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A Hoosier Chronicle by Meredith Nicholson

Thatcher did not heed this mild rebuke


"Don't

get hot. That was not a fair question; I know it. I guess Bassett has his ideals just like the rest of us. I suppose I've got some, too, though I'd be embarrassed if you asked me to name 'em. I suppose"--and he narrowed his eyes--"I suppose Mort not only has his ideals but his ambitions. They go together, I reckon."

"I hope he has both, Mr. Thatcher, but you are assuming that I'm deeper in his confidence than the facts justify. You and he have been acquainted so long that you ought to know him thoroughly."

Thatcher did not heed this mild rebuke; nor did he resort to propitiatory speech. His cool way of ignoring Dan's reproach added to the young man's annoyance; Dan felt that it was in poor taste and ungenerous for a man of Thatcher's years and position to come into Bassett's private office to discuss him with a subordinate. He had already learned enough of the relations of the two men to realize that perfect amity was essential between them; he was shocked by the indifference with which Thatcher spoke of Bassett, of whom people did not usually speak carelessly in this free fashion. Harwood's own sense of loyalty was in arms; yet Thatcher seemed unmindful that anything disagreeable had occurred. He threw away his cigar and drew out a fresh one which he wobbled about in his mouth unlighted. He kept swinging round in his chair to gaze at the map above Bassett's desk. The tinted outlines of the map--green, pink,

and orange--could not have had for him any novelty; similar maps hung in many offices and Thatcher was moreover a native of the state and long familiar with its configuration. Perhaps, Dan reflected, its juxtaposition to Bassett's desk was what irritated his visitor, though it had never occurred to him that this had any significance. He recalled now, however, that when he had arranged the rooms the map had been hung in the outer office, but that Bassett himself had removed it to his private room--the only change he had made in Dan's arrangements. It was conceivable that Thatcher saw in the position of the map an adumbration of Bassett's higher political ambition, and that this had affected the capitalist unpleasantly.

Thatcher's manner was that of a man so secure in his own position that he could afford to trample others under foot if he liked. It was--not to put too fine a point upon it--the manner of a bully. His reputation for independence was well established; he was rich enough to say what he pleased without regard to the consequences, and he undoubtedly enjoyed his sense of power.

"I suppose I'm the only man in Indiana that ain't afraid of Mort Bassett," he announced casually. "It's because Mort knows I ain't afraid of him that we get on so well together. You've been with him long enough by this time to know that we have some interests together."

Dan, with his fingers interlocked behind his head, nodded carelessly. He had grown increasingly resentful of Thatcher's tone and manner, and was anxious to be rid of him.

"Mort's a good deal closer-mouthed than I am. Mort likes to hide his tracks--better than that, by George, Mort doesn't _make_ any tracks! Well, every man is bound to break a twig now and then as he goes along. By George, I tear down the trees like an elephant so they can't miss me!"


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