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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

Fitch dropped his feet from the desk


Dan

lingered a moment and Fitch's "Well" gave him leave to proceed. He stated Bassett's offer succinctly, telling of his visit to Fraserville and of the interview at the Whitcomb. When he had concluded Fitch asked:--

"Why haven't you gone ahead and closed the matter? On the face of it it's a good offer. It gives you a chance to read law and to be associated with a man who is in a position to be of great service to you."

"Well, to tell the truth, sir, I have had doubts. Bassett stands for some things I don't approve of--his kind of politics, I mean."

"Oh! He doesn't quite square with your ideals, is that it?"

"I suppose that is it, Mr. Fitch."

The humor kindled in the little man's brown eyes, and his fingers played with his whitening red beard.

"Just how strong are those ideals of yours, Mr. Harwood?"

"They're pretty strong, I hope, sir."

Fitch dropped his feet from the desk, opened a drawer, and drew out a long envelope.

"It may amuse you to know that this is the sketch of Bassett you printed in the 'Courier' last fall. I didn't know before that you wrote it. No wonder it tickled him. And--er--some of it is true. I wouldn't talk to any other man in Indiana about Bassett.

He's a friend and a client of mine. He doesn't trust many people; he doesn't"--the little man's eyes twinkled--"he doesn't trust Wright!--and he trusts me because we are alike in that we keep our mouths shut. You must have impressed him very favorably. He seems willing to take you at face value. It would have been quite natural for him to have asked me about you, but he didn't. Do you know Thatcher--Edward G.? He has business interests with Bassett, and Thatcher dabbles in politics just enough to give him power when he wants it. Thatcher is a wealthy man, who isn't fooling with small politics. If some day he sees a red apple at the top of the tree he may go for it. There'd be some fun if Bassett tried to shake down the same apple."

"I know Thatcher's son."

"Allen? I met him the other day. Odd boy; I guess that's one place where Ed Thatcher's heart is all right."

After a moment's reflection with his face turned to the open window Fitch added:--

"Mr. Harwood, if you should go to Bassett and in course of time, everything running smoothly, he asked you to do something that jarred with those ideals of yours, what should you do?"

"I should refuse, sir," answered Dan, earnestly.

Fitch nodded gravely.

"Very well; then I'd say go ahead. You understand that I'm not predicting that such a moment is inevitable, but it's quite possible. I'll say to you what I've never said before to any man: I don't understand Morton Bassett. I've known him for ten years, and I know him just as well now as I did the day I first met him. That may be my own dullness; but ignoring all that his enemies say of him,--and he has some very industrious ones, as you know,--he's still, at his best, a very unusual and a somewhat peculiar and difficult person."


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