Harlan did not reply. At that moment, strangely enough, something besides the fury and the results of that tremendous convention occupied his thoughts. While he had stood beside General Waymouth he had not looked down into the pit of roaring humanity. He had looked straight up into the eyes of Madeleine Presson, whose gaze, by some chance, caught his the moment he stepped upon the platform. She had leaned on the gallery-rail and studied him intently. In spite of all else that had happened and was happening, he could not help wondering why.
THE RAMRODDERS RAMPANT
Though Mrs. Luke Presson was not especially interested in the practical side of plain politics, yet it was a part of her social methods to make tame cats of men of State influence as far as she was able. She did this instinctively, rather from the social viewpoint than the political. Luke Presson did not take her into his confidence to the extent that he desired her to cultivate men of power for his own purposes. He only dimly and rather contemptuously recognized that women had any influence in political matters. But it did occur to him, after that State convention, that perhaps he needed his wife to assist him in beginning a reconciliation with General Waymouth.
Mrs. Presson came to him, directly the convention had adjourned. The few men who were lingering in headquarters dodged out, for they perceived that the chairman’s wife had something on her mind.
He endured her indignant reproaches for some time. She taxed him with betrayal of her personal interests.
“I’ve never tried to pry into your schemes. I don’t care about them. But when you make a fool of me in regard to the next Governor of this State, you shall answer for it to me!”
“I did no such thing,” he protested, wanting to placate her for private reasons of his own.
“I say you did. You’re chairman of the State Committee. You knew which man would be nominated—you must have known it all along. You wouldn’t be State chairman if you didn’t know that!”
The unhappy magnate was ashamed to tell her the bitter truth.
“You allowed me to come here to-day with Mrs. Dave Everett and her daughters. Here is the bouquet I brought to present to her husband!” She shook it under his nose and tossed it into a corner. “You never told me a word about the plan to nominate General Waymouth. It was deliberate deceit on your part—for what reason I cannot understand.”
Presson tried to think of a story that would explain and shield him, but the convention had not been an affair to promote clear thinking.
“Here’s a legislative session at hand, and you’ve allowed me to stay entirely out of touch with the next first gentleman of the State! I’m like all the rest of the trailers, now. I haven’t any prior social claim on him. And I can’t even find him at this late hour to offer my congratulations.”