The word passed rapidly. Other counties came to their feet. The band was playing, the early enthusiasm of the day was fresh, men had not had opportunity to exercise their voices till then, and as the General passed down the side aisle of the hall he was cheered by every delegation. Harlan followed him closely, and the Duke was at their heels. Every man in the hall saw the little group. It seemed eminently fit that Thelismer Thornton should escort General Waymouth. But the Duke did not realize that the General was shrewdly using that opportunity of displaying Thornton, the elder, in his retinue. The accident fitted with some plans of his own.
Spurred by the excitement of that tumultuous moment, Harlan could not restrain a bit of a boast.
“How do you like the sound of that, grandfather?” he flung over his shoulder.
“There’s no politics in that, you young fool. A hoorah isn’t a nomination.”
But he could not hide from himself the plain fact that Varden Waymouth was a tremendously strong figure in State affairs.
There was sincerity behind that outburst. Eyes glistened. Faces glowed with admiration and respect. The Duke wondered bitterly how much of that extraordinary tribute was inspired by the publicity work for which the State Committee had spent its good money.
The General led the way in at the side door that admitted to the stage. He was on familiar ground. Behind the stage there were several anterooms. He appropriated an empty one, hanging his hat on a hook.
“Not an elaborate lay-out for a candidate, Thelismer,” he remarked, pleasantly, “but headquarters to-day is where we hang up our hat.”
“Vard, you don’t mean to tell me—seriously, at this hour—that you mean to be a candidate?” Thornton had put aside his anger. That had been bitter and quick ire, because his grandson had seemed so blind to his own personal interests. There was solicitude now in the old man’s air.
“I got you into this myself,” he went on. “I coaxed you in, for the situation was right and ripe. You kicked it over yourself. I haven’t any compunctions, Vard. I stayed with you just as long as I could stay. But I’ll be dod-jimmed if I’ll shove a Governor onto my party that’s a hybrid of Socialist and angel. Now you can’t swing this thing. Everett’s got it buttoned. I tell you he has! You’re too big a man, to-day, to get before that convention and be thrown down. I’ve got a better line on the situation than you have. Vard, let’s not have this come up between us at our time of life. It’s bad—it’s bad!”
“It is bad,” returned the General, quietly; “but not for me! And it’s too late to stop. I’m going through with it, Thelismer.”
There was dignity—a finality of decision—that checked further argument. Thornton shifted gaze from Waymouth to his grandson, started to say more, snapped his jaws shut, and walked away.