The man had a lower jaw edged with a roll of black whisker, a jaw that protruded like a bulldog’s. With the familiarity of the long-time lieutenant, he pecked with thumb and forefinger at the end of a cigar protruding from his chief’s waistcoat-pocket. He wrenched off the tip between snaggy teeth. He spat the tip far.
“Yes, sir, by jehoshaphat, a caucus!”
Chairman Presson’s ear had caught the sound of politics. He felt that he was entitled, ex officio, to be present at any conference. He hurried to the end of the porch.
“We ain’t had a caucus in this district for more’n forty years,” stated the new arrival, accepting the chairman as a friend of the cause. “Except as the chairman catches the seckertery somewhere and then hollers for some one to come in from the street and renominate the Honor’ble Thornton. But, dammit, this is going to be a caucus.” The word seemed suddenly to have acquired novel meaning for him. “They must have been pussy-footin’ for a month. You could have knocked me down with your cigar-butt, Squire, when I got in here to-day and found how she stood. If it hadn’t been for War Eagle Ivus and his buck sheep breakin’ out, they’d have ambuscaded ye, surer’n palm-leaf fans can’t cool the kitchen o’ hell. But even as it is—hoot and holler now, and tag-gool-I-see-ye, they say they’ve got you licked, and licked in the open—that’s what they say!” The man’s tone was that of one announcing the blotting-out of the stars.
“Walt Davis bragged about it,” said the old man, outwardly calm, but eyes ablaze. “It must be a pretty sure thing when he’s got the courage to crawl out from under the wagon and yap.”
“Good God!” blurted the chairman of the State Committee, “you don’t mean to tell me!”
“It’s the ramrodders! They’ve been up here, one or two of the old cock ones, workin’ under cover,” stated the unswerving one. “About once in so often the people are ripe to be picked. They’ve mebbe had drought, chilblains, lost a new milch cow, and had a note come due—and some one that’s paid to do it tells ’em that it’s all due to the political ring—and then they begin to club the tree! But standing here spittin’ froth about it ain’t convertin’ the heathern nor cooperin’ them that imagine vain things. Now here’s what I’ve done, grabbin’ in so’s to lose no time. I—”
“No, just tell me what the other side has done,” commanded the Duke.
“First place, they’ve got names in black and white of enough Republicans to down you in caucus. They’ve got ’em, them ramrodders have! I’ve hairpinned the truth out o’ the cracks! They’ve been sayin’ that you’ve only wanted your office so as to dicker and trade, and make yourself and them in your political bunch richer; they’re showin’ figgers to prove that much; sayin’ you brag you carry our district in your vest-pocket; sayin’ everything to stir up the bile that’s in every man when you know how to stir for it. Furthermore, Squire, the fact that you’re gettin’ out yourself and proposin’ to put your grandson in gives ’em their chance to say a lot. Next place, this is goin’ to be a caucus. It ain’t any imitation. They’re goin’ to use a marked check-list.”