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“I didn't make the rules,” said Curtiss. “You find you either have to play that way or else get out altogether.”

The younger man relapsed into silence for a moment, then laughed to himself. “I know how you feel,” he said. “I remember when I first came out of college, the twinges I used to have. I had my head full of all the beautiful maxims of the old Professor of Ethics. And they took me on in the legal department of the New York and Hudson Railroad, and we had a case—-some kind of a damage suit; and old Henry Corbin—their chief counsel, you know—gave me the papers, and then took out of his desk a typewritten list of the judges of the Supreme Court of the State. 'Some of them are marked with red,' he said; 'you can bring the case before any of them. They are our judges.' Just fancy, you know! And I as innocent as a spring chicken!”

“I should think things like that would get out in the end,” said Montague.

Curtiss shrugged his shoulders. “How could you prove it?” he asked.

“But if a certain judge always decided in favour of the railroad—” began Montague.

“Oh, pshaw!” said Curtiss. “Leave that to the judge! Sometimes he'll decide against the railroad, but he'll make some ruling that the higher courts will be sure to upset, and by that time the other fellow will be tired out, and ready to quit. Or else—here's another way. I remember one case that I had that old Corbin told me I'd be sure to win, and I took eleven different exceptions, and the judge decided against me on every single one. I thought I was gone sure—but, by thunder, he instructed the jury in my favour! It took me a long time to see the shrewdness of that; you see, it goes to the higher courts, and they see that the judge has given the losing side every advantage, and has decided purely on the evidence. And of course they haven't the witnesses before them, and don't feel half so well able to judge of the evidence, and so they let the decision stand. There are more ways than one to skin a cat, you see!”

“It doesn't seem to leave much room for justice,” said Montague.

To which the other responded, “Oh, hell! If you'd been in this business as long as I have, and seen all the different kinds of shysters that are trying to plunder the railroads, you'd not fret about justice. The way the public has got itself worked up just at present, you can win almost any case you can get before a jury, and there are men who spend all their time hunting up cases and manufacturing evidence.”

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Montague sat for a while in thought. He muttered, half to himself, “Governor Hannis! It takes my breath away!”

“Get Davenant to tell you about it,” said Curtiss, with a laugh. “Maybe it's not so bad as I imagine. Davenant is cynical on the subject of governors, you know. He had an experience a few years ago, when he went up to Albany to try to get the Governor to sign a certain bill. The Governor went out of his office and left him, and Davenant noticed that a drawer of his desk was open, and he looked in, and there was an envelope with fifty brand-new one-thousand-dollar bills in it! He didn't know what they were there for, but this was a mighty important bill, and he concluded he'd take a chance. He put the envelope in his pocket; and then the Governor came back, and after some talk about the interests of the public, he told him he'd concluded to veto that bill. 'Very well,' Mr. Governor,' said the old man, 'I have only this to say,' and he took out the envelope. 'I have here fifty new one-thousand-dollar bills, which are yours if you sign that measure. On the other hand, if you refuse to sign it, I will take the bills to the newspaper men, and tell them what I know about how you got them.' And the Governor turned as white as a sheet, and, by God, he signed the bill and sent it off to the Legislature while Davenant waited! So you can see why he is sceptical about governors.”

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“I suppose,” said Montague, “that was what Price meant when he said he'd furnish the influence.”

“That was what he meant,” said the other, promptly.

“I don't like the prospect,” Montague responded.

The younger man shrugged his shoulders. “What are you going to do about it?” he asked. “Your political machines and your offices are in the hands of peanut-politicians and grafters who are looking for what's coming to them. If you want anything, you have to pay them for it, just the same as in any other business. You face the same situation every hour—'Pay or quit.'”

“Look,” Curtiss went on, after a pause, “take our own case. Here we are, and we want to build a little railroad. It's an important work; it's got to be done. But we might haunt the lobbies of your State legislature for fifty years, and if we didn't put up, we wouldn't get the charter. And, in the meantime, what do you suppose the Steel Trust would be doing?”

“Have you ever thought what such things will lead to?” asked Montague.

“I don't know,” said Curtiss. “I've had a fancy that some day the business men of the country will have to go into politics and run it on business lines.”

The other pondered the reply. “That sounds simple,” he said. “But doesn't it mean the overthrow of Republican institutions?”