Mrs. Lee, with much earnestness of manner, still pressed her question:
"Surely something can be done to check corruption. Are we for ever to be at the mercy of thieves and ruffians? Is a respectable government impossible in a democracy?"
Her warmth attracted Jacobi's attention, and he spoke across the room. "What is that you say, Mrs. Lee? What is it about corruption?"
All the gentlemen began to listen and gather about them.
"I am asking Senator Ratcliffe," said she, "what is to become of us if corruption is allowed to go unchecked."
"And may I venture to ask permission to hear Mr. Ratcliffe's reply?" asked the baron.
"My reply," said Ratcliffe, "is that no representative government can long be much better or much worse than the society it represents. Purify society and you purify the government. But try to purify the government artificially and you only aggravate failure."
"A very statesmanlike reply," said Baron Jacobi, with a formal bow, but his tone had a shade of mockery. Carrington, who had listened with a darkening face, suddenly turned to the baron and asked him what conclusion he drew from the reply.