Telfer shook the secretary’s hand heartily.
“Yo’re no fool, my boy. Anybody can see that—after they get to know yo’ all. That’s what comes of bein’ one of them smooth New Yorkers. They ‘pear mighty sanctimonious on th’ outside, but on th’ inside they’re the real goods, all right.”
The lobbyist hurried away, his bibulous soul swelling with satisfaction. He was sure of triumphing over Altacoola, and he was willing to pay the price.
Haines sank back into his chair. “I wonder what Washington ‘insiders,’” he murmured, “are speculating in Altacoola land. Telfer mentions Norton’s name. I wonder—”
The door opened, and before him stood Carolina Langdon.
“Ah, Miss Langdon,” he exclaimed, “I am glad to see you!”
She walked to him and extended cordially a slender gloved hand.
“This is a real pleasure, Mr. Haines,” she began. “I’ve been waiting to talk to you for some time. It’s about something important.”
“Something important,” smiled Haines. “You want to see me about something important? Well, let me tell you a secret. Every time I see you it is an important occasion to me.”
Carolina Langdon had never appeared more charming, more beautiful to young Haines than she did that day. Perhaps she appeared more inspiring because of the contrast her presence afforded to the unpleasant episodes through which he had just passed; also, Carolina was dressed in her most becoming street gown, which she well realized, as she was enacting a carefully planned part with the unfortunate secretary.
His frankness and the sincere admiration that shone in his eyes caused her to falter momentarily, almost made her weaken in her purpose, but she made an effort and secured a firmer grip on herself, for she must play a role that would crush to earth the air castles this young secretary was building, a role that would crush the ideals of this young optimist as well.
THE CURE OF A WOMAN’S LOVE
Carolina had come to find out from Haines, if possible, how her father was going to vote on the naval base and to induce the secretary to persuade him to stand for Altacoola—if there seemed danger that he would vote for another site. That was her scheme, for Carolina had put $25,000 into Altacoola land—money left by her mother. Norton had persuaded Carolina to invest in the enterprise to defraud the Government, promising her $50,000 clear profit. How much she could do in Washington society with that!
The continued uncertainty over her father’s final attitude had strained her nerves almost to the breaking, for the success of the conspiracy depended on his vote. Not even the words of Norton, her future husband, could reassure her. Her worry was increased by the knowledge of Randolph’s investment of her father’s $50,000.