The Titan

by Theodore Dreiser

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Chapter XXXVI: An Election Draws Near

Subsequently Mr. Kerrigan called on Mr. Tiernan casually. Mr. Tiernan returned the call. A little later Messrs. Tiernan, Kerrigan, and Gilgan, in a parlor-room in a small hotel in Milwaukee (in order not to be seen together), conferred. Finally Messrs. Tiernan, Edstrom, Kerrigan, and Gilgan met and mapped out a programme of division far too intricate to be indicated here. Needless to say, it involved the division of chief clerks, pro rata, of police graft, of gambling and bawdy-house perquisites, of returns from gas, street-railway, and other organizations. It was sealed with many solemn promises. If it could be made effective this quadrumvirate was to endure for years. Judges, small magistrates, officers large and small, the shrievalty, the water office, the tax office, all were to come within its purview. It was a fine, handsome political dream, and as such worthy of every courtesy and consideration but it was only a political dream in its ultimate aspects, and as such impressed the participants themselves at times.

The campaign was now in full blast. The summer and fall (September and October) went by to the tune of Democratic and Republican marching club bands, to the sound of lusty political voices orating in parks, at street-corners, in wooden "wigwams," halls, tents, and parlors—wherever a meager handful of listeners could be drummed up and made by any device to keep still. The newspapers honked and bellowed, as is the way with those profit-appointed advocates and guardians of "right" and "justice." Cowperwood and McKenty were denounced from nearly every street-corner in Chicago. Wagons and sign-boards on wheels were hauled about labeled "Break the partnership between the street-railway corporations and the city council." "Do you want more streets stolen?" "Do you want Cowperwood to own Chicago?" Cowperwood himself, coming down-town of a morning or driving home of an evening, saw these things. He saw the huge signs, listened to speeches denouncing himself, and smiled. By now he was quite aware as to whence this powerful uprising had sprung. Hand was back of it, he knew—for so McKenty and Addison had quickly discovered—and with Hand was Schryhart, Arneel, Merrill, the Douglas Trust Company, the various editors, young Truman Leslie MacDonald, the old gas crowd, the Chicago General Company—all. He even suspected that certain aldermen might possibly be suborned to desert him, though all professed loyalty. McKenty, Addison, Videra, and himself were planning the details of their defenses as carefully and effectively as possible. Cowperwood was fully alive to the fact that if he lost this election—the first to be vigorously contested—it might involve a serious chain of events; but he did not propose to be unduly disturbed, since he could always fight in the courts by money, and by preferment in the council, and with the mayor and the city attorney. "There is more than one way to kill a cat," was one of his pet expressions, and it expressed his logic and courage exactly. Yet he did not wish to lose.

One of the amusing features of the campaign was that the McKenty orators had been instructed to shout as loudly for reforms as the Republicans, only instead of assailing Cowperwood and McKenty they were to point out that Schryhart's Chicago City Railway was far more rapacious, and that this was a scheme to give it a blanket franchise of all streets not yet covered by either the Cowperwood or the Schryhart-Hand-Arneel lines. It was a pretty argument. The Democrats could point with pride to a uniformly liberal interpretation of some trying Sunday laws, whereby under Republican and reform administrations it had been occasionally difficult for the honest working-man to get his glass or pail of beer on Sunday. On the other hand it was possible for the Republican orators to show how "the low dives and gin-mills" were everywhere being operated in favor of McKenty, and that under the highly respectable administration of the Republican candidate for mayor this partnership between the city government and vice and crime would be nullified.

"If I am elected," declared the Honorable Chaffee Thayer Sluss, the Republican candidate, "neither Frank Cowperwood nor John McKenty will dare to show his face in the City Hall unless he comes with clean hands and an honest purpose.

"Hooray!" yelled the crowd.

"I know that ass," commented Addison, when he read this in the Transcript. "He used to be a clerk in the Douglas Trust Company. He's made a little money recently in the paper business. He's a mere tool for the Arneel-Schryhart interests. He hasn't the courage of a two-inch fish-worm."

When McKenty read it he simply observed: "There are other ways of going to City Hall than by going yourself." He was depending upon a councilmanic majority at least.

However, in the midst of this uproar the goings to and fro of Gilgan, Edstrom, Kerrigan, and Tiernan were nor fully grasped. A more urbanely shifty pair than these latter were never seen. While fraternizing secretly with both Gilgan and Edstrom, laying out their political programme most neatly, they were at the same time conferring with Dowling, Duvanicki, even McKenty himself. Seeing that the outcome was, for some reason—he could scarcely see why—looking very uncertain, McKenty one day asked the two of them to come to see him. On getting the letter Mr. Tiernan strolled over to Mr. Kerrigan's place to see whether he also had received a message.

"Sure, sure! I did!" replied Mr. Kerrigan, gaily. "Here it is now in me outside coat pocket. 'Dear Mr. Kerrigan,'" he read, "'won't you do me the favor to come over to-morrow evening at seven and dine with me? Mr. Ungerich, Mr. Duvanicki, and several others will very likely drop in afterward. I have asked Mr. Tiernan to come at the same time. Sincerely, John J. McKenty.' That's the way he does it," added Mr. Kerrigan; "just like that."

He kissed the letter mockingly and put it back into his pocket.

"Sure I got one, jist the same way. The very same langwidge, nearly," commented Mr. Tiernan, sweetly. "He's beginning to wake up, eh? What! The little old first and second are beginning to look purty big just now, eh? What!"

"Tush!" observed Mr. Kerrigan to Mr. Tiernan, with a marked sardonic emphasis, "that combination won't last forever. They've been getting too big for their pants, I'm thinking. Well, it's a long road, eh? It's pretty near time, what?"

"You're right," responded Mr. Tiernan, feelingly. "It is a long road. These are the two big wards of the city, and everybody knows it. If we turn on them at the last moment where will they be, eh?"

He put a fat finger alongside of his heavy reddish nose and looked at Mr. Kerrigan out of squinted eyes.

"You're damned right," replied the little politician, cheerfully.

They went to the dinner separately, so as not to appear to have conferred before, and greeted each other on arriving as though they had not seen each other for days.

"How's business, Mike?"

"Oh, fair, Pat. How's things with you?"

"So so."

"Things lookin' all right in your ward for November?"

Mr. Tiernan wrinkled a fat forehead. "Can't tell yet." All this was for the benefit of Mr. McKenty, who did not suspect rank party disloyalty.

Nothing much came of this conference, except that they sat about discussing in a general way wards, pluralities, what Zeigler was likely to do with the twelfth, whether Pinski could make it in the sixth, Schlumbohm in the twentieth, and so on. New Republican contestants in old, safe Democratic wards were making things look dubious.

"And how about the first, Kerrigan?" inquired Ungerich, a thin, reflective German-American of shrewd presence. Ungerich was one who had hitherto wormed himself higher in McKenty's favor than either Kerrigan or Tiernan.

"Oh, the first's all right," replied Kerrigan, archly. "Of course you never can tell. This fellow Scully may do something, but I don't think it will be much. If we have the same police protection—"

Ungerich was gratified. He was having a struggle in his own ward, where a rival by the name of Glover appeared to be pouring out money like water. He would require considerably more money than usual to win. It was the same with Duvanicki.

McKenty finally parted with his lieutenants—more feelingly with Kerrigan and Tiernan than he had ever done before. He did not wholly trust these two, and he could not exactly admire them and their methods, which were the roughest of all, but they were useful.

"I'm glad to learn," he said, at parting, "that things are looking all right with you, Pat, and you, Mike," nodding to each in turn. "We're going to need the most we can get out of everybody. I depend on you two to make a fine showing—the best of any. The rest of us will not forget it when the plums are being handed around afterward."

"Oh, you can depend on me to do the best I can always," commented Mr. Kerrigan, sympathetically. "It's a tough year, but we haven't failed yet."

"And me, Chief! That goes for me," observed Mr. Tiernan, raucously. "I guess I can do as well as I have."

"Good for you, Mike!" soothed McKenty, laying a gentle hand on his shoulder. "And you, too, Kerrigan. Yours are the key wards, and we understand that. I've always been sorry that the leaders couldn't agree on you two for something better than councilmen; but next time there won't be any doubt of it, if I have any influence then." He went in and closed the door. Outside a cool October wind was whipping dead leaves and weed stalks along the pavements. Neither Tiernan nor Kerrigan spoke, though they had come away together, until they were two hundred feet down the avenue toward Van Buren.

"Some talk, that, eh?" commented Mr. Tiernan, eying Mr. Kerrigan in the flare of a passing gas-lamp.

"Sure. That's the stuff they always hand out when they're up against it. Pretty kind words, eh?"

"And after ten years of about the roughest work that's done, eh? It's about time, what? Say, it's a wonder he didn't think of that last June when the convention was in session.

"Tush! Mikey," smiled Mr. Kerrigan, grimly. "You're a bad little boy. You want your pie too soon. Wait another two or four or six years, like Paddy Kerrigan and the others."

"Yes, I will—not," growled Mr. Tiernan. "Wait'll the sixth."

"No more, will I," replied Mr. Kerrigan. "Say, we know a trick that beats that next-year business to a pulp. What?"

"You're dead right," commented Mr. Tiernan.

And so they went peacefully home.

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