“Senator Peabody!” exclaimed Langdon.
“Don’t flare up, Langdon,” retorted Peabody. “That sort of thing has happened in the Senate. There are often perfectly legitimate profits to be made in some regular commercial venture by a man who has inside information as to what’s doing up on Capitol Hill.”
“Senator Peabody,” asked Langdon, “why are you so strong for Altacoola?”
The Pennsylvanian hesitated.
“Its natural advantages,” he said at last.
The Southerner shook his head.
“Oh, that’s all? Well, if natural advantages are going to settle it, and not influence, go ahead and vote, and I’ll just bring in a minority report for Gulf City.”
“The boss of the Senate” was in a corner now.
“Confound it, Langdon, if you will have it, I am interested in Altacoola.”
“That’s all I wanted to know,” he said.
“Now you see why it’s got to be Altacoola,” persisted the boss.
“I don’t mind telling you, then, Senator Peabody,” answered Langdon calmly, “that my being for Gulf City was a bluff. I’ve been trying to draw you out. Gulf City is a mud bank and no more fitted to be a naval base than Keokuk, Ia. Altacoola it’s got to be, for the good of the country and the honor of Mississippi.
“And one thing more, Senator. I’d just like to add that not a single man connected with that committee is going to make a cent out of the deal. You get that straight?”
“If you can’t buy A senator, threaten him”
Senator Peabody was the most surprised man in Washington when he heard the junior Senator from Mississippi state that no one was to enrich himself out of the government naval base project.
He heaped a mental anathema on the head of Stevens for saddling such a man on the Senate “machine,” for Langdon would of course never had been put on “naval affairs” (just now very important to the machine) without the “O.K.” of Stevens, who had won a heretofore thoroughly reliable reputation as a judge of men, or of what purported to be men. The thought that at this time, of all times, there should be a man on the committee on naval affairs that could not be “handled” was sufficient to make him who reveled in the title of “boss of the Senate” determine that he must get another chief lieutenant to replace Stevens, who had proved so trustworthy in the past. Stevens had lost his cunning!
As the vote of Langdon could not be secured by humbug or in exchange for favors and as it could not be “delivered,” Peabody, of course, was willing to pay in actual cash for the vote. This was the final step but one in political conspiracies of this nature?—cash. But Langdon would not take cash, so Peabody had to resort to the last agency of the trained and corrupt manipulator of legislation.