IN OLD-STYLE MARYLAND politics, if anybody asked, "What price glory?" a likely reply was, "May I have the envelope, please?" And now once again, the tarnished residue of politics past -- not to mention the furniture that went with it -- is the subject of a running dispute between the governors of today and yore, Messrs. Hughes and Mandel. Try as we have to avert our gaze, the story just won't go away as quickly as those furnishings did from the Governor's Mansion when Mr. Mandel left office.

Unlike Washington, where U.S. government furniture is thrown out with the trash daily, Annapolis claims to have some sort of inventory of public property. Gov. Hughes and Attorney General Stephen Sachs have been contending for some time now that Mr. and Mrs. Mandel are in possession of items that are not theirs. Like relatives at a wake grappling for the contents of Grandma's china closet, the governor and the ex-governor are down to the spoons, plates and perhaps even a suit, civil-style, if the attorney general isn't satisfied with the returns as of tomorrow.

Mr. Hughes has made his point. He was right to retrieve the public's property. The only thing that Maryland needs back now is a bit of the dignity lost during this squalid affair.