Chairman Presson, deep in his trouble, was disgusted by this levity, and growled under his breath.
“If a fellow had been off ahead of the team with a bag of oats perhaps the pipe wouldn’t have been needed,” pursued the Duke, meditatively. “Anyway, gentlemen, I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ve been waiting to be called on for my contribution for the fund, but for some reason business hasn’t been started in this campaign as soon as I hoped. Harlan was a little excited just now. I think, seeing that the State Committee is now going to take hold of the campaign, he’ll be able to get out of it a little cheaper. A lot of the other boys will chip when they’re asked. For the Thornton family I lead off subscriptions with a pledge of five thousand dollars. I’m that much interested in seeing my—my original choice for Governor elected by a good majority.”
Presson got up, and stamped down his trousers legs.
“I know when I’m licked,” he admitted. “And I’ve been licked in the whole seventeen rounds of this campaign. Look here, General Waymouth, I’m done fighting. I simply throw myself on your mercy. I know how you feel toward me. But I’ve got just this to say: it’s a poor tool of a man that won’t fight for his own interests and his friends. I’ve done it. And I’m no more of a renegade than the usual run of the men who have to play politics for results. I don’t believe you are going to get results, General. But that’s neither here nor there. There’s no more squirm left in me. I’ll take hold of this campaign and elect you. If there’s any crumbs coming to me after that, all right! I’m at your mercy.”
“I tell you again I’ve no time or inclination for petty revenge. That is not my nature.” General Waymouth was as cold and calm as inexorable Fate itself. “I accept your pledge, Chairman Presson. Not one interest of yours that is right will suffer at my hands. On the other hand, not one interest that is wrong will be protected. It’s simply up to you!”
“I don’t suppose you care to go over the plans with me to night?”
“I shall ask you to confer with Mr. Harlan Thornton on all matters. He knows my wishes and plans. He will remain here at headquarters as my representative.”
If the chairman felt that he was being put under guard and espionage, his face did not betray it. He took leave of the General, and escorted out his associate committeemen.
“Reminds me of the time Uncle Stote Breed went with the boys on a fishing-trip,” remarked the Duke, after they were gone. “They ate the sardines out of the tin before Uncle Stote got in off the pond, and put in raw chubs they’d been using for live bait. Uncle Stote ate ’em all. ‘Boys, your ile is all right,’ said he, when he cleaned ’em out, ’but it seems to me your leetle fish is a mite underdone.’ But Luke will eat anything you hand him after this, Vard.”
He took his grandson by the arm, and started him toward the door.