It was the party’s Candidate for President. At this time only congressional elections were pending, but this man had been Candidate for President so often that every one thought of him in that role. You might say that each of his campaigns lasted four years; he travelled from one end of the land to the other, and counted by the millions those who heard his burning, bitter message. It had chanced that the day which the War-lords and Money-lords of Europe had chosen to drive their slaves to slaughter was the day on which the Candidate had been scheduled to speak in the Leesville Opera-house. No wonder the Socialists of the little inland city were stirred!
Jimmie Higgins turned into “Tom’s Buffeteria”, and greeted the proprietor, and seated himself on a stool in front of the counter, and called for coffee, and helped himself to “sinkers”—which might have been called “life-preservers”, they were blown so full of air. He filled his mouth, at the same time looking up to make sure that Tom had not removed the card announcing the meeting; for Tom was a Catholic, and one of the reasons that Jimmie went to his place was to involve him and his patrons in arguments over exploitation, unearned increment and surplus value.
But before a discussion could be started, it chanced that Jimmie glanced about. In the back part of the room were four little tables, covered with oil-cloth, where “short orders” were served; and at one of those tables a man was seated. Jimmie took a glance at him, and started so that he almost spilled his coffee. Impossible; and yet— surely—who could mistake that face? The face of a medieval churchman, lean, ascetic, but with a modern touch of kindliness, and a bald dome on top like a moon rising over the prairie. Jimmie started, then stared at the picture of the Candidate which crowned the shelf of pies. He turned to the man again; and the man glanced up, and his eyes met Jimmie’s, with their expression of amazement and awe. The whole story was there, not to be misread—especially by a Candidate who travels about the country making speeches, and being recognized every hour or so from his pictures which have preceded him. A smile came to his face, and Jimmie set down the coffee-cup from one trembling hand and the “sinker” from the other, and rose from his stool.
Jimmie would not have had the courage to advance, save for the other man’s smile—a smile that was weary, but candid and welcoming. “Howdy do, Comrade?” said the man. He held out his hand, and the moment of this clasp was the nearest to heaven that Jimmie Higgins had ever known.
When he was able to find his voice, it was only to exclaim, “You wasn’t due till five-forty-two!”
As if the Candidate had not known that! He explained that he had missed his sleep the night before, and had come on ahead so as to snatch a bit during the day. “I see,” said Jimmie; and then, “I knowed you by your picture.”