“I’m afraid you’re going to misunderstand me, Mr. Thornton.”
The Duke offered no opinion.
“I hardly know how to go to work to explain myself in this matter,” faltered the apologist.
“Considering that I got your appropriation for your seminary doubled last session in the stingiest year since the grasshoppers ate up Egypt, I should think you’d find it just a little troublesome convincing me that Enoch Dudley has got any claim over my interests so far’s you’re concerned. What’s the matter with you, Professor?”
He invited the State chairman toward them by a toss of his head. His tone had been severe, but there was humor in his eyes.
“This is Principal Tute, of the Canibas Seminary, Luke. You remember the cussing I got from the Finance Committee for holding up the bill till I got the Professor’s appropriation doubled. He’s trying to tell me how much obliged he is.”
Mr. Tute looked very miserable.
“I’ve always said you were the best man this district ever had in the legislature. I’ve stood up and said that in the open, Mr. Thornton. You’re an institution down to the capitol. When there was talk of a change for the sake of reform—and you know I’m teaching reform principles in my school, Mr. Thornton,” he hastened on desperately; “I’m teaching sociological principles in accordance with the advanced movement, and if I don’t practice what I preach I’m false to my pupils, and—”
“You’re going to vote against me to-day, are you, Tute?”
“I’ve said right along we ought to bear with you so long as you lived and wanted to be elected.”
“Like the seven years’ itch, eh?”
“But you are trying to make us mere serfs in politics by dictating our choice, and what I teach of the principles of democracy—”
Thornton tapped the little man on the shoulder.
“What they’ve done, Tute, is come up here with a dose to fit the palate of every one of you fellows, and you don’t know enough to understand that you’re being handled. You’re going to vote against me, are you?”
“I call on this gentleman to witness that I say you’re the best man for the place. You’re able, you’re efficient, and you have done an immense amount of good for your constituents, and you—”
“But you won’t vote for me to-day, eh?” reiterated the old man, pitilessly.
Mr. Tute started again on his line of fulsome praise, but the Duke checked him brusquely.
“That will do, Professor Tute. I like cake. I like it frosted. But I’ll be d—d if I want it all frosting. Run up into the hall. Come along, Luke. We’ll miss the text if we don’t get in.”
The last of the stragglers followed them up the stairs.
A CAUCUS, AND HOW IT WAS RUN
The earlier arrivals had pushed the settees of the Fort Canibas town hall to one side. They were piled against an end wall. There were not enough of them to furnish seats for that mob. For that matter, voters seemed to have no inclination to sit down that day. There was barely enough standing-room when all had entered the hall.