Read Ten North Frederick Online

Authors: John O’Hara

Ten North Frederick (59 page)

BOOK: Ten North Frederick
12.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

“Oh, I don't know,” said Williams.

“I think I'd rather have Institute Week. It was more on the order of a real vacation. But they gave us plenty of homework.
Oh
, that
home
work. I guess you didn't mind it because you liked to read, but I always wanted to be out playing baseball or games like that. There for a while I was a real tomboy. I hated being a girl. Well, I got over that all right. Do you want anything out of the kitchen?”

“What is there?”

“Well, I'll get you a snort, as far as that goes. Do you feel like a snort? I got some of that rye you brought home the night before last. Do you want a ball?”

“All right, give me a ball.”

“We did have plenty of ginger ale unless we drank it all the night before last. I think we still have some. If we don't do you want just a straight?”

“Either way,” said Williams.

“I think there's a whole bottle left, though. You brought home six bottles and I think we only used up the five. I'll go see.”

“That's a good idea,” said Williams.

“I could go and take a look instead of stand here and talk about it,” said Lottie.

“Well, if you don't, I will.”

“All right, don't get excited. I'll bet two pins that Edith Chapin wouldn't go out in the kitchen and wait on her husband. Not her.
She
has a
butler
.”

“I'll get you a butler.”

“Yeah, so you could have a French maid.”

“Are you gonna get the drink or will I get it?”

“Keep your shirt on, Attorney. I'm getting there, slow but sure.”

Williams telephoned Mike Slattery the next morning. The two men were not friends, chiefly because it was traditional in Lantenengo County for the Welshmen and the Irishmen not to be friends. But they managed to maintain cordial relations.

“What could the district attorney be wanting at this hour of the day?” said Slattery. “Let me quick examine my conscience.”

“That's your trouble. When you examine your conscience it's God damn quick. Spend a little time at it one of those days.”

“All right, now we've exchanged pleasantries, let's get down to business,” said Mike Slattery.

“That's all right with me, Mike,” said Lloyd Williams. “Like everybody else, I've been reading the newspapers.”

“And?”

“Did Joe Chapin ever fight a duel?”

“Did Joe Chapin ever fight a duel? Now you're asking me that for some sly purpose. I don't know if Joe Chapin ever fought a duel. What's your sly purpose?”

“Well, if he did, I just looked it up, and according to Article Twelve, Section Three of the Constitution of this great state, any man that ever fought a duel, or even challenged another lad to fight a duel, is prohibited from holding an office of honor or profit in this great state.”

“You're driving at something and I don't know what it is.”

“You don't? I'm not too sly for you this morning?”

“I confess you are.”

“Well, maybe you can get a couple guys to swear that Joe Chapin once fought a duel, and then when the time comes to give him the gate, all you gotta say is he's unconstitutional.”

There was a long silence at Mike Slattery's end of the telephone connection.

Williams broke the silence: “Are you still there?”

“I'm still here,” said Mike Slattery. “Let me ask you a question, Lloyd.”

“Go right ahead.”

“Is that your joke for today? Are you getting your laughs all over the courthouse with that one?”

“No, I thought I'd try it on you first,” said Williams.

“Well, you've tried it, and I didn't laugh a bit. I didn't even smile. I'm not smiling now. If you know what's good for you—and I never saw the day you didn't—you'll lay off that kind of witticism. If you have your eye on Congress or Common Pleas judge, don't repeat that little joke or any like it.”

“Well, I didn't think it'd go over so big.”

“Then why did you go to all this trouble?” said Mike Slattery.

“Because if I was only born yesterday I could still see what you're going to do to Chapin, and you could have picked somebody else.”

“I can hardly believe my own ears. Are you the new self-appointed guardian angel for Joe Chapin?”

“No.”

“Then I'll give you some free advice. Keep your nose out of where it doesn't belong. You just go right on serving the people as the able district attorney for the County of Lantenengo, and have a good time doing it, because it could be your last opportunity to serve them. You may find yourself retiring to private practice at the end of your term, and that isn't what you want.”

“No, but God damn it, I'll sleep better tonight for what I've been telling you this morning.”

“Oh, I slept all right
last
night, Lloyd. I'll bet I sleep better than you most nights. And I'll sleep all right tonight because I showed you where you might be making the biggest mistake of your life. You made your little protest, now keep your big mouth shut.” Slattery hung up without another word to Lloyd Williams, but he immediately telephoned an assistant district attorney in Williams's office.

“Jameson speaking,” said the assistant.

“Ralph, is your boss anywhere near you?”

“No. Who is this?”

“Mike Slattery.”

“He's in his own office and the door's closed.”

“I want to hear anything and everything he has to say about Joe Chapin, even the slightest little wisecrack. Check with me promptly. That's all.”

But the precaution was unnecessary. Lloyd Williams had made his only protest, and it was the only one of its kind.

The regular party organization would be announcing its ticket in the spring, and with few exceptions the announced ticket had become, in the fall, the elected candidates. Party members were allowed to vote for the regular or the independent candidates for the nominations, but the regular organization had had a comfortably consistent record against independents. Even in
1934
, with the Democrats in power in Washington and rising in the state, a Republican seeking office wanted the support of the regular organization. Moreover, Joe Chapin was by habit a regular organization man, and he had uncompromisingly aligned himself with the regulars. His nomination therefore depended entirely on his being announced on the organization ticket. In the months preceding the announcement of the organization ticket he repeatedly declared that the independents were merely New Dealers in disguise, and several times he implied that they ought to be read out of the party. It was not subtle politics, but it was Joe Chapin's, and no one stopped him.

Joe had accepted Mike's invitation to “put yourself in my hands” and he obeyed Mike's command to “do nothing without consulting me.” Mike was his personal envoy at the higher councils of the organization, and was therefore presumed also to be speaking for the organization leaders when he told Joe to be careful about accepting requests to speak at dinners and rallies. As a consequence Joe's speaking engagements were fewer than he had expected them to be. “It was all right before, but that was small stuff. Now you're out to get the nomination, and that's big stuff. And the wrong speech at the wrong place could hurt everybody, the party
and
you,” said Mike.

“I'd like to know a little more about what's going on.”

“There's no secret about it, goodness knows,” said Mike. “We've got men all over the state finding out who'll make up the strongest ticket. We don't want to win for governor and lose for United States senator. We want a clean sweep. My man for lieutenant governor is Joseph B. Chapin, but aside from you, I keep an open mind. I could tell you who I'd like to see senator, but who I like and who gets on the ticket are two separate matters. I give advice, they listen to it, and if they think I'm right, they adopt it. But they don't always adopt it. Many's the time I came from Pittsburgh, tired and weary and wishing I'da been a schoolteacher or a doctor. Those were the times when my advice was thrown right out the window of the Duquesne Club, and I wished I'd gone out with it. But it's nice to win. Oh, it's nice to win. Then you forget the disappointments as though they never happened. And it's a team job, Joe. The Penrose days are gone forever. That's why you're lucky to be going along with the organization.”

Early in February of
1934
Mike showed Joe Chapin a clipping from a Pittsburgh newspaper, a story in a political column. “This is the first sign of any trouble, and in case you didn't see it, I show it to you for what it's worth.”

The column quoted a local politician, an organization man whose name was new to Joe. “In the eastern part of the state they are giving early support to Joseph B. Chapin (for lieutenant governor). Chapin, a lawyer, has had no previous political experience, according to William J. Murdock, who went on to say that the presence of an ‘unknown' on the organization ticket could do irreparable harm to the party as a whole, particularly in a year which is expected to see close contests deciding the outcome in November.”

“Well, he never heard of me, and I never heard of him,” said Joe.

“I know him. He's pretty well thought of out that way.”

“Do you think I ought to meet him and have a talk with him?”

“I thought of that, but I don't think you'd get along very well. He only wants men that came up from ward-heeler.”

“Like our friend in the White House?”

“Well, our friend did have some experience. Murdock will do as he's told when the time comes. He'll deliver a whole congressional district,” said Mike.

“Mike, you sound as though you like this fellow.”

“He's very useful, Joe, and that's what counts, not my likes or dislikes.”

Edith received Joe's account of the conversation calmly. “As Mike Slattery told you, this man Murdock will do as he's told. I don't see that he's anyone to worry about.”

“He isn't if he's only stating his own opinion. Or if he's the only one that has that opinion of me. I'll start worrying when I hear that there are more like him.”

He was not long waiting. “Did you see the Philadelphia
Sun
today?” Mike said, over the telephone.

“I missed it this morning.”

“It isn't good, Joe. Have you got it at the office?”

“I think Arthur has a copy. I'll get his.”

The Philadelphia
Sun
employed a political columnist who was a sarcastic delight to everyone except his victim of the moment. He wrote: “My Old Lady and I are going to have to pass up the hospitality of Lantenengo County which we have enjoyed in the past at the hands of jovial Mike Slattery and his Peg. Our reason is that Mike is trying to convince The Powers That Be that Joe Chapin ought to get the nomination for lieutenant governor. I don't know what is happening to friend Mike unless it be that he is getting in sassiety up Lantenengo way. Joe Chapin may be Joe Chapin in Gibbsville, the county seat of Lantenengo, but the only time I met him he was so forbidding of mien, so condescending in his attitude toward plain folks, that it is stretching the imagination to picture him allowing Mike to call him anything but M'Lord. Lord Chapin is so lofty in manner that we are amazed that lieutenant governor is noble enough for him. If we had a Viceroy in this here Commonwealth, we could understand how he might ‘stand for election,' as they say in jolly England. Not having a title of that nature, we suppose lieutenant governor has to do. But it must be frightfully boring, doncha know?

“Seriously, we are not at such a loss for prospective candidates that we can afford to try out an amateur who has only one thing to recommend him, that being a grandfather who likewise served a term as lieutenant governor. If we are selecting candidates on that basis, can't we find a Republican who is a collateral descendant of George Washington? Furthermore, if Mr. Slattery is seriously proposing that the second place on the state ticket be handed on a silver platter to a rank amateur, who never has held public office in the fifty-two years of his life, it could be that Mr. Slattery is ‘losing his touch.' If so, it is fortunate we are discovering it before the harm is done.”

Joe Chapin called Mike Slattery back. “Mike, I don't remember ever meeting that fellow.”

“That isn't the part that worries me.”

“What does?” said Joe Chapin.

“His sources.”

“His what?”

“His news sources. All newspaper fellows have news sources. And this fellow has the best. He's the mouthpiece for The Powers That Be that he mentions. In other words, he knows something I don't know, because I haven't been let in on it.”

“About me?”

“Well, yes. I'm going to be out of town for a few days, beginning tomorrow. I'll be in touch with you when I get back.”

“Shall I go along with you?”

“Oh, no. Thanks for offering to, but I have to do this job myself.”

Mike went home that evening and did not wait for dinner to be finished before his chat with Peg. “I suppose you saw today's
Sun
.”

“Oh, sure.”

“They've started to give it to Joe.”

“They gave it to you a little, too.”

“Oh, that did me no harm. I knew it was coming. I heard about it last week. They asked me if I'd mind and I said of course not. Philadelphia papers can do me a little good, but they can't do me any harm. Quite the opposite. I probably made a few friends through that article.”

“Well, Joe Chapin didn't.”

“That's different. He was ridiculed where he's vulnerable. I was made to look like a loyal pal. I wish Joe'd quit before they really start to work on him.”

“Why? He knew what he was getting into.”

“Oh, no he didn't. They never know. He was upset, I could tell over the phone. Nothing he said, just his manner, the tone of his voice. What have we got for dinner?”

BOOK: Ten North Frederick
12.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

Do Or Die [Nuworld 4] by Lorie O'Claire
I Need You by Jane Lark
Corrupt Cravings by Salaiz, Jennifer
Demons Like It Hot by Ayers, Sidney
The Big Why by Michael Winter
Nightwise by R. S. Belcher
Cam Jansen & Mystery of the Dinosaur Bon by Adler, David/Natti, Suzanna
Time Is a River by Mary Alice Monroe