The Candidate Visits His Voters
Don Simon started upon his electioneering tour. In the first village of his district, at the poor inn, a group of six agents were waiting for him; their horses, caparisoned with ornamental trappings, after the fashion of the country, tied to the posts or the projecting window gratings. They received him hat in hand.
[All then passed into the dining-room, where a dozen more persons met them, and a liberal dinner was served, for which the candidate duly paid. The several days' ride through the mountain district next began.]
The cavalcade was headed by one of the six caciques [village magnates, previously mentioned]. He was a lean, dark man, with a large nose, a penetrating eye, his face almost beardless, although he was by no means young; he spoke little, but that to the point; and as to confidence in men, he would have been distrustful even of his own shadow. He knew the voters of the district, every man of them, with all his virtues, vices, minor faults, and necessities; and in consequence, he knew how to win or to compel them.
"The 'Squire'" (said he),—"for thus they call him,—whom we must see, is a rough sort of customer, but much bent on having everybody flatter and bow down to him. When we leave him, don't forget to give him a cigar; not one of the kind you furnished us at dinner, you know, but one of those you have in your cigar-case for your own particular use."
Don Simon did his best not to notice this polite little slur, and put himself at the orders of his adviser....
The party found the local great man presiding over the turning-up of a new field he had just bought on that out-of-the-way upland. He was still youthful; and he had a despicable physiognomy. He manifested no great curiosity on the approach of the little troop. He confined himself to returning coldly the very affable salute which Don Celso [the leader] directed to him, as representative of all the rest, and especially of Don Simon, whom he proceeded to introduce to the impassive elector as follows:—
"This gentleman is our candidate, Don Simon de las Penascales by name, an illustrious man, I assure you, with thirty thousand dollars income, and great talents. He comes to-day expressly to thank you for your kind co-operation in his coming election, reserving a more fitting payment till some later opportunity shall offer."
"Servant, sir," responded the "Squire," laconically, staring at his distinguished guest.
"Delighted, my dear sir. I hope I find you well," began Don Simon, uncovering his head with a grandly sweeping bow, and tendering his right hand to him of the new-plowed land.
"Me? ye-up, I'm well," replied the "Squire," without sign of a movement to take the proffered hand.
"Do you smoke?" the candidate now inquired, feeling for his cigar-case.
"Once in a while, if the tobacco is good for anything."
"Then do me the favor to accept this. It is of the choice brand of the Vuelta de Abajo.
"You sure of that?" grunted the other, taking it and biting off the end.
"And how are our affairs going around here?" inquired the candidate, trying to strike out some spark of interest from that piece of flint, that unmitigated boor.
"We'll"—puff—"see when—the time comes," he returned, using up about half a box of matches in lighting his cigar in the open air.
"No need of asking him that, Don Simon," remarked Don Celso. "When you come to see what the Squire has done, I warrant you'll be more than satisfied."
"In that case," said Don Simon, taking Don Celso's hint, "and since we still have far to go to-day, and since I have had the great honor of making your acquaintance, it only remains for me to put myself at your disposal for anything that you may demand of me, either now or henceforward and forever."
"The same thing say I," muttered the Squire, scarce touching the hand offered him anew, and turning back to the men working for him.
When they had ridden on a bit, Don Simon could not help saying to Don Celso in a crestfallen way:—
"If that fellow is one of those who support me, what can I expect of the doubtful ones? And, for heaven's sake, what sort of manners will those have who are against me?"
[Later on, they meet an inn-keeper who charges for the very rent of the ground their horses stand on while they are talking to him. This incident is developed in a long and amusing account. He promises to vote and use his influence for Don Simon, if the latter will see that a certain road is built, joining his mountain inn to the main road; but only on condition—as other candidates have promised the same thing before—that Don Simon shall put up the money for the road, about $3,000, in advance, out of his own pocket. Don Simon is disappointed, betrayed, put upon, in numberless ways, and would have lost his election except that—having started out as a Liberal candidate—he shrewdly turns Conservative, and secures his seat by the favor of the ministry.]