Fred Fearnot's Revenge, or Defeating a Congressman


About noon the next day, while Fred and Chapman were preparing to drive out into another town in the county, Terry Olcott suddenly appeared at the hotel.

"Why, hello, Terry," Fred exclaimed, "what the deuce are you doing here?"

"Oh, I heard you were having a riot at every place, so I same down to take a hand in it," said Terry. "We got it out at the lake that you had been mobbed at Pelham, your head split open with a stone, and that you had lost a gallon of, blood. I couldn't stand it any longer, so I told Dick and Joe to run the place, with Mr. and Mrs. Welborn in charge, until we came back."

"Well, are they satisfied, and will they stay there?" Fred asked. "Oh, yes, they're having a high old time. It Isn't costing Welborn anything, so you'll be apt to find him there when you return after the election. The young ladies, however, were very much exercised over the news, and made me promise to write back and tell them all about what had occurred. I see you've got a pretty bad bruise on your forehead, so I take it as true that you have had a scrimmage."

"Yes, I've had two of them," laughed Fred. "I had one last night here that would have made you supremely happy to look on and see to a finish. A crowd did throw stones at us at Pelham, and that's where I got the blow on the head. I'm glad, though, to have you along."

"Where's your man, Chapman?" Terry asked.

"He's out talking with some of his newly made friends. He'll be in a few minutes."

"What sort of a candidate does he make?"

"He's a good one. Every speech he makes is an improvement on the previous one, and he makes a fine impression."

"Well, what's going to be the result of all this, Fred?"

"I don't know yet. "It's rather early to be making predictions; but we've got Carter badly frightened, and I guess in another week we'll have him on the run."

"Well, I heard this morning at Ashton that some of his friends were considerably worried."

"Of course they are, but they are not worried anywhere until after we hold a meeting. When we came here yesterday morning they were all laughing at us, and there were only two men who had the courage to say that they would support Chapman. Now I hear that we made between fifty and a hundred votes last night. But here comes Chapman now," and as the young lawyer came in, Fred introduced him to Terry as his old classmate and chum, who had been with him in many a tight place.

Chapman of course gave him a cordial greeting, and seemed to be very much pleased at the idea of having him accompany him and Fred in their tour through the district.

"Can you make a speech?" he asked of Terry.

"No," was the reply.

"Yes, he can," asserted Fred, "and if he had been along with us last night, we'd have made him address that outside crowd. He's a fighter from away back, too, and had he been with us at Pelham the doctors would have had some work to do."

"Well, if he's any better than you are," laughed Chapman, "he'll be quite an acquisition to our party."

"Well, I'm not fond of a fight," said Terry, "but had I been along when they commenced throwing stones, I would have given some of them the benefit of my experience as a baseball thrower. Where do you fellows hold your next meeting?"

"At a little town seven miles out in the country here," said Chapman, "and I believe twelve or fifteen wagonloads will go out from town here." "Then you'll have a big crowd, eh?"

"Yes, but they say that Carter's party friends outnumber the others three to one in that township."

"Any danger of trouble?"

"I don't know. He's sent word to his friends throughout the district not to interfere with any meeting, but to recognize the right of free speech, and it's very likely that they will follow his advice."

"Well, those who are going out from town with you, are they going to vote for Chapman?" Terry asked.

"No, not all of them. The majority of them belong to the other party, who've always opposed Carter, but I've been told there are about thirty or forty of his former supporters who are now with us and are going out to help us whoop it up. There's one thing about it, though, old man, if the women could vote Carter wouldn't be in it at all. They just flop right over to our banner at every meeting, and the best way to fight us would be for Carter's side to keep their women away, but they don't seem to know it."

"Well, but they can't vote," said Terry.

"Very true, but they have a great influence, and if I have any time to spare, after going through each county in the district, I want to get up a great women's mass-meeting."

Someone came in just then and reported that the wagons were ready for the crowd that was going out, and Fred, Terry and Chapman at once went out and climbed into a wagon containing five or six other young fellows, four of whom were supporters of Carter, but before they reached the end of the trip Fred and Terry had won them completely by their songs, stories and jokes, and the natural affinity of the average young man for a young candidate.

When they reached the place they found such a great crowd that had come in from the surrounding country that the little hall would hold hardly one-half of them. So it was decided that two meetings should be held, one at the little town hall and the other at the ballroom of the hotel. While Chapman addressed one, Fred was talking to the other, and they changed about, so as not to keep either audience waiting longer than ten minutes. As at the former meetings, Fred completely won all the women in both audiences by his splendid eulogy of the young candidate and the story of his boyish struggle, something that Chapman himself could not do, as it would have been in bad taste.

The result of the meeting was extremely alarming to Carter's friends. Several of hiss old supporters told Fred, after the meeting, that they believed he was right, and couldn't blame him for making the fight against the author of the Carter bill.

"Of course you can't blame me," he replied. "The bill was aimed at me, not that it had anything against me, but simply to gain some thirty or forty votes of people living in the vicinity of Dedham Lake. They were afraid that when the city people built cottages there, their fishing privileges would be cut off. They wouldn't take my word for it, but wanted the privilege secured to them, regardless of the right, of property owners. If the people of this district, or any other district in the State, approve of that sort of thing, no man's control of his property is assured to him. Every man is entitled to the benefit of his own labor, and if you earn money and buy property, the law should protect you in absolute control of it. That's the whole sum of my opposition to Carter."

"Well, we heard over here that you were making a fight on him just out of spite, because he ordered you out of his office one day."

"Well, he did order me out of his office. But that isn't why I'm making the fight on him. He had the right to order me out of his office, but he's trying to take from me the right to order anybody off my property. That's what I'm fighting about, and if it's right to take it from me, it's right to take it from you or any other man. I'm like the darky who was bitten by a dog. When he went to the owner of the animal and complained about it, the man told him he needn't worry, that the dog wasn't mad. 'What right has he got to be mad?' the darky asked. 'It's me that's mad.'"

The old fellow laughed and said he thought that was a good story.

"Yes," said Fred, "and it just fits the case."

The entire party returned to the town that night, in the wagons, singing songs all the way back, and all the young men who had gone out with them were unanimous in their verdict that Fearnot and Chapman were good fellows.

Over in the next county Fred and Chapman were billed to speak at a meeting on the night after one held by the friends of Carter. The candidate himself had addressed the meeting on the old party lines, but never uttered one word about the now famous Carter bill which he had introduced into the Legislature, nor did he even mention the candidacy of Chapman, except when a voice in the crowd asked him about it.

"Oh, that's a boys' racket," he replied. "Fearnot is paying Chapman's expenses, and instead of doing like other boys, waiting till election night to have their bonfires, they want to play politics and have a candidate, and make believe they are the real thing. Let the boys amuse themselves."

Of course his remarks were reported to Fred and Chapman, and that night, before a crowded house, Fred took it up and kept the crowd in a roar, telling about the frolic they were having and how Carter's friends had raised a thousand dollars to try to buy them off and put a stop to the fun.

"He feels very much like a certain John Smith," said Fred, "who was looking very sober one morning. His wife asked him if he had been playing poker with Mr. Perkins again. 'No,' he answered, 'Mr. Perkins has been playing with me.' And that's just what we are doing with Mr. Carter. We're having no end of fun with him, and we're looking every day for his friends to raise the offer to two thousand dollars. We're not trying to strike him for anything at all, except to see that he's not elected to Congress. We've got all the money we want to see the thing through. We are not going to buy any votes, and while Mr. Carter's friends have offered Chapman one thousand dollars to get out of the race, we wouldn't give Mr. Carter one thousand cents to retire from it. We are working on the belief that there are honest men enough in this district to vote for a dishonest man to stay at home. Some of Carter's friends have taken offense at my use of the word dishonest, as applied to him, and they have protested against it. I do not mean to charge that he is dishonest in the sense, that he would steal a chicken from your henhouse, or a bushel of corn from your cribs at night, but I do say, in the presence of the whole district, that the Carter bill was infamously dishonest, and stamps its author as a dishonest political trickster, for whom any decent man should be ashamed to vote."

Then he took up Carter's speech of the night before, which had been pretty freely reported to him, and tore it all to pieces, after which he turned to the women and paid such a glowing tribute to their influence in every walk of life as to completely will them, and then wound up with a sentimental song that completely captured the whole house. He knew that when the news went out ahead that he not only made a good speech, but sang a good song, it would draw full houses, and that was what he wanted. The next day the paper in that town, which was being run in Carter's interest, contained a very fair report of the meeting and of the two speeches, and frankly admitted that its candidate had received a hard blow.

"Young Fearnot," it added, "may not be a politician, and we are told that he is not yet of legal age, but he can give our candidate and his party managers points out how to run a campaign. He not only draws a big crowd, but knows how to handle it and hold it to the last moment. He is a fine speaker, a good singer, and can come about as near making his hearers politically color blind as any one we ever listened to."

"Great Scott!" laughed Fred, when he read it, "that's the best thing I've heard yet. It's an admission that I didn't look for, and it makes me more hopeful than anything that I've seen, read or heard. I want to cut that out and keep it."

Over in the next town they were most agreeably surprised to find the Welborn party waiting at the hotel to see them. They had driven across from Dedham Lake early that morning.

"Glad to see you, Mr. Welborn," said Fred. "It's an unexpected pleasure."

"Well, the girls said they wanted to hear you, so we drove over this morning and will return to-morrow. I hear that you've been having a pretty rough time of it."

"Well, you might call it so, but we think that we're having a deal of fun," and he went into the parlor to see the young ladies. He took Chapman in with him, and they spent a pleasant half hour in their company. Then they went out to see what they could pick up concerning the sentiment of the people in the place. They found everybody non- committal, but waiting to attend the meeting in the evening, and it was a great crowd which met them at the hall. The greater the crowd the more inspired Fred seemed to be in his impassioned speech denouncing Carter, his methods and ideas of government. Again he won the female portion of his audience, and as several had asked him if he was going to sing, he of course did so, because he saw that it was expected. He seemed to captivate every one of his hearers, and when he returned to the hotel the ladies of the Welborn party were enthusiastic in their praises of his speech.

The next morning, after breakfast, a young lawyer, some twenty-eight years of age, called on Chapman and offered big services as a speaker in his interests, saying that he had in two previous campaigns stumped the county for Carter's party, but that his and Fearnot's speech of the night before had convinced him that Carter was not the man for the party to elect his name was Granger, and the landlord assured Chapman that he was a man of clean character.

Chapman gratefully accepted his offer, and Fred asked him about the financial part of the arrangement.

"I don't want a cent," said he, "except for actual expenses incurred, all itemized account of which I will render weekly."

"Good, good," said Fred; "you are a man after my own heart. Just look after the meetings in this county, and whatever expenses are incurred In the way of printing, or anything else necessary to the success of the meeting, audit the bills, mark them 0. K., and send them to me, and there will be no delay in forwarding you a check."

The news of Granger's defection carried consternation into the ranks of Carter's supporters, and it was telegraphed all over the district. Within forty-eight hours all attempt was made to buy him off, but, like Chapman, he spurned the offer. Fred and his party made a dash for the next county, and again their meeting was close on the heels of the Carter supporters, which was held there the night before, and again Fred and Chapman made an onslaught upon him that really had no politics in it other than the charge of his unfitness for the position for which he was a candidate. The Carter bill was the theme of discussion, and the long train of evils that would naturally flow from that sort of special legislation.

More than on any other occasion Fred indulged in wit and repartee that kept the audience in a roar of laughter all the time. Then he changed suddenly, like the wind blowing from another quarter, and soon tears glistened in the eyes of a score of people as he drew the vivid picture of a manly youth studying through the silent midnight hours to educate himself, while toiling through daylight to support his widowed mother and sister. He threw a deal of pathos into it, and in that particular line he was a past master. He finished his speech and sat down, forgetting all about his song, and a great shout went up from the audience:

"Song! Song!"

"Excuse me," he said; "I forgot that, and to show you that I didn't mean to slight you, I will sing two songs for you," and he did so, to the great delight of every one present.

"Say, Terry," said he, looking back upon the platform behind him, "come up here and sing with me a third song," and as Terry stood up by his side they sang Robert Burns' famous song, "A Man's a Man for a That." The song had probably never been heard in that town before and it seemed as though it was applied to the poor, struggling lawyer who was before them for their suffrages, and a storm of applause greeted it.

That wound up the meeting, and a reception followed in the hall. Everybody, regardless of party prejudices, wanted to shake hands with the young fellows who were making such a plucky fight.

The next day Fred saw it announced in one of Carter's party papers that the candidate had made in explanation about the bill that he had introduced into the Assembly concerning the fishing in Dedham Lake. He stated that he had introduced it at the instance of some fifty people living in the vicinity of the lake, who had told him that the original owner of the property had given them a perpetual right to fish there, and the thought never occurred to him that the measure would be objected to, or that it was unconstitutional.

"We all know." he said, "that the right to fish in navigable streams cannot be questioned any more than the right of navigation. A navigable stream belongs to the State, while the unnavigable ones belong to the owners of the properties through which they flow, and I had that idea in my mind when I framed the bill, but I made the mistake of classing the lake as a navigable stream, and deeply regret my having had anything to do with it.

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