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AT THE TOP
By J. A. Edgerton
And at the base of the climb;
The outward struggle and strife,
For the lower a soul descends,
That seek but their selfish ends;
And, freed from the lower din,
With others your lot is thrown;
Must travel the heights alone.
Where no other foot e'er trod,
Though the summit is cold and bleak,
Like a blowing rose, on the peak.
The sunshine is on the height;
O spirit with Godlike fire,
To struggle and to aspire.
In the valleys of life to stop.
And end your place at the top.
This manuscript won the prize of $100 offered by The New Success for the best completion, in 4,000 words, of De Witt Howard Clinton's remarkable story, “The Great Decision,”
published in October, 1920.
The Great Decision
By ALFRED E. WINTON
IN THE NEw Success for October, 1920; we put for the best ending. The winning manuscript by lished a story entitled ,"
, of De Witt Howard Clinton. It was the story of a pros- hereuith. perous self-made man who had won the respect and In the minds of the editors and Mr. Clinton, Mr. confidence of his fellowmen to such an extent that they Winton's completion presents the best underlying finally offered him the nomination for United States principle presented by any of the contestants--that Senator.
Mr. Coulton was absolutely right in refusing the nomThen this man-Samuel D. Coulton-realized that ination, regardless of the fact that his constituents the one thing in his life that he wanted to forget the might have overlooked his past, or that he had atoned fact that he had been sent to prison when a boy-nou for his crime, because the holding of a public office is loomed before him like a mighty barrier. It preyed greater than individual virtue, and the institucions of on his mind to such an extent that he realized he could our nation are greater than ability and industry, and not accept any office in the gift of the people and square no man has the right to hold high public office unless himself with his conscience.
his past is an open book. When the time came for him to accept the nomina- Many hundreds of replies were received in this contion, he had not dirulged the avful secret of his past, test. In most of them Mr. Coulton was permitted to but stood before his constituents not knowing what confess and then be elected. Naturally this conclu
sion is both human and possible, but Mr. Winton has At this point Mr. Clinton left the story unfinished presented a strong case in favor of the right man in -nor could he finish it to his satisfaction. At our public office. For that reason one can hardly place suggestion he asked our readers to complete the story himself at variance with the decided stand taken by Mr. for him, and we offered a prize of one hundred dollars Coulton in declining the office of l' nited States Senctor.
HILE Samuel D. Coulton's tortured any circumstances, accept the office tendered to soul was writhing under the ordeal he him with what seemed certain possibility of elec
was now staring in the face, the brass tion. And, worst of all, he must now confess to band continued to blare and the hoarse voices the wife and two children who adored him. of the audience kept on in a seemingly intermin- To disillusion them was even a greater blow able racket.
than being obliged to relinquish an honor which His brain seemed stunned. As a scene fades every true American naturally craves; one which out in a motion-picture, he shut his eyes to the comes to but few men. And the thing that ranthrong and the red lights, deafened his ears to kled was Coulton's own unaffected knowledge the cheers, and flashed to the time, thirty-five that this honor had come to him far more deyears before, when he had been released from servedly than it comes to many men. prison.
Gradually the released picture faded from his Until the night he had told Frank Lapham, of mind and he again saw the sea of smiling and the Meadville National Bank, of the marring enthusiastic faces looking expectantly at him incident in his life, the secret had been his own. from a silence that was portentious. The great Now he felt that he must divulge it. His con- moment had come. He must make his decision science told him that he must not accept this public, as he had already made it in the depths nomination. He knew that he could not, under of his own bleeding heart.
He became conscious of Frank Lapham stand- almost lifelong friend, to give in to my whim ing at his side. He felt rather than saw that his more readily than the others!" wife and Tommy and Nannette were just behind There was a note of pathos in his inflection of him, breathlessly awaiting the words he was the word almost. Lapham, with a sigh, stepped trying to force from his parched lips.
back and spoke reassuringly to Mrs. Coulton. The Honorable Josiah Hillory and Judge Mor- “I understand him," he told her, as Tommy rison, followed by a throng of reporters, were and Nannette looked wonderingly at the banker. ascending the steps, and Coulton saw in Judge “Let him do as he asks.” Morrison's hand the manuscript of a speech of Someone turned the bright shaft of a calcium notification. He knew that it would eulogize which had been brought up in an automobile on him to the skies, and he knew that every word of the worn, haggard, but still handsome features that speech would cut him like a knife. No of the candidate. The broad chest of Coulton matter what his later years had been, Coulton heaved and his hands twitched. could not rub the stain of jail from his conscience. "I find it very hard to tell you what is in my
Judge Morrison was extending his hand to heart,” he said, in a clear, calm tone, which belied Coulton and the crowd was looking on eagerly. the seething, gnawing fires within his breast. The shrewd old jurist-politician felt very certain "I find it hard to tell it to you so thąt you will of himself. He did not believe that Coulton understand and sympathize, and fully agree was bluffing. He knew him too well for that.
But I believe you will-if you will But he did believe that he held the whip hand listen patiently while I tell you an unknown over the designated candidate for the Senate, chapter in the life of Samuel D. Coulton, the and that Coulton stood alone in his amazing de- man you honor by asking him to represent you termination to decline to run for office.
in the United States Senate.”
Judge Morrison looked nervously from the OULTON, however, read that look in the speaker to Josiah Hillery.
He also gave a judge's eyes,
and, rallying himself with a questioning glance in the direction of Frank tremendous effort, retained his grasp of Morri- Lapham. Hillery was plainly as perturbed as son's hand as he stepped to the veranda rail Morrison, but the banker shook his head advisonce more and faced his ordeal and his audience ing them to maintain silence and give Coulton with God-fearing courage.
free rein. “Please let me have my own way in this meet- “You have offered me an office which ranks ing,” he said in a tone tempered with tears. high in the councils of the nation. It is an office Yet it was the serious speech of a determined to which none but the worthiest and the ablest man. He had determined upon his stand and should be elected or even considered—” there would be no deviation from it. His task was not to refuse the nomination, but to make ROM the rear of the throng, a sturdy voice his admirers realize that he was doing that interrupted him. "Three cheers for the which was right and just and proper in insisting squarest man ever nominated for Senator from that he should refuse. He must make them this State!" agree with him, uphold him, and give him a “It's yours!” Judge Morrison shouted to greater vote of confidence in their acquiescence Coulton, as the cheers were given. “As I saidthan they would have at the polls had he con- you win in a walk. Cut out the nonsense and sented to accept.
let me read you my speech of notification. It's Frank Lapham touched him on the shoulder a whirlwind!" and whispered. “Coulton, you're nervous,” he Coulton sadly shook his head. It seemed as said in an inaudible tone. “Let Judge Morrison if the pain in his heart was almost physical, so make his opening address and then tell the crowd great was his suffering in this moment which whatever you like. I still think you should go should have been one of the proudest in his caon and submit to their wishes. In fact, I am
It might well have been his initial step almost tempted to step forward and tell them towards the Presidency itself; but he knew he myself what you have said to me. It's a hun- would never dwell in any other mansion than the dred to one they wouldn't believe it, and if they one on whose porch he now stood. did I believe”
Silence was finally obtained and, once more, Coulton swung around upon his heel and faced Coulton went on with his trial. And it was a the bank president. "Frank Lapham," he said trial, a mockery that was exquisite torture. He very slowly and softly, yet firmly, “I have was being tried before the bar of his own conasked these friends of mine to let me handle this science. He was paying a price for an early, meeting as I wish. I expect you, who are an youthful indiscretion, which others might for
give--and which he himself might condone - the name by which he was christened. “Let the but he would not let himself escape the penalty dead past bury its dead.' he believed he should exact of his ambition.
“Forget it, Coulton!” someone shouted. “Please do not interrupt me, my friends," he "We're with you any way!” said. “What I am about to tell you is a difficult Coulton shook his head. “I have not related thing to phrase. But you must know it. I have this painful story in order to gain your sympanever before bared my soul to any living being, thy, but in order that you may know the truth except my old friend, Mr. Lapham. My wife about my life before I came to Meadville. and children do not know what I am going to Since that day, thank God, I have never had say, but it hurts me more to say it to you than cause to feel ashamed. My life, since that day, it does even to them. They will be more sym- has been an open book. I've been able to look pathetic, perhaps; but I feel that in having to
every one of you squarely in the face; I've give you this information I stand in the place of enjoyed the happy life of a man who lives a man who has cheated his neighbors and—” he rightly." paused brokenly-"himself!" he managed to For a moment there was silence after he had utter.
finished. The crowd stood staring at him un
believingly. If these words had come from the THE reporters were writing furiously now, lips of another, or if they had been printed in the
eager to get every word of what promised columns of a newspaper, they would instantly to be a most sensational story, and the crowd have been branded as infamous lies. Yet these stood spellbound.
hundreds of men and women had just heard “To accept this nomination,” Coulton began, Samuel D. Coulton deliberately and in detail "would be like obtaining a thing of precious blacken his own character. value under false pretenses. You have known Then the reaction set in. The crowd seemed me as a hard worker, as a successful business to see the flash-back of that picture of the hunman, and you have given me your friendship as gry youth, out of work, stealing fruit to keep from well as your complete confidence. I cannot be- starving. His hearers could well-imagine that tray that confidence. Under the surface which young Coulton's shame had made him seem a you admire is a shame of which you do not sullen, hardened criminal, who had deceived know."
judge and jury. And, suddenly, there startled He paused for a moment, set his jaw firmly, a ripple of good-natured laughter. It brought and then said slowly, but very distinctly:
the Alush of shame to Coulton's cheeks, for he “I have been in jail.”
misunderstood it. The crowd gasped, and Mrs. Coulton swayed Mrs. Coulton stepped hastily to his side and a little as her son slipped his arm firmly about slipped her hand into that of her husband. His her.
son and daughter drew closer in a bond of sym“It startles you, but it is true," Coulton con- pathy and sorrow. tinued, "and, because it is true, I must refuse the But it was the president of the bank who high honor you offer me. I do so not because stepped forward and took the stage. my political opponents might make capital of it, “My friends," Mr. Lapham began. “You but because my own conscience forbids my run- have heard what Mr. Coulton has said. It is ning for office. It is a penalty I must inflict but another proof of his great conscience and his upon myself, an example of self-chastisement absolutely flawless character. Who among us and true repentance I owe to others in the un- has not committed as great or greater crimes at fortunate predicament in which I found myself.” some time in his life? We all know that our puni
tive system makes mistakes, and, sometimes, HEN, as his audience listened spellbound to unjustly punishes. To-day the young filcher of
his dramatic, pathetic narration, Coulton fruit would have been helped by reform agents, told them of the hungry lad, desperate and des- and not penalized as was this man when he pondent. “It was probably because of my was a boy. His indiscretion was committed shame that I must have impressed the police thirty-five years ago! Things were different magistrate as being a degenerate criminal. I then." was bitter at first; but, during my term in jail, I A great shout of approval went up. Coulton took sober council with myself. I prayed for stood with bowed head and closed eyes, but guidance, and it came. I stepped from prison Lapham did not intend to let his control of the with a fresh point of view and a fresh determi- crowd escape him now. He had that crowd in nation to begin again. The boy I once was had the hollow of his hand, and he knew it. died. I will not dishonor him by telling you “When the news of the nomination first came
to him," he said, “Mr. Coulton told me this story, that had been buried in his heart in all the years he had been building up the wonderful career that has resulted in his nickname—'Old Integrity. I begged him to say nothing of it. I tried to assure him that other men with real stains on their reputations have held office men far less worthy than he. But this marvelous man would not hear of it. It was not the fear of exposure by his opponents during the campaign, but the deep-rooted thought that he must not run for office. He wished to decline without revealing his true reason.
That was but natural; for he did not care to pain his wife and children with the story he has so fearlessly told you. But when you pressed him, as you had every right to do, he said—just what you have heard to-night- _”
“Coulton! Coulton! Coulton!” roared the hundreds of voices. “Coulton's good enough for us!"
the great delight of seeing many of them become earnest, law-abiding, useful men, happy in their new life of right doing. I have rejoiced in it, as I have in my own successful and honorable walk through life's long path.
“But often in the still of the night, I have thought that this experience might come to me one day. And I prepared, yes, steeled myself to face it. Greater than individual rirtue, greater than ability and industry, are the institutions of our great nation. Every office within the gift of the people, from the highest to the lowest, is an office of gravé responsibility. No man should be elected to any post of public trust unless that man in every daily step of his life has walked in such a manner as to reflect credit upon the office and the electorate that places him there.
"It may be true that dishonest men have held office. It may be true that some of the great have had stains on their shields. Perhaps their subsequent careers have more than condoned for their early offenses. It may be true that I have done so. It may be that I would make an able and conscientious Senator. I hope to God I would-and-before God, I wish I could. But you must bear with my firm and unbending belief. The shadow of prison bars—no matter how faint-has no place on the form of a Senator of the United States. That is why I cannot and will not accept this nomination. That is why I will not serve as United States Senator from this State!”
LOOK of ecstacy came into Mrs. Coulton's
eyes as the tears welled from her husband's. They were the tears of a strong man moved more deeply than he had ever been moved in his life.
"What did I tell you!" shouted Judge Morrison eagerly in Coulton's ear. "Now you've had your way. Let me go on with my notification speech and then you talk to 'em again and accept, man, accept. It's a walkover!"
All was babel for a few moments, during which Coulton tried to get a new grip on himself. At length he did so.
As the crowd realized that he was about to speak, it became silent, and his words rang out with a new crispness, a new joy, a new ton of conviction.
"You cannot imagine how my heart has responded to your wonderful vote of confidence, your wonderful forgiveness, and your evident love for me," Coulton began. “It has been balm to the pain that was torturing me when I spoke, and which has tortured me for days and nights, as I thought of these dreaded moments. But I am going to ask you to bear with me just once more, and that you will think carefully of what I am going to say now."
He paused, evidently overcome with emotion, yet clear in his diction and erect and soldierly in his poise. There was not a sound until he began again.
"Perhaps because of my own early experience, I have been keenly interested all my life in the reform and the future of those discharged from our prisons. I have had opportunity to be helpful to many such unfortunates, and I have had
HERE was fire in his eyes as he finished, and
the crowd stood there in dumb amazement. Slowly Coulton turned away and looked with emotion into the blazing eyes of his wife.
Lapham stepped to the edge of the porch, and his deep voice made itself heard above the enthusiastic din.
"Fellow citizens,” he said, “I believe you will agree with me that Samuel D. Coulton is a greater man this moment than he ever would have been had he sat in the United States Senate or even in the Presidential chair. He has set this country—and particularly its office seekers
-an example from which it can never swerve. The man must measure up to his office to the last inch."
The wildest cheers confirmed these words, and Coulton bowed, deeply affected, as he walked slowly in doors with his wife and children.
“Sam,” said Mrs. Coulton, as he took her in his arms, “I was never so proud of you in all my life. You’re bigger than the biggest man I ever dreamed you'd be!"