This is the story of the man manager, and how he held his own until the very last paragraph.
I had it from Sully Magoon, viva voce. The words are indeed his; and if they do not constitute truthful fiction my memory should be taxed with the blame.
It is not deemed amiss to point out, in the beginning, the stress that is laid upon the masculinity of the manager. For, according to Sully, the term when applied to the feminine division of mankind has precisely an opposite meaning. The woman manager (he says) economizes, saves, oppresses her household with bargains and contrivances, and looks sourly upon any pence that are cast to the fiddler for even a single jig-step on life’s arid march. Wherefore her men-folk call her blessed, and praise her; and then sneak out the backdoor to see the Gilhooly Sisters do a buck-and-wing dance.
Now, the man manager (I still quote Sully) is a Cæsar without a Brutus. He is an autocrat without responsibility, a player who imperils no stake of his own. His office is to enact, to reverberate, to boom, to expand, to out-coruscate—profitably, if he can. Bill-paying and growing gray hairs over results belong to his principals. It is his to guide the risk, to be the Apotheosis of Front, the three-tailed Bashaw of Bluff, the Essential Oil of Razzle-Dazzle.
We sat at luncheon, and Sully Magoon told me. I asked for particulars.
“My old friend Denver Galloway was a born manager,” said Sully. He first saw the light of day in New York at three years of age. He was born in Pittsburg, but his parents moved East the third summer afterward.
“When Denver grew up, he went into the managing business. At the age of eight he managed a news-stand for the Dago that owned it. After that he was manager at different times of a skating-rink, a livery-stable, a policy game, a restaurant, a dancing academy, a walking match, a burlesque company, a dry-goods store, a dozen hotels and summer resorts, an insurance company, and a district leader’s campaign. That campaign, when Coughlin was elected on the East Side, gave Denver a boost. It got him a job as manager of a Broadway hotel, and for a while he managed Senator O’Grady’s campaign in the nineteenth.
“Denver was a New Yorker all over. I think he was out of the city just twice before the time I’m going to tell you about. Once he went rabbit-shooting in Yonkers. The other time I met him just landing from a North River ferry. ‘Been out West on a big trip, Sully, old boy,’ says he. ‘Gad! Sully, I had no idea we had such a big country. It’s immense. Never conceived of the magnificence of the West before. It’s gorgeous and glorious and infinite. Makes the East seemed cramped and little. It’s a grand thing to travel and get an idea of the extent and resources of our country.’
“I’d made several little runs out to California and down to Mexico and up through Alaska, so I sits down with Denver for a chat about the things he saw.
“‘Took in the Yosemite, out there, of course?’ I asks.
“‘Well—no,’ says Denver, ‘I don’t think so. At least, I don’t recollect it. You see, I only had three days, and I didn’t get any farther west than Youngstown, Ohio.’
“About two years ago I dropped into New York with a little fly-paper proposition about a Tennessee mica mine that I wanted to spread out in a nice, sunny window, in the hopes of catching a few. I was coming out of a printing-shop one afternoon with a batch of fine, sticky prospectuses when I ran against Denver coming round a corner. I never saw him looking so much like a tiger-lily. He was as beautiful and new as a trellis of sweet peas, and as rollicking as a clarinet solo. We shook hands, and he asked me what I was doing, and I gave him the outlines of the scandal I was trying to create in mica.
“‘Pooh, pooh! for your mica,’ says Denver. ‘Don’t you know better, Sully, than to bump up against the coffers of little old New York with anything as transparent as mica? Now, you come with me over to the Hotel Brunswick. You’re just the man I was hoping for. I’ve got something there in sepia and curled hair that I want you to look at.’
“‘You putting up at the Brunswick?’ I asks.
“‘Not a cent,’ says Denver, cheerful. ‘The syndicate that owns the hotel puts up. I’m manager.’
“The Brunswick wasn’t one of them Broadway pot-houses all full of palms and hyphens and flowers and costumes—kind of a mixture of lawns and laundries. It was on one of the East Side avenues; but it was a solid, old-time caravansary such as the Mayor of Skaneateles or the Governor of Missouri might stop at. Eight stories high it stalked up, with new striped awnings, and the electrics had it as light as day.
“‘I’ve been manager here for a year,’ says Denver, as we drew nigh. ‘When I took charge,’ says he, ‘nobody nor nothing ever stopped at the Brunswick. The clock over the clerks’ desk used to run for weeks without winding. A man fell dead with heart-disease on the sidewalk in front of it one day, and when they went to pick him up he was two blocks away. I figured out a scheme to catch the West Indies and South American trade. I persuaded the owners to invest a few more thousands, and I put every cent of it in electric lights, cayenne pepper, gold-leaf, and garlic. I got a Spanish-speaking force of employees and a string band; and there was talk going round of a cockfight in the basement every Sunday. Maybe I didn’t catch the nut-brown gang! From Havana to Patagonia the Don Señors knew about the Brunswick. We get the highfliers from Cuba and Mexico and the couple of Americas farther south; and they’ve simply got the boodle to bombard every bulfinch in the bush with.’
“When we got to the hotel, Denver stops me at the door.
“‘There’s a little liver-coloured man,’ says he, ‘sitting in a big leather chair to your right, inside. You sit down and watch him for a few minutes, and then tell me what you think.’
“I took a chair, while Denver circulates around in the big rotunda. The room was about full of curly-headed Cubans and South American brunettes of different shades; and the atmosphere was international with cigarette smoke, lit up by diamond rings and edged off with a whisper of garlic.
“That Denver Galloway was sure a relief to the eye. Six feet two he was, red-headed and pink-gilled as a sun-perch. And the air he had! Court of Saint James, Chauncy Olcott, Kentucky colonels, Count of Monte Cristo, grand opera—all these things he reminded you of when he was doing the honours. When he raised his finger the hotel porters and bell-boys skated across the floor like cockroaches, and even the clerk behind the desk looked as meek and unimportant as Andy Carnegie.
“Denver passed around, shaking hands with his guests, and saying over the two or three Spanish words he knew until it was like a coronation rehearsal or a Bryan barbecue in Texas.
“I watched the little man he told me to. ‘Twas a little foreign person in a double-breasted frock-coat, trying to touch the floor with his toes. He was the colour of vici kid, and his whiskers was like excelsior made out of mahogany wood. He breathed hard, and he never once took his eyes off of Denver. There was a look of admiration and respect on his face like you see on a boy that’s following a champion base-ball team, or the Kaiser William looking at himself in a glass.
“After Denver goes his rounds he takes me into his private office.
“‘What’s your report on the dingy I told you to watch?’ he asks.
“‘Well,’ says I, ‘if you was as big a man as he takes you to be, nine rooms and bath in the Hall of Fame, rent free till October 1st, would be about your size.’
“‘You’ve caught the idea,’ says Denver. ‘I’ve given him the wizard grip and the cabalistic eye. The glamour that emanates from yours truly has enveloped him like a North River fog. He seems to think that Señor Galloway is the man who. I guess they don’t raise 74-inch sorrel-tops with romping ways down in his precinct. Now, Sully,’ goes on Denver, ‘if you was asked, what would you take the little man to be?’
“‘Why,’ says I, ‘the barber around the corner; or, if he’s royal, the king of the boot-blacks.’
“‘Never judge by looks,’ says Denver; ‘he’s the dark-horse candidate for president of a South American republic.’
“‘Well,’ says I, ‘he didn’t look quite that bad to me.’
“Then Denver draws his chair up close and gives out his scheme.
“‘Sully,’ says he, with seriousness and levity, ‘I’ve been a manager of one thing and another for over twenty years. That’s what I was cut out for—to have somebody else to put up the money and look after the repairs and the police and taxes while I run the business. I never had a dollar of my own invested in my life. I wouldn’t know how it felt to have the dealer rake in a coin of mine. But I can handle other people’s stuff and manage other people’s enterprises. I’ve had an ambition to get hold of something big—something higher than hotels and lumber-yards and local politics. I want to be manager of something way up—like a railroad or a diamond trust or an automobile factory. Now here comes this little man from the tropics with just what I want, and he’s offered me the job.’
“‘What job?’ I asks. ‘Is he going to revive the Georgia Minstrels or open a cigar store?’
“‘He’s no ‘coon,’ says Denver. ‘He’s General Rompiro—General Josey Alfonso Sapolio Jew-Ann Rompiro—he has his cards printed by a news-ticker. He’s the real thing, Sully, and he wants me to manage his campaign—he wants Denver C. Galloway for a president-maker. Think of that, Sully! Old Denver romping down to the tropics, plucking lotus-flowers and pineapples with one hand and making presidents with the other! Won’t it make Uncle Mark Hanna mad? And I want you to go too, Sully. You can help me more than any man I know. I’ve been herding that brown man for a month in the hotel so he wouldn’t stray down Fourteenth Street and get roped in by that crowd of refugee tamale-eaters down there. And he’s landed, and D. C. G. is manager of General J. A. S. J. Rompiro’s presidential campaign in the great republic of—what’s its name?’
“Denver gets down an atlas from a shelf, and we have a look at the afflicted country. ‘Twas a dark blue one, on the west coast, about the size of a special delivery stamp.
“‘From what the General tells me,’ says Denver, ‘and from what I can gather from the encyclopædia and by conversing with the janitor of the Astor Library, it’ll be as easy to handle the vote of that country as it would be for Tammany to get a man named Geoghan appointed on the White Wings force.’
“‘Why don’t General Rumptyro stay at home,’ says I, ‘and manage his own canvass?’
“‘You don’t understand South American politics,’ says Denver, getting out the cigars. ‘It’s this way. General Rompiro had the misfortune of becoming a popular idol. He distinguished himself by leading the army in pursuit of a couple of sailors who had stolen the plaza—or the carramba, or something belonging to the government. The people called him a hero and the government got jealous. The president sends for the chief of the Department of Public Edifices. “Find me a nice, clean adobe wall,” says he, “and send Señor Rompiro up against it. Then call out a file of soldiers and—then let him be up against it.” Something,’ goes on Denver, ‘like the way they’ve treated Hobson and Carrie Nation in our country. So the General had to flee. But he was thoughtful enough to bring along his roll. He’s got sinews of war enough to buy a battleship and float her off in the christening fluid.’
“‘What chance has he got to be president?’
“‘Wasn’t I just giving you his rating?’ says Denver. ‘His country is one of the few in South America where the presidents are elected by popular ballot. The General can’t go there just now. It hurts to be shot against a wall. He needs a campaign manager to go down and whoop things up for him—to get the boys in line and the new two-dollar bills afloat and the babies kissed and the machine in running order. Sully, I don’t want to brag, but you remember how I brought Coughlin under the wire for leader of the nineteenth? Ours was the banner district. Don’t you suppose I know how to manage a little monkey-cage of a country like that? Why, with the dough the General’s willing to turn loose I could put two more coats of Japan varnish on him and have him elected Governor of Georgia. New York has got the finest lot of campaign managers in the world, Sully, and you give me a feeling of hauteur when you cast doubts on my ability to handle the political situation in a country so small that they have to print the names of the towns in the appendix and footnotes.’
“I argued with Denver some. I told him that politics down in that tropical atmosphere was bound to be different from the nineteenth district; but I might just as well have been a Congressman from North Dakota trying to get an appropriation for a lighthouse and a coast survey. Denver Galloway had ambitions in the manager line, and what I said didn’t amount to as much as a fig-leaf at the National Dressmakers’ Convention. ‘I’ll give you three days to cogitate about going,’ says Denver; ‘and I’ll introduce you to General Rompiro to-morrow, so you can get his ideas drawn right from the rose wood.’
“I put on my best reception-to-Booker-Washington manner the next day and tapped the distinguished rubber-plant for what he knew.
“General Rompiro wasn’t so gloomy inside as he appeared on the surface. He was polite enough; and he exuded a number of sounds that made a fair stagger at arranging themselves into language. It was English he aimed at, and when his system of syntax reached your mind it wasn’t past you to understand it. If you took a college professor’s magazine essay and a Chinese laundryman’s explanation of a lost shirt and jumbled ’em together, you’d have about what the General handed you out for conversation. He told me all about his bleeding country, and what they were trying to do for it before the doctor came. But he mostly talked of Denver C. Galloway.
“‘Ah, señor,’ says he, ‘that is the most fine of mans. Never I have seen one man so magnifico, so gr-r-rand, so conformable to make done things so swiftly by other mans. He shall make other mans do the acts and himself to order and regulate, until we arrive at seeing accomplishments of a suddenly. Oh, yes, señor. In my countree there is not such mans of so beegness, so good talk, so compliments, so strongness of sense and such. Ah, that Señor Galloway!’
“‘Yes,’ says I, ‘old Denver is the boy you want. He’s managed every kind of business here except filibustering, and he might as well complete the list.’
“Before the three days was up I decided to join Denver in his campaign. Denver got three months’ vacation from his hotel owners. For a week we lived in a room with the General, and got all the pointers about his country that we could interpret from the noises he made. When we got ready to start, Denver had a pocket full of memorandums, and letters from the General to his friends, and a list of names and addresses of loyal politicians who would help along the boom of the exiled popular idol. Besides these liabilities we carried assets to the amount of $20,000 in assorted United States currency. General Rompiro looked like a burnt effigy, but he was Br’er Fox himself when it came to the real science of politics.
“‘Here is moneys,’ says the General, ‘of a small amount. There is more with me—moocho more. Plentee moneys shall you be supplied, Señor Galloway. More I shall send you at all times that you need. I shall desire to pay feefty—one hundred thousand pesos, if necessario, to be elect. How no? Sacramento! If that I am president and do not make one meelion dolla in the one year you shall keek me on that side!—valgame Dios!‘
“Denver got a Cuban cigar-maker to fix up a little cipher code with English and Spanish words, and gave the General a copy, so we could cable him bulletins about the election, or for more money, and then we were ready to start. General Rompiro escorted us to the steamer. On the pier he hugged Denver around the waist and sobbed. ‘Noble mans,’ says he, ‘General Rompiro propels you into his confidence and trust. Go, in the hands of the saints to do the work for your friend. Viva la libertad!‘
“‘Sure,’ says Denver. ‘And viva la liberality an’ la soaperino and hoch der land of the lotus and the vote us. Don’t worry, General. We’ll have you elected as sure as bananas grow upside down.’
“‘Make pictures on me,’ pleads the General—’make pictures on me for money as it is needful.’
“‘Does he want to be tattooed, would you think?’ asks Denver, wrinkling up his eyes.
“‘Stupid!’ says I. ‘He wants you to draw on him for election expenses. It’ll be worse than tattooing. More like an autopsy.’
“Me and Denver steamed down to Panama, and then hiked across the Isthmus, and then by steamer again down to the town of Espiritu on the coast of the General’s country.
“That was a town to send J. Howard Payne to the growler. I’ll tell you how you could make one like it. Take a lot of Filipino huts and a couple of hundred brick-kilns and arrange ’em in squares in a cemetery. Cart down all the conservatory plants in the Astor and Vanderbilt greenhouses, and stick ’em about wherever there’s room. Turn all the Bellevue patients and the barbers’ convention and the Tuskegee school loose in the streets, and run the thermometer up to 120 in the shade. Set a fringe of the Rocky Mountains around the rear, let it rain, and set the whole business on Rockaway Beach in the middle of January—and you’d have a good imitation of Espiritu.
“It took me and Denver about a week to get acclimated. Denver sent out the letters the General had given him, and notified the rest of the gang that there was something doing at the captain’s office. We set up headquarters in an old ‘dobe house on a side street where the grass was waist high. The election was only four weeks off; but there wasn’t any excitement. The home candidate for president was named Roadrickeys. This town of Esperitu wasn’t the capital any more than Cleveland, Ohio, is the capital of the United States, but it was the political centre where they cooked up revolutions, and made up the slates.
“At the end of the week Denver says the machine is started running.
“‘Sully,’ says he, ‘we’ve got a walkover. Just because General Rompiro ain’t Don Juan-on-the-spot the other crowd ain’t at work. They’re as full of apathy as a territorial delegate during the chaplain’s prayer. Now, we want to introduce a little hot stuff in the way of campaigning, and we’ll surprise ’em at the polls.’
“‘How are you going to go about it?’ I asks.
“‘Why, the usual way,’ says Denver, surprised. ‘We’ll get the orators on our side out every night to make speeches in the native lingo, and have torch-light parades under the shade of the palms, and free drinks, and buy up all the brass bands, of course, and—well, I’ll turn the baby-kissing over to you, Sully—I’ve seen a lot of ’em.’
“‘What else?’ says I.
“‘Why, you know,’ says Denver. ‘We get the heelers out with the crackly two-spots, and coal-tickets, and orders for groceries, and have a couple of picnics out under the banyan-trees, and dances in the Firemen’s Hall—and the usual things. But first of all, Sully, I’m going to have the biggest clam-bake down on the beach that was ever seen south of the tropic of Capricorn. I figured that out from the start. We’ll stuff the whole town and the jungle folk for miles around with clams. That’s the first thing on the programme. Suppose you go out now, and make the arrangements for that. I want to look over the estimates the General made of the vote in the coast districts.’
“I had learned some Spanish in Mexico, so I goes out, as Denver says, and in fifteen minutes I come back to headquarters.
“‘If there ever was a clam in this country nobody ever saw it,’ I says.
“‘Great sky-rockets!’ says Denver, with his mouth and eyes open. ‘No clams? How in the—who ever saw a country without clams? What kind of a—how’s an election to be pulled off without a clam-bake, I’d like to know? Are you sure there’s no clams, Sully?’
“‘Not even a can,’ says I.
“‘Then for God’s sake go out and try to find what the people here do eat. We’ve got to fill ’em up with grub of some kind.’
“I went out again. Denver was manager. In half an hour I gets back.
“‘They eat,’ says I, ‘tortillas, cassava, carne de chivo, arroz con pollo, aquacates, zapates, yucca, and huevos fritos.’
“‘A man that would eat them things,’ says Denver, getting a little mad, ‘ought to have his vote challenged.’
“In a few more days the campaign managers from the other towns came sliding into Esperitu. Our headquarters was a busy place. We had an interpreter, and ice-water, and drinks, and cigars, and Denver flashed the General’s roll so often that it got so small you couldn’t have bought a Republican vote in Ohio with it.
“And then Denver cabled to General Rompiro for ten thousand dollars more and got it.
“There were a number of Americans in Esperitu, but they were all in business or grafts of some kind, and wouldn’t take any hand in politics, which was sensible enough. But they showed me and Denver a fine time, and fixed us up so we could get decent things to eat and drink. There was one American, named Hicks, used to come and loaf at the headquarters. Hicks had had fourteen years of Esperitu. He was six feet four and weighed in at 135. Cocoa was his line; and coast fever and the climate had taken all the life out of him. They said he hadn’t smiled in eight years. His face was three feet long, and it never moved except when he opened it to take quinine. He used to sit in our headquarters and kill fleas and talk sarcastic.
“‘I don’t take much interest in politics,’ says Hicks, one day, ‘but I’d like you to tell me what you’re trying to do down here, Galloway?’
“‘We’re boosting General Rompiro, of course,’ says Denver. ‘We’re going to put him in the presidential chair. I’m his manager.’
“‘Well,’ says Hicks, ‘if I was you I’d be a little slower about it. You’ve got a long time ahead of you, you know.’
“‘Not any longer than I need,’ says Denver.
“Denver went ahead and worked things smooth. He dealt out money on the quiet to his lieutenants, and they were always coming after it. There was free drinks for everybody in town, and bands playing every night, and fireworks, and there was a lot of heelers going around buying up votes day and night for the new style of politics in Espiritu, and everybody liked it.
“The day set for the election was November 4th. On the night before Denver and me were smoking our pipes in headquarters, and in comes Hicks and unjoints himself, and sits in a chair, mournful. Denver is cheerful and confident. ‘Rompiro will win in a romp,’ says he. ‘We’ll carry the country by 10,000. It’s all over but the vivas. To-morrow will tell the tale.’
“‘What’s going to happen to-morrow?’ asks Hicks.
“‘Why, the presidential election, of course,’ says Denver.
“‘Say,’ says Hicks, looking kind of funny, ‘didn’t anybody tell you fellows that the election was held a week before you came? Congress changed the date to July 27th. Roadrickeys was elected by 17,000. I thought you was booming old Rompiro for next term, two years from now. Wondered if you was going to keep up such a hot lick that long.’
“I dropped my pipe on the floor. Denver bit the stem off of his. Neither of us said anything.
“And then I heard a sound like somebody ripping a clapboard off of a barn-roof. ‘Twas Hicks laughing for the first time in eight years.”
Sully Magoon paused while the waiter poured us a black coffee.
“Your friend was, indeed, something of a manager,” I said.
“Wait a minute,” said Sully, “I haven’t given you any idea of what he could do yet. That’s all to come.
“When we got back to New York there was General Rompiro waiting for us on the pier. He was dancing like a cinnamon bear, all impatient for the news, for Denver had just cabled him when we would arrive and nothing more.
“‘Am I elect?’ he shouts. ‘Am I elect, friend of mine? Is that mine country have demand General Rompiro for the president? The last dollar of mine have I sent you that last time. It is necessario that I am elect. I have not more money. Am I elect, Señor Galloway?’
“Denver turns to me.
“‘Leave me with old Rompey, Sully,’ he says. ‘I’ve got to break it to him gently. ‘Twould be indecent for other eyes to witness the operation. This is the time, Sully,’ says he, ‘when old Denver has got to make good as a jollier and a silver-tongued sorcerer, or else give up all the medals he’s earned.’
“A couple of days later I went around to the hotel. There was Denver in his old place, looking like the hero of two historical novels, and telling ’em what a fine time he’d had down on his orange plantation in Florida.
“‘Did you fix things up with the General?’ I asks him.
“‘Did I?’ says Denver. ‘Come and see.’
“He takes me by the arm and walks me to the dining-room door. There was a little chocolate-brown fat man in a dress suit, with his face shining with joy as he swelled himself and skipped about the floor. Danged if Denver hadn’t made General Rompiro head waiter of the Hotel Brunswick!”
“Is Mr. Galloway still in the managing business?” I asked, as Mr. Magoon ceased.
Sully shook his head.
“Denver married an auburn-haired widow that owns a big hotel in Harlem. He just helps around the place.”