“I know what you’re referring to. But that matter is over with. I got the worst end of it. You helped to pass it to me. You can’t afford to carry on any quarrel with me, Thornton. Holding grudges is bad business; so is making a fool of yourself by playing little tin saint in public matters.”
“I hold no grudge against you. That would be getting down on your level. I’m simply disgusted with you as a man, Mr. Spinney. That’s all. You know why. Now leave me alone.”
But Spinney boldly intercepted him. Harlan had started to leave. The lobbyist realized what a powerful foe young Thornton could be to his project, and he was desperate.
“I’ve been up through your country, Mr. Thornton. I’ve been spending some time at Fort Canibas. I’ve been posting myself generally on railroad and other matters—other matters! I don’t want to say too much, but I’d like to have you run over in your mind what those other matters might be. Now, you and I can’t afford to be enemies. I got the tough end, and I’m willing to overlook and forget. You owe me a little something. I hope you’re going to square it. Let me remind you that I’m a bad man with my tongue. I’m free to say it, I depend on my tongue for what I get out of life.”
It occurred to Harlan that this brazen threat referred to the scandal of the Fort Canibas caucus.
“Bring them on,” he sneered: “Ivus Niles and his buck sheep and Enoch Dudley and the rest of the petty rogues that you hired with your corporation money to defeat me.”
“You’re on the wrong trail,” replied Spinney. “I can hit you harder than that, and in a tenderer spot.”
He returned Harlan’s amazed stare.
“I’ve been keeping my eyes open down here, Mr. Thornton, and I kept my ears open up in Fort Canibas.” His face grew hard. “D—n you, I’ll never forget what you did to me! I’m coming right out open with you. I’d like to do you in return. I can do it. But I’ll give you a chance; it’s for my interest to do so, providing you buy the let-off. If you don’t stand by me in that tax rebate, I’ll launch the story. What I lose in support I’ll more than make up in seeing you squirm. I’m pretty frank, ain’t I? Well, I play strong when I’ve got enough trumps under my thumb.”
“Spinney, I’ve had enough of that kind of talk. What do you mean?”
“Don’t you have the least idea?”
“Not the slightest.”
“A good bluff! Well, I know about the girl up country! See? It’s a bad story to be passed up to another girl. And I know how to get the details to my friend Presson’s daughter in time to spoil your ambition in that quarter. Now, how about that?”
They were in one corner of the State-House lobby, and the presence of a hundred men about them probably saved Spinney from a beating there and then. Harlan quivered with rage. He did not grasp the full purport of Spinney’s hints. He only understood that the man had grossly intruded on his private affairs. He could not speak. He dared not trust his voice.