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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

Nor were any possible successors to Ridgefield mentioned


The

full significance of the news was not wasted upon Representative Harwood. The house adjourned promptly, and Dan hastened to write telegrams. He wired Colonel Ramsay, of Aurora, to come to the capital on the first train. Telegrams went flying that afternoon to every part of Indiana.

Thatcher read the evening papers in Chicago and kept the wires hot while he waited for the first train for Indianapolis.

One of his messages, addressed to Harwood, read:

"Breakfast with me to-morrow morning at my house. Strictly private. This is your big chance."

Harwood, locked in his office in the Law Building, received this message by telephone, and it aroused his ire. His relations with Thatcher did not justify that gentleman in tendering him a strictly private breakfast, nor did he relish having a big chance pointed out to him by Mr. Thatcher. It cannot be denied that Dan, too, felt that Senator Ridgefield had chosen a most unfortunate season for exposing himself to the ravages of the pneumococcus. He kept away from the State House and hotels that evening, having decided to take no part in the preliminary skirmishes until he had seen Ramsay, who would bring a cool head and a trained hand to bear upon this unforeseen situation.

He studied the newspapers as he ate breakfast alone at the University Club early the next

morning. The "Advertiser" had neatly divided its first page between the Honorable Roger B. Ridgefield, dead in a far country, and the Honorable Morton Bassett, who, it seemed, was very much alive at the Hoosier capital. A double column headline conveyed this intelligence:--

BASSETT IS HIMSELF AGAIN

Harwood, nibbled his toast and winnowed the chaff of speculation from the grains of truth in this article. He had checked off the names of all the Bassett men in both houses of the assembly, and listed Thatcher's supporters and the doubtful members. Bassett would undoubtedly make a strong showing in a caucus, but whether he would be able to command a majority remained to be seen. There were men among the doubtful who would be disposed to favor Thatcher because he had driven a wedge into the old Bassett stone wall. No one else had ever succeeded in imperiling the security of that impregnable stronghold. The thought of this made Harwood uncomfortable. It was unfortunate from every standpoint that the legislature should be called upon to choose a Senator without the usual time for preparation. Dan had already been struck by the general air of irresponsibility that prevailed among the legislators. Many of the members had looked upon the special session as a lark; they seemed to feel that their accountability to their constituents had ended with the regular session.

The "Courier," Dan observed, printed an excellent biographical sketch of the dead Senator, and its news article on the Democratic opportunity was seemly and colorless. The state and federal statutes bearing upon the emergency were quoted in full, but the names of Bassett and Thatcher did not appear, nor were any possible successors to Ridgefield mentioned. Dan opened to the editorial page, and was not surprised to find the leading article a dignified eulogy of the dead Senator. Then his eye fastened upon an article so placed that it dominated the whole page. It was the old "Stop, Look, Listen!" editorial, reproduced with minute citation of the date of original publication.

Dan flinched as though a cupful of ice water had struck him in the face. Whatever scandalous knowledge touching Bassett's public or private life Thatcher might possess, it was plain that Bassett was either ignorant of it or knew and did not fear exposure. In either event, the republication of the "Stop, Look, Listen!" article was an invitation to battle.


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