A Woman For Mayor
A Novel of To-day
By Helen M. Winslow
Author of "Literary Boston of Today," etc. Former Editor of "The Club Woman"
Frontispiece by Walter Dean Goldbeck
Copyright 1909 by The Reilly & Britton Co.
All rights reserved
Published June, 1909
LIST OF CHAPTERS
I An Unprecedented Proposal 11
II A Perplexed Reformer 23
III Learning the Ropes 35
IV Practical Politics 55
V The Opposition Candidate 65
VI A Political Trick 77
VII An Unusual Ride 90
VIII Modern Journalism 102
IX Election Day 112
X The New Mayor's Policy 125
XI At Work 140
XII Skirmishing 152
XIII An Important Appointment 166
XIV Graft 177
XV Setting the Trap 191
XVI Divided Interests 207
XVII A Dumbfounded Populace 220
XVIII A Futile Search 230
XIX The Boodlers Score 240
XX An Enforced Vacation 247
XXI Word from the Missing 261
XXII A Daring Escape 273
XXIII The Hearts of the People 284
XXIV An Honest Confession 295
XXV The Old, Old Story 310
XXVI Retrospect and Prophecy 326
XXVII A Heart's Awakening 338
"Chimerical!" the average man will exclaim when he reads the title of this book.
"But why not?" his wife will answer.
"Worth trying," the reformers and philanthropists will add.
"One of us," the suffragette will conclude.
And there may be a grain of truth in every answer. But the idea is not absolutely new. At this writing, there is a woman-mayor in one of the smaller cities of the middle states in America; while over in England there are, I believe, two women doing good work in the municipal chair.
And again, "Why not?" Housekeeping is a woman's business. It is the primeval instinct at the bottom of every woman's heart. The average American and English home is a clean, sweet, sanitary and well-governed institution,—made and kept so by some woman. God made women to be wives, mothers and home-makers; and if our modern conditions have sent some of us out into the world to earn our own living and perhaps to support somebody else, the instinct remains—as witness the thousands of tiny flats or cottages where these women dwell and maintain a home, "be it ever so humble." And so, if we are the natural housekeepers, the conservators of health and morals and civic pride, why not a woman at the head of municipal affairs?
The suffragette, the reformer, the philanthropist, the average wife are right, too. As for the average man—let him read the story of Roma's woman-mayor and think it over. And if he does not decide to vote for a woman as mayor, perhaps he will come to see that woman's housekeeping instinct and newly awakened civic sense, added to a revival of public honesty among men, might well combine to make a model city.
If "it is not good for man to live alone," perhaps it is not well for him to manage his City Hall alone. After all, is it "chimerical?"
H. M. W. Cambridge, Mass. May, 1909.
A WOMAN FOR MAYOR
An Unprecedented Proposal
"Well, why shouldn't we change it?" asked Mrs. Bateman, as she scooped out the grape-fruit that formed the first course at the P. W.'s regular monthly luncheon.
"Change it? Change what?—How?" asked several voices at once.
"The state of affairs in this city," pursued Mrs. Bateman calmly. "I have been thinking things over since I got home this fall. Everybody agrees that our little city is going to the dogs; that municipal affairs were never so muddled as now. And now, here is Barnaby Burke running for mayor, with a ravenous pack of demagogues behind him."
"Yes, and not a decent man to run against him," added Cornelia Jewett.
"I don't see why," began the fluffy little woman in light blue, "I don't see why no genuine, honest, upright gentleman will allow his name to be used. Rudolph says it has got so that nobody but a politician will consent to be mayor of Roma."
"They're all afraid of the demagogues," put in another. "There's Albert Turner; he ought to stand as a candidate. But I suppose he wouldn't?" She turned to a large fair lady across the table who was placidly consuming her soup.
"My husband isn't interested in politics," was the reply. "His business affairs are too pressing."
"That's the trouble with most of the men," commented another. "They are too much absorbed in their own affairs to care much what happens to the community. We need a little more of the socialistic spirit."
"Oh, dreadful!" muttered another. "We shall be preaching anarchy next."
"And Granville Mason—or Geoffrey Bateman," added the fluffy lady in blue.
"My husband said last night that politics had sunk to such a pass in this town that no decent man would touch the City Hall with a pair of tongs," said Mrs. Mason. "That's the answer he gave a couple of men who came from Headquarters to ask him to stand. And he said that whatever decent man accepted the nomination was sure to be defeated. He doesn't care to be the figure-head of Defeat."
"That's the way they all feel," said Gertrude Van Deusen. "I wish I were a man. I'd run for mayor! I wouldn't let the figure of Defeat worry me. I'd make a fight, I would, and we'd see if the demagogues had everything their own way."
"Why not run, then?" asked Mrs. Bateman, smiling across the table.
"I'd get every decent man roused up, for once," said Gertrude, enthusiastically, "I'd go into every ward and organize—as they do. I'd work among the poor, the illiterate, the unfortunate; and I'd rouse the rich and educated, too. That's the class that need awakening in this town."
"Then you're the right candidate," said Mrs. Bateman. "Why don't you take it? Really, now, why not?"
"O, Mrs. Bateman, I was only imagining a case." Miss Van Deusen was blushing and confused now. "Of course I couldn't run for office, not really."
"Why not?" asked the elder woman in the calm, judicial way which made her a leader among women. "Why not? The town is going to the dogs—or rather, to the demagogues. We need a complete revolution in Roma. We women have the vote in this state; why not take matters into our own hands? Why not have a woman for mayor?"
"O-o-oh!" gasped several of her hearers in the slight pause.
"Think of the field of activities that would open up before a good woman," she went on. "The condition of our paupers, of our children's institutions, of our schools. Think of the intemperance and the vagrancy and the immorality that flourish under our very noses. Yes, and the machine-politics that keep them flourishing. Oh, there is so much to be done, and our good men too busy, or—as they claim—too high-minded to meddle with it."
"Then what would, what could a decent woman do with it?" demanded Mrs. Jewett.
"Walk through it like an angel of light," answered Mrs. Bateman. "Ladies, we as the 'Progressive Workers' have labored ten years to effect reforms in this town, to further the interests of the schools, the poor, the dependent. What have we accomplished?"
"Why, why, a little," replied Mrs. Jewett. "Enough to have made our names respected and—yes, a little to be feared."
"But not enough," resumed Mrs. Bateman. "Not so much as we ought to have done. Not so much as we might have done had the City Council been with, instead of against us, or at best, merely tolerant of us. Now here is our opportunity. The lower element has put up a man, notoriously bad and unfit, to be mayor. The better side is all at sea. Our old mayor (weak enough, but infinitely better than Barnaby Burke) is ill with an incurable disease, and no one whose name inspires the least particle of confidence has been mentioned yet to take his place. Let us put up a good, whole-souled, fearless woman and get her elected."
"Impossible!" said Mrs. Jewett.
"We can do it," said the fluffy woman in blue. "My husband would help us; I know he would."
"But who?" asked Mrs. Mason. "Where could we find the woman?"
"Right here in our ranks," said Mrs. Bateman. "One of our own members. Gertrude, you're just the woman for us."
Miss Van Deusen did not answer. Only the quick flush showed how the possibilities of the moment found echo in the consternation at her heart.
"You are independent both by nature and by inheritance. You represent the best element of our citizens, you have means and time, you are bound by no family ties, and you have the kind of courage for the position," urged Mrs. Bateman.
"What will the men say?" reflected Mrs. Jewett.
"It'll give 'em a shock," murmured Mrs. Mason, decidedly. "They need a shock. Yes, Gertrude, you are just the woman to try it,—to try for it, I mean. We'll all work for you,—and with you."
"Now, ladies, let us look the situation squarely in the face," said Mrs. Bateman. "I've lain awake many a night of late, thinking out things. It will mean a tremendous amount of hard and systematic work to elect a woman to the mayor's chair in Roma. But if we are thoroughly organized and can get some of the men's leagues and clubs to endorse us, I believe we can win. Think of it seriously a few minutes, and let us keep silence for a little while."
Then ensued the strange spectacle of fifteen women sitting at luncheon—speechless. It was a custom they had, whenever an important subject came up for discussion, to take ten or fifteen minutes for silent thought instead of wasting that time in discussion that did not get anywhere; so that when the moment for talking arrived the club-members, being accustomed to exert their mental powers, were prepared to advance and weigh such arguments as might be brought forth.
"Gertrude," said Mrs. Bateman at last, "you haven't spoken yet. You see your civic duty?"
"It will call for an appalling amount of courage and self-reliance and belief in the ideals of good government," began Gertrude—and stopped. Her voice thrilled with a new emotion and her fine eyes glowed with prophetic hopefulness.
"But the best people would be all with you," put in a young woman at the other end of the table.
"Would they, I wonder?" queried Miss Van Deusen. "From the time of the Nazarene down to today, some of the best people have found it inexpedient to stand by the right when it was presented in strange or new guise; and surely this would be a novel innovation—a woman for mayor."
"But you have courage enough," urged Mrs. Mason.
"If there was ever a woman with ideals," said Mary Snow, a newspaper woman who had not yet spoken, "her name was—is Gertrude Van Deusen."
"Friends," said Miss Van Deusen, "I'm going to stick to my guns. I said in my haste that I'd never let the figure-head of Defeat worry or scare me; that I would put up a fight. Well, I'll make the fight, I'll stand for the nomination and if I get it, for election."
"Three cheers for Gertrude Van Deusen," cried Mrs. Mason, and a vigorous round of hand-claps was her answer. Handkerchiefs were waved and there was excitement among the P. W.'s.
"My husband has just got to take the stump for you," said the fluffy woman. "I'll make him."
"Thank you, Bella," was Miss Van Deusen's reply. "I suppose I shall be emblazoned and lauded and berated in the newspapers, and shall come out at the end of the campaign with scarcely a rag of reputation left, whether I win or lose."
"You are going to win, Gertrude," said Mrs. Bateman calmly.
"Yes, I'm going to win," answered the younger woman. And as she sat with her handsome head thrown hack and her far-seeing gaze looking out and past the assembled women into the stormy future, not one of them doubted, at the moment, the truth of her confident prophecy.
A Perplexed Reformer
The chairman of the Roma Municipal League had just finished dictating his morning's letters and was leaning back in his half-turned swivel chair. At another desk his secretary worked perfunctorily, awaiting orders from his chief.
"Anything from Wilkins?" asked the latter.
"Worse. Won't live many weeks. Going South tomorrow," answered the secretary.
"Or Bateman?—or Mason?"
"Mason wouldn't touch politics with a pair of tongs,—so he says," the secretary answered. "As for Judge Bateman,—I tell you, Allingham, if such men as he would do their duty, there'd be some hope of cleaning out the Augean stables. But it's hopeless. There isn't a decent Republican citizen in this town who'll take hold with us,—I mean as candidate for mayor."
"The more shame to Roma, then," said Allingham. "Things have come to a pretty state of graft when—"
He stopped suddenly, for the door was opening and Mrs. Bateman walked in. With her were two other women, one white-haired and graciously dignified, the other young and tall and handsome.
"Good-morning, Mr. Allingham," said Mrs. Bateman, taking the hand which the young man, coming forward, stretched forth. "May I present you to Mrs. Stillman and Miss Van Deusen? And may we have a few minutes' talk with you?"
"Certainly," he replied, wondering what these society women could want with the Municipal League, "certainly. Be seated."
The secretary slipped quietly from the room while the visitors drew up in a half-circle around the chairman's desk.
"We are sure to give you a surprise," began Mrs. Bateman, "so we may as well tell you at once. We are going to enter city politics."
"That's good," answered Allingham. "I trust you're going to offer us an available candidate for mayor? That's the greatest need in Roma today."
"We are," said Mrs. Bateman, smiling.
"Good!" cried Allingham, with enthusiasm. "I was just saying to Morgan, here, that if Judge Bateman would consent to run,—or rather, he was saying it and I was assenting, when you came in. I hope you're going to offer the Judge on the altar of municipal duty, Mrs. Bateman. He would carry the city."
"No, indeed. Better than that," replied the Judge's wife.
"Far better, we think," added Mrs. Stillman.
"Mr. Allingham, the women of Roma are going to put forth their own candidate," pursued Mrs. Bateman.
"Good, again. Since the women can vote, I don't see why, if you all get out and work, you can't elect anybody you see fit."
"O, do you think so? Do you really believe that?" said Gertrude Van Deusen, who had not spoken before.
"I do," solemnly asseverated the young man. "'You women can do whatever you undertake. Women without the vote can do almost anything they choose, here in the United States. But where they have the right of suffrage, they have absolutely everything in their hands. You've given me great courage. For, if you women really mean business, and will join your forces with the Municipal League—" he paused a little.
"That's why we have come," said Mrs. Stillman.
"Then we are sure of victory. Now if you can bring Judge Bateman or,—a better man, I think you said,—to accept the nomination, we can overthrow the gang of grafters at City Hall and establish good government here in Roma once more. Who is your man?"
"Miss Gertrude Van Deusen." Mrs. Bateman's eyes twinkled as she pronounced the name; for she knew well the conservative position occupied by all the Allingham family on 'the woman question.'
The chairman of the Municipal League gasped. Surely he had not heard aright. He turned to the younger woman, who sat smiling at him, confident of his support. Alas! What had he been saying?
"I am delighted to feel that we have the Municipal League behind us," Mrs. Bateman was saying. "We mean to arouse every woman in this town, and make them vote,——"
"But, ladies," began Allingham, already floundering in the dust of expediency, "have you thought?—Do you realize what you are doing? Under ordinary circumstances—in well-regulated towns perhaps,—but a woman for mayor?—In Roma? I'm afraid it wouldn't do."
"But you just said we could do anything we pleased?" began Mrs. Stillman.
"In the way of help, yes," replied the chairman, sore beset. "But this would be such an innovation."
"Now, Jack Allingham," said Mrs. Bateman, who had known him all his life, "I know this comes with a shock to you,—I know how difficult the problem seems at this minute. But don't decide now. Take time to think. Consult with some of your leaders. We want your co-operation. We believe that together we can establish the right kind of government in City Hall. But we are determined to fight for our candidate,—and to win. Unless, indeed, you succeed in putting up a much better man than any yet mentioned for the place."
"Then here is where you throw down the glove?" asked Allingham, recovering his equanimity, "and I've to—"
"You're not to decide until you've had time to think, to reason with yourself, to consult your leaders, and to arrive at a conclusion," answered Mrs. Bateman, rising. "And now, we'll go."
They said good-by and left him standing in the middle of the room, dazed and indignant at the tide of affairs. Even then he noted that turn of Miss Van Deusen's fine shoulders and the invincible way she carried her head.
"What a splendid woman she must be," he said to himself. "A genuine,—but I'm an egregious idiot,—a blanked blunderer. A pretty scrape I am in! Why didn't I wait until they declared themselves? And Miss Van Deusen! She must think me a fool. But a woman for mayor, indeed!"
"What do you suppose I've just heard?" exclaimed the secretary, hurrying in again. "Blatchley says the club women of Roma are going into the campaign with a vengeance,—that they are going to put up a woman—the daughter of old Senator Van Deusen. I don't believe it.—And yet, wasn't she one of those women who just went out?"
"She was," replied Allingham. "She is. Whether she will be, remains to be seen. You can't tell what a woman—"
"Then it's true?" Morgan's tone was incredulous.
"Yes, I suppose so," returned the chairman. "The women are going to turn in and work. It is possible they may win. But what a thing for Roma to do! I don't see how we can—"
"Then they came for help from the League?" asked Morgan, still more incredulously.
"They came," replied Allingham, "to offer to co-operate with us. They asked no help, come to think of it; they just offered to co-operate and they seem to have a very definite idea of what they are going to do,—women!" he finished abruptly, remembering his rash endorsement of their plans before their unfolding.
"I'm not certain but it would be a good thing for the town," began the secretary. "A radical change would—"
"Morgan," interrupted his chief, "we should make ourselves ridiculous, we should be a laughing-stock for the whole state. I shall never consent," he added, with the more heat when he recalled Gertrude's confident poise and—how he had already half pledged himself to their cause.
"I suppose you'll call a meeting of the committee to consider their plan?" asked Morgan. "If they are really in earnest, these women are a factor to be seriously considered, whether for or against."
"Oh, yes, I suppose so," answered Allingham, turning back to his desk. "But I was brought up to believe a woman's place was at home with her husband and children."
"So was I," said Morgan, who was a privileged friend as well as secretary. "But the teachings of twenty years ago are out of place today. Indeed, they are as old-fashioned as they were a hundred years before. Miss Van Deusen is a magnificent woman,—the fit daughter of the old Senator."
"You know her?" said Allingham, irrelevantly.
"Well, no, not exactly. I've met her. But my cousins know her well, and she must be,—from all I hear, a thoroughly womanly woman. And, they all say, will marry Armstrong."
"Let her keep out of politics, then," growled Allingham. "Look here. A woman like that, according to my mind, would better get down on her knees and scrub her own front stairs than try to clean out City Hall. And she's not the woman for either job."
He chewed his moustache savagely, and strode out of the room, knocking over his chair in the process and causing his stenographer considerable alarm as he banged the door together on his way out. Morgan looked after him and smiled.
Learning the Ropes
The next morning's newspapers were embellished with scare-head-lines, all more or less complimentary to the women's candidate.
"WOMEN TAKE MATTERS IN THEIR OWN HANDS."
"SENATOR'S DAUGHTER RUNS FOR MAYOR."
"MEN TO BE LAID ON THE POLITICAL SHELF."
"SENATOR VAN DEUSEN WILL TURN IN HIS GRAVE IF DAUGHTER ACCEPTS NOMINATION."
were some of the head-lines which Roma editors had produced by late use of midnight oil, and the articles that followed them were incredulous, mildly tolerant, openly snobbish or given over to ridicule, according to the policy of their several papers.
One of them read:
"It is both a disgrace and a menace to this fair city that city politics have sunk to such a level that our best men will have nothing to do with them, and that no one with the ideals of good government, other than a handful of women, will undertake the improvement of our municipal government. With all deference to the ladies,—and who knows their many charming qualities better than we?—it is inevitable that, 'trained to keep silence in the churches'—(and the City Hall as well)—our women are without the large-minded grasp of affairs,—the broad and liberal judgment, necessary to cope with these affairs. Neither can we as self- respecting husbands and fathers, consent to see them so belittle their own dignity and influence as to step out into the arena of public life. The election of a woman,—no matter how able and high-minded she might be,—would be a step downward for our city. It can never be."
Another editor said:
"The late Senator Van Deusen was one of the most distinguished jurists in the country. He had a mind singularly open to the best interests of his native town; his constituents always knew where to find him on questions of law and polity. He did not favor woman suffrage, nor giving important offices to the 'weaker sex'; although personally he was distinguished by a gentle courtesy for and towards women. What, then, would he say to this wild proposition of a few so-called 'progressive' women to put his daughter in the mayoral chair of Roma? Verily he would turn in his grave. Neither can we believe that this movement has the sanction of one who was so near and dear to the late senator's heart, nor that Miss Van Deusen herself has given her consent to let her name be used as candidate for the highest office in the city."
A third paper announced:
"It is not to be wondered at that the women of Roma, casting around them to view the kind of men who occupy high seats in Roma politics, should say 'we will have none of them' and should desire to enforce a little petticoat government themselves. Roma has long been proud of its homes, its wives, its mothers and its housekeepers. Perhaps it would be for the public good, were we to set a few of these model housewives to cleaning up City Hall. Let them go ahead and elect a woman-mayor. Then let her proceed to eject the money-changers from the temple. Perhaps the women can do it. Certainly we men cannot,—or do not."
Gertrude Van Deusen read these articles during the hour after breakfast when a woman loves to "drop down" for a little in her library, with her feet to the fire, as if to gather her forces for the day.
"It is what I must expect, I suppose," she said to the cousin who shared her home. "Man's favorite method of defeating a candidate from time immemorial has been to villify him in the newspapers. What can a mere woman expect?"
"Well, it all adds to the gaiety of politics," returned her cousin. "What shall you do about it?"
"Nothing. At least, I don't know. I have already sent for Bailey. He will advise me. He knows all the ins and outs of politics."
"And he's secretary of the Union Club, isn't he?" asked the cousin. "At least, he was. Although that isn't a political club, still its influence would be worth a great deal."
"If we can get it," added Gertrude.
Bailey Armstrong was her second cousin and since the Senator's death had acted as adviser to Miss Van Deusen whenever she could be imagined to need advice. He was a rising lawyer with considerable political influence, and, what cheered the two women most this morning, he was a thorough feminist.
Senator Van Deusen had been dead only three years. He had left a large fortune to his daughters, one of whom had married and gone to Europe. The other lived here on the handsome estate that had long been one of the show-places of the town. Surrounded by every luxury, with no want left unsupplied, there were many to wonder why Gertrude should consent to be a candidate for public office. But her wealth had not so carefully guarded her that the modern unrest of her sex could not penetrate her soul, and she was strongly possessed of a desire to do something for the public good.
Educated thoroughly and broadly, in an American college and later at Girton, her mind had been developed still further through constant association with her father. Her life with him in Washington had unfitted her for the fashionable career which she might have had if she had desired. Several times her hand had been sought in marriage, once by a diplomat of renown, but so far love had not touched her heart and she was not a woman to marry for any other cause. She was now thirty and looking forward instead of backward (as unmarried women of her age once did) towards a "career."
"I think Bailey will run in on his way down town," she said, rising and walking to the front window, where her slight form stood silhouetted against the late-September sunshine that shimmered and filtered through the plate glass. "There's the postman."
A moment later a letter was handed in to her. She tore it open and read:
"Dear Miss Van Deusen:
I've just heard, privately, that the Municipal League has turned us down. How's that for their boasted progress and reform? For they will combine with the Burke crowd. But never mind. Keep a brave heart and we'll win out yet. Yours to command, Mary Snow."
"You're wanted at the telephone," said the maid at the door, and Gertrude hurried out to find that it was Mrs. Bateman at the other end of the wire.
"I'm so wrathy, I don't know what to say," she began. "I have a letter from John Allingham. Shall I read it to you?"
"Oh, yes," said Gertrude.
"Well,—'Dear Mrs. Bateman:' he begins. 'At a meeting of our directors last night, we decided,—regretfully, I beg you to believe,—that it would not be wise nor safe for the Municipal League to accept the woman's candidate for mayor. We beg that you will change your mind and select, if you choose (or at least, endorse) a good man for that office. In which case we shall gladly meet you more than half way in any plan you may have for his election. Awaiting your reply and hoping most earnestly for your reconsideration and co-operation with us, I am, Most respectfully yours, John Allingham, Chairman.'
There! What do you think of that?"
"I'm not surprised," answered Gertrude. "Did you not perceive how uncomfortable he was when he discovered who our candidate was—after all his talk about the influence of women in public affairs? He began to crawl and hedge even then."
"I know it," Mrs. Bateman replied, "but I didn't think he would go against us. He's always been such a nice boy. But now,—"
"Moreover," interrupted Gertrude, "I've just heard that the League will combine with the Burke forces, if it comes to a choice between us."
"Oh—not so bad as that," said Mrs. Bateman. "What are you going to do? It doesn't frighten you?"
"My dear," and Gertrude's gentle tone had a ring that was familiar to those who had known the Senator, "did you ever know a Van Deusen to scare easily? They may defeat me, but they will not frighten me. I've sent for Bailey and after I've had a good long confab with him, I'll run over to talk with you."
"That's good. You're true blue," was the response.
As Gertrude turned from the telephone, Bailey Armstrong was entering.
"Well, well, what's this I hear?" he exclaimed, coming forward with outstretched hand. "You'll have Roma shaken to its foundations if you keep on.—And I suppose you'll keep on?" he added, with a keen look into her eyes.
"I am my father's daughter," she replied, and led the way into the library, where she told him her latest news.
"I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't been there last night myself," said Bailey. "There was a pretty hot discussion. Some of us want to help you, but the majority want a precedent back of them. And there's no precedent for a woman-mayor, you know. Say, Gertie, are you fully determined to run?—because the Augean stables aren't exactly what you've been accustomed to,—and that's what you will find."
"I'm fully determined," answered the other quietly.
"That settles it, then," said the young man. "Now let's plan out the work."
"Then you're going to help, Bailey."
"Sure thing. Want me?"
"Of course we do."
"Not 'we,' Gertie,—I," he answered in a voice as quiet and as determined as hers. "Now, I've been through several campaigns and am not only a good fighter, but I'm conceited enough to believe I'm a pretty good organizer,—and that's a hundred times better."
"Well, tell me just how to go to work to enlist the multitude, to win the populace;—in short, to get votes," said Gertrude. "How do I begin?"
"Well, there are two ways," answered the young man. "If you were a man I would say, you can break in by sheer force of audacity, without definite purpose; or, you can enter quietly, with a fixed principle in mind which you wish to see worked out in public life. The first is the old idea, the latter is the new."
"And the old way?" said Gertrude.
"Well, if you enter in the old-fashioned way, you will have to place yourself at the disposal of the chairman of some campaign committee in the city; you will read a great deal of 'literature' prepared by the committee, mostly vituperative nonsense about the opposing party; you will learn this by heart, follow the red light and the brass band to the nearest 'stump,' and mixing what you have read, but not thought out, with some stories of considerable age and questionable humor, will deliver it all to a bored and weary audience, confident that you have established a reputation for eloquence.
"By this time you will feel like a full-fledged politician; you will become mysterious and tell everybody everything you know in confidence; secret conferences will be held behind closed doors; old clothes and a slouchy manner will be brought out to catch the labor vote; you will speak to all sorts of people, and call them by their first names, thinking all the time that, if a candidate, you would lead your ticket. As a matter of fact, you may have lost hundreds of votes."
"Yes," said Gertrude with spirit, "and then I would be taken up by the machine. They would call me a budding genius and I should look upon the boss as a great man."
"Yes," pursued Bailey, "until you begin to think for yourself. Then it will occur to you as strange that in a representative government you should be selected as a candidate of your party recommended as you have been; still more strange that the platform upon which you are to run was set up in type in the newspaper offices several hours before the convention which nominates you met, and had been submitted to the president of the railroad that runs through your town for his approval or revision."
"Yes,—and then," broke in Gertrude, "some day by accident, if I take the trouble to read at all I shall notice in a statute a little clause concealed in fifty pages of meaningless verbiage, which grants an unjust and special privilege to certain interests closely connected with the dominant party in state politics. I shall be unable to reconcile this law with my ideas of fair play and justice, and it will occur to me that possibly it is a mistake, which can easily be remedied by appealing to the 'party leaders.'"
"And so you protest," Bailey chimed in, "and in your sweet and charming innocence you suggest that this law be amended and the special privilege abolished. The bland smile that greets your remark will get on your nerves, and you will sit down to think it over; and when you have cleared your brain of cobwebs, you will realize for the first time that machine politics, to which you have been an unconscious party, has nothing whatever to do with ideas, principles or policies, but is purely a game of money in its last analysis; that it is a scheme to enrich a few at the expense of the many—"
"And all accomplished under the folds of the flag in the name of the 'grand old party' of Abraham Lincoln, that freed the slaves, or the great party of Thomas Jefferson, that 'preserves the fundamental rights of man'," finished Gertrude. "When the white light begins to play upon all my surroundings in political life, I shall become disgusted and come back to sweet home-life,—or else turn around and have the fight of my life."
"I reckon," said Bailey, smiling, "that you didn't live several years in Washington—or are a great senator's daughter for nothing. But all this, you know, is the old way. You won't follow politics after this fashion. You will take up the 'new idea in politics,' which simply means that reforms should be brought about by the injection of ideas and principles at the outset rather than by campaigns against individuals for wrong-doing. It further means that everything should be done in the open and by the people themselves rather than by a few bosses who have allied themselves with the corporations in nearly all the states of the Union."
"To be of service politically, then, according to the rules of the 'new idea,' the candidate must first ally himself with one of the organized political parties in the country?" asked Gertrude. "But what if they will not have you?"
"No," replied Bailey, "I do not mean to say that this is absolutely necessary, for there are many useful men who do not ally themselves with any party; but experience has shown, I think, that one can be of the greatest service and do the most useful work by joining a party and exerting himself at the primaries, where all government begins, to make his party stand for definite principles rather than remain an organization devoted solely to the task of dispensing patronage.—And there are other allies than the Municipal League," he added. "No. First make a thorough study of the political situation in Roma. I presume you have done this already. You will find that not two per cent of the voters go to the primaries. The ring selects the delegates and their men nominate the candidates as they are told. There is no contest and the worst men get put in offices by the money from some trolley or railroad or other interest, simply because the people do not know—and will not take the trouble to find out what is going on. But you women can get up mass-meetings and attend primaries and do all these things, and if there is not a pretty general waking up in this town before next January, then I'll lose my guess."
"We'll do it," said Gertrude. "And I believe,—am I too confident when I say it?—that we can win."
"Well, if not, we can arouse this community as it never has been yet," was the reply. "We can wake up the people, and educate them to an intelligent vote. And we'll elect you yet, Gertie,—see if we don't."
And five minutes later, when Bailey had left for his down-town office, Gertrude was asking herself, "Why couldn't John Allingham behave as sensibly? He cannot be right and Bailey wrong. No. But I wish—"
She wheeled about very decisively and went upstairs for her hat; for things must be talked over with Mrs. Bateman.
A few nights later several gentlemen could be seen entering the Van Deusen mansion, where they were greeted by Gertrude and her cousin, Jennie Craig. With them, too, were Mrs. Bateman, Mrs. Mason, and Mrs. Stillman. They had all met to organize the Reform Club, at Bailey Armstrong's suggestion, and he had enlisted a few of the leading members of the Union Club.
Miss Van Deusen's candidacy had been talked over at the clubhouse as elsewhere, and most of the members being old friends of her father or herself had agreed, more or less cautiously, to support her. John Allingham, with a few of the most conservative members, had prevented the Union Club from officially endorsing her, but he could not keep the several members from exercising their prerogative to work for whom they chose. And so while the Municipal League was holding a meeting at one end of the town to see if there were not some available candidate to defeat her, the new City Reform Club was being started at the other, to further the cause of Gertrude Van Deusen.
Judge Bateman opened the meeting and was made moderator, and later, elected president of the new organization, with Bailey Armstrong as secretary.
"You announce yourself here, Miss Van Deusen," asked the Judge after these preliminaries, "as candidate for mayor?"
"I do," was the answer.
"Then it becomes our affair to endorse you and to prepare our definite plan of work. That it is a most unusual, perhaps unheard-of thing to offer a young woman as candidate for the mayor's chair, we all know, goes without saying. But it seems to some of us sufficient reason for going down on our knees with thankfulness that a good and an able woman will consent to serve her city in such capacity. And we owe it to her, to ourselves as men, and to our city as voters and citizens, that we shall go out and work for her. Has anyone a definite plan of action?"
Nearly every man in the room spoke in the same strain and before ten o'clock their campaign was planned. Then the newspapers were called up and reporters began to appear. The next morning Roma had its second sensation. A leading editorial ran thus:
"Last night at the residence of the late Senator Van Deusen, a number of the most prominent men and women of this town met and organized the City Reform Club, and incidentally endorsed the candidacy of Miss Gertrude Van Deusen for mayor. If this organization, which welcomes representatives from all political parties, accomplishes half of what it has set itself to do, last night will have been a historical date for Roma. It has begun with a few aristocratic leaders, but we are inclined to believe the membership will soon embrace all grades of social as well as political voters; for careless as we have been in the past, the citizens of Roma desire to stand for the best things—to have the best schools, the best citizens, the best government in the state. The chief reason, perhaps, why we have them not, is that the people have not been in touch with the executive department. The people have known nothing of what was going on at City Hall. Now and then, we have attempted to lift the veil, but we all have been lax and easily turned aside. We confess it with shame; but we promise, as for this newspaper, to do better; and we publicly declare ourselves this morning as in sympathy with the new Reform Club. From now on The Atlas will champion the candidacy of Miss Gertrude Van Deusen as mayor of Roma, just as, for many years, we were proud to hold aloft the banner of her father, the late Senator Van Deusen."
When Gertrude read this she sat half-dazed for a moment, and then clapped her hands with gleeful surprise.
"What is it?" asked her cousin.
"The Atlas has come out for me. It endorses the Reform Club—and me. That's some of Bailey's work."
"Yes. I hope you appreciate what Bailey is doing for you," said Miss Craig. "He would make a good mayor, himself."
"There are a dozen men in Roma who would be good mayors," answered Gertrude, "if they would. But they will not. Hence—well, I'm going to a caucus tonight. Are you going with me?"
"Oh, no, I think not. I'll go when and where it is necessary to cast my vote for you, Gertie," said Miss Craig. "But for the rest—excuse me."
Mrs. Bateman and the Judge accompanied Miss Van Deusen, however, to the nearly empty room where the first primary was being held. It was in an outlying ward, and the few men who stood about were wonder-stricken at the presence of women,—although they had seen the sex out on election days in plenty.
"Now you are seeing just how politics in Roma has been managed for a decade past. Right there in that corner," said the Judge, "you find a door with a slit in it through which you deposit your ballot. No record is kept of your vote, and behind the door sit the leaders of the ring, already making up the returns, which show, without doubt, as this is a hostile ward, that your delegates were defeated by an overwhelming majority. Tomorrow the ring newspaper, which prints all the legal notices of the county and receives a generous income through the advertisement of corporations allied with the ring, and whose proprietor is promised a commissionership by the governor who is backing the ring, will notify its readers that the selfish office-seekers, who had contested in the primaries, have received a stinging rebuke at the hands of the voters, and their villainous attempts to destroy the party, which had so unselfishly devoted itself to the interests of the community, have fallen to the ground."
"And must this be allowed?" asked Mrs. Bateman.
"No," and the Judge's tones rang firmly. "We will call a mass-meeting in every district in the city, right away; we,—you, Miss Van Deusen, as well as I and the others,—must address the people, telling them what we mean to do, and how."
"I never faced an audience of men in my life," answered Gertrude, "but I can do it—and I will."
From that time on, there were meetings and caucuses and primaries every night. The Atlas was the only newspaper that came out openly, "the ring" sheet villified the "woman-question," while the others remained discreetly on the fence. But The Atlas had the largest circulation and its editorial policy had considerable weight with the citizens.
The "Progressive Workers" did everything possible to illustrate their name. Every woman of the two hundred worked and talked in and out of season. They attended primaries, they called mass-meetings in every district in the city, they provided speakers at these "rallies" (some of the best from their own membership) and they saw, personally, editors and political leaders wherever they might be found. Gertrude Van Deusen, herself, appeared on the platform at most of these meetings, attended by Mrs. Bateman, Mrs. Stillman and others of the leading women of Roma; and an increasing number of voters were won over to her side, as they listened to her clear voice giving utterance to calm and judicial opinions, worthy the daughter of Roma's pet senator. Even her intimate friends were surprised to note the accuracy with which she comprehended the city's needs and the insight which she had gained into the existing state of municipal affairs.
"A long head, that woman's got," remarked one business man to another, as they left one of the rallies. "If she could get the mayoralty I'm inclined to think she'd make Roma sit up and take notice. I'm half inclined to vote for her myself."
"Oh, pshaw!" returned the other, "she's astute enough—like her father before her. But you can't tell anything about it. Let the women get the power and they'll soon have a ring and a machine and their bosses as much as the men. And they'd crowd us right off the earth. No women in mine."
The other smiled, as he thought of the speaker's household of an assertive wife and four grown-up daughters, but he only said:
"Well, I'm not sure of that; and a change of bosses might be a good thing. Amalgamated took a rush today, didn't it?"
The Opposition Candidate
John Allingham was not enjoying life during these exciting days and nights. The Municipal League (which claimed to be "non-partisan") had not succeeded in settling upon a candidate, as the Republicans had not chosen any, and Burke, the choice of the Democrats, was too bitter a pill for them. The papers were not "interesting reading" for him, filled as they were with the doings of the "Progressive Workers" and Miss Van Deusen. He could not go on the street nor step inside a car, without hearing the buzz of talk about Gertrude Van Deusen,—"this young woman whose place was in her own refined and luxurious home, but who had chosen to pose in the lime-light of publicity instead," as he said. The story of how he had met the three ladies when they had called to announce their candidate, and of how he had met them more than half-way, and then eaten his own words, had leaked out through Judge Bateman, who thought it too good to keep; and as usual, it had gone the rounds of all his friends before Allingham knew it was in circulation. When he did hear of it, he was exceeding wroth, perhaps all the more so because he had no one but himself to blame. And he was in that mood when the chairman of the Republican committee called one morning.
"Got a candidate yet?" asked Allingham as his visitor drew up his chair.
"We've got one chosen," answered the chairman, whose name was Samuel Watts, "if he'll accept. And he's a good one."
"Well, go on," urged Allingham, as the other hesitated.
"He's got a good many points in his favor," said Watts, incisively. "He's popular with all classes, he's well-off, educated, of the best family stock, young, active, and knows how to make himself solid with the lower classes,—the working people, you know."
"Then he must be made to accept," answered Allingham. "In these times, it is the duty of such a man to accept the nomination."
"Think so?" asked the other with a grin. "Glad to hear it; for our man's name is John Allingham."
"Sam! I can't—I won't," exclaimed the chairman of the Municipal League, cursing himself inwardly for his habit of speaking his mind before he knew his premises. "This is too much—I don't want the office—or to contend with a woman for it!"
"That's your native chivalry, Jack," answered his friend in soothing fashion. "But we've got to put up a candidate with all the good qualities she possesses, to beat her. As the refined and beautiful daughter of Senator Van Deusen, we—you and I—have only admiration for this young woman—but—by Jove! when she enters politics she must meet us on our own ground. She must expect to give and take as we do. And we are bound to beat her. You, Jack, can do it. I know of nobody else who is available—this is quite between you and me—who would be sure to do it. Surely you are not afraid of a woman? When it comes to votes you'll win—and that will put the laugh on the other side when it comes to talking about the influence of women."
"I'll do it," said Allingham impulsively. "If you'd offered it to me a month ago—before you offered it to a half dozen others instead of afterward, I'd have refused straight up and down. But now, as things stand today, I accept the nomination."
"And I may go and report to the committee?" urged Watts.
The chairman arose and shook Allingham's hand long and heartily. Then he departed to spread the good news. When he was gone, Morgan returned to his desk.
"Do you think there is need of sending out any more of those A-128 circulars, Jack?" he asked.
"No," answered Allingham. "Morgan, I'm an egregious fool, perhaps; but I've consented to accept the Republican nomination for mayor, myself."
The secretary gave vent to a long, low whistle.
"To run against Miss Van Deusen?" he asked, at length.
"To run against Miss Van Deusen," replied Allingham.
"H-m—this contributes something to the interest of affairs," said Morgan. "But, Jack—I wish you hadn't," he added doubtfully.
"Wish away," returned Jack cheerfully, "and much good may it do you." Then he turned to his desk and began to write diligently on the document he had been preparing when Watts came in.
Half an hour later, the door opened and Bailey Armstrong entered.
"Hullo, Bailey, take a chair," was Allingham's greeting, for the two had been schoolboys together. "What's the news? How's your candidate?"
"Jack," began Bailey anxiously, "I've come down to have one more heart-to-heart talk with you about Miss Van Deusen. It's a shame the Municipal League cannot endorse a noble, splendid woman like her. You know how rotten City Hall is. You ought to be the first to help in a movement to overthrow the present system. Come up with me tonight to Miss Van Deusen's. Get acquainted with her and listen to her sane talk and clear views; and then I am sure you'll come out on the right side."
"I'm on the right side now, Bailey," returned Jack, "and on the right track. It's too late to call on Miss Van Deusen."
"Why, too late?" asked Armstrong.
"Because I've already consented to accept the nomination of the Republican party," said Allingham. "I shall be her opposing candidate and I mean to beat her."
"Not by all the shades of the great Agamemnon!" exclaimed Bailey. "I'll turn every stick and stone in Roma to defeat you. Jack, I wouldn't have believed it of you!"
"Nor I of myself," returned Allingham coolly. "If you hadn't put up a woman I'd never have consented, Bailey, old fellow. But a woman's place is at home—she is too delicate for public office."
"O, bother the woman's place," returned Armstrong, rising to go. "The modern woman's place is where she is needed most, where she can do the most good, whether it is sewing on your buttons or ruling your city. Good-bye; reckon on sure defeat next January, Jack, or I'm no guesser;" and he slammed the door behind him as he hurried away.
He went straight to Van Deusen Hall and called for Gertrude. She was at the moment sewing on buttons for herself, but soon descended, smiling, to greet him. As he looked at her coming down the stairway, Bailey thought of the great calm of a starry night in the country. Some women always bring the sense of freshness and repose and brooding peace when they enter a room.
"You've got some news for me?" she said, giving him her hand.
"How do you know?" he asked.
"I see it in your face," was the reply. "You have news—something that disquiets you."
"Yes, I have," said Armstrong. "I may as well tell it at once. Jack Allingham is entering the lists against you. He will be the Republican candidate."
She smiled. "I am not surprised. He considers it his duty, since a woman presumes to occupy the mayor's chair. I have met his mother several times, and his aunts. He is an only child and has been brought up to believe in all the old-time theories. I presume he knows no really fine up-to-date woman."
"No, he doesn't," replied Bailey. "He is one of the most conscientious and best fellows I ever knew, but he has been spoiled by his women-folk. I think he believes that a man is really a much superior being: that woman is only a weak imitation of God's noblest work. It's the doting aunt and the over-indulgent mother that spoil our men—"
"Undoubtedly; it is they who keep them from their best development," answered Gertrude. "But I'm rather glad on the whole, to have an opponent like Mr. Allingham—a foeman worthy of my steel, so to speak. If I win over him it will count for something, whereas to beat a man like Barnaby Burke—" She made a wry face.
"Yes—I grant that," said Bailey. "And you'll come near beating, too. We shall have to work harder than ever, but I'll beat Jack Allingham—or bust! Excuse the slang, Gertie, but I've got to relieve my feelings."
"You always were a great boy," laughed Miss Van Deusen, "and you always will be. Here's Jessie with letters. Get her to play to you while I read mine."
He went into the music-room and left her by the open fire. One of the letters bore the emblem of the Municipal League. She tore it open and read:
"My Dear Miss Van Deusen:
As the daughter of your respected and beloved father and as the hereditary flower of womanhood of Roma, I owe you both allegiance and admiration. But holding, as I do, the sincere conviction that women belittle themselves and lower the standards of all humanity when they enter the public arena, I feel justified in announcing myself your opposition candidate. I have just consented to allow my name to be used, and I feel that I wish you to know it at once.
Yours respectfully, John Allingham."
And having read it, she placed it on the glowing coals, smiling softly to herself the while.
A Political Trick
The campaign was a furious one after that. The women, instead of leaving the management of things to men, were stirred to wonderful activity. They worked, not only among the men of their own acquaintance, but among the working-people; they held meetings in factories at noon, or in school-rooms or cheap halls at night in the districts where the factory-hands lived. They spoke at mass-meetings and rallies, and if they did not appear in torchlight processions, they saw that many banners were carried in them, bearing the women's motto and legend. It was a hard fight, but a good one, and the cause of womanhood as well as of good government was advanced by it.
When Sam Watts, for instance, with his pockets well-lined, went down into the district where lived the employees of the Roma Ice Company, he did not find it so easy to disburse that money as he had expected.
"No," said one man, "I can't forget that Miss Van Deusen's been good to me and mine."
"O, she is the Roma Ice Company, of course," returned Watts. "That is one of her assets; but you people are being ground down to hard labor every day to keep her in luxury—don't you see that?"
"I see," answered the man, "that she is almost the only employer I know who takes a personal interest in us."
"Yes, when votes are to be counted," sneered Watts.
"Listen," said the man. "Two years ago, when the strike was on, and there was a good deal of hard times around, she came right down among us and helped. She didn't sit down at home and let us take the consequences of the strike (no, I never was in favor of it. I only went out with the rest because I had to.) And she didn't send us a check as if we were just objects of charity. She came right down into the tenements and talked with our women-folks. She found out what they needed and provided it when it was necessary. She sat up all night with the sick baby of one of the strike leaders. My! but he was a shamed man the next day! And my own woman, why, man alive! when she had her baby and we'd no money at all, Gertrude Van Deusen sent a nurse and a doctor and paid for 'em; but more than that, she came down and stood by my wife (who was once a maid of hers), all through it. Do you suppose we are going back on a woman like that? No sirree! The votes of the Roma Ice Company are hers—to a man."
So it was that while the politicians were declaiming against her as a cold-blooded aristocrat, there were poor people all over the city who had some tale to tell of kindness done in secret, either by her or her father.
Towards the last of the campaign, a demand grew for a joint debate. Miss Van Deusen had appeared on the platform many times, and defined her attitude on public issues in Roma quite clearly. John Allingham had done the same, for he had a good following of the business men of the city, while the demagogues made a formidable showing for their candidate, Barnaby Burke. There was a growing feeling that there must be a fusion of the woman's ticket with the Allingham forces, but the former would not withdraw their candidate, and Allingham having put his hand to the municipal plough would not take it away.
Consequently, both sides agreed to a joint debate to be held at a great mass meeting the Monday evening before the election Tuesday. This was not without opposition from within each party, and there were some who hinted darkly that it might not come off.
All through the Monday preceding the debate Gertrude Van Deusen worked in her library, to prepare her speech for the evening. She had become familiar enough with her own voice so that she spoke easily and well to audiences of all sizes and degrees of intelligence, but this evening was to witness a trial of strength, a matching of wits which put her on her mettle. For John Allingham was a fine speaker, with a magnetic presence, clear logic, and a control of his audience that made him a powerful opponent, and Gertrude Van Deusen, although she would have died rather than own it, trembled secretly at the coming contest.
At six she ate her dinner with as much calmness as was possible under the circumstances, and proceeded to dress for the evening. She was one of the women who realize that appearances count with an audience, as well as words, and she put on her most becoming array. At half-past seven her maid came up from the door:
"They've sent for you," she announced. "An automobile is at the door."
"Why, I didn't know the committee was going to send for me," said Miss Van Deusen. "I ordered the carriage for a quarter to eight. Go down and ask the chauffeur—no, never mind. It's all right, no doubt. I'll go with him. Call up Thomas and tell him he needn't take the horses out tonight. But first hand me my fur coat and put on my over-shoes."
The maid obeyed and in five minutes more Gertrude Van Deusen was being tucked into the electric cab, by a chauffeur well wrapped up and muffled to his ears. The glass doors were closed tightly, Gertrude congratulating herself that she was shut away from the cold, clear January air, and that her horses might stand in their comfortable stalls. And then they whizzed away.
It was some moments before she noticed that they were going up the street instead of down it; but immediately she remembered that the city was repaving one of the streets between her home and the hall where she was to appear, and since they were evidently going to take the "longer way around" she settled back in her seat and began, once more, to rehearse the carefully-prepared speech for the evening. She had gone nearly through with it when she noticed that the streets, instead of being more thickly settled as they approached her intended destination, were wider, with scattered residences along the way; and that they were going at a rapid pace, over the smooth ground. It was a bright moonlit night, and there was a clear sky twinkling with stars. The onrush of the cab made no impression of a wind against her cheek, because she was so well shut away from the outside world, but through the glass windows she noted the beautiful, quiet night, and saw that they were fast leaving the city behind and gliding into the country.
Through the glass she could see the chauffeur sitting, almost immovable, intent upon his machine, and turning neither to the right or left, and a feeling of terror seized upon her as she realized that she was being carried away she knew not where, and that she was quite alone and helpless. She called to the chauffeur, but he paid no attention whatever to her cries. She shook the doors to her cab-prison, but she could not open them; she rapped on the glass front close to the driver's ears, but for all the notice he took of her she might have been a moth fluttering in the background of the night. And all the time they were rushing on, on, on, into the great calm of the moonlit night, beyond the glare of electric lights, beyond the suburban dwellings, beyond the cheerful farmhouses, and into the wooded roads which she recognized as belonging to a neighboring town, at least fifteen miles from Roma. She called again and again; she pounded the glass-front with the silver top of her purse—the only thing in her possession which could make a noise, but still the chauffeur sat motionless as if he were entirely alone. She rose in her seat and called to the driver of a team as they passed it; she tried to get the attention of a solitary foot-passenger, but the car flew too fast, and if the men saw her she was out of their reach before they could answer.
Then she settled back, exhausted. She realized now, that she was the victim of some trick of the opposition party. She looked at her watch. A quarter of nine. By now she should have made her speech. John Allingham was having everything his own way now, beyond a doubt. Possibly—probably, he was behind this attempt to kidnap her—afraid to meet a woman on a public platform; for that was it, disguise the thing as they might by saying he would not debate with a woman. Contemptible!
And still they flew on into the shining, moonlight night, out from the fine old wood road, along the river-way, miles and miles away.
If they were unwilling to match wits with a woman, why did they not say so? Why condescend to kidnaping a woman and running away with her from the fight? If this was the kind of a man John Allingham was—
They were turning into a cross-road now which led up-hill into another strip of wood. Shadows of tall pines and oak trees made it like a solemn temple, into the arched aisles of which they seemed to be entering. Gertrude did not see, and apparently the motionless automaton before her did not, that other machine gliding on in the shadowy road above and toward them. There was a jar and a crash and they all came down together.
Gertrude Van Deusen, inside her prison, was not hurt, but at last, her chauffeur was shaken out of his stoicism. Extricating himself from the wreck, he hurried to unfasten the door which was uppermost.
"Are you hurt?" he asked, speaking for the first time in twenty-two miles.
"I don't know. I think not. But let me out," she answered.
He drew her out and she was soon on the ground again. There was a groan.
"Who is that? There is a man hurt somewhere. We must get him out;" she said. "Hurry."
By this time the driver of the other machine had crawled out and was on his feet.
"It's Allingham," he said, in a tone of horror. "He's under the gear—"
"Then get him out—quick," cried Gertrude.
Her coolness and quickness of wit stimulated the two men and they set about releasing the imprisoned sufferer. But it was Gertrude Van Deusen who directed them and drew him out from under the wrecked machine, as the two chauffeurs lifted the weight above him.
It was John Allingham—quite unconscious.
An Unusual Ride
"We shall have to go back to the nearest farmhouse for help," said the chauffeur who had driven Gertrude Van Deusen. "We cannot get the machines apart without help. Can you stay here with him—alone?"
"Yes, yes, go on," she replied. "But first open his coat and get me his handkerchief." She was sitting on the ground with Allingham's head in her lap, staunching with her mouchoir the blood which flowed fast from a cut on his forehead. "And hurry, for we must get him to a doctor as quickly as possible."
A moment later she was alone in the beauty of the night, except for the man who lay unconscious beside her. She folded her own handkerchief and laid it on the wound and then arranged the larger one as a bandage. In tying it around his forehead, her fingers came in contact with his face—a white upturned face which appealed to her pity so deeply that she stopped to smooth his wide brow, as if he were a suffering child.
Allingham awoke suddenly as if an electric current flowed suddenly through his veins. His eyes opened, and gazing upward, he looked straight into the clear face above him, which was, also, changed and white in the moonlight. For a moment he did not recognize her. It was as if their kindred spirits had met in clear space, away from all earthly conditions. But in a moment, returning consciousness drew the veil between them and he sat up, still clinging to her hand.
"You!" he cried, "and here? What has happened? Why are you here?"
"We are having our joint debate," she replied whimsically, her voice betraying nothing of the tumult within. "But we are having it in an unlocked for place and fashion. And you have the worst of it. Be careful, please. Don't try to get up. The men have gone back for help. Our affairs seem to be decidedly mixed; but never mind; we shall soon be out of the woods—literally, I trust."
"How can you keep so calm?" said Allingham. "Most women would have gone to pieces. Why aren't you in tears?"
"Perhaps to demonstrate my fitness for the mayoralty of Roma," she replied with a touch of sarcasm. "There, the men are coming, with two others."
It was the work of but a few moments to get one automobile righted again, when it was found to be not seriously impaired; but the other one was wrecked beyond possibility of help that night.
"You'll both have to go back to Roma in this one," said Gertrude's chauffeur to Allingham.
"If you'll permit me?" queried Allingham to the young woman standing erect in the shade of the whispering pines. "But if you would prefer, I will stay at the farmhouse."
"No, no," answered Gertrude. "You must get back to the city and your physician at once. That is, if you can endure the ride."
"O, I'm all right. I was stunned a little, that's all, and my forehead seems to have been scratched quite a bit," said Allingham. "But come, if we are to ride together, we must get in."
He helped her to her seat and got in himself, while the two men tucked them in warmly and then climbed into the front seat. It was but a few moments before they were on the road again, spinning towards the city more than twenty miles away.
"Now, tell me," Allingham began, after making sure they were on the return road, "how did you happen to be here? I am devoured with curiosity."
"Don't you know—surely?" she returned.
"Know?—I? How should I?" was the answer in a tone that convinced the young woman, for the time being, anyway.
"Why," she hesitated. "It looked suspicious—or at least—well, somebody was behind it."
"You don't mean to say you were kidnaped, too," cried Allingham. "I seem to see light ahead."
"I had just ordered my carriage to go to the hall and was all ready to start," explained Gertrude, "when the automobile appeared, the chauffeur saying he had been sent for me. I supposed the committee had sent him—"
"Just as I supposed my committee had sent for me," interposed Allingham.
"Once in, and off, we came so fast I hardly realized anything until we were out of town; and when I tried to open the door I couldn't, it was fastened some way, on the outside; while as for making that automaton hear—well!—"
"The same in my case," said Allingham. "I was locked in. I've been attributing my ride to Bailey Armstrong's minions—and I presume you've been giving mine the credit for yours; but we probably owe it to the City Hall crowd. For Burke, I hear, is getting a good deal worried over tomorrow's election. But here we are, alive and with reason to be thankful."
"O, no, no," cried Gertrude, "think of that hall full of disappointed people—of the friends who believe in our good faith—of how we have failed to keep our promises. O, no, we cannot be thankful!"
"But think of the accident and of what might have happened in the crash—and didn't," he answered. "And let us forget for the rest of the ride, the political situation and that we are opposing candidates." To tell the truth, John Allingham was still tingling from that electric touch, although faint from loss of blood, and judging by the pale face of his companion, he felt that neither could endure much more. Gertrude, looking out of the cab-window at the river gleaming under the bright moonlight, was suddenly reminded of a night she had once passed by the Danube, and fell to talking of it.
Allingham, who had traveled much abroad, and had a keen memory, welcomed the reminiscent mood, and the desultory conversation for the rest of the way was such as might have been expected between two intelligent, sympathetic acquaintances, thrown together during an idle hour.
It was long after twelve when they glided into Roma again. The hall had been closed an hour before and the disappointed audience, after listening impatiently to the extempore speakers who had tried to fill the time until the principals in the joint debate should appear, had gone home doubtful of the morrow.
The auto stopped outside the gate in front of Van Deusen Hall and one of the chauffeurs, still muffled to the eyes, helped Gertrude to the ground. John Allingham had stepped out first. But before he could remonstrate with them for leaving a lady on the street alone and past midnight, in fact, just as he was beginning to ask angrily, why they did not drive in, the man slammed the door, jumped to his seat, and the cab glided away.
"And we haven't the faintest idea who they are?" said Miss Van Deusen. "They didn't have any number—"
"If it wasn't left with the wreck," answered Allingham, "and they were, doubtless, too sharp for that. They have taken it off and hidden it. But I shall have this thing looked into. A kidnaping affair like this can't fail of discovery."
"But neither of us could describe the men," returned the young woman. "I couldn't—could you? They were thoroughly disguised in their big coats and caps; and mine did not speak, only that once."
"Nor mine, except at the wreck," said Allingham. "Nor do I know of an electric cab in Roma. But nevertheless, you must go in."
He walked up to the door with her. The house was all alight, her cousin waiting in the greatest alarm. For there had been much telephoning around the city when the speakers failed to appear at the meeting, and the utmost consternation had been felt at their disappearance.
Jessica Craig met her cousin with a sob, and a demand for explanations in the same breath. But Gertrude was insisting that Allingham should step in and rest, late as it was.
"He is hurt," she explained to her cousin. "He must have something done. Telephone to Dr. Dean immediately, James."
It did not take much urging to induce her opponent to enter the hospitable mansion, for he was now weak and faint. Once inside, the warm atmosphere proved too much and he had to be helped to a sofa. Stimulants were brought and administered, and Gertrude herself assisted in getting him to the library to await the doctor.
When that functionary appeared he found a severe scalp wound and a pulse which bounded so high that he ordered him to his own carriage, bearing him off to the Allingham home as soon as he could apply the requisite number of plasters and bandages to his head. An anxious mother and aunt were already preparing to receive him as an invalid, the news of the accident and of his return to Roma having been telephoned. But before he went, he found a chance to murmur to Gertrude Van Deusen his thanks for her flying of the flag of truce, and his appreciation of her kindness.
Feverish as he was, he half hoped she might win next day, whenever in that long night, he recalled the look on her face, as she bent over him in the moonlight.
As for Gertrude, she tossed through sleepless hours, after the excitement had passed and everybody had gone home, thinking, thinking, thinking.
"What a pity for him to feel as he does about women," she said to herself. "A man full of all tenderness and chivalry at heart, he is behind his age. I wonder how we would have met if I had never gone into politics. I wonder if he would have liked me then, really?"
The "Progressive Workers" has been especially busy in arranging for the joint debate between their own and the Republican candidates, and they were in full force and early at the meeting. When eight o'clock came and Gertrude Van Deusen had not appeared, they felt no anxiety, but as the moments passed and she did not come, they began to be surprised and then alarmed.
"Gertrude is always prompt," said Mrs. Bateman, as they waited in the ante-room. "I cannot imagine what is keeping her. Telephone over to her house, Anna, and see if she has left, won't you? I have to attend to things here."
Mrs. Stillman hurried to the telephone, coming back later with a puzzled expression on her aristocratic features.
"Her cousin says she left there at half past seven in an automobile," she said. "It is half past eight now."
"An automobile?" said Mrs. Bateman. "Did anybody send for her, I wonder?"
No one seemed to know. Their candidate had always been transported in her own carriage and no one had thought of sending for her. Still, some friend might have done so—and in an automobile, Bailey Armstrong, for instance—who had a new one. Nothing was more natural than—
But just then Bailey came into the ante-room.
"It's the strangest thing," he began, "Miss Van Deusen does not come, and nobody seems to know where she is. And Jack Allingham is missing, too. None of his friends can account for his absence. What are we going to do?"
"Do?" repeated Mrs. Bateman. "What can we do?"
"The audience—a crowded one—is getting impatient," Bailey went on. "We've got to begin somehow. The other side have a speaker whom they can put on, but we—"
"Go on yourself, Bailey," said Mrs. Mason. "You'll have to. We can fill up the time somehow until Gertrude comes."
After a hurried consultation with the representatives from Allingham's committee, the meeting was opened and the speaking began. But although those who addressed the audience were eloquent enough, they were unprepared, and moreover, were conscious that their listeners were keeping one eye upon the door; in short, everybody present desired only to hear the two appointed speakers; so that the affair was most perfunctory. The minutes grew into hours, and these did not arrive. Mrs. Mason, Mrs. Bateman, even Mary Snow, were sent out to the platform to represent the woman's side, and although they were well received, the meeting broke up at eleven o'clock with a distinct sense of disappointment, not to say failure. The audience dispersed with but one question:
"Where are they? and why have they not come?"
A little after two, Gertrude called up Mrs. Bateman and told her of the events which had transpired since she had started out for the joint debate; but it was too late to send explanations to any other member of the committee.
"Are you going to let it get into the newspapers?" asked Mrs. Bateman.
"Not I," said Gertrude. "Think what a miserable sensation it would make."
"Then I must call up Allingham's house and ask them to suppress it," answered Mrs. Bateman. "But what excuse can we make? Something must be said in explanation."
"I don't know," said Gertrude wearily. "I leave that to you and Judge Bateman. I do not want it to get into the newspapers."
"Very well; then I will call up the Allingham's" responded Mrs. Bateman. Which she did, and found that Mrs. Allingham was horror-stricken at the bare suggestion that the kidnaping of her son should be written up for the press.
"He is asleep," she said, "and has been since the doctor put on his last bit of plaster; but as soon as he wakens I will ask him what I shall tell you to say. Anyhow, we will keep it out of the papers, if possible."
But all the same the next morning the story was featured in every journal in town, with more or less display according to the style of each individual paper. Naturally, the more conservative of them strove to tell the story correctly and insinuated that the Burke party were behind the "contemptible trick;" but the sheet which upheld the "City Hall crowd," as all Roma termed its municipal authorities, gave a most sensational account, telling it with a flippant and gleeful inaccuracy which spoke volumes for the accomplishments of modern yellow journalism. It headed its article thus:
"CANDIDATES IN COLLISION"
"Handsome Woman Candidate and Aristocratic Aspirant for Mayoralty Flee from Joint Debate, only to Crash Together in the Woods and Return in Electric Cab Together."
A portion of the article ran as follows:
"For weeks the advocates of higher education for women and the shriekers for female suffrage who have been pushing the daughter of the late Senator Van Deusen forward in her attempt to become Mayor of Roma, have been laboring to arrange a joint debate in which their candidate should take the platform and discuss the issues of our city campaign with that scion of would-be American Royalty, Jack Allingham. They have left no stone unturned to interest the public in this expected clash of argument and trial of brain-power. (We refrain from commenting here upon the minimum quantity of the latter necessary to such a debate.) Finally they had, with great flourish of trumpets and beating of drums—(we are speaking politically, not literally now)—arranged for such a debate on the very evening before election day.
"Last night Brocklebank Hall was crowded with the usual audience of mixed social position and nationality in attendance at mass- meetings of the Republican and Independent parties in Roma. They had gathered to hear the accumulated perorations of wit and wisdom on the part of their two candidates. They were to decide, finally, which one to vote for today; to make up their little minds whether to put into the mayor's chair a stiff, conservative aristocrat who cares no more for the laboring classes of Roma than he does for its work-horses—(or its mules) or a young woman of good ancestry, but no actual knowledge of municipal affairs— only an inherited cock-sureness of opinion on any and every subject that may come up.
"Did they hear this great joint debate?
"No. Why? Because during the hours while the impatient audience were beguiled by feeble arguments from mushroom speakers, who attempted to amuse them while they waited, the principal actors in this farce were miles away, chasing each other about in electric cabs, which at a distance of twenty miles or more from Brocklebank Hall collided and threw the aspiring occupants out in a deep wood. Thus doth fate pursue the over- ambitious and wreck their plans.
"When the chauffeurs returned from the farmhouse whence they had gone for help in extricating their machines, Allingham, the aristocrat, lay prone on the ground with his head in the lap of her who had been his whilom opponent for the mayor's chair. A sight fit for the gods, truly—and also for the voters of Roma.
"The couple, erstwhile at swords' points, but now tucked cosily together in one electric cab, were later brought back to Roma at one o'clock in the morning—she none the worse for her skillful evasion of the platform contest, and he with a slight scalp wound only, to show that he had been worsted.
"It remains now for the voters of Roma to consider whether such candidates as these are to be considered fit to be trusted with the affairs of our enterprising young city—and to vote accordingly."
Election day dawned bright and clear and all Roma was up early, actively interested for once in the outcome of the day's work. The polling places were lively at seven o'clock and from that hour they grew more and more crowded, as men and women of all parties swarmed to deposit their ballots according to the Australian system. Never before in the history of the town had so many voters been out on the day of a municipal election.
The women had opened coffee-rooms for the day close by all the important voting booths, and wives and daughters of the most prominent men in town served the steaming beverage by turns throughout the election hours free to all who might come. Moreover, they saw to it that no voter who mustered under the City Reform Club banner, was neglected. It would be too much to assume that the liquor stands were outdone, but at least the "Progressive Workers" were the means of sending many men home sober that day, and of rescuing a few of the tempted ones.
The leaders of the different parties were here, there and everywhere, looking after the interests of their respective candidates, talking, persuading, urging or buying the dilatory or vacillating vote. And the women found, early in the day, that in order to compete with the opposition, they must stay close to the polls.
"What shall we do? How divide our forces?" they asked.
Bailey Armstrong had just dropped into the coffee-room in the principal ward.
"Well, something, and at once," he said. "Sam Watts is everywhere, guiding his committees and buying up votes. Morgan and Jack Allingham, too, are getting down to business."
"Then Mr. Allingham is able to be out?" inquired Gertrude, at Bailey's side.
"He is out, able or unable," returned Bailey. "And they are leaving no stone unturned to get votes. I guess you'll have to come and turn a few cobblestones yourself—"
"Yes, Gertrude," said Mrs. Bateman, "you'll have to. I'll go the rounds with you."
"Mrs. Stillman and I will go over to ward seven," said Mrs. Jewett. "Mrs. Mason and Mrs. Turner to ward three, and Mrs. Wentworth and Grace Tolman to ward two. And we'll get out some others. You couldn't go, could you, Miss Snow?"
"I am writing up the woman's part of today's battle," returned Mary Snow. "I shall go to every ward, and will help what I can,—but I cannot neglect my paper. The Atlas is going to give us all the space we can fill tonight."
"The Atlas has been good to us all through," said Gertrude. "We have one paper—and a decent one—we can depend upon."
It was arranged that the women should divide themselves into committees of two at each voting booth, these couples to shift every hour or two, so that Gertrude Van Deusen might be seen at every booth.
"One would think I had been on view long enough so that every man, woman and child should be familiar with my features by this time," she laughed, remembering her constant appearance on the platform during the campaign. "Yet they are saying in some of the lower wards, that the voters have never laid eyes on me. Well, they shall have the chance."
Had it not been that the love of battle and of conquest had been born and bred in the old Senator's daughter, Gertrude would have sickened already of politics and politicians and the mass of feeble humanity that was like clay in the hands of the potter. For in spite of the real interest of the more intelligent citizens, there were the usual hangers-on and heelers,—men who had no civic sense, no idea of public duty, no moral stamina; men who sold their votes openly and as a matter of course.
"What'll you women give me?" asked one of these derelicts of Mrs. Bateman. "Burke's crowd has given me two dollars. If you'll make it three, I'll vote for your candidate."
"We are not buying votes, sir," replied the Judge's wife. "We have no respect for a man who will sell his vote. But we will give you, in return for yours, the satisfaction of feeling that you are a man among men; that you are doing the right and honorable thing, and that you are helping to establish an honest government here in Roma. Isn't your manhood worth more than two or even three dollars to you?"
"Well," returned the man after a speechless moment, "I'll be dinged if it isn't! I am going to vote for you, anyhow." Which he proceeded to do, although in somewhat maudlin fashion.
At ward three, Miss Van Deusen came face to face with John Allingham. It was an awkward moment for both. Gertrude flushed, but she carried her head high, and said "Good morning," with so much cordiality that Allingham felt more awkward than ever.
All night he had slept but fitfully, and in his wakeful hours had regretted with self-denunciation, that his name was to be voted upon that day. In his waking dreams he had thought once of withdrawing his candidacy, even at the polls. When he slept, he was riding once more, through the beautiful night—not alone, locked into the cab—but with Gertrude Van Deusen beside him, talking in her sweet musical voice, of things far removed from Roma and its dirty politics. The mobile face, the starry eyes, the delicate perfume that enwrapped her, lingered with him, and when he waked, it was difficult to cast the memory aside and to gather his wits for the fight which he must make against her that day, for an office he did not want;—but on the other hand, more than ever did he want her not to have it. That beautiful and gracious young woman he told himself, endowed with rare graces of mind and soul,—she must not be allowed to soil herself with the political machinery at City Hall. She had been misguided, led into this candidacy by those other women, strong-minded suffragists. Was it not his duty to get out and work for her defeat?
And so he arose and dressed, and although hotly opposed by his women-folk, who thought he should stay in bed and be carefully nursed for a week, he went forth, his face adorned with surgeon's plaster and his heart full of mixed motives, to the fray.
"You are none the worse for your ride?" he said to her. "You are sure you were not hurt?"
"No, not a bit," laughed Gertrude. "There isn't even the odor of liniment about me. But you,—your hurts must pain you? You were badly used up last night. Ought you to be out?" And then she blushed, remembering he was out to defeat her.
"Oh, I am well again," he returned, "only these bits of plaster make me out worse than I am. As soon as this election is over I'm going to find out who was at the bottom of that devilish plot."
"You'll never find out," said Bailey Armstrong, coming up at that moment. "It was some of Burke's dirty work, but they've covered their tracks mighty well. I've been making inquiries this morning. There isn't an electric cab in this city."
"Then they came over from Bonborough—or Plattsville," said Allingham. "There are plenty of them there."
"Yes, many," returned Armstrong. "But we shall never learn the truth. The trick was done so well that the perpetrators know how to cover their tracks."
But a bevy of voters coming in, the conversation ended and Gertrude did not see her opponent again that day.
At six o'clock that evening, she lay on the couch in her own room, weary with the day's experiences. For all she had considered herself well posted in political methods, this day had been a revelation to her.
"Well, Jessica," she told her cousin, "I suppose we shall know before we go to bed how I stand. But at this moment, after all I've seen today and realizing the state our city affairs are in, I will own to you in confidence that I hope—honestly and earnestly,—that I am defeated. John Allingham may have the mayor's chair and welcome. I've seen enough of it already, and I tell you I am sick at heart."
"And what if it is Barnaby Burke who comes off victorious?" asked her cousin.
"Well, I am not sufficiently discouraged to be willing to have that happen," said Gertrude. "Still—between you and me,—I don't 'want the job,' as I heard one man express it today. But, even if I lose the election, it will always be a comfort to me to remember how the working-people came out for me,—as well as to know just who, among my father's old friends, can be reckoned as mine. And now, I want a little nap before dinner."
Down at the headquarters of the City Reform Club Judge Bateman and his colleagues awaited the result of the count. With them were many of the "Progressive Workers," eager for news. The Union Club, the hotels and Burke's headquarters were crowded, while John Allingham and his trusted lieutenants were gathered at the Municipal League rooms. Returns came in slowly and the crowds on the street clamored for news faster than the bulletins could be given out.
At ten o'clock John Allingham was obliged to retreat and go home, physically worn out. The accident of the previous evening, combined with the excitement of the day, had proved too much for him. He was already in bed when the final returns reached him by telephone. Then he shut and locked his door, refusing to speak to another soul that night,—not even to his mother when she came up to see if he had taken the doctor's medicine.
Gertrude Van Deusen, too, remained in her room alone. Face to face with the decisive moment of victory or defeat, she could not see anyone. She was too tired to care much whether she had won or lost, although she recalled now, as a hopeful augury, that she had never yet been defeated for any office for which she had run in the various women's societies to which she belonged.
"Let John Allingham have the place, if he can get it," she was saying to herself for the fiftieth time, as the mantel clock chimed out the half-past ten. "I am swept under by a queer psychological wave of repulsion. I hope I shall lose."
But she was aroused just then by the sound of women's voices on the stairs,—laughing and chattering,—and she felt the note of triumph ringing through her brain as they came up to her door.