Then a new idea struck him. “Why, Colonel, it must have been a bullet from one of your men—from your regiment, sir!”
The old Northerner pushed his fingers through his hair and shook his head apologetically.
“Why, Senator, I’m afraid it was,” he hesitated.
Langdon’s eyes were big with the afterglow of a fighter discussing the mighty struggles of the past, those most precious of all the jewels in the treasure store of a soldier’s memory.
“Why, it might have been a bullet fired by you, sir,” he cried. “It might be that you were the man who almost killed me. Why, confound you, sir, I’m glad to meet you!”
Each old veteran of tragic days gone by had quite unconsciously awakened a responsive chord in the heart of the other. A Senator and a penniless old “down and outer” are very much the same in the human scale that takes note of the inside and not the outside of a man. And they fell into each other’s arms then and there, for what strong fighter does not respect another of his kind?
There they stood, arms around each other, clapping each other on the back, actually chortling in the pure ecstasy of comradeship, now serious, again laughing, when on the scene appeared Bud Haines, the correspondent, who had returned to interview the new Senator from Mississippi.
“Great heavens!” ejaculated the newspaper man. “A Senator, a United States Senator, hugging a broken-down old ‘has-been!’ What is the world coming to?” Haines suddenly paused. “I wonder if it can be a pose;—merely for effect. It’s getting harder every day to tell what’s genuine and what isn’t in this town.”
LANGDON LEARNS OF THINGS UNPLEASANT
Haines quickly walked over and touched the Southerner on the arm.
“Well, my boy, what can I do for you?” asked the new Senator, turning with a pleasant smile.
“My name is Haines. Senator Stevens was to speak to you about me. I’m the first of the newspaper correspondents come to interview you.”
Langdon’s familiar smile broadened.
“Well, you don’t look as though you’d bite. Reckon I can stand for it. Is it very painful?”
“I hope it won’t be, Senator,” Haines said, feeling instinctively that he was going to like this big, hearty citizen.
“All right, Mr. Haines, just as soon as I’ve said good-by to my old friend, Colonel Stoneman, I’ll be with you.”
And to his continued amazement Haines saw the Senator walk away with the old Union Colonel, slap him on the back, cheer him up and finally bid him good-by after extending a cordial invitation to come around to dinner, meet his daughters and talk over old times.
The antiquated Federal soldier marched away more erect, more brisk, than in years, completely restored to favor in the eyes of the hotel people. Langdon turned to the reporter.