"If you was thar, and give it to 'em as hot as you did when you was talkin' for Zeb, them skunks in the front seats wouldn't know whether they was afoot or hossback," declared Mr. Williams of Devon, a town adjoining Mercer.
"I used to think railrud gov'ment wahn't so bad until I come to the House this time," remarked a stocky member from Oxford; "it's sheer waste of money for the State to pay a Legislature. They might as well run things from the New York office--you know that."
"We might as well wear so many Northeastern uniforms with brass buttons," a sinewy hill farmer from Lee put in. He had a lean face that did not move a muscle, but a humorous gray eye that twinkled.
In the meantime Mr. Redbrook looked on with an expression of approval which was (to Austen) distinctly pleasant, but more or less mystifying.
"I guess you ain't disappointed 'em much," he declared, when the round was ended; "most of 'em knew me well enough to understand that cattle and live stock in general, includin' humans, is about as I represent 'em to be."
"We have some confidence in your judgment, Brother Redbrook," answered Mr. Terry of Lee, "and now we've looked over the goods, it ain't set back any, I callate."
This observation, which seemed to meet with a general assent, was to Austen more mystifying than ever. He laughed.
"Gentlemen," he said, "I feel as though some expression of thanks were due you for this kind and most unexpected reception." Here a sudden seriousness came into his eyes which served, somehow, only to enhance his charm of manner, and a certain determined ring into his voice. "You have all referred to a condition of affairs," he added, "about which I have thought a great deal, and which I deplore as deeply as you do. There is no doubt that the Northeastern Railroads have seized the government of this State for three main reasons: to throttle competition; to control our railroad commission in order that we may not get the service and safety to which we are entitled,--so increasing dividends; and to make and maintain laws which enable them to bribe with passes, to pay less taxes than they should, and to manipulate political machinery."