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DAVID SENT OUT AGAINST GOLIATH
I was almost master of myself again when, a week later, I got aboard the car in which Carlotta and I were taking our friends to look on at the opposition's convention at St. Louis.
When we arrived, I went at once to confer with Merriweather in a room at the Southern Hotel which no one knew he had. "Simpson has under, rather than over, five hundred delegates," was his first item of good news. "It takes six hundred and fifty to nominate. As his sort of boom always musters its greatest strength on the first ballot, I'm putting my money two to one against him."
"And Scarborough?" I asked, wondering at my indifference to this foreshadowing of triumph.
"My men talk him to every incoming delegation. It's well known that he don't want the nomination and has forbidden his friends to vote for him and has pledged them to work against him. Then, too, the bosses and the boys don't like him--to put it mildly. But I think we're making every one feel he's the only man they can put up, with a chance to beat Burbank."
My wife and our friends and I dined at the Southern that night. As we were about to leave, the streets began to fill. And presently through the close-packed masses came at a walk an open carriage--the storm-center of a roar that almost drowned the music of the four or five bands. The electric lights made the scene bright as day.
"Who is he?" asked the woman at my side--Mrs. Sandys.
She was looking at the man in that carriage--there were four, but there was no mistaking him. He was seated, was giving not the slightest heed to the cheering throngs. His soft black hat was pulled well down over his brows; his handsome profile was stern, his face pale. If that crowd had been hurling curses at him and preparing to tear him limb from limb he would not have looked different. He was smooth-shaven, which made him seem younger than I knew him to be. And over him was the glamour of the world-that-ought-to-be in which he lived and had the power to compel others to live as long as they were under the spell of his personality.
"That," I replied to Mrs. Sandys, "is Senator Scarborough of Indiana."
"What's he so stern about?"
"I'm sure I don't know--perhaps to hide his joy," said I.
But I did know, and my remark was the impulsive fling of envy. He had found out, several weeks before, what a strong undercurrent was running toward him. He was faced by a dilemma--if he did not go to the convention, it would be said that he had stayed away deliberately, and he would be nominated; if he went, to try to prevent his nomination, the enthusiasm of his admirers and followers would give the excuse for forcing the nomination upon him. And as he sat there, with that ominous tumult about him, he was realizing how hard his task was to be.
His companions pushed him a passage through the crowds on the sidewalk and in the lobby, and he shut himself away in the upper part of the hotel. When we left, half an hour later, the people were packed before that face of the hotel which displayed the banner of the Indiana delegation, were cheering Scarborough, were clamoring--in vain--for him to show himself.
"But won't he offend them?" asked my wife.
"A crowd loves like a woman," said I. "Indifference only excites it."
"Oh, I never loved that way," protested Mrs. Sandys.
"Then," said my wife, rather sourly I thought, "you and Mr. Sandys have something to live for."
And so we talked no more politics. There may be American women who really like to talk politics, but I never happened to know one with so little sense. It's a pity we men do not imitate our women more closely in one respect. In season and out of season, they never talk anything but business--woman's one business. When other things are being discussed, they listen, or rather, pretend to listen; in reality, their minds are still on their business, and how they shall contrive to bring it back into the conversation with advantage to themselves.
Next day the convention adopted a wishy-washy platform much like Burbank's--if anything, weaker. I saw Goodrich's blight upon it. But the victory cost him dear. That night the delegates realized what a blunder they had made--or thought they realized it after Merriweather and his staff had circulated among them. Few of them had been trusted by Beckett with the secret that, with that platform and with Simpson as the nominee, their party would have the interests behind it, would almost certainly win. They only saw ahead a dull campaign, and no real issue between the parties, and their candidate, if he was Simpson, much the less attractive personality of the two.
The following morning the voting began; and after seven ballots Simpson had thirty-nine votes less than on the first ballot. "It was like a funeral," was the verdict of my disappointed guests that evening. A night of debate and gloom among the politicians and other delegates, and on the opening ballot Merriweather sprung his trap.
The first big doubtful state in the alphabetical list of states is Illinois. When the secretary of the convention called for Illinois' vote, it was cast solidly for Scarborough.
There was straightway pandemonium. It was half an hour before any one could get a hearing. Then Indiana was called, and Pierson, attorney general of that state and chairman of its delegation, cast its vote as in the other ballots, for Hitchens, its governor. From my box I was watching Scarborough and his immediate friends going from delegation to delegation, and I knew what he was about. When Iowa was called and cast its vote solidly for him I knew he had failed.
"How white he is!" said Mrs. Sandys, who was looking at him through opera-glasses.
I borrowed them and saw that his gaze was fixed on a box on the other side of the huge auditorium, on a woman in that box--I had only to look at her to see which woman. She was beautiful, of that type of charm which the French sum up in the phrase "the woman of thirty." I have heard crowds bellow too often to be moved by it--though the twenty or thirty thousand gathered under that roof were outdoing the cannonade of any thunderstorm. But that woman's look in response to Scarborough's--there was sympathy and understanding in it, and more, infinitely more. He had been crushed for the moment--and I understood enough of his situation to understand what a blow to all his plans this untimely apparent triumph was. She was showing that she too felt the blow, but she was also sending a message of courage to him--one of those messages that transcend words, like music, like the perfumes of flowers and fields, like that which fills us as we look straight up into a clear night sky. I lowered the glasses and looked away--I could not bear it. For the moment I hated him--hating myself for it.
I heard Carlotta asking a woman in the box next ours the name of "the woman with the white plume in the big black hat in the seventh box on the other side."
"Mrs. Scarborough," was the answer.
"Oh, is that she?" exclaimed Mrs. Sandys, almost snatching her glasses from me in her eagerness. "You know who she was--John Dumont's widow--you remember him? She must be an unusual person to have attracted two such men."
But Scarborough was nominated now. He waved aside those who tried to take him up and bear him to the platform. He walked down the aisle alone and ascended amid a tense silence; he stood looking calmly out. His face had lost its whiteness of a few minutes before. As he stood there, big and still, a sort of embodiment of fearlessness, I wondered--and I fancy many others were wondering--whether he was about to refuse the nomination. But an instant's thought drove the wild notion from my mind. He could not strike that deadly blow at his party.
"Fellow delegates," said he--a clearer, more musical voice than his I have never heard--"I thank you for this honor. As you know, I opposed the platform you saw fit to adopt. I have nothing to retract. I do not like it. But, after all, a candidate must be his own platform. And I bring my public record as proof of my pledge--that--" he paused and the silence was tremendous. He went on, each word distinct and by itself--"if I am elected"--a long pause--"I shall obey the Constitution"--another long pause--"I shall enforce the laws!"
He was descending to the aisle before the silence was broken--a feeble, rippling applause, significant of disappointment at what seemed an anti-climax. He had merely repeated in condensed form the oath of office which a President takes at his inauguration. But somehow--no doubt, it was the magic of his voice and his manner and superb presence--those simple words kept on ringing; and all at once--full half a minute must have elapsed, a long time in such circumstances--all at once the enormous meaning of the two phrases boomed into the brains of those thousands: If this man is elected, there will be a President without fear or favor, and he will really obey the Constitution, will really enforce the laws! That little speech, though only a repetition of an oath embodied in our century-old supreme law, was a firebrand to light the torch of revolution, of revolution back toward what the republic used to be before differences of wealth divided its people into upper, middle and lower classes, before enthroned corporate combinations made equality before the law a mockery, before the development of our vast material resources restored to the intelligent and energetic few their power over the careless and purposeless many.
As the multitude realized his meaning,--I doubt if many times in all history such a sight and sound has burst upon mortal ears and eyes. For the moment I was daunted; it was impossible not to think that here was the whole people, not to feel that Scarborough had been chosen President and was about to fulfil his pledge. Daunted, yet thrilled too. For, at bottom, are we not all passionate dreamers of abstract right and justice?
Then I remembered; and I said to myself, "He has defied the interests. David has gone out against Goliath--but the Davids do not win nowadays. I can elect Burbank."
But where was the elation that thought would have set to swelling in the me of less than two weeks before? And then I began clearly to see that, for me at least, the prize, to be prized, must be fairly won from start to goal; and to be enjoyed, must gladden eyes that would in turn gladden me with the approval and sympathy which only a woman can give and without which a man is alone and indeed forlorn.
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