Read ESTHER LOCKWIN : CHAPTER III - THE CENOTAPH of David Lockwin - The People's Idol, free online book, by John McGovern, on ReadCentral.com.

“TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD. This sum of money will be paid for the recovery of the body of the Hon. David Lockwin, lost in Georgian Bay the morning of Oc. When last seen the body was afloat in the yawl of the propeller Africa, off Cape Croker. For full particulars and suggestions, address H. M. H. Wandrell, Chicago, Ill.”

This advertisement may be seen everywhere. It increases the public excitement attending the death of the people’s idol. There is a ferment of the whole body politic.

Of all the popular pastors who turn the catastrophe to their account the famous preacher at Esther Lockwin’s church makes the most of it. To a vast gathering of the devout and the curious he dwells upon the uncertainties of life. Here, indeed, was a Chicagoan who but yesterday was almost certain to be President of the United States.

“Now his beloved body, my dear brethren and fellow-citizens, lies buried in the sands of an unfrequented sea.”

There is suppressed emotion.

“And as for man,” chants the harmonious choir, “his days are as grass.”

“As a flower of the field,” sounds the bass.

“So he flourisheth,” answers the soft alto.

“For the wind passeth over it,” sings the tenor.

“And it is gone,” proclaims the treble.

“And the place thereof shall know it no more,” breathes the full choir, preparing to shout that the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him.

It is found that Lockwin had hosts of friends. There is so much inquiry on account of that strange journey to Owen Sound that the political boss is grievously disturbed.

Corkey is not blind to this general uneasiness. He reads the posters and the advertisements. He whistles. It is a sum of money worthy of deep consideration.

“You offered to l--end to her,” observes the mascot.

“Well, if she had needed the stuff she’d a been after it soon enough, wouldn’t she? I don’t offer it to everybody. But that ain’t the point. I’m going after that roll ten thousand dollars! You want to come? If I win, you git $500. I reckon that’s enough for a kid.”

It is a project which is well conceived, for Corkey may easily arrange for a salary from his great newspaper. To find Lockwin’s body would be a clever feat of journalism, inasmuch as the search has been abandoned by the other papers.

A delegation of dock-frequenters waits on Corkey to demand that he shall stand for Congress in the second special election, made necessary by the death of Lockwin.

“Gentlemen, I’m off on business. I beg to de de re re drop out! Please excuse me, and take something.”

The touching committees cannot touch Corkey.

“The plant has been sprung,” they comment, “His barrel is empty.”

Corkey had once been rich when he did not know the value of wealth. He had been reduced to poverty. On becoming a reporter, he had laboriously saved $1,000 in gold coins. In a few weeks $300 of this store had been dissipated.

“And all the good work didn’t cost nothing, either,” thinks Corkey.

Would it not be wise now to keep the $700 that remain? When the vision of a contest, with Emery Storrs as advocate, had crossed poor Corkey’s mind on the Africa, the Contestant could see that his gold was to be lost. He could not retreat without disgrace. Now he need not advance.

“You bet I won’t!” thinks Corkey, as he expresses his regrets that enforced absence from Chicago will prevent his candidacy.

“You’d be elected!” chime the touching committees.

“You bet I would,” says Corkey.

“Corkey is too smart,” say the touching committees. “Wait till he gets into politics from the inside. Won’t he wolf the candidates!”

Corkey is at last on the shores of Georgian Bay. The weather soon interferes with the search. But there are no signs of either body or yawl.

The wreck of the Africa, followed by daily conventional catastrophes, soon fades from public recollection. The will of David Lockwin is brought into court. The estate is surprisingly small.

It had been supposed that Lockwin was worth half a million. Wise men said Lockwin was probably good for $200,000. The probate shows that barely $75,000 have been left to the wife, and the estate thus bequeathed is in equities on mortgaged property. Mills that had always been clear of incumbrances are found to have been used for purposes of money-raising at the time of the election, or shortly thereafter.

The public conclusion is quick and unfavorable.

Lockwin ruined himself in carrying the primaries! The opposition papers, while professing the deepest pity for the dead, dip deep into the scandals of the election. “It is well the briber is out of the reach of further temptation,” say they.

This tide of opprobrium would go higher but for the brave efforts of a single woman. She visits the political boss.

“You killed my husband!” she says deliberately.

The leader protests.

“Now you let these hyenas bark every day at his grave. And he has no grave!”

The woman grows white. The leader expostulates, The woman regains her anger.

“He has no grave, and yet your hyenas are barking, and barking. Do you think I do not read it? Do you think I intend to endure it?”

The leader makes his peace.

As a result there is a return to the question in the party press. Long eulogies of Lockwin appear. There is a movement for a monument. The memory of the dead man’s oratory stirs the community. Several prominent citizens subscribe when they learn that their subscriptions, however meager, will be made noteworthy from a source where money is not highly valued. The poor on every side touch the widow’s heart with their sincere and generous offerings.

The philosophic discuss the character of Esther Lockwin.

“Her troubles have brought her out. These cold women are slow to strike fire, but I admire them,” says the first philosopher.

“Don’t you think our American widows make too much ado?” asks the second philosopher.

“They at least do not ascend the burning pyre of their dead husbands.”

“To be sure. That’s so. I don’t know but I like Esther Lockwin the better. I never knew a man to lose so much as Lockwin did by dying.”

“She declares his death was due to the little boy’s death.”

“Odd thing, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, but he was a beautiful child. What was his name, now?”

“It was Lockwin’s name let me see David.”

“Oh, yes, Davy, they called him.”

“Well, she has erected the prettiest sarcophagus in the whole cemetery for Davy. I tell you Esther Lockwin is a magnificent woman.”

“She would have more critics, though, if she were not Wandrell’s only daughter.”

“Wandrell’s only daughter! You don’t tell me so! Ah, yes, yes! That accounts for it.”

So, while the philosophers account for it, Esther Lockwin goes on with the black business of life. Every week she waits impatiently for news from Corkey. Every week he gives notice that he has found nothing.

“When spring comes, I’ll find that yawl,” he promises. He knows he can do that much with time.

How often has Esther Lockwin thrown herself on a couch, weeping and moaning as if her body would not hold her rebellious heart as when Corkey left her in those black and earliest days of the great tempest of woe!

“It is marvelous that it is held to be dishonorable to die, and honorable to live,” she cries.

“Oh, David, David, come back! come back! so noble, so good, so great! You who loved little Davy so! You who kissed his blessed little feet! Oh, my own! my husband!”

A fond old mother, knocking on the door, comes always in time to stop these brain-destroying paroxysms.

“And to think, mother, that they shall asperse his name! The people’s idol! Faugh! The people! Oh, mother, mother!”

The mother deplores these months of persistent brooding. It is wrong.

“So they always say, who have not suffered, mother. How fortunate you are.”

But the daughter must recollect that to-day is the dedication. A band has marched past. Kind friends have carried the subscription to undoubted success. Emery Storrs will deliver the oration. The papers are full of the programme, the line of march, the panegyric. There are many delicate references to the faithful widow, who has devoted her husband’s estate and as much more to the erection of a vast fire-proof annex at a leading hospital.

The public ear is well pleased. The names of the men who have led in the memorial of to-day are rolled on everybody’s tongue.

There appears at the scene of dedication a handsome woman. Her smile, though wofully sad, is sweet and sympathetic. She humbly and graciously thanks all the prominent citizens, who receive her assurances as so much accustomed tribute. The trowel rings. The soprano sings. The orator is at his best. Band after band takes up its air. The march begins again. Chicago is gratified. The great day ends with a banquet to the prominent citizens by the political leader.

The slander that republics and communities are ungrateful is hurled in the faces of the base caitiffs who have given it currency.

Behind all the gratulations of conventionality in the unprinted, unreported, unconventional world the devotion of Esther Lockwin is universally remarked upon.

Learned editors, noting this phase of the matter, discuss the mausoleums of Asia erected by loving relicts and score a point in journalism.

“The widow of the late Hon. David Lockwin, M. C., will soon sail for Europe,” says the society paper.

But she will do no such thing. She will spend her nights and mornings lamenting her widowhood. She will be present every day to see that the work goes forward on the monument.

“I might die,” she says, moodily.

There will be no cessation of labor at the ascending column. It is not in the order of things here that a committee should go to Springfield to urge an unwilling public conclusion of a grateful private beginning. Money pours like water. The memorial rises. It becomes a city lion. It is worth going to see.

Society waits with becoming patience. “Inasmuch as the prominent citizens saw fit to render Esther’s sorrow conspicuous,” says Mrs. Grundy, “it is perfectly decent that she should remain in complete retirement.”

Nevertheless notice is secretly served on the entire matrimonial world.

Esther Lockwin will soon be worth not a penny less than five million dollars!