“And I have a chance to win?” questioned the determined young Northerner.
Carolina smiled sweetly and expressively.
“Who knows? First make my father even a bigger success—that’s first. Oh, I wonder if you can realize what all this life means to me! If you can realize what those years of stagnating on the plantation meant to me! No man would have endured it!” she exclaimed bitterly. “I am more of a man than a woman in some ways; I’m ambitious. From the time I was a little girl I’ve wanted the world, power, fame, money. I want them still. I mean to get them somehow, anyhow. If I can’t get them myself, some one must get them for me.”
“And love?” suggested the man. “You are leaving love out. Suppose I get all these things for you?”
Bud’s pounding heart almost stopped. He could scarcely gain his breath as he saw creep into Carolina’s eyes what he believed to be the light of hope for him, the light even of a woman’s promise.
“Who knows, Mr. Haines? There’s no reward guaranteed. There may be others trying,” she answered.
Haines laughed—the strong, hopeful, fighting laugh of the man who would combat the boss of the Senate on ground of the boss’ own choosing.
“All right!” he cried. “If it’s an open fight I’ll enlist. I’ll give them all a run. What are your orders?”
Carolina appeared indifferent.
“I don’t know that I have any particular orders, sir knight, except to see that my father does all he can for the Altacoola naval base.”
Haines paused, seized by a sudden tremor.
“The Altacoola naval base?” he stammered. “Well, all I can say is that the Senator will do what he thinks right. That might bring power and fame—a right decision in this case—but it can’t bring money.”
Carolina shrugged her shoulders.
“Money?” She laughed with affected carelessness. “Well, we’ll have to let the money take care of itself for a time. But I do want him to vote for Altacoola, because I believe that will be the best for him. You believe in Altacoola, don’t you?”
Haines hesitated, then answered:
“Well, between the two sites merely as sites Altacoola seems to me rather better.”
Miss Langdon held out her hand impulsively.
“Then it will be Altacoola!” she cried. “Thank you, Mr. Haines. We are partners, then, for Altacoola.”
The young man grasped her hand earnestly.
“I’d like to be your partner for good, Carolina!” he cried.
They stood there close together, holding each other’s hands, looking into each other’s eyes, when the door opened and in came Charles Norton.
AN OLD-FASHIONED FATHER
Congressman Norton was startled at the sight of Carolina and Haines apparently so wrapped up in each other. Perhaps she was getting interested in the handsome, interfering secretary. That a woman sometimes breaks her promise to wed he well knew. Plainly Carolina was carrying things too far for a girl who was the promised wife of another.