The pulpit thundered. Half a million Kentuckians, “professing Christians and temperance advocates,” repudiated the autocrat’s claim to support. A new convention was the cry, and the wheel-horse of the party, an ex-Confederate, ex-governor, and aristocrat, answered that cry. The leadership of the Democratic bolters he took as a “sacred duty”—took it with the gentle statement that the man who tampers with the rights of the humblest citizen is worse than the assassin, and should be streaked with a felon’s stripes, and suffered to speak only through barred doors. From the same tongue, Jason heard with puckered brow that the honored and honest yeomanry of the commonwealth, through coalition by judge and politician, would be hoodwinked by the leger-demain of ballot-juggling magicians; but he did understand when he heard this yeomanry called brave, adventurous self-gods of creation, slow to anger and patient with wrongs, but when once stirred, let the man who had done the wrong—beware! Long ago Jason had heard the Republican chieftain who was to be pitted against such a foe characterized as “a plain, unknown man, a hill-billy from the Pennyroyal, and the nominee because there was no opposition and no hope.” But hope was running high now, and now with the aristocrat, the autocrat, and the plebeian from the Pennyroyal—whose slogan was the repeal of the autocrat’s election law—the tricornered fight was on.
On a hot day in the star county of the star district, the autocrat, like Caesar, had a fainting fit and left the Democrats, explaining for the rest of the campaign that Republican eyes had seen a big dirk under his coat; and Jason never rested until with his own eyes he had seen the man who had begun to possess his brain like an evil dream. And he did see him and heard him defend his law as better than the old one, and declare that never again could the Democrats steal the State with mountain votes—heard him confidently leave to the common people to decide whether imperialism should replace democracy, trusts destroy the business of man with man, and whether the big railroad of the State was the servant or the master of the people. He heard a senator from the national capital, whose fortunes were linked with the autocrat’s, declare that leader as the most maligned figure in American politics, and that he was without a blemish or vice on his private or public life, but, unlike Pontius Pilate, Jason never thought to ask himself what was truth, for, in spite of the mountaineer’s Blue-grass allies, the lad had come to believe that there was a State conspiracy to rob his own people of their rights. This autocrat was the head and front of that conspiracy; while he spoke the boy’s hatred grew with every word, and turned personal, so that at the close of the speech he moved near the man with a fierce desire to fly at his throat then and there. The boy even caught one sweeping look—cool, fearless, insolent, scorning—the look the man had for his enemies—and