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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter5,part2)

2006-08-28 23:26

    PART 2

    It was while Jeff was doing the City Hall run that there came to him one night at his rooms a man he had known in the old days when he had lived in the river bottom district. If he was surprised to see him the reporter did not show it.

    "Hello, Burke! Come in. Glad to see you." Farnum took the hat of his guest and relieved his awkwardness by guiding him to a chair and helping him get his pipe alight.

    "How's everything? Little Mike must be growing into a big boy these days. Let's see. It's three years since I've seen him."

    A momentary flicker lit the gloomy eyes of the Irishman. "He's a great boy, Mike is. He often speaks of you, Mr. Farnum.

    "Glad to know it. And Mrs. Burke?"

    "Fine."

    "That leaves only Patrick Burke. I suppose he hasn't fallen off the water wagon yet."

    The occupation of Burke had been a threadbare joke between them in the old days. He drove a street sprinkler for the city.

    "That's what he has. McGuire threw the hooks into me this mor- rning. I've drove me last day."

    "What's the matter?"

    "I'm too damned honest. . . . or too big a coward. Take your choice."

    "All right. I've taken it," smiled the reporter.

    Pat brought his big fist down on the table so forcefully that the books shook. "I'll not go to the penitentiary for an-ny man. . . . He wanted me to let him put two other teams on the rolls in my name. I wouldn't stand for it. That was six weeks ago. To-day he lets me out."

    Jeff began to see dimly the trail of the serpent graft. He lit his pipe before he spoke.

    "Don't quite get the idea, Pat. Why wouldn't you?"

    "Because I'm on the level. I'll have no wan tellin' little Mike his father is a dirty thief. . . .It's this way. The rolls were to be padded, understand."

    "I see. You were to draw pay for three teams when you've got only

    one."

    "McGuire was to draw it, all but a few dollars a month." The Irishman leaned forward, his eyes blazing. "And because I wouldn't stand for it I'm fired for neglecting my duty. I missed a street yesterday. If he'd been frientlly to me I might have missed forty. . . . But he can't throw me down like that. I've got the goods to show he's a dirty grafter. Right now he's drawing pay for seven teams that don't exist."

    "And he doesn't know you know it?"

    "You bet he don't. I've guessed it for a month. To-day I went round and made sure."

    Jeff asked questions, learned all that Burke had to tell him. In the days that followed he ran down the whole story of the graft so secretly that not even the city editor knew what he was about. Then he had a talk with the "old man" and wrote his story.

    It was a red-hot exposure of one of the most flagrant of the City Hall gang. There was no question of the proof. He had it in black and white. Moreover, there was always the chance that in the row which must follow McGuire might peach on Big Tim himself, the boss of all the little bosses.

    Within twenty-four hours Jeff was summoned to a conference at which were present the city editor and Warren, now managing editor.

    "We've killed your story, Farnum," announced the latter as soon as the door was closed.

    "Why? I can prove every word of it."

    "That was what we were afraid of."

    "It's a peach of a story. With the spring elections coming on we need some dynamite to blow up Big Tim. I tell you McGuire would tell all he knows to save his own skin."

    "My opinion, too," agreed Warren dryly. "My boy, it's too big a story. That's the whole trouble. If we were sure it would stop at McGuire we'd run it. But it won't. The corporations are backing Big Tim to win this spring. It won't do to get him tied up in a graft scandal."

    "But the _Advocate_ has been out after his scalp for years."

    "Well, we're not after it any more. Of course, we're against him on the surface still."

    Jeff did some rapid thinking. "Then the program will be for us to nominate a weak ticket and elect Big Tim's by default. Is that it?"

    "That's about it. The big fellows have to make sure of a Mayor who will be all right about the Gas and Electric franchise. So we're going to have four more years of Big Tim."

    "Will Brownell stand for it?"

    Brownell was the principal owner of the _Advocate._

    "Will he?" Warren let his eyelash rest for a second upon the cheek nearest Jeff. "He's been seen. My orders come direct from the old man."

    The story was suppressed. No more was heard about the McGuire graft scandal exposure. It had run counter to the projects of big business.

    Burke had to be satisfied without his revenge.

    He got a job with a brewery and charged the McGuire matter to profit and loss.

    As for Jeff the incident only served to make clearer what he already knew. More and more he began to understand the forces that dominate our cities, the alliance between large vested interests and the powers that prey. These great corporations were seekers of special privileges. To secure this they financed the machines and permitted vice and corruption. He saw that ultimately most of the shame for the bad government of American cities rests upon the Fromes and the Merrills.

    As for the newspapers, he was learning that between the people and an independent press stand the big advertisers. These make for conservatism, for an unfair point of view, for a slant in both news recording and news interpretation. Yet he saw that the press is in spite of this a power for good. The evil that it does is local and temporary, the good general and permanent.

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