Fred Fearnot's Revenge, or Defeating a Congressman

CHAPTER V.
FRED CHALLENGES CARTER AND CREATES A GREAT SENSATION.

Fred's speech created a tremendous sensation in Ashton. In the first place, the people were astonished in his oratorical abilities; and in the second, the political friends of Carter were dismayed by the terrific attack and evident effect of it upon the audience There wasn't one among them but who saw the danger menacing him and their party. They had never regarded the bill he had introduced into the Legislature seriously, but young Fearnot had placed it before the people in such a light as to make every property owner feel that his property rights were in danger; and then again, his sarcastic cuts and flings at their candidate's political honesty and the splendid eulogy uttered over the personal character of young Chapman was a masterly thing in its way.

Everybody, old or young, felt an almost irresistible desire to help along the struggling young lawyer, who had so bravely fought the battle for bread for his widowed mother and sister.

When the meeting broke up the, men asked each other:

"Well, what do you think of it?" and the women all exclaimed:

"What a splendid speaker he is! What a horrid man Carter must be! If I were a man I'd vote for Chapman."

Carter's friends got together in groups and discussed Fearnot's speech, shaking their heads and looking solemn.

"You've got to call off that fellow, Fearnot," said one of Carter's heelers.

"How are you going to do it?" another one asked.

"Break up the meeting wherever he goes," suggested the heeler.

"The very worst thing that could be done," remarked an old veteran of many political campaigns. "For whenever you try to interfere with fair play you get the worst of it. He's going to hurt us badly, for as a speaker he can just knock spots out of Carter, or any man we have in our party."

"Oh, well," said another, "all we've got to do is to raise money and buy off Chapman. Give him a thousand dollars and he'll come down and get out of the race."

"I don't believe it," said another. "If he's the sort of a man that Fearnot has described him to be, ten thousand dollars wouldn't get him out."

Up in Carter's office there was a consultation of his friends and advisers that lasted until beyond midnight. Those of them who had heard Fearnot's speech gave it as their opinion that probably half a hundred votes had been lost to their party that night.

"I'll tell you, Henry," said one of them, addressing Carter, "You can't laugh down Chapman, for that fellow, Fearnot, is going to rally a big crowd to support him. That confounded bill of yours will play the deuce with you. He actually frightened me to-night by his description of the possibilities of wrong that can be perpetrated under it; and something must be done to counteract it or we'll lose a big slice of our regular party vote. We would lose many even if that confounded bill was out of the way. A natural desire to help along a clean-cut young fellow, like Chapman, will gain him many votes, and the way Fearnot describes his boyish struggles from the time he was fifteen years old, to support his mother and sister, while studying himself to be a school teacher, drew tears from many in the audience and aroused enthusiastic admiration throughout the whole house. I saw scores of our own party wildly cheering him, while the women and girls were completely captured; and, do you know, they have tremendous influence in a campaign like this."

Carter was white with rage, as he listened to the reports of the speeches that had been made that evening, for he recognized the fact that the young New Yorker whom he had so insolently ordered out of his office was an enemy not to be despised.

"Confound the fellow!" he exclaimed, "if he were of age I'd horsewhip him for characterizing me in that way in a public speech."

"Yes, but that won't do," said one of his friends; "he's a bright boy, and any violence shown him would make him all the stronger and more popular. It was a tremendous hit when he said that he had offered you fifty dollars for your opinion of that bill as a lawyer, not as a politician, and that you hadn't the courage to give it. Altogether he placed you in mighty bad light."

"Oh, well," said Carter, "men who have been voting our ticket all their lives will keep on doing so. He may turn the heads of a few, but it won't amount to anything. All this wild enthusiasm is simply the appreciation of a boy's cheek and grit, but when they come up to the polls to vote, they'll vote as they've been doing all along."

"Well, you don't want to trust to that," advised one of his counselors.

"You must get Chapman out of the race. We've either got to pay him so much cold cash to withdraw, or else promise him a position that will compensate him."

But where will he get the money to put up a fight?" Carter asked. Several of them shrugged their shoulders as much as to say: "I don't know."

"Well, I can tell you," said one. "I heard it from pretty good authority that Fearnot had said that he would put up ten thousand dollars in cold cash to see Chapman through till the sun went down on the day of election."

"He can't do it," said Carter, shaking his head.

"Oh, that's all nonsense. He's the son of a very wealthy lawyer, said to be worth a million, and he's made nearly ten thousand dollars off of the lots out at Dedham Lake already. We know something about him as a fighter, and we've got to fight him right straight along till the polls close."

"Well, what's to be done?" another asked.

"Raise a thousand dollars and let some one offer it to Chapman to get out of the race," was suggested, and in less than thirty minutes the money was subscribed there in Carter's office, and a shrewd old wire-pulling politician was given charge of it.

"Now, gentlemen," said the old wire-puller, "keep your in mouths shut about this. Don't say a word even to your best friends about it; and in talking about the speeches that were made to-night at the ball, compliment both of the young men; speak of them in terms of praise, but laugh at the idea of its hurting our candidate. We will give them a few more days for the purpose of watching the effect of his candidacy upon our people."

The meeting then broke up.

The next day some of Carter's staunchest friends and supporters were compelled to admit that the meeting of the night before was somewhat damaging to Carter, but not enough to do him any harm.

"The great trouble," said one of them, "will be with the women. My wife and two daughters went to bed last night hurrahing for Chapman and Fearnot. The fact is, the two boys just captured the women. Naturally all the girls prefer a handsome young man, and Fearnot won the heart of every mother who heard him; and I'll tell you that when a mother hears of a boy standing by his widowed mother, as Chapman has done, she'll pray for his success in anything he undertakes. Women don't know anything about politics. Everything is sentiment with them."

At the hotel where young Chapman was stopping, there was a big crowd all the morning congratulating him and Fearnot. Of course the great majority of them were old political opponents of Carter and his party, yet there were many of the latter who frankly offered their support to the young lawyer. One old farmer went to him, who had been voting Carter's party ticket for forty years, extended his hand to him and said:

"Young man, when I was your age I had the same struggle that you've had and I'm going to stand by you; and the old woman at home says she'll lick our boys if they don't do so too. I've got a good farm and as long as I live I want to have complete control of it, and won't support any man who tries to take away from me any of my right to do so."

Nearly everybody in the town had a copy of Chapman address to the voters of the district, and they read it over carefully, some of them twice and three times, and they could see nothing in it to offend their political ideas. Everything hinged upon the fitness of the author of the Carter bill to be a Congressman, and during the speeches the night before not a word of polities was uttered. It was simply a question of right and wrong and one personality pitted against the other.

On going to the postoffice about noon Fred met Carter face to face on the street and looked up at him, smiled and said:

"Good-morning, Mr. Carter."

"Good-morning, Mr. Fearnot," returned the candidate.

"Did you hear my whoop last night?" Fred asked.

"No; I'll begin whooping in a few days myself."

"All right," said Fred. "If you'll join me in a series of joint debates in every county in the district, I'll agree to pay your expenses."

"Thank you for the offer," said Carter. "I'll think about it."

Nearly a score of people heard the challenge, and it flew through the town like wildfire. A number of Carter's friends got around him, urging him not to accept it.

"He'll ruin you, if you do," said one. "he can outtalk anything you ever heard in your life."

"Oh, I had no intention of accepting it, and it would be extremely undignified for a man of my age to debate with one not yet old enough to vote."

"Of course, of course," chorused several of his friends.

Fred and Chapman were indefatigable workers. All the afternoon and until midnight they were engaged in organizing committees and workers: and appointments for meetings in every county in the district were sent out, and thus they got in the first appointments in the campaign. It required money, but Fred put it up promptly and everything went along smoothly.

On the morning of the second day the old politician to whom was delegated the task of trying to get Chapman out of the race, called on him, and with a smooth, oily tongue proceeded to tell him how he was ruining the party to which he belonged.

"We've had our eyes on you for two years past," said the old fellow, "and were waiting for the right time to come to put you forward as one of our standard-bearers, but now you are deliberately committing political suicide. The party will take care of you if you will put a stop to this thing before it goes any farther, and if a thousand dollars in cold cash can compensate you for what trouble you've already been to, I'm ready to hand it over to you. It's for the sake of the party, understand."

"Why, it's for the sake of the party that I'm fighting," said Chapman. "Putting up such men as Carter will ruin the party, for it will accustom our people to voting for dishonest and tricky politicians. Ten thousand dollars would not put in me out of the race."

"You're a very foolish young man, Mr. Chapman," said the other.

"I'd rather be foolish than dishonest, sir," said Chapman.

"Oh. come now, you don't mean to charge dishonesty upon the great body of your party do you?"

"Yes, sir. I mean to make the charge that every man who votes for Carter is voting for a dishonest man, and indirectly giving his sanction to a measure that is dishonest on the face of it and I know that you, sir, yourself, would be fighting Carter to-day, if that bill was aimed at you, as it was aimed at the owner of Dedham Lake. You may deny it, several of Carter's friends have already denied it, but I wouldn't believe any man on his oath who would say that he approves the bill to deprive himself of his free control of his own property."

"That is pretty strong language," said the politician.

"Of course it is. It's simply plain speaking, for if you now were to place your hands upon the Bible and swear that you would approve of a bill that would take from you the control of your property, I would all the rest of my days believe that you had perjured yourself. I know in my very soul that you don't approve of it, and yet, for the sake of party, you are going to approve of the man who is the author of such a bill."

"Oh, well we won't discuss that," said the politician, who had the hide of a rhinoceros and a conscience about as tender as that of a hyena, where politics was concerned. "How came you to enter the fight, anyway?"

Chapman was frank.

"I was persuaded to do so by Fred Fearnot, at whom the bill was aimed, but not until he had convinced me that the author of the bill was a dangerous man to be sent to any legislative body; and, that there may be no misunderstanding about it, I will tell you further that he is paying every expense of my candidacy. You may call me Fearnot's candidate, or anything, else you please, but I am going to stand up a protest against such a man as Carter being sent to Congress from this district."

"That's all very well. If Carter is defeated it's the other party who will carry the district, not you."

"That may be," admitted Chapman, "but the candidate or the other party is an honest man. I don't care anything about the politics. We want honest lawmakers. There is far more danger to the people in the election of such man as Carter than in the defeat of our party. Republics have been destroyed in ages past solely by the corruption of officials."

The politician went away, satisfied that nothing could be done with Chapman, and he proceeded to make all the capital he could by saying the latter had frankly admitted to him that Fearnot paying all the expenses of his candidacy. Of course that didn't hurt him at all, for everybody knew that he was is poor as a church mouse, and it was no reflection upon him whatever that Fearnot was putting up the money.

There was a little town about eight miles out from Ashton, containing about five hundred inhabitants, called Pelham, and it was a rich farming region all around; but the political complexion of the community was decidedly in favor of Carter's party. It was the first place outside of Ashton where Fearnot and Chapman were billed to speak. Carter's friends threatened to break up the meeting, and news to that effect was brought into Ashton.

"Just what we want them to try," said Fred. "I've sent down to Utica for a brass band, and I guess we'll have friends enough here, in Ashton, to go out with us and have a regular Donnybrook Fair, if Carter's friends so desire, but I don't think we'll have any trouble whatever, for we abuse nobody at all, and the right of free speech is one which I, for one, will fight for with clubs, pistols or bowie- knives. They tell me I made it very hot for Carter the other night, but his friends will think that is simply a dish of ice-cream, compared to what he will get to-morrow night out there."

In anticipation of trouble, or very great excitement, at least a couple of hundred people went out from Ashton, to attend the meeting at Pelham. Of course the majority of them were the old political opponents of Carter's party, for they were doing their best to encourage Chapman's candidacy. When they reached the little station, and the crowd left the train to march to the hall, with the brass band at their head, some twenty or thirty young fellows attempted to break up the procession by throwing stones and hooting. Fred very promptly threatened to prosecute every one who attempted to disturb a public meeting. He was greeted with a shower of stones, one of which struck him on the forehead, cutting a gash that caused the blood to stream down over his face. He held his handkerchief to the wound, while the men in his party charged on the rioters and very promptly dispersed them, after which they went to the hall, where they found it jammed with men and women. Chapman at once proceeded to make the same speech that he had delivered in Ashton. He made a fine impression as an earnest, honest young man. After him came Fred, who, before uttering a word, displayed his handkerchief which was saturated with blood from the wound on his forehead.

There was much excitement.

"Ladies and gentlemen," said he, "I exhibit to you some of the blood I have shed thus early in this campaign, in defense of the right of free speech. Those who stoned us to-night the way to this way to this hall are not so much to blame for what they did as their leader, who set the example to them. When Assemblyman Carter introduced his infamous bill in the Assembly of this State, to take from a man the right to control his own property, he gave voice to the spirit that brought about this attack on free speech in the street of you beautiful little village to-night; and I am here to ask you to place the seal of your condemnation upon his attack upon the rights of private property and the right of free speech," and from that he passed into the most scathing, burning, eloquent denunciations of Carter and his rascally course that had ever been heard in that part of the State.

He portrayed like a living, vivid picture the danger of such lawmakers being sent to the hall of legislation, bringing home to every property owner the peril that menaced his home and property.

"We are not here," he continued, "to utter one word about politics. It is a battle for honor and honesty, and no man can claim to be honest while voting for a rascal, and those who threw stones at us to-night have made all assault upon the dearest right of American citizenship, the right of free speech. And I denounce every man and boy of them as infamous cowards who singly would not face one of our number in this hall to-night. Now, in place of such a man as Carter, we present to you one who is the very embodiment of honor and honesty," and then for the next twenty minutes he told the story of Chapmans' life and his struggles to educate himself as a teacher, then as a lawyer, interspersing it with stories that had the audience roaring with laugher at one time, and at another almost shedding tears. He completely won the crowd.

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