ANNAPOLIS, FEB. 26 -- When a brooding Gov. William Donald Schaefer abruptly canceled a news conference today on the status of the current legislative session, the burden of explaining his foul mood fell to Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg.

A personality transplant or "merger" of the moods of the state's two top Democratic officials is under consideration, Steinberg deadpanned.

"We are attempting to look at some scientific means to do that," he said, suggesting that Schaefer could use an infusion of his own ebullient persona. " . . . we would lie down and have sort of a merger of our personalities. I was ready to submit to it, but my wife refused to go along with it."

Steinberg was gamely seeking to lighten the gloom that has descended on the second floor of the State House this week. The governor is bitterly angry about the legislature's decision to kill his plan for a residential math-science high school for gifted students and to modify his light rail proposal for the Baltimore area.

Schaefer, after two days of expletive-laden tirades to key legislators and reporters, spent today smoldering in his second-floor office.

In addition to canceling a news conference called to discuss his agenda at the 45-day midway mark, the governor canceled a bill-signing event that would have required him to appear with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) and House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D-Kent), the principal objects of his wrath.

And it looks like the big chill may last awhile. The governor's office also canceled Schaefer's breakfast meeting Wednesday with Miller and Mitchell, a regular weekly event.

Miller and Mitchell said they could weather the storm.

"Government by temper tantrum could work in Baltimore city, but not here," said Miller, saying he believes the legislature is a far more independent body that the Baltimore City Council when Schaefer was mayor there.

He and Mitchell echoed a sentiment being voiced often in legislative halls this week -- that the General Assembly won't be intimidated by Schaefer.

"The legislature is in control," said Mitchell.

The bad news for Schaefer began early in the week, when the word began to circulate that two Senate panels were set to kill his proposed math-science high school, which has been criticized for its estimated $13,000-per-pupil cost and for its duplication of existing programs.

Wednesday, when the committees acted, Schaefer's anger erupted during a speech to Montgomery County real estate agents in which he lambasted political game-playing with his proposals.

"I'm hot," he said. "I'm boiling over." He was scheduled to give out some awards at the event, but he left abruptly without doing so.

In an interview with several Baltimore reporters the same day, Schaefer blamed Miller, asserting that the Senate president killed the boarding high school for sport, to show he's "a big man." And the governor, known for taking revenge against his political enemies, hinted that he might do just that. "There's always tomorrow," he said.

Then there was Thursday's bad news: Mitchell phoned Schaefer to tell him that legislators had decided to modify his light rail proposal that would link Baltimore and Anne Arundel County, to ensure that all areas of the state -- not just Baltimore -- are included in long-range transportation plans. Schaefer's reaction was unprintable.

"It was not a good conversation," said Mitchell.

At a Cabinet meeting later that morning, according to one participant, "His mood was like it usually is: instructive, definitive and he was not happy." He told those assembled that he is ready for war with the General Assembly, a sentiment he has expressed to several television reporters.

While Steinberg was sent out late Thursday to tell the press that the administration was actually pleased with the legislature's light rail plan, Schaefer and some of his aides were saying it would delay the project at the very least, and perhaps kill it altogether. Some legislators wondered why Schaefer didn't take his cue on light rail from Steinberg, who, in the words of one, "woke up from the knockout and raised his hand in victory."

That sort of gesture doesn't seem to be possible for a man whose anger often spills over. When a television reporter cornered him today to ask why the news conference had been canceled, Schaefer is said to have replied: "Because I hate {expletive} reporters."