The Casual Club, from the Onlooker
On last Thursday evening the Casual
Club was gathered about a corner
table in Sherry's. The great room
was beautiful, the music brilliant,
the setting and table appointments
magnificent, and the dinner all that might be
asked. There came but one thing to grieve
the tempers of our members—the service was
slip-shod, inattentive, vile. One wonders
that so splendid an arrangement should be
left unguarded in the most important particular
of service; that Sherry, when he has
done so much, should permit himself to be
foiled of a last result by an idle carelessness
of waiters, who if they do not forget one's
orders outright, execute them with all imaginable
sloth. They attend on guests as though
the latter were pensioners, and are listless in
everything save a collection of the gratuity,
personal to themselves, which their avarice
and a public's weakness have educated them
Clams had occurred, and while we were discussing
these small sea-monsters, Fatfloat
broke suddenly forth. "I don't know if it be
a subject for self-gratulation or no, but I observed
that the daily papers took quick note
of my statement that Tammany Hall was
looted of its last shilling. For the guidance
of these energetic folk of ink and types, I will
unfold a further huddle of details. Instead of
nine hundred thousand dollars, there were
more than one million collected for the Tammany
campaign. No one can show where so
much as two hundred thousand dollars were
honestly disbursed. Let me tell a story; it
may suggest an idea to our diligent friends of
the Dailies. There is a rotund, porpoise-shaped
globular gentleman known of these
parts as 'Bim the Button Man.' This personage
went into the printing business at the beginning
of the late campaign and went out of
it—like blowing out a candle—at the close.
Bim the Button Man, for his brief parade as
a printer, took a partner. Or perhaps the
partner took Mr. Bim. The partner was and
is a doughty 'leader.' It was the new-made
firm of 'Bim' that flourished in the production
of those posters and lithographs of Mr. Shepard
which for so long disfigured the town.
Mr. Mitchell, printer, complained bitterly over
this invasion of his rights by Mr. Bim. The
latter snapped pudgy fingers at the querulous
Mr. Mitchell by virtue of his powerful partner.
Who was Mr. Bim's partner? One year before
when Mr. Mitchell's bill was seven thousand
dollars, Mr. Croker, being in a frugal
mood, felt excessively pained. Why then
should it mount last autumn to three hundred
thousand dollars and excite neither grief nor
reproach? And what was got for those three
hundred thousand dollars? When a show
leaves New York, it carries posters wherewith
to embellish each fence and bill board in the
land; and yet no show ever paid more than
ten thousand dollars for paper. Five thousand
dollars will cover every possible coign of
bill-sticking advantage and hang, besides, a
lithograph of Mr. Shepard in every window
in the city of New York. Then wherefore
those three hundred thousand dollars of Tammany?
There be folk on the finance committee
who should go into this business with a
lantern. The most hopeful name of these is
Mr. McDonald, our great subway contractor
and partner of Mr. August Belmont; he is a
member of that committee. He is, too, a
gentleman of intelligence, business habits and
high worth. Mr. McDonald of the subway,
for his own credit and that of Mr. Belmont,
his partner, should never sleep until he turned
out the bottom facts of that Tammany treasure
which has disappeared. Nor should a common
interest with Mr. Croker and certain of
that gentleman's retainers in the Port Chester
railway deter him. Is there no honest man in
It was at the close of the repast and when
cigars were smokily going that Vacuum returned
to the subject of Tammany Hall.
"Let me congratulate you, my dear Enfield,"
observed Vacuum courteously, "on your
genius for prophecy. At our last meeting, you
foretold the near overthrow of Mr. Nixon and
the Croker regime. The papers inform me
that all came to pass within the two days
following your warning."
"Yes," said Lemon sarcastically, taking the
words from Enfield, "we have been visited
with that fell calamity, the collapse of Mr.
Croker and his rule. We have seen the black
last of him, and the very name of Croker already
begins to be a memory. But why should
one repine?" Lemon's sneer was deepening.
"In every age the other great have come and
ruled and gone to that oblivion beyond.
They arose to fall and be forgot. It is the
law. Then why not Mr. Croker? True, even
while we consent, there comes that natural
sadness which I now observe to sparkle so
brightly in every present eye. What then?
We console ourselves as did Chief Justice
Crewe full two centuries and a half ago when
the decadence of De Vere claimed consideration.
'I have labored,' quoth Crewe, who if
that be possible was more moved over the
waning of De Vere than am I concerning the
passing of Mr. Croker, 'I have labored to make
a covenant with myself that affection may not
press upon judgment; for I suppose there is
no man that hath any apprehension of gentry
or nobleness but his affection stands to the
continuance of a house so illustrious and would
take hold on a twig or a twinethread to support
it. And yet Time hath his revolutions;
there must be a period and an end to all temporal
things—finis rerum—an end of names
and dignities and whatsoever is terrene; and
why not of De Vere? For where is Bohun?
where is Mowbray? where is Mortimer? nay,
which is more and most of all, where is Plantagenet?
They are entombed in the urns and
sepulchres of mortality!' And, as it was of
that ancient day of Crewe and the De Vere
so must it be of us and Mr. Croker. He
goes; we stay; and so let us drink to all."
Here Lemon filled his glass, and the rest having
amiably followed his example, offered
with a wicked twinkle, "The disappearance of
"What I regret in the business," remarked
Fatfloat as he put down his glass, "is the ill
fortune of Mr. Nixon. There is much of good
honesty about that gentleman; he is high-minded
and proud; I cannot but sympathize
with him in his present plight."
"And yet," observed Enfield, mildly, "Mr.
Nixon should have avoided that trap of an
empty leadership. Mr. Nixon is no stripling;
he knew Tammany and those elements of
mendacity and muddy intrigue which are
called its 'control'; he knew Mr. Croker, who
in these last days was faithful to no promise
and loyal to no man. Why did he permit
himself to be flattered, cozened and destroyed?
Why? He added inexperience to vanity and
betrayed himself. It was the old story—the
conference of that leadership on Mr. Nixon—the
old story of the Wolf and Little Red Riding
Hood, with Mr. Croker as Wolf and Mr. Nixon
the innocent who was eaten up. No, no; he
might have better guided himself. Mr. Nixon—were
all about the friendliest—was still unfit
for the place. It was like putting a horse in
a tree-top; it gave the horse no grace nor
glory and offered a sole assurance of his finally
"Isn't Mr. Nixon himself an honest man?"
asked Van Addle.
"Were it to be merely a question of honesty,"
replied Enfield, "Mr. Nixon would
make perfect answer. Broadly, he is an honest
man. But that, politically, is all. And
there be enterprises, such as Tammany Hall
and the Stock Market, wherein to be merely
honest is not a complete equipment. Moreover,
in this business of his so-called 'leadership,'
Mr. Nixon might have carried himself
with a more sensitive integrity and been
bettered vastly thereby. You will recall that
when Mr. Nixon performed as chairman of the
Tammany anti-vice committee, he discovered
in its entire membership that combine of
blackmail and extortion which, standing at
the head of Tammany and doing its foul work
through the police, fostered crime in the community
for a round return of four millions a
year. Mr. Nixon called these evil folk by
name and pointed to them. He could still
relate that roll and never miss an individual.
And if he did not put actual hand on the sly
presiding genius, I warrant you he might, were
he so inclined, indite a letter to him and get
the address right."
"And the postage would be five cents," interjected
"With this knowledge," continued Enfield
without heeding Lemon's interruption, "and
with his record as a foe of corruption, Mr.
Nixon, had he been wise as a captain, or true
to himself as a man, would have called about
him the cleaner elements. He would have reminded
them of the people's verdict of November
and told them plainly that the rogues
must go. He should have been loyal to himself.
He should have made the issue against
the corruptionists; he should have waged
prompt and bitter war, and either destroyed
them or died like a soldier high up on the
ramparts. Mr. Nixon would have then become
a martyr or a hero; and between the
two there after all goes flowing no mighty
difference. A martyr is a hero who failed; a
hero is a martyr who succeeded; both gain
the veneration of a people, and die or live
secure of self-respect. Mr. Nixon should have
uplifted the standards of a new crusade against
that handful of great robbers who, making
Tammany their stronghold, issued forth to a
rapine of the town. Nor, had he done so,
would he have fallen in the battle. As I have
already said, nineteen of every Tammany
twenty would have come round him for that
fight. He would have conquered a true leadership
and advanced a public interest while
upbuilding his party. Mr. Nixon, however,
failed tamely in the very arms of opportunity.
He kept to the same ignoble counsel that had
so wrought disrepute for Mr. Croker. And,
afar from thoughts of assailing those who had
dragged Tammany Hall through mire to
achieve their villain ends, he went openly into
their districts, commended them to the voters,
hailed them as his friends and urged their retention
in the executive board. Is it marvel,
then, that Mr. Nixon as a 'leader' took no
root? or that by the earliest gust of opposition
he was overblown? It could not have come
otherwise; he fairly threw himself beneath the
wheels of Fate."
"As to the future of Tammany Hall," said
Vacuum, "will Mr. Croker make further effort
to dominate it and send it orders from
"Undoubtedly," returned Enfield, to whom
the query was put, "Mr. Croker will strive in
all ways to prolong himself. It is with him
both a matter of money and a matter of pride.
But he will fail; his whilom follower, Mr. Carroll,
is too powerful. Mr. Carroll is in possession
and will yield only to Mr. Martin,—that
inveterate foe of Mr. Croker."
"Do you know why Mr. Croker attacked Mr.
Carroll just before he left?" asked Vacuum
"and ordered his destruction? One morning,
he was taken by Mr. Fox to view Mr. Carroll's
building operations near Fifth Avenue in Fifty-seventh
Street. Mr. Fox called attention to
the grandeur of Mr. Carroll's plans. The workmen
were tearing down a house to make
room for Mr. Carroll's coming palace. Mr.
Croker gazed for full ten minutes in wordless,
moody gloom. Then turning to the sympathetic
Mr. Fox he broke forth: 'What do you
think of that? He's tearing down a better
house than mine!' From that moment Mr.
Croker went about the tearing down of Mr.
"I had not supposed him so small," said Fatfloat,
"as to feel piqued because Mr. Carroll
would build a better house than his own."
"He didn't feel piqued," said Lemon; "he felt
plundered, and doubtless asked a question concerning
Mr. Carroll that has been so often
asked about himself."
"And yet," observed Van Addle, appealing
to Enfield, "I should love prodigiously to hear
your views on the situation in Tammany as it
stands. I confess both an ignorance and a
curiosity for light."
"And I am sure, my dear Van Addle," returned
Enfield, "you are heartily welcome to aught
I may know or believe on the subject. A
great noble of Rome observed that to direct
a wanderer aright was like lighting another
man's candle with one's own; it assisted the
fortunes of the beneficiary without subtracting
from the estate of the Samaritan. For myself,
I need neither the Roman argument nor the
Roman example to create within me a benevolent
willingness to hang a lantern in the tower
of truth for the guidance of any gentleman
now groping as to the actual status of Mr.
Croker with Tammany Hall.
"It requires no word to those initiate to convince
them that Mr. Croker no longer sits on
the throne, and that his potentialities are forever
departed away. For myself, grown too
indolent for an interest in aught beyond the
sentimentalities of politics, I sorrow that this
is so. Indifference is ever conservative and
hesitates at change; and, speaking for what
is within myself and not at all perhaps for
that which is best for the public, I would have
preferred a continuation of the Croker dynasty.
As it is, good sooth! Mr. Croker is
destroyed. And your ruin, of whatever character,
the resort of owls, the habitat of bats,
and all across it flung the melancholy ivy—that
verdant banner of victorious decay!—is,
at its loveliest, but a spectacle of depression;
and one who has witnessed Mr. Croker in his
vigor must be at least dimly affected as he
beholds him take his sad and passive place
with those who were. Mr. Croker is not to be
blamed as the architect of his overthrow.
With what lights that shone, his conduct was
prudent enough; and his dethronement is to
be charged to destiny—to kismet, rather than
to any gate-opening carelessness on the purblind
part of himself. 'Prudentia fato major,'
said the Florentine. But the Medici was
wrong, and before Death bandaged his eyes for
eternity it was given him to see that Destiny,
for all his caution and for all his craft, had
fed his hopes to defeat. And yet, while Mr.
Croker may not be charged as the reason of
his own removal, some consideration of causes
that incited it should have a merit and an
interest. It is one vessel crashing on a reef
that points a danger, and makes for the safety
of every ship that follows, and the story of
a wrecked and drowned dictatorship cannot
fail to instruct ambition in whatever
"Following the last presidential campaign,
Mr. Croker sailed Englandward to repose himself
from his labors. For ten months did he
rest, recuperate, restrengthen and restore himself.
And when he departed, albeit he may
have had no suspicion of that fact, Mr. Croker
left his chieftaincy behind. That was to happen
in the nature of things, and Mr. Croker
would have foreseen it had he been a true
scientist of supremacy. Remember it, all ye
kings and princes and potentates among men!
a crown will never travel, a scepter cannot
leave the realm, and there are no wheels on a
throne. Mr. Croker was not aware of these
cardinal truths of kingcraft when he sailed
away; the knowledge became his at a time too
late to have a value beyond the speculative.
Mr. Croker left the garments of his leadership
behind him and eighteen of the 'leaders' appropriated
them with a plot. They caught
their chief in bathing and they stole his clothes.
"Mr. Croker was home ten days before he
missed his leadership, and even then he was
made aware of its spoliation only by beholding
it in the hands of the cabal. Mr. Croker meant
Mr. Nixon for the mayoralty; but the plotting
eighteen, intriguing with Brooklyn blocked
the way with Mr. Coler. The coalition was
too strong for Mr. Croker to force, and the
logic of that same word pressed to a conflict
meant his destruction in the city convention.
"'When the lion's skin is too short,' said Lysander,
'we piece it out with the fox's,' and
while the Greeks thought this sentiment unbecoming
a descendant of Hercules, they
were fain to acquiesce in its practice when
met by a peril too strong for their spears.
Mr. Croker remembered Lysander; and, being
thus hedged and hemmed about, sought
safety by nominating Mr. Shepard. There
need be no mistake; Mr. Shepard was not a
candidate, he was a refuge. And such a refuge
as is Scylla when one is threatened of Charybdis.
"When Mr. Croker seized on Mr. Shepard,
he defeated the Coler plot, but made no
safety for his leadership. He succeeded
only in losing the latter in a fashion less harrowing
to his vanity, less obnoxious to his
self-respect. It was the old Roman at the
last, who, preferring suicide to capture,
throws himself on his own sword.
"Study the situation as Mr. Croker studied it,
following the city convention; it will aid to
an understanding of what has happened
since, and tell the story of his lost leadership.
Following Mr. Shepard's nomination there
lived no Croker hope. With either Mr.
Shepard or Mr. Low elected, Tammany
would dwindle—as one now beholds it—to
be a third-rate influence. The autocracy of
Mr. Croker would disappear. At the best, he
might beg where he had once commanded,
with every prospect of being denied. Mr.
Croker, in alarm for his pride, decided that
his sole chance to quit with credit was to quit
at once, and on that thought he acted. Following
the naming of Mr. Shepard he treated
with the plotters and abandoned to them half
his dominion. It was they, and not Mr. Croker,
who determined the personnel of the late
county and borough tickets; one has but to remember
the folk who were named, and recall
those who were not, to know that this is true.
But bad fortune overtook Mr. Croker and the
eighteen who then held him in partial thrall.
The city ticket of the one, and the county and
borough tickets of the others, were beaten."
"They were, of a hopeful verity!" interrupted
Fatfloat. "They were beaten as flat as a
field of turnips! And it was in high good
time, too. Had Tammany retained the city,
before 1904 the outlaws would have stolen
everything but the back fence."
"They did not keep the city, however," continued
Enfield, "and being defeated, Mr.
Croker developed with much speed an eagerness
for England. I do not blame him;
while outwardly respectful, the leading folk
of his circle were cheerless and cold, for to be
beaten is to be hated in Tammany Hall.
And so he made pretense of abdication and
Mr. Nixon appeared in his place. The sequel
of that ill-fortuned substitution is known.
"Mr. Croker will continue still to hold what
Tammany territory he may. He has money
interests to protect. And yet, strive and
plot and battle as best he can, it is too late.
His day is over and his power lost. He will
win such consideration and no more, as Mr.
Carroll and the others grant.
"It is to be doubted if Mr. Croker realizes
how prone and dead he is. One knows when
one is wounded, but one knows not when one
is killed. Some near day, or some far day,
Mr. Croker will seek to return. Then, and
not until that time, will he comprehend the
palsy that has stricken his supremacy. Mr.
Croker will return only to be denied. And
that, too, will be as it should; for even a
Napoleon comes back but once to France."