“Grandfather, I want a word with you,” Harlan ventured at last.
“You talk girl to me just now, young fellow, and you won’t find it safe!”
He marched on, and the grandson resolutely waited his return.
“I’m going to talk business, sir. I want this thing understood. Is it true what I hear? Do you propose to put my name before that caucus? I want to say—”
But the old man strode away from him again.
“He says he’s going to do it, and it’s fool business,” confided Presson. “You’ve got to stop him. There’s no reason in it.”
“I’ve got my reasons. If you don’t know enough to see ’em, it isn’t my fault,” snapped the Duke, passing them and overhearing.
“Then I’ve got this to say.” The young man stopped his grandfather—as big, as determined, as passionate—Thornton against Thornton. “I’ll not go to the legislature.”
The old man shouted his reply.
“I don’t know as you will, you tote-road mule, you! But, by the suffering Herod, they’ll have to show me first!”
He elbowed his grandson aside and kept on pacing the porch.
THE DUKE AT BAY
After that outburst Presson went away by himself to sulk. Young Thornton made no further protest. He stared at his grandfather, trying to comprehend what it meant—this bitterness, this savage resentment, this arbitrary authority that took no heed of his own wishes. He had always known a calm, kindly, sometimes caustic, but never impatient Thelismer Thornton. This old man, surly, domineering, and unreasonable, was new to him. And after a little while, worried and saddened, he went away. His presence seemed to stir even more rancor as the moments passed.
Presson understood better, but could not forgive the bullheadedness that seemed to be wrecking their political plans. His own political training had taught him the benefits of compromise. He was angry at this old man who proposed to go down fighting among the fallen props of a lifetime of power. And even though Presson now understood better some of the motives that prompted the Duke to force young Harlan out into the world, his political sensibilities were more acute than his sympathy.
Therefore the beleaguered lord of Canibas was left to fight it out alone.
He stood at the end of the porch and listened to the menacing sounds of the village.
He glared down the long street and grunted, “Grinding their knives, eh?”
Evidently the centrifugal motion of the political machine down there was violent enough to throw off one lively spark. A man came up the road at a brisk gait, stamped across the yard, and went direct to the Duke, who waited for him at the far end of the porch. He did not glance at Presson or at Harlan Thornton.
“Did you ever see anything like it, did you ever hear anything like it, Honor’ble?” the new arrival demanded with heat. “They’re goin’ to make a caucus out of it—a caucus!”