I thanked him. I had learned enough to realize how important are the amenities in politics and business. The Colonel did most of the conversing; he could not have filled with efficiency and ease the important post that was his had it not been for the endless fund of humorous anecdotes at his disposal. One by one the visitors left, each assuring me of his personal regard: the Colonel closed the door, softly, turning the key in the lock; there was a sly look in his black eyes as he took a chair in proximity to mine.
“Well, Mr. Paret,” he asked softly, “what’s up?”
Without further ado I handed him Mr. Gorse’s letter, and another Mr. Watling had given me for him, which contained a copy of the bill. He read these, laid them on the table, glancing at me again, stroking his goatee the while. He chuckled.
“By gum!” he exclaimed. “I take off my hat to Theodore Watling, always did.” He became contemplative. “It can be done, Mr. Paret, but it’s going to take some careful driving, sir, some reaching out and flicking ’em when they r’ar and buck. Paul Varney’s never been stumped yet. Just as soon as this is introduced we’ll have Gates and Armstrong down here—they’re the Ribblevale attorneys, aren’t they? I thought so,—and the best legal talent they can hire. And they’ll round up all the disgruntled fellows, you know,—that ain’t friendly to the Railroad. We’ve got to do it quick, Mr. Paret. Gorse gave you a letter to the Governor, didn’t he?”
“Yes,” I said.
“Well, come along. I’ll pass the word around among the boys, just to let ’em know what to expect.” His eyes glittered again. “I’ve been following this Ribblevale business,” he added, “and I understand Leonard Dickinson’s all ready to reorganize that company, when the time comes. He ought to let me in for a little, on the ground floor.”
I did not venture to make any promises for Mr. Dickinson.
“I reckon it’s just as well if you were to meet me at the Governor’s office,” the Colonel added reflectively, and the hint was not lost on me. “It’s better not to let ’em find out any sooner than they have to where this thing comes from,—you understand.” He looked at his watch. “How would nine o’clock do? I’ll be there, with Trulease, when you come,—by accident, you understand. Of course he’ll be reasonable, but when they get to be governors they have little notions, you know, and you’ve got to indulge ’em, flatter ’em a little. It doesn’t hurt, for when they get their backs up it only makes more trouble.”
He put on a soft, black felt hat, and departed noiselessly...
At nine o’clock I arrived at the State House and was ushered into a great square room overlooking the park. The Governor was seated at a desk under an elaborate chandelier, and sure enough, Colonel Varney was there beside him; making barely perceptible signals.
“It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Mr. Paret,” said Mr. Trulease. “Your name is a familiar one in your city, sir. And I gather from your card that you are associated with my good friend, Theodore Watling.”