“Yes,” muttered the secretary, following the Senator into the library, “you’ve always found him honest because you think everybody’s honest—but Stevens is just the doctor who will cure you of this ailment—this chronic trustfulness.”
Haines laughed softly. “When Peabody’s little Stevie gets through hacking at the prostrate body of political purity his two-handed sword of political corruption will need new edges.”
Thus far neither the Senator nor his secretary had suspicion of any questionable deal in regard to the gulf naval base. The rush of other events, particularly the fight over the reduction of the tariff, had pushed this project temporarily into the background so far as they were concerned, though the “boss of the Senate” and his satellites had been losing no time in perfecting their plans regarding the choice of Altacoola as the site.
Peabody and Stevens had ingeniously exploited Langdon at every possible opportunity in relation to the naval base. Asked about new developments in the committee on naval affairs, the ready answer was: “Better see Senator Langdon. He knows all about the naval base; has the matter in full charge. I really know little about it.”
So, by hiding behind the unsuspecting old hero of Crawfordsville, they diverted from themselves any possible suspicion and placed Langdon where he would have to bear the brunt of the great scandal that would, they well knew, come out at some future time—after their foul conspiracy against the nation had been consummated, after the fruits of their betrayal had been secured.
What, after all, the schemers concluded, is the little matter of an investigation among Senators to guilty Senators who, deeply versed in the law, have destroyed every compromising document that could be admissible as evidence?
Why, the Senate would appoint an investigating committee and investigate itself, would it not, when the ridiculous scandal came?
And what Senator would fear himself, or for himself, as he investigated himself, when the blame had already been put publicly on some one else, some simple-minded old soul who could go back to his cotton fields in Mississippi and forget all about it, strong in his innocence, even though shorn of reputation, and desire to live?
WHEN SENATORS DISAGREE
The wiseacres of Washington had nightly predicted, that the site of the hundred-million-dollar gulf naval base would be decided on in March, after the excitement and gayety attending the presidential inauguration had subsided.
On the morning of the day before this action of the committee on naval affairs was to be taken Secretary Haines sat at his desk in Senator Langdon’s committee room in the Capitol. Richard Cullen, the favorite associate of Haines in his journalistic days, out earlier than usual on his daily round of the departments for news for his Chicago paper, had strolled in and attempted a few of his characteristic cynicisms. Haines usually found them entertaining, but these were directed at Senator Langdon.