Gamaliel Bradford.

Matthew Porter, a story of to-day online

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I 908





*' ' Ladies and gentlemen, behold the
man himself ",ei50)

From a painting b}^ Qriswold "Uyng.



0,1 -ur

By ^


Author of * ' The Private Tutor, " " Between Two Masters, ' ' etc.

With a frontispiece in colour by

No wit, no help like a woman's "

— Thomas Middleton.




.j|^Cr-a«fAii- 3-ii'

BOSTON 5 £ L. C PAl,^ &

'^ 7 ' ¥ v^"* oL-<^

Copyright^ igo8
By L. C. Page & Company

( incorporated)


Entered at Stationers' Hall, London

All rights reserved

^ m • • - • *

• • • k ■

• • ' First ImpresVion, March, 1908

• . • . " •

* » • • ,-•


Ehctrotyped and Printed by C. H. Simonds <Sr» Co.

Boston, U.S. A.



William J. Wood and his nephew, Dudley
Heath, were dining together at the Beacon Club
in Boston. Wood proposed to be the Republi-
can boss of Massachusetts and United States '
senator; and many thought his ambitions were
likely to be realized. He was a man of some-
thing under fifty, with a clean-shaven face, light
hair and gray eyes, and a solid jaw.

It was about a month after the Presidential
election; and as Wood had just come back
from the capital, his talk naturally turned on
the prospects there.

It's like sitting on a volcano," he said.

Nobody can tell what may happen. People
that like sensations ought to live in Washington.
They'll get them."

Then he spoke of Massachusetts affairs, of -
Governor Worcester, just elected for a second
term, who would certainly not stand again and
was Wood's rival for the Senate; of the lieu-
tenant-governor, Graham, who had died since
the election.


" Yes, Dudley," said the elder man at length,
" 111 put you in for Governor next fall."

Heath made no direct answer. " Why not go
up-stairs and have a smoke, if you've finished? "
he suggested.

They went. When they were comfortably
settled in opposite corners of a huge sofa,
Heath resumed the conversation. "So you
think I should make a good governor? "

His uncle looked thoughtfully at the face of
the speaker, before replying. It was a hand-
some face, but not a pleasant one. The fore-
head, the dark smooth hair, the hazel eyes were
well enough; but the nose was coarsely prom-
inent and the mouth was peculiarly cynical and
sensual, even in smiling. " No," answered the
Honourable William J. " You're the best gov-
ernor in sight, from my point of view; but
you won't make a good governor, from any-
body's point of view, till you cut out that sneer
and the make-believe of not believing in things.
You're cynical, and that never does anybody
any good — least of all the owner."

Heath leaned back in his corner and smiled,
with more cynicism than ever. " You're not a
cynic," he murmured. " You do believe in
things. You ought to be in the church instead
of politics."

" I believe in myself," was the cool answer.

" I hope you don't expect me to."

Wood disregarded the interruption, and con-
tinued. " I believe in other things, but that's


none of your business. At any rate, if there are
a few things I don't beheve in, I don't go
around saying so."

"Do I?" inquired the injured nephew.
" My business is to make people feel that I
beheve what they believe. I've made rather a
success of it, I fancy."

" You've got a sort of useful popularity.
There's no denying it. The public doesn't know
you as well as I do. Anybody would suppose
your face would tell the secret."

Heath murmured his thanks with entire im-
perturbability. " It's a face that has fitted a
Massachusetts representative and senator pretty
well for several years. It will fit a governor,
don't you think? "

" Oh, yes. Any face will do that."

Both men smoked and were silent for a little,
watching the comers and goers in the room
about them. Now and then they exchanged a
nod or brief greeting with a passer-by.

At length Heath recurred to the subject.
" Speaking of cynicism, there's Mat Porter.
Some say he's going to be governor."

Wood's hard jaw set harder. " That Porter
— he's no cynic. He beheves in himself and a
lot of other things beside. You could learn
something from him."
Think so?"

Well, no, I don't think so. But it would do
you good to try. He's a man we've got to look
out for. He has ideas, and they're as danger-


ous as dynamite. I never shall forget the way
he worked that factory sanitation bill through
the legislature last spring. The money and the
influence were all on the other side. But he had
his men hypnotized. We couldn't do anything
with them. If he gets up for governor, we
shall have to fight. He'll show whether your
smile will come off or not. But the Democratic
committee fellows will fight him as hard as we
shall. You know him, don't you? Up-country
chap? Came from Foxbridge, didn't he?"

The speaker had leaned forward and asked
his questions eagerly, but Heath did not find
the eagerness contagious and drawled his an-
swer from the same quiet posture in the corner.
" Yes, I know Porter — more than I want to.
We were classmates. But the Foxbridge people
wouldn't like to be called up-country. The
world revolves about them. No, Porter's no
cynic, just the sort of man you wish I were.
If I were, how you'd sneer at me! His father
was a minister and I fancy it's in the blood.
The father's dead now and Mat lives with an
older sister. He's about my age, I suppose,
thirty-five or so. He's got a little money, stud-
ied law and is good at it, but prefers politics.
He was a hypnotizer, as you say, in college,
baseball, debating, all that sort of thing. A
thorough athlete — not heavy, but sound, all
bone and muscle, never done up. Not the Por-
cellian, — Oh, no. But a fellow everybody
liked. Now he's in poUtics for ideas, — as


you say ; and a dangerous man, — as you say ;
and the Democratic committee fellows hate him,

— as you say. But it wouldn't surprise me a
bit if he was too many for them — and for us."

" And all we've got to fight him with is you,"
commented Wood, in a tone of discouragement.

" Yes, I'm the only one in sight, — as you
say. But then there are some things to be said
for me." Here the cynic sat up and put a shade
more animation into his manner. "I'm a gen-
tleman — the real, dissipated, idle, swell article,
such as the horny-handed people like. I'm
shrewd and know a trick or two, as j^ou can't
deny. I can adapt myself to anything or any-
body. That's one of the advantages of not be-
lieving in anything, and it helps out, even when
one can't hypnotize. And then I like a fight.
I've played football, and I've played polo, and
I've been to Cuba, and now I should like noth-
ing better than a fair match with Mat Porter

— to a finish. It will wake me up. See? "
William J. Wood saw, and his spirits seemed

partially revived. " Know anything about Por-
ter's ideas?" he asked. "What's he going to
spring on us, anyway? "

The prospective governor did not answer
until he had ordered a Scotch and soda, a liba-
tion in which his uncle declined to share.
" Mat's ideas? That sort of thing isn't in my
line, you know. I never meddle with ideas of
any kind. I believe he wants to give the gov-
ernor more power, says the legislature is an irre-


sponsible mob and would like to call it down,
* rakes over the committee method of transacting
business, and talks about the Executive — with
a big E — doing something. Fancy it ! With
a score of governors on record who have done
nothing in such a beautiful way and with so
much credit! "

" Why, he's a crank," exclaimed William J.,
in utter disgust.

" Oh, no, he believes in things, that's all."

" Bosh! A man can't work politics with such
notions as that."

" But you see he's a hypnotizer, as you justly
pointed out. A crank who can hypnotize is the
kind of man that does the biggest things and
makes the other fellows look lively."

Wood uttered no response to this, but sat
back in his corner, buried in smoke and thought.
Perhaps he wished now that he had tried a little
of the comforting beverage which his nephew
was sipping leisurely.

" We've got to get down to business," he
murmured at last. " And it can't be too soon.
Is this Porter boom really started?"

Heath shook his head and sipped. " Don't
know," he said.

" We don't want to start it for him. But
we'll watch out, and when the time comes, an
editorial or two will help — danger of revolu-
tionary ideas, record of the old party for sta-
bility, people should be cautious about trusting
new men and their experiments. We must get


the papers into line early — especially the inde-
pendent ones."

" Sounds feeblish to me," suggested the sym-
pathetic nephew.

Wood paid no attention to this, but fell again
to his reflections. " Of course there's the possi-
bility of fixing him," he began once more.

"Who? Porter?" snapped Heath. "Oh,
no, there isn't. How often must I tell you that
he believes in things? "

" Is there anything he believes in more than
in a ten-thousand-dollar salary? "

" Cynic! And you accuse me of not believ-
ing in human nature!"

Yet again the Republican leader dropped
back into the vast abyss of contemplation.
When he emerged, it was with another idea,
though his manner did not indicate great con-
fidence. " You said he wasn't married? "
No. Lives with his sister."
Sometimes the best way to get at that sort
of man is through a woman."

" Sometimes," agreed Heath, non-commit-

"A woman like Nellie Fleet, you know,"
W^c)d continued, in a tentative tone. " She
played the very devil with the legislators."

Wouldn't do at all. She couldn't touch
.him — not his kind."

No? " was the disappointed answer.

That's a pity. He must be very particular.'*
He is.'^ '^\





" By the way," said the uncle, taking up the
thread again, after a moment, " haven't I heard
that he and you were sweet on the same girl? '*

" You may have."


" We are still — sweet on her, in your pleas-
ant phraseology."

" Now that's curious. Isn't there something
to be done with him that way? That Ferguson
girl, isn't it? Can't she persuade him out of his
nonsense? There's nothing in the world like
a woman to do it."

" Just so." Heath seemed to take more in-
terest now. He sat up and finished his whiskey
and threw away his cigar. " But you see, I
want the Ferguson girl myself."

" Surely you don't believe in love, at your
age," sneered Wood.

" Not a bit of it. But I believe in money.
Her father's got a pot of money, with all his
electric roads and stuff, and she's the only child.
And then I want to beat that fellow Porter.
I went into this fight before the governorship
question was dreamed of and I'm bound to win

" All right. I wouldn't disturb your love-
affairs. It's a pity to destroy the few illusions
you've got. But your cousin, IVIiss Bucking-
ham, has money. At one time I thought you
were after her. She must be a finer woman, I
should sav."

Heath haij^-frlosed his eyes and appeared to be



dwelling on a mental comparison. " Oh, yes,"
he agreed slowly. "She's a finer woman. No
doubt about that. Too fine for me. Too fine
for any one. She walks with her head in the
air. A man can't touch her."

" I see," said the uncle with a nod. " It's
natural enough. A woman of thirty — she
must be that, I suppose ? — who's had her own
way and millions for ten years, isn't likely to
make a model wife."

"I'd risk that. Margaret Ferguson won't
make a model wife — nor I a model husband.
But Viola won't make a wife at all — for me,
at any rate."

" She's a wise woman. How does she live?
What does she do? Play bridge or slum? "

" Neither. She has a salon. Fancy it ! In
Boston! She has a crowd of what she considers
Bohemians — guaranteed strictly virtuous —
women who sing and paint and play and that
sort of thing — high art, you know. That idiot,
George Buckingham, is her factotum. She
doesn't sing, nor play, nor paint herself — con-
siders herself above it, I imagine. But she's
a patroness of the Muses. Such Muses! She
scorns bridge and slums both. Won't that do
for her? "

Wood made no answer, but once more be-
came absorbed in thought. Heath fit another
cigar and looked at the ceiling. There were
various other groups in the room, laughing and
chatting; but no one seemed disposed to disturb


.the uncle and nephew in their quiet corner,
though now and then a curious glance was cast
in that direction.

" How would she do for Porter? " suggested
Wood at length.

"Viola? Oh, Lord!" And Heath laughed
his silent, unpleasant laugh.

" Why not? He's a minister's son, you say,
brought up in the country, probably knows
nothing about that kind of life. Let her draw
him in, sing to him, play for him, paint for him
— or get others to. Give him things to eat and
drink. Get a lot of pretty girls fluttering
around him — strictly virtuous, as you say.
He'd lose his grip on his ideas — just a little,
just a little more, all the time."

Heath continued to gaze at the ceiling, but
his laughter had faded and given place to medi-

"Then," Wood continued, "it won't be all
what she does to him, but what we can do to
him. Some of our noble, independent papers
will be so grieved to hear that the once promis-
ing hero of Democracy is coming into contact
with associations which — aren't good for him.
And the Republican sheets will be delighted
that he is getting civilized and that the Demo-
crats have at last chosen a man who is honoured
by the society of our best citizens. I see a lot
in this. Doesn't your cousin love you enough
to do you such a small favour? "

" She doesn't love me at all." The speaker


was leaning forward now, with his head between
his hands, thinking over the proposition.

" Oh, yes, she does."

" No, she doesn't. But she hates Democrats
and radicals and the people generally. She's an
aristocrat to her toes. She might take to the
idea of converting him, ypu know, educating
him, reforming him. She has a lot of that sort
of stuff in her, if it's put to her right."

" And you're just the man to put it to her
right," exclaimed the gratified intriguer.

" Thanks. No doubt you could do it better;
but I suppose it would come from me more
naturally." Then, after a moment of silence,
which his uncle did not venture to interrupt.
Heath added: "Has it occurred to vou that
she might take it into her head to marry him? "

"Thunder! No!" The ejaculation was loud
enough to attract the attention of several mem-
bers of the nearest group; but the speaker low-
ered his tone, as he asked, " Would she? "

" I should say not, if a woman didn't always
marry the man you knew she wouldn't."

It was the uncle's turn to reflect again, with
a shadowed forehead; but it cleared at length.
" And if she did, how could we ruin him more
surely? What is ruin for a poor, ambitious
radical with ideas, but to marry a haughty, lux-
urious aristocrat, who will make him throw over
his followers, and run after her whims, and
dance to every tune she chooses to play? Let
her marry him."


But Heath was doubtful still. " Think what
he could do with her money! "

"Nonsense! You're jealous already. Think
what the money would do with him! We must
take some chances. Wouldn't the Democracy
of Massachusetts mistrust a man who was wal-
lowing in the inherited accumulation of the capi-
talists? I'll undertake to make them mistrust
him, if the unexpected should occur. Go at the
thing, will you? You can't begin too soon."

So the astute politician continued to combat
his nephew's objections with increasing energy,
until Heath at last agreed to see Viola and
sound her. That could do no harm at any rate.

" Naturally," said Wood, " there's no use in
showing her the whole hand. Flatter her. Per-
suade her that she can save the party and the
state by getting the kinks out of this fellow
and making him run in harness. He might be
a good Republican, if he could get rid of his


" And his honesty," Heath suggested.

" But you needn't point out to her," Wood
went on, "that it will be just as useful to us
to have him associate with her, whether she con-
verts him or not."

" I admit I'm a cynic," interrupted the young
man; " but I'm not a fool. Leave me to man-
age this my own way."

Thereupon the two rose and mingled with
their fellow clubmen.


Natha:n a. Ferguson was a man of business
and nothing else. He was born of poor and
not exceptionally honest parents in the little
village of Foxbridge. The poverty he had
managed to shake off. The lack of honesty
was an ingrained inheritance and stuck by him.
He had no especial education, but his mind
needed none for the use he made of it. At
thirty-five he was a thriving cotton broker. At
fifty-five he was a millionaire, interested in the
Shoe String Trust, and half a dozen other
trusts, and particularly interested in electric
transportation. He was a short, smooth, slip-
pery man, with black hair and moustache, turn-
ing gray, and bright, brown, shifty eyes. His
wife was dead, and had been dead so long he
had forgotten her.

A few days after the hatching of the Wood- ,
Heath conspiracy, Ferguson and his daughter,
Margaret, were receiving a call from Porter in
the heavily magnificent parlour of their heavily
magnificent Commonwealth Avenue mansion.
The two men talked, while Margaret leaned
back on a sofa and every now and then sup- '
pressed a yawn.



" So you mean to go on devoting your life
to politics? " asked the gray -haired stock ma-

" I do," was the eager answer. " Every
ounce of energy I have is going into them, so
long as I live and see as clearly as I do now
what I want to accomplish."

Then you're in it to do good? "
I like the fun and I'm ambitious. Do you
think a man is worth much who isn't? But I
believe our system of government needs to be
made over, in the state, and in the nation, too;
but the state is what I'm interested in. People
think democracy is a failure. It's government
by legislature that is the failure. You can't
run a business by a legislature. You can't
command an army by a legislature. Macaulay
says : ' Armies have conquered under good gen-
erals. Armies have conquered under bad gen-
erals. No army ever conquered under a deba-
ting society.' The remedy, one remedy, at any
rate, for the evils of our government, is to give
the governor more power, and more responsi-
bility. Two terms in the legislature have con-
vinced me of that. The governor should be
represented in the legislature and stand for the
state there. Now, one man stands for Prov-
incetown, another for North Adams; one for
Northfield, and one for Springfield. Who
stands, or sits, or cares for Massachusetts? "

" And you mean to be governor, with more


power, and care for Massachusetts? " was the ^
mildly sarcastic suggestion.

" I mean to try."

" These are Marston's ideas, aren't they?
Didn't his father write a book about them? "
Ferguson continued.

" Certainly. I don't deny it. Two people in
Foxbridge have been the making of me: you,
Mr. Ferguson, with your advice and sympathy
in practical matters," — as he said this, he
looked at JNIargaret, though he addressed her *
father, — " and Mr. JNIarston with his political
ideas. He's a man who thinks and sets others
thinking, though he cannot act himself. It was
he who made a Democrat of me. Not that he
feels or I feel that as a party the Democrats
are any better than the Republicans. It is six
of one and half a dozen of the other, so far as
present aims and methods go. But you can't
accomplish anything except through the party
system, and we think that the old Democratic
ideas, which were unnecessary in Jefferson's *
day, are just the right ideas now."

Margaret sat quiet in her corner and coolly *
gauged the speaker's eagerness. She noted the
firm poise of the head, the compression of the
thinnish lips, the enthusiasm of the open gray
eyes. But there was no sympathy in her tone,
when she uttered a sharp comment at this point.
" I don't think I should want to get my ideas
from Mr. Marston, or from anybody, second-


" Don't we all get our ideas second or third
or thirtieth hand from some one?" urged Por-
ter, more as a plea than as a protest. " The
thing to do is to make them thoroughly our

But Margaret's father was less interested in
the personal than in the general aspect of the
discussion. " So you want to return to State
Rights," he said. " I should call that a back
number of the worst description."

" I don't think so. The strength of our
government ought to be in the just balance of
state and nation. What has ruined all republics
in the past? Centralization. Here we have a
set of wheels within wheels, which is a sure pro-
tection against centralization, if we use it
rightly. But we let the state go and think only
about Washington. After all, what has the
ordinary citizen to do with Washington? He is
educated by the state, he is married by state
laws, does business by state laws, pays taxes to
the state, and has the state's license to be buried.
Yet when we carry on a campaign for state
governor, the chief things we discuss are the
tariff and the currency, which are national af-
fairs and do not belong to the state at all."

" That simply shows that centralization is
what we're bound to have," urged Ferguson,
with his smoothly unctuous, good-natured per-
sistence. " Those old ideas were good enough
for farmers' days, when each state was a little
country by itself and it took a week to get from


Boston to New York. We're all one country
now. The man who Uves in Boston marries a
wife in New Orleans and does business in San
Francisco. If he wants to get a divorce or
form a new corporation, it's absurd that he
shouldn't have the same Federal law for all
three places."

" If that's the case," answered Porter ear-
nestly, but very courteously, " the sooner we
get rid of the state organizations the better.
Don't you see, as it is now, all these immensely
important functions are left to the states and are
managed by the states? Yet pubhc attention
is wholly fixed on Washington. No glory, no
credit is to be got by a life devoted to state
politics. The legislators are either men whose
one thought is to get to Washington or who
only care to use their term of office to fill their
pockets. And all our most important affairs
are managed in the dark by a corrupt and mis-
chievous lobby, while the newspapers are full
of the far-away doings of the President and
Congress. If we are to be governed from
Washington, let us be governed from Washing-
ton, and get rid of the old arrangements alto-
gether. But we all know that that can never
be. And if we are to have state governments,
and to trust them with the dearest interests of
our lives, let us make them real, serious things.
Let us drag great measures out from dark com-
mittee-rooms and spidery lobbies and put them
into the hands of a strong executive. Let him


be responsible at every step, under free and full
discussion, to the watchful criticism of the legis-
lature. Then each man in that legislature will
be eager to distinguish himself in debate and to
thrust himself and his friends, by honest serv-
ice, into executive office. But you'll think I'm
making a campaign speech."

Ferguson smiled his smooth smile, behind
which, as Porter well knew, there was little com-
prehension and no conviction. " And a very
good one. Only campaign speeches don't
amount to much, at the best. These things
sound well, but we all know they aren't prac-
tical. Even supposing you get elected on re-
form ideas, can you do anything? Look at
those other reform governors. Folk in Missouri,
» La FoUette in Wisconsin, Garvin in Rhode Is-
land. What a fuss was made about them and
what did they do ? "

" But," urged Porter, " they had no general
principle. They simply wanted to reform

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Online LibraryGamaliel BradfordMatthew Porter, a story of to-day → online text (page 1 of 23)