He walked about the streets awhile to steady himself, and then looked at his watch. It was past noon there, but later in the East and earlier in the West; yet the bulk of the ballots were cast already. In three or four hours more the tabulated vote in the states farthest east would begin to arrive, and they would listen to the opening chapter of the story, a story which he feared to hear.
Absorbed in his thoughts, he had strolled unconsciously towards the country. There, at a turn of the road, he met two people in a light wagon, and they were the candidate and his wife Mrs. Grayson driving. Harley looked up in surprise at their calm, cheerful faces. How could they assume such an air with the combat at its height?
"I'm sorry you and Sylvia were not with us," said Mr. Grayson; "Mrs. Grayson has been taking me to see the changes in the country since I went campaigning. There are a half-dozen new residences in the suburb out yonder, and they've built a new foot-bridge, too, over the river. Oh, our city is looking up!"
They drove on cheerfully, and Harley went back to town. All the arrangements for the night were made; the two great telegraph companies would handle their despatches in equal proportion, and would send bulletins of the count, as fast as they came, to the candidate. Headquarters would do the same, and there would be no lack of news.
Harley rejoined his comrades at the hotel, but stayed with them only a little while, because he, of course, was to dine with Sylvia and the Graysons. All the others had been invited, but they did not wish to overwhelm the candidate on this day of all days, and none except "King" Plummer would go.
"Lucky fellow," said Hobart, as Harley walked away.
"But not luckier than he deserves," said Blaisdell.
After dinner Hobart looked at his watch, then shut it, and with a quick motion thrust it into his pocket.
"The polls have closed in three-fourths of the states," he said, "and probably somebody is elected. I wonder who it is?"
Nobody replied, but on their way to Jimmy Grayson's house they passed through the party headquarters. The rooms were so crowded that they could scarcely move, but they managed to approach the blackboard, and they saw written upon it:
"Goodnight, Crayon, and others claim decisive defeat of Grayson. Assert that he will not get one-third the vote of the electoral college."
"What nonsense!" exclaimed Hobart, who felt a thrill of anger. "Why, they have not begun the count of the vote anywhere!"
They left the rooms and went into the street. The November twilight was coming earlier than ever under the shadow of the thickening clouds, and already lights were beginning to shine from many windows. Uniformed messenger-boys were passing.
"The wires will soon be talking," said Churchill.
The candidate's house was not inferior to any in the number of its lights. In the cold, dark twilight it reared a cheerful front, and the candidate himself, when he received them, was steady and calm.
"Some of our friends are here already," he said, and he had them shown into the large room, where the tables for their use had been placed.
It was brilliantly illuminated, and a dozen men were sitting about speculating on the events of the day and hoping for a happy result. Among them was old Senator Curtis, who had come all the way from Wyoming, and he was loudly declaring that if Mr. Grayson were not elected he would never take any interest in another Presidential election. The others made no comment on his declaration.
Harley came in late. At dinner with the Graysons he had been thinking, when he looked at Sylvia's lovely face across the table, that it would always be just across the table from him now, and the thought was such a happy one that it clung to him.
The correspondents disposed themselves about the room, and placed pencil and paper on the tables; yet there would be nothing for them to write for a long time. They were only to tell the story of how the candidate took it, after the story itself was told. Their business was with either a paean or a dirge.
Harley looked around at the group, all of whom he knew.
"Have you fellows thought that this is our last meeting?" he asked.
There was a sudden silence in the room. All seemed to feel the solemnity of the moment. Out in the street some happy men, who had helped to empty the bowl, were singing a campaign song, and its sound came faintly to the group.
"A wager to you boys that none of you can name the state from which the first completed return will come. What odds will you give?" said "King" Plummer, who was resolutely seeking to be cheerful.
"We won't take your wager because we'd win, sure," said Hobart. "It will be a precinct in New York City, up-town. They get through quick there; they never fail to be first."
"Whatever the vote there is, I am going to look upon it as an omen," said Mr. Heathcote. "If our majority is reduced it will mean a bad start, good ending; if our majority is increased, it will mean that a good beginning is half the battle."
Dexter, the chairman of the state campaign committee, entered, his thin face still shadowed by gloomy thoughts.
"We've had a few bulletins at headquarters, but nothing definite," he said. "All the reports so far are from the East, of course, owing to the difference in time, but I'd like mighty well to know what they are doing out there on the Slope and in the Rockies."
"We'll know in good time, Charlie; just you wait," said Jimmy Grayson, who was the calmest man in the room.
"I've done enough waiting already to last me the rest of my life," said Dexter, moodily.
The door was opened softly, and four or five pairs of young eyes peeped shyly into the room. The candidate, with assurances that there was nothing to be told, gently pushed the youthful figures away and closed the door again.
"I would put them to bed," he said, apologetically, "but they can't sleep, and it is not any use for them to try; so they are supposed to be shepherded in another part of the house by a nurse, but they seem to break the bounds now and then."
"I claim the privilege of carrying them the good news when we get it, if they are still awake," said Harley.
A messenger-boy entered with a despatch, but it contained no information, merely an assurance from a devoted New England adherent that he believed Jimmy Grayson was elected, as he felt it in his bones.
"Why does a man waste time and money in telegraphing us a thing like that?" said Dexter. "It isn't worth anything."
But Harley was not so sure. He believed with Jimmy Grayson that good wishes had more than a sentimental value. He went to the window and gazed into the street. The number of people singing campaign songs as they waited for the news was increasing, and the echoes of much laughter and talk floated towards the house. Farther down the street they were throwing flash-lights on white canvas in front of a great crowd, but so far the bulletins were only humorous quotations or patent-medicine advertisements, each to be saluted at the beginning with a cheer and at the end with a groan. He turned back to the table just as another boy bearing a despatch entered the room.
Mr. Dexter had constituted himself the clerk of the evening—that is, he was to sit at the centre-table and read the despatches as they came. He took the yellow envelope from the boy, tore it open, and paused a moment. Then all knew by the change upon his face that the first news had come. Dexter turned to Hobart.
"You were right," he said, "it is from New York City, up-town. The Thirty-first Assembly District in the City of New York gives a majority of 824 for Grayson. This is official."
At another table sat a man with a book containing the complete vote of all the election districts in every state of the Union at the preceding Presidential election. All looked inquiringly at him, and he instantly made the comparison.
"We carried the Thirty-first Assembly District of the City of New York by 1077 four years ago," he said. "Our majority suffers a net loss of 253."
"Did I not tell you?" exclaimed Heathcote. "A bad start makes a good ending."
"It's a happy sign," said Sylvia, with her usual resolute hopefulness.
But, despite themselves, a gloom settled upon all; the first report from the battle was ominous—such a loss continued would throw the election heavily in favor of the other man—and after her remark they were silent.
Mrs. Grayson looked into the room, but they told her there was nothing, and, whether she believed them or not, she closed the door again without further question.
"Here comes another boy," said Hobart, who was at the window, watching the crowd before the transparency.
"Now this is good news, sure," said "King" Plummer.
It was from another assembly district in New York City, and the party majority was cut down again, but this time the reduction was only 62 votes.
"That's better," said Mr. Heathcote.
"It will have to be a great deal better to elect our man," whispered Hobart to Harley.
Harley went to the window again, and looked down the street towards the transparency, where the opposition voters were cheering wildly at the first news so favorable to their side. Despite himself, Harley felt an unreasoning anger towards them. "You cheer about nothing," he said to himself. "This is only a few thousand votes among millions." Then he was ashamed of his feeling, and left the window.
"The Hub speaks!" exclaimed Mr. Dexter, as he tore open another envelope. Then he announced a vote from one of the wards of Boston.
"And it speaks right," said the man with the book. "Mr. Grayson cuts down the majority polled against us there four years ago by 433 votes."
A little cheer was raised in the room, and down the street at the transparency there was a cheer, too, but the voices were not the same as those that cheered a few moments ago.
"Good old Boston," said Hobart, "and we made that gain right where the enemy thought he was strongest!"
The first gain of the evening had a hopeful effect upon all, and they spoke cheerfully.
But a vote from Providence, a minute later went the other way, and it was followed by one of a similar nature from New Haven. The gloom returned. Their minds fluctuated with the bulletins.
"It was too good to last," whispered Hobart, downcast.
The children again appeared at the door and wanted to know if their father was elected. Sylvia took upon herself the task of assuring them that he was not yet elected, but he certainly would be before many hours. Then they went away sanguine and satisfied, and trying to keep sleepy eyelids from closing. In the street the noise was increasing as the crowd received facts, and the cheers were loud and various. But those of the enemy predominated, and Harley thrilled more than once with silent anger. A half-dozen men passed the house singing a song in derision of Jimmy Grayson; some of the words came to them through the window, and Sylvia flushed, but Mr. Grayson himself showed no sign that he understood.
The telegrams now were arriving fast; there were two streams of boys, one coming in at the door and the other going out, and Mr. Dexter, at the table, settled to his work. For a while the chief sounds in the room were the tearing of paper, the rustling of unfolded despatches, and the dry voice of the chairman announcing results. These votes were all from Eastern cities, where the polls closed early and the ballots could be counted quickly. Over the West and the Far West darkness still brooded, and the country districts everywhere were silent.
Yet Harley knew that throughout the United States the utmost activity prevailed. To him the night was wonderful; in a day of perfect peace nearly twenty million votes had been cast, and the most powerful ruler in the world had been made by the free choice of the nation, just as four years or eight years hence another ruler would be made in his place by the same free choice, the old giving way to the new. Now to-night they were trying to find out who this ruler was, and no one yet could tell.
But the tale would be told in a few hours. Harley knew that over an area of three million square miles, as large as the ancient civilized world, men were at work counting, down to the last remote mountain hamlet, and putting the result on the wires as they counted it. And ninety million people waited, ready to abide by the result, whether it was their man or the other. To him there was something extraordinary in this organized, this peaceful but tremendous activity. To-night all the efforts of the world's most energetic nation were bent upon a single point. In each state the wires talked from every town and village to a common centre, and each state in turn, through its metropolis, talked to the common centre of them all, and the general result of all they said would be known to everybody before morning. It seemed marvellous to him, although he understood it perfectly, that a few hours after the boxes were opened the votes should be counted and accredited to the proper man.
He resumed his seat at a table, although there was yet but little for him to write, and listened to the dry, monotonous voice of Dexter as he called the vote. The results were still of a variable nature, gains here and losses there, but on the whole the losses were the larger, and the atmosphere of the room grew more discouraging. The great state of New York, upon which they had relied, was showing every sign that it would not justify their faith. The returns from the city of New York, from Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, were all bad, and the most resolute hopes could not make them otherwise.
"'As goes New York, so goes the Union,'" whispered Hobart, quoting an old proverb.
"Maybe that rule will be broken at last," replied Harley, hopefully.
But even Sylvia looked gloomy. There was one thought, as these returns came, in the minds of them all. It was that the members of the Philipsburg Committee had made good their threat; their defection had drawn from Grayson thousands of votes in a pivotal state, and if he had ever had a chance of election this took it from him. Yet no one uttered a word of reproach for Jimmy Grayson, although Harley knew that those who called themselves practical politicians were silently upbraiding him. He feared that they might consider their early warnings justified, and he resented it.
A discordant note, too, was sounded by the South; Alabama, a state that they considered sure, although by a small majority, would go for the other man if the returns continued of the same tone. The only ray of light came from New England, whence it had not been expected. The large cities there were showing slight increases for Jimmy Grayson.
"Who would have thought it?" said Mr. Heathcote.
But it seemed too small to have any effect, and they turned their minds to other parts of the country that seemed to be more promising ground. The voice of Mr. Dexter, growing hoarse from incessant use and wholly without expression, read a bulletin from New York:
"Great crowd in front of the residence of the Honorable Mr. Goodnight, on upper Fifth Avenue, and he is speaking to them from the steps. Says the election of their man is assured. Derides Mr. Grayson; says no man can betray predominant interests and succeed. Crowd hooting the name of Grayson."
"The traitor!" exclaimed Hobart.
But Jimmy Grayson said nothing. Harley watched him closely, and he knew now that the candidate's expressionless face was but a mask—it was only human that he should feel deep emotion. Harley saw his lips quiver faintly now and then, and once or twice his eyes flashed. Down the street, in front of the transparency, there was a tremendous noise, the people had divided according to their predilections and were singing rival campaign songs, but there was no disorder.
Waiters came in bearing refreshments, and during a lull in the bulletins they ate and drank. Mrs. Grayson also joined them for a little while. She said nothing about the news, and Harley inferred from her silence on the point that she knew it to be discouraging. But he saw her give her husband a glance of pride and devotion that said as plain as print, "Even if you are beaten, you are the man who should have been elected." She reported that the younger of the children had dropped off to sleep, but the others were still eager.
Again some men passing the house raised a cry in derision of Jimmy Grayson, and Mrs. Grayson's face flushed. The others did not know what to do; they could not go out and rebuke the deriders, as that would only make a bad matter worse, but the men soon passed on. Mrs. Grayson stayed only a little while in the room, retiring on the plea of domestic duties. Jimmy Grayson, too, went out to see his children, he said, but Harley thought that man and wife wished to talk over the prospect.
The news, after the lull, began to come faster than ever. The West spoke at last, and its first words came through Denver and Salt Lake, but its voice was non-committal. There was nothing in it to indicate how Colorado and Utah, both doubtful states, would go. But presently, when Mr. Dexter broke an envelope and opened a bulletin, he laughed.
"Boys," he said, "here's faith for you: the precinct of Waterville, in Wyoming casts every one of her votes for Grayson."
They cheered. Certainly the people who had heard Mr. Grayson's decisive speech were loyal to him, and they should have honor despite their fewness. But immediately behind it came a bulletin that gave them the heaviest blow they had yet received.
"Complete returns from more than three-fourths of the precincts in the state," read Mr. Dexter, "show beyond doubt that New Jersey has gone at least 20,000 against Grayson."
"I never did think much of New Jersey, anyhow," said Hobart, sourly.
They laughed, but there was no mirth in the laugh. Tears rose in Sylvia's eyes. Ten minutes later, Alabama had wheeled into line with New Jersey it was certainly against Grayson and the news from New York was growing worse. Harley, in his heart, knew that there was no hope of the state, although he tried to draw encouragement from scattered votes here and there. From the Middle West the news was mixed, but its general tenor was not favorable. But New England was still behaving well.
"Our vote in Massachusetts surprises me," said Mr. Heathcote; "we shall more than cut their majority in half. We shall carry Boston and Worcester, and we are even making gains in the country districts."
"Almost complete returns from Michigan and Wisconsin show that the former has gone for Grayson by a substantial majority, and the latter against him by a majority about the same," read Mr. Dexter.
"Which shows that Michigan is much the finer state of the two," said Hobart.
"One state at least is secure," said Harley.
They heard a tremendous cheer down the street in front of the transparency, and Harley went to the window. His heart fell when he saw that the cheer, was continued, came from the opposition crowd. It was announced definitely on the cloth that New York had gone against Grayson; the returns permitted no doubt of it, and there was reason why the enemy should rejoice. Presently their own bulletins confirmed the bad news, and announced that off in another city the bands were serenading the other man.
Blow followed blow. Connecticut, despite gains made there, went against Grayson by a majority, small it is true, but decisive, and Illinois and Indiana speedily followed her bad lead. To Harley all seemed over, and he could not take it with resignation. Jimmy Grayson was the better man on the better platform, and he should have been elected. It was a crime to reject him. An angry mist came over his eyes, and he walked into the hall that no one should see it. But Mr. and Mrs. Grayson stood at the end of the hall, evidently having just come from the children's room, and before he could turn away he heard her say:
"We have lost, but you are still the man of the nation to me."
As he was returning he met Sylvia, and now the tears in her eyes were plainly visible.
"John, it can't be true! He isn't beaten, is he?"
"No, it is not true, Sylvia," he said, telling what he did not believe. "We still have a chance."
They returned at once to the room, and Mr. Grayson came in a minute later, his face wearing the same marble mask. When two or three forced themselves to speak encouraging words, he smiled and said there was yet hope. But Harley had none, and he felt sure that Jimmy Grayson, too, was without it.
"Good news from Iowa!" suddenly cried Mr. Dexter. "A despatch from Des Moines reports heavy gains for Grayson throughout the south and west of the state."
Here was a fresh breath of life, and for a moment they felt glad, but North Dakota, a state for which they had hoped but scarcely expected, soon reported against them. The good news could not last.
"Anything more from Massachusetts?" asked Mr. Heathcote.
Mr. Dexter was opening a despatch and he gave a gasp when he looked at it.
"Massachusetts in doubt!" he exclaimed. "Grayson makes heavy gains in the country districts as well as in the cities. Our National Committee is claiming Massachusetts!"
There was a burst of cheering in the room. They had never even hoped for Massachusetts. From first to last it was conceded to the enemy.
"Oh, if Massachusetts only had as many votes as New York!" groaned Hobart. "This is so good it can't be true!"
But Sylvia smiled through her tears.
Soon there was another cheer. Fresh despatches from Massachusetts confirmed the earlier news and made it yet better; then the state was in doubt, now it inclined to Jimmy Grayson; the gains came in, steady and large.
"We've got it by at least 20,000," exclaimed Mr. Dexter, exultantly. "It's a regular upset. Who'd have thought it?"
It was true. It was known in a quarter of an hour that Massachusetts had given a majority of 25,000 for Grayson, and behind their big sister came New Hampshire and Rhode Island, with small but sure majorities. Jimmy Grayson had carried three New England states, when all of them had been conceded to the enemy, one of the most surprising changes ever known in a Presidential election.
There were repeated cheers in the room. Even Jimmy Grayson was compelled to smile in satisfaction. But Harley did not have hope. This, in his opinion, was merely a pleasant incident—it could not have much effect on the result; Massachusetts had a large vote, but those of New Hampshire and Rhode Island were small, and there against them stood the gigantic state of New York, towering like a mountain. New York had the biggest vote of all, and he did not see how it could be overcome.
Harley now and then wrote a paragraph of his despatch to his newspaper, telling of the scene at the candidate's house and how he and his friends looked and talked, but it did not take all his time. By-and-by he went out on the steps to see the crowd in the streets and to get the fresh air. The night was cold and raw, but its touch was soothing. His thoughts were with Jimmy Grayson. He yet had little hope, and he was thinking of all those gigantic labors wasted; it was a case where a man must win or lose every thing. At the transparency the rival crowds were cheering or groaning according to the news that came.
Harley turned back and met Mrs. Grayson.
"Tell me, Mr. Harley," she said, and her eyes were eager, "just how the election stands so far. I know that you will tell me the truth; is there really as much hope as the others seem to feel?"
Harley looked into her clear, brave eyes, and he replied honestly:
"I think there is some hope, Mrs. Grayson, but not much. Too many big states have gone against us, and we cannot offset big states with little ones. New York, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Alabama are all in the hostile line."
"Thank you for the truth," she said. "I can stand it, and so can Mr. Grayson."
But Harley was not sure. He felt at times that this ordeal was too great for any man or woman. When he returned to the room they were announcing news from the Pacific coast.
"We have Washington," said Mr. Dexter; "and Oregon is against us, but California is in doubt."
"But we mean to have California," said Sylvia, and the others smiled.
Good reports came from the Rocky Mountain region, all the states there except Utah going for Grayson. It had been thought once by both sides that these doubtful states would decide the election, but with the great upset in the East and Middle West affairs took on another complexion, and they must make new calculations.
"Has anything been heard from Pennsylvania?" asked Mr. Heathcote.
Several laughed, and the laugh was significant.
"Nothing at all," replied Mr. Dexter, and there was a suggestion of contempt in his tone; "but why should we want to hear anything? It's sure for the enemy by at least 100,000, and he may get 200,000. Pennsylvania is one state from which I don't want to hear anything at all."
They laughed again, but, as nothing yet came from Pennsylvania, Harley's curiosity about it began to rise. "Strange that we do not hear anything," he said; but Mr. Dexter laughed, and promised to read in an extra loud tone the first Pennsylvania bulletin they should get.
It was nearly midnight now and the election was still undecided; midnight came and the situation was yet unchanged, but a full half-hour later Mr. Dexter cleared his throat and said, in a high voice:
"Listen, Mr. Harley! Here's your first Pennsylvania bulletin!"
He was sarcastic both in voice and look.
"Complete reports from Pittsburg, Alleghany, and their surrounding districts show remarkable change. This district gives 20,000 majority for Grayson."
Then Mr. Dexter, holding the telegram in his hand, sat open-mouthed, barely realizing what he had read. But Harley sprang up with exultant cry. For once he lost his self-control.
"We are not beaten yet!" he cried.
"We are not beaten yet!" echoed Sylvia.
They waited feverishly for more Pennsylvania news, and presently it came in a despatch from Philadelphia. Grayson had carried that great city by a small majority, and the enemy was frightened about the state. A third despatch from Harrisburg, the state capital, confirmed the news; the state of Pennsylvania, coming next to New York in the size of its vote, was in doubt. It was the most astonishing fact of the election, but every return showed that Grayson had developed marvellous strength there. The National Committee issued a bulletin claiming it, but the other side claimed it, too; it would be at least two hours yet before the claim could be decided, and they must suffer in suspense.
Harley and Hobart walked together into the street. Harley's forehead was damp.
"This is getting on my nerves," he said.
"If Pennsylvania goes for Grayson, what then?" asked Hobart.
"It means that Grayson is elected; an hour ago I could not have dreamed of such a thing."
Down the street the crowd was roaring and cheering, and the roars and cheers were about equally divided between the two parties.
When they returned to the room the volunteer secretary was just announcing that Iowa was safely in the Grayson column. It was conceded to him by 15,000. Further news from Pennsylvania was indecisive, but it continued good.
Mrs. Grayson was in the room, and Harley looked at her and her husband. The faces of both had become grave, and Harley knew why. The Presidential chair was not wholly out of sight, after all, and the chance was sufficient to bring upon them both a sense of mighty responsibilities. There was a great shout down the street.
"They have posted a bulletin," said Hobart, who was at the window. "It says that California has gone for Grayson by 10,000, and that all indications point to his carrying Ohio."
"I was right, and we do have California," said Sylvia.
Again Jimmy Grayson and his wife exchanged that grave look. It seemed that each was frightened a little. But Mr. Dexter did not notice it. He was reading a telegram from New York saying that consternation over the news from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, and Iowa prevailed in the hostile ranks; they no longer claimed the election, they merely asserted that it was in doubt; it was admitted that while Goodnight, Crayon, and their friends had taken many votes from Jimmy Grayson, he was making up the difference, and perhaps more, elsewhere.
"If Jimmy Grayson were to come so near and yet miss, it would be more than mortal flesh could bear," whispered Hobart.
"It would have to be borne," replied Harley.
It was far past one o'clock in the morning. The room was hot and close. The floor was littered with envelopes and telegrams. The two lines of telegraph-boys had trodden two trails in the carpet, and Harley began to feel the long strain. All the men had red eyes and black streaks under them. Yet they were as keen as ever to hear the last detail. It seemed to every one that the fate of Jimmy Grayson was now hanging in the balance; a feather would tip it this way or that, and the room sank into an unusual silence, the silence of painful suspense.
There was a long wait and then came a telegram rather thicker than the others. Somehow all of them felt that this told the story, and the fingers of Mr. Dexter trembled as he tore open the envelope. He paused, holding it a moment between his fingers, and then, in a quivering voice, he read:
"Complete returns from the state of Pennsylvania give it to Grayson by 18,000, and he is chosen President of the United States by a majority of 36 in the electoral college. Our enemies concede their defeat. We send our heartiest congratulations to Mr. Grayson on his victory, and on the great campaign he made. Everybody here recognizes that it was Grayson who won for Grayson."
It was signed with the name of the chairman of the National Committee, and with a deep "Ah!" the reader let it fall upon the table, where it lay. Then there was a half-minute of intense silence in the room. That for which they had long fought and for which they had scarcely hoped had come at the eleventh hour. Mr. Grayson was the President-elect. They could not speak; they were awed.
It was Mrs. Grayson who first broke the silence. She ran to her husband, threw her arms around him, and exclaimed:
"Oh, Jimmy! It is almost too much for us to undertake!"
But Jimmy Grayson was not afraid. He stood up and Harley saw a glow of deep emotion come over his face.
"As God is my judge," he said, "I shall try with my utmost strength to fulfil the duties of this high place."
Sylvia, not knowing what else to do, put her hand in Harley's; and he held it.
There was a tremendous burst of cheering in front of the house, and a band began to play. Above the music swelled a continuous roar for the President-elect, "Grayson!" "Grayson!" "Grayson!" They were all for him now. There was no need for Harley to wake up the children; the thunders of applause already brought them, triumphing in a result of which they had never felt any doubt.
"You will have to speak to the people, Mr. Grayson," said Mr. Dexter. "It is their right. You are no longer a free man; you belong to the nation now."
The President-elect went out on the veranda and spoke to them with a certain solemnity and majesty while they listened in respectful silence. Meanwhile telegrams of congratulation were pouring into the house from all parts of the world, and out in the distant mountains men came down to the camps and spoke to each other about the President-to-be.
Harley's last despatch was sent, the crowd was gone, the other correspondents were on their way to the hotel, and the people were turning out the lights, but he yet lingered at the Grayson home. It was Jimmy Grayson who asked him to wait a moment, and they stood alone on the dark veranda.
"Harley," said Jimmy Grayson, and there was much feeling in his voice, "you have been the best friend I ever had, and I am so selfish that I do not want to lose you. Stay with me; be my secretary. In these later days the office of the President's secretary has grown to be a big one. I think that you are the best man in the world for it, and if I am re-elected you shall go into the Cabinet. You will be old enough then. Remember, Harley, that it is I who ask a favor now, and it is for you to grant it."
The hands of the two strong men met in a strong grasp.
"I accept the offer," said Harley.
The President-elect turned away, faded into the darkness of his own house, and another figure took his place. A small, warm hand slipped into Harley's, and he held it fast.
"What was he saying to you?" asked Sylvia.
"He was asking me to be his secretary."
"And your reply?"
"I hesitated and asked for a bribe."
"I said that if, one month from to-day and with the assistance of a minister, he would give you to me forever, I would take the place."
"What did he say then?"
"He said the price was high, but I could have it. And we shall all be together again for four years more, and perhaps eight."
Her eyes, very close to his, were shining through a mist of happy tears, and, standing there at the doorstep, he kissed her in the darkness.