Read CHAPTER XVI of A Gentleman from Mississippi, free online book, by Thomas A. Wise, on ReadCentral.com.

A RESCUE IN THE NICK OF TIME

Later in that never-to-be-forgotten day Bud Haines ventured back to his desk in the committee room, after first ascertaining that Senator Langdon would not return. Some of the Senator’s papers must be straightened out, and he wanted personal documents of his own.

The secretary regretfully, sorrowfully performed these final duties and found himself stopping at various intervals to try to explain to himself how he had been deceived in both the Langdons, father and daughter. He had to give up both problems. To him neither was explainable. “I’ve known enough Senators to know that I’d never meet an honest one,” he muttered. “But as to women well, there’s too much carefully selected wisdom in their innocence to suit me.”

This cynic, new born from the shell of the chronic idealist that was, suddenly was disturbed in his ruminations by a sound at the door. Looking up, he saw Hope Georgia Langdon standing, shyly, embarrassed, in the main entrance.

“Mr. Haines,” she said, timidly.

Bud jumped to his feet.

“Yes, Miss Hope Georgia.”

As the Senator’s younger daughter came toward him he noticed that she was excited over something, and for a newly made cynic he took altogether too much notice of her youthful beauty, her fresh, rosy complexion and her dancing, sparkling eyes. The thought occurred to him, “What a woman she will make if she doesn’t imitate her sister!”

“I couldn’t let you go, Mr. Haines, without telling you good-by and letting you know that, no matter what the others say, I don’t think there has been anything wrong.”

Before Haines could reply, the young girl rushed on, excitedly:

“That’s why I came. I know father and Carolina won’t like it they won’t think it’s nice but I wanted to say to you that I don’t think one ought to believe things against one you’ve liked and trusted.”

“You think one ought not,” said Haines. “So do I; but in this case the proofs were very strong. What are you going to do when people you can’t doubt pledge their word?”

The girl tossed her head.

“Well, the only one’s word I’d like to take would be the person accused. I know I’m only a girl, Mr. Haines, and I’m not grown up, but you’ve made a mistake. Do try to clear things up. Why don’t you see father and talk with him? Please do, Mr. Haines.”

Little realizing that the girl was speaking in his own favor, for he knew not the need for such speaking, he believed her to be defending her father. He grasped her hands impulsively.

“You have grown up very much since you came to the capital, haven’t you?” he said. “And you are right, Miss Hope. I ought to have known even when the facts were against him that your father couldn’t have been really crooked. He can’t be.”

Hope Langdon’s face flushed indignantly.

“Father crooked? Who said so? Who dared say that?” she exclaimed.

“Why, they told me he had sold out on the Altacoola bill. They said he was trying to make money on Altacoola. That’s why I quit.”

The flame of anger still was spread on the girl’s face.

“They said that!” she exclaimed. “Then they lied. They said you were the crooked one. Why, father thinks you sold out on Altacoola. They said you were trying to make money on that navy yard.”

“What! They said I was crooked!” Haines fairly shouted. He rushed around the desk and caught the girl by both hands.

“I see it!” he cried. “I see it! There’s something I’m not just on to. You thought it was I; your father thinks ”

“Of course,” exclaimed Hope, quite as excited as he. “I couldn’t believe it. That’s why I came back to get you to explain. I wanted you to disprove the charge.”

“I should say I would,” cried the secretary.

“I knew it! I knew it! They couldn’t make me believe anything against you. I knew you were all I thought you. Oh, Mr. Haines, prove you are that for my ”

Then Hope Georgia abruptly stopped. She had lost her head, and in the enthusiasm of the moment had revealed her real feelings something she would never do presumably when she grew more wise in the ways of women.

She suddenly thrust Haines’ hands from her own and stood staring at him, wondering wondering if he had guessed.

Strangely enough, under the circumstances, the girl was the first to recover and break the awkward silence.

“Come to our house to-night, Mr. Haines. There’s to be a dinner and a musicale, as you know; but that won’t matter. No matter who says no, I promise you that you shall see father. There shall be an explanation.”

“Thank you, Miss Hope. You don’t realize all you’ve done for me,” said Bud, seriously. “It’s a wonderful thing to find a girl who believes in a man. You’ve taught me a lot, Miss Hope. Thank you.”

“Good-by, Mr. Haines. Come to-night,” she said, as she turned and hurried away.

Bud Haines stood looking after her, thoughtfully.

“What a stunning girl she is! I’ve seemed to overlook her, with the rush of events and Carolina,” he murmured, softly. “We never were such very great friends, yet she believes in me. What a beauty she is!”

A messenger boy broke in on his musings with a letter for Senator Langdon marked “Important.”

“Guess I’m secretary enough yet to answer this,” he thought, tearing it open.

“Great heavens!” he exclaimed as he read it. “Here’s the chance to get to the bottom of this Altacoola proposition. It’s from Peabody.”

Haines read the following:

Dear senator Langdon: I am going to Philadelphia to-night. Urgent call from a company for which I am counsel, so I probably won’t be able to confer with you regarding the committee’s choice for the naval base. But I know you are for Altacoola and trust to you to do all you can for that site. I, of course, consider the matter definitely settled.”

“This situation will enable Langdon to bluff Peabody and draw out of him all the inside of the Altacoola business ought to, anyway. Guess some Gulf City talk will smoke him out.”

Haines rushed out and across the hall, to reappear literally hauling in a stenographer by the scruff of the neck. “Here, you, take this dictation record time,” he cried:

Senator Horatio Peabody, Louis Napoleon Hotel: You are going to Philadelphia to-night, I know, leaving the report on the naval base to me. I have just come on various aspects of the situation which make me incline very favorably toward Gulf City. I am looking into the matter and, of course, shall act according to my best judgment. That is what you will want me to do, I know. Sincerely yours,

William H. Langdon.”

“I don’t think Senator Peabody will go to Philadelphia to-night,” laughed Haines grimly, as he addressed the envelope, “and I think that when the ‘boss of the Senate’ hurries around to the Langdon house instead there will be more than one kind of music, more than one kind of food eaten perhaps crow before the evening is over.”

Seizing his hat, Bud rushed to the door to look up a messenger.

“It’s all in Langdon’s hands now,” he cried. “Here’s where I resign my position as United States Senator.”