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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter19,part1)

2006-08-28 23:39

    CHAPTER 19

    The practical man is the man who knows what can't be done. When he begins to let hope take the place of information in this regard, he becomes a conservative. When prejudice takes the place of hope, the mere conservative graduates into a tory, or a justice of the supreme court. It's all a matter of the chemistry of substitution. ——Dr.G.L. Knapp.

    THE SAFE MAN FURNISHES DIVERSION

    PART 1

    For once the machine had overplayed its hand. Caught unexpectedly by Jeff's return, no effective counter attack was possible. Dunn's story in the _World_ swept the city and the state like wildfire. It was a crouched dramatic narrative and its effect was telling. From it only one inference could be drawn. The big corporations, driven to the wall, had attempted a desperate coup to save the day. It was all very well for Big Tim to file a libel suit. The mind of the public was made up.

    The mass meeting at the State House drew an enormous crowd, one so great that overflow meetings had to be held. Every corridor in the building was full of excited jostling people. They poured into the gallery of the Senate room and packed the rear of the floor itself. Against such a demonstration the upper house did not dare pass the Garman bill immediately. It was held over for a few days to give the public emotion a chance to die. Instead, the resentment against machine and corporate domination grew more bitter. Stinging resolutions from the back counties were wired to members who had backslidden. Committees of prominent citizens from up state and across the mountains arrived at Verden for heart-to- heart talks with the assemblymen from their districts.

    At a hurried meeting of the managers of the public utilities companies it was decided that the challenge of the _World_ must be accepted. For many who had believed in the total depravity of Jefferson Farnum were beginning to doubt. Unless the man's character could be impeached successfully the day was lost. And with four witnesses against him how

    could the trouble maker escape?

    The committee of investigation consisted of Senator Frome; Clinton Rogers, the shipbuilder; Thomas Elliott, a law partner of Hardy; James Moran, a wholesale wheat shipper, and the leading clergyman of Verden. It sat behind locked doors, adjourning from one office to another to obtain secrecy.

    For the defense appeared as witnesses Marchant, Miller, Mrs. Anderson and Nellie. To doubt the truth of the young wife's story was impossible. The agony of shyness and shame that flushed her, the simple broken words of her little tragedy, bore the stamp of minted gold. It was plain to see that she was a victim of betrayal, being slowly won back to love of life by her husband and her child.

    The committee in its report told the facts briefly without giving names. Even P. C. Frome could find no excuse for not signing it.

    The effect was instantaneous. On this one throw the machine had staked everything. That it had lost was now plain. In a day Jeff was the hero of Verden, of the state at large. His long fight for reform, the dramatic features of the shanghaing and his return, the collapse of the charges against his character, all contributed to lift him to dizzy popularity. He was the very much embarrassed man of the hour.

    All the power of the Transcontinental, of the old city hall gang, of the money that had been spent to corrupt the legislature, was unable to roll back the tide of public determination. White-faced assemblymen sneaked into offices at midnight to return the bribe money for which they dared not deliver the goods. Two days after the report of the investigating committee Jeff's bill passed the Senate. Within three hours it was signed by Governor Hawley. That it would be ratified by a vote of the people and so become a part of the state constitution was a foregone conclusion.

    Jeff and his friends had forged the first of the tools they needed to rescue the government of the state from the control of the allied plunderers.

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