“There’s nothing to this!” he had been assuring the State chairman over and over, catching opportunity for asides. “They’re all coming into line. The sight of you and Thornton backing me has reminded them all that they can’t afford to rip the party open. There’s nothing to it!”
Presson agreed amiably. But studying his men, searching for insincerity, he saw what Everett closed his eyes to. He exchanged a significant glance with the Duke as the latter turned to resume his promenade.
Above the continual, distracting babble one sonorous voice rose insistently. Laughter and applause broke in upon it occasionally. There was a din in that corner of the lobby that attracted many of the curiosity-seekers in that direction.
“There’s Fog-horn Spinney holding forth,” Thornton informed Harlan, ironically. “Come along. We mustn’t slight any of the candidates.”
They made way for him. Men grinned up into his face as he passed. They scented possible entertainment when the big boss met the demagogue. Many of the men wore badges—long strips of ribbon with this legend printed thereon, running lengthwise of the ribbon:
Candidate Spinney had a thick packet of ribbons in one of his gesticulating hands. He was flushed, vociferous, and somewhat insolent. Like Everett, he was not analyzing the acclamation that greeted everything he said; applause had made him drunk. But under the hilarity of his listeners there was considerable enthusiasm for the man himself. The Duke perceived it, for he realized what times had come upon the State. Spinney’s bombast expressed the protest that was abroad. Rebellion, thirsty, does not seek the cold spring of Reason. It fuddles itself with hot speech, it riots—it dares not pause to ponder.
“The men that are running this State to-day are running it for themselves,” he declaimed, as Thornton and his grandson came into the front rank of his listeners. “They want it all. I brand ’em for what they are. I could take glue and a hair-brush and make hogs out of every one of ’em!”
A shout of laughter! There was more zest for the mob in the point of Mr. Spinney’s remarks, with the Duke of Fort Canibas, lord of the north countay, present to listen.
“I’m not ashamed of my platform. I’m willing to promulgate it. For I’m going to stand behind it. It ain’t a platform fixed up in a back room of this hotel the night before convention, sprung at the last minute, and worded so that it reads the same backward and forward, and doesn’t mean any more than whistling a tune! What kind of a system is it that taxes the poor man’s family dog, the friend of his children, a dollar, and lets the rich man’s wild lands off with two mills on a valuation screwed down to pinhead size?”
Applause that indicated that the bystanders owned dogs!
“If you’re hunting for something to tax, pick out bachelors instead of dogs. Dogs can’t earn money. Bachelors can. There are forty thousand old maids and widows in this State who can’t find husbands. Tax the bachelors. Give the single women a pension. Hunt out the tax-dodgers. There are things enough to tax instead of the farms and cottages of the poor men.”