He took Presson by the arm, and swung him hospitably in at the big door of “The Barracks.”
THE LINE-UP OF THE FIGHT
“That’s too rough—too rough, that kind of talk, Thelismer,” protested the State chairman.
Thornton swung away from him and went to the window of the living-room and gazed out on his constituents.
“You can’t handle voters the way you used to—you’ve got to hair-oil ’em these days.”
Presson was no stranger in “The Barracks.” But he walked around the big living-room with the fresh interest he always felt in the quaint place. Thornton stayed at the window, silent. The crowd had not left the yard—an additional insult to him. They were gathering around Niles and his sheep, and Niles was declaiming again.
The broad room was low, its time-stained woods were dark, and the chairman wandered in its shadowy recesses like an uneasy ghost.
“It isn’t best to tongue-lash the boys that are for you,” advised Presson, fretfully, “not this year, when reformers have got ’em filled up with a lot of skittish notions. Humor those that are for you.”
“For me?” snarled “the Duke,” over his shoulder, and then he turned on Presson. “That bunch of mangy pups out there for me? Why, Luke, that’s opposition. And it’s nasty, sneering, insulting opposition. I ought to go out there and blow them full of buckshot.”
He shook his fists at the gun-rack beside the moose head which flung its wide antlers above the fireplace.
“Where’s the crowd that’s backing you—your own boys?”
“Luke, I swear I don’t know. I knew there was some growling in this district—there always is in a district. A man like Ivus Niles would growl about John the Baptist, if he came back to earth and went in for politics. But this thing, here, gets me!” He turned to the window once more. “There’s men out there I thought I could reckon on like I’d tie to my own grandson, and they’re standing with their mouths open, whooping on that old blatherskite.”
Chairman Presson went and stood with him at the window, hands in trousers pockets, chinking loose silver and staring gloomily through the dusty panes.
“It’s hell to pave this State, and no hot pitch ready,” he observed. “I’ve known it was bad. I knew they meant you. I warned you they were going to get in early and hit hard in this district—but I didn’t realize it was as bad as this. They’re calling it reform, but I tell you, Thelismer, there’s big money and big men sitting back in the dark and rubbing the ears of these prohibition pussies and tom-cats. It’s a State overturn that they’re playing for!”
He began to stride around the big room. In two of the corners stuffed black bears reared and grinned at each other. In opposite corners loup-cerviers stared with unwinking eyes of glass, lips drawn over their teeth. “I’m running across something just as savage-looking in every political corner of this State,” he muttered, “and the trouble is those outside of here are pretty blame much alive.”