"I do. I can make Stewart understand."
Daunt paced up and down the room, easing his turgid neck against a damp collar. The Senator pondered.
The secretary, after a time, tapped and entered.
"Mayor Morrison is not in the ballroom, sir. And I could not find him."
"You should have inquired of Miss Corson."
"I could not find Miss Corson."
The Senator started for the door. He turned and went back to Daunt. "It's all right! I gave her a bit of a commission. It's in regard to Morrison. She seems to be attending to it faithfully. Be easy! I'll bring him."
The father went straight to the library. He knew the resources of his own mansion in the matter of nooks for a tete-a-tete interview; now he was particularly assisted by remembrance of Stewart's habits in the old days. He found his daughter and the mayor of Marion cozily ensconced among the cushions of a deep window-seat.
Stewart was listening intently to the girl, his chin on his knuckles, his elbow propped on his knee. His forehead was puckered; he was gazing at her with intent seriousness.
"Senator Corson," warned the girl, "we are in executive session."
"I see! I understand! But I need Stewart urgently for a few moments."
"I surrendered him willingly a little while ago. But this conference must not be interrupted, sir!"
"Certainly not, Senator Corson!" asserted Stewart, with a decisive snap in his tone. "We have a great deal of ground to go over."
"I'll allow you plenty of time—but a little later. There is a small matter to be set straight. 'Twill take but a few moments."
"It's undoubtedly either business or politics, sir," declared Lana, with a fine assumption of parliamentary dignity. "But I have the floor for concerns of my own, and I'll not cede any of my time."
"It is hardly business or politics," returned the Senator, gravely. "It concerns a matter of courtesy between guests in my home, and I'm anxious to have the thing straightened out at once. I beg of you, Stewart!"
The mayor rose promptly.
"I suppose I must consider it a question of privilege and yield," consented Lana, still carrying on her little play of procedure. "But do I have your solemn promise, Senator Corson, that this gentleman will be returned to me by you at the earliest possible moment?"
"And I want your promise that you will hurry back," said the girl, addressing Stewart. "I'll wait right here!"
"But, Lana, remember your duties to our guests," protested her father.
"I have been fulfilling them ever since the reception-line was formed." She waved her hand to draw their attention to the distant music. "The guests are having a gorgeous time all by themselves. I'll be waiting here," she warned. "Remember, please, both of you that I am waiting. That ought to hurry your settlement of that other matter you speak of."
"I'll waste no time!" Morrison assured her. He marched away with the Senator.
In the study Corson took his stand between his two guests. Daunt was bristling; Morrison displayed no emotion of any sort.
"Mr. Daunt, I think you'd better state your grievance, as you feel it, so that Mr. Morrison can assure both of us that it arises from a misunderstanding."
The banker took advantage of that opportunity with great alacrity. "Now that Senator Corson is present—now that we have a broad-minded referee, Mr. Morrison, I propose to go over that matter of business."
"Exactly on the same lines?" inquired Stewart, mildly.
"Exactly! And for obvious reasons—so that Corson may understand just how much your attitude hurt my feelings."
"Pardon me, Mr. Daunt. I have no time to listen to the repetition. It will gain you nothing from me. My mind remains the same. And Miss Corson is waiting for me. I have promised to return to her as soon as possible."
"But it will take only a little while to go over the matter," pleaded Corson.
"It will be time wasted on a repetition, sir. I have no right to keep Miss Corson waiting, on such an excuse."
"You give me an almighty poor excuse for unmannerly treatment of my business, Morrison," Daunt stated, with increasing ire.
"I really must agree in that," chided the Senator.
"Sir, you gave your daughter the same promise for yourself," declared Stewart.
"Now let's not be silly, Stewart. Lana was playing! You can go right on with her from where you left off."
"Perhaps!" admitted the mayor. "I hope so, at any rate. But I don't propose to break my promise." He added in his own mind that he did not intend to allow a certain topic between him and Lana Corson to get cold while he was being bullyragged by two elderly gentlemen in that study.
"By the gods! you'll have to talk turkey to me on one point!" asserted Daunt, his veneer of dignity cracking wide and showing the coarser grain of his nature. "I made you a square business proposition and you insulted me—under the roof of a gentleman who had vouched for both of us."
"Thank you! Now we are not retracing our steps, as you threatened to do. We go on from where we left off. Therefore, I can give you a few moments, sir. What insult did I offer you?"
"You told me that I ought to be ashamed of myself."
"That was not an insult, Mr. Daunt. I intended it to be merely a frank expression of opinion. Just a moment, please!" he urged, breaking in on violent language. He brought his thumb and forefinger together to make a circle and poised his hand over his head. "I don't wear one of these. I have no right to wear one. Halo, I mean! I'm no prig or preacher—at least, I don't mean to be. But when I talk business I intend to talk it straight and use few words—and those words may sound rather blunt, sometimes. Just a moment, I say!"
He leaned over the table and struck a resounding blow on it with his knuckles. "This is a nutshell proposition and we'll keep it in small compass. You gave me a layout of your proposed stock issue. No matter what has been done by the best of big financiers, no matter what is being done or what is proposed to be done, in this particular case your consolidation means that you've got to mulct the people to pay unreasonably high charges on stock. It isn't a square deal. My property was developed on real money. I know what it pays and ought to pay. I won't put it into a scheme that will oblige every consumer of electricity to help pay dividends on imaginary money. And if you're seriously attempting to put over any consolidation of that sort on our people, Mr. Daunt, I repeat that you ought to be ashamed of yourself."
"And now you have heard him with your own ears," clamored the banker. "What do you say to that, Mr. Corson?"
"All capitalization entails a fair compromise—values to be considered in the light of new development," said the Senator. "Let's discuss the proposition, Stewart."
"Discussion will only snarl us up. I'm stating the principle. You can't compromise principle! I refuse to discuss."
"Have you gone crazy over this protection-of-the-people idea?" demanded Corson, with heat.
"Maybe so! I'm not sure. I may be a little muddled. But I see a principle ahead and I'm going straight at it, even though I may tread on some toes. I believe that the opinion doesn't hold good, any longer, as a matter of right, that because a man has secured a franchise, and his charter permits him to build a dam across a river or the mouth of a lake, he is thereby entitled to all the power and control and profit he can get from that river or lake without return in direct payment on that power to the people of the state. We know it's by constitutional law that the people own the river and the lake. I'm putting in a report on this whole matter to the incoming legislature, Senator Corson."
"Good Heavens! Morrison, you're not advocating the soviet doctrine that the state can break existing contracts, are you?" shouted the Senator.
"I take the stand that charters do not grant the right for operators of water-power to charge anything their greed prompts 'em to charge on ballooned stock. I assert that charters are fractured when operators flagrantly abuse the public that way! I'm going to propose a legislative bill that will oblige water-power corporations to submit in public reports our state engineers' figures on actual honest profit-earning valuation; to publish complete lists of all the men who own stock so that we may know the interests and the persons who are secretly behind the corporations."
Corson displayed instant perturbation.
"Such publication can be twisted to injure honest investors. It can be used politically by a man's enemies. Stewart, I am heavily interested financially in Daunt's syndicate, because I believe in developing our grand old state. I bring this personal matter to your attention so that you may see how this general windmill-tilting is going to affect your friends."
"I'm for our state, too, sir! And I'll mention a personal matter that's close to me, seeing that you have broached the subject. St. Ronan's mill is responsible for more than two hundred good homes in the city of Marion, built, owned, and occupied by our workers. And in order to clean up a million profit for myself, I don't propose to go into a syndicate that may decide to ship power out of this state and empty those homes."
"You are leaping at insane conclusions," roared Daunt. He shook his finger under Morrison's nose.
"I'll admit that I have arrived at some rather extreme conclusions, sir," admitted Stewart, putting his threatened nose a little nearer Daunt's finger. "I based the conclusions on your own statement to me that you proposed to make my syndicate holdings more valuable by a legislative measure that would permit the consolidation to take over poles and wires of existing companies or else run wires into communities in case the existing companies would not sell."
"That's only the basic principle of business competition for the good of the consuming public. Competition is the demand, the right of the people," declared Daunt.
"I'm a bit skeptical—still basing my opinion on your own statements as to common-stock dividends—as to the price per kilowatt after competitors shall have been sandbagged according to that legislative measure," drawled the mayor. He turned to the Senator. "You see, sir, your guest and myself are still a good ways apart in our business ideas!"
"We'll drop business—drop it right where it is," said the Senator, curtly. "Mr. Daunt has tried to meet you more than half-way in business, in my house, taking my indorsement of you. When I recommended you I was not aware that you had been making radical speeches to a down-town mob. I am shocked by the change in you, Stewart. Have you any explanation to give me?"
"I'm afraid it would take too long to go over it now in a way to make you understand, sir. I don't want to spoil my case by leaving you half informed. Mr. Daunt and I have reached an understanding. Pardon me, but I insist that I must keep my promise to Miss Corson."
The father did not welcome that announcement. "I trust that the understanding you mention includes the obligation to forget all that Mr. Daunt has said under my roof this evening."
"I have never betrayed confidences in my personal relations with any man, Senator Corson," returned Morrison.
"Then your honor naturally suggests your course in this peculiar situation."
"Let's not stop to split hairs of honor! What do you expect me to do?" demanded Morrison, bruskly business-like.
"I'll tell you what I expect," volunteered Daunt. "You have possession of facts——"
"I did not solicit them, sir. I was practically forced into an interview with you when I much rather would have been enjoying myself in the ballroom."
"Nevertheless, you have the facts. Under the circumstances you have no right to them. I expect you to show a gentleman's consideration and keep carefully away from my affairs."
"I, also, must ask that much, as your mutual host," put in Corson.
"Gentlemen," declared Stewart, setting back his shoulders, "by allowing myself to stretch what you term 'honor' to that fine point I would be held up in a campaign I have started—prevented from going on with my work, simply because Mr. Silas Daunt is among the men I'm fighting. I'm exactly where I was before Mr. Daunt talked to me. I propose to lick a water-power monopoly in this state if it's in my humble power to do it. If you stay in that crowd, Mr. Daunt, you've got to take your chances along with the rest of 'em."
"Stewart, your position is outrageous," blazed Corson. "You're not only throwing away a wonderful business opportunity on lines wholly approved by general usage—simply to indulge an impractical whim for which you'll get no thanks—taking a nonsensical stand for a mere dream in the way of public ownership—but you're insulting me, myself, by the inference that may be drawn."
"I don't understand, sir."
"Well, then, understand!" said the Senator, carried far by his indignation. "You know how I made my fortune!"
"Was I not justified in buying in all the public timber-lands at the going price?"
"Yes, seeing that the people of the state were fools enough to stay asleep and let lands go for a dollar or so an acre—lands to-day worth thousands of dollars an acre for the timber on 'em!"
"I paid the price that was asked. That's as far as a business man is expected to go."
"Certainly, Senator. I'm glad for you. But, I repeat, the people were asleep! Now I'm going to wake 'em up to guard their last great heritage—the water-power that they still own! I'll keep 'em awake, if I've got strength enough in this arm to keep on drumming and breath enough to keep the old trumpet sounding!"
"The corporations in this state are organized, they will protect their charters, they will make you let go of your wild scheme," bellowed the banker. "By the jumped-up Jehoshaphat, they will make you let go, Morrison! By the great—"
"Hush!" pleaded their host. "They can hear outside. No profanity!"
Stewart had started toward the door; he paused for a moment when he had his hand on the knob. "We will not let go!" he said, calmly. "We won't let go—and this is not profanity, Senator Corson—we won't let go of as much as one dam-site!"
A SENATOR SIZES UP A FOE
After Stewart had closed the door behind himself Senator Corson rose hastily. For a few moments he surveyed the panels of the oaken portal with the intentness of one who was studying a problem on a printed page. Then, plainly, his thoughts went traveling beyond the closed door. But he appeared to be receiving no satisfaction from his scrutiny or from his thoughts. He scowled and muttered.
He stared into the palms of his soiled gloves; the suggestion they offered did not improve his temper. He ripped them from his hands. "What the mischief ails 'em, down here? They're all more or less slippery, Daunt! I've been sensing it all the evening! I feel as if I'd been handling eels."
Banker Daunt was calming himself by a patrol of the room.
"I can view matters like a statesman when I'm in the Senate Chamber," Corson asserted, "but down here at home these days I can't see the forest on account of the trees! I don't know what tree to climb first, Daunt, I swear I don't! What with North getting the party into this scrape it's in, and playing his sharp politics, and this power question fight and—and—"
He gazed at the door again. It now suggested a definite course of procedure, apparently. He crumpled his gloves into a ball and threw them on the table. There was a hint in that action; the Senator was showing his determination to handle matters without gloves for the rest of the evening. "There's one thing about it, Daunt, a man can't do his best in public concerns till he has freed his mind of his private troubles. You wait here. I'll be right back."
"Where are you going, Senator?"
"I'm going to regain my self-respect! I'm going to assert myself as master of my own home. I'm going to tell Stewart Morrison that I have business with him, and that I'll attend to it in a strictly business office, later, where he can't insult my friends and abuse my hospitality!"
"Wait a minute! I've had an acute attack of it, too, this evening—the same ailment, but I'm getting over it. Don't lose your head and your temper, both at the same time. You're not in the right trim just now to go against that bullhead. Let's estimate him squarely. That's always my plan in business." Mr. Daunt plucked a cigar from a box on the table and lighted up leisurely, soothing himself into a matter-of-fact mood. Corson waited with impatience, but his politician's caution began to tug on the bits, moderating the rush of his passion, and he took a cigar for himself.
"Outside of this petty mayor business, does Morrison cut any figure—have any special power in state politics?" the banker asked.
"Not a particle—not as a politician. He doesn't know the A B C's of the game."
"How much influence can he wield as an agitator, as he threatens to become?"
Corson's declaration was less emphatic. "We're conservative, the mass of us, in these parts. Starting trouble isn't wielding influence, Daunt. He'll be going up against the political machine that has always handled this state safely and sanely—and we know what to do with trouble-makers."
"This communistic stand of his certainly discredits him with the corporations, also. Despeaux has been doing good work, and practically all of 'em have come over to the Consolidated camp. Of course, Morrison is antagonizing the banking interests, too. Is he a heavy borrower?"
"He doesn't borrow. He works on his own capital. St. Ronan's is free and clear," admitted the Senator, crossly.
"That's too bad! Calling loans is always effective in improving a radical's opinions. Then this friend, whom you have held up to me as so important in our plans——"
"I did consider him important, Daunt! I do now. I know him. I have seen him go after things, ever since he was a boy. That storage-commission scheme is his own device and, as the head of it, he occupies a strategic position."
"But it's only a scheme; he has no actual organization of the people behind it."
"Confound it! I'm afraid he will have!"
"It's an impractical dream—trying to establish such shadowy ownership of what vested capital under private control must naturally possess and develop. We have sound business on our side."
"It may not seem so much like a dream after he puts that report into the legislature," complained the Senator. "I tell you, I know Stewart Morrison. He indulges in visions, but he'll back this particular one up with so many facts and figures that it will make a treasury report look like a ghost-story by comparison. Talk about sound business! That's Morrison's other name!"
"What's going to be done with that report, Corson?"
The Senator hesitated a few moments.
"Understand that I'm no kin of old Captain Teach, the buccaneer, either in politics or business, Daunt. But I'm not fool enough to believe that the millennium has arrived in this world, even if the battle of Armageddon has been fought, as the parsons are preaching. We still must deal with human conditions. The tree is full of good ideas, I'll admit. But we've got to let 'em ripen. Eat 'em now—and it's a case of the gripes for business and politics, both. Therefore"—the Senator paused and squinted at the end of his cigar. "Well, Daunt, we'll have to apply a little common sense to conditions, even though the opposition may squeal. That ownership of the water-power by the people isn't ripe. The legislative committee will pocket Morrison's report, or will refer the thing to the public utilities commission."
"Both plans meaning the same thing?"
"I won't put it as coarsely as that. It only means handling the situation with discretion. Discretion by those in power is going to save us a lot of trouble in times like these."
"You are sure of the right legislative committee, are you?"
"Certainly! North is on the job up at the State House. I'll admit that he isn't tactful. He's very old-fashioned in his political ideas. But he doesn't mind clamor and criticism, and he isn't afraid of the devil himself. Between you and me, I think," continued the Senator, judicially, "that North is skating pretty near the edge this time. I would not have allowed him to go so far if I had been in better touch with conditions down here. But it's too late to modify his plans much at this hour. He must bull the thing through as he's going. I can undo the mischief to the party by the selection of a smooth diplomat for the gubernatorial nomination next year. But jumping back to the main subject—Stewart Morrison! Seeing what he is, in the water-power matter, I hoped I could smooth things by your getting next to him. I'm sorry you have been so much annoyed, Daunt! He may make it uncomfortable by his mouth, but he cannot control anything by direct political influence. Absolutely not!" The Senator was recovering his confidence in himself as a leader; he started up from his chair and stamped down an emphatic foot. "He is a nonentity in that direction. Politics will handle the thing! The legislature will be all right! The situation on Capitol Hill is safe. However, I think I'll pass a word or two with North!"
He went to the wall of the study, slipped aside a small panel, and lifted out a telephone instrument. "A little precaution I've held over from the old days," Corson informed his guest, with a smile. "A private line to the Executive Chamber."
From where he sat Daunt could hear the Governor's voice. The tones rasped and rattled and jangled in the receiver, which, for the sake of his eardrum, Senator Corson held away from his head. The puckers on his countenance indicated that he was annoyed, both by the news and by the discordant violence of its delivery.
"But it's not as threatening as all that! It can't be!" the listener kept insisting.
"Well, I'll come up," he promised, at last. "I'll come, but I think you're over-anxious, North!"
There was a sound as if somebody were banging on a tin pan at the other end of the line; His Excellency had merely put more vigor into his voice.
"I think—I'm quite sure that he's still here—in my house," Corson replied. "Yes—yes—I certainly will!" He hung up.
"You seemed to think, Daunt, that I didn't have a good and a sufficient reason for saying a few words to Morrison when I started to hunt him up a few minutes ago. However, this time you'll have to excuse me. I'm going to him."
"But you're not intending to make him of any especial importance in affairs, are you? You said he could be ignored."
"Yes! But I don't propose to ignore his efforts to stir up the mob spirit in a city of which he happens to be mayor. He has been up to that mischief! I have heard straight reports from various sources this evening. The Governor has been posted and he is very emphatic on the point." Corson rubbed the ear that was still reminding him of that emphasis.
"That's the trouble with men like Morrison, when they begin to talk people's rights these days, Senator! They go up in the air and jump all the way over into Bolshevism. I'm sorry now because I counseled you to smooth your temper. Go at him. I'll sit here and finish my smoke."
At the head of the broad staircase Senator Corson came upon Mrs. Stanton and Coventry Daunt.
They wore expressions of bewilderment that would have fitted the countenances of explorers who had missed their quest and had lost their reckoning.
Mrs. Stanton put out her fan, and the striding father halted at the polite barrier with a greeting, but evinced anxiety to be on the way.
"I'm so glad to see you, Senator Corson!" This with delight. "But isn't Lana with you?" this with anxiety. "I mean, hasn't she been with you?"
"My dance contracts with Miss Corson have been shot quite all to pieces," said Coventry.
"I have searched everywhere for her—I think I have," supplemented the sister. "But we guessed she must be with you, and we didn't venture to intrude."
"And you are sure she is not in the ballroom?"
"Absolutely!" Young Mr. Daunt plainly knew what he was talking about.
"Coventry, if you and Mrs. Stanton will go there and wait a few moments, I am positive that Lana will come to you very promptly!"
Senator Corson also seemed to know what he was talking about!
FLAREBACKS IN THE CASE OF LOVE AND A MOB
Again was Stewart a close listener, his chin resting on his knuckles, his serious eyes searching Lana's face while she talked.
A cozy harbor was afforded by the bay of the great window in the library. When Stewart had returned to the girl he noticed that she had provided the harbor with a breakwater—a tall Japanese screen; waiting there she had found the room draughty, she informed him.
He was placid when he returned. His demeanor was so untroubled and his air so eagerly invited her to go on from where she had left off that she did not bother her mind about the errand which had called him away.
"I'm really glad because we adjourned the executive session for a recess," she confided. "I've had a chance to think over what I was saying to you, Stewart. While I talked I found myself getting a bit hysterical. I realized that I was presumptuous, but I couldn't seem to stop. But I have been going over it in my mind and I'm glad now that my feelings did carry me away. Friendship has a right to be impetuous on some occasions. I never tried to advise you in the old days. You wouldn't have listened, anyway."
"I've always been glad to listen to you," he corrected.
"But it makes a friend so provoked to have one listen and then go ahead and do just as one likes. I want to ask you—while you have been away from me have you been reflecting on what I said?"
He stammered a bit, and there was not absolute candor in his eyes. "To tell the truth, Lana, I allowed myself to be taken up considerably with other matters. But I did remember my promise to hurry back to you, just the minute I could break away," he added, apologetically.
"I'm a little disappointed in you, just the same, Stewart! I've been hoping that you were putting your mind on what I said to you. I was hoping that when you came back——"
"Well, go on, Lana!" he prompted, gently, when she paused.
"It's so hard for me to say it so it will sound as I mean it," she lamented. "To make my interest appear exactly what it is. To find the words to fit my thoughts just now! I know what they're saying about me these days in Marion. I know our folks so well! I don't need to hear the words; I have been studying their faces this evening. You, also, know what they're saying, Stewart!"
He confined his assent to a significant nod; Jeanie MacDougal's few words on the subject had been, for him, a comprehensive summary of the general gossip.
"When I was speechifying to you in St. Ronan's office you thought I had come back here filled with airs and lofty notions. I knew how you felt!"
He shook his head and allowed the extent of his negation to be limited to that! "I'll tell you how I felt—some time—but now I'll listen to you."
"I was putting all that on for show, Stewart! I felt so—so—I don't know! Embarrassed, perhaps! And I felt that you—" her color deepened then in true embarrassment. "And—and—they were all there!" It was nave confession, and he smiled.
"So I said to my wee mither, Lana, by way of setting her right as to meddlesome tongues."
"I am sincere and honest still, Stewart, where my real friends are concerned. I've just complained because I can't find words to express my thoughts to you. Well, I never was at a loss when we were boy and girl together." She paused and they heard the sound of music.
"There's a frilly style of talk that belongs with that—down there," she went on. There was a hint of contempt in her gesture. "But you and I used to get along better—or worse—with plain speech." The flash of a smile of her own softened her moue.
"I make it serve me well in my affairs," agreed Morrison.
"Do you think I'm airy and notional and stuck up?"
"Do you think I'm posing as a know-it-all because I have been about in the world and have seen and heard?"
"But you do think I'm broader and wiser and more open-minded and have better judgment on matters in general than I had when I was penned up here in Marion, don't you?"
"Stewart, you're not helping me much, staring at me and popping those noes and yesses at me! You make me feel like—but, honestly, I'm not! I don't intend to seem like that!"
"Why, like an opinionated lecturer, laying down the law of conduct to you! I don't mean to do all the talking."
"You'd better, Lana—for the present," he advised, seriously; "If you have something to say to me, take care and not let me get started on what I want to say to you."
She flushed. She drew away from him slightly. In her apprehensiveness she hurried on for her own protection. "I hoped you were coming back just now, Stewart, and put out your hand to me as your friend, a good pal who had given sensible advice, and say to me, 'Lana, you have used your wits to good advantage while you have been out and about in the world, and your suggestions to me are all right.' Aren't you going to say so, Stewart?"
"As I understand it, putting all you said to me awhile back in that plain language we have agreed on, you tell me that I'm missing my opportunities, have gone to sleep down here in Marion, am allowing myself to be everlastingly tied up by petty business details that keep me away from real enjoyment of a bigger and better life, and that there's not the least need of my spending my best years in that fashion."
"You state it bluntly, but that is the gist of it!"
"Yes, I was blunt. I'm going to be even more blunt! What do I get out of this prospective, bigger life, Lana?" He drew a deep breath. "Do I get—you?"
"Stewart, hush! Wait!" He had spread his hands to her appealingly. "I am talking to you as your friend—I'm talking of your business, your outlook. I must say something further to you!"
He set as firm a grip on his emotions as he had on his anger earlier in the evening when Krylovensky's hand had dealt him a blow. Her demeanor had thrust him away effectually. The fire died in his eyes. "Go on, Lana! I have promised to allow you to have your say. And, once I start, only a 'Yes!' can stop me."
She displayed additional apprehension and plunged into a strictly commercial topic with desperate directness. "I'm positive that you have no further need of making yourself a slave to details of business. I know that you can be free to devote yourself to the higher things that are worthy of your real self and your talents, Stewart. Father says that through Mr. Daunt there will come to you the grandest opportunity of your life. I suppose that's what Mr. Daunt explained to you when you were with him this evening. Even though you may not consider me wise in men's business affairs, Stewart, you must admit that my father and Mr. Daunt know. You haven't any silly notions, have you? You're ready to seize every opportunity to make a grand success in business, the way the great men do, aren't you?"
There was a very different light in Morrison's eyes than had flamed in them a few moments before. He stared at her appraisingly, wonderingly. His demanding survey of her was disconcerting, but his somberness was that of disappointment rather than of any distrust.
"Has your father asked you to talk to me on the subject of that business?"
She did not reply promptly. But his challenge was too direct.
"I confess that father did intimate that there'd be no need of mentioning him in the matter."
"He asked you to talk to me, then?"
"And I thought you were talking only for yourself when you begged me to step up into that broader life!" His voice trembled. She did not appear to understand his emotion.
"But I am talking for myself," protested the girl.
"You're talking only your father's views, his plans, his ambition, his scheme of life—talking Daunt's project for his own selfish ends!"
"I don't understand!"
"I hope you don't! For the sake of my love for you, I hope so!" He was striving to control himself. "In the name of what we have been to each other in days past, I hope you are not their—that you don't realize they are making you a——But I can't say it! I want proof from you now by word o' mouth! I don't want any more prattle of business! I want you to show me that you are talking for yourself. Lana Corson, say to me some word from your own heart—something for me alone—something from old times—to prove that you are what I want you to be! I love you. You are mine! I don't believe their gossip. I have never given you up. I've been waiting patiently for you to come back to me. Can't you go back to the old times—and speak from your own soul?"
The intensity of his appeal carried her along in the rush of his emotion. "Stewart, I have been speaking for myself, as best I knew how! I'm back to the old times! If you need further words from me, you shall have them."
Senator Corson stepped around the end of the screen. "You will postpone any further words to Mr. Morrison! I have some words of my own for him! Lana, Coventry Daunt is waiting for you in the ballroom and I have told him that you will be there at once."
"Mr. Daunt must continue to wait, father. I have something to tell Stewart, and you must allow me to say it—say it to him, alone."
"You shall never speak another word to him on any subject with my permission. I have been listening and—"
"Father, do you confess that you have been eavesdropping?"
"My present code of manners is perfectly suited to the tactics of this fellow who has flouted me and insulted an honored guest under my roof this evening. Morrison, leave the house!"
"He shall stay at the request of his hostess," declared the girl, defiantly.
"On with you to your guests—that's where your hostess duties are!" Corson reached to take her arm.
Stewart hastily raised Lana's hand and bent over it. "I am indebted to you for a charming evening." He stood erect and his demeanor of manly sincerity removed every suggestion of sarcasm from the conventional phrase he had spoken quietly. "The charm, Senator Corson, has outweighed all the unpleasantness."
When he turned to retire Corson halted him with a curt word.
"Lana, I command you to go and join your partner."
But Miss Corson persisted in her rebelliousness. She did not relish the ominous threat that she perceived in the situation. "I shall stay with you till you're in a better state of temper, father."
"You'll hear nothing to this man's credit if you do stay," said the Senator, acridly. "I have just talked on the 'phone with the Governor, Mayor Morrison. He asked me to notify you that your mob which you have stirred up in your own city, by your devilish speeches this evening, is evidently on the war-path. He, expects you to undo the mischief, seeing that your tongue is the guilty party!"
Lana turned startled gaze from her father to Morrison; amazement struggled with her indignation. Her amazement was deepened by the mayor's mild rejoinder.
"Very well, Senator. I have an excellent understanding with that mob."
"Making speeches to a mob!" Lana gasped. "I'll not allow even my father to say that about you, Stewart, and leave it undisputed."
"Your father is angry just now, Lana! Any discussion will provoke further unpleasantness!"
"Confound you! Don't you dare to insult me by your condescending airs," thundered Corson. "You have your orders. Go and mix with your rabble and continue that understanding with 'em, if you can make 'em understand that law and order must prevail in this city to-night."
The library was in a wing of the mansion, far from the street, and the three persons behind the screen had been entirely absorbed in their troubled affairs. They had heard none of the sounds from the street.
Somebody began to call in the corridor outside the library. The voice sounded above the music from the ballroom, and quavered with anxious entreaty as it demanded, over and over: "Senator Corson! Where are you, Senator Corson?"
"Here!" replied the Senator.
The secretary rushed in. "There's a mob outside, sir! A threatening mob!"
"Ah! Morrison, your friends are looking you up!"
"They are radicals—anarchists. They must be!" panted the messenger. "They are yelling: 'Down with the capitalists! Down with the aristocrats!' I ordered the shades pulled. The men seemed to be excited by looking in through the windows at the dancers in the ballroom!"
"There'll be no trouble. I'll answer for that," promised the Mayor, marching away.
Before he reached the door the crash of splintered glass, the screams of women and shouts of men; drowned the music.
Stewart went leaping down the stairs. When he reached the ballroom he found the frightened guests massed against the wall, as far from the windows as they could crowd. A wild battle of some sort was going on outside in the night, so oaths and cries and the grim thudding of battering fists revealed.
Before Stewart could reach a window—one of those from which the glass had been broken—Commander Lanigan came through the aperture with a rush, skating to a standstill along the polished floor. Blood was on his hands. His sleeves hung in ribbons. In that scene of suspended gaiety he was a particularly grisly interloper.
"They sneaked it over on us, Mister Mayor!" he yelled. "I got a tip and routed out the Legion boys and chased 'em, but the dirty, Bullshevists beat us to it up the hill. But we've got 'em licked!"
"Keep 'em licked for the rest of the night," Morrison suggested. "I'll be down-town with you, right away!"
But Lanigan, in his raging excitement, was not amenable to hints or orders, nor was he cautious in his revelations. "We can handle things down-town, Your Honor! What we want to know is, what about up-town—up on Capitol Hill?"
"You've had my promise of what I'll do. And I'll do it!"
Senator Corson and his daughter had arrived in the ballroom. The Senator was promptly and intensely interested in this cocksure declaration by Morrison.
"Your promise is the same as hard cash for me and the level-headed ones," retorted Commander Lanigan. "But whether it's the Northern Lights in the skies or plain hellishness in folks or somebody underneath stirring and stirring trouble and starting lies, I don't know! Lots of good boys have stopped being level-headed! I'll hold the gang down if I can, sir. But what I want to know is, can we depend on you to tend to Capitol Hill? Are you still on the job? Can I tell 'em that you're still on the job?"
"You can tell 'em all that I'm on the job from now till morning," shouted the mayor. He was heard by the men outside. They gave his declaration a howl of approval.
"The people will be protected," shouted an unseen admirer.
Stewart hurried to Senator Corson and was not daunted by that gentleman's blazing countenance.
"I'm sorry, sir. This seems to be a flareback of some sort. I'll have police on guard at once!"
"You'll protect the people, eh? There's a flatterer in your mob, Morrison! You can't even give window-glass in this city suitable protection—a mayor like you! I'll have none of your soviet police around my premises." He turned to his secretary. "Call the adjutant-general at the State House and tell him to send a detachment of troops here."
"I trust they'll co-operate well with the police I shall send," stated the Mayor, stiffly. He hastened from the room.
When Stewart had donned hat and overcoat and was about to leave the mansion by the main door, Lana stepped in front of him. "Stewart, you must stop for a moment—you must deny it, what father has been saying to me about you just now!"
"Your father is angry—and in anger a man says a whole lot that he doesn't mean. I'm in a hurry—and a man in a hurry spoils anything he tries to tell. We must let it wait, Lana."
"But if you go on—go on as you're going—crushing Mr. Daunt's plans—spoiling your own grand prospects—antagonizing my father—paying no heed to my advice!" The girl's sentences were galloping breathlessly.
"We'll have time to talk it over, Lana!"
"What! Talk it over after you have been reckless enough to spoil everything? You must stand with your friends, I tell you! Father is wiser than you! Isn't he right?"
"I—I guess he thinks he is—but I can't talk about it." He was backing toward the door.
"You must know what it means—for us two—if you go headlong against him. I stand stanchly for my father—always!"
"I reckon you'll have to be sort of loyal to your father—but I can't talk about it! Not now!" he repeated. He was uncomfortably aware that he had no words to fit the case.
"But if you don't stand with him, you're in with the rabble—the rabble," she declared, indignantly. "He says you are! Stewart, I know you won't insult his wisdom and deny my prayer to you! Only a few moments ago I was ready——But I cannot say those words to you unless——You understand!"
This interview had been permitted only because Senator Corson's attention had been absorbed by Mrs. Stanton's hysterical questions. But the lady's fears did not affect her eyesight. She had noted Lana's departure and she caught a glimpse of the mayor when he strode past the ballroom door with his hat in his hand.
"Yes, I'll be calm, Senator! I'm sure that we'll be perfectly protected. Lana followed the mayor just now, and I suppose she is insisting on a double detail of police."
The Senator promptly followed, too, to find out more exactly what Lana was insisting on.
"Haven't you joined your rabble yet, Morrison?" Corson queried, insolently, when he came upon the two.
"I'm going, sir—going right along!"
Lana set her hands together, the fingers interlaced so tightly that the flesh was as white as her cheeks. "'Your rabble!' Stewart! Oh! Oh!" In spite of her thinly veiled threat of a few moments ago, there was piteous protest in her face and voice.
"According to suggestions from all quarters, I don't seem to fit any other kind of society just now," he replied, ruefully. He marched out into the night.
"Call my car," Senator Corson directed a servant.
In the reception-hall he encountered Silas Daunt, "Slip on your hat and coat. Come along with me to the State House. I'll show you how practical politics can settle a rumpus, after a visionary has tumbled down on his job!"
RIFLES RULE IN THE PEOPLE'S HOUSE
At eleven o'clock Adj.-Gen. Amos Totten set up the cinch of his sword-belt by a couple of holes and began another tour of inspection of the State House. He considered that the parlous situation in state affairs demanded full dress. During the evening he had been going on his rounds at half-hour intervals. On each trip he had been much pleased by the strict, martial discipline and alertness displayed by his guardsmen. The alertness was especially noticeable; every soldier was tautly at 'tention when the boss warrior hove in sight. General Totten was portly and came down hard on his heels with an elderly man's slumping gait, and his sword clattered loudly and his movements were as well advertised as those of a belled cat in a country kitchen.
In the interims, between the tours of General Totten, Captain Danny Sweetsir did his best to keep his company up to duty pitch. But he was obliged to admit to himself that the boys were not taking the thing as seriously as soldiers should.
Squads were scattered all over the lower part of the great building, guarding the various entrances. While Captain Sweetsir was lecturing the tolerant listeners of one squad, he was irritably aware that the boys of the squads that were not under espionage were doing nigh about everything that a soldier on duty should not do, their diversions limited only by their lack of resources.
Therefore, when General Totten complimented him at eleven o'clock, Captain Sweetsir had no trouble at all in disguising his gratification and in assuming the approved, sour demeanor of military gravity. Even then his ears, sharpened by his indignation, caught the clicking of dice on tiles.
"Of course, there will be no actual trouble tonight," said the general, removing his cap and stroking his bald head complacently. "I have assured the boys that there will be no trouble. But this experience is excellent military training for them, and I'm pleased to note that they're thoroughly on the qui vive."
Captain Sweetsir, on his own part, did not apprehend trouble, either, but the A.-G.'s bland and unconscious encouragement of laxity was distinctly irritating, "Excuse me, sir, but I have been telling 'em right along that there will be a rumpus. I was trying to key 'em up!"
"Remember that you're a citizen as well as a soldier!" The general rebuked his subaltern sternly. "Don't defame the fair name of your city and state, sir! The guard has been called out by His Excellency, the Commander-in-Chief, merely as a precaution. The presence of troops in the State House—their mere presence here—has cleared the whole situation. Mayor Morrison agrees with me perfectly on that point."
"He does?" demanded the captain, eagerly, showing relief. "Why, I was afraid—" He checked himself.
"Of what, sir?"
"He didn't look like giving three cheers when I told him in the mill office that we had been ordered out."
"Mayor Morrison called me on the telephone in the middle of the day and I explained to him why it was thought necessary to have the State House guarded."
"And what did he say?" urged the captain, still more eagerly. Again he caught himself. He saluted. "I beg your pardon, General Totten. I have no right to put questions to my superior officer."
But General Totten was not a military martinet. He was an amiable gentleman from civil life, strong with the proletariat because he had been through the chairs in many fraternal organizations and, therefore, handy in politics; and he was strong with the Governor on account of another fraternal tie—his sister was the Governor's wife. General Totten, as a professional mixer, enjoyed a chat.
"That's all right, Captain! What did the mayor say, you ask? He courteously made no comment. Official tact! He is well gifted in that line. His manner spoke for him—signified his complete agreement. He was cordially polite! Very!"
The general put on his cap and slanted it at a jaunty angle. "And he still approves. Is very grateful for the manner in which I'm handling the situation. He called me only a few minutes ago. From his residence! I informed him that all was serene on Capitol Hill."
"And what did he say when he called you this time?"
"Nothing! Oh, nothing by way of criticism! Distinctly affable!"
Captain Sweetsir did not display the enthusiasm that General Totten seemed to expect.
"Let's see, Captain! You are employed by him?"
"Not quite that way! I'm a mill student—learning the wool business at St. Ronan's."
"Aren't you and Mayor Morrison friendly?"
"Oh yes! Certainly, sir! But—" Captain Sweetsir appeared to be having much difficulty in completing his sentences, now that Stewart Morrison had become the topic of conversation.
"He didn't say anything, you tell me?"
"His cordiality spoke louder than words. And, of course, I was glad to meet him half-way. I have invited him to call at the State House, if he cares to do so, though the hour is late. And now I come to the matter of my business with you, Captain Sweetsir," stated the general, putting a degree of official sanction on his garrulity in the case of this subordinate. "If Mayor Morrison does come to the State House to-night, by any chance, you may admit him."
"Did he say anything about coming?"
"Mayor Morrison understands that I am handling everything so tactfully that an official visit by him might be considered a reflection on my capability. His politeness equals mine, Captain. Undoubtedly he will not trouble to come. If he should happen to call unofficially you will please see to it that politeness governs."
"Yes, sir! But the other orders hold good, do they, politeness or no politeness?"
"For mobs and meddling politicians, certainly! I put them all in the same class in a time like this."
General Totten clucked a stuffy chuckle and clanked on his official way.
Captain Sweetsir heard a sound that was as fully exasperating as the click of dice; somebody, somewhere in the dimly lighted rotunda, was snoring. He had previously found sluggards asleep on settees; he went in search of the latest offender. But his thoughts were occupied principally by reflection on that peculiar reticence of the Morrison of St. Ronan's; Mill-student Sweetsir was assailed by doubts of the correctness of General Totten's comfortable conclusions. Mr. Sweetsir, in the line of business, had had opportunity on previous occasions to observe the reaction of the Morrison's reticence.
The adjutant-general did not bother with the elevator. He marched up the middle of the grand stairway.
The State House was only partially illuminated with discreet stint of lights. All the outside incandescents of dome, porte-cochre, and vestibules had been extinguished. The inside lights were limited to those in the corridors and the lobbies. The great building on Capitol Hill seemed like a cowardly giant, clumsily intent on being inconspicuous.
General Totten did not harmonize with the hush. He was distinctly an. ambulatory noise in the corridor which led to the executive department. He was announced informally, therefore, to His Excellency. There was no way of announcing oneself formally to the Governor at that hour, except by rapping on the door of the private chamber. The reception-room was empty, the private secretary was not on duty, the messenger of the Governor and of the Executive Council had been informed by Governor North that his services would not be required for the rest of the evening.
Being both adjutant-general and brother-in-law, Totten did not bother to knock.
The Governor was at his broad table in the center of the room; the big chandelier above the table was ablaze, and the shadows of the grooves on North's face were accentuated. He was staring at the opening door with an expectancy that had been fully apprised as to the caller's identity, and he was not cordial. "You make a devilish noise lugging that meat-cleaver around, Amos. What's the use of all the full-dress nonsense?"
"Official example and"—the general bore down hard on the conjunction—"the absolute necessity of a civilian officer getting into uniform when he exercises authority. I know human nature!"
"All right! Maybe you do. But don't trip yourself up with that sword and fall down and break your neck," advised the Governor, satirically solicitous as one of the family. "Anything stirring down-stairs?"
"The situation is being handled perfectly. Everybody alert. It's wonderful training for the guards."
"I haven't liked the sound of reports from the city. Has any news come to you lately?"
"Nothing of special importance. Only a little disturbance, or the threat of one, in the vicinity of Senator Corson's residence. His secretary called up. I sent a few boys down there."
"A disturbance?" barked North.
"I didn't quite gather the details. The man ran his words together." General Totten helped himself to one of his brother-in-law's cigars.
"This sounds serious. Why the infernal blazes don't you wake up?"
"An officer commanding troops mustn't be thrown off his poise by every flurry. What would happen if I didn't keep my head?"
"When was this?"
"Oh, maybe half an hour ago," replied the adjutant-general, with martial indifference to any mere rumblings of popular discontent.
"That's probably the reason why Corson hasn't got along yet. I'm expecting him. I sent for him." North twitched his nose; his eye-glasses dropped off and dangled at the end of their cord. "I have sent explicit orders to Mayor Morrison to tend to that mob that he has been coddling. He's letting 'em get away from him, if what you say is so."
"Oh, the mayor and I are in perfect accord and are handling the situation. I have just been talking with him on the telephone." Totten settled his cigar into the corner of his mouth.
"Where is he?"
"At his residence! Showing that he isn't any more worried than I am."
"Well, if he has got the thing in hand again, I hope he'll stay at his residence. If reports are anything to go by, he didn't help matters by going down-town and making speeches to that rabble."
"Politeness wins in the long run, Lawrence, whether you're talking to the mob or the masters. I make it my principle in life. Tact and diplomacy. Harmony and—"
"Hell and repeat!" stormed North. "You and Morrison are not taking this thing the way you ought to! In accord, say you! He is torching 'em up and you are grinning while the fire burns! Fine team-work! Amos, you get in accord with me and my orders. You keep away from Morrison till I can make sure that he stands clean in his party loyalty."
His Excellency was stuttering in his wrath and the general determined to be discreetly silent as to his recent tender of politeness to Morrison through the captain of the guards. Furthermore, Totten's self-complacency assured him that the mayor of Marion was leaving the affairs on Capitol Hill in the hands of the accredited commander on Capitol Hill.
Governor North pulled open a drawer of the table. He threw a bunch of keys to his brother-in-law. "I had the messenger leave these with me. Lock up all the doors of the Council Chamber. Leave only my private door unlocked."
The adjutant-general caught the keys. "But you certainly don't expect any trouble up here, with my guards—"
"It's plenty enough of a job for a cat to watch one rat-hole! Lock up, I tell you!"
THE LINE-UP FORMS IN THE PEOPLE'S HOUSE
While General Totten was bruising his dignity in the menial work of a turnkey, Governor North received two visitors. They were furred gentlemen who entered abruptly by the private door—the before-mentioned rat-hole—but the waiting cat did not pounce. On the contrary, one of the furred intruders did the pouncing. It was Senator Corson and he was furiously angry.
"What kind of a damnable fool has been giving off orders to those soldiers? I have been tramping around outside this State House from door to door, held up everywhere and insulted by those young whelps."
"I don't see how that could happen," protested the Governor.
"Who gave off such orders?"
"There were no orders, not in your case. I didn't think it was necessary to specify anything in regard to you, Senator. Do you mean to tell me that there's a man down there who didn't recognize you—who refused to allow you to pass without question?"
"They all know me! Of course they know me. And that's the whole trouble. They made that the reason why they wouldn't let me in here."
"How in the devil's name could that be?" The Governor's anger that promised punishment for the offenders served Senator Corson in lieu of apology.
"I was informed that there were strict orders not to admit politicians. According to those lunkheads at the doors I came under that classification." The Senator threw off his coat. "And Daunt, here, was penalized on account of the company he was keeping. Find out who gave those orders."
General Totten had locked the doors and was nervously jangling the keys.
"Amos, what kind of a fool have you been making yourself with your orders?" the Governor demanded.
"I—I think some instructions of mine in regard to admitting any of those persons whose seats are in dispute—probably those orders were misconstrued. My guards are very zealous—very alert," affirmed the adjutant-general, putting as good a face on the matter as was possible. He fully realized that this was no time to mention that exception in favor of Mayor Morrison, or to explain that he had intended to have Captain Sweetsir accept humorously instead of literally the more recent statement about politicians.
"There are two of those alert patriots who have had their zeal dulled for the time being," stated the Senator, showing his teeth with a grim smile. "I stood the impertinence as long as I could and then I cuffed the ears of the fools and walked in."
"We did issue strict instructions, as Amos has intimated," the Governor pleaded. "Some of those Socialists and Progressives who are claiming their seats have hired counsel and they proposed to force their way into the House and Senate chambers and make a test case, inviting forcible expulsion. I'm reckoning that my plan of forcible exclusion leaves us in cleaner shape."
"I'm not sure just how clean the whole thing is going to leave us, North." The Senator tossed his coat upon a huge divan at one side of the chamber and invited Daunt to dispose of his own coat in like fashion. Corson came to the table and sat sidewise on one corner of it. "You know how I feel about your pressing the election statutes to the extent you have. But we've got the old nag right in the middle of the river, and we've got to attend to swimming instead of swapping. I think, in spite of all their howling, the other crowd will take their medicine, as the courts hand it to them, when the election cases go up for adjudication. But there's a gang in every community that always takes advantage of any signs of a mix-up in high authority. My house got merry hell from a mob a little while ago. There's no political significance in the matter, however!"
The Governor queried anxiously for details and Corson gave them. He bitterly arraigned Morrison's stand.
North came to his feet and banged his fist on the table. "What? Take that attitude toward a mob in his own city? Strike hands with a ringleader of a riot—do it under a violated roof? Do it after what he promised me in the way of co-operation for law and order? Has he completely lost his mind, Senator Corson?"
"I think so," stated the Senator, with sardonic venom. "I'll admit that the thing isn't exactly clear to me—what he's trying to do—what he's thinking. A crazy man's actions and whims seldom are understandable by a sane man. But, so I gather, after showing us, as he has this evening, a sample of his work in running municipal government, he now proposes to take full charge of state matters."
"What?" yelled the Governor.
"Yes! Promised the ringleader of the mob to come up here and run everything on Capitol Hill. In behalf of the people—as the people's protector!" The Senator's irony rasped like a file on metal.
Banker Daunt was provoked to add his evidence. "It's exactly as my friend Corson says, Governor. I have been hearing some fine soviet doctrines from the mouth of Morrison this evening. Not at all stingy about giving his help to all those who need it! Gave his pledge of assistance to the fellow in the ballroom, as Corson says. Understood him to say that he is coming up here to help you, too!"
"I rather expected to find him here," pursued the Senator. "He went away in a great hurry to go somewhere. But after my experience with your alert soldiers down-stairs, Totten, I'm afraid our generous savior is going to be bothered about getting in."
The adjutant-general pulled off his cap and scrubbed his palm nervously over the glossy surface that was revealed.
"You might give some special orders to admit him," suggested Corson. "He'll be a great help in an emergency."
"This settles it with me as to Morrison and his conception of law and order," affirmed Governor North. "I have been depending on him to handle his city. I'd as soon depend on Lenin and the kind of government he's running in Russia."
"According to the samples furnished by both, I think Lenin would rank higher as help," said the Senator. "At least he has shown that he knows how to handle a mob. But we may as well calm down, North, and attend to our own business. We are making altogether too much account of a silly nincompoop. Daunt and I let our feelings get away from us this evening on the same subject. But we woke up promptly. Morrison was in a position to help his friends and to amount to something as an aid in that line. Now that he is running with the rabble, for some purpose of his own, he can be ignored. He amounts to nothing—to that!" He snapped a derogatory finger into his palm. "We can handle that rabble, Morrison included." He turned to the adjutant-general. "Your men seem to be alert enough in keeping out gentlemen who ought to be let in. Do you think you can depend on them to keep out real intruders?"
"Oh yes!" faltered Totten, absent-mindedly. He was trying to clear his troubled thoughts in regard to the matter of Morrison, who was now presented in a light where politeness might not be allowed to govern the situation.
"Have they been put to any test of their courage and reliability? Have they been up against any actual threats from the outside, this evening?"
"No, but I can depend on them to the limit, Senator Corson. I have been on regular tours of inspection. They are a cool and nervy set of young men and I have impressed on them a sense of what a soldier on duty should be."
"Very well, Totten! Nevertheless, let us hope that the mob fools have gone home to bed, including our friend Morrison. He needs his sleep; I believe he still follows the family rule of being in his mill at seven in the morning. He's a good millman, even if he isn't much of a politician."
"And I don't look for any trouble, anyway," declared General Totten, adding in his thoughts, for his further consolation, the assurance that, at half past eleven, so the clock on the wall revealed to his gaze, such an early riser as Morrison must be abed and asleep; therefore, the exception for the sake of politeness did not threaten to complicate affairs!
But at that instant something else did threaten.
Through the arches and corridors of the State House rang the sounds of tumult, breaking on the hush with terrifying suddenness. One voice, shouting with frenzied violence, prefaced the general uproar; there was the crashing of shattered wood.
The rifles barked angrily.
"My God, North! I've been afraid of it!" Corson lamented. "You have crowded 'em too hard!"
"I'm going by the law, Corson! The election law! The statute law! And the riot laws of this state! The law says a mob must be put down!"
An immediate and reassuring silence suggested that the law had prevailed and that a mob had been put down in this instance. Corson, whose face was white and whose eyes were distended, voiced that conviction. "If a gang had been able to get in they'd be howling their heads off. But it was quick over!"
The men in the Executive Chamber stood in their tracks and exchanged troubled glances in silence.
"Amos, what are you waiting for?" demanded His Excellency.
"For a report—an official report on the matter," mumbled the adjutant-general, steadying his trembling hands by shoving them inside his sword-belt.
"Go down and find out what it all means."
"I can save time by telephoning to the watchman's room," demurred Totten.
"Incidentally saving your skin!" the Governor rapped back. "But I don't care how you get the information, if only you get it and get it sudden!"
Totten went to the house telephone in the private secretary's room and called and waited; he called again and waited.
"Nobody is on his job in this State House tonight!" His Excellency's fears had wire-edged his temper. "By gad! you go down there and tend to yours, as I have told you to do, Amos, or I'll take that sword and race you along the corridor on the point of it!"
"We must be informed on what this means," insisted the Senator.
There was a rap on the private door. Again the men in the Executive Chamber swapped uneasy glances. Corson's demeanor invited the Governor to assume the responsibility. His Excellency was manifestly shirking. He looked over his shoulder in the direction of the fireplace, as if he felt an impulse to arm himself with the ornamental poker and tongs.
"May I come in?" The voice was that of the mayor of Marion. The voice was deprecatory.
"Come in!" invited North.
Morrison entered. He greeted them with a wide smile that did not fit the seriousness of the situation, as they viewed it. There was humor behind the smile; it suggested suppressed hilarity; it hinted that he had something funny to tell them.
But their grim countenances did not encourage him.
"If I am intruding on important business——"
"Shut the door behind you! What is it? What happened?" demanded North.
Before shutting the door Morrison reached into the gloom behind him and pulled in a soldier.
Stewart had put off his evening garb. He wore a business suit of the shaggy gray mixture that was one of the staples among the products of St. Ronan's mill. His matter-of-fact attire was not the only element that set him out in sharp contrast among the claw-hammers and uniforms in the room; he was bubbling with undisguised merriment; Corson, Daunt, and the Governor were sullenly anxious; even the young soldier looked flustered and frightened.
"I have brought along Paul Duchesne so that you may have it from his own mouth! Go ahead, Duchesne! Let 'em in on the joke! Gentlemen, get ready for a laugh!" Stewart set an example for them by a suggestive chuckle.
"Your arrival in the State House seems to have been attended by considerable of a demonstration," commented Senator Corson, recovering himself sufficiently to indulge in his animosity. "Judging from your success in starting other riots this evening, I ought to have guessed that you were in the neighborhood."
"My arrival had nothing whatever to do with the demonstration, Senator. Go on, Duchesne!"
"I jomped myself," stammered the soldier, a particularly crestfallen Canuck.
"I see you don't grasp the idea," Morrison hastened to put in. "We mustn't have the flavor of the joke spoiled. I know Paul, here. He works in my mill. He has a little affliction that's rather common among French Canadians. He's a jumper." He suddenly clapped the youth on the shoulder and yelled "Hi!" so loudly that all the auditors leaped in trepidation. The soldier leaped the highest, flung his arms about wildly, and let out a resounding yelp.
"That's the idea!" explained Stewart. "A congenital nervous trouble. Jumpers, they are called!"
"What the devil is this all about?" raged the Governor.
"Tell 'em, Paul. Hurry up!"
"I gone off on de nap on a settee," muttered Duchesne, twisting his fingers together.
General Totten winced.
"Dere ban whole lot o' dem gone off on de nap, too," asserted the guard, offering defense for himself.
"By way of showing alertness, Totten!" growled the Senator.
"So I ban dream somet'ing! Ba gar! I dream dat t'ree or two bobcat he come—"
"Never mind the details of the dream, Paul!" interposed Morrison. "These gentlemen have business! Get 'em to the laugh, quick!"
"Ma big button on ma belt she caught on de crack between de slat of dat settee. And when I fight all dat bobcat dat jomp on maself, ba gee! it was de settee dat fall on me and I fight dat all over de floor. Dat's all! Oh yes! Dey all wake up and shoot!"
"And nobody hurt!" stated Morrison. He gazed at the sour faces of the listeners. "Great Scott! Doesn't Duchesne's battle to the death with a settee get even a grin? What's the matter with all of you?"
"We seem to be quite all right—in our normal senses," returned the Senator, icily. "I believe there are persons who gibber and giggle at mishaps to others—but I also believe that such a peculiar sense of humor is confined largely to institutions for the refuge of the feeble-minded."
"You may go back to your nap, Duchesne!" The mayor turned on the soldier and spoke sharply. He followed the young man to the door and closed it behind Duchesne.
He marched across the chamber and faced the surly Governor. "I brought the boy here, Your Excellency, so that you might get the thing straight. I hope you believe him, even if you don't take much stock in me!" Morrison's face matched the others in gravity. There was an incisive snap in his tone. "I happened to be in the rotunda when the—"
"How did you happen to be in the rotunda, sir—past the guards?"
"I walked in."
"By whose permission?"
"Why, I reckoned it must have been yours," returned Stewart, calmly.
"I gave no such permission."
"Well, at any rate, I was informed by the guards that a special exception had been made in my case. Furthermore, Governor North, you told me this evening that if I needed any specific information I could find you at the State House."
"By telephone, sir! By telephone! I distinctly stipulated that!"
"I'm sorry! I was considerably engrossed by other matters just then. Perhaps I didn't get you straight. However, telephone conferences are apt to be unsatisfactory for both parties. I'm glad I came up. I assure you it's no personal inconvenience to me, sir!"
"There's a fine system of military guard here, and a fine bunch to enforce it. That's what I've got on my mind to say!" whipped out the Senator. "If one man and a settee can show up your soldiers in that fashion, Totten, what will a real affair do to them?"
"Nobody sent for you, Mayor Morrison. Nobody understands why you're here," stated Governor North. "You're not needed."
The intruder hesitated for a few moments. His eyes found no welcome in any of the faces in the Executive Chamber. He swapped a whimsical smile for their frowns.
"Well, at all events, I'm here," he said, mildly.
He was carrying his overcoat on his arm, his hat in his hand. He went across the room and laid the garment carefully on the divan, smoothing its folds. His manner indicated that he felt that the coat might be lying there for some little time, and consideration for good cloth was ingrained in a Morrison.
THE IMPENDING SHAME OF A STATE
Morrison, returning from the shadows, standing in the light-flood from the great chandelier, confronted three men who were making no effort to disguise their angry hostility.
The adjutant-general, nervously neutral, dreading incautious words that would reveal his unfortunate policy of politeness, tiptoed to the table and laid there the bunch of keys. "I'm needed officially down-stairs, Your Excellency!"
"By Judas! I should think you were!"
Stewart placed a restraining hand on Totten's arm. "I beg your pardon, Governor, but we need the adjutant-general of the state in our conference."
"Conference about what?"
"About the situation that's developing outside, sir."
"I'm principally interested in the situation that has developed inside. In just what capacity do you appear here?"
There was offensive challenge in every intonation of North's voice. His eyes protruded, purple circlets made his cheek-bones look like little knobs, he shoved forward his eye-glasses as far as the cord permitted and waggled them with a hand that trembled.
Morrison's good humor continued; his calmness was giving him a distinct advantage, and North, still shaken by the panic of a few moments before, was forced farther off his poise by realization of that advantage.
"Allow me to be present simply as an unprejudiced constituent of yours, Governor North."
"Judging from all reports, I'm not sure whether you are a constituent or not. I'm considerably doubtful about your politics, Morrison."
"I hope you don't intend to read me out of the party, sir! But if that question is in doubt, please permit me to be here as the mayor of the city of Marion. There's no doubt about my being that!"
"Let me remind you that this is the State House, not City Hall."
"But tolerate me for a few minutes! I beg of you, sir! Both of us are sworn executives!"
"Your duties lie where you belong—down in your city. This is the State House, I repeat!"
"Do you absolutely refuse to give me a courteous hearing?"
"Under the circumstances, after your actions this evening, after your public alliance with the mob and your boasts of what you were coming up here to do, I'm taking no chances on you. You're only an intruder. Again, this is the State House!"
Morrison dropped his deference. He shot out a forefinger that was just as emphatic as the Governor's eye-glasses. "I accept your declaration as to what this place is! It is the State House. It is the Big House of the People. I'm a joint owner in it. I'm here on my own ground as a citizen, as a taxpayer in this state. I have personal business here. Let me inform you, Governor North, that I'm going to stay until I finish that business."
"That poppycock kind of reasoning would allow every mob-mucker in this state to rampage through here at his own sweet will. General Totten, call a corporal and his squad. Put this man out."
Senator Corson grunted his indorsement and went to a chair and sat down. His Excellency was pursuing his familiar tactics in an emergency—the rough tactics that were characteristic of him. In this case Senator Corson approved and allowed the Governor to boss the operation.
"I-I think, Mayor Morrison," ventured the adjutant-general, "considering that recent perfect understanding we had on the matter, that we'd do well to keep this on the plane of politeness."
"So do I," Stewart agreed.
"Then I hazard the guess that you'll accompany me down-stairs to the door. Calling a guard would be mutually embarrassing."
"It sure would," asserted Stewart, agreeing still.
"Then—" The general crooked a polite arm and offered it.
"But your guess was too much of a hazard! You don't win!"
However, Morrison turned on his heel and ran toward the private door. He appeared to be solving all difficulties by flight. It was plain that those in the room supposed so; their tension relaxed; the mayor of Marion was manifestly avoiding the ignominy of ejection from the Capitol by the militia—and that would be a fine piece of news to be bruited on the streets next day, if he had remained to force that issue!
Stewart flung open the door. But instead of stepping through he stepped back. "Come in," he called.
Paymaster Andrew Mac Tavish led the way, plodding stolidly, his neck particularly rigid. Delora Bunker, stenographer at St. Ronan's mill, followed. Last came Patrolman Rellihan, his bulk nigh filling the door, his helmeted head almost scraping the lintel. He carried a night-stick that resembled a flail-handle rather than the usual locust club. Morrison slammed the door and Rellihan put his back against it.
There was a profound hush in the Executive Chamber. The feet of those who entered made no sound on the thick carpet. Those who were in the chamber offered evidence of the truism that there are situations where words fail to do justice to the emotions.
Morrison was the first to speak. He walked to the table before uttering a word; on his way across the room his eyes were on the keys. When he leaned on the table he put one hand over them. "This invasion seems outrageous, gentlemen. Undoubtedly it is. But I have tried another plan with you and it did not succeed. I had hoped that I would not need these assistants whom I have just called in."
"Totten, go bring the guard!" North's voice was balefully subdued.
Rellihan looked straight ahead and twirled his stick.
"I apologize for stretching my special exception a bit, and introducing these guests past the boys at the door," Stewart went on. "I'm breaking the rules of politeness—and the rules of everything else, I'm afraid. But all rules seem to be suspended to-night!"
"Totten!" the Governor roared, pounding his fist on the arm of his chair.
Morrison gave the policeman a side-glance as if to inform himself that all was right with Rellihan.
Then he pulled a handy chair to the table and motioned to Miss Bunker. She sat down and opened her note-book.
"I have come here on business, gentlemen, and you must allow me to follow some of my business methods. The heat of argument often causes men to forget what has been said. I'm willing to leave what I may say to the record, and, in view of the fact that all this is public business, I trust I'll have your co-operation along the same line. And there's a young lady present," he added. "That fact will help us to get along wonderfully well together."
"What's that devilish policeman doing at my door?" demanded the Governor, finding that his frantic gestures were not starting the adjutant-general on his way.
"Insuring complete privacy!" The mayor beamed on the Governor. "Nothing gets in—nothing gets out!"
North grabbed the telephone instrument on his desk.
One of Stewart's hands was covering the keys; with the fingers of the other hand he had been fumbling under the edge of the desk. He suddenly pulled wires from the confining staples; he yanked a big mill-knife from his trousers pocket and cut the wires. North flung a dead instrument clattering on the broad table and found only oaths fit to apply to this perfectly amazing effrontery.
"You need not take, Miss Bunker!" The quiet dignity of Morrison and the rebuke the Governor found in the girl's contemplative eyes choked off the profanity as effectively as would gripping fingers at his throat.
"I realize that all this is absolutely unprecedented—has never been done before—is unadulterated gall on my part, Governor North. Perhaps I haven't a leg to stand on."
"Morrison, this infernal nonsense must cease!"
Senator Corson shouted, leaping from his chair and shaking both fists.
"You need not take, Miss Bunker!"
Corson gulped and surveyed the young lady, and found her eyes as disconcertingly rebuking as they had proved in the case of North.
"Not especially on account of the style of your language, Senator! But you are merely a visitor here, the same as I! At the present time your comments on the business between the Governor and myself can scarcely have any weight in the record."
"What in blazes is that business? Get it out of you!" commanded the other principal in the controversy.
"With pleasure! Thank you for coming down to the matter in hand. You may take, Miss Bunker.
"Governor North, I have been about among people this evening and—"
"You have been making incendiary speeches, and I demand to know what you have said and why you have said it!"
"I have no time now to go into those details. My business is more pressing, sir."
"You're in cahoots with a mob! I saw you operating, with my own eyes, under my own roof," asserted Senator Corson, violently.
"I have no time for discussing that matter." Morrison looked up at the clock on the wall. "This other business, I assert, is urgent."
Banker Daunt had been holding his peace, growling anathema to himself in the depths of a big chair.
He struggled to the edge of that chair. "I am in this building right now to warn the Governor of this state that you are playing your own selfish game to stifle enterprise and development and to discourage outside capital—hundreds of thousands of it—waiting to come in here."
"Pardon me, sir! I have no time to discuss water-power, either! Right now I'm submitting news instead of theories!" He faced the Governor again. "That's why I'm here—I'm bringing news. That news must put everything else to one side. We have minutes only to deal with the matter. And if we don't use those minutes with all the wisdom that's in us, the shame of our state will be on the wires of the world inside of an hour!"
His vehemence intimidated them. His manner as the bearer of ill tidings won what his appeals had not secured—an instant hearing.
"What I say will be a matter of record, and the blame will be placed where it belongs. You can't claim that you didn't have facts. I have been among the people. I have sent others among 'em and I have received reports and I know what I am talking about. There's a mob massing down-town—a mob made up of many different elements! That kind of mob can't be handled by mere arguments or by machine-guns. That mob must be shown! Talking won't do any good. Just a moment! You won't do what you ought to do, Governor, unless you have this thing driven straight at you! In that mob are the men who have voted for various members of the legislature who claim seats and whose seats are threatened. It's a personal matter with those men. You can't soft-soap 'em to-night with promises of what the courts will do. Several hundred huskies are on the way over here from the Agawam quarries Those men don't care about this or that candidate. They have been paid to grab in on general principles—and they're bringing sledge-hammers. In that mob, also, are the Red aliens who keep under cover till a row breaks out; any kind of trouble suits their purpose—and you know what their purpose is in regard to this government of ours. They're coming, I tell you. They're coming on to Capitol Hill!"
"And what have you been doing to stop 'em, after all your promises of what you'd do?" raged North.
"I've been doing the best I could, with what loyal boys I could depend on. But I want to know now what you're going to do?"
"Shoot every damnation thug of 'em who gets in range of our machine-guns. Totten, hustle yourself down-stairs and see that it's done!"
"Genera! Totten will not leave this room—not now! You're all wrong, Governor."
"That's the way a mob was handled in one state In this Union not so very long ago, and the Governor was right! He was hailed from one end of the country to the other as right!"
"The principle behind him was right—that's what you mean, Governor North. That was just the point he made!"
"Do you dare to stand there and intimate that I haven't got principle behind me? Statute law, election law?"
Morrison glanced again at the clock; then he tossed a bomb into the argument. "The principle in this instance is a pretty wabbly backing, sir. I'm afraid that even my loyal boys will join the mob if the news gets out about those election returns in certain districts—the returns that were sent back secretly to be corrected."
The bomb had all the effect that Morrison hoped for. His Excellency slumped back in his chair and "pittered" his lips wordlessly.
"I don't think the news has actually got out among the general public, but it's apt to leak any minute, sir. You can't afford to take chances."
"Such slander is preposterous!" Corson asserted. "What used to be done—reviving old stories—I say that our party will not lend its countenance to any such tricks." In his excitement he had dropped an admission as to the past in politics while offering a disclaimer as to the present.
"There's no time now for any political discussions," retorted Morrison, curtly. "It's a matter right now of side-tracking a fight. If that fight comes off, Governor North, the truth will come out. And you can't point to a principle in your case as an excuse for bloodshed!"
"If a mob attacks this State House there's got to be a fight."
"It takes two to make a fight, sir. Order General Totten to march his troops out of the State House. Machine-guns and all! Tell 'em to go home and go to bed."
That audacious advice was a second bomb!
After a few moments Senator Corson leaped out of his chair, strode across the room, and plucked his coat and hat from the divan. "Come along, Daunt!" he counseled, his voice cracking hoarsely.
"Hold on, Senator!" expostulated the Governor. "I need your help!"
"I won't allow myself to be mixed into this mess, North. I can't afford to help shoulder the blame where I have not been fully informed. And I won't allow a lunatic to endanger my life. Come on, Daunt, I tell you!"
"If you're bound to go, I'll go along, too," proffered the Governor, rising hastily. "This thing can be handled. It's got to be handled. We'll go where this infernal, clattering loom from St. Ronan's mill can't break up a gentlemen's conference."
Stewart did not suggest that the gentlemen remain; nor did he offer to go; nor did he plead for a decision. He stood quietly and watched them pull on their overcoats.
The Senator led the retreat toward the private door.
Morrison dropped the captured bunch of keys into his pocket.
Rellihan held his club horizontally in front of him with both hands.
"Get out of the way!" yelped Corson.
The officer shook his head.
"General Totten, open that door."
"No chance!" Rellihan growled.
North wagged his way close to the barring "fender" and shook an admonitory finger under the policeman's nose. "I'm the Governor of this state! I order you to move away from that door."
"I can't help what ye are! I'm taking me orders on'y fr'm the mayor o' Marion."
"You see, gentlemen!" suggested Morrison. "It looks as if we'd be obliged to settle our business right where we are—in this room. Time is short. Won't you come back here to the table?"
There was absolute silence in the Executive Chamber—a silence that continued. The dignitaries at the door deigned to accord to Morrison neither glance nor word; they would not indulge his incredible audacity to that extent. As to Rellihan, they did not feel like stooping so low as to waste words on the impassive giant who personified an ignorant insolence that made no account of personalities. They adventured in no move against that obstacle in their path, either by concerted attack or individual effort to pass. They looked like wakened sleepers who were struggling with the problems proposed in a nightmare. It was a situation which seemed beyond solution by the ordinary sensible methods.
After a time Governor North voiced in a coarse manner, inadequately, some expression of the emotion that was dominating the group. "What in hell is the matter with us, anyway?"
Again there was a prolonged silence.
"Seeing that nobody else seems to want to express an opinion on the subject, I'll tell you what the matter is, as I look at it," ventured Stewart, chattily matter-of-fact. "We're all native-born Americans in this room. Right down deep in our hearts we're not afraid of our soldiers. We good-naturedly indulge the boys when they are called on to exercise authority. But from the time an American youngster begins to steal apples and junk and throw snowballs and break windows a healthy fear of a regular cop is ingrained in him. It's a fear he doesn't stop to analyze. It's just there, that's all he knows. Even a perfectly law-abiding citizen walking home late feels a little tingle of anxiety in him when he marches past a cop. Puts on an air as much as to say, 'I hope you think I'm all right, officer—tending right to my own business!' So, in this case, it's only your ingrained American nature talking to you, gentlemen! You're all right! Nothing is the matter with you! It ought to please you because you feel that way! Proves you are truly American. 'Don't monkey with the cop!' Just as long as we obey that watchword we've got a good government!"
Senator Corson was more infuriated by that bland preachment than he would have been by vitriolic insult. While he marched back to the table he prefaced his arraignment of Morrison by calling him an impudent pup. He dwelt on that subject with all his power of invective for some minutes.
"I agree with you, Senator," admitted Morrison when Corson stopped to gather more ammunition of anathema. "But what are you going to do about it?"
He asked the same question after the Senator had finished a statement of his opinion on the obstinacy of the lunkhead at the door.
The Senator kept on in his objurgation. But whenever he looked at the door he found the policeman there, an immovable obstacle.
Whenever Corson looked at Morrison he met everlastingly that hateful query.
Both the question and the cop were impossible, impassable. Corson found the thing too outrageously ridiculous to be handled by sane argument; his insanity in declamation was getting him nowhere.
"There's only one subject before the meeting," insisted Stewart. "We've got to keep this state from being ashamed of itself when it wakes up to-morrow morning!"
Somewhere, in some hidden place in the room, a subdued buzzing began and continued persistently.
The understanding that passed between Corson and North in the glance which they exchanged was immediate and highly informative, even had the observer been obtuse. But in that crisis Stewart Morrison was not obtuse.
Whether it was deference, one to the other, or caution in general that was dominating the Senator and the Governor was not clearly revealed by their countenance. At any rate, they made no move.
"Pardon me, Senator Corson," said Stewart. "I'm quite sure I know where the other end of that telephone line is. I think your daughter is calling!" His inquisitive eyes were searching the walls of the chamber; the source of the buzzing was not easily to be located by the sound.
The Governor suddenly dumped himself out of his chair and started across the room.
Morrison strode into His Excellency's path and extended a restraining arm that was as authoritative as Rellihan's club. "I beg your pardon, too, Governor! But that call is undoubtedly for Senator Corson. I happen to know quite a lot about the conveniences in his residence!"
"And all the evening you have been using that knowledge to help you in violating my hospitality! Morrison, you're not much else than a sneak!" affirmed Corson.
The Governor struck his fist against the rigid arm and spat an oath in Morrison's face, "Get out of my way! I'm in my own office—I'll tend to that call!"
"No, you'll not!" was Morrison's quick rejoinder. "Senator Corson, if you want to inform your daughter that you're all safe—if you want to ask her not to worry, you'd better answer. But I must insist that a private line shall not be used to convey out of this room any of our public business!"
Corson then became the only moving figure in the tableau; he went to the wall, pushed aside a huge frame which held the state's coat of arms, and pulled from a niche a telephone on an extension arm. He proceeded to display his utter contempt for commands issuing from the absurd interloper who was presuming in such dictation to dignity "Yes! Lana! Call High-sheriff Dalton! As quickly as possible! Tell him to secure a posse. Tell him I'm in the State House, threatened by a lunatic. Tell him—"
By that time Morrison was at Corson's side and was wresting the instrument from the wall. He broke off the arm and the wires and flung them across the room.
"There's fight enough on the docket, as the thing stands, without calling in another bunch to make it three-sided, sir! Rellihan, open the door for Mac Tavish! Andy, run to the public booth in the corridor and call Dalton and tell him to pay no attention to any hullabaloo by hysterical women. Tell him I said so! Ask him to keep that to himself. And rush back!"
He turned on the Senator and the Governor.
There was no longer apology or compromise in the demeanor of the mayor of Marion. "I know I'm a rank outsider! You needn't try to tell me what I know myself. I didn't think I'd need to be so rank! But I'm just what you're forcing me to be. I have jumped in here to stop something that there's no more sense in than there is in a dog-fight. They may fight in spite of all I can do! But, by the gods! I'm not going to stand by and see men like you rub their ears! Senator Corson, I advise you and Governor North to go and sit down. You're only making spectacles of yourselves!"
THE BOSS OF THE JOB
After Senator Corson had recovered his poise his dignity asserted itself and he sat down and assumed an attitude that suggested the frigidity of a statue on an ice-cake. He checked Governor North with an impatient flap of the hand. "You have had your innings as a manager, North!"
He proceeded frostily with Morrison. "There was never a situation in state history like this one you have precipitated, sir, and if I have made an ass of myself I was copying current manners."
"It is a strange situation, I'll admit, Senator," Morrison agreed.
"As a newsmonger, you say, do you, that minutes are valuable?"
"Well, we'd better find out how valuable they are. Will you send General Totten below to investigate?"
Morrison surveyed appraisingly the panoplied adjutant-general. "I'd never think of making General Totten an errand-boy, sir, if I'm to imply that I have any say in affairs just now."
"You have assumed all say! You have put gentlemen in a position where they can't help themselves." The Senator scowled in the direction of Rellihan. But Rellihan did not mind; right then he was opening the door to the returning Mac Tavish.
"I routed Mac Tavish out of bed and brought him along to attend to errands. He will go and see how matters are below, and outside," proffered Morrison, courteously.
The self-appointed manager gave Mac Tavish his new orders and added: "Inquire, please, if any telegrams have arrived for me. I'm expecting some."
Rellihan again deferentially opened the door for the messenger of the mayor of Marion; Mac Tavish had knocked and given his name. "It's all richt, sir!" he had reported on his arrival from his mission to the telephone.
The exasperated Governor viewed that free ingress and muttered.
Mac Tavish's unimpeded egress on the second errand provoked the Governor more acutely.
"Morrison, I'm now talking strictly for myself," went on the Senator. "I shall use plain words. By your attitude you directly accuse me of being a renegade in politics. To all intents and purposes I am under arrest, as a person dangerous to be at large in the affairs that are pressing."
"Senator Corson, I don't believe you ever did a deliberately wrong or wicked thing in your life, as an individual."
"I thank you!"
"But deliberately political methods can be wicked in their general results, even if those methods are sanctioned by usage. It's wicked to start a fight here to-night by allowing political misunderstandings to play fast and loose with the people."
"You're a confounded imbecile, that's what you are," shouted Governor North.
The mayor turned on him. "Replying in the same sort of language, so that you may understand right where you and I get off in our relations, I'll tell you that you're the kind of man who would use grandmothers in a matched fight to settle a political grudge—if the other fellow had a grandmother and you could borrow one. Now let me alone, sir! I am talking with Senator Corson!"
The Senator squelched the Governor with another gesture. "We have our laws, Morrison. We must abide by 'em. And the political game must be played according to the law."
"I think I have already expressed my opinion to you about that game, sir. I'll say again that in this country politics is no longer a mere game to be played for party advantage and the aggrandizement of individuals. The folks won't stand for that stuff any longer."
"I think you and North, both of you, are overexcited. You're going off half cocked. You are exaggerating a tempest in a teapot."