“Are you afraid of me?”
“Not of you, my lad,” McQuade answered sardonically, spreading out his great hands. “Do I look like a man afraid of anything? But the thought of a stranger becoming mayor of Herculaneum rather frightens me. Let us have peace, Mr. Warrington.”
“I ask nothing better.”
“I never withdraw. I am not afraid of anything. I even promise to be good-natured enough to look upon this meeting as a colossal joke.” Warrington’s cigar had gone out. He relighted it coolly. “If the nomination is offered me, I shall accept it; and once having accepted it, I’ll fight, but honorably and in the open. Look here, McQuade, don’t be a fool. You’ve something against me personally. What is it? If I recollect, I ran across you once or twice when I was a newspaper man.”
McQuade’s eyes narrowed again.
“Personally, you are nothing to me,” he replied; “politically, you are a meddler, and you are in my way.”
“Oh, I am in your way? That is to say, if I am elected, there’ll be too much honesty in the City Hall to suit your plans? I can readily believe that. If you can convince me that I ought not to run for mayor, do so. I can accept any reasonable argument. But bluster will do no good. For a man of your accredited ability, you are making a poor move, even a fatal one.”
“Will you withdraw?”
“All right. Whatever comes your way after this, don’t blame me. I have given you a fair warning.”
“You have threatened.”
“I can act also. And you can put this in your pipe, Mr. Warrington, that before October comes round, when the Republican convention meets, you will withdraw your name quickly enough. This is not a threat. It’s a warning. That’s all. I’m sorry you can’t see the matter from my standpoint.”
“Come, boy,” said Warrington to his dog. “You had better keep your animal under the table.”
McQuade did not move or answer. So Warrington grasped Jove by the collar and led him out of the private office. McQuade heard the dramatist whistle on the way to the elevator.
“So he’ll fight, eh?” growled McQuade. “Well, I’ll break him, or my name’s not McQuade. The damned meddling upstart, with his plays and fine women! You’re a hell of a dog, you are! Why the devil didn’t you kill his pup for him?”
McQuade sent a kick at the dog, who dodged it successfully, trotted out to the typewriter and crawled under the girl’s skirts.
Warrington went home, thoroughly angry with himself. To have bandied words and threats with a man like McQuade! He had lowered himself to the man’s level. But there were times when he could not control his tongue. Education and time had not tamed him any. Withdraw? It would have to be something more tangible than threats.
“Richard, you are not eating anything,” said his aunt at dinner that evening.