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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

He was quite as rich as Bassett


"The chair announces that the next business in order is the call of the roll of counties for nominations for the office of secretary of state. What is the pleasure of the convention?"

Colonel Ramsay had repaired to the gallery to enjoy the proceedings with Mrs. Bassett's party. In spite of his support of the Palmer and Buckner ticket (how long ago that seems!), the Colonel had never lost touch with the main body of his party, and he carried several Indiana counties in his pocket. His relations with Bassett had never been in the least intimate, though always outwardly cordial, and there were those who looked to him to eliminate the Fraser County chief from politics. He was quite as rich as Bassett, and a successful lawyer, who had become a colonel by grace of a staff appointment in the Spanish War. He had a weakness for the poets, and his speeches were informed with that grace and sentiment which, we are fond of saying, is peculiar to Southern oratory. The Colonel, at all fitting occasions in our commonwealth, responded to "the ladies" in tender and moving phrases. He was a bachelor, and the ladies in the gallery saw in him their true champion.

"Please tell _us_--we don't understand a bit of it," pleaded Marian--"what it's all about, Colonel Ramsay."

"Oh, it's just a little joke of your father's; nothing funnier ever happened in a state convention." Colonel Ramsay grinned. "The key to the situation is right there: that Pulaski County delegate offered his resolution just to make trouble; it was a fake resolution. Of course the chairman is in the joke. This young fellow down here--yes, Harwood--made his speech to add to the gayety of nations. He had no right to make it, of course, but the word had been passed along the line to let him go through. Amazing vocal powers, that boy,--you couldn't have stopped him!"

Sylvia was aware that Colonel Ramsay's explanation had not pleased Mrs. Bassett; but Mrs. Owen evinced no feeling. Marian was enjoying Colonel Ramsay's praise of her father's adroitness. Near Sylvia were other women who had much at stake in the result of the convention. The wife of a candidate for secretary of state had invited herself to a seat beside Mrs. Bassett; the wife of a Congressman who wished to be governor, sat near, publishing to the world her intimate acquaintance with Morton Bassett's family. The appearance and conduct of these women during the day interested Sylvia almost as much as the incidents occurring on the floor; it was a new idea that politics had a bearing upon the domestic life of the men who engaged in the eternal contest for place and power. The convention as a spectacle was immensely diverting, but she had her misgivings about it as a transaction in history. Colonel Ramsay asked her politics and she confessed that she had none. She had inherited Republican prejudices from her grandfather, and most of the girls she had known in college were of Republican antecedents; but she liked to call herself an independent.

"You'd better not be a Democrat, Sylvia," Mrs. Owen warned her. "I suffered a good deal in my husband's lifetime from being one. There are still people in this town who think a Democrat's the same as a Rebel or a Copperhead. It ain't hardly respectable yet, being a Democrat, and if they don't all of 'em shut up about the 'fathers' and the Constitution, I'm going to move to Mexico where it's all run by niggers."


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