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THE VISION SPLENDID (chapter18,part1)

2006-08-28 23:39

    CHAPTER 18

    THE PILLARS OF SOCIETY ARE GIVEN AN ILLUSTRATION OF A ROORBACK

    PART 1

    Rawson sat in the rotunda of the Pacific Hotel in desultory conversation with Captain Chunn, Hardy and Rogers. He brought his clenched hand down on the padded leather arm of the big chair.

    "They'll jam it through to-morrow. That's what they'll do. James K. Farnum's been playing mighty pretty politics and he has got the votes to deliver the goods."

    Hardy nodded as he knocked the ash from his cigar. "Now that it's all over we can see James K.'s trail easily enough. He meant to defeat the initiative and referendum amendment, and he meant to do it without losing his popularity. He's done it too. Jeff's disappearance made it certain our bill wouldn't go through. James jumps in with a hurrah and passes one that isn't worth the powder to blow it up. But he's going to claim it as a great victory for the people——and if I know that young man he'll get away with his bluff. Yet it's certain as taxes that he's been working for Joe Powers all the time."

    "I wouldn't put it past him to have engineered some deal to get rid of his cousin," Chunn suggested.

    Rawson shook his head. "No. Not respectable enough for James. And he's not fool enough to run his head into a trap. But I'd bet my head Big Tim gave him a tip it was to be pulled off. J. K. had to know. Otherwise he wouldn't have been in a position to play the game for them. But he didn't know any details——just a suggestion. Enough to wise him without making him responsible."

    "And the play he's been making in the papers. Offering a reward for information about Jeff, insisting publicly that he has absolute confidence in his cousin's integrity while he shakes his head in private. If you want my opinion, that young man is a whited sepulchre. I never did believe in

    him."

    Rogers turned to Captain Chunn with an incredulous smile. "But you still believe in Jeff. Frankly, it looks to me like a double sell out."

    The old Confederate's eyes gleamed. "Sir, I've known that boy since he was a little tad. He's never told me a lie. He's square as they make them."

    "I used to believe in his cousin James, too," Rogers commented.

    "Oh, James! He's another proposition." Rawson's voice was sour with disgust. "He just naturally looked to see where his bread was buttered. He's as selfish as the devil for all that suave, cordial way of his. Right from the first his idea has been to make a big personal hit. And he figured out he could do it easier with Joe Powers back of him than against him. James K. is the smoothest fraud on the Pacific Coast. But Jeff——why, every hair of his head is straight. He's one out of a million, believe me."

    "You've said it," Chunn agreed.

    Rogers smiled across at them. "He's left a lot of good friends behind him anyhow. But it's strange he could drop off the earth without a soul knowing about it."

    "The men who murdered him know about it," Rawson answered significantly.

    Captain Chunn shook his head. "No, that boy will turn up yet."

    "But not in time to save us. We're licked. There's not one chance in a million for us. That's the discouraging feature of it, to be sold out after we had won our fight."

    Rawson agreed with Hardy. "Yes, we're licked. Even if Jeff were to show up, with all these stories against him, we wouldn't be able to stem the tide now."

    "Mister Raw-w-son——Mister Raw-w-son." The singsong voice of a bellhop echoed through the rotunda.

    Captain Chunn's walking stick flagged the lad and brought him sliding across the polished floor.

    "Telegram for Mr. Rawson."

    The big politician ripped it open and ran his eyes rapidly over the yellow slip. From his lips burst a sudden oath of surprise.

    "By Jupiter, the miracle's happened. Jeff is alive and on his way here.

    He's sent me a wireless from out at sea somewhere."

    "What!" Captain Chunn let out a whoop of joy.

    "Listen here." Rawson read aloud his message. "'Shanghaied on schooner _Nancy Hanks_ . Escaped at Honolulu. Back in Verden to-night. Keep up the fight.'"

    "Didn't I say Jeff was alive? Didn't I say he would come back and beat those robbers yet?" the owner of the _World_ demanded.

    "Don't get excited. It may be a fake." This from Hardy, who was almost as much moved himself.

    "Fake nothing! We'll go down to the telegraph office and make sure it's

    0. K. Won't this make a bully story for the _World_ 'Shanghaied' in big letters across the top, and underneath a red hot roast of the old city hall gang's methods of trying to defeat the will of the people." Rawson laughed aloud as his imagination pictured the story. The old soldier's eyes gleamed. "I'll run twice as many copies as usual. We'll plaster the state with them, calling for mass meetings everywhere to insist on the legislature passing our bill."

    "Go easy, gentlemen," advised Rogers. "If it's true we hold a trump card, but we want to play it mighty carefully so as to make it carry as much dynamite as possible."

    The company could give no information more definite than that the message had come from the _Bellingham,_ which was still a couple of hundred miles out at sea.

    In view of the value of the news from a strategic slant his friends succeeded in keeping the lid on Captain Chunn's enthusiasm until the party was safe aboard a fast yacht steaming out of the harbor to meet the _Bellingham._ The old Confederate's first impulse had been to run an extra immediately, but he was argued out of it.

    "We don't want to go off half cocked. We've got a beautiful comeback if we play it right. That is, if Jeff's got any proof. But we better wait and let Jeff run the newspaper end of it, Captain."

    This was Hardy's view, and it was indorsed by the others. "Another thing. This story has got to come just like an explosion on James K. Farnum's supporters. We've got to sweep them right back to our

    bill. Now if we break the force of it by giving them warning that swarm of lobbyists will get busy and stay busy all night," Rawson added.

    Jim Dunn, the star reporter of the _World,_ was hurriedly summoned by telephone. Chunn explained to the city editor that Dunn and the staff photographer were needed to cover a big story, but of what the story was no mention was made to the office. As soon as Dunn and Quillen reached the wharf the _Fly by Night_ shot out of the dock.

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