“What?” roared the Honorable Thelismer, jarred out of his baleful calm.
“Yes, sir! They’ve pulled the town clerk into camp and have had him mark a list. And you can imagine who they picked out as Republican voters in this town! And they’ll stand and challenge every one else till their throats are sore. You and me has cut up a few little innocent tricks in politics in our time, Squire, but we never framed anything quite as tidy as this for a steal. If your friend, here, is in politics, he—”
“I’m Presson, chairman of the State Committee,” explained that gentleman. The Duke of Fort Canibas was too much absorbed to make presentations.
“Hell! That so?” ripped out the other, frankly astonished. “Well, I’m glad you’re here. You ought to be able to help us out.”
Presson was not cheerful or helpful. “They’re slashing this whole State open from one end to the other with their devilish reform hullabaloo,” he said.
“I hear there is quite a stir outside,” agreed the agitator, blandly. He looked the chairman up and down with interest. “You may call me Sylvester—Talleyrand Sylvester. Yankee dickerer! Buy and sell everything from a clap o’ thunder to a second-hand gravestone. It brings me round the country up here, and so I’ve been the Squire’s right-hand man in the political game, such as there’s been of it.” He turned his back on the pondering Duke and continued, sotto voce: “I reckon if he’d stayed in himself, Colonel, they wouldn’t have had the courage to tackle him. They might have hit him with that whole stockin’ful of mud they’ve been collectin’, and he wouldn’t have staggered. But when they go to hit the young feller, there, with it, he’s down and out.”
“Eh!” barked the magnate of Canibas, catching the last words. “I am? Not by a—” He broke off, ashamed of wasting effort in mere boasts. “Presson,” he went on, evidently now intent on proceeding according to the plan that he had been meditating, “you’ve got your own interest in seeing me keep this district in line, haven’t you?”
“You’re the head of our row of bricks,” bleated the chairman. “We’ve got to keep you standing—got to do it.”
“Then we’ll get busy.” The old man threw back his shoulders. “Carrying a caucus the way we’ve probably got to carry this one at the last gasp isn’t going to be a genteel entertainment.” He tapped a stubby finger on the honorable chairman’s shirt-front. “I’m going to raise some very particular hell.” He turned to his lieutenant. “The boys right in the village, here, our own bunch, are all right, of course, Sylvester?”
“Stickin’ to you like pitch in a spruce crack, as usual. It’s the outsiders from the other sections in the district. They hadn’t known what a caucus was till them ramrodders got after ’em.”
“Can’t they be handled now that they’re in here?”
“Have been lied to already too skilful and thorough. Me and Whisperin’ Urban and a few others of the boys blew the haydust out of their ears, and tried to inject the usual—but they can’t hold any more. They’ve got to be unloaded first—and there ain’t time to do it.”