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.