“Isn’t there any decency anywhere, in any man, General Waymouth, when he gets mixed into such things?”
“Don’t lose your faith that way, my boy! You see, I’m even playing a few political tricks myself. Your grandfather is more than half right—we have to play the game! But I’m trying a last experiment with human nature before I die. I haven’t the things to lose that a young man has. I am forcing myself on my party—using some means that disgust me, but I have to do so in order to prevail. I want to be Governor of this State again, and I want to be Governor with more powers than I had before. You and I both know what the party managers want, I’d like to find out if the people are willing to be governed that way, after they’ve learned there’s a better system. I want to find out if every man in this State is willing to pay his own just share of taxes, if the people will wake up and stand behind a man who shows them how to keep from private greed what belongs to the people. And most of all, young man, this State is in a condition of civil war over this infernal liquor question. The radicals are away off at one side, and the liberals as far away from them as they can get, and both sides plastering each other with mud. There’s no common ground for a decent and honest man to stand on between; that is, he’s too much disgusted with both sides to join either. I want to see whether there’s good sense enough in this State to take the thing out of the hands of the fanatics so that we can get results that decent men can subscribe to—results instead of the ruin and rottenness we’re in now.”
He stopped suddenly with a word of apology.
“You mustn’t think I’m inflicting a rehearsal of my inauguration speech on you, Mr. Thornton. I talked more than I intended. But my feelings have been deeply stirred this morning.”
“It’s wicked business, General Waymouth! I don’t understand how you’ve kept so calm through it. But, thank God, you can show ’em all up now, as they deserve to be shown to the people of this State. I can hardly wait for that convention to open!”
The General put his papers into his breast-pocket and buttoned his close frock-coat. He gazed on the young man’s excitement indulgently.
“My boy, you have yet to learn, I see, that what would make a good scene in a theatre would be a mighty bad move in politics. This, to-day, is a convention that a good many thousands of voters are waiting to hear from. If they should hear the whole truth, I’m thinking that the Democratic party would win at the polls. So, you see, I must continue to be a politician. We’ll be going along to the hall, now, you and I. It’s near the hour. I want to be the next Governor of this State” (he smiled wistfully), “so you and I will go out and hunt for enough honest men to make me Governor.”
The hotel was pretty well deserted as they walked down the stairs and through the lobby.