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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

Harwood would have been sensible of it


Harwood

demurred feebly, unheeded by Bassett, who continued steadily.

"I had thought for a time that I shouldn't encourage you to take any part in politics--at least in my affairs. The receivership has been giving you enough to do; and the game, after all, is a hard one. Even after I decided to break with Thatcher I thought I'd leave you out of it: that's why I gave you no intimation of what was coming, but put the details into Atwill's hands. I had really meant to show you a proof of that editorial, but I wasn't sure until they had to close the page that night that I was ready to make the break. I had been pretty hot that evening at the Country Club when I saw Pettit and Thatcher chumming together; I wanted to be sure I had cooled off. But I find that I've got in the habit of relying on you; I've been open with you from the beginning, and as you know I'm not much given to taking men into my confidence. But I've been leaning on you a good deal--more, in fact, than I realized."

There was no questioning Bassett's sincerity, nor was there any doubt that this appeal was having its effect on the younger man. If Bassett had been a weakling timorously making overtures for help, Harwood would have been sensible of it; but a man of demonstrated force and intelligence, who had probably never talked thus to another soul in his life, was addressing him with a candor at once disarming and compelling. It was not easy to say to a

man from whom he had accepted every kindness that he had ceased to trust him; that while he had been his willing companion on fair-weather voyages, he would desert without a qualm before the tempest. But even now Bassett had asked nothing of him; why should he harden his heart against the man who had been his friend?

"You have your ideals--fine ideas of public service that I admire. Our party needs such men as you; the young fellows couldn't get away from us fast enough after '96; many of the Sons of old-time Democrats joined the Republicans. Fitch has spoken to me of you often as the kind of man we ought to push forward, and I'm willing to put you out on the firing-line, where you can work for your ideals. My help will handicap you at first,"--his voice grew dry and hard here,-"but once you have got a start you can shake me off as quick as you like. It's a perfectly selfish proposition I'm making, Harwood; it simply gets down to this, that I need your help."

"Of course, Mr. Bassett; if I can serve you in any way--"

"Anything you can do for me you may do if you don't feel that you will be debasing yourself in fighting under my flag. It's a black flag, they say--just as black as Thatcher's. I don't believe you want to join Thatcher; the question is, do you want to stick to me?"

Bassett had spoken quietly throughout. He had made no effort to play upon Harwood's sympathies or to appeal to his gratitude. He was, in common phrase, to be taken or let alone. Harwood realized that he must either decline outright or declare his fealty in a word. It was in no view a debatable matter; he could not suggest points of difference or even inquire as to the nature of the service to be exacted. He was face to face with a man who, he had felt that night of their first meeting at Fraserville, gave and received hard blows. Yet he did not doubt that if their relations terminated to-day Bassett would deal with him magnanimously. He realized that after all it was not Bassett who was on trial; it was Daniel Harwood!


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