“I saw you up here, Father Forbes,” he said, with a thickened and erratic utterance. “Whyn’t you come down and join us? I’m setting ’em up for everybody. You got to take care of the boys, you know. I’ll blow in the last cent I’ve got in the world for the boys, every time, and they know it. They’re solider for me than they ever were for anybody. That’s how it is. If you stand by the boys, the boys’ll stand by you. I’m going to the Assembly for this district, and they ain’t nobody can stop me. The boys are just red hot for me. Wish you’d come down, Father Forbes, and address a few words to the meeting—just mention that I’m a candidate, and say I’m bound to win, hands down. That’ll make you solid with the boys, and we’ll be all good fellows together. Come on down!”
The priest affably disengaged his arm from the clutch which the speaker had laid upon it, and shook his head in gentle deprecation. “No, no; you must excuse me, Theodore,” he said. “We mustn’t meddle in politics, you know.”
“Politics be damned!” urged Theodore, grabbing the priest’s other arm, and tugging at it stoutly to pull him down the path. “I say, boys” he shouted to those below, “here’s Father Forbes, and he’s going to come down and address the meeting. Come on, Father! Come down, and have a drink with the boys!”
It was Celia who sharply pulled his hand away from the priest’s arm this time. “Go away with you!” she snapped in low, angry tones at the intruder. “You should be ashamed of yourself! If you can’t keep sober yourself, you can at least keep your hands off the priest. I should think you’d have more decency, when you’re in such a state as this, than to come where I am. If you’ve no respect for yourself, you might have that much respect for me! And before strangers, too!
“Oh, I mustn’t come where you are, eh?” remarked the peccant Theodore, straightening himself with an elaborate effort. “You’ve bought these woods, have you? I’ve got a hundred friends here, all the same, for every one you’ll ever have in your life, Red-head, and don’t you forget it.”
“Go and spend your money with them, then, and don’t come insulting decent people,” said Celia.
“Before strangers, too!” the young man called out, with beery sarcasm. “Oh, we’ll take care of the strangers all right.” He had not seemed to be aware of Theron’s presence, much less his identity, before; but he turned to him now with a knowing grin. “I’m running for the Assembly, Mr. Ware,” he said, speaking loudly and with deliberate effort to avoid the drunken elisions and comminglings to which his speech tended, “and I want you to fix up the Methodists solid for me. I’m going to drive over to the camp-meeting tonight, me and some of the boys in a barouche, and I’ll put a twenty-dollar bill on their plate. Here it is now, if you want to see it.”
As the young man began fumbling in a vest-pocket, Theron gathered his wits together.