Craig eyed him fiercely and steadily until Arkwright’s gaze dropped. Then he laughed friendly. “Come along, Grant,” said he. “You’re a good fellow, and I’ll get you the girl.” And he linked his arm in Arkwright’s and took up another phase of himself as the topic of his monologue.
Margaret, on the way home afoot from the White House, where she had been lunching with the President’s niece, happened upon Craig standing with his hands behind his back before the statue of Jackson. He was gazing up at the fierce old face with an expression so animated that passers-by were smiling broadly. She thought he was wholly absorbed; but when she was about half-way across his range of vision he hailed her. “I say, Miss Severence!” he cried loudly.
She flushed with annoyance. But she halted, for she knew that if she did not he would only shout at her and make a scene.
“I’ll walk with you,” said he, joining her when he saw she had no intention of moving toward him.
“Don’t let me draw you from your devotions,” protested she. “I’m just taking a car, anyhow.”
“Then I’ll ride home with you and walk back. I want to talk with a woman—a sensible woman—not easy to find in this town.”
Margaret was disliking him, his manner was so offensively familiar and patronizing—and her plans concerning him made her contemptuous of herself, and therefore resentful against him. “I’m greatly flattered,” said she.
“No, you’re not. But you ought to be. I suppose if you had met that old chap on the pedestal there when he was my age you’d have felt toward him much as you do toward me.”
“And I suppose he’d have been just about as much affected by it as you are.”
“Just about. It was a good idea, planting his statue there to warn the fellow that happens to be in the White House not to get too cultured. You know it was because the gang that was in got too refined and forgot whom this country belonged to that old Jackson was put in office. The same thing will happen again.”
“And you’ll be the person?” suggested Margaret with a smile of raillery.
“If I show I’m fit for the job,” replied Craig soberly. It was the first time she had ever heard him admit a doubt about himself. “The question is,” he went on, “have I got the strength of character and the courage? ... What do you think?”
“I don’t know anything about it,” said Margaret with polite indifference. “There comes my car. I’ll not trouble you to accompany me.” She put out her hand. “Goodby.” She did not realize it, or intend it, but she had appealed to one of his powerful instincts, a powerful instinct in all predatory natures—the instinct to pursue whatever seems to be flying.
He shook his head at the motorman, who was bringing the car to a halt; the car went on. He stood in front of her. Her color was high, but she could not resist the steady compulsion of his eyes. “I told you I wanted to talk with you,” said he. “Do you know why I was standing before that statue?”