The matter is settled. It has come by surprise. If David Lockwin had foreseen it, he would have left the field open to Harpwood.
If Esther Wandrell had foreseen it, she would have shunned David Lockwin. It is her dearest hope, and yet—
THE PEOPLE’S IDOL
If David Lockwin had planned to increase all his prospects, and if all his plans had worked with precision, he could in nowise have pushed his interests more powerfully than by marrying Esther Wandrell.
It might have been said of Lockwin that he was impractical; that he was a dreamer. He had done singular things. He had not studied the ways of public opinion.
But now, to solidify all his future—to take a secure place in society, especially as his leanings toward politics are pronounced—to do these things—this palliates and excuses the adoption of the golden-haired boy.
Lockwin hears this from his friend, the doctor. Lockwin hears it from the world. The more he hears it the less he likes it.
But people, particularly the doctor, are happy in Lockwin. His popularity in the district is amazing. He will soon be deep in politics. He has put Harpwood out of the combat—so the doctor says.
And David Lockwin, when he comes home at night, still sees his boy at the window. What a noble affection is that love for this waif! Why should such a thought seize the man as he sits in his library with wife and son? Why should not David be tender and good to the woman who loves him so well, and is so proud of her husband?
Tender and good he is—as if he pitied her. Tender and good is she. So that if an orphan in the great city should be in the especial care of the Lord, why should not that orphan drop into this house, exactly as has happened, and no matter at all what society may have said?
“You must run for Congress!” the doctor commands.
It spurs Lockwin. He thinks of the great white dome at Washington. He thinks of his marked ability as an orator, everywhere conceded. He says he does not care to enter upon a life so active, but he is not truly in earnest.
“You must run for Congress!” the committee says the next week.
Feelings of friendliness for the incumbent of the office to give Lockwin a sufficient excuse for inaction.
The incumbent dies suddenly a week later.
“You must run to save the party,” the committeemen announce.
A day later the matter is settled. The great editors are seen; the boss of the machine is satisfied; the ward-workers and the saloon-keepers are infused with party allegiance.
David Lockwin begins at one end of State street and drinks, or pretends to drink, at every bar between Lake and Fortieth streets. This libation poured on the altar of liberty, he is popularly declared to be in the race. The newspapers announce that he is the people’s idol, and the boss of the machine sends word to the newspapers that it is all well enough, but it must be kept up.