For Sam Bogley, Maryland's political accident, the time had come. It was 20 minutes before noon, and Bogley had just wished his boss, the governor, a third and final "God-speed and safe return." Harry Hughes was now out of sight, aboard a plane headed for China, and there was no doubt, officially, about who would run the state for the next three weeks.

"I stand ready," said Sam Bogley, "to accept this awesome responsibility."

In his first act as the acting governor, Bogley shuffled his felt-covered, official, lieutenant governor's notebook from right hand to left, pulled an official lieutenant governor's pen from his suit pocket, and offered it as a consoling souvenir to the young son of one of the 12 men who had just departed with Gov. Hughes.

"Peter," said the mother of another boy at the send-off, "meet the new boss, Acting Governor Bogley."

"Yup," said Bogley, softly. "It's gonna be 'Old Sam' on the second floor."

Two years ago, few could have imagined that 'Old Sam' someday would be running things on the second floor of the Annapolis State House. He was just a councilman from Bowie then, about to be retired by the leaders of the Prince George's Democratic machine who had had their fill of Bogley's maverick and, to them, inscrutable ways.

Bogley had had his fill of the Democratic leaders, too, and seemed ready and willing to drift into the obscurity of private law practice.

Then came the midnight call from Michael Canning, chief aide and buddy of Harry Hughes, a darkhorse candidate for governor who was having no luck at all in his efforts to find someone to run up his ticket as lieutenant governor. When Canning first asked Bogley, a friend of a friend's, to "come on board with Harry," Bogley thought he was simply being asked to endorse Hughes.

It was only two days later, on the eve of the filing deadline for gubernatorial tickets, that Bogley realized he was being sought as a bona fide running mate. Said Bogley at the thought: "Me? Harry wants me?"

The rest is history.Propelled by a crucial endorsement from the Baltimore Sunpapers, bloodletting among the other candidates and strong Bogley-inspired support from the state's antiabortion movement, the Hughes ticket stunned the skeptics in the Maryland political world by winning the 1978 primary. Suddenly, Sam Bogley was an odds-on favorite to be the next lieutenant governor. "There was a lot of people praying for me," said he.

But even before Hughes and Bogley marched into the State House that winter, they became embroiled in a dispute that set in stone the powers Bogley would have if the day ever came that he would run the state. Hughes, who supported state funding for abortions, was upset that Bogley and his wife, Rita, were speaking out against it. In a late-night showdown at the Lord Baltimore Hotel, Hughes made Bogley sign an agreement that he would not contradict the governor's policies on that or any other issue for the four-year term.

Even with that assurance, however, Bogley's position in the Hughes administration was tenuous. He was confined mostly to ceremonial duties as a "liaison" between the state and municipal governments, and often said, without bitterness, that he had a hard time finding out what his boss was thinking and doing.

Twice during the administration's first year, Hughes left the state without assigning to Bogley the official letter making him acting governor. The first time, when Hughes went on vacation in Rehoboth Beach, Bogley took it in stride. The second time, when Hughes flew off to the Virgin Islands, the lieutenant governor was a bit nonplussed.

While Hughes' aides claimed that Bogley need not have been made acting governor on those trips because the governor was within "calling" distance of the State House, Bogley let it be known that for the next trip -- the long-awaited Hughes venture to China on a trade mission -- he would very much like to be the official acting chief executive.

On May 14, Bogley got his wish. Said Hughes in a "Dear Sam" letter: "You shall serve as Acting Governor from the moment of the departure of my flight on May 31, 1980, until I notify you that I am resuming the duties of the Office." Wrote Bogley in reply: "Please be advised that I accept the charge."

Immediately, Bogley began receiving good-humored requests from his friends and colleagues, many seeking appointments to state jobs. "I took the kidding," said Bogley. "I told them I'd see them all out on the state boats. We've got two of them docked in Annapolis, you know. I'd like to find some way to get out on one of them -- maybe have a cabinet meeting or something. Of course, there'll be a lot of families aboard, too."

But advice from his boss did not come as quickly. Bogley waited for more than one week, up until two days before the Hughes team took off for China, before he got a briefing from the governor. Bogley was told that there would be little of substance for him to do while Hughes was away, other than preside at a meeting of the state Board of Public Works on June 4.

Bogley also was told that the governor would keep in daily contact with him. "Every night when they get back to their hotel in China," said Bogley, "Harry and Joe Coale [a Hughes aide] are going to place a call here. We'll receive it in Harry's special office, where there's one of those speaker phones so we can all hear what he has to say."

"The "we" Bogley was referring to in this case included most of Hughes' top aides -- chief of staff Ejner (Johnny) Johnson, press secretary Gene Oishi and others, Bogley, noting all the powerful aides left behind, said wistfully: "He (Hughes) is leaving me the tin man, the lion and the scarecrow while he's gone."

As acting governor, Bogley said, he'll be a lenient boss, allowing secretaries to take vacations "as long as they leave their phone numbers." Along with the strong support of Johnny Johnson, whose powers already are such that many legislators call him "Governor Johnson," Bogley said he will seek advice from Blair Lee III, who served as acting governor of Maryland longer than any man in history, nearly two years while Marvin Nandel was being tried on corruption charges. "No one," said Bogley, "could give me better counsel than Blair."

Last night, his first in the State House as acting governor, Bogley took on a chore for which even Lee could provide no assistance. "I've got to fill out my income taxes," said the acting governor. "I got an extension because I was so busy before, but now I've got to meet the June 15 deadline. I'll be here until the wee hours working on them."

At 8:30 on Monday morning, though, Bogley plans to get to work on state business. His hope, he said, is to do well enough that "in the future I might be asked to take on this role again." But then, after a pause, Sam Bogley added:

"I can't tell yet whether these 3 1/2 weeks will be exhilarating or draining. I just might be the first one out at Dulles Airport welcoming Harry back and my eye contact alone will let him know that he's taking over again."