“I do not. But that proposition, no matter how good it sounds, is the sugar-coated preface to an attempt to steal the undeveloped water-powers of this State.”
The Senator’s fat neck reddened.
“You may be inclined to modify that rather rash statement, General Waymouth, when I tell you that I suggested the insertion of that resolution.”
“I recognized it as yours, Senator. Some time ago my bankers gave me the personnel of the group behind the Universal Development Company. In making my statement, I understand perfectly what legislation that resolution is leading up to.”
“Vard,” broke in the Duke, conciliatingly, “don’t take so much for granted. Why, there are folks suspicious enough to accuse Saint Peter of starting Lent and ticking off Fridays from the meat programme simply because he was in the fish business. Let’s not get to fussing about a set of convention resolutions. They’re mostly wind, anyway.”
But General Waymouth was not appeased.
“I know what resolutions stand for—how much and how little. I’m taking this occasion, gentlemen, to set myself right with you. That resolution will do for a text! I want no taunts later that I led you on into a trap.”
He struck the table with the flat of his hand.
“I’m laying my cards face up. Here’s my hand! I halt right here on that resolution. I’m certain I know what it means, no matter how it sounds. I’m willing to take my hat and walk out right now. But if I stay—if you promise to nominate me—I propose to have the saying of what kind of a Governor I shall be!”
“That’s rather blunt talk to make to gentlemen,” protested the Senator, showing a spark of ire.
“At my age there isn’t time to make long speeches to shade the facts,” returned General Waymouth. He was calm but intensely in earnest.
“Then you are all for reform—one of the new reformers, eh?” inquired the Senator. He cast a look of reproach at Thornton, as though that trusted manager had loosed a tiger on their defenceless party.
The General smiled—smiled so sweetly that he almost disarmed their resentment.
“No, the Arba Spinneys of this State are the reformers. I’m not under salary to run round and make disturbances in settled order. I’m not a bigot with a single idea, nor a fanatic insisting that the world ought to follow the diet that my dyspepsia imposes upon me. I’m merely an old man, gentlemen, who has got past a lot of the follies of youth and the passions of manhood, and has had a chance to reflect for a few years. I have not asked to return to public life. But if I do return, if you put power into my hands, I propose to render unto the people the things that are the people’s, and that term includes every man in this room. It is not a programme that should alarm honest gentlemen!”
There was appeal in the tone—there was a hint of rebuke in that final sentence that troubled the conscience of even Senator Pownal. Thelismer Thornton was in a chair close to him.