A GENTLEMAN FROM MISSISSIPPI
Founded on the popular play of the same title
PRODUCED UNDER THE MANAGEMENT OF WM.A. BRADY AND JOS.R. GRISMER
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
THE SENATOR AND BUD HAINES
"FROM NEW YORK, EH? THE VICKSBURG OF THE NORTH"
"STRANGE, HOW THE LANGDON'S TREAT HIM AS A FRIEND"
THE SENATOR ACCEPTS AN INVITATION TO TEA
THE LANGDON FAMILY
"YOU'LL HAVE TO TAKE YOUR MEDICINE LIKE A MAN"
"TO-MORROW, AT 12.30"
"AFTER I HAVE FINISHED, I DARE ONE OF YOU TO DENY A WORD"
_Here is a story of an epoch-making battle of right against wrong, of honesty against corruption, of simplicity and sincerity against deceit, bribery and intrigue. It is the story of to-day in this country. It vitally concerns every man, woman and child in the United States, so far-reaching is its influence.
The warfare is now going on—the warfare of honest men against corrupt political machines.
The story tells the "inside" of the political maneuvers in Washington and of the workings of bosses there and elsewhere—how they shape men and women to their ends, how their cunning intrigues extend into the very social life of the nation's capital. You will find inspiration in the career of the honest old Southern planter elected to the United States Senate and the young newspaper reporter who becomes his private secretary and political pilot. Your heart will beat in sympathy with the love of the secretary and the Senator's youngest daughter.
You will read of the lobbyists and find that not all of them are men. You will see how avarice causes a daughter to conspire against her father. You will hear the note of a gripping national tragedy in the words of Peabody, the "boss of the Senate." But cause for laughter as well will not be found lacking in this truly many-sided narrative._
A Gentleman from Mississippi
* * * * *
That bids him flout the law he makes; That bids him make the law he flouts.
In buoyant spirit the Hon. Charles Norton rode up the bridle path leading through the Langdon plantation to the old antebellum homestead which, on a shaded knoll, overlooked the winding waters of the Pearl River. No finer prospect was to be had in all Mississippi than greeted the eye from the wide southwest porch, where on warm evenings the Langdons and their frequent guests gathered to dine or to watch the golden splendor of the dying sun.
The Langdon family had long been a power in the South. Its sons fought under Andrew Jackson at New Orleans, under Zachary Taylor in the war with Mexico, and in the Civil War men of that name left their blood on the fields of Antietam, Shiloh, the Wilderness and Gettysburg. But this family of fighting men, of unselfish patriots, had also marked influence in the ways of peace, as real patriots should. Generations of Langdons had taken deepest pride in developing the hundreds of acres of cotton land, whose thousands of four-foot rows planted each April spread open the silvery lined bolls in July and August, and the ripened cotton fiber, pure white beneath the sun, gave from a distance the picture of an expanse of driven snow.
The Hon. Charles Norton had reason for feeling well pleased with the world as he fastened his bay Virginia hunter to a convenient post and strode up the steps of the mansion, which was a characteristic survivor of the "old South," the South of gilded romance and of gripping tragedy. Now in this second year of his first term as Congressman and a promising member of the younger set of Southern lawyers, he had just taken active part in securing the election of Colonel William H. Langdon, present head of the family, to the United States Senate, though the ultimate action of the Legislature had been really brought about by a lifelong friend of Colonel Langdon, the senior Senator from the State, James Stevens, who had not hesitated to flatter Norton and use him as a cat's-paw. This use the Hon. Charles Norton seemed to consider an honor of large proportions. Not every first-term Congressman can hope for intimacy with a Senator. Norton believed that his work for Langdon would win him the family's gratitude and thus further his ambition to marry Carolina, the planter's oldest daughter, whose beauty made her the recipient of many attentions.
A complacent gleam shone in Norton's eyes as they swept over the fertile acres of the plantation. He thought of the material interest he might one day have in them if his suit for the hand of Carolina progressed favorably. Suddenly his reverie was interrupted by the voice of young Randolph Langdon, a spirited lad in his early twenties, who had just been made plantation manager, by his father.
"Well, how is the honorable to-day?" said Randolph, approaching from the doorway. "I didn't think a Congressman could be spared from Washington but rarely, especially when the papers say the country needs such a lot of saving."
"Oh, this 'saving the country' talk goes all right in the story books," replied Norton, who exercised considerable influence over the youth through a long acquaintanceship and by frequently taking him into his confidence, "but this country can take pretty good care of itself. In Congress we representatives put the job of saving it over on the Senate, and the Senate hands back the job to us. So what's everybody's business isn't anybody's; a fine scheme so long as we have a President who keeps his hands off and doesn't—"
"But how about the speeches and the bills?" broke in Randolph. "I thought—"
"Yes, yes; to be sure," the Congressman quickly added. "Nearly all of us introduce these so-called reform bills. When they're printed at government expense we send copies, carried free by the Post-office Department, to our constituents, and when we allow the bills to die in some committee we can always blame the committee. But if there's a big fight by our constituents over the bill we let it pass the House, but arrange to kill it in the Senate. Then we do the same thing for the Senators. Like in every other business, my boy," continued Norton as he led the way into the house, "it's a case of 'you tickle me and I'll tickle you' in politics. And don't let any one fool you about the speeches either. They are pretty things to mail to the voters, but all the wise boys in Washington know they aren't meant seriously. It's all play acting, and there are better actors in the Senate than Henry Irving or Edwin Booth ever were."
"I don't think my father looks at things in the way you do, Charlie."
"No? Well, maybe he doesn't now, but he will later on when he takes his seat in the Senate. If he isn't wise enough to play around with the rest of the Senators he won't get any bills passed, especially any bill carrying an appropriation or of any other particular importance."
"What!" ejaculated the planter's son. "Do you mean to say that if father won't do what the other Senators want him to do they will combine against him and destroy his usefulness, make him powerless—a failure?"
The Congressman smiled patronizingly on the youth. "Why, of course they will. That's politics, practical politics, the only kind that's known in Washington. You see—"
"But the leaders of the great parties!" cried the young plantation manager, in amazement. "Why don't they prevent this?"
"Because they invented the system and because political party differences don't amount to a whole lot much of the time in Washington. The politicians do most of their criticizing of the other party away from Washington, where the voters can hear them. But when circumstances sometimes force a man to rise to assail the other side in Congress he afterward apologizes in secret for his words. Or, sometimes he apologizes beforehand, saying: 'I've got to hand out some hot shot to you fellows just to please a crowd of sovereign voters from my district who have come up to Washington to see me perform. So, of course, I've got to make a showing; Don't mind what I say. You know I don't mean it, but the old fogies will go back home and tell their neighbors what a rip-snortin' reformer I be.'"
"Is that the way you represent your district; Norton?" asked Planter Langdon, who at this juncture entered the room.
"No, no, Mr. Langdon—I should say Senator now, I suppose. I was merely telling Randolph how some legislators conduct themselves."
The Senator-elect paused momentarily, gazing at the Congressman, who, dark-visaged, tall, black-haired, broad-shouldered and athletic, was visibly uneasy at having his conversation with Randolph overheard by the father.
"No doubt it won't be all plain sailing in Washington for an old-fashioned man like me, but I believe in the American people and the men they send to Congress," slowly spoke the planter. "There's Senator Stevens, for instance. He has always stood for the rights of the people. I've read all his speeches. Just why he brought about my election it is hard to tell, for I've been a planter all my life, except when I fought under Beauregard. I feel that he did it out of friendship, and I simply can't say how much I appreciate the honor. I am indebted to you, too, Congressman."
Tactfully disclaiming any credit for his work, only Norton's congressional training in repression enabled him to refrain from smiling at Langdon's innocence, his belief in Stevens' sincerity and his wonder over his election. Stevens, the keen, cold and resourceful, who forced his officeholders to yield him parts of their government salaries; Stevens, who marketed to railway companies his influence with the Department of Justice; Stevens, who was a Republican in the committee room in Washington and a Democrat on the platform in Mississippi; Stevens, who had consummated the deal with Martin Sanders, boss of seven counties, to elect Langdon because of the planter's trustfulness and simplicity of character, which should make him easy to influence and to handle in the all-important matter of the gulf naval base project!
The entry of Carolina Langdon and her younger sister, Hope Georgia, gave Norton a welcome opportunity to shift the trend of conversation.
"You ladies will have a gay time in Washington," he began, after directing a particularly enthusiastic greeting to Carolina. "You will be in great demand at all the big affairs, and I don't think you will ever want to come back to old Mississippi, forty miles from a railroad, with few chances to wear your New York gowns."
Carolina spoke quickly, her face flushing at the thought of the new vista of life now opening. "Yes, I have always longed to be a part of the real life of this world; the life of constant action—meeting new people every day, and prominent people. Balls, receptions, teas, theater parties, afternoon drives, plenty of money and plenty of gayety are what I want. I'm not a bit like Hope Georgia, who thinks these ideas are extravagant because she has not seen real life yet—"
"Carolina, you must not think me 'only your little sister' now. I have seen life. Haven't I spent a week in Jackson?"
"That's enough proof. You know all about life, I'm sure, Miss Hope Georgia," smilingly remarked Norton.
Later, rising to join Planter Langdon on the veranda, where he had gone to smoke, the Congressman gazed intently at Carolina. "You will probably forget your old friends when you enter the dizzy social race in Washington."
"No, Charlie, I couldn't forget you, anyhow. You will be there, too. I shall depend on you a great deal to take me about, unless you are too busy making speeches and fighting your opponents."
Again it was Norton's turn to be inwardly amused at the political ignorance of the Langdon family. Speeches? The first-term Congressman doesn't make speeches in Washington, because no one cares what he thinks—except the lobbyists, whose business it is to provide new members with a complete set of thoughts. Neither does he have opponents—he is not considered important enough by the veterans to be opposed.
Skilfully approaching the subject which next to Carolina Langdon had been uppermost in his mind during his visit, Norton asked the Senator-elect on joining him if he did not believe that the entire South would benefit if the plan to establish a naval base on the gulf was successfully carried through.
"Most certainly I do, and, as I said during the senatorial fight, the whole country as well will be the gainer," responded Langdon.
"Don't you think the people who want Altacoola chosen as the site have the best arguments?" was the visitor's next question, the reply to which he anxiously awaited.
"Yes, I do, from what I've already heard; but I haven't heard very much of what the folks who advocate other sites have to say. So, until I've heard all sides and made my own examination, I couldn't give any one my final answer, but Altacoola seems to have the necessary qualifications."
"Senator Stevens is in favor of Altacoola," eagerly suggested Norton.
"Yes, and that's a pretty good argument in its favor," responded Langdon.
Norton now excused himself, pleading an appointment with a client at a neighboring village. Waving farewell to Carolina and Hope Georgia, who stood at a window, he rode away. "The old man is sure to be all right," he muttered. "He leans toward Altacoola and believes in Stevens. He'll lean some more until he falls over—into the trap. There's a fortune in sight—within reach. Langdon has faith in his friends. He won't suspect a thing."
Still another thought occurred to the Hon. Charles Norton. "Stevens elected Langdon out of friendship," he chuckled, gleefully. "That will be well worth telling in Washington."
THE WARS OF PEACE
"Big Bill" Langdon was the term by which the new Senator from Mississippi had been affectionately known to his intimates for years. He carried his 230 pounds with ease, bespeaking great muscular power in spite of his gray hairs. His rugged courage, unswerving honesty and ready belief in his friends won him a loyal following, some of whom frequently repeated what was known as "Bill Langdon's Golden Rule":
"There never was a man yet who didn't have some good in him, but most folks don't know this because their own virtues pop up and blind 'em when they look at somebody else."
At the reunions of his old war comrades Langdon was always depended on to describe once again how the Third Mississippi charged at Crawfordsville and defeated the Eighth Illinois. But the stirring events of the past had served to increase the planter's fondness for his home life and his children, whose mother had died years before. At times he regretted that his unexpected political duties would take him away from the old plantation even though the enthusiastic approval of Carolina and Hope Georgia proved considerable compensation.
Although not sworn in as Senator, Colonel Langdon's political duties were already pressing. A few days after Congressman Norton's visit he sat in his library conferring with several prominent citizens of his county regarding a plan to ask Congress to appropriate money to dredge a portion of the channel of the Pearl River, which would greatly aid a large section of the State.
During the deliberations the name of Martin Sanders was announced by Jackson, the Colonel's gravely decorous negro bodyguard, who boasted that he "wuz brung up by Cunel Marse Langdon, suh, a fightin' Mississippi cunel, suh, sence long befo' de wah and way befo' dat, suh."
"Show Mr. Sanders right in," commanded Colonel Langdon.
"Good-day, Senator," spoke Sanders, the boss of seven counties, as he entered. Glancing around the room, he continued, bending toward the Colonel and muffling his now whispering voice with his hand: "I want to speak to you alone. I'm here on politics."
"That's all right; but these gentlemen here are my friends and constituents," was the reply in no uncertain voice. "When I talk politics they have a perfect right to hear what I, as their Senator, say. Out with it, Mr. Sanders."
As Sanders was introduced to the members of the conference he grew red in the face and stared at Langdon, amazed. At last he had discovered something new in politics. "Say," he finally blurted out, "when I talk business I—"
"Are you in politics as a business?" quickly spoke Colonel Langdon.
"Why—I—er—no, of course not," the visitor stammered. "I am in politics for my party's sake, just like everybody else," and Sanders grinned suggestively at his questioner.
"Have you anything further to say?" asked Langdon, in a tone hinting that he would like to be rid of his caller.
"Well, since you are so very new in this game, Senator, I'll talk right out in meetin', as they call it. I came to ask about an appointment an' to tip you off on a couple o' propositions. I want Jim Hagley taken care of—you've heard of Jim—was clerk o' Fenimore County. A $2,000 a year job'll do for him; $500 o' that he gives to the organization."
"You're the organization, aren't you?" queried Langdon.
"Why, yes. Are you just gettin' wise?" cried Sanders. "Haven't I got fellers, voters, VOTERS, VOTERS, d—n it, hangin' on to me that needs to be taken care of! An' so I make the fellers that work help those that don't. Why, Langdon, what'n h—l are you kickin' an' questioning' about? Didn't you get my twelve votes in the Legislature? Did you have a chance for Senator without 'em? Answer me that, will you? Why, with 'em you only had two more than needed to elect, an' the opposition crowd was solid for Wilson," cried the angry boss, pounding the long table before which Langdon sat.
"I'll answer you almighty quick," retorted the now thoroughly aroused Senator-elect, rising and shaking his clenched fist at Sanders. "Those twelve votes you say were yours—yours?"
"Yes, mine. Them noble legislators that cast 'em was an' is mine, mine. I tell you, jest like I had 'em in my pocket, an' that's where I mostly carry 'em, so as they won't go strayin' aroun' careless like."
"You didn't have to vote those men for me. I told you at the Capitol that I would not make you or anybody else any promises. You voted them for me of your own accord. That's my answer."
At this point the gentlemen of the county present when Sanders entered and who had no desire to witness further the unpleasant episode, rose to leave, in spite of the urgent request of Colonel Langdon that they remain. The only one reluctant to go was Deacon Amos Smallwood, who, coming to the plantation to seek employment for his son, had not been denied of his desire to join the assemblage of his neighbors.
Last to move toward the door, he stopped in front of Sanders, stretched his five feet three inches of stature on tiptoe, and shook a withered fist in the boss' firmly set, determined face.
"Infamous!" shrieked the deacon. "You're a monster! You're unrighteous! You should have belonged to the political machine of Cataline or Pontius Pilate!"
"Never heard tell o' them," muttered Sanders, deeply puzzled. "Guess they was never in Mississippi in my time."
His accompanying gesture of perplexity caused the deacon to hasten his exit. Tripping over the leg of a chair, he fell headlong into the arms of the watchful Jackson, who received the deacon's blessing for "uplifting the righteous in the hour of their fall."
Relieved at the departure of the witnesses, Sanders showed increased aggressiveness. "To be sure, Senator, you were careful not to personally promise me anything for my support at the election, as you say," the leader sneered; "but you had Jim Stevens to make promises for you, which was smooth, absolute an' artistic smooth—"
"Stop, sir!" Langdon furiously shouted. "You forget, sir, that your insinuation is an insult to a man elected Senator from Mississippi, an insult to my State and to my friend Senator Stevens, who I know would make you no promises for me, for he had not my authority."
"Certainly you're a Senator, but what's a Senator, anyhow? I'll tell you, Mr. Colonel Langdon, a Senator is a man who holds out for his own pocket as much as us fellows that make him will stand for. When we don't get our rightful share, he's through."
With a sudden start, as though to spring at Sanders' throat, Langdon, with compressed lips and eyes blazing, grasped the edge of the table with a grip that threatened to rend the polished boards. With intensest effort he slowly regained control of himself. His fury had actually weakened him. His knees shook, and he sank weakly into a chair. When he finally spoke his voice was strained and laborious. "Sanders, you and I, sir, must never meet again, because I might not succeed in keeping my hands off you. What would my old comrades of the Third Mississippi say if they saw me sitting here and you there with a whole body, sir, after what you have said? They would not believe their eyes, thank God, sir. They would all go over to Stuart City and buy new glasses, sir." A suspicious moisture appeared on the Colonel's cheeks which he could not dry too quickly to escape Sanders' observation.
"But I had to let you stay, sir, because you, the sole accuser, are the only one who can tell me what I must know."
"What do you want to know?" asked Sanders, who had realized his great mistake in losing his temper, in talking as openly and as violently as he had and in dragging the name of Senator Stevens into the controversy. He must try to keep Stevens from hearing of this day's blunder, for Jim Stevens knew as well as he, didn't he, that the man who loses his temper, like the man who talks too much, is of no use in politics.
"I want to know how you formed your opinion of political matters—of Senators. Is it possible, sir, that you have actual knowledge of actual happenings that give you the right to talk as you have? I want to know if I must feel shame, feel disgrace, sir, to be a Senator from Mississippi; that State, sir, that the Almighty himself, sir, would choose to live in if he came to earth."
"There, there, Senator, don't take too seriously what I have said," Sanders replied in reassuring tone, having outlined his course of action. "I lost my head because you wouldn't promise me something I needed—that appointment for Hagley. What I said about Senators an' such was all wild words—nothin' in 'em. Why, how could there be, Senator?" This query was a happy afterthought which Sanders craftily suggested in a designedly artless manner.
"Just what I thought and know!" exclaimed Langdon, sharply. "It couldn't be; it isn't possible. Now you go, sir, and let it be your greatest disgrace that you are not fit to enter any gentleman's house."
"Oh, don't rub it in too hard, Senator. You may need my help some day, but you'll have to deliver the goods beforehand."
"I said, 'Go!'"
"I'm goin', but here's a tip. Don't blame me for fightin' you. I've got to fight to live. I'm a human bein', an' humans are pretty much the same all over the world; all except you—you're only half natural. The rest of you is reformer."
After Sanders' departure the Colonel sat at his table, his head resting in his hand, the events of the day crowding his brain bewilderingly.
"The battles of peace are worse than any Beauregard ever led me into," he murmured. "Fighting o conquer oneself is harder than turning the left flank of the Eighth Illinois in an enfilading fire."
But the new Senator from Mississippi did not know that for him the wars of peace had only just begun, that perhaps his own flesh and blood and that of the wife and mother who had gone before would turn traitor to his colors in the very thickest of the fray.
HOW TO PLEASE A SENATOR
The International Hotel in Washington was all hustle and bustle. Was it not preparing for its first Senator since 1885? No less a personage than the Hon. William H. Langdon of Mississippi, said to be a warm personal friend of Senator Stevens, one of the leading members of his party at the capital, had engaged a suit of rooms for himself and two daughters.
"Ain't it the limit?" remarked the chief clerk to Bud Haines, correspondent of the New York Star. "The Senator wrote us that he was coming here because his old friend, the late Senator Moseley, said back in '75 that this was the best hotel in Washington and where all the prominent men ought to stay."
Haines, the ablest political reporter in Washington, had come to the International to interview the new Senator, to describe for his paper what kind of a citizen Langdon was. He glanced around at the dingy woodwork, the worn cushions, the nicked and uneven tiles of the hotel lobby, and smiled at the clerk. "Well, if this is the new Senator's idea of princely luxury he will fit right into the senatorial atmosphere." Both laughed derisively. "By the way," added Haines, "I suppose you'll raise your rates now that you've got a Senator here."
The clerk brought his fist down on the register with a thud.
"We could have them every day if we wanted them. This fellow, though, we'll have all winter, I guess. His son's here now. Been breaking all records for drinking. Congressman Norton of Mississippi has been down here with him a few times. There young Langdon is now."
Haines turned quickly, just in time to bump into a tall, slender young man, who was walking unevenly in the direction of the cafe.
"Well, can't you see what you're doing?" muttered the tall young man thickly.
Haines smiled. The chap who has played halfback four years on his college eleven and held the boxing championship in his class is apt to be good-natured. He does not have to take offense easily. Besides, Randolph Langdon was plainly under the influence of whisky. So Haines smiled pleasantly at the taller young man.
"Beg your pardon—my fault," Haines said.
"Well, don't let it occur again," mumbled Langdon, as he strolled with uneven dignity toward the door. Bud Haines laughed.
"I guess young Langdon is going to be one of the boys, isn't he?"
"He's already one of them when it comes to a question of fluid capacity," laughed some one behind him, and Bud whirled to meet the gaze of his friend, Dick Gullen, representative of one of the big Chicago dailies.
"You down here to see Langdon, too?" commented Bud.
Cullen nodded. "Queer roost where this Senator is to hang out, isn't it?"
"He can't be a rich one, then," suggested Haines.
"Perhaps he's an honest one."
"I hadn't thought of that. You always were original, Dickie," commented Haines, dryly. "By the way, what do you know about him?"
"Nothing, except that the Evening Call printed a picture of his eldest daughter—says she's the queen daughter of the South, a famous beauty, rich planter for a father, mother left her a fortune—"
"She'll cut quite a social caper with this hotel's name on her cards, won't she?" broke in Haines, as he led Cullen to a seat to await the expected legislator, whose train was late.
"I don't know very much about him myself," said Haines. "All I've been able to discover is that Stevens said the word which elected him, and that looks bad. Great glory! When I think what a Senator of the right sort has a chance to do here in Washington—a nonpartisan, straight-out-from-the-shoulder man!" He paused to shake his head in disgust. "You know these fellows here in the Senate don't even see their chance. Why, if you and I didn't do any more to hold our jobs than they do, we'd be fired by wire the first day. They know just the old political game, that's all."
"Its a great game, though, Bud," sighed Cullen, longingly, for, like many newspaper men, he had the secret feeling that he was cut out to be a great politician.
"Sure, it's a great game, as a game," agreed Haines. "So is bridge, and stud poker, and three-card monte, and flim-flam generally. Take this new man Langdon, for instance. Chosen by Stevens, he'll probably be perfectly obedient, perfectly easy going, perfectly blind and—perfectly useless. What's wanted now is to get the work done, not play the game."
Thoroughly a cynic through his years of experience as a newspaper man, which had shown the inside workings of many important phases of the seemingly conventional life of this complex world, Cullen pretended unbounded enthusiasm.
"Hear! hear!" he shouted. "All you earnest citizens come vote for Reformer Haines. I'm for you, Bud. What do I get in your cabinet? I've joined the reformers, too, and, like all of them, me for P-U-R-I-T-Y as long as she gives me a meal ticket."
But not even Cullen could make Haines consider his views on the necessity of political regeneration to be ridiculous. His optimism could not be snuffed out, for he was a genuine believer that the natural tendency of humankind was to do right. Wrong he believed to be the outcome of unnatural causes. This quality, combined with his practical knowledge of the world and his courage, made him a formidable man, one who would one day accomplish big things—if he got the chance.
"You know you can't shut me up, Dick," was his response to Cullen's oratorical flight. "I'm going to have my say. I don't see why a Senator shouldn't be honest. All I want them to do is to play a new game. Let 'em at least seem to be honest, attend to their business, forget politics. The country sends them here to work, and if they do the work the people really don't care a hang what party they belong to."
"Come out of it, Bud. Your brain is wabbly," yawned Cullen, wearily. "I'll buy a drink if you'll quiet down. Let's be comfortable till this fellow Langdon appears." He caught his friend by the arm and in spite of protest dragged him off to the cafe just as young Langdon and Congressman Norton came down through the lobby.
Though but few years older than Randolph Langdon, Charles Norton had long exercised strong influence over him because of his wider experience in the world's affairs. Like his father, young Langdon had stayed close to the plantation most of his life, particularly after leaving school, devoting his attention to studying the business of conducting the family's big estate. Norton brought him the atmosphere of the big outside world he yearned to see even as did his sister Carolina, and he imitated Norton's manners, his dress and mode of speech. The Congressman's habit of confiding in Randolph, a subtle compliment, was deeply appreciated by the lad, who unconsciously became a continual advertiser of Norton's many virtues to Carolina and to his father, all of which the Congressman knew.
That Norton's political career was the outcome of Carolina Langdon's ambition to shine in gay society was known to his friends as well as his family, and his desire to win her and place her where she could satisfy every whim had developed almost to a frenzy. Seeing evidences of Senator Stevens' vast influence, he did not hesitate to seek a close relationship with him, and the Senator was clever enough to lead Norton to consider him his friend.
At the start of his political career Norton had higher ideas of honor than guided his actions now that he had become a part of the political machine that controlled his native State of Mississippi, and of the bipartisan combination that dominated both houses of Congress in the interest of the great railway and industrial corporations. Senator Stevens and other powers had so distorted Norton's view of the difference between public and private interests and their respective rights that he had come to believe captial to be the sacred heritage of the nation which must be protected at any cost. The acceptance of a retainer from the C. St. and P. Railroad Company for wholly unnecessary services in Washington—only another way of buying a man—a transaction arranged by Senator Stevens, was but another stage in the disintegration of the young Congressman's character, but it brought him just that much closer to the point where he could claim Carolina Langdon as his own. And opportunity does not knock twice at a man's door—unless he is at the head of the machine.
Norton, the persevering young law student who loved the girl who had been his boyhood playmate, was now Norton who coveted her father's lands, who boasted that he was on the "inside" in Washington, who was on the way to fortune—if the new Senator from Mississippi would or could be forced to stand in favor of the Altacoola naval base.
His conversation with Randolph Langdon, as Haines and Cullen saw them pass through the hotel lobby, illustrated the nature of the Norton of the present and his interest in the Altacoola scheme.
"There's no reason why you shouldn't come in on the ground floor in this proposition, Randolph," he was urging in continuance of the conversation begun over a table in the cafe. "No reason why you shouldn't do it, my boy. Why, are you still a child, or are you really a man? You have now drafts for $50,000, haven't you?"
"Yeah," agreed Langdon, chagrined at Norton's insinuation of youthfulness and anxious to prove that he was really a man of affairs, "I've got the fifty thousand, Charlie, but—but, you see, that's the money for improvements on the plantation. As father has put me in as manager I want to make a showing."
"You can't make it until spring," urged Norton. "The money's got to lie in the bank all winter. Now, why don't you make a hundred thousand with it instead of letting it lie idle? Isn't that simple?"
The younger man's eyes opened wide, and his imagination, stimulated by the special brand of Bourbon whisky Norton had ordered for him, took rapid bounds.
"One hundred thousand! You mean I could make a hundred thousand with my fifty between now and spring?"
"Sure as a nigger likes gin," replied Norton, confidently.
"How?" asked Langdon.
The young Congressman leaned over confidentially.
"This is under your hat, Randolph. You can keep quiet?"
Langdon nodded eagerly.
"Then put it into Altacoola land."
"The naval base?" gasped Langdon.
"Now you've hit it. The Government will select Altacoola for a naval base. Then land will jump 'way up to never, and you'll clean up a hundred thousand at the least. Isn't it simple? There are, a thousand people with money who would just love to have this chance. And I'm giving it to you because of our friendship. I want to do you a good turn. I've got my money in there."
Young Langdon was visibly impressed.
"You've always—treated me right, Charlie; you've been for me, I know. But suppose the Government doesn't select Altacoola. Gulf City's in the running."
Norton laughed sarcastically.
"Gulf City is a big bunch of mud flats. Besides, I'll tell you something else. Just between us, remember." He waited for the boy's eager nod before he went on. "The big men are behind Altacoola. Standard Steel wants Altacoola, and what Standard Steel wants from Congress you can bet your bottom dollar Standard Steel gets. They know their business at No. 10 Broadway. Now, then, are you satisfied?"
Randolph was more than satisfied. Already he felt himself rich, and honestly rich, too, for Norton had convinced him that there was no reason why he should not use the $50,000 of his father's, when it had to lie in the bank anyhow all winter, and he would have it back in time to use on the plantation in the spring when it was needed. How proud of him his father would be when he showed him a clear profit of $100,000!
"I'll go get the drafts at once, Charlie, and I'm mighty much obliged to you," he said, with gratitude in his voice.
Norton's smile was one of deep satisfaction.
"That's all right, Randolph. You know I want to do anything I can for you."
Randolph was starting for his room when Haines and Cullen turned sharply around the corner of the hotel desk. Again Bud and the young Southerner accidentally collided.
"Where are you going? Can't you look out?" blurted Langdon.
"Guess it's your fault this time."
"Oh, it is, is it?" irritably replied Randolph, who as the "young marse" had been accustomed to considerable deference on the plantation. "Well, take that," he angrily cried, aiming a savage swing at Haines.
The reporter's athletic training proved of ready service. Dodging under the clenched fist, he turned dexterously, seized young Langdon's outstretched wrist and bent the arm down over his (Haines') shoulder as though to throw the young attacker with the wrestler's "flying mare." Langdon was helpless, as Haines had also secured his free hand, but instead of completing the "throw" the reporter walked away with his foe held securely on his back—to put him to bed, a kindly service, in view of Randolph's mental state.
From across the lobby Charles Norton had watched Randolph's discomfiting encounter with Haines with amusement.
"Now that I've got the young fellow to sew up his old man's money in Altacoola land," he chuckled, "reckon Senator William H. Langdon won't see anything wrong with that same noble tract of universe when he comes to vote for the naval base. Senator Stevens will be pleased."
"JUST THE MAN WE NEED"
As Bud Haines returned from young Langdon's room, where he had left the latter in bed, with a towel filled with cracked ice around his head, he saw two familiar figures standing in a secluded corner of the lobby. They were talking earnestly in a low voice.
"Whew!" whistled the newspaper man. "It must be something important that brings both the boss of the Senate and Stevens of Mississippi here."
"Good-afternoon, Haines. How are you?" Senator Stevens said, cordially, as, looking up, he saw the newspaper man approaching. "Senator Peabody, you know Haines, don't you? The brightest young correspondent in Washington."
Senator Peabody of Pennsylvania, the leading power in the upper house, was a man of commanding character and of strong personality. The fact he used these attributes to advance in the Senate the financial interests of himself, of Standard Steel and other commercial organizations met with very little protest in Washington. That he deserved the title frequently used in referring to him, "boss of the Senate," none would deny who had knowledge of the inner workings of the Senate and the various committees.
Senator Peabody was very affable to the reporters, especially to those of Haines' stamp, who had never accepted any favors from him and who opposed his methods. He aimed to win the friendship of these opponents by diplomacy—as he had found that reporters of the Haines sort could not be influenced by money. He considered a reporter who would take a bribe as a constructive, conservative member of society, and frequently regretted that so many of the correspondents sent to Washington could not be bought nor had bills they wanted passed or defeated. He extended his hand to Haines as Stevens concluded and said, warmly:
"Of course I know the representative of the Morning Star! How do you do, Haines?"
"I wonder if we're not all here on the same errand," suggested the newspaper man.
Senator Peabody appeared to be all candor.
"We came to call on Senator Langdon, Senator Stevens' new colleague," he said.
Bud Haines opened his eyes wide. "By Jove! Langdon stock is going up when the chairman of the naval committee drops in to welcome him."
"You see, Langdon went in on a naval base platform," explained Stevens. "Our section of the South is red hot in favor of the Government spending its naval base appropriation right there."
"Certainly," interrupted Haines, "but—"
"And, there being a vacancy on the committee on naval affairs," continued Stevens, whose dignity was offended by the reporter's interruption, "the friends of Senator Langdon are working to have him appointed on that committee, because he comes from the State where the naval base will be located and will, like myself, be more familiar with the availability of the various sites suggested than a man from another State."
"Yes, of course. What town's going to get it, Senator?"
Senator Stevens paused judiciously.
"Well," he said, "Altacoola and Gulf City are the chief candidates. I suppose you had better talk to Langdon about it."
The reporter smiled.
"That's just what I came for, Senator, but I have to go up to the War Department now. When Senator Langdon comes will you be kind enough to tell him I want to interview him?"
Stevens bowed cordially.
"Indeed I shall. I'll tell him he's in luck to have the smartest young man in Washington on the job."
"All right," laughed Bud, "only don't make it so strong that he won't recognize me when he sees me. Good-day." And he hurried away to keep a belated appointment.
"Clever boy," said Stevens as the newspaper man disappeared.
The boss of the Senate agreed.
"Yes, only I'm not sure it's a good thing for a newspaper man to be too clever. Spoils his usefulness. Makes him ask too many confounded questions."
Stevens acquiesced, for it would never do to disagree with the boss.
"It's very kind of you, Senator," he began, changing the subject, "to come with me to welcome the new Senator from my State, my old friend and colleague."
An inscrutable smile—a smile, yet a cold one—accompanied Peabody's answer.
"I have always found, Stevens," he said, "that a little attention like this to a new man is never wasted, and I make it a rule not to overlook opportunities."
Again the senior Senator from Mississippi acquiesced, and he laughed heartily at Peabody's keen insight into human nature.
"I think you'll like Langdon," Stevens remarked after a pause, "and you'll find him easy to deal with. Just put up any measure for the benefit of the South and Langdon will go the limit on it. Even a Republican majority doesn't mind a little Democratic support, you know. I think he's just the man you can use in this gulf naval base bill."
"You can swing him?" asked Peabody, sharply.
Stevens drew closer to Peabody.
"I elected him, and he knows it," he chuckled.
The boss nodded.
"And it's likely that a man like Langdon, new to politics—a simple gentleman of the old school, as you describe him—might have considerable influence on opinion throughout the country."
Langdon's colleague grasped the arm of the senatorial dictator.
"He's just the man we want, Senator. He's one of those old fellows you just have to believe when he talks. He'll do what I suggest, and he can make the public believe what we think."
"Then you guarantee him?" snapped the boss.
"All right," said Peabody. "He goes on the naval committee. That ought to be enough honor for a man who a year ago was growing cotton on an old plantation miles away from civilization."
"We have control now of all the land about Altacoola that can be used," said Stevens. "I have had Norton, the Congressman from Langdon's district, working on it. There isn't a foot of land there which we do not now control under options, and," he added, with a chuckle, "the options were dirt cheap."
Peabody grunted approvingly.
"There won't be any New York fortune in it, but it ought to be a pretty tidy bit," he said. "Now, if we could only get Langdon interested, directly or indirectly, in a financial way, that would clinch everything."
The senior Senator from Mississippi shook his head.
"It's too risky. He's old-fashioned, you know—has about as much idea about practical politics as—well, as we have of the Golden Rule. Fact is, he rather lives by that antiquated standard. That's where we get him. He owes everything to me, you see, so naturally he'll do anything I want him to. By the way, there's Norton now. Perhaps he can tell us something."
"Call him over," said Peabody.
Norton had been strolling about the lobby, hoping to be noticed. The flame had lured the moth, and it liked the manner of the singeing. The Congressman hurried precipitately across at Stevens' summons.
"I've been wanting to speak to you, gentlemen," said Norton, full of the good trick he had turned, "but I didn't like to interrupt you. I think I've done a big stroke for Altacoola to-day."
Even Peabody pricked up his ears.
"Yes?" said both Senators together.
With a keen sense of the dramatic, the Congressman let his next words drawl out with full effect.
"I've got Senator Langdon interested—financially interested," he said.
His two hearers exchanged a significant glance.
"How?" asked Peabody, sharply.
Norton smiled shrewdly.
"Well, I just let his son invest $50,000 of the Senator's money in Altacoola land. That ought to help some."
Stevens stared in amazement at his Congressman, his eyes threatening to bulge out of his head.
"What!" he gasped. "You got Langdon's money in Altacoola, through his son?"
"I sure have, Senator," chuckled Norton. "He's in to the extent of fifty thousand, and I've promised that the fifty shall make a hundred by spring."
"It'll make three hundred thousand at least," snapped Peabody. "Norton, you've done a good day's work. By the way, a New York client of mine has a little business that I cannot attend to handily. Doesn't involve much work, and a young, hustling lawyer like you ought to take charge of it easily. The fee, I should say, would be about $10,000. Have you the time to undertake it?"
The Congressman drew a long breath. His eyes beamed with gratitude.
"I should say I have, Senator. Of course, it won't interfere with any of my duties as a Congressman."
"Of course not, Norton. I see that your sense of humor is improving. If convenient, run over to New York the last of the week. I'll give you a card. My client's office is at 10 Broadway."
The ruler of the Senate nodded a curt dismissal.
"Thank you, Senator; thank you very much." And Norton bowed and left, rejoicing.
Peabody turned to Stevens.
"You see, even a Congressman can be useful sometimes," remarked Stevens, dryly.
"Keep your eye on that young man, Stevens. He's the most valuable Congressman we've had from your State in a long while. Does just what he is told and doesn't ask any fool questions. This was good work. Langdon's on the naval committee now sure. Come, Stevens; let's go to some quiet corner in the smoking-room. I want to talk to you about something else the Standard has on hand for you to do."
Hardly had they departed from the lobby when resounding commotion at the entrance, followed by the rushing of porters and bellboys and an expectant pose on the part of the clerk, indicated that the new Senator from Mississippi had arrived.
THE BOSS OF THE SENATE INSPECTS A NEW MEMBER
An actor playing the role of a high type of Southern planter would score a decided success by picturing the character exactly after the fashion of Senator William H. Langdon as he strode to the desk of the International Hotel. A wide-brimmed black hat thrust back on his head, a long black perfecto in his mouth, coattails spreading out behind as he walked, and the "Big Bill" Langdon smile on his face that carried sunshine and good will wherever he went, he was good to look on, an inspiration, particularly in Washington.
Following the Senator were Miss Langdon and Hope Georgia, leading a retinue of hotel attendants staggering under a large assortment of luggage. Both beautiful girls, they caused a sensation all of their own. Carolina, a different type from the younger, had an austere loveliness denoting pride and birth, a brunette of the quality that has contributed so much to the fame of Southern women. Hope Georgia, more girlish, and a vivacious blonde, was the especial pet of her father, and usually succeeded in doing with him what she chose.
A real Senator and two such young women handsomely gowned seemed to take the old hotel back a score of years—back to the times when such sights were of daily occurrence. The ancient greatness of the now dingy International lived again.
"How are you, Senator? Glad to welcome you, sir," was the clerk's greeting.
The genial Senator held out his hand. Everybody was his friend.
"Glad to meet you, sir; glad to meet you," he exclaimed. "Must make you acquainted with my daughters. This is Miss Carolina Langdon, this Miss Hope Georgia Langdon."
The two girls, with their father's idea of courtesy, shook hands with the clerk, who was not at all taken aback by the unexpected honor.
Hope Georgia was thoroughly delighted with everything, but Carolina looked at the worn and faded walls and furnishings with evident distaste.
"Oh, this is Washington," murmured Hope Georgia ecstatically, clasping her hands and gazing at a vista of artificial palms in a corridor.
"Ah, this is Washington," sighed the new Senator contentedly, as he gazed across a hall at the biggest and most gorgeous cigar stand he had ever seen or ever hoped to see—the only new thing added to the hotel since Grant was President.
"Truly magnificent establishment you have here, sir; magnificent!" he exclaimed as an imitation marble column came within his purview. "I remember my friend Senator Moseley speaking to me of it thirty years ago. Are our rooms ready?"
The clerk, hugely pleased, hastened to assure him that everything was in first-class order, waiting.
"You better go up, girls, while I look around a bit and sort of get the hang of things."
"Yes, I think we had better look around a bit, too, before we decide, father," said Carolina, diplomatically.
Her father patted her affectionately on the arm.
"Now, don't you worry, Carolina. I see you think this place too expensive from its looks—too good for us. But I tell you the best, even this, isn't too good for you girls and your dad. Run away, and I'll come up and see you soon."
The new Senator leaned his elbow on the desk, surveying the place.
"I understand this is a favorite haunt for the big men of Washington," he said.
The clerk eagerly agreed.
"Yes, indeed, Senator; we have them all. Senator Peabody and Senator Stevens were here just a moment ago. Boy, find Senator Peabody and Senator Stevens and tell them Senator Langdon is here."
The two Senators came quickly.
"I'm glad to see you, Langdon; glad to see you," exclaimed Stevens, with an assumption of effusiveness. "I want to introduce you to Senator Peabody of Pennsylvania."
Peabody bowed, and Langdon held out his hand.
"I'm delighted to meet you, Senator. This is a proud day for me, sir."
Peabody had put on his smoothest and most polished manner.
"I came especially to meet you, Senator Langdon," he said. "Although we are on different sides we may be interested in the same things. I hope we shall see a great deal of each other."
"That's mighty good of you, Senator. I'm depending on you experienced fellows to put me through. Don't know much about this lawmaking business, you know. Raising cotton, arguing the Government and bossing niggers have been about the extent of my occupation for the last forty years, so I reckon I'm not much of a practical lawmaker."
"Oh, you'll learn; you'll learn quickly," assured Peabody. "With Stevens, here, for a guide you can't go wrong. We all look up to Stevens. He's one of the powers on your side. He's an able man, is Stevens."
The new Senator from Mississippi gladly corroborated this.
"You're right, sir. A great man! I tell you, when he told that Legislature what they ought to do, Senator Peabody, they did it. If it wasn't for Stevens I wouldn't be here now."
In mock protest the senior Senator from Mississippi raised his hands.
"Now, now, Langdon, don't say that. Your worth, your integrity, your character and our old friendship got you the senatorship."
The old planter laughed gleefully.
"Sure, Stevens, I have the character and the integrity, but I reckon the character and integrity wouldn't have done much business if you hadn't had the Legislature."
Clearly delighted, Peabody considered it certain that this new Senator knew just the way he should go and would cause no difficulty. His keen sense of gratitude made him appreciate how he had been elected. Peabody literally beamed on Langdon.
"I hope we shall be able to work a good deal together, Senator," he said. "I have the interests of the South at heart, particularly with regard to this new naval base. Perhaps we may be able to get you on the naval committee."
"Me!" laughed Langdon. "Well, that would be going strong! But I tell you I'm for the naval base."
"For Altacoola?" suggested Stevens.
Langdon hesitated. Peabody and Stevens watched him as eagles watch their prey from the mountain crag.
"Well, it looks to me like Altacoola ought to be a fine site. But the actual place isn't so important to me. I tell you, gentlemen," he said in impressive seriousness that rang with sturdy American manhood—"I tell you that what is important is that the great, sweeping curve of the gulf shall hold some of those white ships of ours to watch over the Indies and the canal and to keep an eye on South America.
"And right there on our own Southern coast I want these ships built and equipped and the guns cast and the men found to man them. I want the South to have her part in the nation's defense. I want her to have this great naval city as the living proof that there is again just one country—the United States—and the North and the South both have forgiven."
Senator Peabody clapped the new member on the back.
"Good!" he exclaimed. "You've got to make some speeches like that. We'll have you as the orator for the naval base."
Langdon's eyes opened wide.
"Orator!" he gasped. "Me! An orator!"
"Why, that was oratory, good oratory," exclaimed Stevens, with enthusiasm.
"Huh!" grunted the planter. "You call that oratory. Why, that was only the truth."
"We'll see that you do some more of it, then," laughed Peabody. "Remember, we count on you for the naval base."
"For rural simplicity he's perfection," whispered Peabody to Stevens as they left the planter. "He's a living picture of innocence. We'll push him forward and let him do the talking for the naval affairs committee. Hiding behind him, we could put through almost any kind of a proposition."
Once more did the senior Senator from Mississippi acquiesce.
NEW FRIENDS—AND AN OLD ENEMY
Langdon gazed at the two departing Senators with varied emotions. He sat down to think over what they had said and to carefully consider what manner of man was Peabody, who showed such an interest in him. He realized that he would have considerable intercourse with Peabody in the processes of legislation, and finally had to admit to himself that he did not like the Senator from Pennsylvania. Just what it was Langdon could not at this time make certain, but he was mystified by traces of contradictions in the Senator's character—slight traces, true, but traces nevertheless. Peabody's cordiality and sympathy were to Langdon's mind partly genuine and partly false. Just what was the cause of or the necessity for the alloy in the true metal he could not fathom.
His talk with these famous lawmakers was unsatisfactory also in that it had conveyed to Langdon the suggestion that the Senate was not primarily a great forum for the general and active consideration of weighty measures and of national policies. It had been his idea that the Senate was primarily such a forum, but the attitude of Peabody and Stevens had hinted to him that there were matters of individual interest that outweighed public or national considerations. For instance, they were anxious that Altacoola should have the naval base regardless of the claims or merits of any other section. That was unusual, puzzling to Langdon. Moreover, it was poor business, yet there were able business men in the Senate. Not one of them would, for instance, think of buying a site for a factory until he had investigated many possible locations and then selected the most favorable one. Why was it, he pondered, that the business of the great United States of America was not conducted on business lines?
He must study the whole question intelligently; that was imperative. He must have advice, help. To whom was he to go for it? Stevens? Yes, his old friend, who knew all "the ropes." Yet even Stevens seemed different in Washington than Stevens in Mississippi. Here he played "second fiddle." He was even obsequious, Langdon had observed, to Peabody. In Mississippi he was a leader, and a strong one, too. But Senator Langdon had not yet learned of the many founts from which political strength and political leadership may be gained.
What he finally decided on was the engaging of a secretary, but he must be one with knowledge of political operations, one who combined wisdom with honesty. Such an aid could prevent Langdon from making the many mistakes that invariably mark the new man in politics, and he could point out the most effective modes of procedure under given circumstances. It might prove difficult to find a man of the necessary qualifications who was not already employed, but in the meantime Langdon would watch the playing of the game himself and make his own deductions as best he could.
The Senator started toward the hotel desk to ask regarding the whereabouts of his son Randolph, when his attention was caught by the sight of three powerful negro porters endeavoring to thrust outdoors a threadbare old man. The victim's flowing white hair, white mustache and military bearing received short shrift.
"Come along, Colonel! Yo' can't sit heah all day. Them chairs is for the guests in the hotel," the head porter was urging as he jerked the old man toward the door.
The Mississippian's fighting blood was instantly aroused at such treatment of a respectable old white man by negroes. His lips tightly compressed as he hurried to the rescue. He cried sharply:
"Take your hands off that gentleman! What do you mean by touching a friend of mine?"
The negroes stepped back amazed.
"'Scuse me, Senator, is this gent'man a friend of yours?" the head porter gasped apologetically.
Langdon looked at him.
"You heard what I said," he drawled in the slow way natural to some men of the South when trouble threatens. "I'd like to have you down in Mississippi for about ten minutes."
The head porter turned quickly on his assistants and drove them away, shouting at the top of his voice:
"Get about yo' wuk. How dare yo' intehfere wid a friend of de Senator's? I'll teach yo' to be putting yoh nose in where it ain't got no business."
The old man, astonished at the turn of events, came forward hesitatingly to Langdon.
"I'm very much obliged to you, sir," he said. "I'm Colonel Stoneman, an old soldier."
The Mississippian stretched forth his hand.
"My name is Langdon, sir—Senator Langdon of Mississippi. I am an old soldier, too."
"Delighted, Senator," exclaimed the seedy-looking old man, taking the offered hand gratefully.
Langdon's easy method of making friends was well illustrated as he clapped his new companion on the back. Everybody he met was the Mississippian's friend until he had proved himself the contrary. That had been his rule through life.
"Come right over, Colonel; have a cigar, sir." Then, as they lighted their cigars, he inquired, "What army corps were you with, Colonel?"
"I was under Grant along the Tennessee," replied the old G.A.R. man.
Familiarity with a Senator was something new for him, and already he was straightening up and becoming more of a man every moment. Langdon was thoroughly interested.
"I was along the Tennessee under Beauregard," he said.
"Great generals, sir! Great generals!" exclaimed Colonel Stoneman.
"And great fighting, I reckon!" echoed the Confederate. "You remember the battle of Crawfordsville?"
The old Federal smiled with joyous recollection.
"Do I? Well, I should say I did! Were you there, Senator?"
"Was I there? Why, I remember every shot that was fired. I was under Kirby, who turned your left wing."
The attitude of the Northern soldier changed instantly. He drew himself up with cold dignity. Plainly he felt that he had the honor of his army to sustain.
"Our left wing was never turned, sir!" he exclaimed with dignity.
Langdon stared at him with amazement. This was a point of view the Confederate had never heard before.
"Never turned!" he gasped. "Don't tell me that! I was there, and, besides, I've fought this battle on an average of twice a week ever since '65 down in Mississippi, and in all these years I never heard such a foolish statement."
"What rank were you, sir?" asked the Union soldier, haughtily.
"I was a captain that morning," confessed the Southerner.
His old enemy smiled with superiority.
"As a colonel I've probably got more accurate information," he said.
"I was a colonel that evening," came the dry retort.
"But in an inferior army. We licked you, sir!" cried Stoneman, hotly.
The Mississippian drew himself up with all the dignity common to the old Confederate soldier explaining the war.
"The South was never whipped, sir. We honorably surrendered, sir. We surrendered to save the country, sir, but we were never whipped."
"Did you not run at Kenyon Hill?" taunted Stoneman.
Langdon brought down his fist in the palm of the other hand violently.
"Yes, sir; we ran at you. I ought to remember. I got my wound there. You remember that long lane—" He pulled off his hat and threw it on the floor, indicating it with one hand—"Here was the Second Alabama."
The hat of the old Federal dropped on the floor opposite the hat of the Confederate.
"And here the Eighth Illinois," exclaimed Stoneman.
Langdon excitedly seized a diminutive bellboy passing by and planted him alongside his hat.
"Stay there a moment, sonny," he cried. "You are the Fourth Virginia."
The newspaper Stoneman was carrying came down opposite the startled bellboy, who was trying not to appear frightened.
"This is the clump of cedars," he exclaimed.
Both, in their eagerness, were bending down over their improvised battle plan, their heads close together.
"And here a farmhouse beside your cedars," cried Langdon.
"That's where the rebels charged us," echoed the Union man.
Langdon brought down his fist again with emphatic gesture.
"You bet we charged you! The Third Mississippi charged you! I charged you, sir!"
"I remember a young fool of a Johnnie reb dashing up the hill fifty yards ahead of his men, waving his sword and yelling like a wild Indian."
The Southerner straightened up.
"Well, where in thunderation would you expect me to be, sir?" he exclaimed. "Behind them? I got my wound there. Laid me up for three months; like to have killed me."
Then a new idea struck him. "Why, Colonel, it must have been a bullet from one of your men—from your regiment, sir!"
The old Northerner pushed his fingers through his hair and shook his head apologetically.
"Why, Senator, I'm afraid it was," he hesitated.
Langdon's eyes were big with the afterglow of a fighter discussing the mighty struggles of the past, those most precious of all the jewels in the treasure store of a soldier's memory.
"Why, it might have been a bullet fired by you, sir," he cried. "It might be that you were the man who almost killed me. Why, confound you, sir, I'm glad to meet you!"
Each old veteran of tragic days gone by had quite unconsciously awakened a responsive chord in the heart of the other. A Senator and a penniless old "down and outer" are very much the same in the human scale that takes note of the inside and not the outside of a man. And they fell into each other's arms then and there, for what strong fighter does not respect another of his kind?
There they stood, arms around each other, clapping each other on the back, actually chortling in the pure ecstasy of comradeship, now serious, again laughing, when on the scene appeared Bud Haines, the correspondent, who had returned to interview the new Senator from Mississippi.
"Great heavens!" ejaculated the newspaper man. "A Senator, a United States Senator, hugging a broken-down old 'has-been!' What is the world coming to?" Haines suddenly paused. "I wonder if it can be a pose;—merely for effect. It's getting harder every day to tell what's genuine and what isn't in this town."
LANGDON LEARNS OF THINGS UNPLEASANT
Haines quickly walked over and touched the Southerner on the arm.
"Well, my boy, what can I do for you?" asked the new Senator, turning with a pleasant smile.
"My name is Haines. Senator Stevens was to speak to you about me. I'm the first of the newspaper correspondents come to interview you."
Langdon's familiar smile broadened.
"Well, you don't look as though you'd bite. Reckon I can stand for it. Is it very painful?"
"I hope it won't be, Senator," Haines said, feeling instinctively that he was going to like this big, hearty citizen.
"All right, Mr. Haines, just as soon as I've said good-by to my old friend, Colonel Stoneman, I'll be with you."
And to his continued amazement Haines saw the Senator walk away with the old Union Colonel, slap him on the back, cheer him up and finally bid him good-by after extending a cordial invitation to come around to dinner, meet his daughters and talk over old times.
The antiquated Federal soldier marched away more erect, more brisk, than in years, completely restored to favor in the eyes of the hotel people. Langdon turned to the reporter.
"All right, Mr. Haines; my hands are up. Do your worst. Senator Stevens spoke to me about you; said you were the smartest young newspaper man in Washington. You must come from the South."
Bud shook his head.
"No, just New York," he said.
"Well, that's a promising town," drawled the Southerner. "They tell me that's the Vicksburg of the North."
"I suppose you haven't been to New York of late, Senator?" suggested the newspaper man.
"Well, I started up there with General Lee once," responded Langdon reminiscently, "but we changed our minds and came back. You may have heard about that trip."
Haines admitted that he had.
"Since that time," went on Langdon, "I've confined my travels to New Orleans and Vicksburg. Ever been in New Orleans about Mardi Gras time, Mr. Haines?"
"Sorry, but I don't believe I have," confessed the reporter reluctantly.
The Senator seemed surprised.
"Well, sir, you have something to live for. I'll make it my special business to personally conduct you through one Mardi Gras, with a special understanding, of course, that you don't print anything in the paper. I'm a vestryman in my church, but since misfortune has come upon our State I have to be careful."
Haines searched his brain. He knew of no grave calamity that had happened recently in Mississippi.
"Misfortune?" he questioned.
Senator Langdon nodded.
"Yes, sir, the great old State of Mississippi went prohibition at the last election. I don't know how it happened. We haven't found anybody in the State that says he voted for it, but the fact is a fact. I assure you, Mr. Haines, that prohibition stops at my front door, in Mississippi. So I've been living a quiet life down on my plantation."
"This new life will be a great change for you, then?" suggested the reporter.
"Change! It's revolutionary, sir! When you've expected to spend your old days peacefully in the country, Mr. Haines, suddenly to find that your State has called on you—"
A flavor of sarcasm came into Haines' reply.
"The office seeking the man?" He could not help the slight sneer. Was a man never to admit that he had sought the office? Haines knew only too well of the arduous work necessary to secure nominations for high office in conventions and to win an election to the Senate from a State Legislature. In almost every case, he knew, the candidate must make a dozen different "deals" to secure votes, might promise the same office to two or three different leaders, force others into line by threats, send a trusted agent to another with a roll of bank bills—the recipient of which would immediately conclude that this candidate was the only man in the State who could save the nation from destruction. Had not Haines seen men who had sold their unsuspecting delegates for cash to the highest bidder rise in the convention hall and in impassioned, dramatic voice exclaim in praise of the buyer, "Gentlemen, it would be a crying shame, a crime against civilization, if the chosen representatives of our grand old State of —— did not go on record in favor of such a man, such a true citizen, such an inspired patriot, as he whose name I am about to mention"? So the reporter may be forgiven for the ironical tinge in his hasty interruption of the new Senator's remarks.
Langdon could not suppress a chuckle at the doubting note in Haines' attitude.
"I think the man would be pretty small potatoes who wouldn't seek the office of United States Senator, Mr. Haines," he said, "if he could get it. When I was a young man, sir, politics in the South was a career for a gentleman, and I still can't see how he could be better engaged than in the service of his State or his country."
"That's right," agreed the reporter, further impressed by the frank sincerity of the Mississippian.
"The only condition in my mind, Mr. Haines, is that the man should ask himself searchingly whether or not he's competent to give the service. But I seem to be talking a good deal. Suppose we get to the interview. Expect your time is short. We'd better begin."
"I thought we were in the interview?" smiled the correspondent.
"In it!" exclaimed Langdon. "Well, if this is it, it isn't so bad. I see you use a painless method. When I was down in Vicksburg a reporter backed me up in a corner, slipped his hand in his hip pocket and pulled out a list of questions just three feet four inches long.
"He wanted to know what I thought concerning the tariff on aluminium hydrates, and how I stood about the opening of the Tento Pu Reservation of the Comanche Indians, and what were my ideas about the differential rate of hauls from the Missouri River.
"He was a wonder, that fellow! Kinder out of place on a Mississippi paper. I started to offer him a job, but he was so proud I was afraid he wouldn't accept it. However, it gives you my idea of a reporter."
"If you've been against that, I ought to thank you for talking to me," laughed Haines.
"Then you don't want to know anything about that sort of stuff?" said Langdon, with a huge sigh of relief.
"No, Senator," was the amused reply. "I think generally if I know what sort of a man a man is I can tell a great deal about what he will think on various questions."
Langdon started interestedly.
"You mean, Mr. Haines, if you know whether I'm honest or not you can fit me up with a set of views. Is that the idea? Seems to me you're the sort of man I'm looking for."
The other smilingly shook his head.
"I wouldn't dare fix up a United States Senator with a set of views," he said. "I only mean that I think what a man is is important. I've been doing Washington for a number of years. I've had an exceptional opportunity to see how politics work. I don't believe in party politics. I don't believe in parties, but I do believe in men."
Langdon nodded approvingly, then a twinkle shone in his eyes.
"We don't believe in parties in Mississippi," he drawled. "We've only one—the Democratic party,—and a few kickers."
Haines grinned broadly at this description of Southern politics.
"What was this you were saying about national politics?" continued the Mississippian. "I'm a beginner, you know, and I'm always ready to learn."
"This is a new thing—a reporter teaching a Senator politics," laughed Haines.
Senator Langdon joined in the merriment.
"I reckon reporters could teach United States Senators lots of things, Mr. Haines, if the Senators had sense enough to go to school. Now, I come up here on a platform the chief principle of which is the naval base for the gulf. Now, how are we going to put that through? My State wants it."
"You're probably sure it will be a wonderful thing for the country and the South," suggested Haines.
"But why do you think most of the Congressmen and Senators will vote for it?"
The Southerner took off his hat, leaned back and gazed across the lobby thoughtfully.
"Seems to me the benefit to the South and country would be sufficient reason, Mr. Haines," he finally replied.
The newspaper man's brain worked rapidly. Going over the entire conversation with Langdon and what he had seen of him, he was certain that the Mississippian believed what he said—that, moreover, the belief was deeply rooted. His long newspaper training had educated Haines in the ways of men, their actions and mental processes—what naturally to expect from a given set of circumstances. He felt a growing regard, an affection, for this unassuming old man before him, who did not know and probably would be slow to understand the hypocrisy, the cunning trickery of lawmakers who unmake laws.
"Sufficient reason for you, Senator," Haines added. "You have not been in politics very long, have you?" he queried dryly.
A wry smile wrinkled the Mississippian's face.
"Been in long enough to learn some unpleasant things I didn't know before." He remembered Martin Sanders.
"Will you allow me to tell you a few more?" asked Haines.
Langdon inclined his head in acquiescence. "Reckon I'd better know the worst and get through with it."
"Well, then, Senator, somebody from Nebraska will vote for what you want in the way of the naval base because he'll think then you'll help him demand money to dredge some muddy creek that he has an interest in.
"Somebody in Pennsylvania will vote for it because he owes a grudge and wants to hurt the Philadelphia ship people.
"You'll get the Democrats because it's for the South, but if your bill was for the west coast they might fight it tooth and nail, even with the Japanese fleet cruising dangerously near.
"And the Republicans may vote for it because they see a chance to claim glory and perhaps break the solid South in the next presidential campaign. You catch the idea?"
"What!" exclaimed the astounded Langdon. "Well, who in hades will vote for it because it's for the good of the United States?" he gasped.
"I believe you will, Senator," replied Haines, with ready confidence.
HOW SENATOR LANGDON GETS A SECRETARY
Langdon leaned over and seized the arm of his interviewer.
"See here, young man, why aren't you in politics?" he said.
"Too busy, Senator," replied Haines. "Besides, I like the newspaper game."
"Game?" queried Langdon.
"Oh, I use the word in a general sense, Senator," replied Haines. "Pretty much everything is a 'game'—society, politics, newspaper work, business of every sort. Men and women make 'moves' to meet the moves of other men and women. Why, even in religion, the way some people play a—"
The speaker was interrupted by the appearance of Hope Georgia, who was searching for her father.
"Stay here and listen to what a hard task your old father has got," said the Mississippian to his daughter, whom he presented to Haines with a picturesque flourish reminiscent of the pride and chivalry of the old South. "He has the idea that those New Yorkers who read his paper would actually like to know something about me."
Hope Georgia stole many glances at the reporter as he talked with her father. He made a deep impression on her young mind. She had spent almost all her life on the plantation, her father providing her with a private tutor instead of sending her to boarding-school, where her elder sister had been educated. Owing to the death of her mother the planter had desired to keep Hope Georgia at home for companionship. This good-looking, clean-cut, well-built young man who was taking so big and so active a part of the world's work brought to her the atmosphere that her spirit craved. He gave one an impression of ability, of earnestness, of sincerity, and she was glad that her father approved of him.
Hope Georgia, by the same token, did not escape the attention of the interviewer. Her appealing charm of face and figure was accentuated by her daintiness and a fleeting suggestion of naivete in poise and expression when she was amused. His first glance revealed to Haines that her eyes were gray, the gray that people say indicates the possessor to have those priceless qualities—the qualities that make the sweetest women true, that make the maiden's eyes in truth the windows of her soul, the qualities that make women womanly.
She sat close to her father, her hand in his, listening intently to the unfolding of a story of what to her was a mysterious world—the man's world, the strong man's world—which many a woman would give her all to enter and play a part therein.
"What else have you against a political career, Mr. Haines?" went on the Senator, taking up their conversation.
"Well, my age, for one thing. I haven't any gray hairs."
Langdon waved this objection aside.
"I might arrange to pool ages with you. Sometimes I think we want young men in politics, like you."
The reporter shook his head.
"Old in age and young in politics, like you, Senator Langdon," he replied. "Politics I sometimes think is pure hypocrisy and sometimes something worse. A man gets disgusted with the trickery and dishonesty and corruption."
"Then," drawled Langdon, "the thing to do is to jump in and stop it! I read in the newspapers a great deal about corruption. The gentlemen in national politics whom I have had the honor of knowing—Senator Moseley, an intimate friend of thirty years; my present colleague, Senator Stevens, and others—have been as honest as the day is long."
"But the days do get short in November, when Congress meets, don't they?" laughed Haines, rising. "I'm afraid I've taken too much of your time, and I seem to have talked a lot."
Langdon was amused.
"Does look like I'd been interviewing you. I reckon each one of us has got a pretty good notion of what the other man's like. I wanted it that way, and I like you, Mr. Haines. I've got a proposition to make to you. They tell me I'll need a secretary. Now, I think I need just such a young man as you. I don't know just exactly what the work would be or what the financial arrangements should be, but I think you and I would make a pretty good team. I wish you'd come." He turned to his daughter, with a smile. "What do you think of that, Hope Georgia? Isn't your dad right?"
Smiling her approval, the young girl squeezed her father's hand in her enthusiasm.
"I think it's a splendid idea, dad; just great! Won't you come, Mr. Haines? We—eh—I—I know my father would like to have you."
As he stood before his two new-found friends—for such Haines now considered the Mississippian and his daughter—he could not suppress feelings of surprise tinged with uncertainty. He had, like other newspaper men, received offers of employment from politicians who desired to increase their influence with the press. Sometimes the salary offered had been large, the work so light that the reporter could "earn" the money and yet retain his newspaper position, a scantily disguised species of bribery, which had wrecked the careers of several promising reporters well known to Haines, young men who had been thus led into "selling their columns" by unscrupulous machine dictators.
Haines knew that the Mississippian had no ulterior purpose to serve in his offer, yet he must have time to think over the proposal.
"I thank you, Senator," he finally said. "I appreciate the opportunity, coming from you, but I've never thought of giving up the newspaper profession. It's a fascinating career, one that I am too fond of to leave."
Langdon started to reply, when a delightfully modulated Southern voice interrupted:
"Father, I've been out with Mrs. Spangler to look for some other rooms. I don't like this hotel, and I found some that I do like."
Haines turned to see a handsomely gowned young woman who had the stamp of a patrician's daughter in her bearing and her countenance—a brunette, with delicate features, though determination shone in her eyes and appeared in the self-contained poise of her head. She was the imperious type of beauty and suggested to Haines the dry point etchings of Paul Helleu. He instinctively conceived her to be intensely ambitious, and of this Haines was soon to have unexpected evidence. Gazing at her with a sense of growing admiration, Haines gave an involuntary start as Senator Langdon spoke.
"My daughter, Miss Carolina Langdon, Mr. Haines," said the Senator.
Carolina was interested.
"Are you the newspaper man who is interviewing father? I hope you'll do a nice one. We want him to be a successful and popular Senator. We'd like to help him if we could."
The correspondent bowed.
"I should say you certainly would help him to be a popular Senator," he declared, emphatically, failing to notice that Hope Georgia was somewhat annoyed at the enthusiasm displayed over her elder sister. In fact, Hope Georgia was suffering a partial, if not total, eclipse.
"I'm leaving it to Mr. Haines to put down the things I ought to say," broke in the Senator. "He knows."
"Yes, he knows everything about Washington, Carolina," exclaimed Hope Georgia, spiritedly.
The older girl spoke eagerly.
"I wish you'd interview me, Mr. Haines. Ask me how I like Washington. I feel as though I must tell some one just how much I do like it! It is too wonderful!"
"I'd like mighty well to interview you, Miss Langdon," enthusiastically exclaimed Haines.
"I hope you will some time, Mr. Haines," remarked Carolina, as she said good-by.
Watching her as she turned away, Haines saw her extend a warm greeting to Congressman Charles Norton, who had advanced toward the group.
"Strange how the Langdons treat him as a friend—intimate one, too," he thought. "What if they should learn of Norton's questionable operations at the Capitol; of his connection with two unsavory 'deals,' one of which resulted in an amendment to the pure food law so that manufacturers of a valueless 'consumption cure' could continue to mislead the victims of the 'white plague'; Norton, who had uttered an epigram now celebrated in the tap-rooms of Washington, 'The paths of glory lead but to the graft.'"
"Miss Langdon is very beautiful and attractive, sir," said Haines, resuming with the Senator.
"Yes," drawled the Mississippian. "Girls in the South generally are."
"Well, I must be going. I'll think about your secretaryship, Senator Langdon. Perhaps I can find some one."
"Wish you'd think about it for yourself," observed the Senator, while Hope Georgia again nodded approval. "It would be a hard job. There are so many matters of political detail about which I am sadly inexperienced that really most of the work would fall on the secretary."
Bud Haines paused. Again he thought over Langdon's offer. Its genuineness appealed to him. Suddenly there dawned on him an idea of just what it might mean to be associated with this honest old citizen who had asked for his help—who needed it, as Haines knew only too well. He would be the Senator's guide and confidant—his adviser in big matters. Why, he would practically be United States Senator himself. He knew the "inside" as few others in Washington. Here was a chance to match his wit against that of Peabody, the boss of the Senate; a chance to spoil some of the dishonest schemes of those who were adroitly "playing the game." He could bother, too, the intriguing members of the "third house," as the lobbyists are called.
He could direct a lightning bolt into the camp of Andy Corrigan, who claimed the honor of being "speaker of the third house." These thoughts crowded into his mind. Then, too, he would become practically a member of the Langdon family and have association with the two charming daughters—with Carolina Langdon.
"It would be a great chance," he murmured half aloud; "next thing to being a Senator."
The old Mississippian heard the young man's words.
"I reckon it would," he drawled, in agreement.
"You feel sure you want me?" urged the other.
"I asked you," he said.
Haines came abruptly to decision.
"I've thought it over, Senator, and it seems to me it will be a great chance in every way. I'll accept. We'll fix it up to-morrow, and I'll try to make you a good secretary."
Langdon held forth his hand.
"And I'll try to make you a good Senator, my boy. Fix up nothing to-morrow. Your duties begin to-night. You are to come to dinner with me and my daughters."
A NEW KIND OF POLITICAL PARTNERSHIP
The combination of the forces of Langdon and Haines did not find much favor among the powers that are—at the Capitol. Senator Peabody peremptorily demanded an explanation from Stevens as to how he had allowed "his Senator" to engage as his secretary "this inquisitive man Haines, a reporter who didn't know his place."
"Here we've put Langdon on naval affairs because we knew he didn't understand what's going on, and you, Stevens, supposed to be the finished, product of the political mill, you fall asleep and let him take up a man whom nobody can control, one who knows the inside workings of Washington and who will take par-tic-u-lar pleasure in teaching your fellow Mississippian far too much for our good."
Stevens' reply, to effect that probably Haines would consent to be "taken care of" if judiciously approached, was derided by the observant Peabody. "A young reformer grows fat on notoriety," he laughed, "and think what a scandal he would have for his newspaper if we took a chance on disclosing our hand to him. No, no, Stevens; we must have him watched and try to discredit him in some way. Perhaps we can make Langdon believe that his secretary is dishonest."
Congressman Norton was another man who was dismayed at the formation of the firm of Langdon and Haines. Young Randolph, too, could not forget the defeat and humiliation he had previously suffered at Haines' hands and grew more bitter as the reporter's influence over his father grew stronger. But Haines' most effective enemy had arisen in the person he would be the last to suspect; one whom he unceasingly admired, one whose very words he had come to cherish. And possibly it was not all her own fault that Carolina Langdon had enlisted her services, subtle and quite overwhelming (owing to Haines' fervent worship of her), against the secretary. Perhaps the social system of which she had become a part in Washington had something to do with the craving to become a leader in that fascinating world whose dazzling variety and infinite diversion seemed to fill her soul with all that it yearned for. Love she had, for she had now promised to wed Congressman Norton. She loved him fondly, she had confessed to him, and gradually she came to work desperately against Haines, who, she had been convinced by Norton and Randolph, would prove a stumbling-block to them, to her father, to herself in her career at the capital, if his influence over the Senator should be permitted to exist or to increase. And so on the surface Carolina Langdon was most amiable to the secretary, encouraged him in his attentions to her, led him surely into her power, Norton having prevailed, on her to keep the knowledge of their engagement secret from every one, even her father.
The days and nights became filled with important work for Senator Langdon and his secretary. Together they went over the important measures, outlined what appeared to be the best course of procedure, and carried it into effect as far as possible. Langdon became a prominent figure in the Senate, owing to his consistent support of measures that fitted in with the public policy, or what should be the public policy, of the nation. He had learned that the only practicable way to outwit or to cope with the members of the dominating machine, made up, he was surprised to see, of members of both the parties—the only two in Washington—was to oppose what the machine wanted with enough power to force it to grant him what he believed the public ought to have. He was described by some of the hide-bound "insiders" on Capitol Hill as "the only brainy man who had fought the machine in thirty years."
At the home he had later established in Washington as preferable to the International Hotel were frequently seen a small coterie of Senators and Congressmen who had become known to the sarcastic party bosses in both houses of Congress as the "Langdon crowd," which crowd was admitted to be somewhat a factor when it finally prevailed on the President to take over 11,000 postmasters from the appointment class and put them under the control of the Civil Service Commission, resulting in the necessity of a competitive examination for these postmasters instead of their securing positions through political favoritism.
Those who did not know Langdon intimately suggested that "this fellow ought to be 'taken care of.' What in God's name does he want? A committee chairmanship? An ambassadorship for some Mississippi charcoal burner? A couple of Federal judgeships for his friends? Well, whatever it is, give it to him and get him in with the rest of us!"
Again it was Peabody who had the deciding say.
"There's only one thing worse than a young reformer, and that's an old one," he laughed bitterly at a secret conclave at his apartment in the luxurious Louis Napoleon Hotel. "The young one thinks he is going to live and wants our future profits for himself. The old one thinks he's going to die, and he's sore at leaving so much graft behind him."
Heads and hearts thinking and throbbing together, Langdon and his secretary had learned to lean on each other, the young gaining inspiration from the old, the old gaining strength from the young. They loved each other, and, more than any love, they trusted one another. And Hope Georgia watched it all and rejoiced, for she believed with all the accrued erudition of eighteen years of innocent girlhood that Mr. Bud Haines was quite the finest specimen of young manhood this world had ever produced. How could he have happened? She was sure that she had never met his equal, not even in that memorable week she had spent in Jackson.
The passing weeks taught Haines that he was deeply in love with Carolina, and, though he had endeavored to keep the knowledge of this from her, her woman's intuition had told her his secret, and she stifled the momentary regrets that flitted into her mind, because she was now in "the game" herself, the Washington game, that ensnares the woman as well as the man and makes her a slave to its fancy. No one but herself and Norton knew how deeply she had "plunged" on a certain possible turn of the political cards. She must not, she could not, lose if life itself were to remain of value to her, and on her sway over this secretary she was told it all depended.
A subject that for some unexplained reason frequently lodged in Haines' mind was that of the apparent assiduity with which Mrs. Spangler cultivated Senator Langdon's friendship. For several years she had occupied a high social position at the capital, he well knew, but various indefinite, intangible rumors he had heard, he could not state exactly where, had made him regret her growing intimacy with the girls and with the Senator. They had met her through letters of introduction of the most trustworthy and assuring character from people of highest social rank in Virginia, where the Langdons had many friends; but even so, Haines realized, people who write introductory letters are sometimes thoughtless in considering all the circumstances of the parties they introduce, and residents of Virginia who had not been in the capital for years might be forgiven for not knowing of all the more recent developments in the lives of those they knew in Washington. While not wishing to have the Senator know of his intention, the secretary determined to investigate Mrs. Spangler and her present mode of life at his first opportunity, hoping the while that his quest would reveal her to be what the Langdons considered her—a widow of wealth, fashion and reserve who resided at the capital because the memories of her late husband, a former Congressman of high standing, were associated with it.
Calling at the Langdons' house one evening in February to receive directions regarding important work for the next day, Haines was somewhat puzzled at the peculiar smile on the Senator's face. Answering the secretary's look of inquiry, the Mississippian said:
"I've been told that I can name the new holder of a five-thousand-dollar-a-year position in the Department of Commerce and Labor, and that if I have no one in particular from my State to name—that—that you would be a good man for the job. First I was glad for your sake, my boy, for if you wanted it you could have the position. But on thinking it over it seemed there might be something behind it not showing on the surface."
"It's a trick," said Haines. "Who made the offer?"
"I might have known," hotly responded the secretary. "There's a crowd that wants you and me separated. Thought this bait too much for me to resist, did they?" Then he paused, rubbing his fingers through his hair in a perplexed manner. "Strange, isn't it, Senator, that a man of your party is offered this desirable piece of patronage, entirely unsolicited on your part, from the administration of another, a different political party? Especially when that other party has so many hungry would-be 'tax eaters' clamoring to enter the 'land of milk and honey.' I think Stevens deliberately—"
"There, there, Bud," broke in Langdon, "you mustn't say anything against Senator Stevens to me. True, he associates with some folks I don't approve of, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything wrong, and I myself have always found him thoroughly honest."
"Yes," muttered the secretary, following the Senator into the library, "you've always found him honest because you think everybody's honest—but Stevens is just the doctor who will cure you of this ailment—this chronic trustfulness."
Haines laughed softly. "When Peabody's little Stevie gets through hacking at the prostrate body of political purity his two-handed sword of political corruption will need new edges."
Thus far neither the Senator nor his secretary had suspicion of any questionable deal in regard to the gulf naval base. The rush of other events, particularly the fight over the reduction of the tariff, had pushed this project temporarily into the background so far as they were concerned, though the "boss of the Senate" and his satellites had been losing no time in perfecting their plans regarding the choice of Altacoola as the site.
Peabody and Stevens had ingeniously exploited Langdon at every possible opportunity in relation to the naval base. Asked about new developments in the committee on naval affairs, the ready answer was: "Better see Senator Langdon. He knows all about the naval base; has the matter in full charge. I really know little about it."
So, by hiding behind the unsuspecting old hero of Crawfordsville, they diverted from themselves any possible suspicion and placed Langdon where he would have to bear the brunt of the great scandal that would, they well knew, come out at some future time—after their foul conspiracy against the nation had been consummated, after the fruits of their betrayal had been secured.
What, after all, the schemers concluded, is the little matter of an investigation among Senators to guilty Senators who, deeply versed in the law, have destroyed every compromising document that could be admissible as evidence?
Why, the Senate would appoint an investigating committee and investigate itself, would it not, when the ridiculous scandal came?
And what Senator would fear himself, or for himself, as he investigated himself, when the blame had already been put publicly on some one else, some simple-minded old soul who could go back to his cotton fields in Mississippi and forget all about it, strong in his innocence, even though shorn of reputation, and desire to live?
WHEN SENATORS DISAGREE
The wiseacres of Washington had nightly predicted, that the site of the hundred-million-dollar gulf naval base would be decided on in March, after the excitement and gayety attending the presidential inauguration had subsided.
On the morning of the day before this action of the committee on naval affairs was to be taken Secretary Haines sat at his desk in Senator Langdon's committee room in the Capitol. Richard Cullen, the favorite associate of Haines in his journalistic days, out earlier than usual on his daily round of the departments for news for his Chicago paper, had strolled in and attempted a few of his characteristic cynicisms. Haines usually found them entertaining, but these were directed at Senator Langdon.