I rang the bell and stood watching them as they departed, reflecting that I was thirty-two years of age and unmarried. Mr. Watling, surrounded with newspapers and seated before his library fire, glanced up at me with a welcoming smile: how had I borne the legislative baptism of fire? Such, I knew, was its implication.
“Everything went through according to schedule, eh? Well, I congratulate you, Hugh,” he said.
“Oh, I didn’t have much to do with it,” I answered, smiling back at him. “I kept out of sight.”
“That’s an art in itself.”
“I had an opportunity, at close range, to study the methods of our lawmakers.”
“They’re not particularly edifying,” Mr. Watling replied. “But they seem, unfortunately, to be necessary.”
Such had been my own thought.
“Who is this man Krebs?” he inquired suddenly. “And why didn’t Varney get hold of him and make him listen to reason?”
“I’m afraid it wouldn’t have been any use,” I replied. “He was in my class at Harvard. I knew him—slightly. He worked his way through, and had a pretty hard time of it. I imagine it affected his ideas.”
“What is he, a Socialist?”
“Something of the sort.” In Theodore Watling’s vigorous, sanity-exhaling presence Krebs’s act appeared fantastic, ridiculous. “He has queer notions about a new kind of democracy which he says is coming. I think he is the kind of man who would be willing to die for it.”
“What, in these days!” Mr. Watling looked at me incredulously. “If that’s so, we must keep an eye on him, a sincere fanatic is a good deal more dangerous than a reformer who wants something. There are such men,” he added, “but they are rare. How was the Governor, Trulease?” he asked suddenly. “Tractable?”
“Behaved like a lamb, although he insisted upon going through with his little humbug,” I said.
Mr. Watling laughed. “They always do,” he observed, “and waste a lot of valuable time. You’ll find some light cigars in the corner, Hugh.”
I sat down beside him and we spent the morning going over the details of the Ribblevale suit, Mr. Watling delegating to me certain matters connected with it of a kind with which I had not hitherto been entrusted; and he spoke again, before I left, of his intention of taking me into the firm as soon as the affair could be arranged. Walking homeward, with my mind intent upon things to come, I met my mother at the corner of Lyme Street coming from church. Her face lighted up at sight of me.
“Have you been working to-day, Hugh?” she asked.
I explained that I had spent the morning with Mr. Watling.
“I’ll tell you a secret, mother. I’m going to be taken into the firm.”
“Oh, my dear, I’m so glad!” she exclaimed. “I often think, if only your father were alive, how happy he would be, and how proud of you. I wish he could know. Perhaps he does know.”