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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter6,part2)

2006-08-28 23:26

    PART 2

    As James understood his own genius, it was as a statesman that he was fitted preeminently to shine. He had the urbanity, the large impassive manner, and the magnetic eloquence of the old-style congressman. All he needed was the chance.

    With the passing months he grew more restless at the delay. There were moments in the night when he trembled lest some stroke of evil fate might fall upon him before he had carved his name in the niche of fame. To sit in an empty law office and wait for clients took more patience than he could summon. He wanted an opportunity to make speeches in the campaign that was soon to open. That he finally went to Big Tim himself about it instead of to his ward committeeman was characteristic of James

    K. After he sent his card in the young lawyer was kept waiting for thirty-five minutes in an outer office along with a Jew peddler, a pugilist ward heeler, an Irish saloonkeeper, and a brick contractor. Naturally he was exceedingly annoyed. O'Brien ought to know that James K. Farnum did not rank with this riff-raff.

    When at last James got into the holy of holies he found Big Tim lolling

    back in his swivel chair with a fat cigar in his mouth. The boss did not take the trouble to rise as he waved his visitor to a chair.

    Farnum explained that he was interested in the political situation and that he was prepared to take an active part in the campaign about to open. The big man listened, watching him out of half shut attentive eyes. He had never yet seen a kid glove politician that was worth the powder to blow him up. Moreover, he had special reasons for disliking this one. His cousin was editor of the _World_, and that paper was becoming a thorn in his side.

    O'Brien took the cigar from his mouth. "Did youse go to the primary last night?' he asked.

    James did not even know there had been one. He had in point of fact been at a Country Club dance.

    "Can youse tell me what the vote of your precinct was at the last city election?"

    The budding statesman could not.

    "What precinct do youse live in?"

    Farnum was not quite sure. He explained that he had moved recently.

    Big Tim grunted scornfully. He was pleased to have a chance to take down the cheek of any Farnum.

    "What do youse think you can do?"

    "I can make speeches. I'm the best orator that ever came out of Verden University."

    "Tommyrot! How do youse stand in your precinct? Can youse get the vote out to go down the line for us? That's what counts. Oratory be damned!"

    James was pale with rage. The manner of the boss was nothing less than insulting.

    "Then you decline to give me a chance, Mr. O'Brien?"

    "I do not. In politics a man makes his own chance. He gets along by being so useful we can't get along without him. See? He learns the game. You don't know the A B C of it. It's my opinion youse never will."

    O'Brien's hard cold eye triumphed over him as a principal does over a delinquent schoolboy.

    His vanity stung, the lawyer sprang to his feet. "Very well, Mr. O'Brien. I'll show you a thing or two about what I can and can't do."

    For just an instant a notion flitted across Big Tim's mind that he might be making a mistake. He was indulging an ugly temper, and he knew it. This was a luxury he rarely permitted himself. Now he decided to "go the whole hog," as he phrased it to himself later. His lips set to an ugly snarl.

    "It's like the nerve of ye to come to me. Want to begin at the top instid of at the bottom. Go to Billie Gray if youse want to have some wan learn youse the game. If you're any good he'll find it out."

    James got himself out of the office with all the dignity of which he was capable. Go to Billie Gray, the notorious ballot box stuffer! Take orders from the little rascal who had shaved the penitentiary only because of his pull! James saw himself doing it. He was sore in every outraged nerve of him. Never before in his life had anybody sat and sneered at him openly before his eyes. He would show the big boss that he had been a fool to treat him so. And he would show P. C. Frome and Ned Merrill that he was a very valuable man.

    How? Why, by fighting the corporations! Wasn't that the way that all the big men got their start nowadays as lawyers? As soon as they discovered his value Frome and his friends would be after his services fast enough. James was no radical, but he believed Jeff knew what he was talking about when he predicted an impending political change, one that would carry power back from the machine bosses to the people. The young lawyer decided to ride that wave as far as it would take him. He would be a tribune of the people, and they in turn would make of him their hero. With the promised backing of the _World_ he would go a long way. He knew that Jeff would fling him at once into the limelight. And he would make good. He would be the big speaker for the reform movement. Nobody in the state could sway a crowd as he could. James had not the least doubt about that. It was glory and applause he wanted, not the drudgery of dirty ward politics.

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