“Charlie, I must give you up.”
The girl turned to one side, as though to give Norton a chance to leave.
He looked at her in silence for a moment or two. Then a change came into his bearing. Wrinkling his face into a sneer, he stepped before the girl.
“You’ve been converted mighty sudden, I reckon, from land speculating to preaching—and preaching, too, against folks who tried to make a fortune for you.”
Norton stopped, expecting a reply, but the girl remained silent.
“You think I’m done for, that I’ve lost my money; that’s why you turned from me so quickly,” he laughed, scornfully. “But I’ll show you, you and your blundering old father. I’ll win you yet, and I’ll ruin your father’s political reputation. I’ll—”
“Are you quite sure about that?” spoke a voice, sharply, behind the Congressman. He swung around vigorously. Bud Haines had returned in time to hear Norton’s threat.
“Yes; and while I’m doing that I’ll take time to show you up, too, somehow. I guess a Congressman’s word will count against that of a cheap secretary—that’s what Miss Langdon said you were.”
Carolina looked appealingly to Haines to rid her of the presence of this man, whose last words she knew Haines would not believe.
But Norton had had his say. He retreated to the door.
“Miss Langdon,” he cried, as he backed out and away, “you have an idea that I am dishonest, but kindly remember that, whatever you think I am, I never was a hypocrite.”
Haines advanced and procured a chair for Miss Langdon.
“I’m very sorry to have come back at such a time,” he began.
The girl cut him short with a gesture.
“I want to say to you,” she said, then halted—“that I want to be friends with you. I want you to forget the happenings of yesterday—last evening—so far as I was concerned in them. I want to work together with you and father—and so does Randolph. Father and you are standing together to uphold the honor of the Langdons of Mississippi, and Randolph and I, no matter the cost of our former folly, want to share in that work.”
Before Haines could reply Senator Langdon burst into the room.
“Bud! Bud!” he cried, “I’ve got it! I’ve got it!”
“You’ve got what, Senator?” exclaimed the secretary.
“That idea, my boy, that idea! It’s incubated all right, and Peabody and Stevens can come just as soon as they want to.”
THE BATTLES OF WASHINGTON
At twenty minutes after 12 Senator Langdon and Secretary Haines were still undisturbed by any move on the part of Peabody and Stevens, who maintained a silence that to Haines was distinctly ominous. His experience at the Capitol had taught him that when the Senate machine was quiet it was time for some one to get out from under.