It was because the Democratic candidate for Governor was such an energetic man that he had been able to stir Little Africa, which was a Republican stronghold, from centre to circumference. He was a man who believed in carrying the war into the enemy’s country. Instead of giving them a chance to attack him, he went directly into their camp, leaving discontent and disaffection among their allies. He believed in his principles. He had faith in his policy for the government of the State, and, more than all, he had a convincing way of making others see as he saw.
No other Democrat had ever thought it necessary to assail the stronghold of Little Africa. He had merely put it into his forecast as “solidly against,” sent a little money to be distributed desultorily in the district, and then left it to go its way, never doubting what that way would be. The opposing candidates never felt that the place was worthy of consideration, for as the Chairman of the Central Committee said, holding up his hand with the fingers close together: “What’s the use of wasting any speakers down there? We’ve got ’em just like that.”
It was all very different with Mr. Lane.
“Gentlemen,” he said to the campaign managers, “that black district must not be ignored. Those people go one way because they are never invited to go another.”
“Oh, I tell you now, Lane,” said his closest friend, “it’ll be a waste of material to send anybody down there. They simply go like a flock of sheep, and nothing is going to turn them.”
“What’s the matter with the bellwether?” said Lane sententiously.
“That’s just exactly what is the matter. Their bellwether is an old deacon named Isham Swift, and you couldn’t turn him with a forty-horsepower crank.”
“There’s nothing like trying.”
“There are many things very similar to failing, but none so bad.”
“I’m willing to take the risk.”
“Well, all right; but whom will you send? We can’t waste a good man.”
“I’ll go myself.”
“Why, you’d be the laughing-stock of the State.”
“All right; put me down for that office if I never reach the gubernatorial chair.”
“Say, Lane, what was the name of that Spanish fellow who went out to fight windmills, and all that sort of thing?”
“Never mind, Widner; you may be a good political hustler, but you’re dead bad on your classics,” said Lane laughingly.
So they put him down for a speech in Little Africa, because he himself desired it.
Widner had not lied to him about Deacon Swift, as he found when he tried to get the old man to preside at the meeting. The Deacon refused with indignation at the very idea. But others were more acquiescent, and Mount Moriah church was hired at a rental that made the Rev. Ebenezer Clay and all his Trustees rub their hands with glee and think well of the candidate. Also they looked at their shiny coats and thought of new suits.
There was much indignation expressed that Mount Moriah should have lent herself to such a cause, and there were murmurs even among the congregation where the Rev. Ebenezer Clay was usually an unquestioned autocrat. But, because Eve was the mother of all of us and the thing was so new, there was a great crowd on the night of the meeting. The Rev. Ebenezer Clay presided. Lane had said, “If I can’t get the bellwether to jump the way I want, I’ll transfer the bell.” This he had tried to do. The effort was very like him.
The Rev. Mr. Clay, looking down into more frowning faces than he cared to see, spoke more boldly than he felt. He told his people that though they had their own opinions and ideas, it was well to hear both sides. He said, “The brothah,” meaning the candidate, “had a few thoughts to pussent,” and he hoped they’d listen to him quietly. Then he added subtly: “Of co’se Brothah Lane knows we colo’ed folks ‘re goin’ to think our own way, anyhow.”