His grandfather was so insistent on this point that Harlan took notice of its frequent repetition and the earnestness with which it was pressed. He began to understand that some plan lay back of his grandfather’s silence to him and to others as to his private reasons for this appeal. He began to take lively interest in the ramifications of practical politics as played by the hand of a master.
A MAN FROM THE SHADOWS
There was a provoking flavor of mystery about Thelismer Thornton’s early movements the next day. His grandson became still more interested. This element in politics appealed to him, for he was young.
They left the city by an early train. The Duke secluded himself and his grandson in a drawing-room of the car.
It was an express—train which did not stop at way stations. But when the conductor came for the tickets the old man inquired whether orders had been issued to have the train held up at a certain siding.
“Yes, sir, to leave two passengers,” said the conductor. He was courteous, but he winked at the old politician with the air of one who thought he understood something. He exhibited his telegram from the dispatcher. “Can’t be much politics there, Mr. Thornton,” he remarked, by way of jest.
“I’m on a fishing-trip,” explained the Duke, blandly. And the conductor, who knew that the siding had no fishing water within ten miles of it, went away chuckling in order to applaud the joke of a man of power.
A few hours later the two were let off at the siding and the train hurried on.
There was a farm-house near the railroad. They ate dinner with the farmer and his wife, who seemed to realize that they were entertaining some one out of the ordinary, and were much flustered thereby. Especially did the farmer struggle with his vague memory of personalities, asking many round-about questions and “supposing” many possibilities that the Duke placidly neglected to confirm.
The only definite information the farmer received was that the big elderly man wanted himself and his companion conveyed to Burnside Village by wagon, starting in the late afternoon.
“I’ll take you,” said the man; “but what sticks me is that you didn’t stay right on board that train. It stops at Burnside regular, and it don’t stop here at all.”
“But it stopped to-day,” remarked the Duke.
“I know it did, and that’s what sticks me again.”
The old man rose from the table and smiled down on him.
“Here’s a good cigar, brother. I’ve often worked out many a puzzle while having a bang-up smoke.”
He invited Harlan by a nod of the head, and they went out and strolled in the maple grove behind the house.
“I suppose you think by this time, bub, that I’m in my second childhood, and playing dime novel. But there are some things in politics that have to be done as gentle and careful as picking a rose petal off a school-ma’am’s shoulder.” The Duke chuckled and smoked for a time. “When I’ve had a job of that sort to do I haven’t even talked to myself, Harlan. So you mustn’t think I’m distrustful of you because I don’t tell you what’s on.”