Fred Fearnot's Revenge, or Defeating a Congressman

CHAPTER VI.
THE FIGHT GROWS HOT AND FRED IS IN THE THICKEST OF IT.

Fred's second speech created a far greater sensation than the first one, and the effect of it was really marvelous. The exhibition of his blood-stained handkerchief to the audience was truly dramatic, and he swept his auditors off their feet with his fiery eloquence and logical reasoning. The indignation of citizens was freely expressed on all sides. Those who had taken part in stoning the procession slunk away from the hall.

When Fred sat down and the great tumult of applause that followed had subsided, an old farmer rose to his feet and said that he had three times voted for Carter for the Assembly, but that now he intended to vote for Chapman for Congress and urge his friends to do so. That provoked another great outburst of applause, and the old man continued:

"It isn't a question of party politics. It's one of common sense, honesty and decency, and I propose that right here we organize a club in the interests of this, young man, who has struggled to support a mother and sister, while at the same time educating himself."

"So do I," sang out scores of voices in the crowd, and in less than twenty minutes over two score of names had been handed up, every one of whom had been Carter's supporters in former elections as ready to form a club.

"Now, ladies and gentlemen," said Fred, "The success of this meeting has exceeded our most sanguine expectations, and in return for your kindness, I want to extend my invitation to every man, woman and child in this audience to a big fish fry at Dedham Lake. There are millions of fish there, and I'll have fifty thousand of them caught to feed you, if necessary. Just set the day and everything shall be provided for your comfort."

The crowd cheered.

"Furthermore," he continued, "whenever you want a good day's fishing go to Dedham Lake for it. It's my property, and I am going to invite my friends to come and fish whenever they please. But if a man says he will come and fish there against my consent, he is the same as a thief and robber, just as he would be if he went over into your watermelon patches and your orchards without your permission."

Again they cheered him until the very walls trembled.

"Now, I've made a speech already to-night, and I ought to stop, but I see so many pretty faces before me, among the mothers and daughters of Pelham, that I am constrained to pay my respects to them particularly," and his eulogy of woman and her loving influences was like a poem.

The great audience was held spellbound, He ended with a song full of sentiment and pathos. His clear, baritone voice thoroughly well trained, completed his work for the evening making every one who beard him his personal friend, regard less of party lines.

When the meeting was dismissed, scores of women, young and old, crowded around him to shake hands with him. They surrounded Chapman, too, who blushed like a schoolgirl.

Said one of the old mothers:

"The boy who stands by his mother is the one to be trusted. We are going to work and pray for your success, young man."

Chapman was astonished. When he started out in the campaign he was apprehensive that party lines would be drawn so closely he would find but few supporters, but here in the second meeting it looked as though every voter in the house was for him. Scores of men who had supported Carter's party all their lives frankly declared that they were going to oppose their own party and support Chapman, and as for the women, young and old, they seemed to be unanimously in favor of his election; and Fred's song had settled the question with every marriageable girl in the house.

"Say, Fearnot," an old citizen asked, "you bought Dedham Lake. Are you going to settle down and be a citizen of the county?"

"I may," he laughed. "If I find the people all over the county as kindly disposed to me as you are to-night, I don't see how I can resist the temptation."

"Well, if you do we'll send you to the Assembly, to congress, and then make you Governor. Come up here and grow with us."

Headed by the brass band, the crowd from Ashton marched back to the railroad station, followed by nearly everybody in the village; and when the train started off the villagers cheered them at the top of their lungs.

"Look here, Chapman," said Fred, as he took a seat by his side in the car, "hanged if it don't look like an election."

"Well, I confess that I am surprised," returned Chapman. "I never saw an audience so thoroughly captured in my life as that one to-night was."

"Well, I told Carter two weeks ago that I intended to camp on his train, when he ordered me out of his office. The next thing will be to try to buy you off."

"They've, tried that already," said Chapman. "I was offered one thousand dollars day before yesterday, to withdraw from the field."

"Great Scott! man, why didn't you tell that to-night?"

"Didn't think of it," he laughed.

"Well, don't forget it again. It means a great deal. I wouldn't like a thousand dollars myself for this bloody handkerchief of mine. I'm going to exhibit it at every meeting in the district."

The next morning Fred was surprised when he heard that the one-thousand-dollar bet he had put up had been covered by friends of Carter, and Crenshaw had made two thousand dollars in persuading them to do it.

"That's all right," said Fred, when Crenshaw himself told him about it. "I'll put up another thousand at the same odds and pay you the same commission."

"I'm afraid I couldn't work it," was the reply. "It was pretty hard work to drum up those that I did."

"Well, you've got a safe thing of it, anyway," said Fred. "No matter which wins, you are two thousand dollars in."

"Yes, it's the best luck I've had in years; never picked up two thousand dollars so easy in my life. I hear you had a big meeting at Pelham last night."

"Oh, you ought to have been there," said Fred. "We just captured the whole town. They tried to break up the meeting by stoning us on the way from the train to the hall, and here's where a stone struck me," and he took off his hat and exhibited the wound on his forehead.

"Well, I'm sorry for that," said Crenshaw.

"Well, I'm not," said Fred. "It will cost Carter one hundred votes in Pelham. Do you see this handkerchief?" and he exhibited his blood-stained handkerchief, saying, "You ought to have heard the indignation of the audience, when I exhibited that handkerchief to them last night," and he took a special delight in torturing Carter's supporter with a recital of the incidents of the evening.

Crenshaw went away looking rather serious and at once hunted up Carter to tell him about what he had heard. Carter had already heard it and was still pretending to be unconcerned, but later in the day he heard from one of his friends, at Pelham, that fully one-half of the old party voters had gone over to the support of Chapman, and suggested that if something was not done to counteract the impression made by Fearnot and Chapman at the meeting there the night before the town would go against him.

Carter and his friends began to hustle. He promptly wrote out and published an appeal to his supporters in the district, not to interfere with any Chapman meetings, but to recognize the right of free speech everywhere and to pay no attention to assaults made upon his character, which was too well-known to his friends and neighbors for any injury to result to him. He urged them to fight for the principles of their party and not upon any personal grounds.

Chapman immediately followed it with an appeal to the honesty of the people or the district, and calling attention to the infamous Carter bill as the stamp upon the character of its author. Of course Fred wrote it, and its keen, cutting, sentences were, effective to a marked degree.

Fred and Chapman were about to take the train for the next county, when a friend of Carter's came to Fred to give him warning that any further attacks upon Carter's personal character would result in his arrest for defamation of character.

"Good, good," said he, "that will add greatly to the hilarity of the canvass. I'm going to continue the fight upon the line that I've started it on. I've been very careful to touch only upon his political actions, and those I'm going to continue to denounce as infamous, dishonest and cowardly; and if I am arrested for doing so, and he fails to make out a case against me, I'll proceed against him for malicious prosecution. Tell Mr. Carter that I'm camping on his trail, and he has made one so broad and plain that a blind man can follow it."

"I think you will find it to your interest to drop personalities," suggested the politician.

"I'm not dealing in personalities, I'm dealing with records," Fred replied; "and, besides, I don't think you are quite the man to give me any advice that is conducive to my interest. It's to my interest to defeat Mr. Carter, and I don't think you're disposed to show me how to do it," and with that he entered the car, along with Chapman, and was soon whirling along in the direction of the next county, where they were to attend a great meeting that evening, in the bustling little town of Homer.

On the way there the two exchanged views as to certain matters that should be discussed in the speeches that night.

"You must be sure to make mention, and give the name of the man who offered you one thousand dollars to withdraw from the canvass." said Fred.

"Yes, I will; but he will flatly deny it."

"Well, let him do so. Your reputation for veracity is just as good as his, I guess."

"Oh, yes, but I dislike very much to raise a question of veracity with an old citizen like him."

"Well, in this fight, neither age, color nor previous condition are to be considered," laughed Fred.

"Very true. When we reach Homer I'm going to be subjected to a very unpleasant interview with an old uncle of my mother. He is an old partisan of Carter, and he wrote my mother a letter about my candidacy, asking her if I had gone crazy, or had proved a traitor to the teachings of my father."

"Well, just introduce me to him," laughed Fred.

"All right, but you want to be careful with him. He is a very irascible man, and about seventy years of age."

"Oh, I'll be kind to him. Don't worry about that."

When they reached Homer there were quite a number of people at the little station, brought there by curiosity to see the boy who was making a fight on Carter, for the papers had said a good deal about him and the fact that he had been wounded by a stone at Pelham had created quite a sensation. There were two men there who had declared themselves as Chapman men, and one of them stepped up and asked:

"Are you Mr. Chapman?"

"Yes," said the lawyer.

"Well, my name is Williams, and this is Mr. Crane." and he introduced another.

"Glad to know you, gentlemen," said Chapman, shaking hands with them. "I heard before I left Ashton that you were friends of mine in this fight. This is Mr. Fearnot."

"Ah, this is the boy," said Williams, shaking Fred's hand in a vigorous manner and looking him over from head to feet. "You seem to be a pretty hard one to down."

"Yes," laughed Fred, "I haven't been downed yet, although the other fellows have begun throwing stones."

"Is it really true that you were hit?" Williams asked.

"Yes," he replied, removing his hat and exhibiting the wound on the upper left side of his forehead. "That speaks for itself, doesn't it? The stone came rather glancing, or the blow might have proved fatal."

"Why didn't you have the fellow arrested?"

"Because I couldn't swear to his identity, didn't see him when he threw it. But really I'm really glad I got it. It's worth a thousand votes to Chapman. What sort of a crowd are we going to have to-night?"

"We'll have a big one, for there is great curiosity in both parties to hear you; but Carter's friends are angry at Chapman for trying to split the party."

They went to the hotel, where quite a number of citizens called on them, the majority being the political opponents of Carter who, of course, were anxious to encourage Chapman's candidacy. In fact some of them were willing to contribute financially to his campaign fund.

About in hour after their arrival, Chapman's great-uncle, a well- to-do old citizen of the place, who owned quite a large farm out in the country, called at the hotel to see him.

"Glad to see you, Uncle John," said Chapman, as he shook the old gentleman's hand.

"Well, I'm sorry to see you behaving so badly. What's the matter with you, anyway?" and the old man looked as though he wanted to drag him across his knee and spank him.

"Why there's nothing the matter with me, Uncle John. I'm all right."

"You're all wrong," said the old man. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself. You've gone squarely back on the teachings of your father."

"There's where you are wrong, Uncle John," said Chapman, very pleasantly. "My father taught me to be honest at all times and under all circumstances, and that's the whole secret of my candidacy."

"Tut, tut; you're crazy."

"Well, maybe I am. Uncle John," he laughed. "There are a good many people in this district going crazy, then, and I guess they'll manage to keep out of the insane asylum."

"You don't expect to be elected, do you?" the old man asked.

"Well, I'm making friends so fast I really don't know what to expect. I want you to come out to the meeting to-night and hear my friend Fearnot, and, by the way, let me introduce him to you," and he called Fred and introduced him to the old gentleman, who at first seemed disposed to refuse to shake hands with him.

"You are the young man who has persuaded my nephew here to go wrong," he said.

"Well, if You've got, that idea in your head all I can do is to invite you to come out to the meeting to-night and hear my side of the question. You know there are always two sides to every question,"

"Oh, yes, there's a right side and a wrong side," retorted the old man, "and you've succeeded in getting George on the wrong side."

"Well, come out and hear him to-night. He's a fine speaker," said Fred, in a very pleasant tone of voice.

"Oh, I don't want to hear either one of you."

"Oh, that isn't the way to do," laughed Fred. "Haven't you head all our life that the man who is afraid to hear the other side is extremely doubtful about whether his side is right or not? If you are quite sure that you are right you wouldn't be afraid to bear the other side. If a man can't give a reason for the faith that in him, the sooner he gets rid of that faith the better it will be for him."

"See here, young man, I was a grandfather before you were born, and have been voting for upward of fifty years; so you can't tell me anything about my political duties."

"I wouldn't attempt to do so, Sir," replied Fred. "What George and I are going to talk about to-night is our own political duties, find ask those who agree With us to join in and help in the fight. You see, when a man has heard both sides of a question he is better able to make up his own mind clearly than if he only heard one side. It seems to me that you should be proud of your nephew and try to push him along in the world, for he is making a brilliant mark in this fight, and if he isn't elected the people in the district will at least know him and respect him."

"Respect him! Why, they're mad enough to thrash him, and he ought to be thrashed!" blurted out the old man.

"Oh, he's a little too old to be thrashed now," laughed Fred. "This is a free country, you know and everbody who wants to can be a candidate for any office in the gift of the people, and every man is at liberty to vote for or against him."

"But a man has no right to injure his party."

"Yes, he has, sir," asserted Fred pluckily. "Every man has a right to smash his party, if he thinks it's going wrong,"

"But a young man like George has no right to set his judgment up against all of his party friends."

"There you're wrong again," said Fred. "A man has a right to be guided by his own conscience, and the consciences of ten thousand men are no guide for another, if his own conscience is not satisfied. We all claim the right to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience, and the same rule should apply In politics. The man who thinks of nothing else but his party, taking no thought for his country, is a very poor citizen, no matter if he's been voting a hundred years. Mr. Carter is an unfit man to represent this or any other district in Congress, and we are going to defeat him. He introduced a bill in the Assembly to take from a man the right to control his own property, and I'm in favor of taking away from any man who favors such a law the right to vote even for they are dangerous to the community."

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