Thelismer Thornton remained in his place on the corner of the table, staring reflectively at General Waymouth.
Presson ended his whispered exhortations with a rather savage reference to the manner in which the Duke had involved the campaign. Everett shot a baleful glance at the man who had so cold-bloodedly planned his undoing.
“Look here, Thornton,” he called out, as he started for the door, “you and I will have our reckoning later. We use old horses for fox bait up our way, too, but we always make sure that the horses are dead first.” He went out and slammed the door.
Thornton did not turn his head. He kept his eyes on Waymouth.
“Vard,” he said, “I reckon I haven’t been keeping my political charts up to date. I had you down as a peninsula, jutting out some from the Republican party, but still hitched on to it. I find you’re an island, standing all by yourself, and with pretty rocky shores.”
“Perhaps so,” admitted the General.
“This has been a sort of a heart-to-heart meeting here to-night. In the general honesty I’ll be honest myself. I can’t support you.”
“Then you lack honesty.”
“No, but your scheme of honesty takes you right into the king-row of the ramrodders, and I can’t train with the bunch that will flock to you. Your theory is good—but the practice will break your heart just as sure as God hasn’t made humans perfect! You’ll be up against it! You’re going to test man to the limit of his professions—and it isn’t a safe operation, if you want to come out with any of your ideals left unsmashed. If you start on that road you’ll have to travel it without me.”
“Well, there’s a little common sense left in the Republican party,” snapped Presson. “General Waymouth, you’ve had considerable many honors in your life, and the party gave ’em to you. That calls for some gratitude. You can show it by keeping your hands off this thing.”
“That would have been an argument once, when I was a wheel-horse with my political blinders on; it has been an argument that has kept a good many decent men from doing their duty. It will not work with me now.” He put his folded paper into his pocket, and reached and took the other document that he had handed to Wasgatt earlier in the evening. “I’ll not disfigure the perfect structure of your platform now, Presson, but I’ll see how these sound from the floor of the convention, in spite of your resolutions to shut off free speech! Good-night, gentlemen.” He turned to leave, still serene with the poise of one who has experienced all and is prepared for all. “I used to have pretty good luck playing a lone hand in our old card-playing days, Thelismer. I’ll see what I can do in politics.”
“General Waymouth, have you a few moments to give me if I come to your room now?” inquired Harlan Thornton. “I want to offer my services!”
“I’ll join the party too, if I may!” suggested Linton.