At first Mr. Tooting returned the look with interest swagger--aggression would be too emphatic, and defiance would not do. His was the air, perhaps, of Talleyrand when he said, "There seems to be an inexplicable something in me that brings bad luck to governments that neglect me:" the air of a man who has made a brilliant coup d'etat. All day he had worn that air--since five o'clock in the morning, when he had sprung from his pallet. The world might now behold the stuff that was in Hamilton Tooting. Power flowed out of his right hand from an inexhaustible reservoir which he had had the sagacity to tap, and men leaped into action at his touch. He, the once, neglected, had the destiny of a State in his keeping.
Gradually, however, it became for some strange reason difficult to maintain that aggressive stare upon Austen Vane, who shook his head slowly.
"Ham, why did you do it?" he asked.
"Why?" cried Mr. Tooting, fiercely biting back a treasonable smile. "Why not? Ain't he the best man in the State to make a winner? Hasn't he got the money, and the brains, and the get-up-and-git? Why, it's a sure thing. I've been around the State, and I know the sentiment. We've got 'em licked, right now. What have you got against it? You're on our side, Aust."
"Ham," said Austen, "are you sure you have the names and addresses of those twenty prominent citizens right, so that any voter may go out and find 'em?"
"What are you kidding about, Aust?" retorted Mr. Tooting, biting back the smile again. "Say, you never get down to business with me. You don't blame Crewe for comin' out, do you?"
"I don't see how Mr. Crewe could have resisted such an overwhelming demand," said Austen. "He couldn't shirk such a duty. He says so himself, doesn't he?"
"Oh, go on!" exclaimed Mr. Tooting, who was not able to repress a grin.