“Thelismer, you yourself link the past with the present, so far as the politics of this State go. You link them even more than I do, for you are active in the present. You have been a strong man—you are strong to-day. But I want to say to you, and this is as friend to friend, you haven’t always used that strength right. I know what reply you’d make to that. We’ve talked it all over many times. You say that you’ve had to play the game. That’s right. And I’ve played it myself, too. But in the years since then, while I’ve sat at one side of the arena and looked on, I’ve had a chance to meditate and a chance to observe. I don’t think matters have been running right in this State—and now I’m not speaking of Arba Spinney or his ilk. You come to me to-night and you ask me to be the Governor of this State once more. You want me to come back into the game. You ask me to appeal to the suffrage of the young men who admire what little I’ve accomplished. I want to warn you. I may be putting it too strong when I call it a warning. I have some ideals to-day. You may not find them to your liking in politics.”
“I’m willing to trust in your good judgment and your sense of what is square for all concerned,” protested the Duke, stoutly. “In the hot old days I was hot with the rest, Vard. I’ve mellowed some since.”
“You may not find me a safe man, Thelismer. I shall come back out of the shadows with a firm resolve to merit the approval of the young men of this State—and the young men see more clearly than their fathers did.”
“I’m not here to-night with bridle or bit or halter, Varden. We need you. The party has got to have you. I know what your name will accomplish in that convention. You shall be Governor of this State without making pledge or promise. Will you stand?”
“I ask you again, Thelismer, if there is no other way?”
“Any other way means Spinney and mob rule.”
General Waymouth turned to Harlan. “Go out and tell the honest young men of this State that I will try to satisfy their ideals. That’s the only pledge I’ll give. I’m afraid I haven’t any promise for the old machine, Thelismer.” He smiled.
“We don’t need any,” returned the Duke, briskly. “We know Vard Waymouth. But there’s one pledge I do want from you. This whole thing is to be left in my hands so far as announcement goes. My plan of campaign makes that much necessary. We don’t want to flush that bunch of birds till we can give ’em both barrels.”
“I consent. I’ll live in the lingering hope that at the last moment you’ll find I won’t be needed.”
He rose and gave his hand to each in turn, bringing them to their feet.
“Now for bed. Of course, you’ll remain here the night.”
“No,” declared Thornton, decisively. “Out o’ here on the midnight! I want to dodge out of Burnside in the dark. We’ll walk down to the station now. It’s settled. I’ll keep you posted.”