Simeon Small, Compromise Candidate
Simeon Small, Compromise Candidate
BY CLARENCE BUDINGTON KELLAND
AFTER spending an evening in the society of Miss Edwina Comerford, at the home of Cedric Comerford, whose sister and guest she was, I became convinced that a man should choose as his mate one approximating his own tale of years. I took Miss Edwina to be sufficiently distant from her romantic girlhood to make her a safe repository for my affections. Younger women, I am frank to admit, have proven undependable, not to say erratic, in their behavior toward myself.
Miss Comerford, I was soon to learn, was much given to consideration of, and conversation upon, civic affairs. Indeed, she expressed a desire to participate in them in the role of voter. She made it clear to me, in a brief but cogent argument, that a woman, possessed of degrees from two universities, a descendant of one of the individuals known to our annals as Pilgrim Fathers, and who monthly contributed articles to the Ethical and Cultural Review, was not less qualified to cast an intelligent vote than a Hungarian individual whose education extended no further than to a comprehension of the uses of a pick-ax.
She aroused my interest. Soon we were deep in a discussion of the political institutions and methods of this country.
"I observed during our last election," said I, "that the selection of individuals to fill offices of public trust was carried on in an unbecoming, not to say distressing, manner."
She nodded her head in emphatic agreement, and I continued: "Addresses of a political nature appeared to me to contain more acrimony than logic. Indeed, on a certain occasion I heard one speaker refer to an opposing candidate as 'a pin-head plutocrat with a strip of lard for a spine.' I memorized the phrase as an example of quaint forensic eloquence. But, forcefully descriptive as it may have been, I was at a loss to perceive how it bore on the abstract principle of high or low import duties, supposedly under discussion."
"Exactly," said she. "Exactly. I can see no hope for a better day until our elections shall pass into the hands of men and women of culture and refinement—until some leader shall arise with powers and abilities to bring about a revolution. To such a man I could give my unqualified esteem."
"Miss Comerford," said I, "you have given me food for thought. I may say you have planted in my mind a seed which upon cultivation may germinate and bear fruit."
I hoped she would not regard this as too abrupt. To me it savored of a declaration. I admit to a hope that she would regard it as significant.
"What can you mean, Mr. Small?" she said.
"I mean," said I, "that I may be able to see my way clear to offer my services to the state in some political capacity; in short, that in my own person may begin the splendid task under discussion."
"Mr. Small," she replied, with more than ordinary earnestness in her voice, "I hope it may be so."
"And," said I, "no small part of my reward, in case of success, would be the esteem of which you spoke but a moment since."
That was indeed a pointed speech, but it seemed not to confuse her in the least degree. Presently the conversation became more general, and, if I may be permitted to express the opinion, more heterogeneous. In due time I took my departure. Hut I carried with me Miss Edwina's suggestion; nor did I retire until I had given it the most thorough analytical consideration of which I was capable.
As may be supposed, I did not shirk this duty when it was made plain to me. I determined to become a public officer at the next election. Just what office I should accept I did not determine, but left it to be decided later when a review of the situation should demonstrate where I could be of greatest service.
After considerable reflection I came to believe that my peculiar abilities would be more useful to the country in the legislative, rather than the executive. I had almost determined to act on this conclusion when I overheard a conversation which caused me to take quite the opposite view of the matter.
My chauffeur and gardener were talking.
"Hub Wilson's comin' out for sheriff," said the chauffeur.
"He'll give Ed McCarty the run of his life," said the gardener.
"Hub's been sore ever since McCarty beat him four years ago."
"It 'll be the nastiest fight this county ever saw. Both of 'em 'll be out for blood."
"We'll see politics this year," said the chauffeur, with delight which he was at no pains to conceal.
"It'll make the war in Europe look like one of the boss's front-porch wrangles with a college professor over which came first—the egg or the hen."
This last was somewhat disrespectful to myself, but as it manifestly had not been intended for my ears I let it pass unnoticed. It was of slight importance in view of the disclosures the men had made to me—disclosures of an impending political condition even more deplorable than those of the last election. Here, apparently, was one man offering himself for office out of revenge. It was well-nigh incomprehensible to me. It was unthinkable, not to say unbearable. In that moment I determined not to remain supine, but to take action with my accustomed promptness. I resolved to intervene in the interests of logical self-government, and to become sheriff myself—in short, to become what is called in the slang of the day a compromise candidate.
I called for my car and directed the chauffeur to drive me to the sheriff's office—McCarty, I understood his name to be—and assuming a bearing at once diplomatic and firm, I requested admittance. The outer room was full of individuals who sat in undignified postures, smoking cigars and pipes. This was not as it should be, and I determined here should be my first reform.
The sheriff, when I was ushered into his presence, proved to be a large man with grizzled hair and a countenance of marked pugnacity. He was coatless, and his feet were on his desk among papers which might well have been of importance.
"Sheriff McCarty?" I asked, determined to remain complaisant and not to take the man to task, as was the right of a citizen and a taxpayer, for the conditions existing about him.
"That's me," said he, failing to lower his feet.
"My name," said I, "is Simeon Small."
I expected he would at once recognize the name because of the various philological brochures issued over my signature, but he appeared not to do so.
"What of it?" was his peculiar question.
"I am a resident and citizen of this county," said I.
"Nothin' peculiar about that. There's lots of 'em."
I confess I was at a loss how to proceed with the individual. He appeared a man of the greatest social limitations. However, I resolved to proceed as though he were one of my own class.
"I understand," said I, "that a person by the name of Wilson is about to contest the election with you."
"You can understand he's a person if you've a mind to, but I ain't admittin' it," said the sheriff.
"There exists, I am told, a certain modicum of acrimony between you."
"A which of what?" said he, straightening up and looking at me. Then he called aloud: "Hey, Jim! Come in here. Feller utterin' language. Need an interpreter." He turned to me and grinned—I use the word advisedly—grinned. "Jim's educated," said he. "You can tell it to him, and he'll break it to me gentle in words of one syllable."
"There is no need," said I, coldly. "What I meant to imply was that hard feeling exists."
"Some," said he, drawlingly. "Some."
"In which event," said I, "there will be an election vexed by riot and bickering. The voters will have no opportunity to decide calmly and thoughtfully between you."
"Not if I keep my strength, they won't," said he, viciously.
"It is a condition to which I give my whole-hearted disapproval," said I; "and my purpose in calling upon you was to avert its ill consequences."
He stared at me briefly while he chewed upon some morsel in his mouth. "And how do you figger to do it?" he asked.
"By becoming a compromise candidate," said I.
"What?" he exclaimed, vehemently.
"Exactly," said I.
He got up and looked out of the window at my car and the chauffeur, then he turned and asked, "Is that feller there workin' for you, or do they send him around with you to sort of keep watch of you?"
"He is my chauffeur," said I, deeming it best to answer courteously his pointless inquiry.
"You must be a sore trial to your folks," said he.
"I don't follow you," said I.
"No," said he, "you wouldn't."
"Do I understand," I asked, "that you do not accept my offer?"
"If you've got anythin' to understand with, and it's in workin' order to-day, that's what you understand."
"I advise you to reflect."
He got up, frowning savagely. "Young feller," said he, "if you calc'late to be jokin' with Ed McCarty in this here way you've got more nerve than judgment; if you're in earnest, it's a lucky thing your folks has got money enough to pay private keepers to drive you around in automobiles. Whichever is the case, the point has now arrived when you git out of here, and git quick. And don't stop to reflect any, either."
I deemed it best to withdraw, for the man seemed in a most unreasonable humor.
His opponent, Mr. Wilson, was no more amenable to reason. That left but one course open to me, namely, to enter the election against both of them—in short, to become a compromise candidate without the consent or volition of either of the parties. I should see to it that the people of my county had an opportunity to choose for their chief officer a man not swayed by the baser passions of revenge or ambition or greed, but purely by a desire to be of service to the commonwealth.
With this matter settled in my mind, I at once wrote each candidate, announcing my intention, and in firmest language informing them of my disapproval of their self-centered and unpatriotic obstinacy. Also I dropped a brief but carefully worded note to Miss Edwina, stating the facts, and in no way attempting to conceal from her the important part her suggestion played in my determination.
I then settled myself for an hour's recreation, reading Dr. Heinrich Pfefferness's monograph on The Quipus of the Natives of Ttahuantin-suyu and the Lessons to be Drawn Therefrom by the Speech Preservatives of European Civilization. It was a delightful little study in what may be termed the doctor's lighter vein, and I arose from it refreshed.
Just how to take the initial steps toward obtaining the office I was now determined to have I did not know, but, judging my chauffeur to be informed concerning such details—from his conversation with the gardener—I sent for him.
"You will be interested," said I, "to learn that I am about to become sheriff of this county."
"What?" says he, forgetting in his manifest astonishment to add "sir."
I repeated my statement.
"Honest?" said he. "Honest Injun? D'you mean it?"
"I do," said I.
"Whoop!" he shouted, and executed a droll antic which I took to be indicative of delight. I was touched. Hitherto I had judged him a saturnine, self-contained individual with no feeling of affection toward me whatever. His manner had created that impression. But I saw how much I had wronged him. His unaffected pleasure at my announcement convinced me of the high opinion in which he held me.
"I am glad," I said, graciously, "if I have pleased you."
"Pleased!" said he. "Mr. Small, I'd rather watch you runnin' for sheriff against McCarty and Wilson than to have my wages doubled."
Now there, thought I, is loyalty—a species of loyalty I had believed to belong dead in the breasts of our modern retainers.
"I don't know how to go about the necessary preliminaries," said I, "and I fancied that you—mingling as you do with the populace—might be better informed."
"You want to know how to get into the scrimmage?"
"That is scarcely the expression I should make use of, but I believe it conveys, somewhat obliquely, my meaning."
"You need a campaign-manager," said he. "He'll look after things for you."
"Indeed," said I, "the idea seems a good one. Where can I discover a person of proper qualification?"
"I know a feller," said he, "who knows politics from votes to grand juries. Garrity's his name—and maybe, being who you are, you could get him to take hold of things for you."
"Then," said I, "I must see this Garrity person?"
"Take me to him," said I.
As we drove toward the village I formulated the so-called platform, or statement of principles and purposes, which I should present to the people in the announcement of my candidacy. Hastily I entered it in my note-book. It read as follows:
In offering myself as a candidate for the shrievalty of this county I deem it not only seemly, but necessary, that I declare the purposes which move me, my political principles, and a part at least of my plans, to be put in effect upon my election.
First: I declare myself as unqualifiedly opposed to any arbitrary change in our language or in the spelling thereof by legislation or executive order.
Second: I favor the sending of a governmental expedition to obtain phonographic records of the speech of the Patagonians and of the remoter Alaskan tribes, that illuminating comparisons may be made between them.
Third: I favor more studious, thoughtful, dignified methods of selecting candidates, and offer my own campaign as example.
Fourth: I am opposed to such conduct on the part of the sheriff in his official capacity as sitting in his shirt-sleeves, so-called, elevating his feet to the top of the desk, and permitting his office to serve as refuge, lounging-place, or quasi-club rooms for individuals of dubious cleanliness, education, and standing in the community.
Fifth: I am in favor of the abolition of certain unimportant employments such as broom and chair making, etc., in our penal institutions, and the substitution therefor of various branches of higher education, to the end that the individuals therein incarcerated may upon their release be, by compulsion, possessed of a degree of culture which will insure against a repetition of their offensive conduct.
Sixth: I shall donate to our county jail a library of such books as I deem suitable for the reading of the inmates, and shall appoint as deputies only individuals of such training, both social and educational, as will command the respect of said inmates. It shall be the duty of such deputies to conduct systematic courses of selected reading; also to give individual instruction in the usages of society.
Lastly: I shall exert myself, and apply the weight of my official position as sheriff to this county, to influence the governments of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden to collect the myths, sagas, and folklore of their earliest period, that their relationship with tales and legends from the Sanskrit, and those of remote Aryan peoples may be settled for all time.
This declaration, I fancied, would be sufficient to demonstrate to the voters what manner of man was requesting their suffrages.
I stopped at the office of an acquaintance to have his young woman stenographer make a number of copies of my platform to be sent to New York and Boston papers.
Outside I found my chauffeur with a man whom he called Garrity and to whom he was talking vehemently.
"It'll be just like pickin' it off a bush," said he. "Takin' candy off a baby would be a Chinese puzzle to this. Say, Garrity, he's got so much of it he walks lopsided—and easy! Man of man! Split fair, if I put you next?"
The man might as well have been speaking in the Choctaw tongue, so incomprehensible was he. I was interested. Here was a man speaking my own language. Indeed, he made use of no word not to be found in the dictionary, yet his use of them was such as to deprive them of all meaning to me. I determined to talk more with him and to make notes of his phrases, together with the translations, and to read a paper thereon at some future meeting of the Philological Society. It seemed to me I had inadvertently run upon a full-grown patois—a language within our language which presented points of amazing interest.
"Mr. Small," said he, "bein' interested in your campaign, I take the liberty of introducing to you Mr. Garrity, a man who can give 'em all advice when it comes to politics."
"Indeed," said I, regarding Mr. Garrity with curiosity. "A specialist? Ah! Am I to understand it is your profession to act in an advisory capacity in the field of politics?"
"All of that," said he, "and then some."
"If you will accompany me to my home I should like to discuss the matter with you. I find I shall need instruction from time to time. But perhaps you have already been retained?"
"Not a string on me," he declared.
As a consequence of our conversation I retained this Mr. Garrity in the capacity of political adviser—campaign-manager was the term he used.
"Understand," I said, firmly, "there are to be no undignified methods. There is to be no effort to inflame the people. I wish them to approach this election coolly, calmly, with their minds functioning without obstruction. It is my purpose," I continued, "to make of this an ideal election—an example for this whole country from coast to coast."
"Sure, boss," said he. "This here campaign 'll be as peaceful as a convention of deef-and-dumb undertakers."
I considered myself now completely launched as a politician. I had, in a manner of speaking, crossed the Rubicon. The importance of the act warranted me, I believed, in calling on Miss Edwina to put her in possession of the facts, and, if I might find a way to do so without exciting her apprehension, advance myself somewhat further in her—shall I say affections?
"Mr. Small," she told me when we were seated together on the piazza, "I am delighted, immeasurably delighted. The more so that I—a mere woman, though perhaps not unworthy to stand comparison with some citizens enjoying full privileges—that I have had a part—a small, subordinate part, in this event." She was given, I noted, to over-long and somewhat involved sentences. I made a mental note that when we were something more than mere acquaintances—when we were on the rather more familiar footing of husband and wife—I should call the point to her attention, and remonstrate with her gently.
"Your part has not been subordinate," I hastened to assure her. "Indeed, it has been preponderating, if I may say so." Here I hesitated while I put into expressive, yet not tell-tale, form my next observation. "I venture to hope," said I, significantly, "that your influence with myself will not cease utterly with the realm of politics." Upon hearing these words I stood somewhat aghast, for, spoken as I spoke them, they seemed weighted, not to say surcharged, with ardor.
"Mr. Small!" said she.
"Miss Comerford!" said I, and in the moment I felt we were not far apart; indeed, it seemed to me that, tacitly, as kindred minds are prone to do, we had reached an understanding.
I ventured to show her a copy of my platform. She read it with marked attention, and paid it no mean tribute when she informed me she considered it to be one of the most remarkable public documents extant in American political history—one destined to be handed down to generations yet to appear as an example. I admit I blushed somewhat at this. So pointed a reference to individuals not yet in being could have been made by few persons save Miss Comerford without some savor of impropriety.
I assured her I should keep her well informed of the progress of my campaign, and returned to my library, where I permitted myself an hour of relaxation, browsing through Dr. Leibhuntz's work on The Probable Conformation of Brain Convolutions in Prognathous Man.
That evening Mr. Garrity sought me out, seemingly bubbling with enthusiasm. He had caused several placards to be printed at what seemed to me to be an exorbitant cost. These bore legends of his composition, setting forth the spirit of my campaign. Though I could not give my whole-hearted approval of them, nevertheless he seemed to have comprehended my desires and to have stated, in the language of the people, my thoughts. The first of these placards said:
"Chase the rough-necks out of politics."
I remonstrated, but he pointed out to me that the word "rough-necks" was in common currency to denominate individuals of objectionable characteristics, and that the whole signified my desire to exclude such persons from active participation in the process of elections.
Another placard said:
"Simeon Small for Sheriff. He'll teach the crooks not to eat with their knives."
This was unobjectionable. It was one of the things I had in mind—the instruction of lawbreakers in good breeding.
There were several others, worded uncouthly, it is true, but seemingly pointed and suited to the intelligence of those who would read them. Mr. Garrity made this clear to me.
"I've fixed up a meetin' in the Knights of Pleasure Hall," he informed me. "It's for Wednesday night. Git loaded with a speech that 'll skim the hair right off their heads."
"Impossible," said I. "On that evening I read before the society a paper on 'Our Convention System in Its Relation to the Custom of Selecting Head Men or Chieftains Among the Nomadic Tribes of the Kamchatkan Peninsula.' "
"Has that there society got votes? Or has them nomadic tribes got votes?"
"Not in this county, at any event," said I.
He shook his head, but presently his face assumed a look of relief. "Just as well," said he. "I'll get Megaphone Maloney to make the spiel. He'll give you a send-off, Mr. Small. When he's through alludin' to McCarty and Wilson, them lads 'll know they've been alluded to."
"Mind, now," said I, "nothing indecorous or savoring of the nature of personality."
"Trust Megaphone for that," he assured me. "He's as high-brow as they make em.
So it was arranged for this person, an orator of local note, to deliver the address. The matter, I found, was not unattended by expense. Indeed, I discovered that the exigencies of the campaign demanded considerable outlays at frequent intervals. I considered, however, that the money was contributed to a good cause—was, as a matter of fact, furthering the propaganda of civic purity.
I was to discover that day that metropolitan newspapers were not unmindful of my activities. Every New York paper to which I had sent a copy of my platform printed it in full, together with a photograph of myself, obtained I do not know how. There were editorial comments highly commendatory, I judged. I read one article to Mr. Garrity, who, in the midst of the reading, was seized by a sudden alarming fit of choking and was compelled to rush from the room. This article referred to me as, "A New Political What-Is-It." I could find no authority in the dictionary for hyphenating the last three words, but my chauffeur, whom I asked concerning it, informed me it was a cant, or argot, idiom signifying something novel, incomprehensible, and admirable.
It was that day, in an interview to the press, that I used the mild term "adscititious excrescences" to refer to a certain genus of politicians to which my opponents, McCarty and Wilson, belonged. It appeared later, to my distress, that both these gentlemen took umbrage at the expression; indeed, they accused me of what they called "mud-slinging," and went so far as to make threats of personal violence toward myself.
As every one is well aware, I sought to arouse no hard feelings. On the contrary, I desired to allay those already in being. That there was some slight miscarriage in my plans was proven next day when, as I was passing a number of individuals laboring on the road, certain of them, upon recognizing me, uttered savage shouts, and one fellow hurled a large rock so that it struck my car. I requested my chauffeur to stop that I might reason with them, but he declined.
That evening, in conversation with Miss Edwina, I narrated the regrettable circumstance as showing how the populace has been depraved until, when given an opportunity to redeem itself, habit has made it well-nigh impossible.
"True," she said; "too true. Mr. Small, it but magnifies the importance of your task, nor does it minimize the reward you will deserve."
Here was encouragement indeed. No woman of less poise, of less remarkable mentality, could have thus referred to the reward I hoped for without appearance of forwardness. In all respects I found Miss Edwina a remarkable and wholly admirable individual.
"Mr. Small," said she, after a moment's pause, "may I, from my experience, but nevertheless from an abounding enthusiasm, make a suggestion?"
"A suggestion from you, Miss Edwina," said I, using her Christian name for the first time, "would have the binding effect of a law of the Medes and Persians."
She bowed. "Then," said she, "might it not prove a solution of your problem to invite your opponents—uncultured and socially impossible though they may be—to meet you on a common platform in the presence of all factions, for a frank and friendly joint discussion of the issues involved in this election? You have high precedent in the Lincoln-Douglas debates."
"Splendid!" I exclaimed. "There was the thought of no common intellect, the expression of no ordinary soul. Miss Edwina, you have overwhelmed me."
She blushed. Unreservedly and without fear of successful contradiction, I assert that she blushed. I was conscious of placing a finger on my pulse to note the rapid increase of my heart-beats per minute.
"I shall put your plan into execution immediately," said I, and hastened forth in search of Mr. Garrity, my exceedingly active campaign-manager.
When I broached the matter to Mr. Garrity, so great was his amazement at the splendor of the idea that he gaped at me open-mouthed.
"D'you mean it?" he whispered.
"Decidedly," said I.
He sank limply into a chair. "Perfessor," he said, "I figgered you'd gone the limit already, but this here plumb crowds the mourners out of the carriage."
Such was his language of admiration.
"We shall hire the new opera-house," said I.
"Might be better," said he, "to hire the armory and have the militia standin' ready."
"The opera-house will do," said I, repressively. "Please see to it, as well as to making the other necessary arrangements. You might also issue the invitations to our opponents, Messrs. McCarty and Wilson."
"I'll see to the arrangements, all right," said he, and there was a gleam in his eye I could not interpret. "Part of which will be Gatlin' guns if I can get 'em. Likewise I'll tip off McCarty and Wilson. It's goin' to be a pleasant party, Perfessor—one of the coziest little rinacaboos ever pulled."
I myself set about making the—shall I call them social arrangements?—for the affair. It was my plan to have chairs placed upon the stage to be apportioned among the friends of the three candidates. Immediately I despatched to Miss Edwina and her family an invitation to occupy places—which I was flattered to have accepted promptly. Thereupon I set about preparing my address for the evening—an evening destined, I hoped, to prove one of public triumph—and of private triumph as well. I admit without shame that my thoughts dwelt equally upon Miss Edwina and my great purpose.
In due time I called Mr. Garrity on the telephone to have his report of progress.
"They was both suspicious of a frame-up," he told me in his weird jargon, "and shied like a colt at a steam-roller. Wasn't goin' to come—not till I dared 'em. That fetched 'em."
I had not time to ask an explanation of his meaning. It sufficed that Messrs. McCarty and Wilson would be present. I was elated.
As the evening approached I found myself in a state of no inconsiderable excitement, and for an hour sat down to repose my nerves by a perusal of a recent report of the Ethnological Survey. I then summoned my chauffeur and was driven to the opera-house.
The event was exciting interest, for the street before the building was thronged. My chauffeur suggested we might gain free ingress through a rear entrance, and, happening upon Miss Edwina and her brother, I requested them to accompany me. As we entered I was greeted with a babel of sounds—a most encouraging welcome. Some individuals in their enthusiasm even attempted to imitate the meawing of cats.
The portion of the stage set aside for the friends of Messrs. McCarty and Wilson was filled to overflowing, but not with the gentler sex. Indeed, the occupants of the chairs seemed to me to be drawn from the ungentler portion of the male sex. Neither Mr. McCarty nor Mr. Wilson was present.
"It promises," said I to Miss Edwina, "to be a delightful occasion."
She looked about her curiously. "At any rate," said she, "the raw material to work on is present in sufficient quantity." Her tone seemed tinctured somewhat with acid.
I looked about the hall. Just below me in the center sat Mr. Garrity, surrounded by upward of twoscore persons in the roughest habiliments, many coatless, all moving their jaws rhythmically. He winked at me—an inexcusable liberty—and waved his hand over his companions to signify something, I did not catch what.
Then Mr. Wilson arrived. A part of the hall cheered, another part jeered. Presently Mr. McCarty appeared. The former jeerers cheered him, and vice versa. Both gentlemen looked at me with unfriendly eyes, and permitted a curt nod to serve the place of more extended amenities.
I arose and advanced to the front of the platform. "The abysmal crudities of our local election methods," I began, "have—" Here a perfect tornado of sound made my voice inaudible.
"Adscititious excrescence!" somebody yelled. There was general laughter, which I took to be a hopeful sign, and I was permitted to proceed.
"As men," said I, "I have no charges to bring against my opponents; as public characters, I find it my duty to arraign them in gentle, friendly, and admonitory terms. As candidates for high public position they do not fall short of a blight—a sort of pestilential manifestation of pyramided evils; in short, in their present rude and uncultured state they are no more fitted to receive the suffrages of this community than the hairy, anthropophagus cave-dweller out of the mists of antiquity."
Thus mildly did I strive to put before them my opinion. To my amazement both Messrs. Wilson and McCarty leaped to their feet and started, with evident bellicose intent, in my direction. Instantly Mr. Garrity uttered a species of war-cry, and his twoscore barbarians stormed the stage. I found myself the center of a seething, battering, rioting mob of such creatures as must have accompanied the descent of Attila and his Huns. I caught one glimpse of Miss Edwina's face. It was, to put it mildly, forbidding. My hope reached a low level. Garrity, a man of some prowess, I admit, fought his way to my side.
"We'll make a road for you to beat it," says he. "The sheriff's got a warrant for you for buyin' votes. This town hain't goin' to be healthy for us for a spell to come."
To my consternation these words were uttered close to Miss Edwina's chair. She heard. There can be little doubt that she heard—and that she credited the malign slander. I noted with admiration that even in the press of battle she remained self-confident and undismayed.
"I have bought no votes," I declared fearlessly, casting an imploring glance toward her.
"You boob!" shouted Mr. Garrity. "What d'you think all that money went for? Nursin'-bottles?"
"Have you," I demanded, "resorted to reprehensible methods in my behalf?"
"Perfessor," said he, "the only way you could git a vote in this county was to buy it—and then there wasn't any guaranteein' it would stick. Hey! duck quick while we've got a chance."
Miss Edwina's glance fairly seared me. She curled her lip and turned away her face. In that moment I knew she was lost to me. Blindly I followed Mr. Garrity, who placed me in my car. Together we whirled to the railroad station. Together we traveled to New York, where now, incognito, so to speak, I am secluded with him in an inconspicuous hotel awaiting the departure of the next vessel for South-American ports.
Innocent in act and deed, harboring the most lofty principles and intentions, I have fallen a victim to the abuses I sought to combat. Worst of all, like the Old Man of the Sea, Mr. Garrity, with his outlandish vocabulary, clings about my neck. That I shall be vindicated I know, but whether my own carefully nurtured use of our language will survive undefiled my daily, hourly association with this Garrity individual causes me most poignant apprehension.
As for Miss Edwina, she has, I fear, quite passed out of my life.