They departed, three new and promising evangelists.
“Campaign expenses, bub,” broke in the old man, when Harlan began; “campaign expenses! It’s a soggy lump of dough out back there. That kind of yeast will lighten it.”
He looked across at the hills, squinting reflectively again, and at last glanced up at his grandson, who stood regarding him with thoughtful hesitation.
“Say it, boy!” he counselled. “A little more bile left over from yesterday?”
“No, sir! Not that. But I think I’ll send Ben Kyle in with the crews and let him locate the new camps.”
“I didn’t intend to have you go back—not if you’d listen to me. We’ve got men enough to attend to that sort of work, Harlan. I want you with me for a while. I’ve got some plans for you.”
“And I’ve got a few plans for myself. Now that I’m in this, I propose to be in it in earnest.”
“You wouldn’t be a Thornton if you didn’t get at it all over,” commended the Duke. “You see, I understood you, boy!”
“I’m going to call on every man in this district and tell him where I stand. I’m going to tell him that if there are honest men in that legislature I propose to be counted in with them. I may be a very humble helper, but I’m going to lift with all my strength, grandfather, on the square-deal end of every proposition that I find to lay hold of.”
“Good politics, boy, all good politics!” declared the old man. With humor that had a little malicious fun in it he avoided endorsing this impulsive zeal as anything except shrewd playing of his own game. But his eyes told the young man what his lips did not utter. There was pride in them, encouragement, joy that would not be hidden—and something else: wistful regret, perhaps; it seemed to be that—the regret that age feels when it has lost its illusions and beholds them springing again in the heart of fervent youth; regret conscious that in its turn this new faith in things present and things to come will be dead and cold, too.
“I don’t think we have to worry much about the election, Harlan. Go out and tackle the boys. You’ll make good. Take two days. That’ll be time enough. And then I want you.”
Harlan’s eyes questioned him.
“You know I opened up a little to you last night, bub. You’re all I’ve got, you know. I’ve not been much of a hand to talk. I don’t believe you’ve realized just how I’ve felt. But we’ll let it stand as it is. I’ve got plans for you, boy, better than the little pancake politics of this district. I know a few things in politics. I’m old enough to understand how to put you in right. It’s one thing to know how, and it’s another thing to find occasion just ripe and ready.”
He rolled his cigar to the centre of his mouth and lifted the corners in an illuminating grin.
“Bub, in two days be ready to come with me. I’m going to put you in right!”