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Mastering Manhood

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Owen Diaz
Owen Diaz

Part 2- Ashwitha Zip

The huge convention-hall still rang with the thunders of applause, andmost of the delegates were on their feet shouting or waving their hats,when Harley slipped from his desk and made his way quietly to the littleside-door leading from the stage. It was all over now but the noise;after a long and desperate fight Grayson, a young lawyer, with littlemore than a local reputation, had been nominated by his party for thePresidency of the United States, and Harley, alert, eager, and fond ofdramatic effects, intended to be the first who should tell him thesurprising fact.

Part 2- Ashwitha zip

He paused a moment, with his hand on the door, and, looking out upon thehall with its multitude of hot, excited faces, ran quickly over theevents of the last three or four days. Ten thousand people had satthere, hour after hour, waiting for the result, and now the result hadcome. The rival parties had entered their conventions, full of doubt andapprehension. There was a singular dearth of great men; the old oneswere all dead or disabled, and the new ones had not appeared; the nationwas conscious, too,[Pg 2] of a new feeling, and all were bound to recognizeit; the sense of dependency upon the Old World in certain matters whichapplied to the mental state rather than anything material was almostgone; the democracy had grown more democratic and the republic was morerepublican; within the nation itself the West was taking a greaterprominence, and the East did not begrudge it. It was felt by everybodyin either party that it would be wiser to nominate a Western man, and,the first having done so, the second, as all knew it must, now followedthe good example.

The eyes of Harley, like those of so many of his countrymen, had alwaysbeen turned eastward. To him New York was the ultimate expression ofAmerica, and beyond the great city lay the influence of Europe, of thatOld World to which belonged the most of art and literature. The booksthat he read were written chiefly by Europeans, and the remainder by themen of New England and New York. He had never put it into so many words,even mentally, but he had a definite impression that the great world ofaffairs was composed of central and western Europe and a half-dozenNorthern coast states of the American Union; beyond this centre of lightlay a shadow land, growing darker as the distance from the central raysincreased, inhabited by people, worthy no doubt, but merely forming achorus for those who had the speaking parts.

Through the station windows he saw the tall buildings rise floor onfloor, and there was a clang of car-bells that never ceased. In thefresh morning air it was inspiriting, and Harley felt himself a part ofthe crowd. He was no hermit. Life and activity[Pg 13] and the spectacle ofpeople filled with hope always pleased him.

The crowd in the station, reinforced from many side-doors, thickened,and Mr. and Mrs. Grayson, under the gaze of so many eyes, became uneasyand shy. Harley, who had been made a member of their party, foundhimself sharing this awkward feeling, and he was glad to hear theannouncement that the train was ready.

The train sped westward through the granary of the world, cutting in analmost direct line across the mighty valley of the Mississippi, and theywere still hundreds of miles away from the Grayson home. In going westboth parties had gone very far west, and the two candidates not onlylived beyond the Mississippi, but beyond the Missouri as well.

He tried to see the face of this maid, who showed a perversity that wasunequalled in an experience by no means limited, but she stood in theduskiest part of the dim hall, and he failed. He knew merely that shewas tall and slender, and when she turned to lead the way he heard afaint sound like the light tinkle of a suppressed laugh. Harley started,and his face flushed with anger. He had encountered often those whotried to snub him, and usually he had been able to take care of himself,but to be laughed at by a housemaid was a new thing in his experience,and he was far from liking it.

"We hear that you have been to dinner with the candidate," saidChurchill, the representative of the New York Monitor, a sneeringsheet owned by one foreigner and edited by another, which kept its eyeon Europe, and considered European opinion final, particularly in regardto American affairs; "so you can tell us if it is true that he picks histeeth at table with a fork."

The candidate and his wife had taken the drawing-room, not from anydesire of his for seclusion or as an artificial aid to greatness, butbecause he saw that it was necessary if he would have any time forthought or rest. Harley approached the compartment, expecting to beannounced by the porter, but a veiled[Pg 32] lady in the seat next to it roseup before him. She lifted the veil, which was not a disguise, insteadbeing intended merely as a protection against the dust that one gatherson a railroad journey, and Harley stopped in surprise.

She regarded Harley with a grave face, and he was divided betweenvexation and a sort of reluctant admiration of her coolness. She wasbold and forward, not to say impertinent, but she seemed whollyunconscious of it, and, after all, she was from one of the wildest partsof Idaho. He kindly excused much of her conduct on the ground of earlyassociation.

The correspondents who travelled with Harley were mostly men ofexperience, readily adaptable, and the addition of a new member to Mr.Grayson's party could not escape their attention. Harley was surprisedand shocked to find that all of them were well acquainted with MissMorgan inside of six hours, and that they seemed to be much bettercomrades[Pg 35] with her than he had been. Hobart, the most frivolous of thelot, and the most careless of speech, returning from the Grayson car,informed him that she was a "great girl, as fine as silk."

[Pg 38]Again she inspired him with hostility; she seemed, as before, too bold,too boisterous, too much the mountain maid, although he could notanalyze any particular incident as wrong in itself. And clearly she hadwon the liking, even the admiration, of his associates, all of whom weremen of wide experience. Tremaine, the dean of the corps, a ruddy,white-haired old fellow, who had written despatches from theRusso-Turkish war, which was ancient history to Harley, warmed visiblyto Miss Morgan. "It is always the way with those old gallants," wasHarley's silent comment. But he had never before characterized Tremainein such a manner.

[Pg 39]"There is some idle time this afternoon," said Hobart, "and Tremaine andI have asked Miss Morgan to go driving. She has accepted, but it takesfour to make a party, and you are the lucky fourth."

Harley, seated in an obscure corner of the stage, but one offering manypoints of vantage for his own view, saw the vast crowd come quickly intothe hall, among the largest in the world, and he heard the hum ofvoices, in which he thought he could distinguish two notes, one of favorand one of attack. Yet the audience was orderly, and on the whole theelement of curiosity prevailed. The correspondent, quick to read suchsigns, saw that the people had an open mind in regard to Jimmy Grayson;it was left to the candidate to make his own impression. Churchill tooka seat near him and began to annoy him with depreciatory remarks aboutGrayson, not spoken to Harley in particular, but to the wide world.Hobart once said that Churchill needed no audience, preferring to talkto the air, which could make no reply of its own, but must return anecho.

Harley lingered a little with the other [Pg 50]correspondents, and was amongthe last to leave the building. He was thinking of the Idaho girl, buthe did not fail to notice what was going on, and he saw a group ofmiddle-aged or elderly men, the majority of them portly in figure andautocratic in bearing, follow the trail of Jimmy Grayson. Althoughfamiliar with the faces of only one or two in the group, he knewinstinctively who they were. It was a gathering of the great, moneyedmen of the party, eager to see the attitude of Grayson upon affairs thatconcerned them intimately, and prompt to take action in accordance. Theywere the guardians of "vested" interests, interests watched over as fewthings in this world are, and they were resolved to see that they tookno harm. But the speech of the night had been general in its nature, apreliminary as it were, and Harley judged that they would do nothing asyet but skirmish upon the outskirts, keeping a wary eye for the mainbattle when it should be joined.

[Pg 56]Harley knew some of these men by name; one, the leader of the party, amassive, red-faced man, was the Honorable Clinton Goodnight, a member ofthe Lower House of Congress from New York, but primarily a manufacturer,a man of many millions; and the younger and slenderer man, with thedelicately trimmed and pointed beard, was Henry Crayon, one of theshrewdest bankers in Wall Street. These two, at least, he knew by face,but no trained observer could doubt that the others were of the samekind.

She was not in jest, and she compelled him to talk. It was far from thestation to the hotel, and she revealed a knowledge of the world'saffairs that Harley thought astonishing in one coming from the depths ofthe Idaho mountains. She touched, too, upon the things that interestedhim most, and drew him on until he was talking with a zest and interest[Pg 58]that permitted no self-consciousness. Resolved that he would not tellwhat he had seen, and by nature reserved, he was, within five minutes,under her deft questions, in the middle of a long narrative of events onthe other side of the world. He saw her listening, her eyes bright, herlips slightly parted, and he knew that he held her attention. He wasaware, too, that he was flattered by the interest that he had been ableto create in the mind of this Idaho girl whose opinion he had beenholding so cheaply.

The Graysons, Miss Morgan, Harley, Hobart, and a few others formed afamily group again at the table, when they dined that evening, and allthe tensity and anxiety visible the day before was gone.[Pg 59] Mr. Grayson'ssuccess in Chicago had been too complete, too sweeping to leave doubt ofits continuance; he would be the hero and leader of his party, not aweight upon it, and the question now was whether or not the party hadvotes enough; hence there was a certain light and joyous air about themwhich gave to their short stay in the dining-room a finer flavor thanany that a chef could add. 041b061a72


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