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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

But before he could speak Thatcher laughed


"If

I try to answer you, please don't think I pretend to any unusual knowledge of human nature; but what I see in the boy is a kind of poetic attitude toward America--our politics, the whole scheme; and it's a poetic strain in him that accounts for this feeling about labor. And he has a feeling for justice and mercy; he's strong for the underdog." "I suppose," said Thatcher dryly, "that if he'd been an underdog the way I was he'd be more tickled at a chance to sit on top. When I wore overalls it wasn't funny. Well, what am I going to do with him?"

"If you really want me to tell you I'd say to let him alone. He's a perfectly clean, straight, high-minded boy. If he were physically strong enough I should recommend him to go to college, late as it is for him, or better, to a school where he would really satisfy what seems to be his sincere ambition to learn to do something with his hands. But he's all right as he is. You ought to be glad that his aims are so wholesome. There are sons of prosperous men right around here who see everything red."

"That boy," declared Thatcher, pride and love surging in him, "is as clean as wheat!"

"Quite so; no one could know him without loving him. And I don't mind saying that I find myself in accord with many of his ideas."

"Sort of damned idealist yourself?"

"I should blush to say

it," laughed Dan; "but I feel my heart warming when Allen gets to soaring sometimes; he expresses himself with great vividness. He goes after me hard on my _laissez-faire_ notions."

"I take the count and throw up the sponge!"

"Oh, that's a chestnut that means merely that the underdog had better stay under if he can't fight his way out."

"It seems tough when you boil it down to that; I guess maybe Allen's right--we all ought to divide up. I'm willing, only"--and he grinned quizzically--"I'm paired with Mort Bassett."

The light in his cigar had gone out; he swung round and faced the map of Indiana above Morton Bassett's desk, fumbling in his waistcoat for a match. When he turned toward Harwood again he blew smoke rings meditatively before speaking.

"If you're one of these rotten idealists, Harwood, what are you doing here with Bassett? If that ain't a fair question, don't answer it."

Harwood was taken aback by the directness of the question. Bassett had always spoken of Thatcher with respect, and he resented the new direction given to this conversation in Bassett's own office. Dan straightened himself with dignity, but before he could speak Thatcher laughed, and fanned the smoke of his cigar away with his hands.


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