Chapter 17

Campaigning

 

Martinson's ungainly stride through the office door reminded Yerkes of a listing tramp steamer with too much cargo in the hold. The man, Yerkes noted, was a heap of ill-assembled body parts, creaking as they were forced to move together. That heap now noticed that Yerkes had thoughtfully moved his chair away from the front of the desk, out of breath range. So Martinson hoisted the chair and lumbered in, butting his chair inches from the front of Yerkes's desk. Yerkes checked his pocket watch and smiled unconvincingly at the dusty editor with the dun-toothed smile, motioning him to sit for their afternoon report session.

The only vivid sign of life Harold Martinson showed was the violet tip of his nose. A few daubs of stained glass light fell on that nose, making his honker into a headlight. Tiny jets of colored light, in fact, were just beginning to flicker all about the room from the cathedral windows mounted behind Yerkes's desk. As he so often fell into a trance of studying street railway lines, tunnels, issues of stocks, and statements of rolling stock and other real assets, these light flecks were a major source of time-keeping for Yerkes. And, besides, the daubs of color made some of the curmudgeons that Yerkes had to deal with more pleasing to the eye.

But had he ever seen a dustier, more tobacco-bestrewn individual? Yerkes thought not. Harold Martinson had the breath of a carrion crow. As he spoke, Yerkes kept wishing that he had a fan to direct the man's emanations elsewhere.

"Perhaps THIS will be the proverbial fire under the terrapin that will get your plans to move along!" Martinson bellowed with an cock of the head and wink of the eye.

"Perhaps what—what will—I'm sorry. I've lost your last point there," Yerkes admitted. Really, the man's appearance was a major distraction! Why was there such an inverse ratio between washing oneself and journalistic ability? A stinking pirate, that's what Martinson looked like in the unforgiving afternoon sun. Long John Silver Martinson continued, light glinting off his glass right eye. Yerkes almost expected him to break in with, "Arrgh, Matey!"

"What I'm trying to tell you is that Missus A. J. Cooper has made some devastating revelations at The Congress of Representative Women about the racial partiality of Missus Palmer's administration of the World's Fair. We can get our editorialist Hinman to begin showing another side to these reformers."

"What exactly does the woman say?" Yerkes happily noted that he was sitting far enough across the desk from Martinson that none of his editor's slobbering could reach his own trigly- tailored shirtfront.

"She says that no jobs other than menial ones have been given to colored people," Martinson sputtered indignantly. Yerkes nodded. That was true enough. "And she charges that the whole creation of 'Colored Peoples's Day' at the World's Fair was lame and an afterthought." Yerkes smiled. All this was true, but hardly newsworthy.

"Well, the other papers across the country are giving a lot of play to this story to embarrass Chicago, I'll tell you!" Martinson shot at Yerkes a glance that was meant to be taken seriously. Yerkes sat up a little straighter in his wine-colored Morrocco leather chair. The man was a bit frightening at times.

"I appreciate this information, Harold," Yerkes let a slow smile ruffle the corners of his lips. "But take this into account—Harold—just how do you think you'll tar them without tarring me? I am on the Board of Managers, you know!"

"Now—I've thought of that." Martinson jabbed a finger in the air. "You yourself had no part in the programming. That was all the doing of the Marshall Field and Potter Palmer group. We can draw those lines carefully in our editorial pages."

"Quite so," Yerkes said, pulling at his left ear thoughtfully. "They kept me from their inner planning circle all along."

"You've got a lot of unemployment here in Chicago. If it could be shown that some of these here 'reform elements' were just as bad as the status quo, think of the possibilities. THEN we go in with a few stories showing that Jane Addams gets her support from men like Bathhouse John Coughlin!"

"We need someone who knows the South Side like a proverbial book to get in there and interview some of the colored." Martinson grinned. "Show them who cares. I should think that Ted Dreiser, he's a young freelancer, works dirt cheap. . . ."

Yerkes raised his eyebrows. "What about our reporter on the spot? Why, Emma Klimova even lived in a colored. . .ah. . . rooming house. Why not let Emma interview them?"

"Not on your life!" spat Martinson. "You have got Hinman threatening to quit over that girl. He says that somebody's going to have to clip her wings. She is undercutting his anti- reform editorials with her 'Windy Column.' We try to make them out as anarchists and she writes about Jane Addams as if she were Saint Theresa with her Flowers! Look, here's tomorrow's Windy. Now, if you let that go out the way she has it, you'll have Hinson howling at your door in an hour!" Martinson drew a paper out of his jacket and shoved it across the desk at Yerkes.

Yerkes gazed over the text briefly and sighed. "Yes, I see what you mean. If this goes out precisely the way she has it, Mister Hinman will be more than dyspeptic. Very well, I want you to make a few additions to show just a shade of doubt about the stability of Miss Addams. Make her seem a bit overboard. Neurasthenic, whatever it takes, but nothing too obvious."

Martinson started to get up, nodding, but Yerkes waved him back down in his seat.

"One more thing," Yerkes, leaning forward, lightly beat his hands together. "I would like you to follow up on those interviews of the colored people. I don't care whom you get!"

Martinson wobbily pushed himself up from his chair and went out of the door, steadying himself on the chair back to cover up the sea legs that his luncheon pint of brandy had given him.

Hunching over the last bushel of apples he had hauled up from the clammy cellar, Anton let it gently drop. He arched his back.

"Anything else you need hauled, Missus Morgan?" he called into the kitchen.

A ruddy-cheeked old woman hobbled out to survey her porch and the seven bushels of apples. "That should be enough for my preserves. No, Anton. There's nothing else. Can you stay for biscuits and coffee?"

Anton nodded. This landlady made the best biscuits this side of his mother's kitchen in Chicago.

"You written to your Ma, lately?" Missus Morgan asked as she put down a plate of steaming biscuits.

"Yes, ma'am," Anton answered in mid-bite.

"Because I've seen too many boys come up here to Lake Geneva and forget all about their folks back in Chicago," Missus Morgan commented, pulling a corn cob pipe out of her apron and cleaning it with a pointed stick. "There's goings-on among the day laborers that would curl your toes! Boys getting our Lake Geneva girls into trouble and then—whish!—disappearing."

Anton nodded gravely. He didn't have much time for socializing with his heavy work schedule.

"And the big man himself's no example to the young," Missus Morgan clucked her tongue. "I suppose you haven't seen any of them."

"Any of who?"

Missus Morgan frowned. "You know, Mister Yerkes's fancy ladies! He brings them in on a special midnight train. Thinks we're stupid, he does."

Anton scratched his head and grimaced, thinking of his short and unsuccessful bout with Yerkes. "No, Missus Morgan, I—heard about Yerkes's bad habits, but I keep to my business and don't nose around. Jobs is awfully few in Chicago this summer. . . ."

"Even with that Columbian Exhibition, Anton?" Missus Morgan leaned back in her chair and propped her feet up on the rung, under the table."

"I'd say the new jobs the Fair is creating run just about even with all the boys and girls pouring into Chicago from other states," Anton shrugged.

"Anton! Look at that. Your plate's empty. Want some more biscuits?" Missus Morgan lifted a brown stoneware tray towards Anton.

"No, I have to be getting back to the observatory." Anton wiped his mouth on the rough napkin and pushed his chair back from the table. "And thanks for the biscuits, Missus Morgan."

They were setting up some of the finishing touches on the figures around the lintel of the main entrance this afternoon. Anton clutched a set of gargoyle cartoons he made up the night before. . .

Anton called the knot of men around himself. When he showed the sketches around, the men broke into brays of rough laughter.

"But these faces all have a certain look to them, Anton!" said Mister Porter, the old timer. How might I describe it?" He stroked his chin.

"They are Yerkesqueries," said Anton simply.

"Well, yes, that they are, but do you think our employer will pay our salaries to see himself thus Yerkesqueried?"

Anton snorted in response. "Time he notices, the job will be done. And he won't notice!"

Old man Porter shook his head. "I wouldn't be too sure, Anton. The boss has an eye for details and art. But, as you say, we're almost done. . . .All right! We'll use them."

A smile spread from Porter to Anton to Charlie to Bill and they ran over to get their carving tools in the corner of the foyer.

Anton wiped his forearm across his head. The hot July sun streamed outside the archway entrance of the observatory where he and the other men were working. His section of chalk lines were almost finished and he began roughing in the major planes of the faces. Anton folded open the floppy leather satchel where he kept his carving tools and pulled out a large chisel with teeth and a wooden mallet. He swung his arm a couple times to get the feel of the mallet. Bringing the chisel up to the edge of the block, Anton tapped it deftly and a triangular inch of limestone fell away. He began hollowing out a corolla around the first face. With the corolla cut deeply into the limestone all around the face, the face itself could be modelled, seeming to rise from inside of the stone.

When the work went well, Anton lost all sense of the passage of time. The movement of the sun streaks into the archway brought Anton back, for this was something that only happened late in the afternoon. The dappling rays spotted over the little gray face in front of Anton. He smiled, bemused, at the little features of limestone. The wizened face grimaced back.

Anton was standing with his legs spread and his hand under his chin, moving back one, then two paces. He had moved all the way out onto the cinder path leading up to the main entrance when he heard the crunch of cinder behind him and he turned.

" 'Afternoon, lad," said a voice. Anton turned and faced someone who looked vaguely familiar from South Chicago.

" 'Afternoon. You looking for somebody?" Anton smiled at the visitor, who had a reddish moustache waxed into points at the tips and who looked at him rakishly from under a straw boater hat.

"Yerkes himself, lad. You know where I can find him at this hour?"

Anton pointed at the corner cupola surmounted by a gargoyle. "He is usually up there in the afternoons, catching the nothern breeze, if there is a breeze."

The man pulled out a white and red striped handkerchief that matched his shirt. "Nary a rustle, I'd say." He went past Anton into the observatory, swiping at his neck with the kerchief.

Anton thought little of it and went back to starting on the second face. He had finished roughing out the major planes of the cheeks when the man returned. He called out for all the men to come hear him.

"Now, mind you, this is unofficial—that is, you are to understand that this offer does not come from Mister Yerkes. He sees no problem in as many of you as wish it exercisin' your civic duty by stopping the distribution of some ugly and offensive leaflets by anarchists. . . ."

The men looked around at each other. "You mean those men what blew up them policemen in Haymarket Square?" called one man, who was standing behind Anton.

The man with the red moustache laughed. "Oh, no, not them personally, but Jane Addams has been putting out such inflammatory and insulting material that it might as well be!"

Anton scratched his head. "Jane Addams from Hull House?" he asked.

Red moustache continued. "Well, she's getting her support from a lot of shady men these days, and we need to let her and any others know that such irresponsible attacks WILL NOT be tolerated!" The man cleared his throat. "To this end Alderman Powers has appointed me to hire you to help keep these offensive materials off the streets. . .at double pay. You're to come with me on the late train tonight and the whole opersation should require no more than a day or two." He looked acrsos the line of men. "Who's up for it?"

Anton found himself sitting among the five men who elected to go and help the man with the red moustache, whose name was Mike Condon. As the black silhouettes of evergreen trees sped past him, Anton wondered why he was being hired for this job. But the chance to make double pay caused Anton to turn his mind to other matters. New shoes. A haircut. He fell asleep as the train rumbled through the black night.


 

^M

Yerkes met Emma in the corner booth at Billy Boyle's chop house. Not scenic, perhaps, but appropriate. Boyle's was the hub of politician's and newsmen's activities in the First Ward. Johnny Powers waved cheerily from a front window table as Yerkes walked in the door. Seeing that Emma was already seated in their booth, Yerkes only waved back at Powers, straightened his cream-colored silk tie, and walked directly to the booth.

"Fine sunny day!" Yerkes beamed at Emma as he slid into the booth across from her. Yerkes loosened the silk tie and asked if he might remove his jacket. He smiled at Emma. His eyes, those big wet collie eyes, gazed meltingly into hers.

"Now, look here, Emma," Yerkes pulled out a flyer from his coat pocket. "I wanted to see you today because a woman named Missus A. J. Cooper will be addressing the the Parliament of Women this afternoon."

Emma looked blank.

"Missus Cooper is here from Washington, D. C., Emma," said Yerkes with a smile. "I recall that you have comfortable relations among colored people. Is that not the case?"

Emma nodded. "I know Vina Fields and some of her neighbors. . ."

"Yes, precisely. Well this Missus Cooper is the corresponding secretary of The Colored Woman's League. She has been making some interesting charges about the administration of this Fair and I'd like you to cover her speech, get some comments from her afterward, you see?" Yerkes waved a finger and a waiter came up to the table.

"I would like a ginger beer and what will you have, my dear?" Yerkes placed his hand over Emma's. She ordered a lemon phosphate. The waiter, used to heartier orders than this, wrinkled his nose as he wrote down the order.

Yerkes drew a large press card from his vest. "This should place you in Missus Cooper's proximity before she goes onstage."

"You would like me to find out her opinion of the Fair for 'Windy?'" Emma asked.

"Yes," Yerkes smiled. "Ask her whether Colored People are being treated well or poorly at the Fair. It should make for lively reading. . . ." Yerkes stopped and thoughtfully stroked his moustache.

"I had some more things planned about Hull House and Miss Addams," Emma broke in.

"Save them!" Yerkes said roughly. "I should think you've exhausted our readers' interest on that particular topic. Emma—" he looked into Emma's malachite eyes. "What do you think of me personally?"

"I— I—," Emma stumbled, longing to speak about her admiration for this powerful man, but unable to get the words out. "Well, you are one of the smartest men in Chicago!"

"Look at me Emma. What do my eyes tell you?" Yerkes leaned closer to Emma.

"Your eyes?" Emma was feeling alarmed. She didn't know how far this discussion was going to go. "I think you're laughing at me. Your eyes are laughing." Emma looked down at her hands.

"No, I don't think you can see me as I am. I'm definitely not laughing at you," Yerkes put his arm across Emma's shoulder. "You make me feel strange at times, Emma. I find that I picture you in the board room, sometimes, and I wonder what you would say if I asked you about this stock or that merger."

"I? I don't know anything about all that!" Emma said.

"I KNOW you don't," Yerkes gave Emma a squeeze. "My dear, if you only knew how alone I am in the midst of the urgent matters that pass my desk. I know that I could tell you things and you wouldn't judge or weigh them against me."

"I would try to hear you as a friend," Emma said, wondering where this was leading. She had come in with the point of wanting to ask why her editor had changed some of what she wrote about Jane Addams, casting a shadow of doubt upon that good woman's mental balance. But she didn't know how to steer the conversation back in that direction. "There are some things I don't understand about how my work is treated. I am also a friend of Miss Addams. Things were changed about her that I wrote. . ."

"Emma, you went far out of your depth! We are not simple, Jane Addams and I. Public figures are complex, don't you see?"

Emma tried to follow why he was justifying the additions that made her column less than friendly to Miss Addams. "I wrote something and words were added!" Emma cried in frustration, what she had been wanting to say all along. "Now I can't let her know that I write those columns."

"You were far out of line from what Mister Hinman had been writing. Too simplistic. Oh, Emma, ALL sorts of things get written everyday about me! Be mature. None of it matters. All I can say is that these discussions are growing boring and if you cannot get off one topic, you'll lose your audience, as well."

"I can't let people know that I wrote such a misleading column," Emma said, looking down.

"No need to! Didn't I say that you wouldn't regret writing under a pen name? Just move on, girl. Move away from that. You have other fields to plow, as they say." Yerkes patted Emma's shoulder. "Well, my having someone to talk to. It's just a fantasy, Emma," Yerkes sighed and removed his arm. "We never can know another person, nor can they truly know us. But if. . .someday. . .here, then, don't forget this card."

Emma took the press card and made arrangements to go to the Fair the next morning, just before the scheduled time for Missus Cooper's address to the Parliament of Women.


 

^M

Condon positioned Anton and his cohorts from the Lake Geneva building crew at the corners of Lake and Wells streets and State and Madison. The men knew that their job was to stop the Hull House boys from posting and distributing flyers at these busiest intersections. Anton stood on the sunny northwest corner and waited.

At about eight-fifteen, three teenaged boys showed up in blue capes and they began stopping people. Anton waved to Charlie and Bill. They crossed the street to where the boys were handing out the flyers. Nonchalantly, Charlie took a flyer from one of the caped boys.

"Hey, what's this you're handing out?" Charlie shouted, his face turning red. "Where do you kids get off handing out this pack of lies about Mister Powers? And who the devil is Jane Addams?"

One of the boys started to speak up in Miss Addam's behalf, but Bill pushed a hand into his face. Passers-by began walking in an arc around the scene. Most of these were office workers and they had no burning desire to get into a political altercation or any newsies' turf war.

"You can't do that!" yelled the smallest of the boys. "Give me those back!" Charlie had grabbed a stack of papers from the boy and sent them flying out into the street. Anton reached for the stack of flyers that the boy near him was carrying when he saw Emma coming up State Street. Anton stopped in mid-motion. He turned around and saw Charlie roughing up the boy near him, cuffing him and shoving him on down the street.

"Now don't let me see you kids stirring up trouble that way again. . .Boy! You there! Look out!"

Anton turned towards the street and he saw one of the boys scrambling to collect the papers that Charlie had scattered as one of Yerke's street railway cars bore down on him. It was rush hour and people were hanging off straps on all sides of the train. The driver couldn't see out and hadn't sounded his bell. Even as Charlie shouted, Anton was out in the street. He grabbed the boy by the hand and yanked him from the path of the oncoming train. The boy, recognizing Anton as one of his assailants, yanked his hand away and ran off down the street.

Emma picked up her skirts and ran up to Anton. She was confused. "I saw. . .I saw. . .what you did, Anton! Boze muj! You were almost killed!" Emma grabbed Anton's arm, foprgetting that Anton never wanted to see or hear from her again.

Charlie and Bill were hurrying down the street away from the commotion. "Look, Emma, I cannot talk now! Nice to see you," Anton waved her off and ran after the other two men, fearing that he might lose his overtime.

"But why are you in Chicago, Anton?" Emma called after her brother. He kept running and didn't answer. Emma watched his figure disappear into the crowds for a second and then remembered that she was due at the Art Institute for that interview with Missus A. J. Cooper. She was torn between the urge to run after Anton and try to make it all up and the need to keep her job. The job won. She sighed and started towards Michigan Avenue.


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