Fair 'n square

Having lately endured (as was reported) the grievous experience of fighting the bank's computer to get back the fifty cents I was shortchanged, I approached the wicket again only after steeling myself for the ordeal. This time the bank had credited me with sixty cents too much, and I wondered if the zeal against correcting a mistake would be so fervent in reverse. 'Twas about the same. The young chick on the window simply shrugged when I showed her the error and told me she had nothing whatever to do with such things. Another chick, not so young, wasn't sure if she had anything to do with such things or not, and cautiously suggested I go home and forget all about it. The truth! ''I'm not knowed as Honest John for naught!'' I shouted, causing everybody in the countinghouse to turn and behold me with amazement and respect, so she made a phone call to somebody somewhere, and after considerable confab I was given a debit slip for sixty cents. So my checkbook is again in balance, a net difference of ten cents, but the way I keep accounts it took me a while, and we can only surmise had the difference been a thousand dollars.

Back in 1924 (I just looked it up), we had an ambitious young politician appear in the Republican primaries when it wasn't his turn. That's an old-time Maine Republican joke. A reporter once asked Mayor Cobb of Rockland if he planned to run for governor, and he said, ''Gracious, no! It's not my turn!'' In 1924, the turn belonged to one Farrington, who approached the campaign with all assurance and the approval of the Party. But this upstart Brewster appeared, and when the votes were counted Farrington had a very slim lead, indeed. So slim that it was a foregone conclusion that Brewster would ask for a recount.

But he didn't. Instead, he appealed to the Legislature, which has to confirm election results, and he entered charges of fraud and deceit, which was a terrible thing to do in those purer days of Party probity and public honor. Just about everybody in the Legislature, of course, was there because it had been his turn, so there was small sympathy with Brewster's tactics and the committee named to hear his remarks was hardly friendly. Candidate Brewster was a lawyer, so he was no stranger to the presentation of evidence. He began by calling attention to the way the primary voting had been conducted in some such remote and unheard of place as Moro Plantation, where the total vote cast by both parties had been seventeen. Brewster ably established that there had been open and unquestioned irregularities in the way the polls had been opened, the way the ballots were handled, and the manner of counting. The committee could find no fault with his contentions, and some heads nodded to show agreement. Brewster then moved along to another small up-state town, and then another.

Heads nodded again, and it was clear that the results in these towns would have to be hove out, and the tallies could not be counted in the final, and official, total. Then one of the members of the election committee said, ''But, Mr. Brewster - this whole thing is ridiculous. You carried all these towns! If we throw them out as you are asking us to, you'll lose a hundred seventy-eight votes!''

''The hour is at hand, gentlemen,'' said Candidate Brewster, ''and I suggest an adjournment until morning.''

Didn't the editorials have it for Brewster that next morning? What kind of a stupid governor would he have made, had he been elected - going before a committee like that and getting his own votes tossed out!

When the committee reconvened the next morning, having regarded the editorials, Mr. Brewster continued his presentation by asking if 'twere agreed that the results in the forementioned towns should be tossed out. Yes, it was so agreed.

''Then,'' he said, ''I now direct your attention to the situation in the city of Portland. . . .''

It's a poor rule that doesn't work both ways. When the results in Portland's Ward Four were also hove out, Farrington disappeared from the Maine political scene, Brewster went on to two terms as governor, and then to the House and then to the Senate in Washington. Even his sincerest enemies conceded he was politically astute. So, it's fifty cents one way and sixty cents another, and the stunt is to keep the book in balance.

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