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Not for many weeks have I had a more interesting, more illuminating, and when all is told, a more amusing experience, than I had this afternoon. Since this afternoon the world has seemed a more satisfactory place to live in, and my own home here, the most satisfactory, the most central place in all the world. I have come to the conclusion that anything may happen here!

We have had a celebrity in our small midst, and the hills, as the Psalmist might say, have lifted up their heads, and the trees have clapped their hands together. He came here last Tuesday evening and spoke at the School House. I was not there myself; if I had been, I should not, perhaps, have had the adventure which has made this day so livable, nor met the Celebrity face to face.

Let me here set down a close secret regarding celebrities:

They cannot survive without common people like you and me.

It follows that if we do not pursue a celebrity, sooner or later he will pursue us. He must; it is the law of his being. So I wait here very comfortably on my farm, and as I work in my fields I glance up casually from time to time to see if any celebrities are by chance coming up the town road to seek me out. Oh, we are crusty people, we farmers! Sooner or later they all come this way, all the warriors and the poets, all the philosophers and the prophets and the politicians. If they do not, indeed, get time to come before they are dead, we have full assurance that they will straggle along afterward clad neatly in sheepskin, or more gorgeously in green buckram with gilt lettering. Whatever the airs of pompous importance they may assume as they come, back of it all we farmers can see the look of wistful eagerness in their eyes. They know well enough that they must give us something which we in our commonness regard as valuable enough to exchange for a bushel of our potatoes, or a sack of our white onions. No poem that we can enjoy, no speech that tickles us, no prophecy that thrills us—neither dinner nor immortality for them! And we are hard-headed Yankees at our bargainings; many a puffed-up celebrity loses his puffiness at our doors!

This afternoon, as I came out on my porch after dinner, feeling content with myself and all the world, I saw a man driving our way in a one-horse top-buggy. In the country it is our custom first to identify the horse, and that gives us a sure clue to the identification of the driver. This horse plainly did not belong in our neighbourhood and plainly as it drew nearer, it bore the unmistakable marks of the town livery. Therefore, the driver, in all probability, was a stranger in these parts. What strangers were in town who would wish to drive this way? The man who occupied the buggy was large and slow-looking; he wore a black, broad-brimmed felt hat and a black coat, a man evidently of some presence. And he drove slowly and awkwardly; not an agent plainly. Thus the logic of the country bore fruitage.

“Harriet,” I said, calling through the open doorway, “I think the Honourable Arthur Cald-well is coming here.”

“Mercy me!” exclaimed Harriet, appearing in the doorway, and as quickly disappearing. I did not see her, of course, but I knew instinctively that she was slipping off her apron, moving our most celebrated rocking-chair two inches nearer the door, and whisking a few invisible particles of dust from the centre table. Every time any one of importance comes our way, or is distantly likely to come our way. Harriet resolves herself into an amiable whirlwind of good order, subsiding into placidity at the first sound of a step on the porch.

As for me I remain in my shirt sleeves, sitting on my porch resting a moment after my dinner. No sir, I will positively not go in and get my coat. I am an American citizen, at home in my house with the sceptre of my dominion—my favourite daily newspaper—in my hand. Let all kings, queens, and other potentates approach!

And besides, though I am really much afraid that the Honourable Arthur Caldwell will not stop at my gate but will pass on towards Horace’s, I am nursing a somewhat light opinion of Mr. Caldwell. When he spoke at the School House on Tuesday, I did not go to hear him, nor was my opinion greatly changed by what I learned afterward of the meeting. I take both of our weekly county papers. This is necessary. I add the news of both together, divide by two to strike a fair average, and then ask Horace, or Charles Baxter, or the Scotch Preacher what really happened. The Republican county paper said of the meeting:

“The Honourable Arthur Caldwell, member of Congress, who is seeking a reelection, was accorded a most enthusiastic reception by a large and sympathetic audience of the citizens of Blandford township on Tuesday evening.”

Strangely enough the Democratic paper, observing exactly the same historic events, took this jaundiced view of the matter:

“Arty Caldwell, Republican boss of the Sixth District, who is out mending his political fences, spellbound a handful of his henchmen at the School House near Blandford Crossing on Tuesday evening.”

And here was Mr. Caldwell himself, Member of Congress, Leader of the Sixth District, Favourably Mentioned for Governor, drawing up at my gate, deliberately descending from his buggy, with dignity stopping to take the tie-rein from under the seat, carefully tying his horse to my hitching-post.

I confess I could not help feeling a thrill of excitement. Here was a veritable Celebrity come to my house to explain himself! I would not have it known, of course, outside of our select circle of friends, but I confess that although I am a pretty independent person (when I talk) in reality there are few things in this world I would rather see than a new person coming up the walk to my door. We cannot, of course, let the celebrities know it, lest they grow intolerable in their top-loftiness, but if they must have us, we cannot well get along without them—without the colour and variety which they lend to a gray world. I have spent many a precious moment alone in my fields looking up the road (with what wistful casualness!) for some new Socrates or Mark Twain, and I have not been wholly disappointed when I have had to content myself with the Travelling Evangelist or the Syrian Woman who comes this way monthly bearing her pack of cheap suspenders and blue bandana handkerchiefs.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Grayson,” said the Honourable Mr. Caldwell, taking off his large hat and pausing with one foot on my step.

“Good afternoon, sir,” I responded, “won’t you come up?”

He sat down in the chair opposite me with a certain measured and altogether impressive dignity. I cannot say that he was exactly condescending in his manners, yet he made me feel that it was no small honour to have so considerable a person sitting there on the porch with me. At the same time he was outwardly not without a sort of patient deference which was evidently calculated to put me at my ease. Oh, he had all the arts of the schooled politician! He knew to the last shading just the attitude that he as a great man, a leader in Congress, a dominant force in his party, a possible candidate for Governor (and yet always a seeker for the votes of the people!) must observe in approaching a free farmer—like me—sitting at ease in his shirt-sleeves on his own porch, taking a moment’s rest after dinner. It was a perfect thing to see!

He had evidently heard, what was not altogether true, that I was a questioner of authority, a disturber of the political peace, and that (concretely) I was opposing him for reëlection. And it was as plain as a pikestaff that he was here to lay down the political law to me. He would do it smilingly and patiently, but firmly. He would use all the leverage of his place, his power, his personal appearance, to crush the presumptuous uprising against his authority.

I confess my spirits rose at the thought. What in this world is more enthralling than the meeting of an unknown adversary upon the open field, and jousting him a tourney. I felt like some modern Robin Hood facing the panoplied authority of the King’s man.

And what a place and time it was for a combat—in the quietude of the summer afternoon, no sound anywhere breaking the still warmth and sweetness except the buzzing of bees in the clematis at the end of the porch—and all about the green countryside, woods and fields and old fences—and the brown road leading its venturesome way across a distant hill toward the town.

After explaining who he was—I told him I had recognized him on sight—we opened with a volley of small shot. We peppered one another with harmless comments on the weather and the state of the crops. He advanced cabbages and I countered with sugar-beets. I am quite aware that there are good tacticians who deprecate the use of skirmish lines and the desultory fire of the musketry of small talk. They would advance in grim silence and open at once with the crushing fire of their biggest guns.

But such fighting is not for me. I should lose half the joy of the battle, and kill off my adversary before I had begun to like him! It wouldn’t do, it wouldn’t do at all.

“It’s a warm day,” observes my opponent, and I take a sure measure of his fighting form. I rather like the look of his eye.

“I never saw the corn ripening better,” I observe, and let him feel a little of the cunning of the arrangement of my forces.

There is much in the tone of the voice, the cut of the words, the turn of a phrase. I can be your servant with a “Yes sir,” or your master with a “No sir.”

Thus we warm up to one another—a little at a time—we mass our forces, each sees the white of his adversary’s eyes. I can even see my opponent—with some joy—trotting up his reserves, having found the opposition stronger than he at first supposed.

“I hear,” said Mr. Caldwell, finally, with a smile intended to be disarming, “that you are opposing my reëlection.”

Boom! the cannon’s opening roar!

“Well,” I replied, also smiling, and not to be outdone in the directness of my thrust, “I have told a few of my friends that I thought Mr. Gaylord would represent us better in Congress than you have done.”

Boom! the fight is on!

“You are a Republican, aren’t you, Mr. Grayson?”

It was the inevitable next stroke. When he found that I was a doubtful follower of him personally, he marshalled the Authority of the Institution which he represented.

“I have voted the Republican ticket,” I said, “but I confess that recently I have not been able to distinguish Republicans from Democrats—and I’ve had my doubts,” said I, “whether there is any real Republican party left to vote with.”

I cannot well describe the expression on his face, nor indeed, now that the battle was on, horsemen, footmen, and big guns, shall I attempt to chronicle every stroke and counter-stroke of that great conflict.

This much is certain: there was something universal and primal about the battle waged this quiet afternoon on my porch between Mr. Caldwell and me; it was the primal struggle between the leader and the follower; between the representative and the represented. And it is a never-ending conflict. When the leader gains a small advantage the pendulum of civilization swings toward aristocracy; and when the follower, beginning to think, beginning to struggle, gains a small advantage, then the pendulum inclines toward democracy.

And always, and always, the leaders tend to forget that they are only servants, and would be masters. “The unending audacity of elected persons!” And always, and always, there must be a following bold enough to prick the pretensions of the leaders and keep them in their places!

Thus, through the long still afternoon, the battle waged upon my porch. Harriet came out and met the Honourable Mr. Caldwell, and sat and listened, and presently went in again, without having got half a dozen words into the conversation. And the bees buzzed, and in the meadows the cows began to come out of the shade to feed in the open land.

Gradually, Mr. Caldwell put off his air of condescension; he put off his appeal to party authority; he even stopped arguing the tariff and the railroad question. Gradually, he ceased to be the great man, Favourably Mentioned for Governor, and came down on the ground with me. He moved his chair up closer to mine; he put his hand on my knee. For the first time I began to see what manner of man he was: to find out how much real fight he had in him.

“You don’t understand,” he said, “what it means to be down there at Washington in a time like this. Things clear to you are not clear when you have to meet men in the committees and on the floor of the house who have a contrary view from yours and hold to it just as tenaciously as you do to your views.”

Well, sir, he gave me quite a new impression of what a Congressman’s job was like, of what difficulties and dissensions he had to meet at home, and what compromises he had to accept when he reached Washington.

“Do you know,” I said to him, with some enthusiasm, “I am more than ever convinced that farming is good enough for me.”

He threw back his head and laughed uproariously, and then moved up still closer.

“The trouble with you, Mr. Grayson,” he said, “is that you are looking for a giant intellect to represent you at Washington.”

“Yes,” I said, “I’m afraid I am.”

“Well,” he returned, “they don’t happen along every day. I’d like to see the House of Representatives full of Washingtons and Jeffersons and Websters and Roosevelts. But there’s a Lincoln only once in a century.”

He paused and then added with a sort of wry smile:

“And any quantity of Caldwells!”

That took me! I liked him for it. It was so explanatory. The armour of political artifice, the symbols of political power, had now all dropped away from him, and we sat there together, two plain and friendly human beings, arriving through stress and struggle at a common understanding. He was not a great leader, not a statesman at all, but plainly a man of determination, with a fair measure of intelligence and sincerity. He had a human desire to stay in Congress, for the life evidently pleased him, and while he would never be crucified as a prophet, I felt—what I had not felt before in regard to him—that he was sincerely anxious to serve the best interests of his constituents. Added to these qualities he was a man who was loyal to his friends; and not ungenerous to his enemies.

Up to this time he had done most of the talking; but now, having reached a common basis, I leaned forward with some eagerness.

“You won’t mind,” I said, “if I give you my view—my common country view of the political situation. I am sure I don’t understand, and I don’t think my neighbours here understand, much about the tariff or the trusts or the railroad question—in detail. We get general impressions—and stick to them like grim death—for we know somehow that we are right. Generally speaking, we here in the country work for what we get——”

“And sometimes put the big apples at the top of the barrel,” nodded Mr. Caldwell.

“And sometimes put too much salt on top of the butter,” I added—”all that, but on the whole we get only what we earn by the hard daily work of ploughing and planting and reaping: You admit that.”

“I admit it,” said Mr. Caldwell.

“And we’ve got the impression that a good many of the men down in New York and Boston, and elsewhere, through the advantages which the tariff laws, and other laws, are giving them, are getting more than they earn—a lot more. And we feel that laws must be passed which will prevent all that.”

“Now, I believe that, too,” said Mr. Caldwell very earnestly.

“Then we belong to the same party,” I said. “I don’t know what the name of it is yet, but we both belong to it.”

Mr. Caldwell laughed.

“And I’ll appoint you,” I said, “my agent in Washington to work out the changes in the laws.”

“Well, I’ll accept the appointment,” said Mr. Caldwell—continuing very earnestly, “if you’ll trust to my honesty and not expect too much of me all at once.”

With that we both sat back in our chairs and looked at each other and laughed with the greatest good humour and common understanding.

“And now,” said I, rising quickly, “let’s go and get a drink of buttermilk.”

So we walked around the house arm in arm and stopped in the shade of the oak tree which stands near the spring-house. Harriet came out in the whitest of white dresses, carrying a tray with the glasses, and I opened the door of the spring-house, and felt the cool air on my face and smelt the good smell of butter and milk and cottage cheese, and I passed the cool pitcher to Harriet. And so we drank together there in the shade and talked and laughed.

I walked down with Mr. Caldwell to the gate. He took my arm and said to me:

“I’m glad I came out here and had this talk. I feel as though I understood my job better for it.”




“Let’s organize a new party,” I said, “let’s begin with two members, you and I, and have only one plank in the platform.”

He smiled.

“You’d have to crowd a good deal into that one plank,” he said.

“Not at all,” I responded.

“What would you have it?”

“I’d have it in one sentence,” I said, “and something like this: We believe in the passage of legislation which shall prevent any man taking from the common store any more than he actually earns.”

Mr. Caldwell threw up his arms.

“Mr. Grayson,” he said, “you’re an outrageous idealist.”

“Mr. Caldwell,” I said, “you’ll say one of these days that I’m a practical politician.”

* * * * *

“Well, Harriet,” I said, “he’s got my vote.”

“Well, David,” said Harriet, “that’s what he came for.”

“It’s an interesting world, Harriet,” I said.

“It is, indeed,” said Harriet.

As we stood on the porch we could see at the top of the hill, where the town road crosses it, the slow moving buggy, and through the open curtain at the back the heavy form of our Congressman with his slouch hat set firmly on his big head.

“We may be fooled, Harriet,” I observed, “on dogmas and doctrines and platforms—but if we cannot trust human nature in the long run, what hope is there? It’s men we must work with, Harriet.”

“And women.” said Harriet.

“And women, of course,” said I.


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