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Chapter 42

For every man he knew and loved Mr Greeley had a kindness that
filled him to the fingertips. When I returned he smote me on the
breast - an unfailing mark of his favour - and doubled my salary.

'If he ever smites you on the breast,' McClingan had once said to
me, 'turn the other side, for, man, your fortune is made.'

And there was some truth in the warning.

He was writing when I came in. A woman sat beside him talking.
An immense ham lay on the marble top of the steam radiator; a
basket of eggs sat on the floor near Mr Greeley's desk All sorts of
merchandise were sent to the Tribune those days, for notice, and
sold at auction, to members of the staff, by Mr Dana.

'Yes, yes, Madame, go on, I hear you,' said the great editor, as his
pen flew across the white page.

She asked him then for a loan of money. He continued writing but,
presently, his left hand dove into his trousers pocket coming up
full of bills.

'Take what you want,' said he, holding it toward her, 'and please go
for I am very busy.' Whereupon she helped herself liberally and
went away.

Seeing me, Mr Greeley came and shook my hand warmly and
praised me fer a good soldier.

'Going down town,' he said in a moment, drawing on his big white
overcoat, 'walk along with me - won't you?

We crossed the park, he leading me with long strides. As we
walked he told how he had been suffering from brain fever.
Passing St Paul's churchyard he brushed the iron pickets with his
hand as if to try the feel of them. Many turned to stare at him
curiously. He asked me, soon, if I would care to do a certain thing
for the Tribune, stopping, to look in at a shop window, as I
answered him. I waited while he did his errand at a Broadway
shop; then we came back to the office. The publisher was in Mr
Greeley's room.

'Where's my ham, Dave?' said the editor as he looked at the slab of
marble where the ham had lain.

'Don't know for sure,' said the publisher, 'it's probably up at the
house of the - editor by this time.

'What did you go 'n give it to him for?' drawled Mr Greeley in a
tone of irreparable injury. 'I wanted that ham for myself.

'I didn't give it to him,' said the publisher. 'He came and helped
himself. Said he supposed it was sent in for notice.

'The infernal thief!' Mr Greeley piped with a violent gesture. 'I'll
swear! if I didn't keep my shirt buttoned tight they'd have that, too.

The ham was a serious obstacle in the way of my business and it
went over until evening. But that and like incidents made me to
know the man as I have never seen him pictured - a boy grown old
and grey, pushing the power of manhood with the ardours of
youth.

I resumed work on the Tribune that week. My first assignment was
a mass meeting in a big temporary structure - then called a
wigwam - over in Brooklyn. My political life began that day and
all by an odd chance. The wigwam was crowded to the doors. The
audience bad been waiting half an hour for the speaker. The
chairman had been doing his best to kill time but had run out of
ammunition. He had sat down to wait, an awkward silence had
begun. The crowd was stamping and whistling and clapping with
impatience. As I walked down the centre aisle, to the reporter s
table, they seemed to mistake me for the speaker. Instantly a great
uproar began. It grew louder every step I took. I began to wonder
and then to fear the truth. As I neared the stage the chairman came
forward beckoning to me. I went to the flight of steps leading up to
that higher level of distinguished citizens and halted, not knowing
just what to do. He came and leaned over and whispered down at
me. I remember he was red in the face and damp with perspiration.

'What is your name?' he enquired.

'Brower,' said I in a whisper.

A look of relief came into his face and I am sure a look of anxiety
came into mine. He had taken the centre of the stage before I could
stop him.

'Lathes and gentlemen,' said he, 'I am glad to inform you that
General Brower has at last arrived.

I remembered then there was a General Brower in the army who
was also a power in politics.

In the storm of applause that followed this announcement, I
beckoned him to the edge of the platform again. I was nearer a
condition of mental panic than I have ever known since that day.

'I am not General Brower,' I whispered.

'What!' said he in amazement.

'I am not General Brower,' I said.

'Great heavens!' he whispered, covering his mouth with his band
and looking very thoughtful. 'You'll have to make a speech,
anyway - there's no escape.

I could see no way out of it and, after a moment's hesitation,
ascended the platform took off my overcoat and made a speech.

Fortunately the issue was one with which I had been long familiar.
I told them how I had been trapped. The story put the audience in
good humour and they helped me along with very generous
applause. And so began my career in politics which has brought
me more honour than I deserved although I know it has not been
wholly without value to my country. It enabled me to repay in part
the kindness of my former chief at a time when he was sadly in
need of friends. I remember meeting him in Washington a day of
that exciting campaign of '72. I was then in Congress.

'I thank you for what you have done, Brower,' said he, 'but I tell
you I am licked. I shall not carry a single state. I am going to be
slaughtered.

He had read his fate and better than he knew. In politics he was a
great prophet.

Irving Bacheller