Little did Peter know how useful his last client would be to him.
After this rush of work, Peter's life became as routine as of yore. The winter passed without an event worth noting, if we except a steadily growing acquaintance with the dwellers of the district. But in July a new phase was injected into it by a call from Dennis Moriarty.
"Good-mornin' to yez, sir, an' a fine day it is," said the latter, with his usually breezy way.
"Yes," said Peter.
"Misther Stirling. An' is it engaged yez are for this night?"
"No." Peter had nothing.
"Then," said Dennis, "maybe ye'll be afther goin' wid me to the primary?"
"For the election of delegates to the convention, shure."
"No. What party?"
"What party is it?"
"Misther Stirling, do yez know my name?"
"Dennis Moriarty, isn't it?"
"Yes. An' what's my business?"
"You keep a saloon."
"Yes. An' what ward do Oi live in?"
"The sixth, don't you?"
"Then," said Dennis, his upper lip twisting into a smile of enormous proportions, "Oi suppose yez afther thinkin' Oi'm a dirty black Republican."
Peter laughed, as few could help doing, when Dennis led the way. "Look here, Dennis," he said, "don't you run down that party. My father was a Democrat, but he voted for Lincoln, and fought for the blacks when the time came, and though I'm a Democrat like him, the Republicans are only black in their sympathies, and not in their acts."
"An' what do yez say to the whisky frauds, an' black Friday, an' credit mobilier?" asked Dennis.
"Of course I don't like them," said Peter; "but that's the politicians, not the party."
"Shure," said Dennis, "what's the party but the men that run it?"
"You've seen something of Mr. Bohlmann lately, Dennis?"
"Well, he was the man who put Goldman in charge of that cow stable. Yet he's an honest man."
Dennis scratched his head. "It's a convincin' way yez have wid yez," he said; "but it's scoundrels the Republicans are, all the same. Look at them in the district; there's not one a decent man would invite to drink wid him."
"I think, Dennis," said Peter, "that when all the decent men get into one party, there'll be only one worth talking about."
"Av course," replied Dennis. "That's the reason there's only the Democratic party in New York City."
"Tell me about this primary," said Peter, concluding that abstract political philosophy was not the way to liberalize Dennis.
"It's most important, it is," he was told, "it's on top Patsy Blunkers an' his gang av dirty spalpeens (Dennis seemed to forget that he had just expressed the opinion that all the "decent" men were Democrats) have been this two years, but we've got orders for a new enrollment at last, an' if we don't knock them this time, my name isn't Dinnis Moriarty."
"What is the question before the meeting?"
"Afther the enrollment, it's to vote for delegates."
"Oh! Then it's just a struggle over who shall be elected?"
"That's it. But a fine, big fight it will be. The whole district's so excited, sir, that it's twice Oi've had to pound the b'ys a bit in my saloon to keep the peace."
"What do you want of me?"
"Shure, every vote counts on a night like this. An' ye'd be afther helpin' us big, for the district likes yez."
"But, Dennis, I can't vote without knowing something about the way things are. I shouldn't know whether I was voting rightly."
"Why, a man votes right when he votes for his friends!"
"No; a man votes right when he votes for his convictions."
"Convictions, is it?"
"Yes. That is, he votes as he thinks is best for the country."
"That, maybe, is the way yez do it where yez come from," said Dennis, "but it's no good it would be here. Convictions, whatever they be, are never nominated here. It's real things we're afther votin' for in New York."
Peter laughed. "I've got to take you in hand, Dennis, and you've got to take me in hand. I think we both need each other's help. Yes, I'll come to the primary. Will they let me vote?"
"The dirty spalpeens will never dare to stop yez! Thank yez, sir. Oi'll be along for yez about eight."
"Remember, though, Dennis—I don't say how I'll vote."
"Yez just listen, an I'm not afraid av what ye'll do."
That evening, Peter was ushered into a large hot room, pretty well packed with men, and the interstices already filled in with dense tobacco smoke. He looked about him curiously, and was surprised to find how many of the faces he knew. Blackett, Dooley, and Milligan were there, and shook hands with him warmly. Judge Gallagher and Blunkers were in evidence. In plain clothes were two policemen, and three of the "fire-laddies," who formed part of the "crew" of the nearest engine, with all of whom he had often chatted. Mr. Dummer, his rival lawyer in the case, and one of the jurymen in it, likewise were visible. Also many faces which were familiar to Peter by a former occasional friendly word or nod exchanged in passing. Intense excitement evidently reigned, and every one was whispering in a sort of breathless way, which showed how deeply interested they were.
At Dennis's suggestion, made in walking to the room, Peter presented himself without guidance, at the desk. Some one behind him asked if he lived in the ward, and for how long, but this was the only apparent opposition made to the prompt entering of his name. Then Peter strolled round and talked to those whom he knew, and tried to find out, without much success, just what was the division. Every one knew that a fight was on, but in just what it consisted they seemed neither to know nor care.
He noticed that hot words were constantly exchanged at the enrolling desk, over would-be members, but not understanding the exact nature of the qualifications needed, he could not follow the disputes. Finally these ceased, for want of applicants.
"Misther Stirling," said Dennis, coming up to him hurriedly. "Will yez be afther bein' chairman for us?"
"No. I don't know anything about the proceedings."
"It don't take any," said Dennis. "It's only fair play we're afther."
He was gone again before Peter could say anything. The next instant, the enrolling officer rose and spoke.
"Are there any more to be enrolled?" he called. No one came forward, so after a moment he said: "Will the meeting choose a presiding officer?"
"Mr. Chairman," rang two voices so quickly that they in truth cut the presiding officer off in his suggestion.
"Mr. Muldoon," said that officer.
"Oi spoke first," shouted Dennis, and Peter felt that he had, and that he was not having fair play.
Instantly a wave of protest, denials, charges, and counter-charges swept through the room, Peter thought there was going to be a fight, but the position was too critical to waste a moment on what Dennis styled "a diversion." It was business, not pleasure, just then.
"Mr. Muldoon," said the officer again, not heeding the tempest in the least.
"Mr. Chairman," shouted Muldoon, "I am proud to nominate Justice Gallagher, the pride of the bar, for chairman of this distinguished meeting, and I move to make his election unanimous."
"Misther Chairman," shouted Dennis.
"Mr. Moriarty," said the officer.
"Misther Chairman, Oi have the honor to nominate for chairman av this meetin' the people's an' the children's friend, Misther Peter Stirling, an' Oi don't have to move to make it unanimous, for such is the intelligince an' manhood av this meetin' that it will be that way for shure."
Peter saw a hurried consultation going on between Gallagher, Muldoon, and two others, during the latter part of this speech, and barely had Dennis finished his remarks, when Justice Gallagher spoke up.
"The Honorable Justice Gallagher," said that gentleman.
"I take pride in withdrawing in favor of Mr. Stirling, who so justly merits the honor of presiding on this important occasion. From recent events too well known to need mention, I am sure we can all look to him for justice and fairness."
"Bad cess to him!" groaned Dennis. "Oi hoped they'd be just fools enough to oppose yez, an' then we'd have won the first blood."
Peter was chosen without dissent, and was escorted to the seat behind the desk.
"What is the first business before the meeting?" he asked of Gallagher, aside, as he was taking his seat.
"Election of delegates to the State convention. That's all to-night," he was told.
Peter had presided at college in debates, and was not flurried. "Will you stay here so as to give me the names of those I don't know?" he said to the enrolling officer. "The meeting will please come to order," he continued aloud. "The nomination of delegates to the State convention is the business to be acted upon."
"Misther Chairman," yelled Dennis, evidently expecting to find another rival as before. But no one spoke.
"Mr. Moriarty," said Peter.
"Misther Chairman. It's my delight to nominate as delegates to the State convention, the Honorable Misther Schlurger, our distinguished representative in the Assembly, the Honorable Misther Kennedy, our noble Police-commissioner, an' Misther Caggs, whom it would be insult for me to praise in this company."
"Second the motion," said some one.
"Mr. Chairman," shouted a man.
"That's Caggs," said the enrolling officer.
"Mr. Caggs," said Peter.
"Mr. Chairman," said Caggs. "I must decline the honor offered me from such a source."
"What?" shrieked Dennis, amazement and rage contesting for first place in voice and expression.
"Mr. Chairman," said Dummer.
"Mr. Dummer," said Peter.
"I have the honor to nominate the Honorable Justice Gallagher, Mr. Peter Sweeney, and Mr. Caggs, to whom Mr. Moriarty has just paid so glowing a tribute, as delegates to the State convention."
"Second the—" shouted some one, but the rest was drowned by another storm which swept through the room. Even above the tumult, Peter could hear Dennis challenging and beseeching Mr. Caggs to come "outside an' settle it like gentlemen." Caggs, from a secure retreat behind Blunkers's right arm, declined to let the siren's song tempt him forth. Finally Peter's pounding brought a degree of quiet again.
"Misther Chairman," said Dennis.
"Mr. Moriarty," said Peter.
"Misther Chairman. Oi'll not take the valuable time av this meetin' to speak av dirty, cowardly, black-hearted, treacherous snakes, wid souls blacker than the divil's own—"
"Order!" said Peter to the crowd.
"No," continued Dennis, in answer to the audible remarks of the opposition. "It's no names Oi'm callin'. If yez know such a beast, such a snake, fit it to him. Oi'm mentionin' no names. As Oi was sayin', Misther Chairman, Oi'll not waste the time av this meetin' wid discribin' the conduct av a beast so vile that he must be the contempt av every honest man. Who would have been driven out by St. Patrick, wid the rest av the reptiles, if he'd lived at that time. Oi only rise to widdraw the name av Caggs from the list Oi nominated for delegates to the state convention, an' to put in place av it that av a man who is as noble an' true, as some are false an' divilish. That of Misther Peter Stirling, God bless him!"
Once more chaos came. Peter pounded in vain. Both sides were at fever heat. Finally Peter rose.
"Gentlemen," he shouted, in a voice that rang through the hall above even the tumult, "if this meeting does not come to order, I shall declare it adjourned."
Instant quiet fell, for all had paused a moment to hear his words, and they concluded that he was in earnest.
"Was the last motion seconded?" asked the chairman calmly.
"I seconded it," shouted Blackett and Milligan together.
"You have heard the nominations, gentlemen. Has any one any remarks to make?"
A man next Justice Gallagher said, "Mr. Chairman," and being duly recognized, proceeded to talk for ten minutes in a very useless way. But during this time, Peter noticed first a good deal of whispering among Blunkers's friends, and then an interview between Gallagher and Dennis. The latter was apparently not reconcilable, and shook his head in a way that meant war. Then there was more consultation between the opposition, and another confab with Dennis, with more headshakes on his part. Finally a compromise having been evidently made impossible, the orator was "called down" and it was voted to proceed to an election. Peter named one of the firemen, Dooley, and Blunkers, tellers, who, after a ballot, announced that Dennis had carried his nominations, Peter heading the list with two hundred and twelve votes, and the others getting one hundred and seventy-two, and one hundred and fifty-eight respectively. The "snake" got but fifty-seven votes.
"Shure," said Dennis, later, "maybe we don't vote for convictions here, but we don't vote for the likes av him!"
"Then you are voting for convictions," said Peter.
"It's yezself is the convictions then," said Dennis.
Perhaps he was right.
A POLITICAL DEBUT.
Peter declared the meeting adjourned as soon as the results of the election had been read, and slipped away in the turmoil that immediately followed, without a word to any one. He was in truth not bewildered—because he had too much natural poise and phlegm—but he was surprised by the suddenness of it all, and wanted to think before talking with others. So he took advantage of the mutual bickerings and recriminations which seemed the order of the day, to get back to his office, and there he sat, studying his wall for a time. Then he went to bed, and slept as quickly and as calmly as if he had spent his evening in reading the "Modern Cottage Architecture" or "Questions de Sociologie," which were on his table instead of presiding at a red-hot primary, and being elected a delegate.
The next morning Dennis came to see him as early as well could be.
"Misther Stirling," he said, his face expanding into the broadest of grins, "let me salute the delegate to the State convention."
"Look here, Dennis," said Peter, "you know you had no business to spring that on me."
"Ah, sir! Shure, when that dirty little spalpeen av a Caggs went back on us so, what could Oi do? Oi know it's speak to yez Oi ought, but wid de room yellin' like that it's divilish tryin' to do the right thing quick, barrin' it's not hittin' some one's head, which always comes natural."
"Well," said Peter, "of course I'm very much pleased to have been chosen, but I wish it could have been done with less hard feeling."
"Hard feelin,' is it?"
"Shure, the b'ys are as pleased and kindly this mornin' as can be. It's a fight like that makes them yieldin' an' friendly. Nothin' but a little head-punchin' could make them in a sweeter mood, an' we'd a given them that if little Caggs had had any sense in him."
"You mean Gallagher and Blunkers and the rest of them?"
"Av course. That little time last night didn't mean much. No one feels bad over that. Shure, it's Gallagher was in my place later last night, an' we had a most friendly time, he treatin' the whole crowd twice. We've got to fight in the primary to keep the b'ys interested, but it's seldom that they're not just as friendly the next day."
Peter looked at his wall. He had not liked Gallagher at either time he had met him. "Still," he thought to himself, "I have no right to prevent him and Dennis being friends, from the little I've seen."
"Now, sir, about the convention?" said Dennis.
"I suppose Porter is the best man talked of for the nomination," remarked Peter.
"Begobs, sir, that he's not," said Dennis. "It's Justice Gallagher was tellin' me himself that he was a poor kind av creature, wid a strong objection to saloons."
Peter's eye lost its last suggestion of doubt. "Oh, Justice Gallagher told you that?" he asked. "When?"
"After the primary?"
"Whom does he favor?"
"Well, Dennis, you've made me a delegate, but I've got to vote my own way."
"Shure, sir, Oi'd not have yez do any thin' else. It's yezself knows better than me. Oi was only tellin' yez what the Justice—"
A knock at the door interrupted him. It proved to be Gallagher, who greeted them both in a hearty, friendly way. Peter brought another chair from his bedroom.
"Well, Mr. Stirling, that was a fine contest we had last night," said his honor.
"It seemed to be earnest," said Peter.
"It's just as well our friend here sprang your nomination on us as a surprise, for if we had known, we should not have put up an opposition candidate. You are just the sort of a man we want to represent us in the convention."
"I have never met my colleagues," said Peter. "What kind of men are they?"
So he got Gallagher's opinion, and Dennis's opinion. Then he wanted to know about the candidates, asking questions about them at considerable length. The intentions of the other city delegates were next introduced. Finally the probable planks of the platform were brought up. While they were still under discussion Gallagher said the sitting of his court compelled him to leave.
"I'll come in some time when I have more to spare."
Gallagher went to his court, and found a man waiting for him there.
"He's either very simple or very deep," said Gallagher. "He did nothing but ask questions; and try my best I could not get him to show his hand, nor commit himself. It will be bad if there's a split in a solid delegation!"
"I hope it will be a lesson to you to have things better arranged."
"Blunkers would have it that way, and he's not the kind of man to offend. We all thought he would win."
"Oh, let them have their fights," said the man crossly; "but it's your business to see that the right men are put up, so that it doesn't make any difference which side wins."
"Well," said Gallagher, "I've done all I could to put things straight. I've made peace, and got Moriarty on our side, and I've talked to this Stirling, and made out a strong case for Catlin, without seeming to care which man gets the nomination."
"Is there any way of putting pressure on him?"
"Not that I can find out. He's a young lawyer, who has no business."
"Then he's a man we don't need to conciliate, if he won't behave?"
"No. I can't say that. He's made himself very popular round here by that case and by being friendly to people. I don't think, if he's going into politics, that it will do to fight him."
"He's such a green hand that we ought to be able to down him."
"He's new, but he's a pretty cool, knowing chap, I think. I had one experience with him, which showed me that any man who picked him up for a fool would drop him quick." Then he told how Dennis's fine had been remitted.
In the next few weeks Peter met a good many men who wanted to talk politics with him. Gallagher brought some; Dennis others; his fellow-ward delegates, more. But Peter could not be induced to commit himself. He would talk candidates and principles endlessly, but without expressing his own mind. Twice he was asked point blank, "Who's your man?" but he promptly answered that he had not yet decided. He had always read a Democratic paper, but now he read two, and a Republican organ as well. His other reading lessened markedly, and the time gained was spent in talking with men in the "district." He even went into the saloons and listened to the discussions.
"I don't drink," he had to explain several times, "because my mother doesn't like it." For some reason this explanation seemed to be perfectly satisfactory. One man alone sneered at him. "Does she feed yer still on milk, sonny?" he asked. "No," said Peter, "but everything I have comes from her, and that's the kind of a mother a fellow wants to please; don't you think so?" The sneerer hesitated, and finally said he "guessed it was." So Peter was made one of them, and smoked and listened. He said very little, but that little was sound, good sense, and, if he did not talk, he made others do so; and, after the men had argued over something, they often looked at Peter, rather than at their opponents, to see if he seemed to approve of their opinions.
"It's a fine way he has wid the b'ys," Dennis told his mother. "He makes them feel that he's just the likes av them, an' that he wants their minds an' opinions to help him. Shure, they'd rather smoke one pipe av his tobaccy than drink ten times at Gallagher's expense."
After Peter had listened carefully and lengthily, he wrote to "The Honorable Lemuel Porter, Hudson, N.Y.," asking him if he could give him an hour's talk some day. The reply was prompt, and told Peter that Porter would be glad to see him any time that should suit his convenience. So Peter took a day off and ran up to Hudson.
"I am trying to find out for whom I should vote," he explained to Porter. "I'm a new man at this sort of thing, and, not having met any of the men talked of, I preferred to see them before going to the convention."
Porter found that Peter had taken the trouble to go over a back file of papers, and read some of his speeches.
"Of course," Peter explained, "I want, as far as possible, to know what you think of questions likely to be matters for legislation."
"The difficulty in doing that, Mr. Stirling," he was told, "is that every nominee is bound to surrender his opinions in a certain degree to the party platform, while other opinions have to be modified to new conditions."
"I can see that," said Peter. "I do not for a moment expect that what you say to-day is in any sense a pledge. If a man's honest, the poorest thing we can do to him is to tie him fast to one course of action, when the conditions are constantly changing. But, of course, you have opinions for the present state of things?"
Something in Peter's explanation or face pleased Mr. Porter. He demurred no more, and, for an hour before lunch, and during that meal, he talked with the utmost freedom.
"I'm not easily fooled on men," he told his secretary afterwards, "and you can say what you wish to that Stirling without danger of its being used unfairly or to injure one. And he's the kind of man to be won by square dealing."
Peter had spoken of his own district "I think," he said, "that some good can be done in the way of non-partisan legislation. I've been studying the food supplies of the city, and, if I can, I shall try to get a bill introduced this winter to have official inspections systematized."
"That will receive my approval if it is properly drawn. But you'll probably find the Health Board fighting you. It's a nest of politicians."
"If they won't yield, I shall have to antagonize them, but I have had some talks with the men there, in connection with the 'swill-milk' investigations, and I think I can frame a bill that will do what I want, yet which they will not oppose. I shall try to make them help me in the drafting, for they can make it much better through their practical experience."
"If you do that, the opposition ought not to be troublesome. What else do you want?"
"I've been thinking of a general Tenement-house bill, but I don't think I shall try for that this winter. It's a big subject, which needs very careful study, in which a lot of harm may be done by ignorance. There's no doubt that anything which hurts the landlord, hurts the tenant, and if you make the former spend money, the tenant pays for it in the long run. Yet health must be protected. I shall try to find out what can be done."
"I wish you would get into the legislature yourself, Mr. Stirling."
"I shall not try for office. I want to go on with my profession. But I shall hope to work in politics in the future."
Peter took another day off, and spent a few minutes of it with the other most promising candidate. He did not see very much of him, for they were interrupted by another caller, and Peter had to leave before he could have a chance to continue the interview.
"I had a call to-day from that fellow Stirling, who's a delegate from the sixth ward," the candidate told a "visiting statesman" later. "I'm afraid he'll give us trouble. He asks too many questions. Fortunately Dewilliger came to see me, and though I shouldn't have seen him ordinarily, I found his call very opportune as a means of putting an end to Stirling's cross-examination."
"He's the one doubtful man on the city's delegation," said the statesman. "It happened through a mistake. It will be very unfortunate if we can't cast a solid city vote."
Peter talked more in the next few days. He gave the "b'ys" his impressions of the two candidates, in a way which made them trust his conclusions. He saw his two fellow delegates, and argued long and earnestly with them. He went to every saloon-keeper in the district, and discussed the change in the liquor law which was likely to be a prominent issue in the campaign, telling them what he had been able to draw from both candidates about the subject.
"Catlin seems to promise you the most," he told them, "and I don't want to say he isn't trying to help you. But if you get the law passed which he promises to sign, you won't be much better off. In the first place, it will cost you a lot of money, as you know, to pass it; and then it will tempt people to go into the business, so that it will cut your profits that way. Then, you may stir up a big public sentiment against you in the next election, and so lay yourselves open to unfriendly legislation. It is success, or trying to get too much, which has beaten every party, sooner or later, in this country. Look at slavery. If the Southerners had left things as they were under the Missouri Compromise, they never would have stirred up the popular outbreak that destroyed slavery. Now, Porter is said to be unfriendly to you, because he wants a bill to limit the number of licenses, and to increase the fee to new saloons. Don't you see that is all in your favor, though apparently against you? In the first place, you are established, and the law will be drawn so as to give the old dealer precedence over a new one in granting fresh licenses. This limit will really give the established saloon more trade in the future, by reducing competition. While the increase in fee to new saloons will do the same."
"By ——, yer right," said Blunkers.
"That's too good a name to use that way," said Peter, but more as if he were stating a fact than reproving.
Blunkers laughed good-naturedly. "Yer'll be gittin' usen to close up yet, Mister Stirling. Yer too good for us."
Peter looked at him. "Blunkers," he said warmly, "no man is too good not to tell the truth to any one whom he thinks it will help."
"Shake," said Blunkers. Then he turned to the men at the tables. "Step up, boys," he called. "I sets it up dis time to drink der health of der feller dat don't drink."
The boys drank
A POLITICAL DINNER.
Peter had only a month for work after reaching his own conclusions, before the meeting of the convention, but in that month he worked hard. As the result, a rumor, carrying dismay to the party leaders, became current.
"What's this I hear?" said Gallagher's former interviewer to that gentleman. "They say Schlurger says he intends to vote for Porter, and Kennedy's getting cold?"
"If you'll go through the sixth you'll hear more than that."
"What do you mean?"
"There was a torchlight last night, of nearly every voter in the ward, and nothing but Stirling prevented them from making the three delegates pledge themselves to vote for Porter. He said they must go unbound."
The interviewer's next remark is best represented by several "blank its," no allusion however being intended to bed-coverings. Then he cited the lower regions to know what it all meant.
"It means that that chap Stirling has got to be fixed, and fixed big. I thought I knew how to wire pull, and manage men, but he's taken hold and just runs it as he wants. It's he makes all the trouble."
The interviewer left the court, and five minutes later was in Stirling's office.
"My name's Green," he said. "I'm a delegate to the convention, and one of the committee who has the arranging of the special train and accommodations at Saratoga."
"I'm glad you came in," said Peter. "I bought my ticket yesterday, and the man at headquarters said he'd see that I was assigned a room at the United States."
"There'll be no trouble about the arrangements. What I want to see you for, is to ask if you won't dine with me this evening? There's to be several of the delegates and some big men there, to talk over the situation."
"I should like to," said Peter.
The man pulled out a card, and handed it to Peter. "Six o'clock sharp," he said. Then he went to headquarters, and told the result of his two interviews. "Now who had better be there?" he asked. After consultation, a dinner of six was arranged.
The meal proved to be an interesting one to Peter. First, he found that all the guests were well-known party men, whose names and opinions were matters of daily notice in the papers. What was more, they talked convention affairs, and Peter learned in the two hours' general conversation more of true "interests" and "influences" and "pulls" and "advantages" than all his reading and talking had hitherto gained him. He learned that in New York the great division of interest was between the city and country members, and that this divided interest played a part in nearly every measure. "Now," said one of the best known men at the table, "the men who represent the city, must look out for the city. Porter's a fine man, but he has no great backing, and no matter how well he intends by us, he can't do more than agree to such bills as we can get passed. But Catlin has the Monroe members of the legislature under his thumb, and his brother-in-law runs Onandaga. He promises they shall vote for all we want. With that aid, we can carry what New York City needs, in spite of the country members."
"Would the country members refuse to vote for really good and needed city legislation?" asked Peter.
"Every time, unless we agree to dicker with them on some country job. The country members hold the interest of the biggest city in this country in their hands, and threaten or throttle those interests every time anything is wanted."
"And when it comes to taxation," added another, "the country members are always giving the cities the big end to carry."
"I had a talk with Catlin," said Peter. "It seemed to me that he wasn't the right kind of man."
"Catlin's a timid man, who never likes to commit himself. That's because he always wants to do what his backers tell him. Of course when a man does that, he hasn't decided views of his own, and naturally doesn't wish to express what he may want to take back an hour later."
"I don't like straw men," said Peter.
"A man who takes other people's opinions is not a bad governor, Mr. Stirling. It all depends on whose opinion he takes. If we could find a man who was able to do what the majority wants every time, we could re-elect him for the next fifty years. You must remember that in this country we elect a man to do what we want—not to do what he wants himself."
"Yes," said Peter. "But who is to say what the majority wants?"
"Aren't we—the party leaders—who are meeting daily the ward leaders, and the big men in the different districts, better able to know what the people want than the man who sits in the governor's room, with a doorkeeper to prevent the people from seeing him?"
"You may not choose to do what the people want."
"Of course. I've helped push things that I knew were unpopular. But this is very unusual, because it's risky. Remember, we can only do things when our party is in power, so it is our interest to do what will please the people, if we are to command majorities and remain in office. Individually we have got to do what the majority of our party wants done, or we are thrown out, and new men take our places. And it's just the same way with the parties."
"Well," said Peter, "I understand the condition better, and can see what I could not fathom before, why the city delegates want Catlin. But my own ward has come out strong for Porter. We've come to the conclusion that his views on the license question are those which are best for us, and besides, he's said that he will stand by us in some food and tenement legislation we want."
"I know about that change, and want to say, Mr. Stirling, that few men of your years and experience, were ever able to do as much so quickly. But there are other sides, even to these questions, which you may not have yet considered. Any proposed restriction on the license will not merely scare a lot of saloon-keepers, who will only understand that it sounds unfriendly, but it will alienate every brewer and distiller, for their interest is to see saloons multiplied. Then food and tenement legislation always stirs up bad feeling in the dealers and owners. If the opposite party would play fair, we could afford to laugh at it, but you see the party out of power can oppose about anything, knowing that a minority is never held responsible, and so by winning over the malcontents which every piece of legislation is sure to make, before long it goes to the polls with a majority, though it has really been opposing the best interests of the whole state. We can't sit still, and do nothing, yet everything we do will alienate some interest."
"It's as bad as the doctrine of fore-ordination," laughed another of the party:
"You can't if you will, You can if you won't, You'll be damned if you do, You'll be damned if you don't."
"You just said," stated Peter, "that the man who could do what the majority wants done every time, would be re-elected. Doesn't it hold true as to a party?"
"No. A party is seldom retained in power for such reasons. If it has a long tenure of office it is generally due to popular distrust of the other party. The natural tendency otherwise is to make office-holding a sort of see-saw. Let alone change of opinion in older men, there are enough new voters every four years to reverse majorities in almost every state. Of course these young men care little for what either party has done in the past, and being young and ardent, they want to change things. The minority's ready to please them, naturally. Reform they call it, but it's quite as often 'Deform' when they've done it."
Peter smiled and said, "Then you think my views on license, and food-inspection, and tenement-house regulation are 'Deformities'?"
"We won't say that, but a good many older and shrewder heads have worked over those questions, and while I don't know what you hope to do, you'll not be the first to want to try a change, Mr. Stirling."
"I hope to do good. I may fail, but it's not right as it is, and I must try to better it." Peter spoke seriously, and his voice was very clear. "I'm glad to have had this talk, before the convention meets. You are all experienced men, and I value your opinions."
"But don't intend to act on them," said his host good-naturedly.
"No. I'm not ready to say that. I've got to think them over."
"If you do that, Mr. Stirling, you'll find we are right. We have not been twenty and thirty years in this business for nothing."
"I think you know how to run a party—but poisoned milk was peddled in my ward. I went to law to punish the men who sold it. Now I'm going into politics to try and get laws and administration which will prevent such evils. I've told my district what I want. I think it will support me. I know you can help me, and I hope you will. We may disagree on methods, but if we both wish the good of New York, we can't disagree on results." Peter stopped, rather amazed himself at the length of his speech.
"What do you want us to do?"
"You say that you want to remain in control. You say you can only do so by majorities. I want you to give this city such a government that you'll poll every honest vote on our side," said Peter warmly.
"That's only the generalization of a very young man," said the leader.
Peter liked him all the better for the snub. "I generalized, because it would make clear the object of my particular endeavors. I want to have the Health Board help me to draft a food-inspection bill, and I want the legislature to pass it, without letting it be torn to pieces for the benefit of special interests. I don't mind fair amendments, but they must be honest ones."
"And if the Health Board helps you, and the bill is made a law?"
Peter looked Mr. Costell in the face, and spoke quietly: "I shall tell my ward that you have done them a great service."
Two of the men moved uneasily in their seats, as if not comfortable, and a third scowled.
"And if we can give you some tenement-house legislation?"
"I shall tell my ward that you have done them a great service." Peter spoke in the same tone of voice, and still looked Mr. Costell in the face.
"And if we don't do either?"
"What I shall do then will depend on whether you refuse for a good reason or for none. In either case I shall tell them the facts."
"This is damned——" began one of the dinner-party, but the lifting of Mr. Costell's hand stopped the speech there.
"Mr. Stirling," said Mr. Costell, rising as he spoke, "I hope when you come to think it over, that you will vote with us for Catlin. But whether you do or not, we want you to work with us. We can help you, and you can help us. When you are ready to begin on your bills, come and see me."
"Thank you," said Peter. "That is just what I want." He said good-night to the company, and left the house.
"That fellow is going to be troublesome," said Green.
"There's no good trying to get anything out of him. Better split with him at once," said the guest who had used the expletive.
"He can't have any very big hold," said a third. "It's only that trial which has given him a temporary popularity."
"Wait and see if he goes back on Catlin, and if he does, lay for him," remarked Green.
A pause came, and they all looked at Costell, who was smiling a certain deep smile that was almost habitual with him, and which no one had ever yet been able to read. "No," he said slowly. "You might beat him, but he isn't the kind that stays beat. I'll agree to outwit any man in politics, except the man who knows how to fight and to tell the people the truth. I've never yet seen a man beaten in the long run who can do both those, unless he chose to think himself beaten. Gentlemen, that Stirling is a fighter and a truth-teller, and you can't beat him in his ward. There's no use having him against us, so it's our business to see that we have him with us. We may not be able to get him into line this time, but we must do it in the long run. For he's not the kind that lets go. He's beaten Nelson, and he's beaten Gallagher, both of whom are old hands. Mark my words, in five years he'll run the sixth ward. Drop all talk of fighting him. He is in politics to stay, and we must make it worth his while to stay with us."
Peter sat up later than was prudent that night, studying his blank wall. Yet when he rose to go to bed, he gave his head a puzzled shake. When he had gone through his papers, and drunk his coffee the next morning, he went back to wall-gazing again. He was working over two conundrums not very easy to answer, which were somewhat to this effect:
Does the best man always make the best official?
Is the honest judgment of a fellow verging on twenty-four better than the experienced opinion of many far older men?
Peter began to think life had not such clear and direct "right" and "wrong" roads as he had thought. He had said to himself long ago that it was easy to take the right one, but he had not then discovered that it is often difficult to know which is the right, in order to follow it. He had started in to punish Bohlmann, and had compromised. He had disapproved of Dennis breaking the law, and had compromised his disapproval. He had said he should not go into saloons, and had ended by going. Now he was confronted with the problem whether the interests of his ward would be better served by the nomination of a man of good record, whom Peter personally liked, or by that of a colorless man, who would be ruled by the city's leaders. In the one case Peter feared no support for his measures from his own party. In the other case he saw aid that was tantamount to success. Finally he shook himself.
"I believe Dennis is right," he said aloud. "There are more 'real' things than 'convictions' in New York politics, and a 'real' thing is much harder to decide about in voting than a 'conviction.'"
He went to his bedroom, packed his bag, and took his way to the station. There he found a dense crowd of delegates and "well-wishers," both surrounding and filling the special train which was to carry New York's contribution to the collected party wisdom, about to concentrate at Saratoga.
Peter felt like a stranger in the crowd, but on mingling in it he quickly found himself a marked man. He was seized upon by one of the diners of the evening before, and soon found himself forming part of a group, which constantly changed its components, but continued to talk convention affairs steadily. Nor did the starting of the train, with cheers, brass bands, flags, and other enthusing elements, make more than a temporary break. From the time the special started, till it rolled into Saratoga, six hours later, there was one long series of political debates and confabs. Peter listened much, and learned much, for the talk was very straight and plain. He had chats with Costell and Green. His two fellow-delegates from "de sixt" sought him and discussed intentions. He liked Schlurger, a simple, guileless German, who wanted only to do what his constituents wished him to do, both in convention and Assembly. Of Kennedy he was not so sure. Kennedy had sneered a little at Peter's talk about the "best man," and about "helping the ward," and had only found that Peter's ideas had value after he had been visited by various of the saloon-keepers, seen the vast torchlight meeting, and heard the cheers at Peter's arguments. Still, Peter was by no means sure that Kennedy was not a square man, and concluded he was right in not condemning him, when, passing through one of the cars, he overheard the following:
"What kind of man is that Stirling, who's raised such —— in the sixth?"
"I don't know him, but Kennedy told me, before he'd swung round, that he was a darned good sort of a cuss."
This was flattery, Peter understood, however questionable the form might seem, and he was pleased. Very few of us do not enjoy a real compliment. What makes a compliment uncomfortable is either a suspicion that the maker doesn't mean it, or a knowledge that it is not merited.
Peter went at once to his room on reaching the hotel in Saratoga, intending to make up the sleep of which his long "think" the night before had robbed him. But scarcely had the colored gentleman bowed himself out, after the usual "can I git de gentleman a pitcher of ice water" (which translated means: "has de gentleman any superfluous change?") when a knock came at the door. Peter opened it, to find a man outside.
"Is this Mr. Stirling's room?" inquired the individual.
"Can I see him?"
"Come in." Peter moved his bag off one of his chairs, and his hat and overcoat off the other.
"Mr. Stirling," said the stranger as he sat down, "I am Senator Maguire, and am, as perhaps you know, one of Porter's managers."
"We understand that you are friendly to us. Now, I needn't say that New York is otherwise a unit in opposing us."
"No," said Peter. "My fellow-delegates from the sixth, Schlurger and Kennedy, stand as I do!"
"Are you sure?"
"The change must have been very sudden. They were elected as Catlin men, we were told."
"Yes. But there's quite a different feeling in the ward now, and they have yielded to it."
"That's good news."
"We all three come here prepared to do what seems best."
The Senator's expression lost some of the satisfaction Peter's news had put into it. He gave a quick look at Peter's face, as if to try and find from it what lay behind the words. He hesitated, as if divided in mind over two courses of action. Finally he said:
"I needn't tell you that this opposition of practically the whole of the New York City delegation, is the most serious set-back to Porter's chance. Now, we have talked it over, and it seemed to us that it would be a great card for him if he could be nominated by a city delegate. Will you do it?"
"I don't know him well enough, do I? Doesn't the nominating delegate have to make a speech in his favor?"
"Yes. But I can give you the material to-night. Or if you prefer, we'll give it to you all written for delivery?"
"I don't make other men's speeches, Mr. Maguire."
"Suit yourself about that. It shall be just as you please."
"The difficulty is that I have not decided myself, yet, how I shall vote, and of course such an act is binding."
Mr. Maguire's countenance changed again. "I'm sorry to hear that. I hoped you were for Porter. He's far away the best man."
"So I think."
The Senator leaned back in his chair, and tucked his thumbs into the armholes of his waistcoat. He thought he had fathomed Peter, and felt that the rest was plain sailing. "This is not a chap to be tolled. I'll give him the gaff at once," was his mental conclusion. Then he asked aloud:
"What do you want?"
It was a question susceptible of many different constructions, but as Mr. Maguire asked it, it seemed to him to have but one, and that not very honest. Peter hesitated. The temptation was strong to lead the Senator on, but he did not like to do it. It seemed to savor of traps, and Peter had never liked traps. Still—he did want to know if the managers on Porter's side would stoop to buy his support by some bargain. As Peter hesitated, weighing the pros and cons, Maguire spoke again.
"What does the other side offer you?"
Peter spoke quickly. "They haven't offered me anything, but advice. That is, Costell said he'd try and help me on some legislation I want—"
"Special?" interrupted Maguire.
"No, General. I've talked about it with Porter as well"
"I'm really anxious to get that. Otherwise I want nothing."
"Whew," said the Senator to himself. "That was a narrow squeak. If he hadn't spoken so quickly, I should have shown my hand before the call. I wonder if he got any inkling?" He never dreamed that Peter had spoken quickly to save that very disclosure.
"I needn't say, Mr. Stirling, that if you can see your way to nominate Porter, we shall not forget it. Nor will he. He isn't the kind of man who forgets his friends. Many a man in to-morrow's convention would give anything for the privilege we offer you."
"Well," said Peter, "I realize the honor offered me, but I don't see my way to take it. It will please me better to see him nominated by some one who has really stood close to him, than to gain his favor by doing it myself."
"Think twice, Mr. Stirling."
"If you would rather, I will not give you my answer till to-morrow morning?"
"I would," said Maguire rising, "Try and make it favorable. It's a great chance to do good for yourself and for your side. Good-night."
Peter closed his door, and looked about for a bit of blank wall. But on second thought he sat down on his window-sill, and, filling his pipe, tried to draw conclusions as well as smoke from it.
"I wonder," he pondered to himself, "how much of that was Maguire, and how much Porter? Ought I, for the sake of doing my best for my ward, to have let him go on? Has an agent any right to refuse what will help is client, even if it comes by setting pitfalls?"
Rap, rap, rap.
"Come in," called Peter, forgetting he had turned down his light.
The door opened and Mr. Costell came in. "Having a quiet smoke?" he asked.
"Yes. I haven't a cigar to offer you. Can you join me in a pipe?"
"I haven't come to that yet. Suppose you try one of my cigars." Costell sat down on the window-ledge by Peter.
"Thank you," said Peter. "I like a cigar, but it must be a good one, and that kind I can't afford." He lit the cigar, and leaned back to luxuriate in it.
"You'll like that, I'm sure. Pretty sight, isn't it?" Costell pointed to the broad veranda, three stories below them, gay with brilliant dresses.
"Yes. It's my first visit here, so it's new to me."
"It won't be your last. You'll be attending other conventions than this."
"I hope so."
"One of my scouts tells me you've had a call from Maguire?"
"Yes." Peter hesitated a moment. "He wants me to nominate Porter," he continued, as soon as he had decided that plain speaking was fair to Maguire.
"We shall be very sorry to see you do it."
"I don't think I shall. They only want me because it would give the impression that Porter has a city backing, and to try to give that amounts to a deception."
"Can they get Schlurger or Kennedy?"
"Schlurger is safe. I don't know about Kennedy."
"Can you find out for us?"
"Yes. When would you like to know?"
"Can you see him now? I'll wait here."
Peter rose, looking at his cigar with a suggestion of regret. But he rubbed out the light, and left the room. At the office, he learned the number of Kennedy's room, and went to it. On knocking, the door was opened only a narrow crack.
"Oh! it's you," said Kennedy. "Come in."
Peter entered, and found Maguire seated in an easy attitude on a lounge. He noticed that his thumbs were once more tucked into his waistcoat.
"Mr. Kennedy," said Peter without seating himself, "there is an attempt being made to get a city delegate to nominate Porter. It seems to me that is his particular friends' business."
Maguire spoke so quickly that Kennedy had no chance to reply: "Kennedy's promised to nominate him, Mr. Stirling, if you won't."
"Do you feel that you are bound to do it?" asked Peter.
Kennedy moved uneasily in his chair. "Yes, I suppose I have promised."
"Will you release Mr. Kennedy from his promise if he asks it?" Peter queried to Maguire.
"Why, Mr. Stirling, I don't think either he or you ought to ask it."
"That was not my question."
It was the Senator's turn to squirm. He did not want to say no, for fear of angering Peter, yet he did not like to surrender the advantage. Finally he said: "Yes, I'll release him, but Mr. Kennedy isn't the kind of a man that cries off from a promise. That's women's work."
"No," said Kennedy stiffening suddenly in backbone, as he saw the outlet opened by Maguire, between antagonizing Peter, and retracting his consent. "I don't play baby. Not me."
Peter stood thinking for a longer time than the others found comfortable. Maguire whistled to prove that he was quite at ease, but he would not have whistled if he had been.
"I think, Mr. Kennedy, that I'll save you from the difficulty by nominating Mr. Porter myself," said Peter finally.
"Good!" said Maguire; and Kennedy, reaching down into his hip pocket, produced a version of the holy text not yet included in any bibliography. Evidently the atmosphere was easier. "About your speech, Mr. Stirling?" continued the Senator.
"I shall say what I think right."
Something in Peter's voice made Maguire say: "It will be of the usual kind, of course?"
"I don't know," said Peter, "I shall tell the facts."
"What sort of facts?"
"I shall tell how it is that a delegate of the sixth ward nominates Porter."
"And that is?"
"I don't see," said Peter, "why I need say it. You know it as well as I do."
"I know of many reasons why you should do it."
"No," said Peter. "There's only one, and that has been created in the last ten minutes. Mr. Maguire, if you insist on the sixth ward nominating Mr. Porter, the sixth ward is going to tell why it does so. I'm sorry, for I like Porter, but the sixth ward shan't lend itself to a fraud, if I can help it."
Kennedy had been combining things spiritual and aqueous at his wash-stand. But his interest in the blending seemed suddenly to cease. Maguire, too, took his thumbs from their havens of rest, and looked dissatisfied.
"Look here, Mr. Stirling," he said, "it's much simpler to leave it to Kennedy. You think you're doing what's right, but you'll only do harm to us, and to yourself. If you nominate Porter, the city gang won't forgive you, and unless you can say what we want said, we shall be down on you. So you'll break with both sides."
"I think that is so. That is why I want some real friend of Porter's to do it."
Maguire laughed rather a forced laugh. "I suppose we've got to satisfy you. We'll have Porter nominated by one of our own crowd."
"I think that's best. Good-evening." Peter went to the door.
"Mr. Stirling," called Kennedy. "Won't you stay and take some whisky and water with us?"
"Thank you," said Peter. "Mr. Costell's in my room and he must be tired of waiting." He closed the door, and walked away.
The couple looked at each other blankly for a moment.
"The —— cuss is playing a double game," Maguire gasped.
"I don't know what it means!" said Kennedy.
"Mean?" cried Maguire. "It can mean only one thing. He's acting under Costell's orders."
"But why should he give it away to us?"
"How the —— should I know? Look here, Kennedy, you must do it, after all."
"I don't want to."
"Tut, tut, man, you must."
"But my ward?"
"Come. We'll make it quarantine, as you want. That's six years, and you can —— your ward."
"I'll do it."
"That's the talk."
They sat and discussed plans and whisky for nearly an hour. Then Maguire said good-night.
"You shall have the speech the first thing in the morning," he said at parting. Then as he walked down the long corridor, he muttered, "Now then, Stirling, look out for the hind heel of the mule."
Peter found Costell still waiting for him.
"It took me longer than I thought, for Maguire was there."
"Indeed!" said Costell, making room for Peter on the window-ledge.
Peter re-lit his cigar, "Maguire promises me that Porter shall be nominated by one of his friends."
"He had been trying Kennedy?"
"I didn't ask."
Costell smiled. "I had no business to ask you that?"
"No," Peter said frankly.
Both puffed their cigars for a time in silence.
Then Costell began talking about Saratoga. He told Peter where the "Congress" spring was, and what was worth seeing. Finally he rose to go. He held out his hand, and said:
"Mr. Stirling, you've been as true as steel with us, and with the other men. I don't want you to suppose we are not conscious of it. I think you've done us a great service to-night, although it might have been very profitable to you if you had done otherwise. I don't think that you'll lose by it in the long run, but I'm going to thank you now, for myself. Good-night."
Peter had a good night. Perhaps it was only because he was sleepy, but a pleasant speech is not a bad night-cap. At least it is better than a mental question-mark as to whether one has done wrong. Peter did not know how it was coming out, but he thought he had done right, and need not spend time on a blank wall that evening.
Though Peter had not gone to bed so early as he hoped, he was up the next morning, and had tramped his eight miles through and around Saratoga, before the place gave many evidences of life. He ended his tramp at the Congress spring, and tasted the famous water, with exceeding disgust at the result. As he set down his half-finished tumbler, and turned to leave, he found Miss De Voe at his elbow, about to take her morning glass.
"This is a very pleasant surprise," she said, holding out her hand. "When did you arrive?"
"I only came last night."
"And how long shall you be here?"
"I cannot say. I am attending the convention, and my stay will depend on that."
"Surely you are not a Democrat?" said Miss De Voe, a shade of horror showing itself in her face, in spite of her good breeding. In those days it was not, to put it mildly, a guarantee of respectability to belong to that party, and Miss De Voe had the strong prejudices of her social station, all the more because she was absolutely ignorant of political events.
Peter said he was.
"How can you be? When a man can ally himself with the best, why should he choose the worst?"
"I think," said Peter quietly, "that a Pharisee said the same thing, in different words, many hundred years ago."
Miss De Voe caught her breath and flushed. She also became suddenly conscious of the two girls who had come to the spring with her. They had been forgotten in the surprise over Peter, but now Miss De Voe wondered if they had heard his reply, and if they had enough Bible lore to enable them to understand the reproof.
"I am sure you don't mean that," she said, in the sting of the moment.
"I am very sorry," said Peter, "if I made an unkind speech. What I meant was that no one has a right to pick out the best for himself. I am sure, from your letter to me, that you think a man should help those not as well off as himself."
"Oh, but that is very different. Of course we should be charitable to those who need our help, but we need not mix in their low politics."
"If good laws, and good administration can give the poor good food, and good lodgings, don't you think the best charity is to 'mix' in politics, and try to obtain such results?"
"I want you to know my two cousins," Miss De Voe replied. "Dorothy, I wish to present Mr. Stirling. My cousin, Miss Ogden, and Miss Minna Ogden."
Peter saw two very pretty girls, and made a bow to them.
"Which way are you walking?" asked Miss De Voe.
"I have been tramping merely for exercise," said Peter, "and stopped here to try the spring, on my way to the United States."
"It is hardly worth while, but if you will get into our carriage, we will drop you there. Or if you can spare the time, we will drive to our cottage, and then send you back to the hotel."
"Thank you," said Peter, "but I shall only crowd you, I fear."
"No. There is plenty of room."
"Will the convention be interesting to watch, Mr. Stirling?" asked one of the girls, as soon as they were seated.
"I don't know," Peter told her. "It is my first experience at it. There is pretty strong feeling, and that of course makes it interesting to the delegates, but I am not sure that it would be so to others."
"Will there be speeches, and cheers, and all that sort of thing?"
"Cousin Anneke, won't you take us? It will be such fun!"
"Are spectators admitted, Mr. Stirling?"
"I believe so. I heard something about tickets last night. If you care to go, I'll see if I can get you some?"
"Oh, please," cried both girls.
"If you can do so, Mr. Stirling, we should like to see the interesting part," said Miss De Voe.
"Send word back by Oliver." The carriage had drawn up at the cottage, and farewells were made.
As soon as Peter reached the hotel, he went to the New York City delegation room, and saw Costell. He easily secured admissions, and pencilling on a card, "At headquarters they tell me that the nominations will begin at the afternoon session, about two o'clock," he sent them back by the carriage. Then bearding the terrors of the colored "monarch of all he surveys," who guards the dining-room of every well-ordered Saratoga hotel, he satisfied as large an appetite as he remembered in a long time.
The morning proceedings in the convention were purely formal. The election of the chairman, the roll-call, the naming of the committees, and other routine matter was gotten through with, but the real interest centred in the undertone of political talk, going on with little regard to the business in hand. After the committees were named, an unknown man came up to Peter, and introduced himself by a name which Peter at once recognized as that of one of the committee on the platform.
"Mr. Costell thinks you might like to see this, and can perhaps suggest a change," explained Mr. Talcott, laying several sheets of manuscript on Peter's desk and indicating with his finger a certain paragraph.
Peter read it twice before saying anything. "I think I can better it," he said. "If you can give me time I'm very slow about such things."
"All right. Get it in shape as quickly as possible, and send it to the committee-room."
Left alone Peter looked round for a blank wall. Failing in his search, he put his head into his hands, and tried to shut out the seething, excited mass of men about him. After a time he took a sheet of paper and wrote a paragraph for the platform. It pledged the party to investigate the food and tenement questions, and to pass such remedial legislation as should seem best. It pledged the party to do this, with as little disturbance and interference with present conditions as possible, "but fully recognizing the danger of State interference, we place human life above money profits, and human health above annual incomes, and shall use the law to its utmost to protect both." When it appeared in the platform, there was an addition that charged the failure to obtain legislation "which should have rendered impossible the recent terrible lesson in New York City" to "the obstruction in the last legislature in the interest of the moneyed classes and landlords, by the Republican party." That had not been in Peter's draft and he was sorry to see it. Still, the paragraph had a real ring of honesty and feeling in it. That was what others thought too. "Gad, that Stirling knows how to sling English," said one of the committee, when the paragraph was read aloud. "He makes it take right hold." Many an orator in that fall's campaign read the nineteenth section of the Democratic platform aloud, feeling that it was ammunition of the right kind. It is in all the New York papers of September 24th, of that year.
Immediately after the morning adjournment, Green came up to Peter.
"We've had a count, and can't carry Catlin. So we shan't even put him up. What do you think of Milton?"
"I don't know him personally, but he has a very good record, I believe."
"He isn't what we want, but that's not the question. We must take what we can get."
"I suppose you think Porter has a chance."
"Not if we take Milton."
"Between the two I have no choice."
An hour later, the convention was called to order by the chairman. A few moments sufficed to complete the unfinished business, and then the chairman's gavel fell, and every one knew without his announcement that the crucial moment had been reached.
Much to Peter's surprise, Kennedy was one of the members who was instantly on his feet, and was the one selected for recognition by the chairman. He was still more surprised when Kennedy launched at once into a glowing eulogium of Porter. Peter was sitting next Kennedy, and though he sat quietly, a sad look came into the face usually so expressionless. He felt wronged. He felt that he had been an instrument in the deceiving of others. Most of all he grieved to think that a delegate of his ward, largely through his own interference, was acting discreditably. Peter wanted others to do right, and he felt that that was not what Kennedy was doing.
The moment Kennedy finished, Peter rose, as did Maguire. The convention was cheering for Porter, and it took some time to quiet it to a condition when it was worth while recognizing any one. During this time the chairman leaned forward and talked with Green, who sat right below him, for a moment. Green in turn spoke to Costell, and a little slip of paper was presently handed up to the chairman, who from that moment became absolutely oblivious of the fact that Maguire was on his feet. When silence finally came, in spite of Maguire's, "Mr. Chairman," that individual said, "Mr. Stirling."
Peter began in a low voice, "In rising, Mr. Chairman, to second the nomination of Mr. Porter, I feel that it would be idle in me to praise one so well known to all of us, even if he had not just been the subject of so appreciative a speech from my colleague—"
Here cries of "louder" interrupted Peter, during which interruption Green said to Costell, "We've been tricked."
"I'm not so sure," replied Costell, "Maguire's on his feet yet, and doesn't look happy. Something's happening which has not been slated."
When Peter resumed, there were no more cries of "louder." His introduction had been a matter of trouble and doubt to him, for he liked Porter, and feared he might not show it. But now he merely had something to tell his audience, and that was easy work. So, his voice ringing very clear and distinct, he told them of the original election of the delegates; of the feeling of his ward; of the attempts to obtain a city nomination of Porter; of Maguire's promise. "Gad, he hits from the shoulder," said Green. As soon as the trend of his remarks was realized, Porter's supporters began to hiss and hoot. Peter at once stopped, but the moment silence came he began again, and after a repetition of this a few times, they saw they could neither embarrass nor anger him, so they let him have his say. He brought his speech to an end by saying:
"I have already expressed my admiration of Mr. Porter, and as soon as I had made up my mind to vote for him, I made no secret of that intention. But he should not have been nominated by a city delegate, for he is not the choice of New York City, and any attempt to show that he is, or that he has any true backing there, is only an attempt to deceive. In seconding his nomination therefore, I wish it to be distinctly understood that both his nomination and seconding are personal acts, and in no sense the act of the delegates of the city of New York."
There was a mingling of hoots and cheers as Peter sat down, though neither was very strong. In truth, the larger part of the delegates were very much in the dark as to the tendency of Peter's speech. "Was it friendly or unfriendly to Porter?" they wondered.
"Mr. Maguire," said the chairman.
"Mr. Chairman, the gentleman who has just sat down is to be complimented on his speech. In my whole life I have never heard so deceptive and blinding a narration. We know of Brutus stabbing his friend. But what shall we say of a pretended Brutus who caresses while he stabs?"
Here the Porter adherents became absolutely sure of the character of Peter's speech, and hissed.
"Nor is it Imperial Caesar alone," continued Maguire, "against whom he turns his poniard. Not content with one foul murder, he turns against Caesar's friends. By devilish innuendo, he charges the honorable Mr. Kennedy and myself with bargaining to deceive the American people. I call on him for proof or retraction."
The convention laughed. Peter rose and said: "Mr. Chairman, I gave a truthful account of what actually took place last evening in the United States hotel. I made no charges."
"But you left the impression that Mr. Kennedy and I had made a deal," shrieked Maguire.
"If the gentleman draws that conclusion from what passed, it is not my fault."
The convention laughed. "Do you mean to charge such a bargain?" angrily shouted Maguire.
"Will you deny it?" asked Peter calmly.
"Then you do charge it?"
Here the convention laughed for the third time. Green shouted "deny it," and the cry was taken up by many of the delegates.
"Yes," screamed Maguire. "I do deny it"
Peter turned to Kennedy. "Do you too, deny it?"
"Yes," shouted Kennedy, loudly.
Again the convention laughed.
"Then," said Peter, "if I had charged you with a bargain, I should now find it necessary to apologize."
The convention roared. Maguire screamed something, but it could not be heard. The tenor of his remarks was indicated by his red face and clinched fist.
Costell smiled his deep smile. "I'm very glad," he said to the man next him, "that we didn't pick Stirling up."
Then Milton was nominated and seconded, as were also Catlin, and four minor stars. That done, a ballot was taken and the vote stood:
Porter 206 Milton 197 Catlin 52 Scattering 29
A second ballot showed:
Porter 206 Milton 202 Catlin 54 Scattering 22
A third ballot gave:
Porter 206 Milton 210 Catlin 52 Scattering 16
"Porter's done for on the next," was whispered round the hall, though where it started, no one knew. Evidently his adherents thought so, for one made a motion to adjourn. It was voted down, and once more the roll call started.
"I shall vote for Milton," Peter told Schlurger, and the changes in the delegations as the call proceeded, proved that many changes were being made the same way. Yet the fourth ballot showed:
Porter 125 Milton 128 Catlin 208 Scattering 14
The wildest excitement broke out in the Porter delegates. "They've beaten us," screamed Kennedy, as much to himself as to those about. "They've used Milton to break our ranks, meaning Catlin all the time." So in truth, it was. Milton had been put up to draw off Porter's delegates, but the moment they had begun to turn to Milton, enough New York City delegates had been transferred to Catlin to prevent Milton being chosen. Amid protests and angry words on all sides another ballot was taken:
Catlin 256 Porter 118 Milton 110
Before the result was announced. Green was at Peter's elbow.
"Will you move to make it unanimous?" he asked.
"Yes." And Peter made the formal motion, which was carried by acclamation. Half an hour served to choose the Lieutenant-Governor and the rest of the ticket, for the bulk of it had already been slated. The platform was adopted, and the convention dissolved.
"Well," said Kennedy angrily to Peter, "I guess you've messed it this time. A man can't please both sides, but he needn't get cussed by both."
Peter went out and walked to his hotel. "I'm afraid I did mess it," he thought, "yet I don't see what else I could have done."
MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND UNDERSTANDINGS.
"Did you understand what it all meant, Cousin Anneke?" asked Dorothy, as they were coming downstairs.
"No. The man who got so angry seemed to think Mr. Stirling had—"
She stopped short. A group of men on the sidewalk were talking, and she paused to hear one say:
"To see that young chap Stirling handling Maguire was an eye-opener."
Another man laughed, rather a deep, quiet laugh. "Maguire understands everything but honesty," he said. "You can always beat him with that."
Miss De Voe would have like to stay and listen, but there were too many men. So the ladies entered the carriage.
"At least we know that he said he was trying to tell the truth," she went on, "and you just heard what that man said. I don't know why they all laughed."
"He didn't seem to mind a bit."
"No. Hasn't he a funny half-embarrassed, half-cool manner?"
"He wasn't embarrassed after he was fairly speaking. You know he was really fine-looking, when he spoke."
"Yes," said Dorothy. "You said he had a dull, heavy face."
"That was the first time I saw him, Dorothy. It's a face which varies very much. Oliver, drive to the United States. We will take him home to dinner."
"Oh, good," cried the youngest. "Then he will tell us why they laughed."
As they drove up to the hotel, Peter had just reached the steps. He turned to the carriage, the moment he saw that they wanted him.
"We wish to carry you off to a simple country dinner," Miss De Voe told him.
"I am going to take the special to New York, and that leaves in half an hour."
"Take a later train."
"My ticket wouldn't be good on it."
Most men Miss De Voe would have snubbed on the spot, but to Peter she said: "Then get another ticket."
"I don't care to do that," said Peter.
"Oh, please, Mr. Stirling," said Minna. "I want to ask you a lot of questions about the convention."
"Hush, Minna," said Miss De Voe. She was nettled that Peter should refuse, and that her niece could stoop to beg of "a criminal lawyer and ward politician," as she put it mentally. But she was determined not to show it "We are sorry. Good-evening. Home, Oliver."
So they did not learn from Peter why the convention laughed. The subject was brought up at dinner, and Dorothy asked the opinion of the voters of the family.
"Probably he had made a fluke of some kind," one said.
"More probably he had out-sharped the other side," suggested a second.
"It will be in the papers to-morrow," said the first suggestor.
The three women looked in the next day's papers, but the reporters were as much at sea in regard to the Stirling-sixth-ward incident, as had been the rank-and-file in the convention. Three took their views from Maguire, and called it "shameful treason," and the like. Two called it "unprincipled and contradictory conduct." One alone said that "Mr. Stirling seemed to be acting conscientiously, if erratically." Just what effect it had had on the candidates none of the papers agreed in. One said it had killed Porter. Another, that "it was a purely personal matter without influence on the main question." The other papers shaded between these, though two called it "a laughable incident." The opposition press naturally saw in it an entire discrediting of both factions of the Democratic party, and absolute proof that the nominee finally selected was unfit for office.
Unable to sift out the truth, the ladies again appealed to the voters of the family.
"Oh," said one, "Stirling did something tricky and was caught in it."
"I don't believe that," said Miss De Voe.
"Nor I," said Dorothy.
"Well, if you want to make your political heeler an angel, I have no objection," laughed the enfranchised being.
"I don't think a man who made that speech about the children can be a scoundrel," said Dorothy.
"I don't either," said Minna.
"That's the way you women reason," responded he of the masculine intellect. "Because a man looks out for some sick kittens, ergo, he is a political saint. If you must take up with politicians, do take Republicans, for then, at least, you have a small percentage of chance in your favor that they are gentlemen."
"Don't be a Pharisee, Lispenard," said Miss De Voe, utilizing Peter's rebuke.
"Then don't trouble me with political questions. Politics are so vulgar in this country that no gentleman keeps up with them."
Miss De Voe and the two girls dropped the "vulgar" subject, but Miss De Voe said later:
"I should like to know what they laughed at?"
"Do ask him—if he comes to call on you, this winter, Cousin Anneke."
"No. I asked him once and he did not come." Miss De Voe paused a moment. "I shall not ask him again," she added.
"I don't think he intends to be rude," said Dorothy.
"No," responded Miss De Voe. "I don't think he knows what he is doing. He is absolutely without our standards, and it is just as well for both that he shouldn't call." Woman-like, Miss De Voe forgot that she had said Peter was a gentleman.
If Peter had found himself a marked man in the trip up, he was doubly so on the return train. He sat most of the time by himself, pondering on what had happened, but he could not be unconscious of the number of people to whom he was pointed out. He was conscious too, that his course had not been understood, and that many of those who looked at him with interest, did so without approbation. He was not buoyed up either, by a sense that he had succeeded in doing the best. He had certainly hurt Porter, and had made enemies of Maguire and Kennedy. Except for the fact that he had tried to do right, he could see no compensating balance.
Naturally the newspapers the next morning did not cheer him, though perhaps he cared less for what they said than he ought. He sent them, good, bad, and indifferent, to his mother, writing her at the same time a long letter, telling her how and why he had taken this course. He wrote also a long letter to Porter, explaining his conduct. Porter had already been told that Peter was largely responsible for his defeat, but after reading Peter's letter, he wrote him a very kind reply, thanking him for his support and for his letter. "It is not always easy to do what one wants in politics," he wrote, "but if one tries with high motives, for high things, even defeat loses its bitterness. I shall not be able to help you, in your wished-for reforms as greatly as I hoped, but I am not quite a nonentity in politics even now, and if at any time you think my aid worth the asking, do not hesitate to call on me for it. I shall always be glad to see you at my house for a meal or a night, whether you come on political matters or merely for a chat."
Peter found his constituents torn with dissensions over his and Kennedy's course in the convention. He did not answer in kind the blame and criticism industriously sowed by Kennedy; but he dropped into a half-a-dozen saloons in the next few days, and told "the b'ys" a pretty full history of the "behind-the-scenes" part.
"I'm afraid I made mistakes," he frankly acknowledged, "yet even now I don't see how I could have done differently. I certainly thought I was doing right."
"An' so yez were," shouted Dennis. "An' if that dirty beast Kennedy shows his dirty face inside these doors, it's a washin' it will get wid the drainin' av the beer-glasses. We wants none av his dirty bargains here."
"I don't know that he had made any bargain," said Peter.
"But we do," shouted one of the men. "It's a bargain he's always makin'."
"Yes," said Dennis. "It's Kennedy looks out for himself, an' we'll let him do it next time all by himself." It could not be traced to its origin, but in less than a week the consensus of opinion in the ward was that: "Kennedy voted for himself, but Stirling for us."
The ward, too, was rather proud of the celebrity it had achieved. The papers had not merely paragraphed Peter, and the peculiar position of the "district" in the convention, but they had begun now asking questions as to how the ward would behave. "Would it support Catlin?" "Was it true that the ward machine had split, and intended to nominate rival tickets?" "Had one faction made a deal with the Republicans?"
"Begobs," said Dennis, "it's the leaders an' the papers are just afther discoverin' there is a sixth ward, an' it's Misther Stirling's made them do it."
The chief party leaders had stayed over at Saratoga, but Peter had a call from Costell before the week was out.
"The papers gave it to you rather rough," Costell said kindly, "but they didn't understand it. We thought you behaved very square."
"They tell me I did Porter harm."
"No. It was Maguire did the harm. You simply told about it. Of course you get the blame."
"My constituents stand by me."
"How do they like Catlin?"
"I think they are entirely satisfied. I'm afraid they never cared much who got it."
"I'm told Kennedy is growling, and running amuck?"
"He's down on Catlin and me."
"Well, if you think best, we'll placate him? But Gallagher seemed to think he couldn't do much?"
"I don't think he has much of a following. Even Moriarty, who was his strong card, has gone back on him."
"Will you make a couple of speeches for us in this ward?"
"If you'll let me say what I want?"
"You can support us?"
"Then we'll leave it to you. Only beware of making too many statements. You'll get dates and places from the committee as soon as they are settled. We pay twenty-five dollars a night. If you hit the right key, we may want you in some of the other wards, too."
"I shall be glad to talk. It's what I've been doing to small crowds in the saloons."
"So I'm told. You'll never get a better place. Men listen there, as they never will at a mass-meeting." Costell rose. "If you are free next Sunday, come up into Westchester and take a two o'clock dinner with me. We won't talk politics, but you shall see a nice little woman, who's good enough to make my life happier, and after we've looked over my stables, I'll bring you back to the city behind a gray mare that will pass about anything there is on the road."
So Peter had a half day in the country and enjoyed it very much. He looked over Mrs. Costell's flower-garden, in which she spent almost her whole time, and chatted with her about it. He saw the beautiful stables, and their still more beautiful occupants. He liked the couple very much. Both were simple and silent people, of little culture, but it seemed to Peter that the atmosphere had a gentle, homely tone that was very pleasing. As he got into the light buggy, he said to Mrs. Costell:
"I'll get the seed of that mottled gillyflower from my mother as soon as possible. Perhaps you'll let me bring it up myself?"
"Do," she said. "Come again, whether you get the seed or not."
After they had started, Mr. Costell said: "I'm glad you asked that. Mrs. Costell doesn't take kindly to many of the men who are in politics with me, but she liked you, I could see."
Peter spoke twice in the next week in small halls in his ward. He had good audiences, and he spoke well, if simply.
"There ain't no fireworks in his stuff," said the ward satirist. "He don't unfurl the American flag, nor talk about liberty and the constitution. He don't even speak of us as noble freemen. He talks just as if he thought we was in a saloon. A feller that made that speech about the babies ought to treat us to something moving."
That was what many of the ward thought. Still they went because they wanted to see if he wouldn't burst out suddenly. They felt that Peter had unlimited potentialities in the way of eloquence (for eloquence to them meant the ability to move the emotions) and merely saved his powers. Without quite knowing it they found what he had to say interesting. He brought the questions at issue straight back to elementary forms. He showed just how each paragraph in the platform would directly affect, not the state, but the "district."
"He's thoroughly good," the party leaders were told. "If he would abuse the other side a little more, and stick in a little tinsel and calcium light he would be great."
So he was called upon to speak elsewhere in the city. He worked at one of the polls on election day, and was pleased to find that he was able to prevent a little of the "trading" for which Kennedy had arranged. His ward went Democratic, as was a foregone conclusion, but by an unusually large majority, and Peter found that he and Dennis were given the credit for it, both in the ward, and at headquarters. Catlin was elected, and the Assembly had been won. So Peter felt that his three months' work had not been an entire failure. The proceeds of his speeches had added also two hundred and fifty dollars to his savings bank account, and one hundred more to the account of "Peter Stirling, Trustee."
VARIOUS KINDS OF SOCIETY.
Peter spent Christmas with his mother, and found her very much worried over his "salooning."
"It's first steps, Peter, that do the mischief," she told him.
"But, mother, I only go to talk with the men. Not to drink."
"You'll come to that later. The devil's paths always start straight, my boy, but they end in wickedness. Promise me you won't go any more."
"I can't do that, mother. I am trying to help the men, and you ought not ask me to stop doing what may aid others."
"Oh, my boy, my boy!" sobbed the mother.
"If you could only understand it, mother, as I have come to, you wouldn't mind. Here, the saloon is chiefly a loafing place for the lazy and shiftless, but in New York, it's very different. It's the poor man's club. If you could see the dark, cold, foul-aired tenements where they live, and then the bright, warm, cheerful saloons, that are open to all, you would see that it isn't the drink that draws the men. I even wish the women could come. The bulk of the men are temperate, and only take a glass or two of beer or whisky, to pay for their welcome. They really go for the social part, and sit and talk, or read the papers. Of course a man gets drunk, sometimes, but usually it is not a regular customer, and even such cases would be fewer, it we didn't tax whisky so outrageously that the dishonest barkeepers are tempted to doctor their whisky with drugs which drive men frantic if they drink. But most of the men are too sensible, and too poor, to drink so as really to harm themselves."
"Peter, Peter! To think that three years in New York should bring you to talk so! I knew New York was a sink-hole of iniquity, but I thought you were too good a boy to be misled."
"Mother, New York has less evil in it than most places. Here, after the mills shut down, there's no recreation for the men, and so they amuse themselves with viciousness. But in a great place like New York, there are a thousand amusements specially planned for the evening hours. Exhibitions, theatres, concerts, libraries, lectures—everything to tempt one away from wrong-doing to fine things. And there wickedness is kept out of sight as it never is here. In New York you must go to it, but in these small places it hunts one out and tempts one."
"Oh, Peter! Here, where there's room in church of a Sabbath for all the folks, while they say that in New York there isn't enough seats in churches for mor'n a quarter of the people. A missionary was saying only last week that we ought to help raise money to build churches in New York. Just think of there being mor'n ten saloons for every church! And that my son should speak for them and spend nights in them!"
"I'm sorry it troubles you so. If I felt I had any right to stop, I'd do it."
"You haven't drunk in them yet, Peter?"
"And you'll promise to write me if you do."
"I'll promise you I won't drink in them, mother."
"Thank you, Peter." Still his mother was terrified at the mere thought, and at her request, her clergyman spoke also to Peter. He was easier to deal with, and after a chat with Peter, he told Mrs. Stirling:
"I think he is doing no harm, and may do much good. Let him do what he thinks best."
"It's dreadful though, to have your son's first refusal be about going to saloons," sighed the mother.
"From the way he spoke I think his refusal was as hard to him as to you. He's a good boy, and you had better let him judge of what's right."
On Peter's return to the city, he found an invitation from Mrs. Bohlmann to come to a holiday festivity of which the Germans are so fond. He was too late to go, but he called promptly, to explain why he had not responded. He was very much surprised, on getting out his dress-suit, now donned for the first time in three years, to find how badly it fitted him.
"Mother is right," he had to acknowledge. "I have grown much thinner."
However, the ill-fit did not spoil his evening. He was taken into the family room, and passed a very pleasant hour with the jolly brewer, his friendly wife, and the two "nice girls." They were all delighted with Catlin's election, and Peter had to tell them about his part in it. They did not let him go when he rose, but took him into the dining-room, where a supper was served at ten. In leaving a box of candy, saved for him from the Christmas tree, was given him.
"You will come again, Mr. Stirling?" said Mrs. Bohlmann, warmly.
"Thank you," said Peter. "I shall be very glad to."
"Yah," said Mr. Bohlmann. "You coom choost as ofden as you blease."
Peter took his dress-suit to a tailor the next day, and ordered it to be taken in. That individual protested loudly on the ground that the coat was so old-fashioned that it would be better to make a new suit. Peter told him that he wore evening dress too rarely to make a new suit worth the having, and the tailor yielded rather than lose the job. Scarcely had it been put in order, when Peter was asked to dine at his clergyman's, and the next day came another invitation, to dine with Justice Gallagher. Peter began to wonder if he had decided wisely in vamping the old suit.
He had one of the pleasantest evenings of his life at Dr. Purple's. It was a dinner of ten, and Peter was conscious that a real compliment had been paid him in being included, for the rest of the men were not merely older than himself, but they were the "strong" men of the church. Two were trustees. All were prominent in the business world. And it pleased Peter to find that he was not treated as the youngster of the party, but had his opinions asked. At one point of the meal the talk drifted to a Bethel church then under consideration, and this in turn brought up the tenement-house question. Peter had been studying this, both practically and in books, for the last three months. Before long, the whole table was listening to what he had to say. When the ladies had withdrawn, there was political talk, in which Peter was much more a listener, but it was from preference rather than ignorance. One of the men, a wholesale dealer in provisions, spoke of the new governor's recommendation for food legislation.
"The leaders tell me that the legislature will do something about it," Peter said.
"They'll probably make it worse," said Mr. Avery.
"Don't you think it can be bettered?" asked Peter.
"Not by politicians."
"I'm studying the subject," Peter said. "Will you let me come down some day, and talk with you about it?"
"Yes, by all means. You'd better call about lunch hour, when I'm free, and we can talk without interruption."
Peter would much have preferred to go on discussing with the men, when they all joined the ladies, but Mrs. Purple took him off, and placed him between two women. They wanted to hear about "the case," so Peter patiently went over that well-worn subject. Perhaps he had his pay by being asked to call upon both. More probably the requests were due to what Mrs. Purple had said of him during the smoking time:
"He seems such a nice, solid, sensible fellow. I wish some of you would ask him to call on you. He has no friends, apparently."
The dinner at Justice Gallagher's was a horse of a very different color. The men did not impress him very highly, and the women not at all. There was more to eat and drink, and the talk was fast and lively. Peter was very silent. So quiet, that Mrs. Gallagher told her "take in" that she "guessed that young Stirling wasn't used to real fashionable dinners," and Peter's partner quite disregarded him for the rattling, breezy talker on her other side. After the dinner Peter had a pleasant chat with the Justice's seventeen-year-old daughter, who was just from a Catholic convent, and the two tried to talk in French. It is wonderful what rubbish is tolerable if only talked in a foreign tongue.
"I don't see what you wanted to have that Stirling for?" said Honorable Mrs. Justice Gallagher, to him who conferred that proud title upon her, after the guests had departed.
"You are clever, arn't you?" said Gallagher, bitingly.
"That's living with you," retorted the H.M.J., who was not easily put down.
"Then you see that you treat Stirling as if he was somebody. He's getting to be a power in the ward, and if you want to remain Mrs. Justice Gallagher and spend eight thousand—and pickings—a year, you see that you keep him friendly."
"Oh, I'll be friendly, but he's awful dull."
"Oh, no, mamma," said Monica. "He really isn't. He's read a great many more French books than I have."
Peter lunched with the wholesale provision-dealer as planned. The lunch hour proving insufficient for the discussion, a family dinner, a few days later, served to continue it. The dealer's family were not very enthusiastic about Peter.
"He knows nothing but grub talk," grumbled the heir apparent, who from the proud altitude of a broker's office, had come to scorn the family trade.
"He doesn't know any fashionable people," said one of the girls, who having unfulfilled ambitions concerning that class, was doubly interested and influenced by its standards and idols.
"He certainly is not brilliant," remarked the mother.
"Humph," growled the pater-familias, "that's the way all you women go on. Brilliant! Fashionable! I don't wonder marriage is a failure when I see what you like in men. That Stirling is worth all your dancing men, but just because he holds his tongue when he hasn't a sensible thing to say, you think he's no good."
"Still he is 'a nobody.'"
"He's the fellow who made that big speech in the stump-tail milk case."
"Not that man?"
"Exactly. But of course he isn't 'brilliant.'"
"I never should have dreamed it."
"Still," said the heir, "he keeps his eloquence for cows, and not for dinners."
"He talked very well at Dr. Purple's," said the mamma, whose opinion of Peter had undergone a change.
"And he was invited to call by Mrs. Dupont and Mrs. Sizer, which is more than you've ever been," said Avery senior to Avery junior.
"That's because of the prog," growled the son, seeing his opportunity to square accounts quickly.
Coming out of church the next Sunday, Peter was laid hold of by the Bohlmanns and carried off to a mid-day dinner, at which were a lot of pleasant Germans, who made it very jolly with their kindly humor. He did not contribute much to the laughter, but every one seemed to think him an addition to the big table.
Thus it came to pass that late in January Peter dedicated a week of evenings to "Society," and nightly donning his dress suit, called dutifully on Mrs. Dupont, Mrs. Sizer, Mrs. Purple, Mrs. Avery, Mrs. Costell, Mrs. Gallagher and Mrs. Bohlmann. Peter was becoming very frivolous.