Fred Fearnot's Revenge, or Defeating a Congressman

CHAPTER VII.
FRED HAS A FIGHT WITH AND CONVERTS A BULLY.

Chapman's uncle was a very pugnacious old fellow, who said a great many very snappy, rasping things to him and Fred, and finally went away, refusing to promise that he would be present at the meeting.

"He's a pretty hard-headed old chap, George," said Fred, after the old man left.

"Yes, he's a close, stingy, hard-headed old fellow, owns a great deal of property and is said to have a lot of money in bank. Yet he never assisted mother to the extent of a penny, notwithstanding she is the only daughter of his only sister. So far as I am concerned, I don't care two cents for his opinion. I don't think he knows what he is voting for half the time, but just goes it blindly, because it's his party. But I'm inclined to think that he'll be present to-night for he has a great deal of curiosity, which will force him to show up at the meeting."

During the afternoon quite a number of young men came in, to make the acquaintance of Fearnot and Chapman, and they all went away very much pleased with them personally. The simple fact that Fearnot was still a youth, not old enough to vote, naturally excited the sympathies of all the young people of both sexes in town. Chapman was twenty-five years of age just old enough to be a Congressman, if he should be elected, and it was gradually becoming a fight of the young men against the old ones.

There was a very large hall in the town, and at least a half hour before the meeting was called to order it was fairly jammed with hundreds unable to get in. Fred, on hearing that there were several hundred outside, had the chairman of the meeting announce that after the meeting he would address the outsiders from the steps of the hotel. Then Chapman was introduced, and he made his third speech in the campaign. It was a decided improvement upon the other two, and made a profound impression. He startled the audience by saying that he had been offered one thousand dollars in cash by Carter's friends to withdraw from the race, and gave the name of the man who had offered the money.

"It shows the depth to which the managers of the party have descended, when they try to remove a stumbling block by corrupt methods. I told him that ten thousand dollars would not influence me to withdraw front the race, as I was trying to save the district from the disgrace of being represented in the halls of the national Congress by the author of the infamous Carter bill."

When Chapman finished, Fred followed him, and made perhaps the best speech of his life. It was a splendid audience, and the profound attention he received seemed to him with a stream of lofty eloquence. He gave vent to his honest indignation at the attempt of Carter, while a member of the Assembly, to take from him the control of his own property.

"And, fellow citizens," he added, "whatever can be done to one under the forms of law, can be done to every citizen in the State. It is not only dishonest, but dangerous to every property holder in the State. It was not only unconstitutional, but it was disgraceful to the fair fame of the people whom he was sent to the Assembly to represent. His nomination was an insult to the intelligence and honesty of the entire district," and then he branched off into a eulogy of the character of George Chapman, which aroused the highest enthusiasm, and when he described his boyish struggles for the support of his mother and sister and an education for himself, men and women shed tears.

"He is an honor to the name his father bore," he asserted.

"He is honoring the teachings of his father in his fight for honesty and decency, and you have heard him to-night as a pleader in the cause of right and justice and can well imagine the brilliant future in store for him. He is emphatically the embodiment of a self-made man. He is an improvement upon his ancestors, as every one should be. The world moves and men should move with it. His great-uncle called on him at the hotel this afternoon and told him that he ought to thrashed for trying to be an honest, decent man."

"That's a lie!" blurted out Uncle John, in the distance. "I didn't say no such thing."

The interruption created intense excitement, and when order was restored Fred explained that such was not the old man's language, for he said that he ought to be thrashed for trying to bring about a split in his party.

"That's what I said," put in the old man, "and I say it again," whereupon there was a great cheering and hissing from the friends of both sides.

Then Fred pitched into the old man, quoted Scripture at him, ridiculed his pretensions to honesty in his old age, and told,anecdote after anecdote to illustrate his point, that, while it set the audience in a roar of laughter, exasperated the old man in the highest degree, who blurted out that both of them ought to be spanked and sent to bed.

"Yes," said Fred, "I don't doubt that you think so, or that you would do so if you could. Now, look at this," he continued, drawing his blood-stained handkerchief from his pocket and exhibiting it to the audience. "It was men like you, at Pelham the other night, who threw stones at us to break up the meeting. Here is a wound on my head and the blood to show what I have suffered in the cause of free speech. You can't give a reason for the faith that is in you, and you stand ready to break the heads of those who don't agree with you. It is such men as you, sir, that are clogs upon the progress of our great country. Your man, Carter, has tried to do that under the forms of law which could not be done by force. Every burglar in the district will vote for him every chicken thief, every horse thief. Because, if his ideas become embodied in statutory laws, they can go and take things without being punished for it. If Uncle John over there was to catch intruders pilfering fruit from his farm he would start the dogs on them, or swear out warrants for their arrest; yet, at the same time, he is going to vote for a man who is trying to give them the right to go in and rob him without molestation. They tell me he is a member of the church, and has the reputation of being an honest man, and I've no doubt he is in matters of business, but in politics he locks up his conscience and votes for his party, right or wrong."

Then, is he had done in the previous meetings he proceeded to address himself to the wives and mothers present, about training up their boys to be as honest on election day as any other day in the year.

"And, as for the old men," he added, "a great many of them are a source of more trouble to their wives and mothers than the young ones are. The old boy is the source of as much trouble as the young one, and as often goes wrong. Many a night," he added, "have the wives and mothers in this audience lain awake, waiting for the old man to come home, and when he came he had a plausible story on his tongue and a suspicious odor on his breath. Oh, yes, It isn't the boys altogether who go wrong, as every wife and mother here knows. Nearly every father present has perhaps called his boy a fool at some time In his life, but I have read somewhere of a wise man saving that there was no fool like an old fool."

He kept the audience roaring with laughter while depicting the follies and shortcomings of the average man, who kept on sowing wild oats until he became too old to reap them, finally dropping into his grave, leaving the harvest to be gathered by his descendants.

"Yet he is always slinking his gray hairs at the rising generation and preaching at the boys. Now, here are two of us," he added, "one of us not yet old enough to vote, fighting the battle for honesty and decency while old men are scoring us. I beseech you mothers in the audience to take the old man in hand. Talk to him; make him look at his reflection in the mirror, and say whether or not it is possible for a man to be honest in politics and honest in everything else."

It was a tremendous thrashing for Carter's supporters, and his anecdotes and keen wit made the entire performance better than a circus, while at times his eloquence thrilled his bearers until they sat spellbound under the sound of his voice.

As on the occasion of the other meeting, more than a hundred people, crowded around them to shake hands with them and more than a score assured Chapman they would support him.

"Then form a club here before you leave the hall," suggested Chapman, "and we will come back here for another meeting before the campaign ends."

While Fred was talking with the people around him, a stalwart fellow, some thirty years of age, pushed his way through the crowd and confronted him.

"See here, Fearnot," he said, "you have as good as accused us, who are supporting Carter, of being burglars, thieves and pickpockets."

"I beg your pardon, sir, I did nothing of the kind," said Fred. "I said that the law that Carter has tried to have passed by the Assembly would receive the support of every burglar, thief and pickpocket in the district, as it would give them the right to go upon another man's property ad take things from it without his consent."

"Well, that means the same thing, don't it?"

"No. If this man is a thief and that one over there is an honest man, both supporting Carter, and I make mention of the fact, that the thief is supporting him, it doesn't necessarily call the honest man a thief also."

"Well, I think it does," said the fellow.

"Very well; you're entitled to your opinion and I'm entitled to mine. It's your misfortune if you're not able to distinguish between right and wrong."

"Do you mean to say that I'm not able to distinguish between right and wrong."

"Oh, no; I simply remarked that if you couldn't, it was your misfortune. You seem to be spoiling for a fight. If that's what you want, I'm willing to accommodate you right here."

"That suits me," said the fellow, proceeding to pull off his coat.

"Oh, thunder!" exclaimed a dozen others, who were standing around, "put him out, put him out!" and they rushed at the intruder who fought like a tiger to avoid being put out of the hall.

All the women had retired, and there were perhaps fifty or seventy-five people still in the hall. Fred saw that the man was strong as a mule, very pugnacious, but with very little knowledge about the art of using his strength. He begged the crowd to let the fellow loose, and they did so.

"You can't put me out," boasted the bully. "I can lick any two of you."

"Well, look here, now," laughed Fred. "It's a pity to see a good-looking fellow like you spoiling for a fight. I want to make a bargain with you. You say you can lick any two men in this crowd?"

"Yes, I can."

"Well, then, I'm here to-night to make converts for my friend, Chapman, and I'll make this sort of a bargain with you, that if you can lick me, and do so, I'll get Chapman to withdraw from the race and both of us will take the stump for Carter. If, on the other hand, I lick you, you are to whoop it up for Chapman, not only vote for him, but work for him."

"I'll do it," said the fellow.

"All right," said Fred, "if you lick me, I'll make a speech for Carter in this hall to-morrow night, and take back everything I've said against him. Will some of you lock the front doors there to keep out the crowd?"

While some of them went to fasten the doors, others tried to dissuade Fred from what they thought was a rash undertaking.

"He's the bully of the county." said one. "You won't have the ghost of a chance with him."

"Wait about five minutes." said Fred. "The only thing I'm doubtful about is whether or not he'll keep his word and support Chapman if I thrash him."

"Oh, he'll keep his word; but I tell you, you can't do it."

"Well, wait and see," and with that Fred removed his coat and cuffs, handing his watch and chain to Chapman to hold for him, and they went at it.

The bully was under the impression that he had a soft snap, but in about one minute he was feeling like the fellow that was wondering why it was that he couldn't catch a hornet in his hand and hold him. He was unable to get in a blow, but kept making rushes to clinch with Fred in order to exercise his brute strength upon him, but he was invariably met with a stunning blow that sent him staggering back.

Finally he wanted to quit, or at least he ceased to make attacks, whereupon Fred rushed in to force the fighting, knocking him all around that corner of the ball. The fellow finally picked up a chair and raised it above his head. Fred stepped back and picked up a chair himself saying:

"I would prefer to have it out with nature's weapons, but if you want to have your head cracked with any other kind of weapon, I'll do it for you."

Of course the bystanders protested, and called the bully a coward.

"He's a prize-fighter," said the bully.

"Not a bit of it, only when I am up against prizes like you. You are an easy thing, and you've got to keep your promise, or your friends will have to take you out of here on a shutter," and he rushed at him, got him in a corner and rained blows upon his solar plexus until he sank down unconscious on the floor.

It took him nearly five minutes to come to. Then he staggered to his feet, sat down on a chair, and Fred asked him:

"Well, how about it? Are you going to vote for Chapman?"

"No." he growled, and Fred knocked him off the chair quick as a flash. Some of his friends interfered.

"Stand off, now," said Fred, "you heard the agreement. He's got to say 'enough' before I let up on him, and if he doesn't keep his word afterward, that's his fault and not mine and with that he began making demonstrations again, when the bully said:

"Hold on. I've got enough."

"All right," said Fred; "now let's see if you're man enough to keep your word. I knew I could lick you, because I saw that you are like a great many other fellows who don't know how to use their strength. If you'll come up to Dedham Lake some time, after the election, I'll give you a few lessons in the art of knocking the other fellow out. It's altogether in knowing how to do it," and with that he left the hall with Chapman and a crowd of fellows who looked upon him as a marvel intellectually and physically.

When he reached the hotel he found a big crowd of outsiders who had not been able to get into the hall waiting for him.

"Great Scott!" he said to Chapman, "I forgot all about these fellows here. I promised to speak to them from the steps of the hotel."

"Well, you'll have to do it," remarked Chapman, who at once proceeded to address the crowd of about two hundred.

He didn't make a long speech, and Fred followed him in a talk of about twenty minutes that kept the crowd in a roar of laughter all the time. It was a harvest for the hotel, for all the evening there was a crowd in the barroom.

By the time that Fred had finished speaking the crowd had the news of his fight with the bully up at the hotel, and of course it gave him a wonderful reputation with the younger portion of the crowd. They hurrahed and cheered for help long after he finished talking. Williams and Crane, the original Chapman men of the town, were earnest in their expressions of belief that from fifty to a hundred votes had been made by the meeting, and that the managers of Carter's campaign in the town were very much worried.

"Were they at the meeting?" Fred asked.

"Yes. and I heard one of them say that the Carter bill would hurt the party a great deal in the district, but that the convention which nominated him had not endorsed it or assumed responsibility for it."

"No," said Fred, "but they did endorse him as a statesman and a wise legislator, and that's even worse than endorsing the hill. You'll have to work hard, and I want the secretary of the club that you organized to get the name of every man who has left Carter's party in this town and is going to support Chapman. I want you to send their names to either Chapman or myself, because we want to know, upon what to base our calculations. We don't want to be guessing in the dark."

"All right," said Williams, "you shall have their names inside of a week, but very great pressure is going to be brought to bear upon them to stand by the party and its nominee."

"Yes, I know that. It's more apt to have its effect upon the old voters than upon the young ones. The old fellows have been running this thing for a long time, and now it's time for the boys to take a hand in it the first voters."

The next morning the news of Fred's encounter with the bully was the sole topic of conversation in the town, except among the women. The latter talked of nothing else but the splendid speeches they had heard and of their earnest desire to see such a man as Chapman elected. The girls said that such men make the best husbands, while the elderly ladies remarked that boys who toiled to support their mothers and sisters, while educating themselves, were very scarce, and that whenever one was found, nothing was too good for him. The women in the families of the most ardent partisans of Carter were outspoken in their preferences for the young independent candidate, and it was soon known in Homer that if the women were permitted to vote Carter wouldn't be in it with Chapman.

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