Luther Hamilton was a great political power. He was neither representative in Congress, senator nor cabinet minister. When asked why he aspired to none of these places of honor and emolument he invariably shrugged his shoulders and smiled inscrutably. In fact, he found it both more pleasant and more profitable simply to boss his party. It gave him power, position and patronage, and yet put him under obligations to no narrow constituency.
As he sat in his private office this particular morning there was a smile upon his face, and his little eyes looked out beneath the heavy grey eyebrows and the massive cheeks with gleams of pleasure. His whole appearance betokened the fact that he was feeling especially good. Even his mail lay neglected before him, and his eyes gazed straight at the wall. What wonder that he should smile and dream. Had he not just the day before utterly crushed a troublesome opponent? Had he not ruined the career of a young man who dared to oppose him, driven him out of public life and forced his business to the wall? If this were not food for self-congratulation pray what is?
Mr. Hamilton’s reverie was broken in upon by a tap at the door, and his secretary entered.
“Well, Frank, what is it now? I haven’t gone through my mail yet.”
“Miss Kirkman is in the outer office, sir, and would like to see you this morning.”
“Oh, Miss Kirkman, heh; well, show her in at once.”
The secretary disappeared and returned ushering in a young woman, whom the “boss” greeted cordially.
“Ah, Miss Kirkman, good-morning! Good-morning! Always prompt and busy, I see. Have a chair.”
Miss Kirkman returned his greeting and dropped into a chair. She began at once fumbling in a bag she carried.
“We’ll get right to business,” she said. “I know you’re busy, and so am I, and I want to get through. I’ve got to go and hunt a servant for Mrs. Senator Dutton when I leave here.”
She spoke in a loud voice, and her words rushed one upon the other as if she were in the habit of saying much in a short space of time. This is a trick of speech frequently acquired by those who visit public men. Miss Kirkman’s whole manner indicated bustle and hurry. Even her attire showed it. She was a plump woman, aged, one would say about thirty. Her hair was brown and her eyes a steely grey–not a bad face, but one too shrewd and aggressive perhaps for a woman. One might have looked at her for a long time and never suspected the truth, that she was allied to the colored race. Neither features, hair nor complexion showed it, but then “colored” is such an elastic word, and Miss Kirkman in reality was colored “for revenue only.” She found it more profitable to ally herself to the less important race because she could assume a position among them as a representative woman, which she could never have hoped to gain among the whites. So she was colored, and, without having any sympathy with the people whom she represented, spoke for them and uttered what was supposed by the powers to be the thoughts that were in their breasts.
“Well, from the way you’re tossing the papers in that bag I know you’ve got some news for me.”
“Yes, I have, but I don’t know how important you’ll think it is. Here we are!” She drew forth a paper and glanced at it.
“It’s just a memorandum, a list of names of a few men who need watching. The Afro-American convention is to meet on the 22d; that’s Thursday of next week. Bishop Carter is to preside. The thing has resolved itself into a fight between those who are office-holders and those who want to be.”
“Yes, well what’s the convention going to do?”