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Chapter 6 HOME LIFE OF HOOSIER STATESMEN

  • In no other place can a young man so quickly attain wisdom as in a newspape_ffice. There the names of the good and great are playthings, and the bubbl_eputation is blown lightly, and as readily extinguished, as part of the day'_usiness. No other employment offers so many excitements; in nothing else doe_he laborer live so truly behind the scenes. The stage is wide, the actio_aried and constant. The youngest tyro, watching from the wings, observe_reat incidents and becomes their hasty historian. The reporter's status i_nique. Youth on the threshold of no other profession commands the sam_espect, gains audience so readily to the same august personages. Door_lammed in his face only flatter his self-importance. He becomes cynical as h_ees how easily the spot light is made to flash upon the unworthiest figure_y the flimsiest mechanism. He drops his plummet into shoal and deep water an_rom his contemplation of the wreck-littered shore grows skeptical of th_isdom of all pilots.
  • Harwood's connection with the "Courier" brought him in touch with politics, which interested him greatly. The "Courier" was the organ of the Democrati_arty in the state, and though his father and brothers in the country wer_epublicans, Dan found himself more in sympathy with the views represented b_he Democratic Party, even after it abandoned its ancient conservatism an_ecame aggressively radical. About the time of Harwood's return to his nativ_tate the newspaper had changed hands. At least the corporation which ha_wned it for a number of years had apparently disposed of it, though th_ransaction had been effected so quietly that the public received no outwar_int beyond the deletion of "Published by the Courier Newspaper Company" fro_he head of the editorial page. The "policy" of the paper continued unchanged; the editorial staff had not been disturbed; and in the counting-room there ha_een no revolution, though an utterly unknown man had appeared bearing th_itle of General Manager, which carried with it authority in all departments.
  • This person was supposed to represent the unknown proprietor, about whom ther_ad been the liveliest speculation. The "Courier's" rivals gave much space t_umors, real and imaginary, as to the new ownership, attributing the purchas_o a number of prominent politicians in rapid succession, and to syndicate_hat had never existed. It was an odd effect of the change in the "Courier's"
  • ownership that almost immediately mystery seemed to envelop the editoria_ooms. The managing editor, whose humors and moods fixed the tone of th_ffice, may have been responsible, but whatever the cause a stricte_iscipline was manifest, and editors, reporters and copy-readers moved an_abored with a consciousness that an unknown being walked among the desks, an_ung over the forms to the very last moment before they were hurled to th_tereotypers. The editorial writers—those astute counselors of the public wh_re half-revered and half-despised by their associates on the news side o_very American newspaper—wrote uneasily under a mysterious, hidden censorship.
  • It was possible that even the young woman who gleaned society news might, b_ome unfortunate slip, offend the invisible proprietor. But as time passe_othing happened. The imaginable opaque pane that separated the owner from th_esks of the "Courier's" reporters and philosophers had disclosed no faintes_hadow. Occasionally the managing editor was summoned below by the genera_anager, but the subordinates in the news department were unable, even by muc_areful study of their subsequent instructions, to grasp the slightest threa_hat might lead them to the concealed hand which swayed the "Courier's"
  • destiny. It must be confessed that under this ghostly administration the pape_mproved. Every man did his best, and the circulation statements as publishe_onthly indicated a widening constituency. Even the Sunday edition, long _orbidding and depressing hodge-podge of ill-chosen and ill-digested rubbish, began to show order and intelligence.
  • In October following his visit to Professor Kelton, Harwood was sent t_raserville, the seat of Fraser County, to write a sketch of the Honorabl_orton Bassett, in a series then adorning the Sunday supplement under th_itle, "Home Life of Hoosier Statesmen." The object of the series was frankl_o aid the circulation manager's efforts to build up subscription lists in th_ural districts, and personal sketches of local celebrities had proved poten_n this endeavor. Most of the subjects that had fallen to Harwood's lot ha_een of a familiar type—country lawyers who sat in the legislature, or count_hairmen, or judges of county courts. As the "Sunday Courier" eschewe_olitics, the series was not restricted to Democrats but included men of al_aiths. It was Harwood's habit to spend a day in the towns he visited, gathering local color and collecting anecdotal matter.
  • While this employment cut deeply into his hours at the law office, he reasone_hat there was a compensating advantage in the knowledge he gained on thes_xcursions of the men of both political faiths.
  • Before the train stopped at Fraserville he saw from the car window the name
  • "Bassett" written large on a towering elevator,—a fact which he note_arefully as offering a suggestion for the introductory line of his sketch. A_e left the station and struck off toward the heart of the town, he was awar_hat Bassett was a name that appealed to the eye frequently. The Bassett Bloc_nd Bassett's Bank spoke not merely for a material prosperity, rare among th_ocal statesmen he had described in the "Courier," but, judging from th_rominence of the name in Fraserville nomenclature, he assumed that it ha_ong been established in the community. Harwood had not previously faced _econd generation in his pursuit of Hoosier celebrities, and he breathed _igh of relief at the prospect of a variation on the threadbare scenario o_arly hardship, the little red schoolhouse, patient industry, and th_aborious attainment of meagre political honors—which had begun to bore him.
  • Harwood sought first the editor of the "Fraser County Democrat," who was als_he "Courier's" Fraserville correspondent. Fraserville boasted two othe_ewspapers, the "Republican," which offset the "Democrat" politically, and the
  • "News," an independent afternoon daily whose function was to encourage strif_etween its weekly contemporaries and boom the commercial interests of th_own. The editor of the "Democrat" was an extremely stout person, who sprawle_t ease in a battered swivel chair, with his slippered feet thrown across _esk littered with newspapers, clippings, letters, and manuscript. A file hoo_as suspended on the wall over his shoulder, and on this it was his habit t_mpale, by a remarkable twist of body and arm, gems for his hebdomada_ournal. He wrote on a pad held in his ample lap, the paste brush was withi_asy reach, and once planted on his throne the editor was established for th_ay. Bound volumes of the "Congressional Record" in their original wrapper_ere piled in a corner. A consular report, folded in half, was thrust unde_he editor's right thigh, easly accessible in ferocious moments when h_ndulged himself in the felicity of slaughtering the roaches with which th_lace swarmed. He gave Dan a limp fat hand, and cleared a chair of exchange_ith one foot, which he thereupon laboriously restored to its accustomed plac_n the desk.
  • "So you're from the 'Courier'? Well, sir, you may tell your managing edito_or me that if he doesn't print more of my stuff he can get somebody else o_he job here."
  • Dan soothed Mr. Pettit's feelings as best he could; he confessed that his ow_est work was mercilessly cut; and that, after all, the editors of cit_ewspapers were poor judges of the essential character of news. When Pettit'_ood humor had been restored, Dan broached the nature of his errand. As h_entioned Morton Bassett's name the huge editor's face grew blank for _oment; then he was shaken with mirth that passed from faint quivers until hi_hole frame was convulsed. His rickety chair trembled and rattled ominously.
  • It was noiseless laughter so far as any vocal manifestations were concerned; but it shook the gigantic editor as though he were a mould of jelly. He close_is eyes, but otherwise his fat face was expressionless.
  • "Goin' to write Mort up, are you? Well, by gum! I've been readin' those piece_n the 'Courier.' Your work? Good writin'; mighty interestin' readin', as ol_ncle Horace Greeley used to say. I guess you carry the whitewash brush alon_ith you in your pilgrimages. You certainly did give Bill Ragsdale a clea_ill o' health. That must have tickled the folks in Tecumseh County. Kno_agsdale? I've set with Bill in the lower house three sessions, and I com_retty near knowin' him. I don't say that Bill is crooked; but I suspect tha_f Bill's moral nature could be dug out and exposed to view it would be spira_ike a bedspring; just about. It's an awful load on the Republican Party i_his state, having to carry Bill Ragsdale. O Lord!"
  • He pursed his fat lips, and his eyes took on a far-away expression, as thoug_ome profound utterance had diverted his thoughts to remote realms of reverie.
  • "So you're goin' to write Mort up; well, my God!"
  • The exact relevance of this was not apparent. Harwood had assumed on genera_rinciples that the Honorable Isaac Pettit, of the "Fraser County Democrat,"
  • was an humble and obedient servant of the Honorable Morton Bassett, and woul_ringe at the mention of his name. To be sure, Mr. Pettit had said nothing t_isturb this belief; but neither had the editor manifested that mee_ubmission for which the reporter had been prepared. The editor's Gargantua_irth trembled again. The spectacle he presented as he shook thus wit_nexplicable mirth was so funny that Harwood grinned; whereupon Pettit rubbe_ne of his great hands across his three-days' growth of beard, evoking a hars_asping sound in which he seemed to find relief and satisfaction.
  • "You don't know Mort? Well, he's all right; he will he mighty nice to you.
  • Mort's one of the best fellows on earth; you won't find anybody out here i_raser County to say anything against Mort Bassett. No, sir; by God!"
  • Again the ponderous frame shook; again the mysterious look came into the man'_urious small eyes, and Harwood witnessed another seismic disturbance in th_ulk before him; then the Honorable Isaac Pettit grew serious.
  • "You want some facts for a starter. Well, I guess a few facts don't hurt i_his business, providin' you don't push in too many of 'em."
  • He pondered for a moment, then went on, as though summarizing from _iography:—
  • "Only child of the late Jeremiah Bassett, founder of Bassett's Bank. Old Jerr_as pure boiler plate; he could squeeze ten per cent interest out of a froze_arsnip. He and Blackford Singleton sort o' divided things up in this section.
  • Jerry Bassett corralled the coin; Blackford rolled up a couple of hundre_housand and capped it with a United States senatorship. Mort's not forty yet; married only child of Blackford F. Singleton—Jerry made the match, I guess; i_as the only way he could get Blackford's money. Mort prepared for college, but didn't go. Took his degree in law at Columbia, but never practiced. Alway_nterested in politics; been in the state senate twelve years; two children, boy and girl. I guess Mort Bassett can do most anything he wants to—you can'_ell where he'll land."
  • "But the next steps are obvious," suggested Harwood, encouragingly—"th_overnorship, the United States Senate—ever onward and upward."
  • "Well, yes; but you never know anything from _him_. _We_ don't know, and yo_ight think we'd understand him pretty well up here. He declined to go t_ongress from this district—could have had it without turning a hand; but h_ut in his man and stayed in the state senate. I reckon he cuts some ic_here, but he's mighty quiet. Bassett doesn't beat the tom-tom to cal_ttention to himself. I guess no man swings more influence in a stat_onvention—but he's peculiar. You'll find him different from these yahoo_ou've been writin' up. I know 'em all."
  • "A man of influence and power—leading citizen in every sense—" Dan murmured a_e scribbled a few notes.
  • "Yep. Mort's considered rich. You may have noticed his name printed on mos_verything but the undertaker's and the jail as you came up from the station.
  • The elevator and the bank he inherited from his pap. Mort's got a finger i_ost everything 'round here."
  • "Owns everything," said Harwood, with an attempt at facetiousness, "except th_rewery."
  • Mr. Pettit's eyes opened wide, and then closed; again he was mirth-shaken; i_eemed that the idea of linking Morton Bassett's name with the manufacture o_alt liquor was the most stupendous joke possible. The editor's face did no_hange expression; the internal disturbances were not more violent this time, but they continued longer; when the strange spasm had passed he dug a fat fis_nto a tearful right eye and was calm.
  • "Oh, my God," he blurted huskily. "Breweries? Let us say that he neither make_or consumes malt, vinous nor spirituous liquor, within the meaning of th_tatutes in such cases made and provided. He and Ed Thatcher make a stron_eam. Ed started out as a brewer, but there's nothing wrong about that, _eckon. Over in England they make lords and dukes of brewers."
  • "A man of rectitude—enshrined in the hearts of his fellow-citizens, popula_nd all that?" suggested Harwood.
  • Yes. Mort rather _retains_ his heat, I guess. Some say he's cold as ice. Hi_ce is the kind that freezes to what he likes. Mort's a gentleman if we hav_ne in Fraser County. If you think you're chasin' one of these blue jean_oliticians you read about in comic papers you're hitting the wrong trail, son. Mort can eat with a fork without appearin' self-conscious. Good Lord, boy, if you can say these other fellows in Indiana politics have brains, yo_ot to say that Mort Bassett has _intellect_. Which is different, son; a der_ight different."
  • "I shall be glad to use the word in my sketch of Mr. Bassett," remarked Da_ryly. "It will lend variety to the series."
  • Harwood thanked the editor for his courtesy and walked to the door. Strang_reakings from the editorial chair caused him to turn. The Honorable Isaa_ettit was in the throes of another convulsion. The attack seemed more sever_han its predecessors. Dan waited for him to invoke deity with the asthmati_heeziness to which mirth reduced his vocal apparatus.
  • "It's nothin', son; it's nothin'. It's my temperament: I can't help it. Di_ou say you were from the 'Courier'? Well, you better give Mort a good send- off. He appreciates a good job; he's a sort o' literary cuss himself."
  • As another mirthful spasm seemed imminent Dan retired, wondering just what i_imself or in his errand had so moved the fat editor's risibilities. H_earned at the Bassett Bank that Mr. Bassett was spending the day in _eighboring town, but would be home at six o'clock, so he surveyed Fraservill_nd killed time until evening, eating luncheon and supper with sundr_ommercial travelers at the Grand Hotel.
  • Harwood's instructions were in every case to take the subjects of his sketche_t their own valuation and to set them forth sympathetically. The ambitions o_ost of the gentlemen he had interviewed had been obvious—obvious and futile.
  • Nearly every man who reached the legislature felt a higher call to Congress o_he governor's chair. Harwood had already described in the "Courier" th_ttainments of several statesmen who were willing to sacrifice their privat_nterests for the high seat at the state capitol. The pettiness and sordidnes_f most of the politicians he met struck him humorously, but the tone of hi_rticles was uniformly laudatory.
  • When the iron gate clicked behind him at the Bassett residence, his noteboo_as still barren of such anecdotes of his subject as he had usually gathere_n like cases in an afternoon spent at the court-house. Stories of generosity, of the kindly care of widows and orphans, gifts to indigent pastors, boy_elped through college, and similar benefactions had proved altogethe_lusive. Either Harwood had sought in the wrong places or Morton Bassett wa_f tougher fibre than the other gentlemen on whom his pencil had conferre_mmortality. In response to his ring a boy opened the door and admitted hi_ithout parley. He had a card ready to offer, but the lad ran to announce hi_ithout waiting for his name and reappeared promptly.
  • "Papa says to come right in, sir," the boy reported.
  • Dan caught a glimpse of a girl at the piano in the parlor who turned to glanc_t him and continued her playing. The lad indicated an open door midway of th_ong hall and waited for Harwood to enter. A lady, carrying a small workbaske_n her hand, bade the reporter good-evening as she passed out. On a table i_he middle of the room a checkerboard's white and black belligerents stood a_ruce, and from the interrupted game rose a thick-set man of medium height, with dark hair and a close-trimmed mustache, who came toward him inquiringly.
  • "Good-evening. I am Mr. Bassett. Have a chair."
  • Harwood felt the guilt of his intrusion upon a scene so sheltered an_omestic. The father had evidently been playing checkers with his son; th_other's chair still rocked by another table on which stood a reading lamp.
  • Harwood stated his errand, and Bassett merely nodded, offering none of thos_rotestations of surprise and humility, those pleas of unworthiness that hi_redecessors on Dan's list had usually insisted upon. Dan made mental note a_nce of the figure before him. Bassett's jaw was square and firm—power wa_anifest there, unmistakably, and his bristling mustache suggeste_ombativeness. His dark eyes met Harwood's gaze steadily—hardness might b_here, though their gaze was friendly enough. His voice was deep and its ton_as pleasant. He opened a drawer and produced a box of cigars.
  • "Won't you smoke? I don't smoke myself, but you mustn't mind that." An_arwood accepted a cigar, which he found excellent. A moment later a mai_laced on the table beside the checkerboard a tray, with a decanter an_lasses, and a pitcher of water.
  • "That's for us," remarked Bassett, nodding toward the glasses. "Hel_ourself."
  • "The cigar is all I need; thank you."
  • The reporter was prepared to ask questions, following a routine he ha_mployed with other subjects, but Bassett began to talk on his ow_nitiative—of the town, the county, the district. He expressed himself well, in terse words and phrases. Harwood did not attempt to direct or lead: Basset_ad taken the interview into his own hands, and was imparting information tha_ight have been derived from a local history at the town library. Dan ceased, after a time, to follow the narrative in his absorption in the man himself.
  • Harwood took his politics seriously and the petty politicians with whom he ha_hus far become acquainted in his newspaper work had impressed him chiefly b_heir bigotry or venality. It was not for nothing that he had worshiped a_umner's feet at Yale and he held views that were not readily reconcilabl_ith parochial boss-ships and the meek swallowing of machine-made platforms.
  • Bassett was not the vulgar, intimate good-fellow who slapped every man on th_ack—the teller of good stories over a glass of whiskey and a cigar. He was, as Pettit had said, a new type, not of the familiar _cliché_. The decanter wa_ "property" placed in the scene at the dictates of hospitality; th_heckerboard canceled any suggestion of conviviality that might have bee_onveyed by the decanter of whiskey.
  • Bassett's right hand lay on the table and Dan found himself watching it. I_as broad but not heavy; the fingers that opened and shut quietly on a smal_aperweight were supple. It was a hand that would deal few blows, but har_nes. Harwood was aware, at a moment when he began to be bored by the bal_acts of local history, that Bassett had abruptly switched the subject.
  • "Parties are necessary to democratic government. I don't believe merely in m_wn party; I want the opposition to be strong enough to make a fight. Th_eople are better satisfied if there's a contest for the offices. I'm no_orry when we lose occasionally; defeat disciplines and strengthens a party. _ave made a point in our little local affairs of not fighting independent_hen they break with us for any reason. Believing as I do that parties ar_ssential, and that schismatic movements are futile, I make a point of no_ttacking them. Their failures strengthen the party—and incidentally kill th_en who have kicked out of the traces. You never have to bother with them _econd time."
  • "But they help clear the air—they serve a purpose?" suggested Harwood. He ha_cquired a taste for the "Nation" and the New York "Evening Post" at college, and Bassett's frank statement of his political opinions struck Dan a_ediæval. He was, however, instinctively a reporter, and he refrained fro_nterposing himself further than was necessary to stimulate the talk of th_an before him.
  • "You are quite right, Mr. Harwood. They serve an excellent purpose. The_rovide an outlet; they serve as a safety valve. Now and then they will win _ight, and that's a good thing too, for they will prove, on experiment, tha_hey are just as human and weak in practical application of their ideas as th_est of us. I'd even go as far as to say that in certain circumstances I'd le_hem win. They help drive home my idea that the old parties, like old, established business houses, have got to maintain a standard or they will los_he business to which they are rightfully entitled. When you see you_ustomers passing your front door to try a new shop farther up the street, yo_ant to sit down and consider what's the matter, and devise means of regainin_our lost ground. It doesn't pay merely to ridicule the new man or cry tha_is goods are inferior. Yours have got to be superior—or"—and the gray eye_winkled for the first time—"they must be dressed up to look better in you_how window."
  • Bassett rose and walked the length of the room, with his hands thrust into hi_rousers pockets, and before he sat down he poured himself a glass of wate_rom the pitcher and drank it slowly, with an air of preoccupation. He move_asily, with a quicker step than might have been expected in one of hi_igure. The strength of his hand was also in the firm line of his vigorous, well-knit frame. And his rather large head, Dan observed, rested solidly o_road shoulders.
  • Harwood's thoughts were, however, given another turn at once. Morton Basset_ad said all he cared to say about politics and he now asked Dan whether h_as a college man, to which prompting the reporter recited succinctly th_nnals of his life.
  • "You're a Harrison County boy, are you? So you didn't like the farm, and foun_ way out? That's good. You may be interested in some of my books."
  • Dan was immediately on guard against being bored; the library of even a_ntelligent local statesman like Morton Bassett was hardly likely to prov_nteresting. One of his earlier subjects had asked him particularly to mentio_is library, which consisted mainly of government reports.
  • "I've been a collector of Americana," Bassett remarked, throwing open severa_ases. "I've gone in for colonial history, particularly, and some of thes_hings are pretty rare."
  • The shelves rose to the ceiling and Bassett produced a ladder that he migh_and down a few of the more interesting volumes for Dan's closer inspection.
  • "Here's Wainwright's 'Brief Description of the Ohio River, With some Accoun_f the Savages Living Thereon'—published in London in 1732, and there are onl_hree copies in existence. This is Atterbury's 'Chronicle of the Chesapeak_ettlements'—the best thing I have. The author was an English sailor wh_oined the colonists in the Revolution and published a little memoir of hi_dventures in America. The only other copy of that known to exist is in th_ritish Museum. I fished mine out of a pile of junk in Baltimore about te_ears ago. When I get old and have time on my hands I'm going to reprint som_f these—wide margins, and footnotes, and that sort of thing. But there's fu_nough now in just having them and knowing the other fellow hasn't!"
  • He flung open a panel of the wainscoting at a point still free of shelves an_isclosed a door of a small iron safe which he opened with a key. "This isn'_he family silver, but a few little things that are more valuable. These ar_irst editions of American authors. Here's Lowell's 'Fable for Critics,' firs_dition; and this is Emerson's 'Nature,' 1836—a first. These are bound b_rpcutt; had them done myself. They feel good to the hand, don't they!"
  • Harwood's pleasure in the beautiful specimens of the binder's art wa_nfeigned and to his questioning Bassett dilated upon the craftsmanship.
  • "The red morocco of the Emerson takes the gold tooling beautifully, and th_ak-leaf border design couldn't be finer. I believe this olive-green shade i_he best of all. This Whittier—a first edition of 'In War Time'—is by Durand, a French artist, and one of the best specimens of his work."
  • Those strong hands of his touched the beautiful books fondly. Harwood too_dvantage of a moment when Bassett carried to the lamp Lowell's "Under th_illows" in gold and brown, the better to display the deft workmanship, t_ook more closely at the owner of these lovely baubles. The iron hand could b_ery gentle! Bassett touched the volume caressingly as he called attention t_ts perfection. His face, in the lamp's full light, softened, but there was i_t no hint of sensuousness to prepare one for this indulgence in luxuriou_ibliomania. There was a childlike simplicity in Bassett's delight. A man wh_njoyed such playthings could not be hard, and Dan's heart warmed with liking.
  • "Are you a reader of poetry?" asked Dan, as Bassett carefully collected th_ooks and returned them to the safe.
  • "No. That is something we leave behind us with our youth," he said; an_ooking down at the bent head and sturdy shoulders, and watching the stron_ingers turning the key, Dan wondered what the man's youth had been and wha_lements were mixed in him that soft textures of leather and delicate tracing_f gold on brown and scarlet and olive could so delight him. His rather jaunt_ttitude toward the "Home Life of Hoosier Statesmen" experienced a change.
  • Morton Bassett was not a man who could be hit off in a few hundred words, bu_ complex character he did not pretend to understand. Threads of various hue_ad passed before him, but how to intertwine them was a question that alread_uzzled the reporter. Bassett had rested his hand on Dan's shoulder for _oment as the younger man bent over one of the prized volumes, and Dan was no_nsensible to the friendliness of the act.
  • Mrs. Bassett and the two children appeared at the door a little later.
  • "Come in, Hallie," said the politician; "all of you come in."
  • He introduced the reporter to his wife and to Marian, the daughter, an_lackford, the son.
  • "The children were just going up," said Mrs. Bassett. "As it's Saturday the_ave an hour added to their evening. I think I heard Mr. Bassett talking o_ooks a moment ago. It's not often he brings out his first editions for _isitor."
  • They talked of books for a moment, while the children listened. Then Basset_ecurred to the fact, already elicited, that Harwood was a Yale man, whereupo_olleges were discussed.
  • "Many of our small fresh-water colleges do excellent work," remarked Bassett.
  • "Some educator has explained the difference between large and small college_y saying that in the large one the boy goes through more college, but in th_mall one more college goes through the boy. Of course I'm not implying, Mr.
  • Harwood, that that was true in your case."
  • "Oh, I'm not sensitive about that, Mr. Bassett. And I beg not to be taken a_n example of what Yale does for her students. Some of the smaller college_tand for the best things; there's Madison College, here in our own state—it_tandards are severely high, and the place itself has quality, atmosphere—yo_eel, even as a casual visitor, that it's the real thing."
  • "So I've always heard," remarked Mrs. Bassett. "My father always admire_adison. Strange to say, I have never been there. Are you acquainted i_ontgomery?"
  • Bassett bent forward slightly at the question.
  • "I was there for an hour or so last spring; but I was in a hurry. I didn'_ven take time to run into my fraternity house, though I saw its banner on th_uter wall."
  • "Your newspaper work must give you many interesting adventures," suggested th_olitician.
  • "Not always as pleasant as this, I assure you. But I'm a person of tw_ccupations—I'm studying law, and my visit to Montgomery was on an errand fo_he office where I'm allowed to use the books in return for slight services o_ne kind and another. As a newspaper man I'm something of an impostor; I hop_'m only a passing pilgrim in the business."
  • Dan faced Mrs. Bassett as he made this explanation, and he was conscious, a_e turned toward the master of the house, that Bassett was observing hi_ntently. His gaze was so direct and searching that Harwood was disconcerte_or a moment; then Bassett remarked carelessly,—
  • "I should think newspaper work a good training for the law. It drill_aculties that a lawyer exercises constantly."
  • Mrs. Bassett now made it possible for Marian and young Blackford to contribut_o the conversation.
  • "I'm going to Annapolis," announced the boy.
  • "You've had a change of heart," said his father, with a smile. "It was Wes_oint last week."
  • "Well, it will be Annapolis next week," the lad declared; and then, as if t_xplain his abandonment of a military career, "In the Navy you get to see th_orld, and in the Army you're likely to be stuck away at some awful place o_he Plains where you never see anything. The Indians are nearly all kille_nyhow."
  • "We hear a good deal nowadays about the higher education of woman," Mrs.
  • Bassett remarked, "and I suppose girls should be prepared to earn their ow_iving. Mothers of daughters have that to think about."
  • Miss Marian, catching Dan's eye, smiled as though to express her ful_ppreciation of the humor of her mother's remark.
  • "Mama learned that from my Aunt Sally," she ventured; and Dan saw that she wa_n independent spirit, given to daring sayings, and indulged in them by he_arents.
  • "Well, Aunt Sally is the wisest woman in the world," replied Mrs. Bassett, with emphasis. "It would be to your credit if you followed her, my dear."
  • Marian ignored her mother's rebuke and addressed herself to the visitor.
  • "Aunt Sally lives in Indianapolis and I go there to Miss Waring's School. I'_ust home for Sunday."
  • "Mrs. Owen is my aunt; you may have heard of her, Mr. Harwood; she was m_ather's only sister."
  • "Oh, _the_ Mrs. Owen! Of course every one has heard of her; and I knew tha_he was Senator Singleton's sister. I am sorry to say I don't know her."
  • Unconsciously the sense of Morton Bassett's importance deepened. In marryin_rs. Jackson Owen's niece Bassett had linked himself to the richest woman a_he state capital. He had not encumbered himself with a crude wife from th_ountryside, but had married a woman with important connections. Blackfor_ingleton had been one of the leading men of the state, and Mrs. Owen, hi_ister, was not a negligible figure in the background against which th_eporter saw he must sketch the Fraserville senator. Harwood had met the wive_f other Hoosier statesmen—uninteresting creatures in the main, and palpabl_f little assistance to ambitious husbands.
  • It appeared that the Bassetts spent their summers at their cottage on Lak_aupegan and that Mrs. Owen had a farm near them. It was clear that Basset_njoyed his family. He fell into a chaffing way with his children and laughe_eartily at Marian's forwardness. He met his son on the lad's own note o_elf-importance and connived with him to provoke her amusing impertinences.
  • Bassett imposed no restrictions upon Harwood's pencil, and this, too, was _ovel experience. His predecessors on the list of leaders in Hoosier politic_ad not been backward about making suggestions, but Bassett did not refer t_arwood's errand at all. When Dan asked for photographs of Mrs. Bassett an_he children with which to embellish his article, Bassett declined to giv_hem with a firmness that ended the matter; but he promised to provid_hotographs of the house and grounds and of the Waupegan cottage and send the_o Harwood in a day or two.
  • * * *
  • Harwood gave to his sketch of Morton Bassett a care which he had not bestowe_pon any of his previous contributions to the "Courier's" series of Hoosie_tatesmen. He remained away from the law office two days the better t_oncentrate himself upon his task, and the result was a careful, straightforward article, into which he threw shadings of analysis and flashe_f color that reflected very faithfully the impression made upon his mind b_he senator from Fraser. The managing editor complained of its sobriety an_ack of anecdote.
  • "It's good, Harwood, but it's too damned solemn. Can't you shoot a littl_inger into it?"
  • "I've tried to paint the real Bassett. He isn't one of these raw hayseeds wh_ands you chestnuts out of patent medicine almanacs. I've tried to make _ocument that would tell the truth and at the same time please him."
  • "Why?" snapped the editor, pulling the green shade away from his eyes an_laring at the reporter.
  • "Because he's the sort of man you feel you'd like to please! He's the only on_f these fellows I've tackled who didn't tell me a lot of highfalutin rot the_anted put into the article. Bassett didn't seem to care about it one way o_nother. I rewrote most of that stuff half a dozen times to be sure to get th_unk out of it, because I knew he hated punk."
  • "You did, did you! Well, McNaughton of Tippecanoe County is the next standard- bearer you're to tackle, and you needn't be afraid to pin ribbons on him. Yo_ollege fellows are all alike. Try to remember, Harwood, that this paper ain'_he 'North American Review'; it's a newspaper for the plain people."
  • Dan, at some personal risk, saw to it that the illustrations were so minimize_hat it became unnecessary to sacrifice his text to accommodate it to the pag_et apart for it. He read his screed in type with considerable satisfaction, feeling that it was an honest piece of work and that it limned a portrait o_assett that was vivid and truthful. The editor-in-chief inquired who ha_ritten it, and took occasion to commend Harwood for his good workmanship. _ittle later a clerk in the counting-room told him that Bassett had ordered _undred copies of the issue containing the sketch, and this was consoling.
  • Several other subjects had written their thanks, and Dan had rather hoped tha_assett would send him a line of approval; but on reflection he concluded tha_t was not like Bassett to do so, and that this failure to make any sig_orroborated all that he knew or imagined of the senator from Fraser.