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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

The fact that Morton Bassett of Fraserville had


At

the Thatcher house, Harwood caught fitful glimpses of Allen's father, a bird of passage inured to sleeping-cars. Occasionally Harwood dined with the father and son and they would all adjourn to Allen's shop on the third floor to smoke and talk. When Allen gave rein to his fancy and began descanting upon the grandeur of the Republic and the Beautiful Experiment making in "these states," Dan would see a blank puzzled look steal into Thatcher's face. Thatcher adored Allen: he had for him the deep love of a lioness for her cubs; but all this idealistic patter the boy had got hold of--God knew where!--sounded as strange to the rich man as a discourse in Sanskrit.

Thatcher had not been among Bassett's callers in the new office in the Boordman, but late one afternoon, when Dan was deep in the principles of evidence, Thatcher came in.

"I'm not expecting Mr. Bassett to-day, if you wish to see him," said Dan.

"Nope," Thatcher replied indifferently, "I'm not looking for Mort. He's in Fraserville, I happen to know. Just talking to him on the telephone, so I rather guessed you were alone, that's why I came up. I want to talk to you a little bit, Harwood. It must be nearly closing time, so suppose you lock the door. You see," he continued, idling about the room, "Mort's in the newspapers a good deal, and not being any such terrible sinner as he is I don't care to have his labels tacked on

me too much. Not that Mort isn't one of my best friends, you know; but a family man like me has got to be careful of his reputation."

Harwood opened his drawer and took out a box of cigars. Thatcher accepted one and lighted it deliberately, commenting on the office as he did so. He even strolled through the library to the open door of Bassett's private room beyond. The map of Indiana suspended above Bassett's desk interested him and he stood leaning on his stick and surveying it. There was something the least bit insinuating in his manner. The room, the map, the fact that Morton Bassett of Fraserville had, so to speak, planted a vedette in the heart of the capital, seemed to afford him mild, cynical amusement. He drew his hand across his face, twisted his mustache, and took the cigar from his mouth and examined the end of it with fictitious interest.

"Well," he ejaculated, "damn it all, why not?"

Harwood did not know why not; but a man as rich as Edward Thatcher was entitled to his vagaries. Thatcher sank into Bassett's swivel chair and swung round once or twice as though testing it, meanwhile eyeing the map. Then he tipped himself back comfortably and dropped his hat into his lap. His grayish brown hair was combed carefully from one side across the top in an unsuccessful attempt to conceal his baldness.

"I guess Mort wouldn't object to my sitting in his chair provided I didn't look at that map too much. Who was the chap that the sword hung over by a hair--Damocles? Well, maybe that's what that map is--it would smash pretty hard if the whole state fell down on Mort. But Mort knows just how many voters there are in every township and just how they line up election morning. There's a lot of brains in Bassett's head; you've noticed it?"


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