“Now, Thelismer,” protested the chairman, “I don’t know anything about what’s going on in your family, here, and I don’t care. I know your grandson is a straight and square young chap, a worker, and a good business man, but he’s no politician. I’m not going to stand for his butting in at this stage of the game.”
“He isn’t butting in. I’m throwing him in, like I’d train a puppy to swim,” retorted the old man, calmly. “And, furthermore, what business of yours is it, anyway?”
“I’m chairman of the State committee.”
“And I’m the boss of this legislative district. Now, hold on, Luke.” He bent over and planted his two big hands on the chairman’s shoulders. “Harlan is all I’ve got. He’s always been a steady, hustling boy. But to get him out of these woods and smoothed up like I want him smoothed up has been worse than rooting up old Katahdin. I’ve been pioneer enough for both of us. I don’t propose to have him spend the rest of his life here. First off, he thought it was his duty to me to take the business burden off my shoulders. Now he’s got into the life, and won’t stand for anything else. And the only thing I care for under God’s heavens at my age is to have him be something in this State. He’s got the looks and the brains and the money! And he’s going to be something! And I’m going to see him started on the way. God knows where I’ll be two years from now. You can’t reckon on much after eighty. To-day I’m feeling pretty healthy.” There was a bite in his tone. “And I’m going to nominate Harlan for the legislature, and then I’m going to elect him. I’m going to see him started right before I die.”
“And he doesn’t want to go, and the voters don’t want him to go,” lamented Presson. “You’re only trying to bull through a political slack-wire exhibition for your own amusement—and this whole State on the hair-trigger! By the mighty, it isn’t right. I won’t stand for it!”
The Duke started for the front of the mansion.
“And, furthermore, Thelismer, if you’re willing to run a chance of tipping over the politics of this State for the sake of giving your grandson a course of sprouts, you’re losing your mind in your old age, and ought to be taken care of.”
Thornton turned and bestowed a grim smile on his angry friend.
“Presson, I’ve stood by the machine a good many years. Now, if I can’t stand for a little business of my own without a riot, bring on your riot. I’ll lick you in that caucus with one hand while I’m licking that dirty bunch of rebels with the other. I’ve got my reasons for what I’m doing.”
“Give me a good reason, then,” begged the chairman. “Killing off your friends for the sake of giving Harlan Thornton a liberal education doesn’t appeal to me.”
“My real reason wouldn’t, either—not just now,” returned the Duke, enigmatically.
At that moment half a dozen gaunt hounds raced around the corner of “The Barracks.” They leaped at Thornton playfully, daubing his crash suit with their dusty paws. He seemed to recognize them. He cursed them and kicked them away savagely.