An Inspired Lobbyist by J. W. De Forest
(Atlantic Monthly, December, 1872.)
A certain fallen angel (politeness toward his numerous
and influential friends forbids me to mention his name
abruptly) lately entered into the body of Mr. Ananias
Pullwool, of Washington, D.C.
As the said body was a capacious one, having been
greatly enlarged circumferentially since it acquired its
full longitude, there was accommodation in it for both
the soul of Pullwool himself (it was a very little one)
and for his distinguished visitant. Indeed, there was so
much room in it that they never crowded each other, and
that Pullwool hardly knew, if he even so much as
mistrusted, that there was a chap in with him. But other
people must have been aware of this double tenantry, or
at least must have been shrewdly suspicious of it, for
it soon became quite common to hear fellows say, "Pullwool
has got the Devil in him."
There was, indeed, a remarkable change—a change not so
much moral as physical and mental—in this gentleman's
ways of deporting and behaving himself. From being logy
in movement and slow if not absolutely dull in mind, he
became wonderfully agile and energetic. He had been a
lobbyist, and he remained a lobbyist still, but such a
different one, so much more vigorous, eager, clever, and
impudent, that his best friends (if he could be said to
have any friends) scarcely knew him for the same
Pullwool. His fat fingers were in the buttonholes of
Congressmen from the time when they put those
buttonholes on in the morning to the time when they took
them off at night. He seemed to be at one and the same
moment treating some honorable member in the bar-room of
the Arlington and running another honorable member to
cover in the committee-rooms of the Capitol. He
log-rolled bills which nobody else believed could be
log-rolled, and he pocketed fees which absolutely and
point-blank refused to go into other people's pockets.
During this short period of his life he was the most
successful and famous lobbyist in Washington, and the
most sought after by the most rascally and desperate
claimants of unlawful millions.
But, like many another man who has the Devil in him, Mr.
Pullwool ran his luck until he ran himself into trouble.
An investigating committee pounced upon him; he was put
in confinement for refusing to answer questions; his
filchings were held up to the execration of the envious
both by virtuous members and a virtuous press; and when
he at last got out of durance he found it good to quit
the District of Columbia for a season. Thus it happened
that Mr. Pullwool and his eminent lodger took the cars
and went to and fro upon the earth seeking what they
In the course of their travels they arrived in a little
State, which may have been Rhode Island, or may have
been Connecticut, or may have been one of the Pleiades,
but which at all events had two capitals. Without regard
to Morse's Gazetteer, or to whatever other Gazetteer may
now be in currency, we shall affirm that one of these
capitals was called Slowburg and the other Fastburg. For
some hundreds of years (let us say five hundred, in
order to be sure and get it high enough) Slowburg and
Fastburg had shared between them, turn and turn about,
year on and year off, all the gubernatorial and
legislative pomps and emoluments that the said State had
to bestow. On the 1st of April of every odd year the
governor, preceded by citizen soldiers, straddling or
curvetting through the mud—the governor, followed by
twenty barouches full of eminent citizens, who were not
known to be eminent at any other time, but who made a
rush for a ride on this occasion as certain old ladies
do at funerals—the governor, taking off his hat to
pavements full of citizens of all ages, sizes, and
colors, who did not pretend to be eminent—the governor,
catching a fresh cold at every corner, and wishing the
whole thing were passing at the equator,—the governor
triumphantly entered Slowburg,—observe, Slowburg,—read
his always enormously long message there, and convened
the legislature there. On the 1st of April of every even
year the same governor, or a better one who had
succeeded him, went through the same ceremonies in
Fastburg. Each of these capitals boasted, or rather
blushed over, a shabby old barn of a State-House, and
each of them maintained a company of foot-guards and
ditto of horse-guards, the latter very loose in their
saddles. In each the hotels and boarding-houses had a
full year and a lean year, according as the legislature
sat in the one or in the other. In each there was a loud
call for fresh shad and stewed oysters, or a
comparatively feeble call for fresh shad and stewed
oysters, under the same biennial conditions.
Such was the oscillation of grandeur and power between
the two cities. It was an old-time arrangement, and like
many other old-fashioned things, as for instance wood
fires in open fireplaces, it had not only its
substantial merits but its superficial inconveniences.
Every year certain ancient officials were obliged to
pack up hundreds of public documents and expedite them
from Fastburg to Slowburg, or from Slowburg back to
Fastburg. Every year there was an expense of a few
dollars on this account, which the State treasurer
figured up with agonies of terror, and which the
opposition roared at as if the administration could have
helped it. The State-Houses were two mere deformities of
patched plaster and leprous whitewash; they were such
shapeless, graceless, dilapidated wigwams, that no
sensitive patriot could look at them without wanting to
fly to the uttermost parts of the earth; and yet it was
not possible to build new ones, and hardly possible to
obtain appropriations enough to shingle out the weather;
for Fastburg would vote no money to adorn Slowburg, and
Slowburg was equally niggardly toward Fastburg. The same
jealousy produced the same frugality in the management
of other public institutions, so that the patients of
the lunatic asylum were not much better lodged and fed
than the average sane citizen, and the gallows-birds in
the State's prison were brought down to a temperance
which caused admirers of that species of fowl to tremble
with indignation. In short, the two capitals were as
much at odds as the two poles of a magnet, and the
results of this repulsion were not all of them worthy of
But advantages seesawed with disadvantages. In this
double-ender of a State political jobbery was at fault,
because it had no headquarters. It could not get
together a ring; it could not raise a corps of
lobbyists. Such few axe-grinders as there were had to
dodge back and forth between the Fastburg grindstone and
the Slowburg grindstone, without ever fairly getting
their tools sharpened. Legislature here and legislature
there; it was like guessing at a pea between two
thimbles; you could hardly ever put your finger on the
right one. Then what one capital favored the other
disfavored; and between them appropriations were kicked
and hustled under the table; the grandest of railroad
schemes shrunk into waste-paper baskets; in short, the
public treasury was next door to the unapproachable.
Such, indeed, was the desperate condition of lobbyists
in this State, that, had it contained a single
philanthropist of the advanced radical stripe, he would
surely have brought in a bill for their relief and
Into the midst of this happily divided community dropped
Mr. Ananias Pullwool with the Devil in him. It remains
to be seen whether this pair could figure up anything
worth pocketing out of the problem of two capitals.
It was one of the even years, and the legislature met in
Fastburg, and the little city was brimful. Mr. Pullwool
with difficulty found a place for himself without
causing the population to slop over. Of course he went
to a hotel, for he needed to make as many acquaintances
as possible, and he knew that a bar was a perfect
hot-house for ripening such friendships as he cared for.
He took the best room he could get; and as soon as
chance favored he took a better one, with parlor
attached; and on the sideboard in the parlor he always
had cigars and decanters. The result was that in a week
or so he was on jovial terms with several senators,
numerous members of the lower house, and all the members
of the "third house." But lobbying did not work in
Fastburg as Mr. Pullwool had found it to work in other
capitals. He exhibited the most dazzling double-edged
axes, but nobody would grind them; he pointed out the
most attractive and convenient of logs for rolling, but
nobody would put a lever to them.
"What the doose does this mean?" he at last inquired of
Mr. Josiah Dicker, a member who had smoked dozens of his
cigars and drunk quarts out of his decanters. "I don't
understand this little old legislature at all, Mr.
Dicker. Nobody wants to make any money; at least, nobody
has the spirit to try to make any. And yet the State is
full; never been bled a drop; full as a tick. What does
Mr. Dicker looked disconsolate. Perhaps it may be worth
a moment's time to explain that he could not well look
otherwise. Broken in fortune and broken in health, he
was a failure and knew it. His large forehead showed
power, and he was in fact a lawyer of some ability; and
still he could not support his family, could not keep a
mould of mortgages from creeping all over his house-lot,
and had so many creditors that he could not walk the
streets comfortably. The trouble lay in hard drinking,
with its resultant waste of time, infidelity to trust,
and impatience of application. Thin, haggard, duskily
pallid, deeply wrinkled at forty, his black eyes watery
and set in baggy circles of a dull brown, his lean dark
hands shaky and dirty, his linen wrinkled and
buttonless, his clothing frayed and unbrushed, he was an
impersonation of failure. He had gone into the
legislature with a desperate hope of somehow finding
money in it, and as yet he had discovered nothing more
than his beggarly three dollars a day, and he felt
himself more than ever a failure. No wonder that he wore
an air of profound depression, approaching to absolute
wretchedness and threatening suicide.
He looked the more cast down by contrast with the
successful Mr. Pullwool, gaudily alight with satin and
jewelry, and shining with conceit. Pullwool, by the way,
although a dandy (that is, such a dandy as one sees in
gambling-saloons and behind liquor-bars), was far from
being a thing of beauty. He was so obnoxiously gross and
shapeless, that it seemed as if he did it on purpose and
to be irritating. His fat head was big enough to make a
dwarf of, hunchback and all. His mottled cheeks were
vast and pendulous to that degree that they inspired the
imaginative beholder with terror, as reminding him of
avalanches and landslides which might slip their hold at
the slightest shock and plunge downward in a path of
destruction. One puffy eyelid drooped in a sinister way;
obviously that was the eye that the Devil had selected
for his own; he kept it well curtained for purposes of
concealment. Looking out of this peep-hole, the Satanic
badger could see a short, thick nose, and by leaning
forward a little he could get a glimpse of a broad chin
of several stories. Another unpleasing feature was a
full set of false teeth, which grinned in a ravenous
fashion that was truly disquieting, as if they were
capable of devouring the whole internal revenue.
Finally, this continent of physiognomy was diversified
by a gigantic hairy wart, which sprouted defiantly from
the temple nearest the game eye, as though Lucifer had
accidentally poked one of his horns through. Mr. Dicker,
who was a sensitive, squeamish man (as drunkards
sometimes are, through bad digestion and shaky nerves),
could hardly endure the sight of this wart, and always
wanted to ask Pullwool why he didn't cut it off.
"What's the meaning of it all?" persisted the Washington
wire-puller, surveying the Fastburg wire-puller with
bland superiority, much as the city mouse may have
surveyed the country mouse.
"Two capitals," responded Dicker, withdrawing his
nervous glance from the wart, and locking his hands over
one knee to quiet their trembling.
Mr. Pullwool, having the Old Harry in him, and being
consequently full of all malice and subtlety, perceived
at once the full scope and force of the explanation.
"I see," he said, dropping gently back into his
arm-chair, with the plethoric, soft movement of a
subsiding pillow. The puckers of his cumbrous eyelids
drew a little closer together; his bilious eyes peered
out cautiously between them, like sallow assassins
watching through curtained windows; for a minute or so
he kept up what might without hyperbole be called a
devil of a thinking.
"I've got it," he broke out at last. "Dicker, I want you
to bring in a bill to make Fastburg the only capital."
"What is the use?" asked the legislator, looking more
disconsolate, more hopeless than ever. "Slowburg will
oppose it and beat it."
"Never you mind," persisted Mr. Pullwool. "You bring in
your little bill and stand up for it like a man. There's
money in it. You don't see it? Well, I do; I'm used to
seeing money in things; and in this case I see it plain.
As sure as whiskey is whiskey, there's money in it."
Mr. Pullwool's usually dull and, so to speak, extinct
countenance was fairly alight and aflame with
exultation. It was almost a wonder that his tallowy
person did not gutter beneath the blaze, like an
over-fat candle under the flaring of a wick too large
"Well, I'll bring in the bill," agreed Mr. Dicker,
catching the enthusiasm of his counsellor and shaking
off his lethargy. He perceived a dim promise of fees,
and at the sight his load of despondency dropped away
from him, as Christian's burden loosened in presence of
the cross. He looked a little like the confident,
resolute Tom Dicker, who twenty years before had
graduated from college the brightest, bravest, most
eloquent fellow in his class, and the one who seemed to
have before him the finest future.
"Snacks!" said Mr. Pullwool.
At this brazen word Mr. Dicker's countenance fell again;
he was ashamed to talk so frankly about plundering his
fellow-citizens; "a little grain of conscience turned
"I will take pay for whatever I can do as a lawyer," he
"Get out!" laughed the Satanic one. "You just take all
there is a-going! You need it bad enough. I know when a
man's hard up. I know the signs. I've been as bad off as
you; had to look all ways for five dollars; had to play
second fiddle and say thanky. But what I offer you ain't
a second fiddle. It's as good a chance as my own. Even
divides. One half to you and one half to me. You know
the people and I know the ropes. It's a fair bargain.
What do you say?"
Mr. Dicker thought of his decayed practice and his
unpaid bills; and flipping overboard his little grain of
conscience, he said, "Snacks."
"All right," grinned Pullwool, his teeth gleaming
alarmingly. "Word of a gentleman," he added, extending
his pulpy hand, loaded with ostentatious rings, and
grasping Dicker's recoiling fingers. "Harness up your
little bill as quick as you can, and drive it like Jehu.
Fastburg to be the only capital. Slowburg no claims at
all, historical, geographical, or economic. The old
arrangement a humbug; as inconvenient as a fifth wheel
of a coach; costs the State thousands of greenbacks
every year. Figure it all up statistically and dab it
over with your shiniest rhetoric and make a big thing of
it every way. That's what you've got to do; that's your
little biz. I'll tend to the rest."
"I don't quite see where the money is to come from,"
observed Mr. Dicker.
"Leave that to me," said the veteran of the lobbies; "my
name is Pullwool, and I know how to pull the wool over
men's eyes, and then I know how to get at their
britches-pockets. You bring in your bill and make your
speech. Will you do it?"
"Yes," answered Dicker, bolting all scruples in another
half tumbler of brandy.
He kept his word. As promptly as parliamentary forms and
mysteries would allow, there was a bill under the
astonished noses of honorable lawgivers, removing the
seat of legislation from Slowburg and centring it in
Fastburg. This bill Mr. Thomas Dicker supported with
that fluency and fiery enthusiasm of oratory which had
for a time enabled him to show as the foremost man of
his State. Great was the excitement, great the rejoicing
and anger. The press of Fastburg sent forth shrieks of
exultation, and the press of Slowburg responded with
growlings of disgust. The two capitals and the two
geographical sections which they represented were ready
to fire Parrott guns at each other, without regard to
life and property in the adjoining regions of the earth.
If there was a citizen of the little Commonwealth who
did not hear of this bill and did not talk of it, it was
because that citizen was as deaf as a post and as dumb
as an oyster. Ordinary political distinctions were
forgotten, and the old party-whips could not manage
their very wheel-horses, who went snorting and kicking
over the traces in all directions. In short, both in the
legislature and out of it, nothing was thought of but
the question of the removal of the capital.
Among the loudest of the agitators was Mr. Pullwool; not
that he cared one straw whether the capital went to
Fastburg, or to Slowburg, or to Ballyhack; but for the
money which he thought he saw in the agitation he did
care mightily, and to get that money he labored with a
zeal which was not of this world alone. At the table of
his hotel, and in the barroom of the same institution,
and in the lobbies of the legislative hall, and in
editorial sanctums and barbers' shops, and all other
nooks of gossip, he trumpeted the claims of Fastburg as
if that little city were the New Jerusalem and deserved
to be the metropolis of the sidereal universe. All sorts
of trickeries, too; he sent spurious telegrams and got
fictitious items into the newspapers; he lied through
every medium known to the highest civilization. Great
surely was his success, for the row which he raised was
tremendous. But a row alone was not enough; it was the
mere breeze upon the surface of the waters; the
treasure-ship below was still to be drawn up and gutted.
"It will cost money," he whispered confidentially to
capitalists and land-owners. "We must have the sinews of
war, or we can't carry it on. There's your city lots
goin' to double in value if this bill goes through. What
per cent will you pay on the advance? That's the
question. Put your hands in your pockets and pull 'em
out full, and put back ten times as much. It's a sure
investment; warranted to yield a hundred per cent; the
safest and biggest thing agoing."
Capitalists and land-owners and merchants hearkened and
believed and subscribed. The slyest old hunks in
Fastburg put a faltering forefinger into his long
pocket-book, touched a greenback which had been laid
away there as neatly as a corpse in its coffin, and
resurrected it for the use of Mr. Pullwool. By tens, by
twenties, by fifties, and by hundreds the dollars of the
ambitious citizens of the little metropolis were charmed
into the portemonnaie of this rattlesnake of a lobbyist.
"I never saw a greener set," chuckled Pullwool. "By
jiminy, I believe they'd shell out for a bill to make
their town a seaport, if it was a hundred miles from a
drop of water."
But he was not content with individual subscriptions,
and conscientiously scorned himself until he had got at
the city treasury.
"The corporation must pony up," he insisted, with the
mayor. "This bill is just shaking in the wind for lack
of money. Fastburg must come down with the dust. You
ought to see to it. What are you chief magistrate for?
Ain't it to tend to the welfare of the city? Look here,
now; you call the common council together; secret
session, you understand. You call 'em together and let
me talk to 'em. I want to make the loons comprehend that
it's their duty to vote something handsome for this
The mayor hummed and hawed one way, and then he hawed
and hummed the other way, and the result was that he
granted the request. There was a secret session in the
council-room, with his honor at the top of the long
green table, with a row of more or less respectable
functionaries on either side of it, and with Mr.
Pullwool and the Devil at the bottom. Of course it is
not to be supposed that this last-named personage was
visible to the others, or that they had more than a
vague suspicion of his presence. Had he fully revealed
himself, had he plainly exhibited his horns and hoofs,
or even so much as uncorked his perfume-bottle of
brimstone, it is more than probable that the city
authorities would have been exceedingly scandalized, and
they might have adjourned the session. As it was, seeing
nothing more disagreeable than the obese form of the
lobbyist, they listened calmly while he unfolded his
Mr. Pullwool spoke at length, and to Fastburg ears
eloquently. Fastburg must be the sole capital; it had
every claim, historical, geographical, and commercial,
to that distinction; it ought, could, would, and should
be the sole capital; that was about the substance of his
"But, gentlemen, it will cost," he went on. "There is an
unscrupulous and furious opposition to the measure. The
other side—those fellows from Slowburg and vicinity—are
putting their hands into their britches-pockets. You
must put your hands into yours. The thing will be worth
millions to Fastburg. But it will cost thousands. Are
you ready to fork over? Are you ready?"
"What's the figure?" asked one of the councilmen. "What
do you estimate?"
"Gentlemen, I shall astonish some of you,"
answered Mr. Pullwool, cunningly. It was well put; it
was as much as to say, "I shall astonish the green ones;
of course the really strong heads among you won't be in
the least bothered." "I estimate," he continued, "that
the city treasury will have to put up a good round sum,
say a hundred thousand dollars, be it more or less."
A murmur of surprise, of chagrin, and of something like
indignation ran along the line of official mustaches.
"Nonsense," "The dickens," "Can't be done," "We can't
think of it," broke out several councilmen, in a
distinctly unparliamentary manner.
"Gentlemen, one moment," pleaded Pullwool, passing his
greasy smile around the company, as though it were some
kind of refreshment. "Look at the whole job; it's a big
job. We must have lawyers; we must have newspapers in
all parts of the State; we must have writers to work up
the historical claims of the city; we must have fellows
to buttonhole honorable members; we must have fees for
honorable members themselves. How can you do it for
Then he showed a schedule; so much to this wire-puller
and that and the other; so much apiece to so many able
editors; so much for eminent legal counsel; finally, a
trifle for himself. And one hundred thousand dollars or
thereabouts was what the schedule footed up, turn it
whichever way you would.
Of course this common council of Fastburg did not dare
to vote such a sum for such a purpose. Mr. Pullwool had
not expected that it would; all that he had hoped for
was the half of it; but that half he got.
"Did they do it?" breathlessly inquired Tom Dicker of
him, when he returned to the hotel.
"They done it," calmly, yet triumphantly, responded Mr.
"Thunder!" exclaimed the amazed Dicker. "You are the
most extraordinary man! You must have the very Devil in
Instead of being startled by this alarming supposition,
Mr. Pullwool looked gratified. People thus possessed
generally do look gratified when the possession is
But the inspired lobbyist did not pass his time in
wearing an aspect of satisfaction. When there was money
to get and to spend he could run his fat off almost as
fast as if he were pouring it into candle-moulds. The
ring—the famous capital ring of Fastburg—must be seen
to, its fingers greased, and its energy quickened.
Before he rolled his apple-dumpling of a figure into bed
that night he had interviewed Smith and Brown the
editors, Jones and Robinson the lawyers, Smooth and Slow
the literary characters, various lobbyists, and various
"Work, gentlemen, and capitalize Fastburg and get your
dividends," was his inspiring message to one and all. He
promised Smith and Brown ten dollars for every
editorial, and five dollars for every humbugging
telegram, and two dollars for every telling item. Jones
and Robinson were to have five hundred dollars apiece
for concurrent legal statements of the claim of the
city; Smooth and Slow, as being merely authors and so
not accustomed to obtain much for their labor, got a
hundred dollars between them for working up the case
historically. To the lobbyists and members Pullwool was
munificent; it seemed as if those gentlemen could not be
paid enough for their "influence;" as if they alone had
that kind of time which is money. Only, while dealing
liberally with them, the inspired one did not forget
himself. A thousand for Mr. Sly; yes, Mr. Sly was to
receipt for a thousand; but he must let half of it stick
to the Pullwool fingers. The same arrangement was made
with Mr. Green and Mr. Sharp and Mr. Bummer and Mr.
Pickpurse and Mr. Buncombe. It was a game of snacks,
half to you and half to me; and sometimes it was more
than snacks,—a thousand for you two and a thousand for
With such a greasing of the wheels, you may imagine that
the machinery of the ring worked to a charm. In the city
and in the legislature and throughout the State there
was the liveliest buzzing and humming and clicking of
political wheels and cranks and cogs that had ever been
known in those hitherto pastoral localities. The case of
Fastburg against Slowburg was put in a hundred ways, and
proved as sure as it was put. It really seemed to the
eager burghers as if they already heard the clink of
hammers on a new State-House and beheld a perpetual
legislature sitting on their fences and curbstones until
the edifice should be finished. The great wire-puller
and his gang of stipendiaries were the objects of
popular gratitude and adoration. The landlord of the
hotel which Mr. Pullwool patronized actually would not
take pay for that gentleman's board.
"No, sir!" declared this simple Boniface, turning
crimson with enthusiasm. "You are going to put thousands
of dollars into my purse, and I'll take nothing out of
yours. And any little thing in the way of cigars and
whiskey that you want, sir, why, call for it. It's my
"Thank you, sir," kindly smiled the great man. "That's
what I call the square thing. Mr. Boniface, you are a
gentleman and a scholar; and I'll mention your admirable
house to my friends. By the way, I shall have to leave
you for a few days."
"Going to leave us!" exclaimed Mr. Boniface, aghast. "I
hope not till this job is put through."
"I must run about a bit," muttered Pullwool,
confidentially. "A little turn through the State, you
understand, to stir up the country districts. Some of
the members ain't as hot as they should be, and I want
to set their constituents after them. Nothing like
getting on a few deputations."
"Oh, exactly!" chuckled Mr. Boniface, ramming his hands
into his pockets and cheerfully jingling a bunch of keys
and a penknife for lack of silver. It was strange indeed
that he should actually see the Devil in Mr. Pullwool's
eye and should not have a suspicion that he was in
danger of being humbugged by him. "And your rooms?" he
suggested. "How about them?"
"I keep them," replied the lobbyist, grandly, as if
blaspheming the expense—to Boniface. "Our friends must
have a little hole to meet in. And while you are about
it, Mr. Boniface, see that they get something to drink
and smoke; and we'll settle it between us."
"Pre—cisely!" laughed the landlord, as much as to say,
And so Mr. Pullwool, that Pericles and Lorenzo de'
Medici rolled in one, departed for a season from the
city which he ruled and blessed. Did he run about the
State and preach and crusade in behalf of Fastburg, and
stir up the bucolic populations to stir up their
representatives in its favor? Not a bit of it; the place
that he went to and the only place that he went to was
Slowburg; yes, covering up his tracks in his usual
careful style, he made direct for the rival of Fastburg.
What did he propose to do there? Oh, how can we reveal
the whole duplicity and turpitude of Ananias Pullwool?
The subject is too vast for a merely human pen; it
requires the literary ability of a recording angel.
Well, we must get our feeble lever under this boulder of
wickedness as we can, and do our faint best to expose
all the reptiles and slimy things beneath it.
The first person whom this apostle of lobbyism called
upon in Slowburg was the mayor of that tottering
"My name is Pullwool," he said to the official, and he
said it with an almost enviable ease of impudence, for
he was used to introducing himself to people who
despised and detested him. "I want to see you
confidentially about this capital ring which is making
so much trouble."
"I thought you were in it," replied the mayor, turning
very red in the face, for he had heard of Mr. Pullwool
as the leader of said ring; and being an iracund man, he
was ready to knock his head off.
"In it!" exclaimed the possessed one. "I wish I was.
It's a fat thing. More than fifty thousand dollars paid
"Good gracious!" exclaimed the mayor in despair.
"By the way, this is between ourselves," added Pullwool.
"You take it so, I hope. Word of honor, eh?"
"Why, if you have anything to communicate that will help
us, why, of course, I promise secrecy," stammered the
mayor. "Yes, certainly; word of honor."
"Well, I've been looking about among those fellows a
little," continued Ananias. "I've kept my eyes and ears
open. It's a way I have. And I've learned a thing or two
that it will be to your advantage to know. Yes, sir!
fifty thousand dollars!—the city has voted it and paid
it, and the ring has got it. That's why they are all
working so. And depend upon it, they'll carry the
legislature and turn Slowburg out to grass, unless you
wake up and do something."
"By heavens!" exclaimed the iracund mayor, turning red
again. "It's a piece of confounded rascality. It ought
to be exposed."
"No, don't expose it," put in Mr. Pullwool, somewhat
alarmed. "That game never works. Of course they'd deny
it and swear you down, for bribing witnesses is as easy
as bribing members. I'll tell you what to do. Beat them
at their own weapons. Raise a purse that will swamp
theirs. That's the way the world goes. It's an auction.
The highest bidder gets the article."
Well, the result of it all was that the city magnates of
Slowburg did just what had been done by the city
magnates of Fastburg, only, instead of voting fifty
thousand dollars into the pockets of the ring, they
voted sixty thousand. With a portion of this money about
him, and with authority to draw for the rest on proper
vouchers, Mr. Pullwool, his tongue in his cheek, bade
farewell to his new allies. As a further proof of the
ready wit and solid impudence of this sublime politician
and model of American statesmen, let me here introduce a
brief anecdote. Leaving Slowburg by the cars, he
encountered a gentleman from Fastburg, who saluted him
with tokens of amazement, and said, "What are you doing
here, Mr. Pullwool?"
"Oh, just breaking up these fellows a little," whispered
the man with the Devil in him. "They were making too
strong a fight. I had to see some of them,"
putting one hand behind his back and rubbing his fingers
together, to signify that there had been a taking of
bribes. "But be shady about it. For the sake of the good
cause, keep quiet. Mum's the word."
The reader can imagine how briskly the fight between the
two capitals reopened when Mr. Pullwool re-entered the
lobby. Slowburg now had its adherents, and they
struggled like men who saw money in their warfare, and
they struggled not in vain. To cut a very long story
very short, to sum the whole of an exciting drama in one
sentence, the legislature kicked overboard the bill to
make Fastburg the sole seat of government. Nothing had
come of the whole row, except that a pair of simple
little cities had spent over one hundred thousand
dollars, and that the capital ring, fighting on both
sides and drawing pay from both sides, had lined its
pockets, while the great creator of the ring had crammed
his to bursting.
"What does this mean, Mr. Pullwool?" demanded the
partially honest and entirely puzzled Tom Dicker, when
he had discovered by an unofficial count of noses how
things were going. "Fastburg has spent all its money for
nothing. It won't be sole capital, after all."
"I never expected it would be," replied Pullwool, so
tickled by the Devil that was in him that he could not
help laughing. "I never wanted it to be. Why, it would
spoil the little game. This is a trick that can be
played every year."
"Oh!" exclaimed Mr. Dicker, and was dumb with
astonishment for a minute.
"Didn't you see through it before?" grinned the grand
master of all guile and subtlety.
"I did not," confessed Mr. Dicker, with a mixture of
shame and abhorrence. "Well," he presently added,
recovering himself, "shall we settle?"
"Oh, certainly, if you are ready," smiled Pullwool, with
the air of a man who has something coming to him.
"And what, exactly, will be my share?" asked Dicker,
"What do you mean?" stared Pullwool, apparently in the
extremity of amazement.
"You said snacks, didn't you?" urged Dicker,
"Well, snacks it is," replied Pullwool. "Haven't
you had a thousand?"
"Yes," admitted Dicker.
"Then you owe me five hundred?"
Mr. Dicker did not faint, though he came very near it,
but he staggered out of the room as white as a sheet,
for he was utterly crushed by this diabolical impudence.
That very day Mr. Pullwool left for Washington, and the
Devil left for his place, each of them sure to
find the other when he wanted him, if indeed their roads