Turning away, flushed and angry, from her demure smile, he became bitterly conscious that even had they been alone, under most favorable circumstances, he would have lacked speech for real love-making. He felt that conviction inwardly. He wondered whether he had the capacity for loving as he had read of men loving. It made him a bit ashamed to think of himself as violently protesting, hungrily pleading. A moment before he had been angry because she doubted his love. He knew that he admired her, respected, desired her. Now he argued with himself, and convinced his soul that his emotions constituted love. And having convinced himself, he determined to seek further opportunity of convincing her. It was truly an academic way of settling matters so riotously impatient of calculation as affairs of the heart, and his determination would have appealed to Miss Presson’s sense of the humorous more acutely still had he undertaken to explain his emotions of that moment.
Thelismer Thornton, strolling amiably through the lobby throng, came and put his hand on Harlan’s shoulder.
“The best way to make good sugar is to simmer the sap slowly, my boy.” Harlan glanced sharply at him, but the Duke was not discussing love. “Vard has got into the simmering stage at last. I reckoned he would. He’s too good a politician to boil the kettle over as he started in doing. What’s the matter with you? You look as though you’d been listening to a funeral oration instead of an address that has put the party back on Easy Street.”
His grandson was careful not to explain the cause of his gloom. He was willing to let politics be answerable.
Chairman Presson, more cheerful than he had been for weeks, came and crowded between them in a cosey, confidential manner.
“Say, the old fellow is getting smoothed down,” he chuckled. “That address was milk for babes. He’s got good sense. The thin edge of that plurality made him think twice. I reckon he’s going to play a safe game after this. I don’t know what he wanted to throw such a scare into us early in the game for! But as we get old we get cranky, I suppose. I may be that way myself when I grow older.”
“Vard preached the theory to us for all it was worth,” commented the Duke, “but I reckon he’s up against the practice end of the proposition now—and he was a politician before he was a preacher.”
“Hope he’ll stay a politician after this. He got onto my nerves. It wasn’t necessary to be so almighty emphatic about things going wrong in this State.”
“Old Pinkney up our way is always careful to keep an eye out for the drovers,” said the Duke. “When he sees one coming he hustles out into the pasture and shifts the poker off’n the breachy critter onto the best one in the bunch. And that’s the way he unloads the breachy one. Vard has been wearing the poker the last few weeks, but I don’t believe he intends to hook down any fences.”