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Title: A Gentleman from Mississippi
Author: Wise, Thomas A.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Gentleman from Mississippi" ***

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[Illustration: THE SENATOR AND "BUD" HAINES.]



A GENTLEMAN FROM MISSISSIPPI

A NOVEL

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"



_INTRODUCTION_


_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

       *       *       *       *       *



CHAPTER I

PRACTICAL POLITICS

  That bids him flout the law he makes;
  That bids him make the law he flouts.

_--Kipling_.


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."



CHAPTER II

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.



CHAPTER III

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 café.

"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.

Cullen chuckled.

"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 shako 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 café 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 café. "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.

Norton nodded.

"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.

Haines grinned.

"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."



CHAPTER IV

"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."

Haines nodded.

"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.

"Unreservedly, Senator."

"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."

Peabody smiled.

"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.



CHAPTER V

THE BOSS OF THE SENATE INSPECTS A NEW MEMBER


An actor playing the rôle 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 Hill" 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."

Langdon chuckled.

"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.



CHAPTER VI

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!"

Stoneman nodded.

"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."



CHAPTER VII

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.

[Illustration: "FROM NEW YORK, EH? THE VICKSBURG OF THE NORTH,"]

"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.

"Of course."

"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.



CHAPTER VIII

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 naïveté 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.

[Illustration: "STRANGE HOW THE LANGDONS TREAT HIM AS A FRIEND."]

"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.

Langdon chuckled.

"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."



CHAPTER IX

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?"

"Senator Stevens."

"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?



CHAPTER X

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.

"Now, let me tell you something, Dick," the secretary answered,
firmly. "Don't you work off all your dyspeptic ideas in this
neighborhood. My Senator is a great man. They can't appreciate him up
here because he's honest--crystal clear. I used to think I knew what a
decent citizen, a real man, ought to be, but he's taught me some new
things. He'll teach them all something before he gets through."

Cullen hung one leg over Haines' desk.

"You're a nice, quiet, gentlemanly little optimist, and I like you,
old fellow," retorted Cullen. "But don't deceive yourself too much.
Your Senator Langdon is personally one of the best ever. But he was
born a mark, and a mark he'll be to the end of time.

"He looks good now. Sure, I like his speeches, and all that, but just
wait. When some of those old foxes in the Senate want to put his head
in the bag and tie it down, they won't have any trouble at all."

Smiling, Haines looked up at his cynical friend.

"The bag'll have to go over my head, too," he said, with a nod.

"Well, I don't know that Peabody'd have to strain himself very much to
get such an awful big bag to drop you both in, if it comes right down
to that, old chap. You're making a mistake. You're as bad as your old
man. You're a beautiful pair of optimists, and you a good newspaper
man, too--it's a shame!"

After momentary hesitation, Cullen continued, thoroughly serious.

"But, my old friend," he said in low tone, glancing quickly about,
"there's one thing that you've got to put a stop to. It's hurting
you."

The secretary's face showed his bewilderment.

"What do you mean?" he snapped, abruptly. "Out with it!"

"I mean," replied Cullen, "that rumors are going around that you are
keeping Langdon away from the crowd of 'insiders' in the Senate for
your own purposes--that, in short, you plan to--"

"I understand," was the quick interruption. "I am accused of wanting
to 'deliver' Senator Langdon, guarantee his vote, on some graft
proposition, so that I can get the money and not he himself.
Consequently I'm tipping him off on what measures are honest, so that
he'll vote for them, until--until I'm offered my price, then influence
him to vote for some big crooked scheme, telling him it is all right.
He votes as I suggest, and I get the money!"

"That's what 'delivering a man' means in Washington," dryly answered
the Chicago correspondent. "It means winning a man's confidence, his
support, his vote, through friendship, and then selling it for cash--"

"But you, Dick, you have--"

"Of course, old man, I have denied the truth of this. I knew you too
well to doubt you. Still, the yarn is hurting you. Remember that
Western Senator who was 'delivered' twice, both ways, on a graft
bill?" he laughingly asked the secretary.

"Should say I did, Dick. That is the record for that game. It was a
corporation measure. One railroad wanted it; another opposed it. The
Senator innocently told an Eastern Senator that he was going to vote
for the bill. Then the Easterner went to the railroad wanting the
bill passed and got $7,000 on his absolute promise that he would get
Senator X. to vote for it, who, of course, did vote for it."

"Yes," said Cullen, "and later, when Senator X. heard that Senator Z.
had got money for his vote, he was wild. Then when another effort
was made to pass the bill (which had been defeated) the 'delivered'
Senator said to Z. as he met him unexpectedly: 'You scoundrel, here's
where I get square with you to some extent. Anyway, I'm going to vote
against that bill this time and make a long speech against it, too.'
Senator Z. then hustled to the lobbyist of the railroad that wanted
the bill killed and guaranteed him that for $10,000 he could get
Senator X. to change his vote, to vote against the bill."

"And he got the money, too, both ways," added Haines, as Cullen
concluded, "and both railroads to this day think that X. received the
money from Z."

"Of course," said Cullen, "but X. was to blame, though. He didn't know
enough to keep to himself how he was going to vote. Any man that talks
that way will be 'delivered.'"

"I know how to stop those rumors, for I'm sure it's Peabody's work, he
thinking Langdon will hear the talk and mistrust me," began Haines,
when in came Senator Langdon himself, his face beaming contentedly.
Little did the junior Senator from Mississippi realize that he was
soon to face the severest trial, the most vital crisis, of his entire
life.

Cullen responded to the Senator's cheery greeting of "Mornin',
everybody!"

"Senator," he asked, "my paper wants your opinion on the question of
the election of Senators by popular vote. Do you think the system of
electing Senators by vote of State Legislatures should be abolished?"

The Mississippian cocked his head to one side.

"I reckon that's a question that concerns future Senators, and not
those already elected," he chuckled.

Haines laughed at Cullen, who thrust his pad into his pocket and
hurried away.

"It is to-day that I appear before the ways and means committee, isn't
it?" Langdon queried of his secretary.

"Yes," said Haines, consulting his memorandum book. "At 11 o'clock you
go before ways and means to put forward the needs of your State on
the matter of the reduction of the tariff on aluminium hydrates. The
people of Mississippi believe it has actually put back life into the
exhausted cotton lands. In Virginia they hope to use it on the tobacco
fields."

"Where does the pesky stuff come from?" asked the Senator.

"From South America," coached the secretary. "The South is in a hurry
for it, so the duty must come down. You'll have to bluff a
bit, because Peabody and his crowd will try to make a kind of
bargain--wanting you to keep up iron and steel duties. But you don't
believe that iron and steel need help, you will tell them, don't you
see, so that they will feel the necessity of giving you what you want
for the South in order to gain your support for the iron and steel
demands."

The office door opened and Senator Peabody appeared.

"Peabody," whispered the secretary.

Instantly the Mississippian had his cue. His back to Peabody, he
rose, brought down his fist heavily upon the desk, and expounded
oratorically to Haines:

"What we can produce of aluminium hydrates, my boy, is problematical,
but the South is in a hurry for it, and the duty must come down. It's
got to come down, and I'm not going to do anything else until it
does."

The secretary stretched across the desk.

"Excuse me, Senator; Senator Peabody is here," he said, loudly and
surprisedly, as though he had just sighted the boss of the Senate.

The Mississippian turned.

"Oh, good-morning, Senator. I was just talking with my secretary about
that hydrate clause."

Peabody bowed slightly.

"Yes, I knew it was coming up," he said, "so I just dropped over.
I'm not opposed to it or any Southern measure; but it makes it more
difficult for me when you Southern people oppose certain Pittsburg
interests that I have to take care of."

Langdon smiled.

"I've never been in Pittsburg, but they tell me it looks as if it
could take care of itself."

The visitor shrugged his shoulders.

"That's true enough; but give and take is the rule in political
matters, Langdon."

This remark brought a frown to Langdon's face.

"I don't like bargaining between gentlemen, Peabody. More important
still, I don't believe American politics has to be run on that plan.
Why can't we change a lot of things now that we are here?"

Langdon became so enthused that he paced up and down the room as he
spoke.

"Peabody, you and Stevens and I," continued Langdon, "could get our
friends together and right now start to make this great capital of our
great country the place of the 'square deal,' the place where give and
take, bargain and sale, are unknown. We could start a movement that
would drive out all secret influences--"

The secretary noticed Peabody's involuntary start.

"The newspapers would help us," went on Langdon. "Public opinion would
be with us, and both houses of Congress would have to join in the work
if we went out in front, led the way and showed them their plain duty.
And I tell you, Senator Peabody, that the principles that gave birth
to this country, the principles of truth, honesty, justice and
independence, would rule in Washington--"

"If Washington cared anything about them, Langdon," interjected the
Pennsylvanian.

"That's my point," cried the Mississippian--"let us teach Washington
to care about them!"

"Langdon, Langdon," said Peabody, patronizingly, "you've seized on a
bigger task than you know. After you reform Washington you will have
to go on and reform human nature, human instincts, every human being
in the country, if you want to make politics this angelic thing you
describe. It isn't politics, it's humanity, that's wrong," waving
aside a protest from Langdon.

"Anyway, your idea is not constitutional, Langdon," continued Peabody.
"You want everybody to have a share in the national government. That
wouldn't meet the theory of centralization woven into our political
system by its founders. They intended that our Government should be
controlled by a limited number of representatives, so that authority
can be fixed and responsibility ascertained."

"You distort my meaning!" cried Langdon. "And, Senator, I would like
to ask why so many high-priced constitutional lawyers who enter
Congress spend so much time in placing the Constitution of the United
States between themselves and their duty, sir, between the people and
their Government, sir, between the nation and its destiny? I want to
know if in your opinion the Constitution was designed to throttle
expression of the public will?"

"Of course not. That's the reason you and I, Langdon, and the others
are elected to the Senate," added Peabody, starting to leave. Then he
halted. "By the way, Senator," he said, "I'll do my best to arrange
what you want regarding aluminium hydrates for the sake of the South,
and I'll also stand with you for Altacoola for the naval base. Our
committee is to make its report to-morrow."

Langdon observed the penetrating gaze that Peabody had fixed on him.
It seemed to betray that the Pennsylvanian's apparently careless
manner was assumed.

"H'm!" coughed Langdon, glancing at Haines. "I'm not absolutely
committed to Altacoola until I'm sure it's the best place. I'll make
up my mind to-day definitely, and I _think_ it will be for Altacoola."

The boss of the Senate went out, glaring venomously at Haines,
slamming the door.

A moment later a page boy brought in a card. "Colonel J.D. Telfer,
Gulf City," read the Senator.

"Bud," he remarked to the secretary, "I'm going to send my old
acquaintance, Telfer, Mayor of Gulf City, in here for you to talk to.
He'll want to know about his town's chances for being chosen as the
naval base. I must hurry away, as I have an appointment with my
daughters and Mrs. Spangler before going before ways and means."

[Illustration: THE SENATOR ACCEPTS AN INVITATION TO TEA.]



CHAPTER XI

ON THE TRAIL OF THE "INSIDERS"


Colonel J.D. Telfer (J.D. standing for Jefferson Davis, he explained
proudly to Haines) proved a warm advocate of the doubtful merits of
Gulf City as a hundred-million-dollar naval base. His flushed face
grew redder, his long white hair became disordered, and he tugged at
his white mustache continually as he waxed warmer in his efforts to
impress the Senator's secretary.

"I tell you, Mr. Haines, Gulf City, sah, leads all the South when it
comes to choosin' ground fo' a naval base. Her vast expanse of crystal
sea, her miles upon miles of silvah sands, sah, protected by a natural
harbor and th' islands of Mississippi Sound, make her th' only spot
to be considered. She's God's own choice and the people's, too, for a
naval base."

"But, unfortunately, Congress also has something to say about choosing
it," spoke Haines.

"To be shuah they do," said Gulf City's Mayor, "but--"

"And there was a man here from Altacoola yesterday," again interrupted
the secretary, "who said that Gulf City was fit only to be the State
refuge for aged and indigent frogs."

"Say, they ain't a man in Altacoola wot can speak th' truth,"
indignantly shrieked the old Colonel, almost losing control of
himself; "because their heads is always a-buzzin' and a-hummin' from
th' quinine they have to take to keep th' fever away, sah!"

The Mayor sat directly in front of Haines, at the opposite side of his
desk. Regaining his composure, he suddenly leaned forward and half
whispered to the secretary:

"Mah young friend, don't let Senator Langdon get switched away from
Gulf City by them cheap skates from Altacoola. Now, if you'll get th'
Senator to vote fo' Gulf City we'll see--I'll see, sah, as an officer
of th' Gulf City Lan' Company--that you get taken ca-ah of."

Haines' eyes opened wide.

"Go on, Colonel; go on with your offer," he said.

"Well, I'll see that a block of stock, sah--a big block--is set
aside fo' Senator Langdon an' another fo' you, too. We've made this
ah-rangomont else-wheah. We'll outbid Altacoola overall time. They're
po' sports an' hate to give up."

"So Altacoola is bidding, too?" excitedly asked Haines.

"Why, of co'se it is. Ah yo' as blind as that o' ah yo' foolin' with
me?" questioned Telfer, suspiciously. "Seems to me yo' ought to know
more about that end of it than a fellah clear from th' gulf."

"Certainly, certainly," mumbled Haines, impatiently, as he endeavored
to associate coherently, intelligently, in his mind those startling
new revelations of Telfer with certain incidents he had previously
noted in the operations of the committee on naval affairs.

Then he looked across at the Mayor and smiled. Apparently he had heard
nothing to amaze him.

"Colonel," he returned calmly, dropping into a voice that sounded of
pity for the gray hairs of the lobbyist, "about fifty men a day come
to me with propositions like that. There is nothing doing, Colonel. I
couldn't possibly interest Senator Langdon, because he has the faculty
of judging for himself, and he would be prejudiced against either town
that came out with such, a proposition."

"Lan' speculation is legitimate," protested, the Colonel, cunningly.

Haines agreed.

"Certainly--by outsiders. But it's d--d thievery when engaged in by
any one connected with putting a bill through. If I were to tell
Senator Langdon what you have told me it would decide him unalterably
in favor of Altacoola. Senator Langdon, sir, is one of the few men in
Washington who would rather be thought a fool than a grafter if it
came down to that."

The Mayor of Gulf City jumped to his feet, his face blazing in rage,
not in shame.

"Seems to me yo're mighty fresh, young man," he blustered. "What kind
of politics is Langdon playin'?"

"Not fresh, Colonel; only friendly. I'm just tipping you off how not
to be a friend to Altacoola. As to his politics, the Senator will
answer you himself."

A scornful laugh accompanied Telfer's reply.

"Altacoola, huh! I reckon yo' must be a fool, after all. Why,
everybody knows of the speculatin' in land around Altacoola, and
everybody knows it ain't outsiders that's doin' it. It's the insiders,
right here in Washington. If yo' ain't in, yo' can easy get a
latchkey. Young man, yo'll find out things some day, and yo'll drop to
it all.

"I guess I was too late with yo'. That's about the size of it. I
guess Altacoola'll talk to yo'," went on the Mayor. "If that feller
Fairbrother of Altacoola had been able to hold his tongue maybe I
wouldn't know so much. But now I know what's what. I know this--that
yo're either a big fool or--an insider. Yo're a nice young feller. I
have kind-a taken a fancy to yo'. I like to see yo' young fellers get
along and not miss yo'r chances. Come, my boy, get wise to yo'rself,
get wise to yo'rself! Climb on to the band wagon with yo' friends."

Bud concluded that he might be able to get more definite information
out of Telfer if he humored him a bit.

"I tell you, Colonel," he finally said, "these are pretty grave
charges you're making, but I'll tell you confidentially, owing to your
liking for me, that it is not yet too late to do something for Gulf
City. Now, just suppose you and I dine together to-night early, and
we'll go over the whole ground to see how things lie. Will you?"

The Colonel held out his hand, smiling broadly. He felt that at last
he had won the secretary over; that the young man was at heart anxious
to take money for his influence with the Senator.

"All right, my boy, yo're on. We'll dine together. Yo' are absolutely
certain that it won't be too late to get to Senator Langdon?"

"Absolutely positive. I wouldn't make a mistake in a matter like this,
would I, unless I was what you said I was--a fool?"

"Of course not. Oh, yo're a slick one. I like to do business with
folks like yo'. It's mighty educatin'!"

"Thanks," answered Bud, dryly. "It's certain that Langdon won't decide
which place he's for until to-morrow. I promise you that he won't
decide until after I have my talk with you."

"Yo' see," said Telfer, "I asked that question because, as yo'
probably know, Congressman Norton and his crowd is pretty close to
Senator Langdon--"

Haines cut him short with a gasp of surprise.

"Norton!"

Telfer, wrinkling his forehead incredulously, looked at Haines.
"Surest thing you know, my boy."

Bud turned his head away in thought.

"Oh, leave the Norton outfit to me. I'll fool them," he finally said.

"Good."

Telfer shook the secretary's hand heartily.

"Yo're no fool, my boy. Anybody can see that--after they get to know
yo' all. That's what comes of bein' one of them smooth New Yorkers.
They 'pear mighty sanctimonious on th' outside, but on th' inside
they're the real goods, all right."

The lobbyist hurried away, his bibulous soul swelling with
satisfaction. He was sure of triumphing over Altacoola, and he was
willing to pay the price.

Haines sank back into his chair. "I wonder what Washington
'insiders,'" he murmured, "are speculating in Altacoola land. Telfer
mentions Norton's name. I wonder--"

The door opened, and before him stood Carolina Langdon.

"Ah, Miss Langdon," he exclaimed, "I am glad to see you!"

She walked to him and extended cordially a slender gloved hand.

"This is a real pleasure, Mr. Haines," she began. "I've been waiting
to talk to you for some time. It's about something important."

"Something important," smiled Haines. "You want to see me about
something important? Well, let me tell you a secret. Every time I see
you it is an important occasion to me."

Carolina Langdon had never appeared more charming, more beautiful
to young Haines than she did that day. Perhaps she appeared more
inspiring because of the contrast her presence afforded to the
unpleasant episodes through which he had just passed; also, Carolina
was dressed in her most becoming street gown, which she well realized,
as she was enacting a carefully planned part with the unfortunate
secretary.

His frankness and the sincere admiration that shone in his eyes caused
her to falter momentarily, almost made her weaken in her purpose, but
she made an effort and secured a firmer grip on herself, for she must
play a rôle that would crush to earth the air castles this young
secretary was building, a rôle that would crush the ideals of this
young optimist as well.



CHAPTER XII

THE CURE OF A WOMAN'S LOVE


Carolina had come to find out from Haines, if possible, how her father
was going to vote on the naval base and to induce the secretary to
persuade him to stand for Altacoola--if there seemed danger that he
would vote for another site. That was her scheme, for Carolina had
put $25,000 into Altacoola land--money left by her mother. Norton
had persuaded Carolina to invest in the enterprise to defraud the
Government, promising her $50,000 clear profit. How much she could do
in Washington society with that!

The continued uncertainty over her father's final attitude had
strained her nerves almost to the breaking, for the success of the
conspiracy depended on his vote. Not even the words of Norton, her
future husband, could reassure her. Her worry was increased by the
knowledge of Randolph's investment of her father's $50,000.

That Carolina must sacrifice Haines on the altar of her consuming
desire for money, for a higher worldly position, was an unimportant
consideration. He stood in the way. Any moment he might discover the
existence of the Altacoola scheme, he would immediately tell her
father, and she knew her father would immediately decide against
Altacoola--the bright hopes of her future would turn to ashes.
Norton's money as well was invested in Altacoola. He, too, would be
ruined. She was sure that she loved Norton, but she could not marry a
penniless man.

Carolina resumed the conversation.

"It isn't anything so very important, Mr. Haines. It's about father."

Haines beamed.

"I have the honor to report, Miss Langdon," he bowed, "that your
father is making the very best kind of a Senator."

The girl hesitated.

"Yes; he might, if he had some ambition."

"Don't worry! If it comes down to that, I have ambition for two. You
want him to be a success, don't you? Well, he is the biggest kind of a
success."

"I never believed that he would be," confessed the daughter.

Haines laughed.

"Why, do you realize that to-day he is one of the most popular men in
public life throughout the country; that 'What does Langdon think?'
has become the watchword of the big body of independents who want
honesty and decent government without graft?

"I tell you that's a big thing, Miss Langdon. That's success--real
success in politics, especially in Washington politics.

"Now, if there's anything else you want him to have, I'll see that he
gets it I'll try to get it for him"--he paused a minute, then added,
with heartfelt meaning in his voice--"and for you, Miss Langdon."

Carolina played coquettishly with the secretary.

"For me, Mr. Haines?" she questioned, archly, with an effective glance
into his eyes.

Bud's pulses began to throb violently--to leap.

"Yes," he exclaimed, unsteadily, "for you, and you know it. That's the
inspiration now, my inspiration--the chance of winning your belief in
me, of winning something more, the biggest thing I ever thought to
win--because, Miss Langdon--Carolina--I love you." He bent over and
seized the girl's hand. "Ever since the day I first saw you I--"

She shook her head indulgently and in a moment drew her hand from his.

"You mustn't be so serious, Mr. Haines. You don't understand Southern
girls at all. We are not just like Northern girls. We are used to
being made love to from the time we are knee-high. Sometimes, I fear,
we flirt a little, but we don't mean any harm. All girls flirt--a
little."

"But somebody wins even the Southern girls," declared Haines, eagerly.

The girl's face became serious, earnest, sincere.

"Yes, somebody does, always," she said. "And when a Southern girl is
won she stays won, Mr. Haines."

"And I have a chance to win?" questioned the determined young
Northerner.

Carolina smiled sweetly and expressively.

"Who knows? First make my father even a bigger success--that's first.
Oh, I wonder if you can realize what all this life means to me! If you
can realize what those years of stagnating on the plantation meant to
me! No man would have endured it!" she exclaimed bitterly. "I am more
of a man than a woman in some ways; I'm ambitious. From the time I was
a little girl I've wanted the world, power, fame, money. I want them
still. I mean to get them somehow, anyhow. If I can't get them myself,
some one must get them for me."

"And love?" suggested the man. "You are leaving love out. Suppose I
get all these things for you?"

Bud's pounding heart almost stopped. He could scarcely gain his breath
as he saw creep into Carolina's eyes what he believed to be the light
of hope for him, the light even of a woman's promise.

"Who knows, Mr. Haines? There's no reward guaranteed. There may be
others trying," she answered.

Haines laughed--the strong, hopeful, fighting laugh of the man who
would combat the boss of the Senate on ground of the boss' own
choosing.

"All right!" he cried. "If it's an open fight I'll enlist. I'll give
them all a run. What are your orders?"

Carolina appeared indifferent.

"I don't know that I have any particular orders, sir knight, except to
see that my father does all he can for the Altacoola naval base."

Haines paused, seized by a sudden tremor.

"The Altacoola naval base?" he stammered. "Well, all I can say is that
the Senator will do what he thinks right. That might bring power and
fame--a right decision in this case--but it can't bring money."

Carolina shrugged her shoulders.

"Money?" She laughed with affected carelessness. "Well, we'll have to
let the money take care of itself for a time. But I do want him to
vote for Altacoola, because I believe that will be the best for him.
You believe in Altacoola, don't you?"

Haines hesitated, then answered:

"Well, between the two sites merely as sites Altacoola seems to me
rather better."

Miss Langdon held out her hand impulsively.

"Then it will be Altacoola!" she cried. "Thank you, Mr. Haines. We are
partners, then, for Altacoola."

The young man grasped her hand earnestly.

"I'd like to be your partner for good, Carolina!" he cried.

They stood there close together, holding each other's hands, looking
into each other's eyes, when the door opened and in came Charles
Norton.



CHAPTER XIII

AN OLD-FASHIONED FATHER


Congressman Norton was startled at the sight of Carolina and Haines
apparently so wrapped up in each other. Perhaps she was getting
interested in the handsome, interfering secretary. That a woman
sometimes breaks her promise to wed he well knew. Plainly Carolina
was carrying things too far for a girl who was the promised wife of
another.

Carolina and Haines showed surprise at Norton's entrance.

The Congressman advanced and spoke sneeringly, his demeanor marking
him to be in a dangerous mood.

"Do I intrude?" he drawled, deliberately.

Carolina drew away her hands from Haines and faced the newcomer.

"Intrude!" she exclaimed, contemptuously, in a tone that Norton
construed as in his favor and Haines in his own.

"Intrude!" Haines laughed, sarcastically, feeling that now he was
leader in the race for love against this Mississippi representative,
who was, he knew, a subservient tool and a taker of bribes. "You
surely do intrude, Norton. Wouldn't any man who had interrupted a
tête-á-tête another man was having with Miss Langdon be intruding?"

"I suppose I can't deny that," he replied.

The secretary smiled again.

"I'll match you to see who stays," he said.

But Norton's turn to defeat his rival had come. He held out a paper to
Haines.

"Senator Langdon gave me this for you. I reckon I don't have to
match."

The secretary opened the note to read:

    "Where in thunder does that hydrate come from--South America or
    Russia? How much off on the tariff on the creature do we want?
    Come over to the committee room, where I am, right away. Say it's
    an urgent message and get in with a tip."

The secretary looked up, with a laugh.

"You win, Norton. I'm off. Good-by." And he started on a run to the
Senator's aid.

Norton turned angrily on the girl as the door closed.

"See here, Carolina," he cried, "what do you mean by letting that
fellow make love to you?"

Carolina Langdon would not permit rebuke, even from the man she cared
for. She tossed back her head and said, coolly:

"Why shouldn't I let him make love to me if I choose?"

"You know why," exclaimed Norton, his dark face flushing sullenly.
"Because I love you and you love me!" And he seized her and pressed
her to him. "That is why!" he cried, and he kissed her again and
again.

"Yes, I love you, Charlie; you know that," Carolina said, simply. She
was conquered by the Southerner's masterfulness.

"Then why do you stand for that whippersnapper's talk?" asked Norton,
perplexedly.

Carolina laughed.

"Don't you see, Charlie, I have to stand for it? I have to stand for
it for your sake, for Randolph's sake, for my own sake, for all our
sakes. You know the influence he has over father.

"He can make father do anything he wants, and suppose I don't lead him
on? Where's our project? Let him suspect a thing and let him go to
father, and you know what will happen. Father would turn against
that Altacoola scheme in a moment. He'd beggar himself, if it were
necessary, rather than let a single one of us make a dollar out of a
thing he had to decide."

"You're right, I reckon, Carolina," said Norton, dejectedly. "Your
father is a real type of the Southern gentleman. He hasn't seen any
real money in so long he can't even bear to think of it. Somebody's
got to make money out of this, and we should be the ones."

"We'd lose frightfully, Charlie, if they changed to Gulf City,
wouldn't we?" said the girl, apprehensively. "I'm horribly afraid
sometimes, Charlie. That's why I came here to-day. I wanted to
influence Haines, to keep him straight. Is there any danger that
they'll change? You don't think there is, do you?"

"Of course not, child. Stevens has got his money in, and Peabody.
There are only five on the committee. It's bound to go through."

"Then why is father so important to them?" asked Carolina.

"It's past my understanding, Carolina. I don't see how he's done it,
but the whole country has come to believe whatever your father does is
right, and they've got to have him."

"And father is completely under the domination of this secretary,"
murmured the girl, thoughtfully.

Norton nodded.

"We've got to get rid of him, Carolina. That's all there is to it. He
has to go! When it comes to bossing the Senator and making love to
you, too, he's getting too strong."

"How can you do it?" she asked. "You know when father likes any one he
won't believe a thing against him."

Norton agreed, sorrowfully.

"That's right. Seems like the Senator's coming to think more of this
fellow than he does of his own family. Why, I wouldn't be surprised if
he'd even let one of you girls marry him if he wanted to marry you."

"We'd have something to say about that," Carolina laughed, amusedly.
"Do you think that Hope or I could ever care for a man like this
fellow? Of course not. This Altacoola business must go through right.
It would be too cruel not to have it so. And then--"

"And then you and I'll be married at once, Carolina, whether your
father likes it or not," ended Norton for her. "With Altacoola safe,
we can do as we please, as between us we'll be rich. What does it
matter how we get the money, as long as we get it?"



CHAPTER XIV

WHEN A DAUGHTER BETRAYS HER FATHER


Bud returned to find Miss Langdon and Norton still in the room. New
buoyancy, new courage, thrilled in his veins. He would give this
Congressman the battle of his life for this prize, of that he was
confident.

"I have an engagement with Mrs. Holcomb, Senator Holcomb's wife," she
said, "so I must hurry away, but I expect to be back to see father."

"I think I'll just wait," suggested Norton. "I have to see the Senator
as soon as possible, and he ought to return from that ways and means
committee meeting pretty soon."

When Carolina had gone a slight feeling of constraint settled over the
two.

"The Senator's pretty busy these days with his naval base matter
coming up, isn't he?"

"Yes; keeps him pretty busy receiving delegations from Altacoola and
Gulf City and patting them both on the back," said Haines. "Had a man
from Gulf City in this morning with some pretty strong arguments."

The secretary watched Norton keenly to note the effect of this hint in
favor of Gulf City."

"Gulf City!" Norton sneered. "Shucks! Who'd put a naval base on a
bunch of mud flats? I reckon those Gulf City fellows are wasting their
time."

"Think so?" suggested Haines. "Are you absolutely sure?"

Norton started.

"Why, you don't mean to tell me," he exclaimed, "that Senator Langdon
would vote for Gulf City for the naval base?"

"I don't mean to tell you anything, Congressman," was the cool
rejoinder. "It's not my business. The Senator's the one who does the
talking."

An ugly sneer wrinkled the Congressman's face.

"Well, I'm glad he attends to his own business and doesn't trust too
many people," he said pointedly.

The secretary smiled in puzzling fashion.

"That's exactly why I don't talk, Congressman," he said pleasantly.
"The Senator doesn't trust too many people. If he did, there might be
too much money made out of land speculation. Senator Langdon doesn't
happen to be one of those Senators who care for that kind of thing."

"I suppose you think you're pretty strong with the Senator," ventured
the Mississippian.

"Tell you the truth, I haven't thought very much about it," replied
Haines, "but, if you come right down to it, I guess I am pretty
strong."

"Suppose you've influenced him in the naval base business, then."

Still the secretary smiled, keeping his temper under the adroit
attack.

"Well, I think he'd listen to me with considerable interest."

"But you're for Altacoola, of course."

Haines shook his head.

"No, I can't say that I'm for Altacoola. Fellow who was in here this
morning put up a pretty good argument, to my mind, for Gulf City.
In fact, he made it pretty strong. Seemed to show it was all to my
interest to go in with Gulf City. Think I'll have to investigate a
little more. I tell you, Norton," spoke Haines in a confidential
manner, "this land speculation fever is a frightful thing. While I
was talking to this fellow from Gulf City I almost caught it myself.
Probably if I met the head of the Altacoola speculation I might catch
the fever from him too."

"Why don't you put your money into Gulf City and lose it, then?"
replied Norton, nodding his head scornfully. "That'd be a good lesson
for a rising young politician like you."

Senator Langdon's secretary peered straight into Norton's eyes.

"Because, Congressman," he said, "if I were to put my money in Gulf
City perhaps I wouldn't lose it."

The Southerner took a step forward, leaned over and glared angrily at
Haines. His face whitened.

"You don't mean that you could swing Langdon into Gulf City?" he
gasped.

Haines smiled.

"I can't say that, Norton, but I guess people interested in Altacoola
would hate to have me try."

"I didn't know you were that kind, Haines," said Norton, his virtue
aroused at the thought of losing his money. "So you're playing the
game like all the rest?"

"Why shouldn't I?" shrugged the secretary. "I guess perhaps I'm a
little sore because the Altacoola people haven't even paid me the
compliment of thinking I had any influence, so they can't expect me to
work for them. The Gulf City people have. As things stand, Gulf City
looks pretty good to me."

"Is this straight talk?" exclaimed Norton.

"Take it or leave it," retorted Bud.

The Mississippian leaned with his hands on the desk.

"Well, Haines, if you're like the rest and are really interested in
Altacoola, I don't know that you'd have to go very far to talk."

"You know something of Altacoola lands, then, Norton?" said Robert,
tingling with suppressed excitement. He felt that he was getting close
to real facts in a colossal "deal."

Norton was sure of his man now.

"Well, I am in touch with some people who've got lands and options on
more. I might fix it for you to come in," he whispered.

Haines shook his head.

"You know I haven't much money, Norton. All I could put in would be my
influence. Who are these people? Are they cheap little local folks or
are they real people here who have some power and can do something
that is worth while?"

"Do I look like I'd fool with cheap skates, Haines? They're the real
people. I think, Haines, that either Senator Stevens or Senator
Peabody would advise you that you are safe."

"Ah! Then Stevens and Peabody are the ones. They'll make it Altacoola,
then sell to the Government at a big advance and move to 'Easy
Street.'"

"That's right," agreed Norton.

Bud Haines straightened abruptly. The expression on his face gave
Norton a sudden chill--made him tremble.

"Now I've got you," cried the secretary. "You've given yourself dead
away. I've known all along you're a d--d thief, Norton, and you've
just proved it to me yourself."

"What do you mean?" Norton was clenching his fist. "Words like that
mean fight to a Southerner!"

"I mean that before Senator Langdon goes one step further in this
matter he shall know that his colleagues and you are thieves, Mr.
Norton, trying to use him for a cat's-paw to steal for them from the
Government. I suspected something this morning when Gulf City tried
to bribe me and a visitor from there gave me what turns out to be a
pretty good tip."

"So that was your dirty trick," exclaimed the Congressman as he
regained his composure.

"Set a make-believe thief to catch a real one," laughed the secretary.
"Very good trick, I think."

"I'll make you pay for that!" cried Norton, shaking his fist.

"All right. Send in your bill any old time," laughed Haines. "The
sooner the better. Meantime I'm going to talk to Langdon."

He had started for the door when Carolina Langdon re-entered, followed
by her brother Randolph.

"Wait a minute," said Norton, with unexpected quietness. "I wouldn't
do what you're about to do, Mr. Haines."

"Of course you wouldn't," sneered Haines.

"I mean that you will be making a mistake, Haines, to tell the Senator
what you have learned," rejoined the Southerner, struggling to keep
calm at this critical moment when all was at stake. He realized,
further, that now was the time to put Haines out of the way--if that
were possible. "A mistake, Mr. Haines," he continued, "because, you
see, you don't know as much as you think. I wouldn't talk to Langdon
if I were you. It will only embarrass him and do no good, because
Langdon's money is in this scheme, too, and Langdon's in the same boat
with the rest of us."

Haines stopped short at this astounding charge against his chief.

"Norton, you lie! I'll believe it of Langdon when he tells me so; not
otherwise."

Norton turned to Randolph.

"Perhaps you'll believe Mr. Langdon's son, Mr. Haines?"

Randolph Langdon stepped forward.

"It's true, Haines," he said; "my father's money is in Altacoola
lands."

Haines looked him up and down, with a sneer.

"_Your_ money may be," he said. "I don't think you're a bit too good
for it, but your father is a different kind."

Carolina Langdon stood at the back of the room, nervously awaiting
the moment when, she knew, she would be forced into the unpleasant
discussion.

"I reckon you can't refuse to believe Miss Langdon," drawled Norton,
with aggravated deliberation.

"Of course," stammered Haines, "I'd believe it if Miss Langdon says
it's so."

The Congressman turned toward Carolina as he spoke and fixed on her
a tense look which spelled as plainly as though spoken, "It's all in
your hands, my fortune--yours."

She slowly drew across the room. Haines could hardly conceal the
turmoil of his mind. The world seemed suddenly snatched from around
him, leaving her figure alone before him. Would she affirm what
Norton and Randolph had said? He must believe her. But surely it was
impossible that she--

Carolina played for time. She feared the making of a false move.

"I don't understand?" she said inquiringly to Norton.

He calmly began an elaborate explanation.

"Miss Langdon, this secretary has discovered that there is a certain
perfectly legitimate venture in Altacoola lands being carried on
through certain influential people we know and by me. The blood of the
young reformer is boiling. He is going straight to your father with
the facts.

"I have tried to explain to him how it will needlessly embarrass
the Senator and spoil his own future. He won't believe me. He won't
believe your brother. Perhaps you can make it clear."

At last Carolina nerved herself to speak.

"You had better not go to my father, Mr. Haines. It will do no good.
He--is--in--the deal! You must believe me when I tell you so."

The girl took her eyes from the secretary. He was plainly suffering.



CHAPTER XV

CAROLINA LANGDON'S ADVICE


"Let me speak to Mr. Haines alone," said Carolina to Norton and her
brother.

Norton turned a triumphant grin at Randolph as he beckoned him out and
whispered: "Leave him to her. It's all right. That New York dude has
been riding for a fall--he's going to get it now."

"I am sorry, so sorry this should have occurred, Mr. Haines," Carolina
said gently.

The secretary looked up slowly, his face drawn. It was an effort for
him to speak.

"I can't understand it," he said. "I mightn't have thought so much of
this a month ago, but I have come to love the Senator almost as a son,
and to think that he could be like the rest of that bunch is awful."

"You are too much of an idealist, Mr. Haines," said the girl.

"And you? What do you think of it?" he demanded.

The girl's glance wavered.

"Don't idealize me too much, either, Mr. Haines. I didn't think it was
much. Perhaps I don't understand business any too well."

"But you see now?" insisted the man.

The girl looked up at him sorrowfully.

"Yes; I see at least that you and father can never work together now."

Haines nodded affirmatively.

"I suppose so. I'm thinking of that. How am I to leave him? We've been
so close. I've been so fond of him. I don't know how I could tell
him."

In girlish, friendly fashion Carolina rested her hand on his arm.

"Won't you take my advice, Mr. Haines? Go away without seeing him.
Just leave a note to say you have gone. He will understand. It will be
easier for both that way--easier for him, easier for you." She paused,
looking at him appealingly as she ended very softly, "And easier for
me, Mr. Haines."

He looked at her thoughtfully.

"Easier for you?" he said. "Very well, I'll do it that way."

The secretary stepped slowly to his desk, sat down and started to
write the note. Carolina watched him curiously.

"What will you do," she asked, "now that you have given up this
position?"

"Oh, I can always go back to newspaper work," he answered without
looking up.

The term "newspaper work" gave Carolina a shock. She had forgotten
that this man had been a reporter. Here he was turned loose with the
knowledge of this "deal," which she knew would be popular material for
newspapers to print. She must gain still another point, and she felt
that she had enough power to win against him.

"I'm going to ask you still another favor," she said.

Bud returned her look with a bitter smile.

"What is it?"

"You have learned about this--this land matter and--"

"Oh, yes! I can guess. You want me to keep quiet about it--to hush it
up," a shade of scorn in his tone.

"I only asked this so that you would not disgrace me," she pleaded.

Disillusioned at last, robbed of his lifelong optimism, shorn of
his ideals, even his love--for he began to despise this beautiful,
misguided woman--Haines sat broken in spirit, thinking how quickly the
brightness of life fades to blackness.

"Very well," he said sadly. "I suppose _you_ are innocent. I'll save
you. If they're all--your father, too--crooked, why shouldn't I be
crooked? All right; I won't say anything."

"I only ask you not to disgrace me," pleaded the girl. "You will
promise that?"

"It's a promise."

She sighed in relief.

"Father will be coming back soon," she said. "You won't want to see
him."

Haines arose.

"No, I won't want to see him. Give him this note. I'll have to come
back while he's away to clear up some things. Good-by."

Haines bowed and hurried from the room through a side doorway just as
Senator Langdon came in through the main entrance.

"Bud! Bud!" he called, but the secretary did not halt.

Carolina Langdon stood with Haines' note in her hand, wondering at
what she had done. She regretted having become entangled in the wars
of men in Washington. She saw that the man's game was played too
strongly, too furiously fast, for most women to enter, yet she
rejoiced that the coveted fortune had not been lost. She was sorry
that her means of saving it had not been less questionable. She saw
that ambition and honesty, ambition and truth, with difficulty follow
the same path.

Senator Langdon's face was unusually grave as he came to greet
Carolina. Lines showed in his face that the daughter had never noticed
before.

She saw Norton and Randolph, who had followed him, exchange
significant glances--jubilant glances--and wondered what new
development they had maneuvered.

"He's gone without a word," the Senator sighed. "Well, perhap's that's
best."

"He left a note for you," said the girl, handing him the letter which
Haines had given her.

Langdon opened it and read:

"I am giving up the job. You can understand why. The least said about
it between us the better. I am sorry. That's all. BUD HAINES."

Slowly he read the letter a second time.

"And he was making the best kind of a secretary, I thought."

Divining that something against Haines had been told her father,
Carolina glanced at Norton.

"I told your father how we caught Mr. Haines," he spoke as an answer
to her.

The girl was startled. She had not thought that things would go this
far.

"I told him how Haines wanted to get in some land speculation scheme
with Altacoola, how we tricked him and caught him with the goods when
he made the proposition to me and how we forced him to confess."

"You told father that?" gasped Carolina.

Norton nodded.

"I don't understand it," said Langdon. "To think that he was that
kind!"

Son Randolph now took his turn in the case against the secretary.

"We were both here, father. I heard him--Carolina heard him," he said.
"Didn't you, Carolina?"

"Yes," said the girl weakly, "I was here." Then she turned abruptly.
"I must go," she said, "must go right away. Mrs. Holcomb is waiting
for me."

The Senator turned to his desk bent and discouraged.

"I suppose I should have taken a secretary who was a Southerner and a
gentleman. Well, Randolph, you'll have to act now. Take this letter--"

The young man sat down and took the following from the Senator's
diction:

    "MR. HAINES--

    "Sir: I quite understand your feelings and the impossibility of
    your continuing in my employ. The least said about it the better.
    I am sorry, too.

    "WILLIAM H. LANGDON."

"You boys run away. I've got to think," said the Senator.

When the pair had gone the old man drew the letter to him, and below
his signature he added a postscript: "Don't forget there's some money
coming to you."

Walking across the room to leave, he sighed:

"He was making the best kind of a secretary."



CHAPTER XVI

A RESCUE IN THE NICK OF TIME


Later in that never-to-be-forgotten day Bud Haines ventured back to
his desk in the committee room, after first ascertaining that Senator
Langdon would not return. Some of the Senator's papers must be
straightened out, and he wanted personal documents of his own.

The secretary regretfully, sorrowfully performed these final duties
and found himself stopping at various intervals to try to explain to
himself how he had been deceived in both the Langdons, father and
daughter. He had to give up both problems. To him neither was
explainable. "I've known enough Senators to know that I'd never meet
an honest one," he muttered. "But as to women--well, there's too much
carefully selected wisdom in their innocence to suit me."

This cynic, new born from the shell of the chronic idealist that was,
suddenly was disturbed in his ruminations by a sound at the door.
Looking up, he saw Hope Georgia Langdon standing, shyly, embarrassed,
in the main entrance.

"Mr. Haines," she said, timidly.

Bud jumped to his feet.

"Yes, Miss Hope Georgia."

As the Senator's younger daughter came toward him he noticed that
she was excited over something, and for a newly made cynic he took
altogether too much notice of her youthful beauty, her fresh, rosy
complexion and her dancing, sparkling eyes. The thought occurred to
him, "What a woman she will make--if she doesn't imitate her sister!"

"I couldn't let you go, Mr. Haines, without telling you good-by and
letting you know that, no matter what the others say, I don't think
there has been anything wrong."

Before Haines could reply, the young girl rushed on, excitedly:

"That's why I came. I know father and Carolina won't like it--they
won't think it's nice--but I wanted to say to you that I don't think
one ought to believe things against one you've liked and trusted."

"You think one ought not," said Haines. "So do I; but in this case
the proofs were very strong. What are you going to do when people you
can't doubt pledge their word?"

The girl tossed her head.

"Well, the only one's word I'd like to take would be the person
accused. I know I'm only a girl, Mr. Haines, and I'm not grown up, but
you've made a mistake. Do try to clear things up. Why don't you see
father and talk with him? Please do, Mr. Haines."

Little realizing that the girl was speaking in his own favor, for he
knew not the need for such speaking, he believed her to be defending
her father. He grasped her hands impulsively.

"You have grown up very much since you came to the capital, haven't
you?" he said. "And you are right, Miss Hope. I ought to have known
even when the facts were against him that your father couldn't have
been really crooked. He can't be."

Hope Langdon's face flushed indignantly.

"Father crooked? Who said so? Who dared say that?" she exclaimed.

"Why, they told me he had sold out on the Altacoola bill. They said he
was trying to make money on Altacoola. That's why I quit."

The flame of anger still was spread on the girl's face.

"They said that!" she exclaimed. "Then they lied. They said you were
the crooked one. Why, father thinks you sold out on Altacoola. They
said you were trying to make money on that navy yard."

"What! They said I was crooked!" Haines fairly shouted. He rushed
around the desk and caught the girl by both hands.

"I see it!" he cried. "I see it! There's something I'm not just on to.
You thought it was I; your father thinks--"

"Of course," exclaimed Hope, quite as excited as he. "I couldn't
believe it. That's why I came back to get you to explain. I wanted you
to disprove the charge."

"I should say I would," cried the secretary.

"I knew it! I knew it! They couldn't make me believe anything against
you. I knew you were all I thought you. Oh, Mr. Haines, prove you are
that for my--"

Then Hope Georgia abruptly stopped. She had lost her head, and in the
enthusiasm of the moment had revealed her real feelings--something
she would never do presumably when she grew more wise in the ways of
women.

She suddenly thrust Haines' hands from her own and stood staring at
him, wondering--wondering if he had guessed.

Strangely enough, under the circumstances, the girl was the first to
recover and break the awkward silence.

"Come to our house to-night, Mr. Haines. There's to be a dinner and a
musicale, as you know; but that won't matter. No matter who says no, I
promise you that you shall see father. There shall be an explanation."

"Thank you, Miss Hope. You don't realize all you've done for me," said
Bud, seriously. "It's a wonderful thing to find a girl who believes in
a man. You've taught me a lot, Miss Hope. Thank you."

"Good-by, Mr. Haines. Come to-night," she said, as she turned and
hurried away.

Bud Haines stood looking after her, thoughtfully.

"What a stunning girl she is! I've seemed to overlook her, with the
rush of events--and Carolina," he murmured, softly. "We never were
such very great friends, yet she believes in me. What a beauty she
is!"

A messenger boy broke in on his musings with a letter for Senator
Langdon marked "Important."

"Guess I'm secretary enough yet to answer this," he thought, tearing
it open.

"Great heavens!" he exclaimed as he read it. "Here's the chance to get
to the bottom of this Altacoola proposition. It's from Peabody."

Haines read the following:

"DEAR SENATOR LANGDON: I am going to Philadelphia to-night. Urgent
call from a company for which I am counsel, so I probably won't be
able to confer with you regarding the committee's choice for the naval
base. But I know you are for Altacoola and trust to you to do all
you can for that site. I, of course, consider the matter definitely
settled."

       *       *       *       *       *

"This situation will enable Langdon to bluff Peabody and draw out of
him all the inside of the Altacoola business--ought to, anyway. Guess
some Gulf City talk will smoke him out."

Haines rushed out and across the hall, to reappear literally hauling
in a stenographer by the scruff of the neck. "Here, you, take this
dictation--record time," he cried:

    "SENATOR HORATIO PEABODY, Louis Napoleon Hotel: You are going to
    Philadelphia to-night, I know, leaving the report on the naval
    base to me. I have just come on various aspects of the situation
    which make me incline very favorably toward Gulf City. I am
    looking into the matter and, of course, shall act according to
    my best judgment. That is what you will want me to do, I know.
    Sincerely yours,

    "WILLIAM H. LANGDON."

"I don't think Senator Peabody will go to Philadelphia to-night,"
laughed Haines grimly, as he addressed the envelope, "and I think that
when the 'boss of the Senate' hurries around to the Langdon house
instead there will be more than one kind of music, more than one kind
of food eaten--perhaps crow--before the evening is over."

Seizing his hat, Bud rushed to the door to look up a messenger.

"It's all in Langdon's hands now," he cried. "Here's where I resign my
position as United States Senator."



CHAPTER XVII

THE CONSPIRATORS OUTWITTED


Senator Langdon's dinners had well won popularity in Washington.
Invitations to them were rarely answered by the sending of "regrets."
He had brought his old Mississippi cook from the plantation, whose
Southern dishes had caused the Secretary of State himself to make the
Senator an offer for the chef's services. "No use bidding for old
General Washington," said the Senator on that notable occasion. "He
wouldn't leave my kitchen, sir, even to accept the presidency itself.
Why, I couldn't even discharge him if I wanted to. I tried to let him
go once, sir, and the old general made me feel so ashamed of myself
that I actually cried, sir."

Peabody and Stevens were the dinner guests to-night, as they were to
confer afterward with Langdon and settle on the action of the naval
affairs committee regarding the naval base. The three, being a
majority, could control the action of the committee.

Senator Peabody had finally postponed leaving for Philadelphia until
the midnight train in order to be present, he assured Langdon as the
trio entered the library. The girls, Norton and Randolph were left
to oversee preparations for the prominent Washingtonians invited to
attend the musicale to be given later in the evening.

Carolina and Hope Georgia were in distinctly different moods--the
elder, vivacious, elated over the bright outlook for her future;
the younger, cast down and wearing a worried expression. Norton and
Randolph in jubilant spirit tried to cheer her, and failing, resorted
to taunts about some imaginary love affair.

The courage of the afternoon, which had enabled her to speak to Haines
as she had, was gone; girlish fears now swept over her as to the
outcome of the evening. Haines had not come! Was he really guilty and
had promised to come merely to get rid of her? Why was he late? If he
did come, would she be able to have her father see him, as she had
promised? If she failed, and she might, she would never see this young
man again.

"If I looked as unhappy as you, Hope, I'd go to bed and not discourage
our guests as they arrive," Carolina suggested. "Our floral
decorations alone for to-night cost $700, and the musical program cost
over $3,000. The most fashionable folks in Washington coming--what
more could you want, Hope? Isn't it perfectly glorious? Why--"

"Mr. Haines is below, asking to see Senator Langdon," announced a
servant, entering.

"Oh, I knew he'd come! I knew it! I knew it!" cried Hope Georgia in
pure ecstasy, clapping her hands.

The three plotters turned on the girl in amazement; then they stared
at each other.

"Mr. Haines!" ejaculated Carolina.

"Haines!" exclaimed Randolph, hurriedly leaving the room.

"Haines!" sneered Norton. "We can take care of him. The Senator won't
see him."

Carolina caught the suggestion.

"Tell Mr. Haines that Senator Langdon regrets that he cannot possibly
receive him," she directed.

"Carolina!"

There was a ring of protest and pain in Hope Georgia's voice as she
darted out of the door after the servant.

"What's the matter with that girl?" asked Norton, trying to be calm.

Carolina shook her head.

"I don't know. She's queer to-day. I believe she imagines herself in
love with Mr. Haines."

"Aren't you afraid she'll make trouble?"

The other sister laughed confidently.

"Little Hope make trouble? Of course not. If she does, we can always
frighten her into obedience."

The door reopened and Hope entered, followed by Bud Haines. The girl's
head was high; her cheeks were red; her eyes glittered ominously.

"I brought him back, Carolina," she said coolly. "Father will want to
see him. I know there has been some mistake."

"Yes," supplemented Bud, "there has been a decided mistake, and I must
refuse to accept the word that came to me from Senator Langdon."

Carolina Langdon drew herself up in her most dignified manner.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Haines, but you must accept it," she said.

"Exactly," seconded Norton. "Senator Langdon entirely declines to
receive you."

"I don't trust anything you say, Congressman Norton, and I may say
also that I recognize no right of yours to interfere in any affair
between me and the Langdon family."

"Perhaps I can explain my right, Mr. Haines," Norton said coolly,
stepping beside Carolina. "I have just had the pleasure of announcing
to Miss Hope Georgia Langdon my engagement to Miss Carolina Langdon."

Haines, entirely unprepared for such a dénoûement, shot a searching
glance at Carolina. She bowed her head in affirmation.

"So that's why you tried to ruin me!" he cried. "You're both from the
same mold," turning from Carolina Langdon to Congressman Norton, then
back to the girl.

They stood facing each other when Randolph Langdon returned. At sight
of Bud Haines he started, stopped short a second, then came forward
quickly.

"Mr. Haines, my father has declared that he will not see you, and
either you leave this house at once or I shall call the servants."

Bud looked at young Langdon contemptuously.

"Yes, I think you would need some help," he sneered, feeling in his
veins the rush of red blood, the determination in his heart that had
a few years back carried him through eighty yards of struggling Yale
football players to a touchdown.

The Senator's son drew back his arm, but the confident look of the New
Yorker restrained him.

"Mr. Haines, in the South gentlemen do not make scenes of violence
before ladies."

The cold rebuke of Carolina cut into the silence.

Haines stood in perplexity. He did not know what to do or how to get
to the Senator. It was Hope who came to his rescue.

"I'll tell father you are here. I'll make him come, Mr. Haines. He
shall see you."

With the air of a defiant little princess she started for the door.

"Hope, I forbid you doing any such thing," exclaimed her older sister,
but the younger girl paid no attention. Randolph caught her arm.

"You shall not, Hope," he cried.

Hope Georgia struggled and pulled her arm free.

"I reckon I just got to do what seems right to me, Randolph," she
exclaimed. "I reckon I've grown up to-night, and I tell you--I tell
all of you"--she whirled and faced them--"there's something wrong
here, and father is going to see Mr. Haines to-night, and they are
going to settle it."

Norton alone was equal to the situation, temporarily at least.

"I'll be fair with you, Hope," he said reassuringly, and she stopped
in her flight to the hall door. "I'll take Carolina and Randolph in to
see the Senator, and we'll tell him Mr. Haines is here. Perhaps we had
better tell the Senator," Norton suggested, beckoning to Carolina and
her brother. "Let Mr. Haines wait here, and we will make the situation
clear to the Senator."

"You'd better make it very clear," exclaimed the younger girl, "for
I'm going to stay here with Mr. Haines until he has seen father."

The guilty trio, fearful of this new and unexplainable activity of
Hope Georgia, slowly departed in search of Senator Langdon to make a
last desperate attempt to prevent him from meeting this pestilential
secretary that was--and might be again.

When the door closed after them Hope came down to the table where Bud
Haines was standing.

"Won't you sit down, Mr. Haines?" she said. "I'll--I'll try to
entertain you until father comes," she said weakly, realizing that
again she was alone with the man she loved.



CHAPTER XVIII

HOPE LANGDON'S HOUR OF TRIUMPH


Haines sat at a table in the reception-room, across from Hope
Georgia, and his gratitude for her battle in his favor mingled with a
realization of qualities in this young lady that he had never before
noticed. Probably he did not know that what he had really seen in her
that day and that evening was the sudden transition from girlhood to
womanhood, her casting aside of thoughtless, irresponsive youth and
the shouldering of the responsibilities of the grown woman who would
do her share in the world's work.

He stared across in astonishment at this slip of a girl who had
outwitted two resourceful men and an older sister of unquestioned
ability.

"I do not recognize you, Miss Hope," he said finally.

"Perhaps you never looked at me before," she suggested archly, feeling
instinctively that this was her hour; that the man she loved was at
this moment thinking more about her than of anything else in the
world.

Haines made a gesture of regret.

"That must be it," he agreed. Then he leaned forward eagerly. "But I'm
looking at you now, and I like looking at you. I like what you've done
for me."

"Oh, that was nothing, Mr. Haines," she exclaimed airily, her
intuition telling her of her sway over the man.

"Nothing!" he exclaimed. "Well, it's more than any one ever did for me
before. I've known lots of girls--"

"I don't doubt that, Mr. Haines," Hope interjected, with a light
laugh.

"Yes, I say I've known lots of girls, but there's never been one who
showed herself such a true friend as you have been. There's never been
any one who believed in me this way when I was practically down and
out."

"Perhaps you've never been down and out before, Mr. Haines, so they
never had a chance to show whether they believed in you or not."

"That may be one reason," he answered. "I wonder why"--he paused--"I
wonder why your sister Carolina did not believe in me."

"You were quite fond of her, weren't you?" the girl began, then
stopped and turned away her head.

Haines gazed curiously at Hope.

"I was, yes. I even thought I loved her, but I soon saw my mistake. It
wasn't love. It was only a kind of--"

Suddenly pausing, Bud Haines shot a swift glance at the girl.

"What wonderful hair you have, Miss Hope."

The girl smiled invitingly.

"Think so?"

"Yes," he declared earnestly. "I know so. I never noticed it before,
but I guess lots of fellows down in Mississippi have."

Hope's tantalizing smile worried him. "I hope you are not secretly
engaged too!" he exclaimed.

"No, oh, no!" she answered quickly, before she thought.

"Or in love?" he asked seriously.

Haines had stood up and was now leaning intently over the table. He
realized the difference between the feeling he had had for Carolina
and the tender emotion that thrilled him as he thought of the sweet
girl before him. This time he knew he was not mistaken. He knew that
he truly loved Hope Langdon.

"Or in love?" he asked again, anxious at her silence.

Hope looked at him slowly. A faint blush illumined her face.

"Oh, don't let's talk about me," she exclaimed.

"But I want to talk about you," he cried. "I don't want to talk about
anything else. I must talk about you, and I'm going to talk whether
you want to hear or not. You've believed in me when nobody else
believed. You've fought for me when everybody else was fighting
against me. You've shown that you think I am honest and worthy of a
woman's faith. You fought your own family for me. Nobody has ever done
for me what you have, and--and--"

He faltered, full of what he was about to say.

"And you're grateful," she ended.

He looked her squarely in the eyes as though to fathom her thoughts.
Then he reached toward the girl and seized both her hands.

"Grateful nothing!" he cried. "I'm not grateful. I'm in love--in love
with you. I want you--want you as I never wanted anything or anybody
before, and I tell you I'm going to have you. Do you hear?"

Hope could not hide her agitation. The light in her eyes showed she
was all a woman.

[Illustration: THE LANGDON FAMILY.]

"Oh, nothing in the world could happen as quickly as that, Mr.
Haines!" she protested, with her last attempt at archness.

"Nothing could?" he threatened. "I'll show you."

He advanced quickly around the table, but the girl darted just beyond
his grasp. Then she paused--and her lover gathered her in his arms.

"Hope, my dear, you are my own," was all he could say as he bent over
to kiss the lips that were not refused to him.

Hope released herself from his fervent grasp.

"I love you, I do love you," she said fondly. "I believe in you, and
father must too. You've got to straighten this tangle out now, for my
sake as well as your own. Father will listen."

"It's all so strange, so wonderful, I can hardly understand it," began
Haines slowly, as he held the girl's hands.

Unknown to both, the door leading from the hall had opened to admit
Senator Langdon into the lower end of the room. Surprised at the sight
of the couple, so seriously intent on each other, he made a sudden
gesture of anger, then, apparently changing his mind, advanced toward
them.

"I believe you want to see me, sir," he said to Haines. "I hope you'll
be brief. I have very little time to spare from my guests."

Hope's bosom fluttered timorously at the interruption. The man
nervously stepped forward.

"I sha'n't take much of your time, Senator Langdon," he said. "There
has been a misunderstanding, a terrible mistake. I am sure I can
convince you."

Senator Langdon hesitated doubtfully, half turned toward Carolina,
Randolph and Norton, who had followed him, and again faced Haines.

Hope pressed her father's arm and looked up into his face
entreatingly. Randolph, observing this, quickly stepped close to the
Senator's side, saying, "I can settle with this Mr. Haines for you."

Waving his son aside, the Senator finally spoke.

"I reckon there's been too many attending to my business and settling
my affairs, Randolph," he said. "I think for a change I'll settle a
few of my own. All of you children go out and leave me here with Mr.
Haines."



CHAPTER XIX

SENATOR LANGDON LEARNS THE TRUTH


When they were alone Haines faced the Senator and spoke determinedly.

"They told you I was not running straight," he said.

The Senator nodded, and the lines about his mouth deepened.

"Yes."

Bud Haines stiffened at the word. Every muscle in his body seemed to
become rigid as he mentally vowed that he would retaliate against his
traducers if it cost him his life to do it. Hope had informed him only
too accurately, he now realized. Little did the Senator know that what
he was now about to hear would give him one of the severest shocks of
his life.

"They told me you weren't running straight," said Haines deliberately.
"Now, neither one of us has been crooked, but somebody else has been,
and this was the plan to keep us apart."

"Norton told me you were speculating in Altacoola lands," said
Langdon.

"And Norton told me the same of you," retorted Bud.

The Senator's face grew very serious.

"But my daughter, Miss Carolina Langdon, confirmed Norton's story."

Haines here faced the most difficult part of his interview. He hardly
knew how to answer. His manhood rebelled against placing any blame on
a woman. He revolted at the thought of ruining a father's faith in his
daughter's honesty, especially when that father was the man he most
admired, a man for whom he had genuine, deep-rooted affection. But it
was necessary that the words be spoken.

"I hate to tell you, sir," he said in a low, uncertain voice, "that it
was your daughter Carolina who made me believe this story told about
you and vouched for by your son Randolph."

Langdon started back aghast. He stared at Haines and knew that he
spoke the truth. Then his white head sank pathetically. Tears welled
into the eyes of the planter, and this sturdy old fighting man dropped
weakly into a chair, sobbing convulsively, broken in spirit and
wearied in body.

At length Haines spoke to his stricken chief.

"I know it hurts," he said. "It hurt me to have to say it. Don't
believe it until you get it out of Norton, but then you must do
something."

Langdon came to his feet, mopping his cheeks. But there was no
weakness in him now. Yes, he would do something. He would go after the
thieves that had turned his own flesh and blood against him and root
them all out--show them all up.

"Oh, I'll do something," he said grimly. "I'm going to make up for
lost time. Of course, Norton is speculating. Who's behind him?"

"Stevens and Peabody, I'm positive," answered Haines, "and behind them
is Standard Steel."

"What!" exclaimed Langdon. "Stevens in a swindle like this! Are you
sure? How do you know?"

"A Gulf City man who couldn't carry his liquor gave me some clues,
and I worked Norton into telling some more," answered the secretary.
"Where is Peabody?"

"He's here now."

"Then he hasn't got my letter yet. I sent him a note and signed your
name, Senator, to the effect that the Gulf City claims have been
brought before you so strongly that you might vote for Gulf City."

Langdon was amazed.

"You sent that note," he exclaimed, "when you know Altacoola is the
only proper place and Gulf City is a mud bank?"

The newspaper man smiled.

"Of course," he agreed, "but I had to get a rise out of Peabody. This
will show where he stands."

"Oh," said Langdon, "I understand. Thanks, boy."

A servant entered with a note.

"For Senator Peabody, sir, marked 'Urgent.' The messenger's been
hunting him for some hours."

Langdon looked shrewdly at Bud, then turned to the servant.

"You keep that note until I ring for you, then bring it to Senator
Peabody. Understand? No matter how urgent it's marked."

The man bowed.

"Yes, sir."

"Now tell Mr. Norton, Miss Langdon and Mr. Randolph to come here."

The Senator turned back to his secretary.

"I expect I'm going to be pretty busy the rest of the evening, Bud, so
in case I forget to mention it again, remember to show up at your old
desk in the morning."

"I will. Thank you, sir."

"You sent for us, Senator," said Norton, approaching with his two
dupes.

"You are interested in Altacoola lands," the Senator angrily charged.

"I am, sir," he said.

"And you told Mr. Haines that I was interested in Altacoola lands?"

The schemer hesitated, and the Senator broke in on him in rage.

"Speak out, man! Tell the truth, if you can."

"I did," admitted the Congressman finally.

"Was there any particular reason for your not telling the truth?"
demanded the Mississippian in threatening tone.

"I told the truth," replied Norton. "You are interested in them."

For an instant Langdon seemed about to step toward him, then he
controlled himself.

"I didn't know it," he said.

"You have several things to learn, Senator," declared the Congressman.

"I have things to learn and things to teach," he said. "But go on. Why
am I interested?"

"You are interested, Senator," replied the trickster, making his big
play, "through your son, Randolph, who invested $50,000 of your money
in Altacoola, and also through your daughter, Miss Carolina, who,
acting on my advice, has put her own money--$25,000--in Altacoola land
also."

For a moment Langdon was speechless. It was too much at first for the
honest old Southerner to comprehend.

"You mean," he gasped at last, "that you induce a boy to put $50,000
in Altacoola land when you knew I had to vote on the bill? And you
even let my daughter put her money in the same scheme?"

"Of course, I did. It was a splendid chance, and I let your son in
for friendship and your daughter because she has done me the honor to
promise to become my wife."

"What! You have my daughter's promise to marry you, you--"

"She admits it herself."

"Then I reckon here's where I lose a prospective son-in-law," sneered
Langdon. "But that's unimportant. Now, Norton, who's behind you?"

"I must decline to answer that."

Langdon looked at him sternly.

"Very well," he said. "You are too small to count. I'll find out for
myself. Now you go to my study and wait there until I send for you. I
must be alone with my children."

When Norton and Haines had left them, Langdon turned sadly to the two
children who had disgraced him.

"Can you understand?" he said. "Do you know what you've done to me?"

"What, father? We've done nothing wrong!" protested Carolina.

"They told me it was perfectly legitimate," urged Randolph. "They said
everybody--Peabody and Stevens and the rest--were in it, and Peabody
is the boss of the Senate."

"Yes, my boy," assented the old planter, "he's the leader in the
Senate, and that's the shameful part of all this--that a man of his
high standing should set you so miserable an example."

Randolph Langdon was not a vicious lad, not a youth who preferred or
chose wrongdoing for the increased rewards it offered. He was at heart
a chivalrous, straightforward, trustful Southern boy who believed in
the splendid traditions of his family and loved his father as a
son should a parent having the qualities of the old hero of
Crawfordsville. Jealous of his honor, he had been a victim of Norton's
wiles because of the Congressman's position and persuasiveness,
because this companion of his young days had won his confidence and
had not hesitated to distort the lad's idea of what was right and what
was wrong.

Randolph began an indignant protest against his father's reproof when
the Senator cut him short.

"Don't you see?" said the Senator. "I can understand there being
rascals in the outside world and that they should believe your
careless, foolish old father lawful game, but that he should be
thought a tool for dishonest thieving by members of his own family is
incomprehensible.

"Randolph, my son, Carolina, my daughter, through all their
generations the Langdons have been honorable. Your mother was a
Randolph, and this from you! Oh, Carolina! And you, Randolph! How
could you? How could you betray or seek to betray your father, who
sees in you the image of your dear mother, who has gone?"



CHAPTER XX

THE CALL TO ARMS


Both Randolph, and Carolina were deeply affected by their father's
words.

The daughter attempted to take on herself the blame for her brother's
action.

"I was the older one. I might have stopped him if I had wished, and
should bear the burden."

"No, no, father," exclaimed the youth, his inborn self-reliance
prompting him to shoulder the consequences of his own mistakes. "I,
and I alone, am responsible for what I did. I did not realize that it
was wrong. I will not hide behind Carolina."

Carolina Langdon bore herself better than was to have been expected
under the strain of the painful interview. She saw more clearly now
how she had erred. She was undergoing an inward revolution that would
make it impossible for her ever again to veer so far from the line of
duty to her father, her family and to herself.

When Randolph had finished Carolina took up her own defense, and
eloquently she pleaded the defense of many a woman who yearns for what
she has not got, for what may be beyond her reach--the defense of the
woman who chafes under the limitations of worldly position, of sex and
of opportunity. It was the defense of an ambitious woman.

"Perhaps I ought to have been a man of the Langdon family," she
exclaimed. "Father, oh, can't you understand that I couldn't doze my
life away down on those plantations? You don't know what ambition is.
I had to have the world. I had to have money. If I had been a man I
would have tried big financial enterprises. I should have liked to
fight for a fortune. You wouldn't have condemned me then. You might
have said my methods were bold, but if I succeeded I would have been
a great man. But just because I am a woman you think I must sit home
with my knitting. No, father, the world does move. Women must have an
equal chance with men, but I wish I had been a man!"

"Even then I hope you would have been a gentleman," rebuked her father
sternly. "Women should have an equal chance, Carolina. They should
have an equal chance for the same virtues as men, not for the same
vices."

"But an equal chance," returned the girl fervidly. "There, father, you
have admitted what I have tried to prove. The woman with the spirit of
a man, the spirit that cries to a woman. 'Advance,' 'Accomplish,' 'Be
something,' 'Strike for yourself,' cannot sit idly by while all the
world moves on. If it is true that I have chosen the wrong means,
the wrong way, to better my lot I did it through ignorance, and that
ignorance is the fault of the times in which I live, of the system
that guides the era in which I live.

"I am what the world calls 'educated,' but the world, the world of
men, knows better. It laughs at me. It has cheated me because I am
a woman. The world of men has fenced me in and hobbled me with
convention, with precedent, with fictitious sentiment. If I pursue
the business of men as they themselves would pursue it I am called an
ungrateful daughter. If I should adopt the morals of men I would be
called a fallen woman. If I adopted the religion of men I would have
no religion at all. Turn what way I will--"

[Illustration: "YOU'LL HAVE TO TAKE YOUR MEDICINE LIKE A MAN."]

"But not every woman feels the way you do, my daughter," broke in the
Senator.

"No, you are right, because their spirit has been crushed by
generations, by centuries of forced subserviency to men. They tell us
we should be thankful that we do not live in China, where women are
physical slaves to men. In our country they are forced to be mental
and social slaves to men. Is one very much worse than the other?"

"Then, dear," and her father's tone was very gentle, "if you want an
equal chance--want to be equal to a man--you must take your medicine
with Randolph, like a man."

"What are you going to do, sir?" she asked, afraid.

"I'm going to spoil all your little scheme, dear," he returned,
smiling sadly. "I'm going, I fear, to make you lose all your money.
I'd like to make it easy for you, but I can't. You've got to take your
medicine, children, and when it's all over back there in Mississippi I
shall be able, I hope, to patch up your broken lives, and together we
will work out your mistakes. I can't think of that now. The honor of
the Langdons calls. This is the time for the fight, and any one who
fights against me must take the consequences."

He walked over and touched the bell.

"Thomas," he said to the servant who responded, "take that letter at
once to Senator Peabody, in the library."

"What is it, sir?" asked Randolph.

"It's the call to arms," responded his father grimly.

Senator Peabody read the letter to which Haines had signed Langdon's
name and jumped up from his chair in the library in astonishment.
Without a word to the startled Stevens he rushed to confront Langdon.

"What's the meaning of this?" he shouted as he burst in on the junior
Senator from Mississippi.

"Of what?" asked the Southerner, with a blandness that added fuel to
Peabody's irritation.

"Don't trifle with me, sir!" cried "the boss of the Senate." "This
letter. You sent it. Explain it! I'm in no mood to joke."

Langdon looked at him calmly.

"I think the letter is quite plain, Senator," he said. "You can read."
Then he turned to his daughter. "This discussion cannot possibly
interest you, my dear. Will you go to the drawing-room to receive our
guests?"

Carolina obeyed. She seemed to be discovering new qualities in this
father whom she had considered to be too old-fashioned for his time.

"Now, Senator, go ahead, and, Randolph, you bring Stevens."

"You're switching to Gulf City?" demanded Peabody.

"I'm considering Gulf City," agreed Langdon.

Peabody brought down his fist on the table.

"It's too late to consider anything, Langdon," he cried. "We're
committed to Altacoola, and Altacoola it is. I don't care what you
heard of Gulf City. Now, I'd like to settle this thing in a friendly
manner, Langdon. I like always for every member of the Senate to have
his share of the power and the patronage. We've been glad to put
you forward in this naval base matter. We appreciate the
straightforwardness, the honesty of your character. You look well.
You're the kind of politician the public thinks it wants nowadays, but
you've been in the Senate long enough to know that bills have to pass,
and you know you can't get through anything without my friends, and I
tell you now I'll throttle any Gulf City plan you bring up."

"Then if you are as sure of that you can't object to my being for Gulf
City?" asked Langdon.

"Are you financially interested in Gulf City?" demanded Peabody.

"Senator Peabody!" exclaimed Langdon.

"Don't flare up, Langdon," retorted Peabody. "That sort of thing has
happened in the Senate. There are often perfectly legitimate profits
to be made in some regular commercial venture by a man who has inside
information as to what's doing up on Capitol Hill."

"Senator Peabody," asked Langdon, "why are you so strong for
Altacoola?"

The Pennsylvanian hesitated.

"Its natural advantages," he said at last.

The Southerner shook his head.

"Oh, that's all? Well, if natural advantages are going to settle
it, and not influence, go ahead and vote, and I'll just bring in a
minority report for Gulf City."

"The boss of the Senate" was in a corner now.

"Confound it, Langdon, if you will have it, I am interested in
Altacoola."

Langdon nodded.

"That's all I wanted to know," he said.

"Now you see why it's got to be Altacoola," persisted the boss.

"I don't mind telling you, then, Senator Peabody," answered Langdon
calmly, "that my being for Gulf City was a bluff. I've been trying to
draw you out. Gulf City is a mud bank and no more fitted to be a naval
base than Keokuk, Ia. Altacoola it's got to be, for the good of the
country and the honor of Mississippi.

"And one thing more, Senator. I'd just like to add that not a single
man connected with that committee is going to make a cent out of the
deal. You get that straight?"



CHAPTER XXI

"IF YOU CAN'T BUY A SENATOR, THREATEN HIM"


Senator Peabody was the most surprised man in Washington when he heard
the junior Senator from Mississippi state that no one was to enrich
himself out of the government naval base project.

He heaped a mental anathema on the head of Stevens for saddling such
a man on the Senate "machine," for Langdon would of course never had
been put on "naval affairs" (just now very important to the machine)
without the "O.K." of Stevens, who had won a heretofore thoroughly
reliable reputation as a judge of men, or of what purported to be men.
The thought that at this time, of all times, there should be a man
on the committee on naval affairs that could not be "handled" was
sufficient to make him who reveled in the title of "boss of the
Senate" determine that he must get another chief lieutenant to replace
Stevens, who had proved so trustworthy in the past. Stevens had lost
his cunning!

As the vote of Langdon could not be secured by humbug or in exchange
for favors and as it could not be "delivered," Peabody, of course, was
willing to pay in actual cash for the vote. This was the final step
but one in political conspiracies of this nature?--cash. But Langdon
would not take cash, so Peabody had to resort to the last agency of
the trained and corrupt manipulator of legislation.

He would threaten.

Moreover, he knew that to make threats effective, if it is possible to
do so, they must be led up to systematically--that is, they should be
made at the right time. The scene must be set, as in a play.

Senator Peabody glared at Langdon as though to convince the latter
that to stand in his way would mean political destruction.

"So nobody is going to make a cent, eh? Well, I suppose you want all
the profits for yourself." Turning to Stevens, who had just entered,
the Pennsylvanian cried:

"Do you but listen to our suddenly good friend Langdon. He wants to be
the only man to make money out of the naval base. He won't listen to
any other member of the naval committee making a cent out of it. Why,
he--"

"Great God, sir!" exclaimed Langdon. "You are going too far, Peabody.
You state what is false, and you know it, you--you--"

"Then you are willing that others should have their rightful share?"
put in Stevens. "Oh, I understand now, Senator."

"No, no, no!" cried Langdon. "You do not understand, Senator Stevens,
and I must say I am ashamed to speak of you by the honorable title of
Senator, sir. I will not listen to any person enriching himself at
the Government's expense, and I am your enemy, you, Peabody, and you,
Stevens, beyond recall. You both know you misrepresent me."

Langdon walked over to Stevens and faced him.

"Do you remember, Stevens, Lorimer Hawkslee, back in wartime?"

"Yes," said Stevens, puzzled, "I remember him--a very fine gentleman."

The old planter sneered.

"Yes, a very fine gentleman! You remember he got rich out of contracts
for supplies furnished to the Confederate Government when it wasn't
any too easy for the Confederate Government to pay and when he was
in that Government himself. I never quite thought that the act of a
gentleman, Stevens. It seemed to me to be very like dishonesty.
I refused to speak to Lorimer Hawkslee in the Carroll Hotel at
Vicksburg, and when the people there asked me why I told them. I want
to warn you, Stevens, that I'm likely to meet you some time in the
Carroll Hotel at Vicksburg."

Stevens backed away angrily. "I catch your insinuation, but"--he
received a warning glance from Peabody and broke into a pleasant smile
calculated to deceive the old planter--"this once I will overlook it
because of our old friendship and the old days in Mississippi."

"You are a fine talker, Langdon," said Peabody, coming to Stevens'
rescue, "but I can readily see what you are driving at. You want an
investigation. You think you will catch some of us with what you
reformers call 'the goods,' but forget evidently the entirely simple
facts that your family has invested in Altacoola lands more heavily
probably than any one else among us. You want to raise a scandal, do
you? Well, go on and raise it, but remember that you will have to
explain how it happened that there is $50,000 invested in the name of
your son, and $25,000 in the name of your daughter, Miss Carolina, not
to mention a few thousands put in by the gentleman who, I am given to
understand, is to be your son-in-law, Congressman Norton.

"How about that, Norton?" Peabody asked, turning to the Congressman,
who had followed Stevens.

"I corroborate all you've said," remarked Norton. "I can state
positively that Senator Langdon knew that his money was going into
Altacoola land. I will swear to it if necessary," and he glared
bitterly at Carolina's father, feeling certain that the girl would
cling to him as opposed to her parent.

Langdon made a threatening move at the Congressman.

"I consider my riddance of you mighty cheap at the price," he cried.

"Come, come, Langdon," fumed Peabody, "I must get away from here to
catch the midnight train. Let's get through with this matter. You must
realize that you cannot fight me in Washington. You must know that
men call me the 'king of the Senate.' I can beat any measure you
introduce. I can pass any measure you want passed. I can make you a
laughing-stock or a power.

"Why, my friend from Mississippi, I can even have your election to the
Senate contested, have a committee appointed to investigate the manner
of your election, have that committee decide that you bought your way
into the honorable body, the Senate of the United States, and on the
strength of that decision have you forfeit your seat! What a pretty
heritage to hand down to posterity such a disgrace will be! Why, the
very school children of the future will hear about you as 'Looter
Langdon,' and their parents will tell them how particularly degrading
it was for a man of your reputation to drag into your dishonest
schemes your son, sir, and your daughter. For who will believe that
this money was not put in these lands without your consent, without
your direction, your order? Did you not sign the mortgage on which
this $50,000 was raised?"

Senator Langdon waved his hand deprecatingly. "I'm learning the
under-handed ways of you professional politicians. I'm getting wise.
I'm learning 'the game,' so I know you're bluffing me, Peabody. But
you forget that the game of poker was invented in Mississippi--my
native State."

Pressing a button, Langdon summoned a servant and said: "Send in Mr.
Haines. I guess I've got to have a witness for my side."

"It's no bluff," spoke Stevens as Haines entered. "Peabody can and
will break you like a pipestem; he's done it to other men before you
who--who tried to dispute his power. But I'll try to save you. I'll
ask him to be merciful. You are not of any importance in the Senate.
We do not need to deal with you--"

"Then why do you both spend so much time on me?" asked Langdon
innocently. "Why doesn't Peabody go to Philadelphia?"

"Langdon," said Peabody, "you know my control of the Senate is no
piece of fiction. But I will forgive your obstinacy, even forget it.
I--"

"Look here," cried Langdon, "just because I'm a fat man don't think
that I can't lose my temper." He stopped and gazed at his two
colleagues.

"Now, you two men stay still one moment, and I'll tell you what really
will happen to-morrow," he exploded, "and I'm only a beginner in the
game that's your specialty. The naval base is going to Altacoola--"

"Good!" simultaneously cried both Peabody and Stevens. "You're coming
in with us?"

"No, I'm not, but I'll pass the bill so that nobody makes a cent, just
as I said I would. I'll fool you both and make you both honest for
once in spite of your natural dispositions."

Stevens and the Pennsylvanian stared at each other in disgust.

"Furthermore," continued Langdon, "Altacoola must have the base
because I've known for some time that Gulf City was impossible. But
some crooked Senators would have made money if they'd known it, so
they didn't learn it. Altacoola, that proud arm of our great gulf,
will have those battleships floating on her broad bosom and the
country will be the better off, and so will the sovereign State of
Mississippi--God bless it--but neither Senator Peabody of Pennsylvania
nor Senator Stevens of Mississippi is going to be any better because
of it. No, and if you men come to my committee room at 12:30 to-morrow
noon you'll have a chance to hear how all that's coming about. If you
are not there by that time I'll bring in a minority report in favor
of Gulf City, just to show you that I know how to play the game--this
Washington game--"

"Come, let's go. We can do nothing with him," said Peabody to the
senior Senator from Mississippi.

"Well, Senator, in the name of goodness, what are you going to do? How
can you win for Altacoola without letting these grafters make money
out of it?" asked Haines in astonishment as the other two walked away.
"What are you going to do at 12:30 to-morrow?"

Langdon turned to him and rolled his eyes toward the ceiling
despairingly.

"I'm blamed if I know!" he exclaimed.

[Illustration: "TO-MORROW AT 12:30."]



CHAPTER XXII

LOBBYISTS--AND ONE IN PARTICULAR


Washington has known many lobbyists in its time, and it keeps on
knowing them. The striking increase in legislation that aims to
restrict unlawful or improper practices in business, the awakening
of the public conscience, has caused a greater demand than ever for
influence at the national capital, for these restrictive measures must
be either killed or emasculated to a point of uselessness by that
process which is the salvation of many a corrupt manipulator, the
process of amendment.

Predatory corporations, predatory business associations of different
sorts and predatory individuals have their representatives on the
field at Washington to ward off attack by any means that brains can
devise or money procure and to obtain desired favors at a cost that
will leave a profitable balance for the purchaser. When commercial
tricksters, believing in the lobbyists' favorite maxim, "The People
Forget," feel that they have outlived the latest reform movement
and see "the good old days" returning, the professional politicians
introduce a few reform measures themselves, most stringent measures.
They push these measures ahead until somebody pays up, then the bills
die. The lobbyist knows all about these "strike" bills, but does not
frown on them. No, no. Per-haps he helped draw up one of these bills
so that, with the aid of his inside knowledge of his employer's
business, the measure is made to give a greater scare than might
otherwise have resulted. The bigger the scare the bigger the fund
advanced, of course, for the lobbyist to handle. All this also helps
the lobbyist to secure and retain employment.

Not all the Washington lobbyists are outside of Congress. The Senator
or Congressman has unequaled facilities for oiling or blocking the
course of a bill. Sometimes he confines himself to the interests of
his own clients, whoever they may be. But sometimes he notices a bill
that promises to be a pretty good thing for the client of some other
member if it passes. Then he begins to fight this bill so actively
that he must be "let in on the deal" himself. This is very annoying
to the other member, but the experience is worth something. He has
learned the value of observing other people's legislation.

The outsiders (members of the "third house") and the insiders have a
bond of freemasonry uniting them; they exchange information as to what
members of both houses can be "reached," how they can be "got to"
(through whom) and how much they want. This information is carefully
tabulated, and now prices for passing or defeating legislation can be
quoted to interested parties just as the price of a carload of pork
can be ascertained at a given time and place. Perhaps it is this
system that leads grafting members of short experience to wonder how
knowledge of their taking what is termed "the sugar" got out and
became known to their associates. Did they not have pledge of absolute
secrecy? Yes, but the purchaser never intended to keep the information
from those of his kind. Lobbyists must be honest with each other.

Not all lobbyists are men. The woman legislative agent has been known
to occupy an important position in Washington, and she does yet.
She is hard to detect and frequently more unprincipled than the men
similarly engaged, if that is possible.

A woman with a measure of social standing would naturally prove
the most successful as a lobbyist in Washington because of the
opportunities her position would afford her to meet people of
prominence. And just such a one was Mrs. Cora Spangler, with whom
the Langdons had been thrown in contact quite intimately since their
arrival at the capital.

Pretty and vivacious, Mrs. Spangler bore her thirty-seven years with
uncommon ease, aided possibly by the makeup box and the modiste.
Her dinners and receptions were attended by people of acknowledged
standing. Always a lavish spender of money, this was explained
as possible because of a fortune left her by her late husband,
Congressman Spangler of Pennsylvania. That this "fortune" had
consisted largely of stock and bonds of a bankrupt copper smelting
plant in Michigan remained unknown, except to her husband's family,
one or two of her own relatives and Senator Peabody, who, coming from
Pennsylvania, had known her husband intimately.

He it was who had suggested to her that she might make money easily
by cultivating the acquaintance of the new members of both houses
and their families, exerting her influence in various "perfectly
legitimate ways," he argued, for or against matters pending in
legislation. The Standard Steel corporation kept Mrs. Spangler well
supplied with funds deposited monthly to her account in a Philadelphia
trust company.

She avoided suspicion by reason of her sex and her many acquaintances
of undisputed rank. Senator Peabody was never invited to her home, had
never attended a single dinner, reception or musicale she had given,
all of which was a part of the policy they had mutually agreed on to
deaden any suspicion that might some time arise as to her relation to
the Standard Steel Company. It was well known that Peabody had been
put into the Senate by Standard Steel to look after its interests.

He had found Mrs. Spangler chiefly valuable thus far as a source of
information regarding the members of Congress, which she obtained
largely from their families. He was thus able to gain an idea of their
associations, their particular interests and their aspirations in
coming to Congress, which proved of much use to him in forming and
promoting acquaintances, all for the glory of Standard Steel.

Senator Holcomb of Missouri told Mrs. Spangler at an afternoon tea
confidentially that he was going to vote against the ship subsidy
bill. Senator Peabody was informed of this two hours later by a note
written in cipher. When the vote was called two days later Senator
Holcomb voted for the bill. Standard Steel supplies steel for ocean
liners, and their building must be encouraged.

Mrs. Windsor, wife of Congressman Windsor of Indiana, remarked to Mrs.
Spangler at a reception that she was "so glad Jimmie is going to do
something for us women at last. He says we ought to get silk gowns
ever so much cheaper next year," Jimmie Windsor was a member of the
House committee on ways and means and was busily engaged in the matter
of tariff revision. When President Anders of the Federal Silk Company
heard from Senator Peabody that Windsor favored lowering the tariff
on silk a way was found to convince the Congressman that the American
silk industry was a weakling, and many investors would suffer if the
foreign goods should be admitted any cheaper than at present.

President Anders would be willing to do Senator Peabody a favor some
day.

Sometimes Cora Spangler shuddered at the thought of what would
become of her if she should make some slip, some fatal error, and be
discovered to her friends as a betrayer of confidences for money.
A secret agent of Standard Steel! What a newspaper story she would
make--"Society Favorite a Paid Spy"; "Woman Lobbyist Flees Capital."
The sensational headlines flitted through her mind. Then she would
grit her teeth and dig her finger nails into her palms. She had to
have money to carry on the life she loved so well. She must continue
as she had begun. After all, she reasoned, nothing definite could ever
be proved regarding the past. Let the future care for itself. She
might marry again and free herself from this mode of life--who knows?

So reasoned Cora Spangler for the hundredth time during the last two
years as she sat in her boudoir at her home. She had spent part of the
day with Carolina and Hope Langdon and in the evening had attended the
musicale at their house. But she had been forced to leave early owing
to a severe headache. Now, after an hour or two of rest, she felt
better and was about to retire. Suddenly the telephone bell rang at a
writing-table near a window. She had two telephones, one in the lower
hall and one in her boudoir--to save walking downstairs unnecessarily,
she explained to her woman friends. But the number of this upstairs
telephone was not in the public book. It had a private number, known
to but two people except herself.

Taking down the receiver, she asked in low voice, "Hello! Who is it?"

"Mr. Wall."

It was the name Senator Peabody used in telephone conversation with
her.

"Yes, Congressman!" she responded.

She always said, "Yes, Congressman," in replying to "Mr. Wall," a
prearranged manner of indicating that he was talking to the desired
person.

"I will need your services to-morrow," Senator Peabody said, "on a
very important matter, I am afraid. Decline any engagements and hold
yourself in readiness."

"Yes."

"I may send my friend S. to explain things at 10:30 in the morning. If
he does not arrive at that time, telephone me at 10:35 sharp. You know
where. Understand? I have put off going to Philadelphia to-night."

"Yes."

"That is all; good-by."

"Something very important," she murmured nervously as she turned from
the desk.

"I don't like his tone of voice; sounds strained and
worried--something unusual for the cold, flinty gentleman from
Pennsylvania. And his 'friend S.,' of course, means Stevens! Great
heavens! then Stevens must now have knowledge of my--my--business!"

She calmed herself and straightened a dainty, slender finger against
her cheek.

"It must be something about that naval base bill, I'm sure. That's
been worrying Peabody all session," she mused as she pressed a button
to summon her maid.



CHAPTER XXIII

"THE BOSS OF THE SENATE" GAINS A NEW ALLY


Mrs. Spangler would have flattered herself on guessing correctly as to
Senator Peabody's uneasiness had she heard and seen all that had taken
place in his apartment at the Louis Napoleon Hotel, where he had
hurriedly taken Senator Stevens on leaving the Langdon house.

Not only would the two Senators lose their immense profits on the
Altacoola transaction if Langdon persisted in his opposition, but they
would lose as well the thousands of dollars spent by their agents in
purchasing options on hundreds of acres, and where they could not
get options, the land itself. This land would be on their hands,
unsalable, if the base went somewhere else. Moreover, they feared that
Langdon's revolt would bring unpleasant newspaper publicity to their
operations.

"There's only one course to pursue, Stevens," snapped Peabody as they
took off their overcoats. "That is to be prepared as best we can for
the very worst and meet it in some way yet to be determined. But first
we must try to figure out what Langdon is going to do--what it can be
that he says he will tell us to-morrow at 12:30 if we appear. He must
have something very startling up his sleeve if he makes good his
assertions. I can't see how--"

"Nor I," frowned Stevens, "and my political eyesight is far better
than that fool Langdon's. Under ordinary circumstances we could let
him go ahead with his minority report for Gulf City, but as things
stand he'll have every newspaper reporter in Washington buzzing around
and asking impertinent questions--"

"Yes, and you and I would have to go to Paris to live with our life
insurance friends from New York, wouldn't we?" laughed Peabody
sarcastically. "I'm going to send for Jake Steinert," he added.

"Steinert?" Stevens ejaculated. "What--"

"Oh, that's all right. Maybe he can suggest something," said Peabody,
going to the telephone. "We've too much at stake to make a mistake,
and Jake may see a point that we've overlooked. Luckily I saw him
downstairs in the grill-room as we came through to the elevator."

"Steinert is all right himself," continued Stevens, "but his
methods--"

"Can't be too particular now about his methods--or ours, Stevens, when
a bull like Langdon breaks loose in the political china shop. Fortune
and reputation are both fragile."

A ring of a bell announced the arrival of Jake Steinert, whose
reputation as a lobbyist of advanced ability had spread wide in the
twenty years he had spent in Washington. Of medium height, sallow
complexion, dark hair and dark eyes, his broad shoulders filled the
doorway as he entered. An illy kept mustache almost hid a thin-lipped,
forceful mouth, almost as forceful as some of the language he used.
His eyes darted first to Peabody and then to Stevens, waiting for
either of them to open the conversation.

The highest class lobbyists, those who "swing" the "biggest deals,"
concern themselves only with men who can "handle" or who control
lawmakers. They get regular reports and outline the campaign. Like
crafty spiders they hide in the center of a great web, a web of
bribery, threat, cajolery and intrigue, intent on every victim that is
lured into the glistening meshes.

Only the small fry mingle freely with the legislators in the open, in
the hotels and cafés and in the Capitol corridors.

Jake Steinert did not belong in either of these classes; he ranked
somewhere between the biggest and the smallest. He coupled colossal
boldness with the most expert knowledge of all the intricate workings
of the congressional mechanism. Given money to spend among members to
secure the defeat of a bill, he would frequently put most of the money
in his own pocket and for a comparatively small sum defeat it by
influencing the employees through whose hands it must pass.

"Sit down, Jake. Something to drink?" asked Peabody, reaching for a
decanter.

"No," grunted the lobbyist; "don't drink durin' business hours; only
durin' the day."

"Well, Jake," said the Pennsylvanian, "you probably know something of
what's going on in the naval affairs committee."

"You mean the biggest job of the session?"

"Yes."

"Sure thing, Senator. It's the work of an artist."

"The boss of the Senate" smiled grimly.

"Now, suppose a committeeman named Langdon absolutely refused to be
taken care of, and insisted on handing in a minority report to-morrow,
with a speech that read like the Declaration of Independence?"

Steinert jerked his head forward quickly.

"You mean what would I do if I was--er--if I was runnin' the job?"

"Yes."

Steinert leaned toward Peabody.

"Where do I come in on this?" he asked, suspiciously.

"Come, come, man," was the irritable retort. "I never let a few
dollars stand between myself and my friends."

"All right, Senator."

The lobbyist thrust himself down in his chair, puffed slowly at a
cigar, and gazed thoughtfully at the ceiling.

"Few years ago," he began, after a minute or two, "there was a feller
who was goin' to squeal about a bond issue. He had his speech all
really to warn the country that he thought a crowd of the plutocracy
was goin' to get the bonds to resell to the public at advanced rates.
Well, sir, I arranged to have a carriage, a closed carriage, call that
night to take him to see the President, for he was told the President
sent the carriage for him. When he got out he was at the insane
asylum, an' I can tell you he was bundled into a padded cell in jig
time, where he stayed for three days. 'He thinks he's a member of
Congress,' I told the two huskies that handled him, an' gave 'em each
a twenty-case note. The doctor that signed the necessary papers got
considerable more."

Stevens' gasp of amazement caused the narrator genuine enjoyment.

"I know of a certain Senator who was drunk an' laid away in a Turkish
bath when the roll was called on a certain bill. He was a friend of
Peabody's," laughed the lobbyist to the Mississippian.

"But in this case," said Stevens, "we must be very careful. Possibly
some of your methods in handling the men you go after--"

"Say," interposed Steinert, "you know I don't do all pursuin', all the
goin' after, any more than others in my business. Why, Senator, some
of these Congressmen worry the life out of us folks that sprinkle
the sugar. They accuse us of not lettin' 'em in on things when
they haven't been fed in some time. They come down the trail like
greyhounds coursin' a coyote."

The speaker paused and glanced across at Peabody, who, however, was
too busily engaged in writing in a memorandum book to notice him.

"Why, Senator Stevens," went on the lobbyist, "only to-day a Down East
member held me up to tell me that he was strong for that proposition
to give the A.K. and L. railroad grants of government timber land in
Oregon. He says to me, he says: 'What'n h--l do my constituents in New
England care about things 'way out on the Pacific Coast? I'd give 'em
Yellowstone National Park for a freight sidin' if 'twas any use to
'em,' he says. So you see--"

"I must go," broke in Stevens, rising and glancing at his watch. "It
will soon be daylight."

"If you must have sleep, go; but you must be here at 9 o'clock sharp
in the morning," said Peabody. "Steinert will sleep here with me.
We'll all have breakfast together here in my rooms and a final
consultation."

"You won't plan anything really desperate, Peabody, will you? I think
I'd rather--"

"Nonsense, Stevens, of course not. Our game will be to try to weaken
Langdon, to prove to him in the morning that he alone will suffer,
because our names do not appear in the land deals. The options were
signed and the deeds signed by our agents. Don't you see? Whereas his
daughter and son and future son-in-law actually took land in their own
names."

"How clumsy!"

"Yes. Such amateurism lowers the dignity of the United States Senate,"
Peabody answered, dryly.

"But suppose Langdon does not weaken?" asked Stevens, anxiously, as he
picked up his hat and coat.

"Then we will go into action with our guns loaded," was the reply.



CHAPTER XXIV.

THE HONEYBIRD


In the African jungle dwells a pretty little bird that lives on honey.
The saccharine dainty is there found in the hollows of trees and under
the bark, where what is known as the carpenter bee bores and deposits
his extract from the buds and blossoms of the tropical forest.

The bird is called the "honeybird" because it is a sure guide to the
deposits of the delicacy. The bird dislikes the laborious task of
pecking its way through the bark to reach the honey, and so, wise in
the ways of men, it procures help. It locates a nest of honey, then
flies about until it sees some natives or hunters, to whom it shows
itself. They know the honeybird and know that it will lead them to the
treasure store. Following the bird, which flits just in advance, they
reach the cache of dripping sweetness and readily lay it open with
hatchets or knives. Taking what they want, there is always enough left
clinging to the tree and easily accessible to satisfy the appetite of
the clever little bird.

Senator Stevens of Mississippi bears a marked resemblance to the
honeybird--so much so that he has well won the bird's appellation for
himself. Abnormally keen at locating possibilities for extracting
"honey" from the governmental affairs in Washington, he invariably led
Peabody, representing the hunter with the ax, to the repository. He
would then rely on the Pennsylvanian's superior force to break down
the barriers. Stevens would flutter about and gather up the leavings.

Equally as mercenary as "the boss of the Senate," he lacked Peabody's
iron nerve, determination, resourcefulness and daring. He needed many
hours of sleep. Peabody could work twenty hours at a stretch. He had
to have his meals regularly or else suffer from indigestion. Peabody
sometimes did a day's work on two boiled eggs and a cup of coffee.

The senior Senator from Mississippi had been the first to point out to
Peabody the possibilities for profit in the gulf naval base project,
but the morning following the conference with Steinert when he
rejoined them for breakfast at the Louis Napoleon he was far from
comfortable. He did not mind fighting brain against brain, even though
unprincipled methods were resorted to, but indications were that more
violent agencies would be called into play owing to the complications
that had arisen.

Stevens ate heartily to strengthen his courage. Steinert ate hugely
to strengthen his body. Peabody ate scarcely anything at all--to
strengthen his brain.

Waving away the hotel waiter who had brought the breakfast to his
apartment, Senator Peabody outlined the probable campaign of the day.

"If our best efforts to weaken and scare off Langdon fail to-day," he
said, "it will naturally develop that we must render it impossible in
some way for him to appear in the Senate at all, or we must delay his
arrival until after the report of the committee on naval affairs has
been made. In either event he would not have another opportunity to
speak on that subject.

"Of course, later, at 12:30, we will know his plan of action. Then we
can act to the very point, but we must be prepared for any situation
that can arise."

"Cannot the President of the Senate be persuaded not to recognize
Langdon on the floor? Then we could adjourn and shut him off," asked
Stevens.

"No," responded Peabody; "he has already promised Langdon to recognize
him, and the President of the Senate cannot be persuaded to break his
word. I am painfully aware of this fact."

But Stevens was not yet dissuaded from the hope of defeating the
junior Senator from Mississippi by wit alone.

"Can we not have a speaker get the floor before Langdon and have him
talk for hours--tire out the old kicker--and await a time when he
leaves the Senate chamber to eat or talk to some visitor we could have
call on him, then shove the bill through summarily?" he suggested.

"I've gone over all that." answered Peabody, quickly. "It would only
be delaying the evil hour. You wouldn't be able to move that old
codger away from the Senate chamber with a team of oxen--once he
gets to his seat. His secretary, Raines--another oversight of yours,
Stevens"--the latter winced--"will warn him. Langdon would stick pins
through his eyelids to keep from falling asleep."

"I've been thinkin'," put in Steinert, slowly, "that a little
fine-esse like this might keep him away: When Langdon's in his
committee room before goin' to the Senate send him a telegram signed
by one of his frien's' name that one of his daughters is dyin' from
injuries in a automobile collision a few miles out o' town. That
'ud--"

"Ridiculous," snorted Peabody. "He'd know where they were. They're
always--"

"Huh! then put in more fine-esse."

"How? What?"

"Hev some 'un take 'em out a-autoin'--"

"No, no, man!" snapped Peabody. "They'd stick in town to hear their
father's wonderful speech."

"Well," went on the lobbyist, "I'll hev Langd'n watched by a careful
picked man, a nigger that won't talk. He'll pick a row with the
Colonel on some street, say, w'en he's comin' from his home after
lunch. The coon kin bump into Langd'n an' call him names. Then
w'en ole fireworks sails into 'im, yellin' about what 'e'd do in
Mississippi, the coon pulls a gun on the Colonel an' fires a couple o'
shots random. Cops come up, an' our pertickeler copper'll lug Langd'n
away as a witness, refusin' to believe 'e's a Senator. I kin arrange
to hev him kept in the cooler a couple o' hours without gettin' any
word out, or I'll hev 'im entered up as drunk an' disorderly. He'll
look drunk, he'll be so mad."

"But the negro--how could you get a man to undergo arrest on such a
serious charge, attempted murder!" exclaimed Stevens.

"There, there," said Steinert, patronizingly; "coons has more genteel
home life in jail than they does out. An' don't forget the District of
Columbia is governed by folks that ain't residents of it, only durin'
the session. Th' politicians don't leave their frien's in the cooler
very long. Say, Senator Stevens, are you kiddin' me? Is it any
different down in your--"

The Mississippian choked and spluttered over a gulp of unusually hot
coffee, and Peabody again decided Steinert to be on the wrong tack.

"That proceeding would attract too much attention from the
newspapers," he added.

"Well, I thought you wanted to win," grunted Steinert. "I've been
offerin' you good stuff, too--new stuff. None of yer druggin' with
chloroform or ticklin' with blackjacks. Why, I've gone from fine-esse
to common sense. But, come to think of it, how about some woman? I c'n
get one to introduce to--"

"This is the wrong kind of a man," interrupted Peabody.

"Unless you got the right kind of a woman," went on Steinert.

Senator Stevens choked some more.

"The boss of the Senate" sank down in his chair, crossed one knee
over the other and drummed his fingers lightly on the table. He gazed
thoughtfully at Stevens.

"Yes," he observed, slowly, "unless you've got the right sort of a
woman."

Rising, he led the Mississippian to one side.

The lobbyist heard the Southerner give a short exclamation of
astonishment as Peabody whispered to him.

"It's all right. It's all right," he then heard the Pennsylvanian say,
irritably. "She'll understand. She can be trusted. _She expects you_."

Stevens gave a violent start at the last assurance, but his colleague
hurriedly helped him into his coat.

"Go in a closed carriage," was Peabody's final warning. "Be sure to
tell her to get hold of his two daughters on some pretext at once. She
knows them well. Maybe we can influence the old man through his girls,
don't you see?"

And while Senator Peabody and Jake Steinert recurred to a previous
discussion concerning one J.D. Telfer, Mayor of Gulf City, Senator
Stevens started on the most memorable drive of his career on
this bright winter morning, to the house of the fascinating Mrs.
Spangler--who for the past week had been considering his proposal of
marriage.



CHAPTER XXV

CAROLINA LANGDON'S RENUNCIATION


Senator Langdon's committee room at the Capitol presented a busy scene
at an unusually early hour the morning after the entertainment at his
home. Bud Haines, reinstated as secretary, was picking up the thread
of routine where he had dropped it the day before, though his frequent
thought of Hope and the words that had thrilled him--"I love you, I
love you fondly"--made this task unusually difficult. He impatiently
wished the afternoon to hasten along, as he knew he would then see her
in the Senate gallery, where she would go to hear her father's speech.

This speech had to be revised in some particulars by Bud, and the work
he knew would take up much of the morning. The Senator's speech was
"The South of the Future," which he would deliver when recognized by
the President of the Senate in connection with the naval base bill,
that officer having agreed to recognize Langdon at 3:30, at which time
the report of the naval affairs committee would be received. Just how
Langdon would turn the tables on Peabody and Stevens and yet win for
the Altacoola site not even the ex-newspaper man, experienced in
politics, had solved. Clearly the Senator would have to do some tall
thinking during the morning.

The junior Senator from Mississippi burst into the office with his
habitual cheery greeting, his broad-brimmed black felt hat in its
usual position on the back of his head, like a symbol of undying
defiance.

"A busy day for us, eh, Senator?" queried Bud.

"Now, look here, my boy, don't begin to remind me of work right off,"
he said, with a humorous gleam in his eye. "Go easy on me. Don't
forget I'm her father."

Bud laughed through the flush that rose in his cheeks.

"No, I won't forget that. But have you decided what to tell Peabody
and Stevens as your plan of action if they come in here at 12:30?"

"If they come?" exclaimed Langdon. "They'll come. Watch 'em."

Then he hesitated, worriedly.

"I'll have to incubate an idea between now and noon, somehow. But
don't forget this, Bud--we're worried about them, true enough, but
they're worried a heap more about us."

Senator Langdon stepped into an adjoining room, where he could be
alone, to "incubate."

As Haines resumed his work Carolina Langdon entered.

Avoiding the secretary's direct gaze, she asked for her father.

"He ought to be back shortly, Miss Langdon," responded Haines. "You
can wait here. I must ask pardon for leaving, as I must run over to
the library."

As the secretary bowed himself out of the door he almost collided with
Congressman Norton. Both glared at each other and remained silent.

"Carolina," spoke Norton, as he entered, "I hope--I know you won't
allow your father to influence you against me--because of last night.
I--"

Carolina would rather not have met Charles Norton on this morning. She
had hardly slept for the night. She had fought a battle with herself.
Her father had shown her plainly the mistake she had made. She saw
that her influence had not been without effect on Randolph. Probably
for the first time she realized that there are glory and luxury,
pleasure and prestige for which too big a price can be paid.

The Senator's daughter turned slowly and faced the man she had
promised to marry.

"Charlie, I have come to a decision. I came here to talk with father
about it."

Norton started toward Carolina, a look of apprehension on his face.
He gathered from the trend of her words and her demeanor that she had
turned against him.

"You couldn't be so cruel, Carolina," he protested.

"Charlie," she went on, determinedly, "I will always cherish our
friendship, our happy younger days down in Mississippi, but, I must
give up thinking of you as my future husband. We've both made a
mistake, mine probably greater than yours, but I now am convinced that
I should not marry you. Your way of thinking about life is all wrong,
and you are too deeply entangled with the dishonest men in Washington
to draw back. I cannot love you."

"But I am doing it all for your sake, Carolina. Don't let an
old-fashioned father come between a man and a woman and their love,"
he cried.

"Charlie, I must give you up."

The girl turned to one side, as though to give Norton a chance to
leave.

He looked at her in silence for a moment or two. Then a change came
into his bearing. Wrinkling his face into a sneer, he stepped before
the girl.

"You've been converted mighty sudden, I reckon, from land speculating
to preaching--and preaching, too, against folks who tried to make a
fortune for you."

Norton stopped, expecting a reply, but the girl remained silent.

"You think I'm done for, that I've lost my money; that's why you
turned from me so quickly," he laughed, scornfully. "But I'll show
you, you and your blundering old father. I'll win you yet, and I'll
ruin your father's political reputation. I'll--"

"Are you quite sure about that?" spoke a voice, sharply, behind the
Congressman. He swung around vigorously. Bud Haines had returned in
time to hear Norton's threat.

"Yes; and while I'm doing that I'll take time to show you up, too,
somehow. I guess a Congressman's word will count against that of a
cheap secretary--that's what Miss Langdon said you were."

Carolina looked appealingly to Haines to rid her of the presence of
this man, whose last words she knew Haines would not believe.

But Norton had had his say. He retreated to the door.

"Miss Langdon," he cried, as he backed out and away, "you have an idea
that I am dishonest, but kindly remember that, whatever you think I
am, I never was a hypocrite."

Haines advanced and procured a chair for Miss Langdon.

"I'm very sorry to have come back at such a time," he began.

The girl cut him short with a gesture.

"I want to say to you," she said, then halted--"that I want to
be friends with you. I want you to forget the happenings of
yesterday--last evening--so far as I was concerned in them. I want to
work together with you and father--and so does Randolph. Father and
you are standing together to uphold the honor of the Langdons of
Mississippi, and Randolph and I, no matter the cost of our former
folly, want to share in that work."

Before Haines could reply Senator Langdon burst into the room.

"Bud! Bud!" he cried, "I've got it! I've got it!"

"You've got what, Senator?" exclaimed the secretary.

"That idea, my boy, that idea! It's incubated all right, and Peabody
and Stevens can come just as soon as they want to."



CHAPTER XXVI

THE BATTLES OF WASHINGTON


At twenty minutes after 12 Senator Langdon and Secretary Haines were
still undisturbed by any move on the part of Peabody and Stevens,
who maintained a silence that to Haines was distinctly ominous. His
experience at the Capitol had taught him that when the Senate machine
was quiet it was time for some one to get out from under.

Miss Williams, the naval committee's stenographer, entered.

"Senator Langdon," she said, "Senator Peabody and Senator Stevens are
in committee room 6, and they told me to tell you that they'd be--I
can't say it. Please, sir, I--"

"D--d," interpolated Langdon, laughing.

"Yes, sir, that's it. They'll be--that--if they come in here at 12:30.
You must come to them, they say."

"Tell the gentlemen I'm sitting here with my hat on the back of my
head, smoking a good see-gar, with nails driven through both shoes
into the floor--and looking at the clock."

At 12:25 Senator Stevens entered.

"I came to warn you, Langdon," he said, "that Senator Peabody's
patience is nearly exhausted. You must come to see him at once if you
expect the South to get a naval base at Altacoola or anywhere else. If
you do not agree to take his advice this naval bill and any other that
you are interested in now or in future will be trampled underfoot in
the Senate. Mississippi will have no use for a Senator who cannot
produce results in Washington, and that will prove the bitterest
lesson you have ever learned."

"I'm waiting for Peabody here, Stevens."

"Oh, ridiculous! Of course he's not coming. Why, Langdon, he's the
king of the Senate. He has the biggest men of the country at his call.
He's--"

"He's got one minute left," observed Langdon, looking at the clock,
"but he'll come. I trust Peabody more than the best clock made at a
time like this, when--"

The figure of the senior Senator from Pennsylvania appeared in the
doorway.

"Good-day, Senator Langdon," he remarked, icily.

"Same to you. Have a see-gar, Senator?" said Langdon. He turned and
winked significantly at Haines.

The three Senators seated themselves.

"I suppose you wouldn't consider yourself so important, Langdon, if
you knew that we now find we can get another member of the naval
affairs committee over to our side for Altacoola?" began Peabody.
"That gives us a majority of the committee without your vote."

"That wouldn't prevent me from making a minority report for Gulf City
and explaining why I made that report, would it?" the Mississippian
asked, blandly.

Peabody and Stevens both knew that it wouldn't. Stevens exchanged
glances with "the boss of the Senate," and in low voice began making
to Langdon a proposition to which Peabody's assent had been gained.

"Langdon, we would like to be alone," and he nodded toward Haines.

"Sorry can't oblige, Senator," Langdon replied. "Bud and I together
make up the Senator from Mississippi."

"All right. What I want to say is this: The President is appointing a
commission to investigate the condition of the unemployed. The members
are to go to Europe, five or six countries, and look into conditions
there, leisurely, of course, so as to formulate a piece of legislation
that will solve the existing problems in this country. A most generous
expense account will be allowed by the Government. A member can take
his family. A son, for instance, could act as financial secretary
under liberal pay."

"I've heard of that commission," said Langdon.

"Well, Senator Peabody has the naming of two Senators who will go on
that commission, and I suggested that your character and ability would
make you--"

"Good glory!" exclaimed Langdon. "You mean that my character and
ability would make me something or other if I kept my mouth shut in
the Senate this afternoon! Stevens, I've been surprised so many times
since I came to the capital that it doesn't affect me any more. I'm
just amused at your offer or Senator Peabody's.

"I want to tell you two Senators that there's only one thing that I
want in Washington--and you haven't offered it to me yet. When you do
I'll do business with you."

"What's that? Speak out, man!" said Peabody, quickly.

"A square deal for the people of the United States."

"Good Lord!" exclaimed "the boss of the Senate. Is this Washington or
is it heaven?"

"It is not heaven, Senator," put in Haines.

"Man alive!" cried Peabody, "I've been in Washington so long that--"

"So long that you've forgotten that the American people really exist,"
retorted Langdon; "and there are more like you in the Senate, all
because the voters have no chance to choose their own Senators. The
public in most States have to take the kind of a Senator that the
Legislature, made up mostly of politicians, feels like making them
take. You, Peabody, wouldn't be in the Senate to-day if the voters had
anything to say about it."

The Pennsylvanian shrugged his shoulders.

"And now I'll tell you honorable Senators," went on Langdon,
thoroughly aroused, "something to surprise you. I have discovered that
you were not working for yourselves alone in the Altacoola deal, but
that you intend to turn your land over to the Standard Steel Company
at a big profit as soon as this naval base bill is passed. Then that
company will squeeze the Government for the best part of the hundred
millions that are to be spent."

The Senator sank back in his chair and gazed at his two opponents.

Those two statesmen jumped to their feet.

"Come, Stevens, let him do what he will. We cannot stay here to be
insulted by the ravings of a madman," cried the Pennsylvanian. But he
brought his associate to a standstill midway to the door. "By the way,
Langdon, what is it you are going to do in the Senate this afternoon?"
he asked, "You said you were going to make us honest against our will.
You know you can't do anything."

Bud Haines turned his face toward the speaker and grinned broadly, to
the Senator's intense discomfort.

"I'll do more than that," announced Langdon, rising and pounding a
fist into his open hand. "I'll make you and Stevens more popular than
you ever were in your lives before."

"Bah!" shouted Peabody.

"I'll do even more yet. I'm going to make you generous--patriots. And,
I regret to say, I'll give you the chance to make the hits of your
careers."

The polished hypocrites looked at him, too astonished to move.

"How? What?" they gasped.

Swept on by his own enthusiasm and the force of his own courageous
honesty, the voice of the Southerner rose to oratorical height.

"This afternoon," he exclaimed, "when the naval base committee makes
its report, I will rise in my place and declare that for once in the
history of the Senate men have been found who place the interests of
the Government they serve above any chance of pecuniary reward. These
men are the members of the naval base committee.

"With this idea in view, realizing that dishonest men would try to
make money out of the Government, these members of the naval base
committee, after they settled on Altacoola, went out quietly and
secured control of all the land that will be needed for the naval
base, and these men secured this at a very nominal figure. Now they
are ready to turn over their land to the Government at exactly what
they paid for it, without a cent of profit.

"Then they're going to sit up over there in that Senate. They're going
to realize that a new kind of politics has arrived in Washington--the
kind that I and lots of others always thought there was here.

"And, gentlemen"--he advanced on his colleagues triumphantly--"when
I, Senator Langdon of Mississippi, your creation in politics, have
finished that speech, I dare one of you to get up and deny a word!"

"The boss of the Senate" and his satellite were dumfounded. Firmly
believing that Langdon could find no way to pass the bill for
Altacoola and yet spoil their crooked scheme, they were totally
unprepared for any such dénoûement. To think that a simple,
old-fashioned planter from the cotton fields of Mississippi could
originate such a plan to outwit the two ablest political tricksters in
the Senate!

Langdon eyed his colleagues triumphantly.

Peabody, however, was thinking quickly. He was never beaten until the
last vote was counted on a roll call. He knew that, no matter how
apparently insurmountable an opposition was, a way to overcome it
might often be found by the man who exercises strong self-control and
a trained brain. This corrupt victor in scores of bitter political
engagements on the battlefield of Washington was now in his most
dangerous mood. He would marshal all his forces. The man to defeat him
now must defeat the entire Senate machine and the allies it could gain
in an emergency; he must overcome the power of Standard Steel; he must
fight the resourceful brain of the masterful Peabody himself.

Peabody whispered to Stevens, "We must pretend to be beaten,"

[Illustration: "AFTER I HAVE FINISHED I DARE ONE OF YOU TO DENY A
WORD!"]

Then the Pennsylvanian advanced, smiling, to Langdon and held out his
hand.

"Senator Langdon," he said, "I'm beaten. You've beaten the leader of
the Senate, something difficult to believe. What's more, you've given
me the chance of a lifetime to become known as a public benefactor. As
soon as you've finished your speech in the Senate I will get up and
make another one--to second yours. Here's my hand. Anything you may
ever want out of Peabody in the future shall be yours for the asking."

Langdon refused to grasp the proffered hand.

Senator Stevens made a show of protesting against his superior's
seeming surrender.

"But," he objected, "look here--"

Peabody turned upon him instantly.

"Oh, shut up, Stevens; don't be a fool. Come on in. The water's fine."

The pair of schemers, with Norton at their heels, turned away.

The Pennsylvanian drew Stevens into committee room 6 and, ordering the
stenographer to leave, drew up chairs where both could sit, facing the
door.

"We've thrown dust in that old gander's eyes," whispered Peabody.
"It's now ten after 1. He is to be recognized to make his speech at
3:30. That gives us two hours and twenty minutes--"

"Yes, but for what?" asked Stevens, excitedly. "I've been trying
myself to think of something. What will you do--what _can_ you do?"

"The boss of the Senate" smiled patronizingly on the senior Senator
from Mississippi, as though amused and scornful of his limitations as
a strategist, as a tenacious fighter. Then his jaw set hard, and his
brows contracted.

"I will not do anything. I cannot do anything"--he hesitated a full
ten seconds--"but Jake Steinert can."

Stevens' hands twitched nervously.

"And," continued Peabody, "I'm expecting a 'phone call from him any
moment. I told him this morning that he might be able to make $1,000
before night if--"

The telephone bell at the desk interrupted him.

Peabody leaned over and eagerly clutched the receiver.

The senior Senator from Mississippi jerked himself to his feet. He
stood at a window and looked out over the roof tops of the city.



CHAPTER XXVII

MRS. SPANGLER GIVES A LUNCHEON


When Senators Peabody and Stevens had gone Langdon and Bud went over
the situation together and concluded that their opponents had no means
of defeating Langdon's program--that, after all, Peabody might really
have meant his words of surrender.

"But they might try foul play. Better stay right here in the Capitol
the rest of the day," suggested Bud.

Langdon scoffed at the idea.

Haines bustled away to get a few mouthfuls of lunch to fortify himself
for a busy afternoon--one that was going to be far busier than he
imagined.

The telephone bell rang at the Senator's desk. It was Mrs. Spangler's
voice that spoke.

"Senator Langdon," she said, "Carolina and Hope Georgia are here at my
home for luncheon, and we all want you to join us."

"Sorry I cannot accept," answered the Mississippian, "but I am to make
an important speech this afternoon--"

"Oh, yes, I know. The girls and I are coming to hear it. But you have
two hours' time, and if you come we can all go over to the Senate
together. Now, Senator, humor us a little. Don't disappoint the girls
and me. We can all drive over to the Capitol in my carriage."

The planter hesitated, then replied: "All right. I'll be over, but it
mustn't be a very long luncheon."

"Gone to eat; back by 3 o'clock," he scratched quickly on a pad on the
secretary's desk, and departed.

Mrs. Spangler's luncheons were equally as popular in Washington as
Senator Langdon's dinners. The Mississippian and his daughters enjoyed
the delicacies spread lavishly before them.

Time passed quickly. The old planter enjoyed seeing his daughters
have so happy a time, and he was not insensible to the charm of his
hostess' conversation, for Mrs. Spangler had studied carefully the art
of ingratiating herself with her guests.

Suddenly realizing that he had probably reached the limit of the time
he could spare, the Senator drew out his watch.

"What a stunning fob you wear," quickly spoke Mrs. Spangler, reaching
out her hand and taking the watch from her guest's hands as the case
snapped open.

"Oh, that's Carolina's doings," laughed Langdon. "She said the old
gold chain that my grandfather left me was--"

"Why, how lovely," murmured Mrs. Spangler, glancing at the watch. "We
have plenty of time yet. Won't have to hurry. Your time is the same as
mine," she added, nodding her head toward a French renaissance clock
on the black marble mantel.

As the hostess did this she deftly turned back the hands of the
Senator's watch thirty-five minutes.

"Do you care to smoke, Senator," Mrs. Spangler asked, as her guests
concluded their repast, "if the young ladies do not object?"

Langdon inclined his head gratefully, and laughed.

"They wouldn't be Southern girls, I reckon, if they didn't want to
see a man have everything to make him happy--er, I beg pardon, Mrs.
Spangler, I mean, comfortable. Nobody that's your guest could be
unhappy."

The hostess beamed on the chivalrous Southerner.

Langdon drew forth a thick black perfecto and settled back luxuriously
in his chair, after another glance at Mrs. Spangler's clock. He was
absorbed in a mental résumé of his forthcoming speech and did not hear
the next words of the woman, addressed pointedly to his daughters.

"Do you know, really, why this luncheon was given to-day?" she
queried. Then she continued before Carolina and Hope Georgia could
formulate replies:

"Because your father and I wanted to take this opportunity to announce
to you--our engagement."

The speaker smiled her sweetest smile.

The two girls gazed at each other in uncontrollable amazement, then at
Mrs. Spangler, then at their father, who had turned partly away from
the table and was gazing abstractedly at the ceiling.

Hope Georgia was the first to regain her voice.

"Oh, Mrs. Spangler," she ejaculated, "you are very kind to marry
father, but--"

"What's that?" exclaimed the Senator, roused from his thoughts by his
youngest daughter's words and thrusting himself forward.

Mrs. Spangler laid her hand on his arm.

"Oh, Senator, I have just told the dear girls that you had asked me to
marry you--that we were soon to be married," she said, archly, looking
him straight in the eye. She clasped her hands and murmured: "I am so
happy!"

The hero of Crawfordsville tried to speak, but he could not. He stared
at his hostess, who smiled the smile of the budding debutante. His own
open-mouthed astonishment was reflected in the faces of Carolina and
Hope Georgia as they observed their father's expression. He forgot he
was in Washington. He did not know he was a Senator. The fact that he
had ever even thought of making a speech was furthest from his mind.

What did it all mean? Had Mrs. Spangler gone suddenly insane? His
daughters--what did they think? These thoughts surged through his
flustered brain. Then it flashed over him--she was joking in some new
fashionable way. He turned toward the fair widow to laugh, but her
face was losing its smile. A pained expression, a suggestion of
intense suffering, appeared in her face.

"Why do you so hesitate, Senator Langdon?" she finally asked in low
voice, just loud enough for the two girls to overhear.

The junior Senator from Mississippi looked at his hostess. She had
entertained him and had done much for his daughters in Washington. She
was alone in the world--a widow. He felt that he could not shame her
before Carolina and Hope Georgia. His Southern chivalry would not
permit that. Then, too, she was a most charming person, and the
thought, "Why not--why not take her at her word?" crept into his mind.

"Yes, father, why do you hesitate?" asked Carolina.

Senator Langdon mustered his voice into service at last.

"I've been thinking," he said, slowly, "that--"

"That your daughters did not know," interrupted Mrs. Spangler, "of
our--"

"The telephone--upstairs--is ringing, madam," said a maid who had
entered to Mrs. Spangler.

The adventuress could not leave the Senator and his daughters alone,
though she knew it must be Peabody calling her. At any moment he might
remember his speech and leave. Already late, he would still be later,
though, because he would have no carriage--hers would purposely be
delayed.

"Tell the person speaking that you are empowered to bring me any
message--that I cannot leave the dining-hall," she said to the maid.

To gain time and to hold the Senator's attention, Mrs. Spangler asked,
slowly:

"Well, Senator, what was it that you were going to say when I
interrupted you a few moments ago?"

Langdon had been racking his brain for some inspiration that would
enable him to save the feelings of his hostess, and yet indicate his
position clearly. He would not commit himself in any way. He would
jump up and pronounce her an impostor first.

After a moment of silence his clouded face cleared.

"Mrs. Spangler," he began, "your announcement to-day I have considered
to be--"

"Premature," she suggested.

The maid returned.

"Mr. Wall says Senator Langdon is wanted at once at the Capitol."

"Great heavens!" exclaimed Langdon, springing to his feet and glancing
at the clock. "I'm late! I'm late! I hope to God I'm not too late!"

"Mr. Wall says a carriage is coming for Senator Langdon," concluded
the maid.

"We must talk this matter over some other time, Mrs. Spangler," the
Mississippian cried, as he sent a servant for his hat and coat. "I
hope that carriage hurries, else I'll try it on the run for the
Capitol!"

"It's a half hour away on foot," said Mrs. Spangler. "Better wait.
You'll save time."

But to herself she muttered, as though mystified:

"I wonder why Peabody changed his mind so suddenly? Why should he now
want the old fool at the Capitol?"

The rumble of wheels was heard outside.

"Hurry, father!" cried Hope Georgia.

The Senator hurried down the stone steps of Mrs. Spangler's residence
as rapidly as his weight and the excitement under which he labored
would permit. Opening the coach door, he plunged inside--to come face
to face with Bud Haines, who had huddled down in a corner to avoid
observance from the Spangler windows. The driver started his horses
off on a run.

Struggling to regain his breath, the Senator cried:

"Well, what are--"

"Never mind now. But first gather in all I say, Senator, as we've
no time to lose. When I couldn't locate you and I saw you probably
wouldn't be at the Senate chamber in time to make your speech on the
naval base bill, I persuaded Senator Milbank of Arkansas to rise and
make a speech on the currency question, which subject was in order.
He was under obligation to me for some important information I once
obtained for him, and he consented to keep the floor until you
arrived, though he knew he would earn the vengeance of Peabody. That
was over an hour and a half ago. He must be reading quotations from
'Pilgrim's Progress' to the Senate by now to keep the floor."

Bud paused to look at his watch.

The Senator stretched his head out of the window and cried: "Drive
faster!"

"Got your speech all right?" called Bud above the din of the rattling
wheels.

"Yes, here," was the response, the Senator tapping his inner breast
pocket.

"Thought maybe she--" cried Bud, jerking his head back in the
direction from which they had come.

The Mississippian shook his head negatively, and set his jaws
determinedly.

The coach swung up to the Capitol entrance.

"Tell me," asked Langdon, as both jumped out, "how did you find out
that--"

"I 'phoned the house--gave a name Peabody uses--"

"Great heavens! but how did you know where to 'phone?"

They were at the door of the Senate chamber.

"Norton gave me the tip--for your sake and Carolina's--for old times'
sake, he said," was Bud's reply.



CHAPTER XXVIII

ON THE FLOOR OF THE SENATE


Too much occupied in concentrating his thoughts on his speech, Langdon
failed to notice the consternation on the faces of Peabody and Stevens
as he walked to his seat in the Senate. They had failed to succeed in
getting Milbank to conclude, and consequently could not push the naval
base report through. But they noted the passing of over an hour after
their opponent's appointed time and had felt certain that he would not
appear at all.

"The boss of the Senate" leaned across to Stevens and whispered,
hurriedly:

"We must tear him to pieces now--discredit him publicly. It's his own
fault. Our agents can sell the land to Standard Steel. Our connection
with the scheme will be impossible to discover--after we have made the
public believe Langdon is a crook."

"But how about our supposed combination to protect the Government
that Langdon will tell about?" asked Stevens. "We can't deny that, of
course."

"No," answered Peabody. "We can't deny it, but we will not affirm it.
We will tell interviewers that we prefer not to talk about it."

"It's our only chance," replied Stevens, cautiously.

"Yes; and we owe it all to Jake Steinert," went on Peabody. "That
fellow Telfer will do anything to please Jake. Jake has convinced
Telfer that Langdon was responsible for the defeat of Gulf City, and
the Mayor is wild for revenge."

"The boss of the Senate" rose and walked to the rear of the Senate
chamber to issue orders to two of his colleagues.

"Report of the committee on naval affairs." droned the clerk,
mechanically. "House Bill No. 1,109 is amended to read as follows--"
And his voice sank to an unintelligible mumble, for every Senator
present he well knew was aware that the amendment named Altacoola as
the naval base site.

Senator Langdon rose in his seat.

"Mr. President," he called.

"Chair recognizes the gentleman from Mississippi," said the presiding
officer, as he leaned back to speak to Senator Winans of Kansas, who
had approached to the side of the rostrum.

The Langdon speech on "The New South and the South of the Future"
proved more than a document suited only to a reverent burial in the
_Congressional Record_. Although wearied at the start owing to the
exciting happenings of the day, the Mississippian's enthusiasm for his
cause gave him strength and stimulation as he progressed. His voice
rose majestically as he came to the particular points he wished to
accentuate, and even those in the uppermost rows in the galleries
could hear every word.

At the close of his formal speech he began on his statement of the
action of the naval affairs committee in buying control of the
Altacoola land to foil attempts to rob the Government. As he had
predicted, the Senate did "sit up." The Senate did agree that a new
kind of politics had arrived.

During this latter part of the speech many curious glances were
directed at Peabody and Stevens, who sat in the same tier of seats, in
the middle of the chamber, only an aisle separating them. Through
this choice of seats they could confer without leaving their places.
Various senatorial associates of these two men in other deals found
it difficult to believe their ears--but was not old Langdon at this
moment narrating the amazing transaction on the floor of the Senate?
Would the statue on the pedestal step down? Would the sphinx of the
desert speak the story of the lost centuries? Would honor take the
place of expediency in the affairs of state? What might not happen,
thought the Senate machine, now that Peabody and Stevens had taken to
their bosoms what they termed the purple pup of political purity?

Neither did the full portent of the situation escape the attention
of the reporters' gallery. Dick Cullen observed to Hansel of the
_Record_:

"Virtue's getting so thick around here it's a menace to navigation."

"Blocking the traffic, eh?" queried Hansel; and both laughed.

"Hello! What's this?" exclaimed Cullen a few minutes later. "Horton
has been recognized, when the program was to adjourn when the naval
base bill was over with."

Langdon's speech had proved the hit, the sensation of the session.
After he concluded, amid resounding applause, in which Senators
joined, as well as occupants of the galleries, Senator Horton of
Montana rose and caught the presiding officer's eye.

"I ask unanimous consent to offer a resolution."

Hearing no objection, he continued, in a manner that instantly
attracted unusual attention:

"It is my unpleasant duty"--Peabody and Stevens exchanged glances--"to
place a matter before this body that to me, as a member of this
honorable body, is not only distasteful, but deeply to be regretted.

"There has arisen ground to suspect a member of this body with having
endeavored to make money at the Government's expense out of land which
he is alleged to have desired his own committee to choose as the naval
base.

"I therefore offer this resolution providing for the appointment of an
investigating committee to look into these charges."

Langdon was intensely excited over this new development. "Some one has
learned something about Peabody or Stevens," he muttered. He feared
that this new complication might in some way affect the fate of the
naval base--that the South, and Mississippi, might lose it. He rose
slowly in his seat, while the Senate hummed with the murmur of
suppressed voices.

"I ask for more definite information," he began, when recognized
and after the President of the Senate had pounded with the gavel to
restore quiet, "so that this house can consider this important matter
more intelligently."

Senator Horton rose. He said:

"I will take the liberty of adding that the Senator accused is none
other than the junior Senator from Mississippi."

Langdon's eyes blazed. He strode swiftly into the aisle.

"Mr. President," he cried, passionately, "I know this is not the time
or place for a discussion like this, but ask that senatorial courtesy
permit me to ask"--then he concluded strongly before he could be
stopped--"what is the evidence in support of this preposterous
charge?"

"This is all out of order," said the presiding officer, after a pause,
"but in view of the circumstances I will entertain a motion to suspend
the rules."

This motion passing, Horton replied to Langdon:

"Your name is signed to a contract with J.D. Telfer, Mayor of Gulf
City, Miss., calling for 3,000 shares in the Gulf City Land Company,
and--"

"A lie! a lie!" screamed Langdon.

"That official," went on Horton, coolly, "is now in Washington. He
has the contract and will swear to conversations with you and your
secretary. His testimony will be corroborated by no less a personage
than Congressman Norton, of your own district, who says you asked him
to conduct part of the negotiations.

"And I might add," cried Horton, "that it is known to more than one
member of this honorable body that you had drawn up a minority report
in favor of Gulf City because of your anger at the defeat of your plan
to lake the naval base away from Altacoola."

Langdon sank into his chair, bewildered, even stunned. There was a
conspiracy against him, but how could he prove it? The ground seemed
crumbling from under him--not even a straw to grasp. Then the old
fighting blood that carried him along in Beauregard's van tugged at
the valves of his heart, revived his spirit, ran through his veins. He
leaped to his feet.

A sound as of a scuffle--a body falling heavily--drew all eyes from
Langdon to the rear of the main aisle. An assistant sergeant-at-arms
was lying face downward on the carpet. Another was vainly trying to
hold Bud Haines, who, tearing himself free, rushed down to his chief,
waving a sheet of paper in the Senator's eyes.

"Read that!" gasped the secretary, breathlessly, and he hurried away
up a side passageway and out to reach the stairs leading to the press
gallery.

Langdon spread the paper before him with difficulty with his trembling
hands. Slowly his whirling brain gave him the ability to read. Slowly
what appeared to him as a jumbled nothing resolved into orderly lines
and words. He read and again stood before the Senate, which had
regained its usual composure after the fallen sergeant-at-arms had
regained his feet and rubbed his bruises.

"I do not think there will be any investigation," he said, with
decided effort, struggling to down the emotion that choked him. "I ask
this house to listen to the following letter:

    "DEAR SENATOR LANGDON: When you receive this letter I shall be
    well on my way to take a steamer for Cuba. I write to ask you not
    to think too harshly of me, for I will always cherish thoughts of
    the friendship you have shown me.

    "Peabody and Stevens have finally proved too much for me. When
    they got old Telfer to swear to a forged contract and wanted me to
    forge your name in the land records at Gulf City, I threw up my
    hands. Their game will always go on, I suppose, but you gave them
    a shock when you broke up their Altacoola graft scheme. And I'm
    glad you did They cast me aside to-day, probably thinking they
    could get me again if they needed me.

    "I am going on the sugar plantation of a friend, where I can make
    a new start and forget that I ever went to Washington."

Langdon paused deliberately. The Senate was hushed. The galleries were
stifled. Not even the rustle of a sheet of paper was heard in the
reporters' gallery. The Mississippian gazed around the Senate chamber.
He saw Stevens and Peabody craning their necks across the aisle and
talking excitedly to each other.

Then he stepped forward and spoke, waving the paper in the air.

"This letter is signed 'Charles Norton.'"

The old Southerner gazed triumphantly at the men who had sought to
destroy him. It was with difficulty that the presiding officer could
hammer down the burst of handclapping that arose from the galleries.

Senator Horton, however, was not satisfied with Langdon's sudden
ascendency.

"How do we know that that letter is not a forgery, a trick?" he
exclaimed.

"Go get Congressman Norton--if you can--and get his denial," responded
Langdon.

The junior Senator from Mississippi hurriedly pushed his way out of
the Senate chamber. His day's work was done.

Down on a broad plantation along the Pearl River an old planter, who
has borne his years well, as life goes nowadays, passes his days
contentedly. He delights in the rompings of his grandchildren as they
rouse the echoes of the mansion and prides himself on the achievements
of their father, Randolph, who has improved the plantation to a point
never reached before.

Sometimes he receives a letter from his daughter. Hope Georgia, now
Mrs. Haines, telling him of her happy life, or perhaps it is a letter
from Carolina, describing the good times she is having in London with
the friends she is visiting.

And the old planter goes out on the broad veranda in the warm Southern
twilight, and he thinks of the days that were. He remembers how the
Third Mississippi won the day at Crawfordsville. He thinks of the days
when he fought the good fight in Washington. His thoughts turn to the
memory of her who went before these many years and whom he is soon
to see again, and peace descends on the soul of the gentleman from
Mississippi as the world drops to slumber around him.


THE END.





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