“No, sir; that thing’s dead wrong! You not only know it’s wrong, but you misled me about it. That public benefit clause is put in there to throw dust in the eyes of the people; it makes possible the very combination and absorption of industries that the party is pledged to fight. I have bawled against those things in every county in Indiana!”
Bassett nodded, but showed no irritation. His manner irritated Harwood. The younger man’s lips twitched slightly as he continued.
“And the fact that you were behind it has leaked out; the ‘Advertiser’ is on to it and is going to go after it to-morrow. House Bill Ninety-five is an outrage on the party honor and an affront to the intelligence of the people. And moreover your interest in having me made chairman of the committee that had to pass on it doesn’t look good.”
“Well, sir, what are you going to do about it? I’m not particularly interested in that bill; but a lot of our friends are behind it, and we’ve got to take care of our friends,” said Bassett, without raising his voice.
Their relations were practically at an end; and Bassett did not care. But Dan felt the wrench; he felt it the more keenly because of Bassett’s impassiveness at this moment of parting.
“You’ve been a kind friend to me, sir; you’ve—”
Bassett laid his hand with an abrupt gesture upon Harwood’s arm, and smiled a curious, mirthless smile.
“None of that! I told you, when the time came for you to go, you need shed no tears at the parting. Remember, you don’t owe me anything; we’re quits.”
“I hoped you wouldn’t see it just this way; that you would realize the danger of that bill—to the party, to yourself!”
“You can score heavily by showing up the bill for what you think it is. Go ahead; it’s your chance. I haven’t a word to say to you.”
He folded his white gloves and put them away carefully in his breast pocket.
The dancing continued above. Mrs. Owen insisted on seeing her last guest depart, but begged Harwood to take Sylvia home at once. As they left a few minutes later Dan caught a glimpse of Bassett sitting alone in the smoking-room.
On the way to Elizabeth House Dan told Sylvia what had happened.
The carriage plunged roughly through the drifting snow. Sleet drove sharply against the windows.
“He lied to me about it; and I thought that with all his faults he would play square with me. The whole corporation lobby is back of the bill. I was stupid not to have seen it earlier; I’ve been a dull ass about a lot of things. But it’s over now; I’m done with him.”
“I’m glad—glad you met it squarely—and glad that you settled it quickly. I’m glad”—she repeated slowly—“but I’m sorry too.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry for him!”