A POLITICAL CONVERT
For two days Harlan Thornton rode about over the Fort Canibas district. He talked to men at their doors, in their shops, over the fences of their fields. He knew that some sneered at him behind his back. Some even dared to arraign him, boldly and angrily, and flung his motives in his face, accusing the grandfather of inciting the grandson to this attempt to catch votes.
He realized that most of the voters did not understand him aright. They did not understand sincerity in politics. But his own consciousness of rectitude supplied his consolation and provided his impetus. Till then he had employed the Thornton grit only in his business efforts; he employed it now with just as much vigor in his proselyting. Once in the fight, he was awake to what it meant. His frank earnestness impressed those with whom he talked. He did not lose his temper, when men assailed him and tried to discredit his protestations. Here and there, in neighborhoods, knots of farmers gathered about him and listened. He began to win his way, and he knew it. The knowledge that Harlan Thornton was a square man in business needed no herald in that section.
That this integrity would extend to his politics grew into belief more and more as he went about.
The distrust of him, because of his associations, a suspicion fostered by the paid agents of the opposition, began to give way before his calm, earnest young manhood. But in every knot of men he found a few bitter irreconcilables still. They were those whom change invites, and the established order offends. One man, unable to provoke him by vituperation, and in a frenzy of childish rage because Harlan’s calm poise was not disturbed by his outpourings, ran at him and struck him. He was a little man, and though he leaped when he struck, the blow landed no higher than the shoulder that Harlan turned to him. And when he leaped again the young man caught him by the wrist and smiled down on him, unperturbed.
“If that’s the way you talk politics, Sam, I’ll have to adjourn the debate,” he said, quietly. And the story of that went the rounds, accompanied by much laughter, and the big, sturdy, serene young man who was master of his own passions met smiles wherever he went.
Another story preceded him, too. “Fighting” MacCracken, of the Jo Quacca neighborhood, smarting ever since that day in the yard of “The Barracks,” jealous of his prestige as a man of might, offered obscene and brutal insult to the name of Thelismer Thornton in the hearing of his grandson. It had been hinted previously along the border that the six-foot scion of the Thorntons was a handy man in a scrap, but now his prowess was surely established. MacCracken went about, a living advertisement of how effectually righteous anger can back up two good fists.
Therefore, respect attended on good-humor and went with, or ahead of, the candidate.