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- The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig - 2/47 -
"Every game has its own rules," said Arkwright. "You'll get on better--quicker--go further--here if you'll learn a few elementary things. I don't see that wearing a whole shirt decently done up is going to compromise any principles. Surely you can do that and still be as common as you like. The people look up to the fellow that's just a little better dressed than they."
Josh eyed Arkwright in the way that always made him wonder whether he was in full possession of the secret of this strenuous young Westerner. "But," said he, "they love and trust the man who will have nothing which all may not have. The shirt will do for this evening." And he turned back into the bedroom.
Arkwright reflected somewhat uncomfortably. He felt that he himself was right; yet he could not deny that "Josh's cheap demagoguery" sounded fine and true. He soon forgot the argument in the study of his surroundings. "You're living like a wild beast here, Josh," he presently called out. "You must get a valet."
A loud laugh was the reply.
"Or a wife," continued Arkwright. Then, in the voice of one announcing an inspiration, "Yes--that's it! A wife!"
Craig reappeared. He had on his waistcoat and coat now, and his hair was brushed. Arkwright could not but admit that the personality took the edge off the clothes; even the "mottled mica"--the rent was completely hid--seemed to have lost the worst of its glaze and stiffness. "You'll do, Josh," said he. "I spoke too quickly. If I hadn't accidentally been thrust into the innermost secrets of your toilet I'd never have suspected." He looked the Westerner over with gentle, friendly patronage. "Yes, you'll do. You look fairly well at a glance--and a man's clothes rarely get more than that."
Craig released his laugh upon his fastidious friend's judicial seriousness. "The trouble with you, Grant, is you've never lived a human life. You've always been sheltered and pampered, lifted in and out of bed by valets, had a suit of clothes for every hour in the day. I don't see how it is I happen to like you." And in Craig's face and voice there was frankly the condescension of superior to undoubted inferior.
Arkwright seemed to be wavering between resentment and amused disdain. Then he remembered the circumstances of their first acquaintance--those frightful days in the Arizona desert, without food, with almost no water, and how this man had been absolute ruler of the party of lost and dying men; how he had forced them to march on and on, with entreaties, with curses, with blows finally; how he had brought them to safety--all as a matter of course, without any vanity or boasting--had been leader by divine right of strength of body and soul. Grant turned his eyes from Craig, for there were tears in them. "I don't see why you like me, either, Josh," said he. "But you do--and--damn it all, I'd die for you."
"I guess you'll come pretty near dying of shame before this evening's over," laughed Craig. "This is the first time in my life I ever was in a fashionable company."
"There's nothing to be frightened about," Grant assured him.
"Frightened!" Josh laughed boisterously--Arkwright could have wished he would temper that laugh. "I--frightened by a bunch of popinjays? You see, it's not really in the least important whether they like me or not--at least, not to me. I'll get there, anyhow. And when I do, I'll deal with them according to their deserts. So they'd better hustle to get solid with me."
In the two years since he had seen Craig, Arkwright had almost forgotten his habit of bragging and blowing about himself--what he had done, what he was going to do. The newspapers, the clippings Josh sent him, had kept him informed of the young Minnesotan's steady, rapid rise in politics; and whenever he recalled the absurd boasting that had made him feel Craig would never come to anything, he assumed it was a weakness of youth and inexperience which had, no doubt, been conquered. But, no; here was the same old, conceited Josh, as crudely and vulgarly self-confident as when he was twenty-five and just starting at the law in a country town. Yet Arkwright could not but admit there had been more than a grain of truth in Craig's former self-laudations, that there was in victories won a certain excuse for his confidence about the future. This young man, not much beyond thirty, with a personality so positive and so rough that he made enemies right and left, rousing the envy of men to fear that here was an ambition which must be downed or it would become a tyranny over them--this young man, by skill at politics and by sympathetic power with people in the mass, had already compelled a President who didn't like him to appoint him to the chief post under an Attorney-General who detested him.
"How are you getting on with the Attorney-General?" asked Arkwright, as they set out in his electric brougham.
"He's getting on with me much better," replied Craig, "now that he has learned not to trifle with me."
"Stillwater is said to be a pretty big man," said Arkwright warningly.
"The bigger the man, the easier to frighten," replied Josh carelessly, "because the more he's got to lose. But it's a waste of time to talk politics to you. Grant, old man, I'm sick and worn out, and how lonesome! I'm successful. But what of that, since I'm miserable? If it wasn't for my sense of duty, by Heaven, I sometimes think I'd drop it all and go back to Wayne."
"Don't do that, Josh!" exclaimed Arkwright. "Don't let the country go rolling off to ruin!"
"Like all small creatures," said Craig, "you take serious matters lightly, and light matters seriously. You right a moment ago when you said I needed a wife."
"That's all settled," said Grant. "I'm going to get you one."
"A woman doesn't need a man--if she isn't too lazy to earn a living," pursued Craig. "But what's a man without a woman about?"
"You want a wife, and you want her quick," said Arkwright.
"You saw what a condition my clothes are in. Then, I need somebody to talk with."
"To talk to," corrected Grant.
"I can't have you round all the time to talk to."
"Heaven forbid!" cried Arkwright. "You never talk about anything but yourself."
"Some day, my boy," said Josh, with his grave good humor of the great man tolerating the antics of a mountebank, "you'll appreciate it wasn't the subject that was dull, but the ears. For the day'll come when everybody'll be thinking and talking about me most of the time."
Arkwright grinned. "It's lucky you don't let go before everybody like that."
"Yes, but I do," rejoined Craig. "And why not? They can't stop my going ahead. Besides, it's not a bad idea"--he nodded, with that shrewdness which was the great, deep-lying vein in his nature-- "not at all a bad idea, to have people think you a frank, loose- mouthed, damn fool--IF you ain't. Ambition's a war. And it's a tremendous advantage to lead your enemies to underestimate you. That's one reason why I ALWAYS win...So you're going TO TRY to get me a wife?"
"I'm going to get you one--one of the sort you need. You need a woman who'll tame you down and lick you into shape."
Craig smiled scornfully.
"One who'll know how to smooth the enemies you make with your rough-and-tumble manners; one who'll win friends for you socially--"
Josh made a vehement gesture of dissent. "Not on your life!" cried he. "Of course, my wife must be a lady, and interested in my career. But none of your meddling politicians in petticoats for me! I'll do my own political maneuvering. I want a woman, not a bad imitation of a man."
"Well, let that go," said Arkwright. "Also, she ought to be able to supply you with funds for your political machinery."
Josh sat up as if this were what he had been listening for.
"That's right!" cried he. "Politics is hell for a poor man, nowadays. The people are such thoughtless, short-sighted fools--" He checked himself, and in a different tone went on: "However, I don't mean exactly that--"
"You needn't hedge, Josh, with me."
"I don't want you to be thinking I'm looking for a rich woman."
"Not at all--not at all," laughed his friend.
"If she had too much money it'd be worse for my career than if she had none at all."
"I understand," said Arkwright.
"Enough money to make me independent--if I should get in a tight place," continued Josh. "Yes, I must marry. The people are suspicious of a bachelor. The married men resent his freedom--even the happily married ones. And all the women, married and single, resent his not surrendering."
"I never suspected you of cynicism."
"Yes," continued Craig, in an instantly and radically changed tone, "the people like a married man, a man with children. It looks respectable, settled. It makes 'em feel he's got a stake in the country--a home and property to defend. Yes, I want a wife."
"I don't see why you've neglected it so long."
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