THE CONSPIRATORS OUTWITTED
Senator Langdon’s dinners had well won popularity in Washington. Invitations to them were rarely answered by the sending of “regrets.” He had brought his old Mississippi cook from the plantation, whose Southern dishes had caused the Secretary of State himself to make the Senator an offer for the chef’s services. “No use bidding for old General Washington,” said the Senator on that notable occasion. “He wouldn’t leave my kitchen, sir, even to accept the presidency itself. Why, I couldn’t even discharge him if I wanted to. I tried to let him go once, sir, and the old general made me feel so ashamed of myself that I actually cried, sir.”
Peabody and Stevens were the dinner guests to-night, as they were to confer afterward with Langdon and settle on the action of the naval affairs committee regarding the naval base. The three, being a majority, could control the action of the committee.
Senator Peabody had finally postponed leaving for Philadelphia until the midnight train in order to be present, he assured Langdon as the trio entered the library. The girls, Norton and Randolph were left to oversee preparations for the prominent Washingtonians invited to attend the musicale to be given later in the evening.
Carolina and Hope Georgia were in distinctly different moods—the elder, vivacious, elated over the bright outlook for her future; the younger, cast down and wearing a worried expression. Norton and Randolph in jubilant spirit tried to cheer her, and failing, resorted to taunts about some imaginary love affair.
The courage of the afternoon, which had enabled her to speak to Haines as she had, was gone; girlish fears now swept over her as to the outcome of the evening. Haines had not come! Was he really guilty and had promised to come merely to get rid of her? Why was he late? If he did come, would she be able to have her father see him, as she had promised? If she failed, and she might, she would never see this young man again.
“If I looked as unhappy as you, Hope, I’d go to bed and not discourage our guests as they arrive,” Carolina suggested. “Our floral decorations alone for to-night cost $700, and the musical program cost over $3,000. The most fashionable folks in Washington coming—what more could you want, Hope? Isn’t it perfectly glorious? Why—”
“Mr. Haines is below, asking to see Senator Langdon,” announced a servant, entering.
“Oh, I knew he’d come! I knew it! I knew it!” cried Hope Georgia in pure ecstasy, clapping her hands.
The three plotters turned on the girl in amazement; then they stared at each other.
“Mr. Haines!” ejaculated Carolina.
“Haines!” exclaimed Randolph, hurriedly leaving the room.
“Haines!” sneered Norton. “We can take care of him. The Senator won’t see him.”