With malign relish, Banneker looked up in the Sunday advertising the leading theater display, went to the musical comedy there exploited, and presently devoted a column to giving it a terrific and only half-merited slashing for vapid and gratuitous indecency. The play, which had been going none too well, straightway sold out a fortnight in advance, thereby attesting the power of the press as well as the appeal of pruriency to an eager and jaded public. Zucker left a note on the editorial desk warmly thanking his confrere for this evidence of cooeperation.
Life was practicing its lesser ironies upon Banneker whilst maturing its greater ones.
In the regular course of political events, Laird was renominated on a fusion ticket. Thereupon the old ring, which had so long battened on the corruption or local government, put up a sleek and presentable figurehead. Marrineal nominated himself amidst the Homeric laughter of the professional politicians. How’s he goin’ to get anywhere, they demanded with great relish of the joke, when he ain’t got any organization at-tall! Presently the savor oozed out of that joke. Marrineal, it appeared, did have an organization, of sorts; worse, he had gathered to him, by methods not peculiarly his own, the support of the lesser East-Side foreign language press, which may or may not have believed in his protestations of fealty to the Common People, but certainly did appreciate the liberality of his political advertising appropriation, advertising, in this sense, to be accorded its freest interpretation. Worst of all, he had Banneker.
Banneker’s editorials, not upon Marrineal himself (for he was too shrewd for that), but upon the cause of which Marrineal was standard-bearer, were persuasive, ingenious, forceful, and, to the average mind, convincing. Was Banneker himself convinced? It was a question which he resolutely refused to follow to its logical conclusion. Of the justice of the creed which The Patriot upheld, he was perfectly confident. But did Marrineal represent that creed? Did he represent anything but Marrineal? Stifling his misgivings, Banneker flung himself the more determinedly into the fight. It became apparent that he was going to swing an important fraction of the labor vote, despite the opposition of such clear-eyed leaders as McClintick. To this extent he menaced the old ring rather than the forces of reform, led by Laird and managed by Enderby. On the other hand, he was drawing from Laird, in so far as he still influenced the voters who had followed The Patriot in its original support of the reform movement. That Marrineal could not be elected, both of his opponents firmly believed; and in this belief, notwithstanding his claims of forthcoming victory, the independent candidate privately concurred. It would be enough, for the time, to defeat decisively whichever rival he turned his heaviest guns upon in the final onset; that would insure his future political prestige. Thus far, in his speeches, he had hit out impartially at both sides, denouncing the old ring for its corruption, girding at Laird as a fake reformer secretly committed to Wall Street through Judge Enderby, corporation lawyer, as intermediary.