THE FIRST DISTRICT.
The trouble with us in the First Congressional District was that we could not carry the Ninth Ward. But for this weak point we would have felt assured at any time. With the Ninth Ward eliminated we could control the district barely. With the Ninth Ward for us it would be a walk-over. But the ward belonged to Gunderson.
Gunderson employed three thousand men. He was not a party man, but he was a partisan; that is, he would get interested sometimes in a campaign, and when he did, each workman in his big manufactory must vote as indicated or go. And Gunderson did not like Harlson. The ways of the big employer were not what Harlson admired, and he had never tried much to conciliate him. So it came that in more than one legislative and local contest we had lost the Ninth Ward. And now Harlson was a candidate for Congress.
We were puzzled. “I’m afraid Jean will have to lock me out again,” laughed Harlson, as we were discussing the problem one night after a committee meeting, and herein he referred to a funny episode, dating back to the time when the Ape was but a yearling. Jean, dignified, chatelaine, sweet wife and fond mother, was as interested in politics as in anything else that commanded her husband’s attention at any time, and had learned from our conversations all about the Ninth Ward. We were confident one spring, and as Grant left home on the morning of election day he was informed that unless he came as a victor he must not expect admission to the home containing his wife and baby boy. He said he would return in triumph or upon his shield, but he did neither. At five o’clock in the afternoon we knew that we were whipped, whipped beautifully and thoroughly, and all because of that same black demon of a Ninth Ward, and the fact was so apparent that we became suddenly philosophical, and Grant turned to me and said:
“Come to dinner with me, Alf, and let’s go now. What’s the use of staying to the funeral? We’ll eat a good dinner and smoke, and good digestion will wait on appetite, and we’ll plan and say we’ll do better next time.”
So we left the hurly-burly and took the train, and were at Harlson’s home a little before the dinner hour. Grant tried his latch-key, but it would not serve. He rang the bell, but there came no answer. Then there came a tapping and clatter from inside a window, and both of us left the porch to get down upon the sward and visit the window and investigate.
Inside the window, and smiling, was a small, brown woman, holding in her arms a crowing youngster, who was making a great ado and reaching out his hands toward his father. She raised the window just a little, and put a question, gravely:
“What is it that you wish, gentlemen?”
Grant intimated, humbly, that we wanted to get in and be given some dinner.