The carriage wheels had grated to a standstill against the curb in front of the big hotel. The buzz of the crowded hive came out to them through the open windows. General Waymouth glanced that way and frowned. But when he turned and looked into the glowing face of the young man opposite, his countenance cleared slowly. His smile returned. There was a hint of pathos in that smile, but his eyes shone. He put out his hand and took Harlan’s in a firm clasp.
“That sounds like my call to duty, Mr. Thornton,” he declared. “I listen. I obey!” Then he dropped his earnestness. “Let this little talk remain a secret between us. These practical politicians wouldn’t understand. A bit of an old man’s weakness; perhaps that was it. A little eccentric, eh?”
The driver had opened the carriage door.
“I believe I understand, sir. I do now. And I’m sorry.”
The remark was a bit cryptic, but the General understood.
“And you’ll appreciate better what this means to me when you are as old as I. But that’s the last of talk like this, my boy. There’s one more fight still in me. We’ll just go ahead and find out how much honesty is left in this State—and you shall help me hunt for it, for old eyes need the help of young ones, and I’m going outside the politicians to find honesty.”
He led the way across the pavement to a side door of the hotel.
“We’ll go in this way, quietly,” he said. “I haven’t any appetite for that kind of a stew just yet.”
SITTING IN FOR THE DEAL
On the second floor of the hotel Thelismer Thornton was pacing the corridor, hands behind his back, puffing his cigar. He was paying no heed to the men who were streaming past him in both directions, going and coming from the rooms of the candidates. Everett and Spinney were in their suites, extending hospitality with questionable cigars and ice-water.
Delegates were flocking up from the hotel bar in squads. They were meeting other delegates, forming new combinations which offered fresh opportunities for “setting ’em up,” and after paying their respects were hustling back downstairs again to interview the gentlemen in white jackets.
Out from open transoms over the doors of sleeping-rooms floated cigar smoke and voices. There were boys running with ice-water and glasses to the noisiest rooms. From some of these rooms the familiar bacchanalian songs were resounding even at that early hour of the evening. The chorus of “We’re here because we’re here” mingled with the words of that reminiscent old carol, “When we fit with Gineral Grant, by gosh.”
The Duke, towering, abstracted, swaying along ponderously, close to the wall of the corridor, eyes on the head of the stairway, was as indifferent to the uproar as he was to those who passed.
A man who was somewhat flushed and a bit uncertain in his gait came out of the State Committee headquarters. He planted himself in front of Thornton.