point do you wish information, Mr. Goodnight? Of course, I have not been with Mr. Grayson very long, but I can say truthfully that I have observed him closely within that time, and perhaps no phase of a rather complicated character has escaped me."

"We feel quite sure of that," said Mr. Crayon, speaking for the first time, and using short, choppy sentences. "_Monitor_, as I happen to know, is extremely careful in the selection of its men, and this, I am journalist enough to understand, is most important errand upon which it can now send member of its staff."

Churchill bowed courteously to the deserved compliment, and remained silent while Mr. Goodnight resumed the thread of talk.

"What we want to know, Mr. Churchill," he said, "is in regard to the elements of stability in his character. Will he respect those mighty interests to which I have just alluded? Is he, as a comparatively young man, and one wholly ignorant of the great world of finance, likely to seek the opinion and advice of his elders? You know that we have the best wishes in the world for him. His interests and ours, if he but perceives it, run together, and it is our desire to preserve the utmost harmony within the party."

Churchill bowed. Their opinion and his agreed in the most wonderful manner. It was hard to say, in his present exalted state, whether this circumstance confirmed their intelligence or his, but it certainly confirmed somebody's.

"I have already taken note of these facts," he said, in the indifferent tone of one whose advice is asked often, "and I have observed that Mr. Grayson's character is immature, and, for the present at least, superficial. But I think he can be led; a man with a will not very strong can always be led, if those with stronger wills happen to be near, and Mr. Grayson's faults are due to weakness rather than vice."

There was an exchange of significant looks among Mr. Goodnight, Mr. Crayon, and their friends, and then an emphatic nodding of heads, all of which indicated very clearly to Churchill that they admired his acuteness of perception, and were glad to have their own opinion confirmed by one who observed so well.

"Wouldn't it be well to lay these facts before the readers of the _Monitor_?" suggested Mr. Goodnight, mildly. "We all know what a powerful organ the _Monitor is, and what influence it has in conservative circles. It would be a hint to Mr. Grayson and his friends; it would show him the path in which he ought to walk, and it would save trouble later on in the campaign."

Churchill's heart thrilled again. This was a greater honor even than he had hoped for; he was to sound the mighty trumpet note of the campaign, but his pride would not let him show the joy that he felt.

"In giving these views--and I appreciate their great importance--shall I quote you and Mr. Crayon?" he asked, easily.

Mr. Goodnight mused a few moments, and twiddled his fingers.

"We want the despatch to appear in the shape that will give it the greatest effect, and you are with us in that wish, Mr. Churchill," he said, confidingly. "Now this question arises: if our names appear it will look as if it were a matter between Mr. Grayson and ourselves personally, which is not the case; but if it appears on the authority of the _Monitor and your own, which is weighty, it will then stand as a matter between Mr. Grayson and the people, and that is a fact past denying. Now, what do you think of it yourself, Mr. Churchill?"

Since they left it so obviously to his intelligence, Churchill was bound to say that they were right, and he would write the warning, merely as coming from the great portion of the public that represented the solid interests of the country, the quiet, thinking people who never indulged in any foolish chase after a will-o'-the-wisp.

Mr. Goodnight and Mr. Crayon made many further suggestions about the points of the despatch, but they admitted ingenuously that they were not able to write, that they possessed no literary and effective style, that it would be for Mr. Churchill to clothe their crude thoughts--that is, if he approved of them--in trenchant phrase and brilliant style.

There was such an air of good-fellowship, and Churchill admitted to himself so freely that these men might make suggestions worth while, that he decided, moreover, as the hour was growing late, to write the despatch there and then, and tell to the world through the columns of the _Monitor_, not what Jimmy Grayson ought to do, but all the things that he ought not to do, and they were many. The most important of these related to the tariff and the currency, which, in the view of Mr. Goodnight and his friends, should be left absolutely alone.

Paper was produced, and Churchill began to write, often eliciting words of admiration from the others at the conciseness and precision with which he presented his views. It was cause for wonder, too, that they should find themselves agreeing with him so often, and they admired, also, the felicity of phrasing with which he continued to present all these things as the views of a great public, thus giving the despatch the flavor of news rather than opinion. When it was finished--and it would fill two full columns of the _Monitor_--the line was quite clearly drawn between what Jimmy Grayson could do and what he could not do--and Churchill was proud of the conviction that none but himself had drawn it. Mr. Grayson, reading this--and he certainly would read it--must know that it came from inspired sources, and he would see straight before him the path in which it was wise for him to walk. Churchill knew that he had rendered a great service, and he felt an honest glow.

"I think I shall file this at once," he said, "as it is growing late, and there is an hour's difference between here and New York."

They bade him a most complimentary adieu, suggesting that they would be glad to hear from him personally during the campaign, and announcing their willingness to serve him if they could; and Churchill left the hotel, contented with himself and with them. When he was gone, they smiled and expressed to each other their satisfaction. In fifteen minutes swift operators were sending Churchill's despatch eastward.

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