“For rural simplicity he’s perfection,” whispered Peabody to Stevens as they left the planter. “He’s a living picture of innocence. We’ll push him forward and let him do the talking for the naval affairs committee. Hiding behind him, we could put through almost any kind of a proposition.”
Once more did the senior Senator from Mississippi acquiesce.
NEW FRIENDS—AND AN OLD ENEMY
Langdon gazed at the two departing Senators with varied emotions. He sat down to think over what they had said and to carefully consider what manner of man was Peabody, who showed such an interest in him. He realized that he would have considerable intercourse with Peabody in the processes of legislation, and finally had to admit to himself that he did not like the Senator from Pennsylvania. Just what it was Langdon could not at this time make certain, but he was mystified by traces of contradictions in the Senator’s character—slight traces, true, but traces nevertheless. Peabody’s cordiality and sympathy were to Langdon’s mind partly genuine and partly false. Just what was the cause of or the necessity for the alloy in the true metal he could not fathom.
His talk with these famous lawmakers was unsatisfactory also in that it had conveyed to Langdon the suggestion that the Senate was not primarily a great forum for the general and active consideration of weighty measures and of national policies. It had been his idea that the Senate was primarily such a forum, but the attitude of Peabody and Stevens had hinted to him that there were matters of individual interest that outweighed public or national considerations. For instance, they were anxious that Altacoola should have the naval base regardless of the claims or merits of any other section. That was unusual, puzzling to Langdon. Moreover, it was poor business, yet there were able business men in the Senate. Not one of them would, for instance, think of buying a site for a factory until he had investigated many possible locations and then selected the most favorable one. Why was it, he pondered, that the business of the great United States of America was not conducted on business lines?
He must study the whole question intelligently; that was imperative. He must have advice, help. To whom was he to go for it? Stevens? Yes, his old friend, who knew all “the ropes.” Yet even Stevens seemed different in Washington than Stevens in Mississippi. Here he played “second fiddle.” He was even obsequious, Langdon had observed, to Peabody. In Mississippi he was a leader, and a strong one, too. But Senator Langdon had not yet learned of the many founts from which political strength and political leadership may be gained.
What he finally decided on was the engaging of a secretary, but he must be one with knowledge of political operations, one who combined wisdom with honesty. Such an aid could prevent Langdon from making the many mistakes that invariably mark the new man in politics, and he could point out the most effective modes of procedure under given circumstances. It might prove difficult to find a man of the necessary qualifications who was not already employed, but in the meantime Langdon would watch the playing of the game himself and make his own deductions as best he could.