The Gilded Age, Complete
Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
Part 9 out of 9
count the money; I did not give any note or receipt for the same; I made
no memorandum of the transaction, and neither did my friend. That night
this evil man Noble came troubling me again: I could not rid myself of
him, though my time was very precious. He mentioned my young friend and
said he was very anxious to have the $7000 now to begin his banking
operations with, and could wait a while for the rest. Noble wished to
get the money and take it to him. I finally gave him the two packages of
bills; I took no note or receipt from him, and made no memorandum of the
matter. I no more look for duplicity and deception in another man than I
would look for it in myself. I never thought of this man again until I
was overwhelmed the next day by learning what a shameful use he had made
of the confidence I had reposed in him and the money I had entrusted to
his care. This is all, gentlemen. To the absolute truth of every detail
of my statement I solemnly swear, and I call Him to witness who is the
Truth and the loving Father of all whose lips abhor false speaking; I
pledge my honor as a Senator, that I have spoken but the truth. May God
forgive this wicked man as I do.
Mr. Noble--"Senator Dilworthy, your bank account shows that up to that
day, and even on that very day, you conducted all your financial business
through the medium of checks instead of bills, and so kept careful record
of every moneyed transaction. Why did you deal in bank bills on this
The Chairman--"The gentleman will please to remember that the Committee
is conducting this investigation."
Mr. Noble--"Then will the Committee ask the question?"
The Chairman--"The Committee will--when it desires to know."
Mr. Noble--"Which will not be daring this century perhaps."
The Chairman--"Another remark like that, sir, will procure you the
attentions of the Sergeant-at-arms."
Mr. Noble--"D--n the Sergeant-at-arms, and the Committee too!"
Several Committeemen--"Mr. Chairman, this is Contempt!"
Mr. Noble--"Contempt of whom?"
"Of the Committee! Of the Senate of the United States!"
Mr. Noble--"Then I am become the acknowledged representative of a nation.
You know as well as I do that the whole nation hold as much as
three-fifths of the United States Senate in entire contempt.--Three-fifths
of you are Dilworthys."
The Sergeant-at-arms very soon put a quietus upon the observations of the
representative of the nation, and convinced him that he was not, in the
over-free atmosphere of his Happy-Land-of-Canaan:
The statement of Senator Dilworthy naturally carried conviction to the
minds of the committee.--It was close, logical, unanswerable; it bore
many internal evidences of its, truth. For instance, it is customary in
all countries for business men to loan large sums of money in bank bills
instead of checks. It is customary for the lender to make no memorandum
of the transaction. It is customary, for the borrower to receive the
money without making a memorandum of it, or giving a note or a receipt
for it's use--the borrower is not likely to die or forget about it.
It is customary to lend nearly anybody money to start a bank with
especially if you have not the money to lend him and have to borrow it
for the purpose. It is customary to carry large sums of money in bank
bills about your person or in your trunk. It is customary to hand a
large sure in bank bills to a man you have just been introduced to (if he
asks you to do it,) to be conveyed to a distant town and delivered to
another party. It is not customary to make a memorandum of this
transaction; it is not customary for the conveyor to give a note or a
receipt for the money; it is not customary to require that he shall get a
note or a receipt from the man he is to convey it to in the distant town.
It would be at least singular in you to say to the proposed conveyor,
"You might be robbed; I will deposit the money in a bank and send a check
for it to my friend through the mail."
Very well. It being plain that Senator Dilworthy's statement was rigidly
true, and this fact being strengthened by his adding to it the support of
"his honor as a Senator," the Committee rendered a verdict of "Not proven
that a bribe had been offered and accepted." This in a manner exonerated
Noble and let him escape.
The Committee made its report to the Senate, and that body proceeded to
consider its acceptance. One Senator indeed, several Senators--objected
that the Committee had failed of its duty; they had proved this man Noble
guilty of nothing, they had meted out no punishment to him; if the report
were accepted, he would go forth free and scathless, glorying in his
crime, and it would be a tacit admission that any blackguard could insult
the Senate of the United States and conspire against the sacred
reputation of its members with impunity; the Senate owed it to the
upholding of its ancient dignity to make an example of this man Noble
--he should be crushed.
An elderly Senator got up and took another view of the case. This was a
Senator of the worn-out and obsolete pattern; a man still lingering among
the cobwebs of the past, and behind the spirit of the age. He said that
there seemed to be a curious misunderstanding of the case. Gentlemen
seemed exceedingly anxious to preserve and maintain the honor and dignity
of the Senate.
Was this to be done by trying an obscure adventurer for attempting to
trap a Senator into bribing him? Or would not the truer way be to find
out whether the Senator was capable of being entrapped into so shameless
an act, and then try him? Why, of course. Now the whole idea of the
Senate seemed to be to shield the Senator and turn inquiry away from him.
The true way to uphold the honor of the Senate was to have none but
honorable men in its body. If this Senator had yielded to temptation and
had offered a bribe, he was a soiled man and ought to be instantly
expelled; therefore he wanted the Senator tried, and not in the usual
namby-pamby way, but in good earnest. He wanted to know the truth of
this matter. For himself, he believed that the guilt of Senator
Dilworthy was established beyond the shadow of a doubt; and he considered
that in trifling with his case and shirking it the Senate was doing a
shameful and cowardly thing--a thing which suggested that in its
willingness to sit longer in the company of such a man, it was
acknowledging that it was itself of a kind with him and was therefore not
dishonored by his presence. He desired that a rigid examination be made
into Senator Dilworthy's case, and that it be continued clear into the
approaching extra session if need be. There was no dodging this thing
with the lame excuse of want of time.
In reply, an honorable Senator said that he thought it would be as well
to drop the matter and accept the Committee's report. He said with some
jocularity that the more one agitated this thing, the worse it was for
the agitator. He was not able to deny that he believed Senator Dilworthy
to be guilty--but what then? Was it such an extraordinary case? For his
part, even allowing the Senator to be guilty, he did not think his
continued presence during the few remaining days of the Session would
contaminate the Senate to a dreadful degree. [This humorous sally was
received with smiling admiration--notwithstanding it was not wholly new,
having originated with the Massachusetts General in the House a day or
two before, upon the occasion of the proposed expulsion of a member for
selling his vote for money.]
The Senate recognized the fact that it could not be contaminated by
sitting a few days longer with Senator Dilworthy, and so it accepted the
committee's report and dropped the unimportant matter.
Mr. Dilworthy occupied his seat to the last hour of the session. He said
that his people had reposed a trust in him, and it was not for him to
desert them. He would remain at his post till he perished, if need be.
His voice was lifted up and his vote cast for the last time, in support
of an ingenious measure contrived by the General from Massachusetts
whereby the President's salary was proposed to be doubled and every
Congressman paid several thousand dollars extra for work previously done,
under an accepted contract, and already paid for once and receipted for.
Senator Dilworthy was offered a grand ovation by his friends at home, who
said that their affection for him and their confidence in him were in no
wise impaired by the persecutions that had pursued him, and that he was
still good enough for them.
--[The $7,000 left by Mr. Noble with his state legislature was placed in
safe keeping to await the claim of the legitimate owner. Senator
Dilworthy made one little effort through his protege the embryo banker
to recover it, but there being no notes of hand or, other memoranda to
support the claim, it failed. The moral of which is, that when one loans
money to start a bank with, one ought to take the party's written
acknowledgment of the fact.]
For some days Laura had been a free woman once more. During this time,
she had experienced--first, two or three days of triumph, excitement,
congratulations, a sort of sunburst of gladness, after a long night of
gloom and anxiety; then two or three days of calming down, by degrees
--a receding of tides, a quieting of the storm-wash to a murmurous
surf-beat, a diminishing of devastating winds to a refrain that bore the
spirit of a truce-days given to solitude, rest, self-communion, and the
reasoning of herself into a realization of the fact that she was actually
done with bolts and bars, prison, horrors and impending, death; then came
a day whose hours filed slowly by her, each laden with some remnant,
some remaining fragment of the dreadful time so lately ended--a day
which, closing at last, left the past a fading shore behind her and
turned her eyes toward the broad sea of the future. So speedily do we
put the dead away and come back to our place in the ranks to march in the
pilgrimage of life again.
And now the sun rose once more and ushered in the first day of what Laura
comprehended and accepted as a new life.
The past had sunk below the horizon, and existed no more for her;
she was done with it for all time. She was gazing out over the trackless
expanses of the future, now, with troubled eyes. Life must be begun
again--at eight and twenty years of age. And where to begin? The page
was blank, and waiting for its first record; so this was indeed a
Her thoughts drifted back, stage by stage, over her career. As far as
the long highway receded over the plain of her life, it was lined with
the gilded and pillared splendors of her ambition all crumbled to ruin
and ivy-grown; every milestone marked a disaster; there was no green spot
remaining anywhere in memory of a hope that had found its fruition; the
unresponsive earth had uttered no voice of flowers in testimony that one
who was blest had gone that road.
Her life had been a failure. That was plain, she said. No more of that.
She would now look the future in the face; she would mark her course upon
the chart of life, and follow it; follow it without swerving, through
rocks and shoals, through storm and calm, to a haven of rest and peace or
shipwreck. Let the end be what it might, she would mark her course now
--to-day--and follow it.
On her table lay six or seven notes. They were from lovers; from some of
the prominent names in the land; men whose devotion had survived even the
grisly revealments of her character which the courts had uncurtained;
men who knew her now, just as she was, and yet pleaded as for their lives
for the dear privilege of calling the murderess wife.
As she read these passionate, these worshiping, these supplicating
missives, the woman in her nature confessed itself; a strong yearning
came upon her to lay her head upon a loyal breast and find rest from the
conflict of life, solace for her griefs, the healing of love for her
With her forehead resting upon her hand, she sat thinking, thinking,
while the unheeded moments winged their flight. It was one of those
mornings in early spring when nature seems just stirring to a half
consciousness out of a long, exhausting lethargy; when the first faint
balmy airs go wandering about, whispering the secret of the coming
change; when the abused brown grass, newly relieved of snow, seems
considering whether it can be worth the trouble and worry of contriving
its green raiment again only to fight the inevitable fight with the
implacable winter and be vanquished and buried once more; when the sun
shines out and a few birds venture forth and lift up a forgotten song;
when a strange stillness and suspense pervades the waiting air. It is a
time when one's spirit is subdued and sad, one knows not why; when the
past seems a storm-swept desolation, life a vanity and a burden, and the
future but a way to death. It is a time when one is filled with vague
longings; when one dreams of flight to peaceful islands in the remote
solitudes of the sea, or folds his hands and says, What is the use of
struggling, and toiling and worrying any more? let us give it all up.
It was into such a mood as this that Laura had drifted from the musings
which the letters of her lovers had called up. Now she lifted her head
and noted with surprise how the day had wasted. She thrust the letters
aside, rose up and went and stood at the window. But she was soon
thinking again, and was only gazing into vacancy.
By and by she turned; her countenance had cleared; the dreamy look was
gone out of her face, all indecision had vanished; the poise of her head
and the firm set of her lips told that her resolution was formed.
She moved toward the table with all the old dignity in her carriage,
and all the old pride in her mien. She took up each letter in its turn,
touched a match to it and watched it slowly consume to ashes. Then she
"I have landed upon a foreign shore, and burned my ships behind me.
These letters were the last thing that held me in sympathy with any
remnant or belonging of the old life. Henceforth that life and all that
appertains to it are as dead to me and as far removed from me as if I
were become a denizen of another world."
She said that love was not for her--the time that it could have satisfied
her heart was gone by and could not return; the opportunity was lost,
nothing could restore it. She said there could be no love without
respect, and she would only despise a man who could content himself with
a thing like her. Love, she said, was a woman's first necessity: love
being forfeited; there was but one thing left that could give a passing
zest to a wasted life, and that was fame, admiration, the applause of the
And so her resolution was taken. She would turn to that final resort of
the disappointed of her sex, the lecture platform. She would array
herself in fine attire, she would adorn herself with jewels, and stand in
her isolated magnificence before massed, audiences and enchant them with
her eloquence and amaze them with her unapproachable beauty. She would
move from city to city like a queen of romance, leaving marveling
multitudes behind her and impatient multitudes awaiting her coming.
Her life, during one hour of each day, upon the platform, would be a
rapturous intoxication--and when the curtain fell; and the lights were
out, and the people gone, to nestle in their homes and forget her, she
would find in sleep oblivion of her homelessness, if she could, if not
she would brave out the night in solitude and wait for the next day's
hour of ecstasy.
So, to take up life and begin again was no great evil. She saw her way.
She would be brave and strong; she would make the best of, what was left
for her among the possibilities.
She sent for the lecture agent, and matters were soon arranged.
Straightway, all the papers were filled with her name, and all the dead
walls flamed with it. The papers called down imprecations upon her head;
they reviled her without stint; they wondered if all sense of decency was
dead in this shameless murderess, this brazen lobbyist, this heartless
seducer of the affections of weak and misguided men; they implored the
people, for the sake of their pure wives, their sinless daughters, for
the sake of decency, for the sake of public morals, to give this wretched
creature such a rebuke as should be an all-sufficient evidence to her and
to such as her, that there was a limit where the flaunting of their foul
acts and opinions before the world must stop; certain of them, with a
higher art, and to her a finer cruelty, a sharper torture, uttered no
abuse, but always spoke of her in terms of mocking eulogy and ironical
admiration. Everybody talked about the new wonder, canvassed the theme
of her proposed discourse, and marveled how she would handle it.
Laura's few friends wrote to her or came and talked with her, and pleaded
with her to retire while it was yet time, and not attempt to face the
gathering storm. But it was fruitless. She was stung to the quick by
the comments of the newspapers; her spirit was roused, her ambition was
towering, now. She was more determined than ever. She would show these
people what a hunted and persecuted woman could do.
The eventful night came. Laura arrived before the great lecture hall in
a close carriage within five minutes of the time set for the lecture to
begin. When she stepped out of the vehicle her heart beat fast and her
eyes flashed with exultation: the whole street was packed with people,
and she could hardly force her way to the hall! She reached the
ante-room, threw off her wraps and placed herself before the
dressing-glass. She turned herself this way and that--everything was
satisfactory, her attire was perfect. She smoothed her hair, rearranged
a jewel here and there, and all the while her heart sang within her, and
her face was radiant. She had not been so happy for ages and ages, it
seemed to her. Oh, no, she had never been so overwhelmingly grateful and
happy in her whole life before. The lecture agent appeared at the door.
She waved him away and said:
"Do not disturb me. I want no introduction. And do not fear for me; the
moment the hands point to eight I will step upon the platform."
He disappeared. She held her watch before her. She was so impatient
that the second-hand seemed whole tedious minutes dragging its way around
the circle. At last the supreme moment came, and with head erect and the
bearing of an empress she swept through the door and stood upon the
stage. Her eyes fell upon only a vast, brilliant emptiness--there were
not forty people in the house! There were only a handful of coarse men
and ten or twelve still coarser women, lolling upon the benches and
scattered about singly and in couples.
Her pulses stood still, her limbs quaked, the gladness went out of her
face. There was a moment of silence, and then a brutal laugh and an
explosion of cat-calls and hisses saluted her from the audience. The
clamor grew stronger and louder, and insulting speeches were shouted at
her. A half-intoxicated man rose up and threw something, which missed
her but bespattered a chair at her side, and this evoked an outburst of
laughter and boisterous admiration. She was bewildered, her strength was
forsaking her. She reeled away from the platform, reached the ante-room,
and dropped helpless upon a sofa. The lecture agent ran in, with a
hurried question upon his lips; but she put forth her hands, and with the
tears raining from her eyes, said:
"Oh, do not speak! Take me away-please take me away, out of this.
dreadful place! Oh, this is like all my life--failure, disappointment,
misery--always misery, always failure. What have I done, to be so
pursued! Take me away, I beg of you, I implore you!"
Upon the pavement she was hustled by the mob, the surging masses roared
her name and accompanied it with every species of insulting epithet;
they thronged after the carriage, hooting, jeering, cursing, and even
assailing the vehicle with missiles. A stone crushed through a blind,
wounding Laura's forehead, and so stunning her that she hardly knew what
further transpired during her flight.
It was long before her faculties were wholly restored, and then she found
herself lying on the floor by a sofa in her own sitting-room, and alone.
So she supposed she must have sat down upon the sofa and afterward
fallen. She raised herself up, with difficulty, for the air was chilly
and her limbs were stiff. She turned up the gas and sought the glass.
She hardly knew herself, so worn and old she looked, and so marred with
blood were her features. The night was far spent, and a dead stillness
reigned. She sat down by her table, leaned her elbows upon it and put
her face in her hands.
Her thoughts wandered back over her old life again and her tears flowed
unrestrained. Her pride was humbled, her spirit was broken. Her memory
found but one resting place; it lingered about her young girlhood with a
caressing regret; it dwelt upon it as the one brief interval of her life
that bore no curse. She saw herself again in the budding grace of her
twelve years, decked in her dainty pride of ribbons, consorting with the
bees and the butterflies, believing in fairies, holding confidential
converse with the flowers, busying herself all day long with airy trifles
that were as weighty to her as the affairs that tax the brains of
diplomats and emperors. She was without sin, then, and unacquainted with
grief; the world was full of sunshine and her heart was full of music.
From that--to this!
"If I could only die!" she said. "If I could only go back, and be as I
was then, for one hour--and hold my father's hand in mine again, and see
all the household about me, as in that old innocent time--and then die!
My God, I am humbled, my pride is all gone, my stubborn heart repents
When the spring morning dawned, the form still sat there, the elbows
resting upon the table and the face upon the hands. All day long the
figure sat there, the sunshine enriching its costly raiment and flashing
from its jewels; twilight came, and presently the stars, but still the
figure remained; the moon found it there still, and framed the picture
with the shadow of the window sash, and flooded, it with mellow light; by
and by the darkness swallowed it up, and later the gray dawn revealed it
again; the new day grew toward its prime, and still the forlorn presence
But now the keepers of the house had become uneasy; their periodical
knockings still finding no response, they burst open the door.
The jury of inquest found that death had resulted from heart disease, and
was instant and painless. That was all. Merely heart disease.
Clay Hawkins, years gone by, had yielded, after many a struggle, to the
migratory and speculative instinct of our age and our people, and had
wandered further and further westward upon trading ventures. Settling
finally in Melbourne, Australia, he ceased to roam, became a steady-going
substantial merchant, and prospered greatly. His life lay beyond the
theatre of this tale.
His remittances had supported the Hawkins family, entirely, from the time
of his father's death until latterly when Laura by her efforts in
Washington had been able to assist in this work. Clay was away on a long
absence in some of the eastward islands when Laura's troubles began,
trying (and almost in vain,) to arrange certain interests which had
become disordered through a dishonest agent, and consequently he knew
nothing of the murder till he returned and read his letters and papers.
His natural impulse was to hurry to the States and save his sister if
possible, for he loved her with a deep and abiding affection. His
business was so crippled now, and so deranged, that to leave it would be
ruin; therefore he sold out at a sacrifice that left him considerably
reduced in worldly possessions, and began his voyage to San Francisco.
Arrived there, he perceived by the newspapers that the trial was near its
close. At Salt Lake later telegrams told him of the acquittal, and his
gratitude was boundless--so boundless, indeed, that sleep was driven from
his eyes by the pleasurable excitement almost as effectually as preceding
weeks of anxiety had done it. He shaped his course straight for Hawkeye,
now, and his meeting with his mother and the rest of the household was
joyful--albeit he had been away so long that he seemed almost a stranger
in his own home.
But the greetings and congratulations were hardly finished when all the
journals in the land clamored the news of Laura's miserable death.
Mrs. Hawkins was prostrated by this last blow, and it was well that Clay
was at her side to stay her with comforting words and take upon himself
the ordering of the household with its burden of labors and cares.
Washington Hawkins had scarcely more than entered upon that decade which
carries one to the full blossom of manhood which we term the beginning:
of middle age, and yet a brief sojourn at the capital of the nation had
made him old. His hair was already turning gray when the late session of
Congress began its sittings; it grew grayer still, and rapidly, after the
memorable day that saw Laura proclaimed a murderess; it waxed grayer and
still grayer during the lagging suspense that succeeded it and after the
crash which ruined his last hope--the failure of his bill in the Senate
and the destruction of its champion, Dilworthy. A few days later, when
he stood uncovered while the last prayer was pronounced over Laura's
grave, his hair was whiter and his face hardly less old than the
venerable minister's whose words were sounding in his ears.
A week after this, he was sitting in a double-bedded room in a cheap
boarding house in Washington, with Col. Sellers. The two had been living
together lately, and this mutual cavern of theirs the Colonel sometimes
referred to as their "premises" and sometimes as their "apartments"--more
particularly when conversing with persons outside. A canvas-covered
modern trunk, marked "G. W. H." stood on end by the door, strapped and
ready for a journey; on it lay a small morocco satchel, also marked "G.
W. H." There was another trunk close by--a worn, and scarred, and
ancient hair relic, with "B. S." wrought in brass nails on its top;
on it lay a pair of saddle-bags that probably knew more about the last
century than they could tell. Washington got up and walked the floor a
while in a restless sort of way, and finally was about to sit down on the
"Stop, don't sit down on that!" exclaimed the Colonel: "There, now that's
all right--the chair's better. I couldn't get another trunk like that
--not another like it in America, I reckon."
"I am afraid not," said Washington, with a faint attempt at a smile.
"No indeed; the man is dead that made that trunk and that saddle-bags."
"Are his great-grand-children still living?" said Washington, with levity
only in the words, not in the tone.
"Well, I don't know--I hadn't thought of that--but anyway they can't make
trunks and saddle-bags like that, if they are--no man can," said the
Colonel with honest simplicity. "Wife didn't like to see me going off
with that trunk--she said it was nearly certain to be stolen."
"Why? Why, aren't trunks always being stolen?"
"Well, yes--some kinds of trunks are."
"Very well, then; this is some kind of a trunk--and an almighty rare
"Yes, I believe it is."
"Well, then, why shouldn't a man want to steal it if he got a chance?"
"Indeed I don't know.--Why should he?"
"Washington, I never heard anybody talk like you. Suppose you were a
thief, and that trunk was lying around and nobody watching--wouldn't you
steal it? Come, now, answer fair--wouldn't you steal it?
"Well, now, since you corner me, I would take it,--but I wouldn't
consider it stealing.
"You wouldn't! Well, that beats me. Now what would you call stealing?"
"Why, taking property is stealing."
"Property! Now what a way to talk that is: What do you suppose that
trunk is worth?"
"Is it in good repair?"
"Perfect. Hair rubbed off a little, but the main structure is perfectly
"Does it leak anywhere?"
"Leak? Do you want to carry water in it? What do you mean by does it
"Why--a--do the clothes fall out of it when it is--when it is
"Confound it, Washington, you are trying to make fun of me. I don't know
what has got into you to-day; you act mighty curious. What is the matter
"Well, I'll tell you, old friend. I am almost happy. I am, indeed.
It wasn't Clay's telegram that hurried me up so and got me ready to start
with you. It was a letter from Louise."
"Good! What is it? What does she say?"
"She says come home--her father has consented, at last."
"My boy, I want to congratulate you; I want to shake you by the hand!
It's a long turn that has no lane at the end of it, as the proverb says,
or somehow that way. You'll be happy yet, and Beriah Sellers will be
there to see, thank God!"
"I believe it. General Boswell is pretty nearly a poor man, now. The
railroad that was going to build up Hawkeye made short work of him, along
with the rest. He isn't so opposed to a son-in-law without a fortune,
"Without a fortune, indeed! Why that Tennessee Land--"
"Never mind the Tennessee Land, Colonel. I am done with that, forever
"Why no! You can't mean to say--"
"My father, away back yonder, years ago, bought it for a blessing for his
"Indeed he did! Si Hawkins said to me--"
"It proved a curse to him as long as he lived, and never a curse like it
was inflicted upon any man's heirs--"
"I'm bound to say there's more or less truth--"
"It began to curse me when I was a baby, and it has cursed every hour of
my life to this day--"
"Lord, lord, but it's so! Time and again my wife--"
"I depended on it all through my boyhood and never tried to do an honest
stroke of work for my living--"
"Right again--but then you--"
"I have chased it years and years as children chase butterflies. We
might all have been prosperous, now; we might all have been happy, all
these heart-breaking years, if we had accepted our poverty at first and
gone contentedly to work and built up our own wealth by our own toil and
"It's so, it's so; bless my soul, how often I've told Si Hawkins--"
"Instead of that, we have suffered more than the damned themselves
suffer! I loved my father, and I honor his memory and recognize his good
intentions; but I grieve for his mistaken ideas of conferring happiness
upon his children. I am going to begin my life over again, and begin it
and end it with good solid work! I'll leave my children no Tennessee
"Spoken like a man, sir, spoken like a man! Your hand, again my boy!
And always remember that when a word of advice from Beriah Sellers can
help, it is at your service. I'm going to begin again, too!"
"Yes, sir. I've seen enough to show me where my mistake was. The law is
what I was born for. I shall begin the study of the law. Heavens and
earth, but that Brabant's a wonderful man--a wonderful man sir! Such a
head! And such a way with him! But I could see that he was jealous of
me. The little licks I got in in the course of my argument before the
"Your argument! Why, you were a witness."
"Oh, yes, to the popular eye, to the popular eye--but I knew when I was
dropping information and when I was letting drive at the court with an
insidious argument. But the court knew it, bless you, and weakened every
time! And Brabant knew it. I just reminded him of it in a quiet way,
and its final result, and he said in a whisper, 'You did it, Colonel, you
did it, sir--but keep it mum for my sake; and I'll tell you what you do,'
says he, 'you go into the law, Col. Sellers--go into the law, sir; that's
your native element!' And into the law the subscriber is going. There's
worlds of money in it!--whole worlds of money! Practice first in
Hawkeye, then in Jefferson, then in St. Louis, then in New York! In the
metropolis of the western world! Climb, and climb, and climb--and wind
up on the Supreme bench. Beriah Sellers, Chief Justice of the Supreme
Court of the United States, sir! A made man for all time and eternity!
That's the way I block it out, sir--and it's as clear as day--clear as
Washington had heard little of this. The first reference to Laura's
trial had brought the old dejection to his face again, and he stood
gazing out of the window at nothing, lost in reverie.
There was a knock-the postman handed in a letter. It was from Obedstown.
East Tennessee, and was for Washington. He opened it. There was a note
saying that enclosed he would please find a bill for the current year's
taxes on the 75,000 acres of Tennessee Land belonging to the estate of
Silas Hawkins, deceased, and added that the money must be paid within
sixty days or the land would be sold at public auction for the taxes, as
provided by law. The bill was for $180--something more than twice the
market value of the land, perhaps.
Washington hesitated. Doubts flitted through his mind. The old instinct
came upon him to cling to the land just a little longer and give it one
more chance. He walked the floor feverishly, his mind tortured by
indecision. Presently he stopped, took out his pocket book and counted
his money. Two hundred and thirty dollars--it was all he had in the
"One hundred and eighty . . . . . . . from two hundred and
thirty," he said to himself. "Fifty left . . . . . . It is enough
to get me home . . . .. . . Shall I do it, or shall I not? . . .
. . . . I wish I had somebody to decide for me."
The pocket book lay open in his hand, with Louise's small letter in view.
His eye fell upon that, and it decided him.
"It shall go for taxes," he said, "and never tempt me or mine any more!"
He opened the window and stood there tearing the tax bill to bits and
watching the breeze waft them away, till all were gone.
"The spell is broken, the life-long curse is ended!" he said. "Let us
The baggage wagon had arrived; five minutes later the two friends were
mounted upon their luggage in it, and rattling off toward the station,
the Colonel endeavoring to sing "Homeward Bound," a song whose words he
knew, but whose tune, as he rendered it, was a trial to auditors.
Philip Sterling's circumstances were becoming straightened. The prospect
was gloomy. His long siege of unproductive labor was beginning to tell
upon his spirits; but what told still more upon them was the undeniable
fact that the promise of ultimate success diminished every day, now.
That is to say, the tunnel had reached a point in the hill which was
considerably beyond where the coal vein should pass (according to all his
calculations) if there were a coal vein there; and so, every foot that
the tunnel now progressed seemed to carry it further away from the object
of the search.
Sometimes he ventured to hope that he had made a mistake in estimating
the direction which the vein should naturally take after crossing the
valley and entering the hill. Upon such occasions he would go into the
nearest mine on the vein he was hunting for, and once more get the
bearings of the deposit and mark out its probable course; but the result
was the same every time; his tunnel had manifestly pierced beyond the
natural point of junction; and then his, spirits fell a little lower.
His men had already lost faith, and he often overheard them saying it was
perfectly plain that there was no coal in the hill.
Foremen and laborers from neighboring mines, and no end of experienced
loafers from the village, visited the tunnel from time to time, and their
verdicts were always the same and always disheartening--"No coal in that
hill." Now and then Philip would sit down and think it all over and
wonder what the mystery meant; then he would go into the tunnel and ask
the men if there were no signs yet? None--always "none."
He would bring out a piece of rock and examine it, and say to himself,
"It is limestone--it has crinoids and corals in it--the rock is right"
Then he would throw it down with a sigh, and say, "But that is nothing;
where coal is, limestone with these fossils in it is pretty certain to
lie against its foot casing; but it does not necessarily follow that
where this peculiar rock is coal must lie above it or beyond it; this
sign is not sufficient."
The thought usually followed:--"There is one infallible sign--if I could
only strike that!"
Three or four tines in as many weeks he said to himself, "Am I a
visionary? I must be a visionary; everybody is in these days; everybody
chases butterflies: everybody seeks sudden fortune and will not lay one
up by slow toil. This is not right, I will discharge the men and go at
some honest work. There is no coal here. What a fool I have been; I
will give it up."
But he never could do it. A half hour of profound thinking always
followed; and at the end of it he was sure to get up and straighten
himself and say: "There is coal there; I will not give it up; and coal
or no coal I will drive the tunnel clear through the hill; I will not
surrender while I am alive."
He never thought of asking Mr. Montague for more money. He said there
was now but one chance of finding coal against nine hundred and ninety
nine that he would not find it, and so it would be wrong in him to make
the request and foolish in Mr. Montague to grant it.
He had been working three shifts of men. Finally, the settling of a
weekly account exhausted his means. He could not afford to run in debt,
and therefore he gave the men their discharge. They came into his cabin
presently, where he sat with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his
hands--the picture of discouragement and their spokesman said:
"Mr. Sterling, when Tim was down a week with his fall you kept him on
half-wages and it was a mighty help to his family; whenever any of us was
in trouble you've done what you could to help us out; you've acted fair
and square with us every time, and I reckon we are men and know a man
when we see him. We haven't got any faith in that hill, but we have a
respect for a man that's got the pluck that you've showed; you've fought
a good fight, with everybody agin you and if we had grub to go on, I'm
d---d if we wouldn't stand by you till the cows come home! That is what
the boys say. Now we want to put in one parting blast for luck. We want
to work three days more; if we don't find anything, we won't bring in no
bill against you. That is what we've come to say."
Philip was touched. If he had had money enough to buy three days' "grub"
he would have accepted the generous offer, but as it was, he could not
consent to be less magnanimous than the men, and so he declined in a
manly speech; shook hands all around and resumed his solitary communings.
The men went back to the tunnel and "put in a parting blast for luck"
anyhow. They did a full day's work and then took their leave. They
called at his cabin and gave him good-bye, but were not able to tell him
their day's effort had given things a mere promising look.
The next day Philip sold all the tools but two or three sets; he also
sold one of the now deserted cabins as old, lumber, together with its
domestic wares; and made up his mind that he would buy, provisions with
the trifle of money thus gained and continue his work alone. About the
middle of the after noon he put on his roughest clothes and went to the
tunnel. He lit a candle and groped his way in. Presently he heard the
sound of a pick or a drill, and wondered, what it meant. A spark of light
now appeared in the far end of the tunnel, and when he arrived there he
found the man Tim at work. Tim said:
"I'm to have a job in the Golden Brier mine by and by--in a week or ten
days--and I'm going to work here till then. A man might as well be at
some thing, and besides I consider that I owe you what you paid me when I
was laid up."
Philip said, Oh, no, he didn't owe anything; but Tim persisted, and then
Philip said he had a little provision now, and would share. So for
several days Philip held the drill and Tim did the striking. At first
Philip was impatient to see the result of every blast, and was always
back and peering among the smoke the moment after the explosion. But
there was never any encouraging result; and therefore he finally lost
almost all interest, and hardly troubled himself to inspect results at
all. He simply labored on, stubbornly and with little hope.
Tim staid with him till the last moment, and then took up his job at the
Golden Brier, apparently as depressed by the continued barrenness of
their mutual labors as Philip was himself. After that, Philip fought his
battle alone, day after day, and slow work it was; he could scarcely see
that he made any progress.
Late one afternoon he finished drilling a hole which he had been at work
at for more than two hours; he swabbed it out, and poured in the powder
and inserted the fuse; then filled up the rest of the hole with dirt and
small fragments of stone; tamped it down firmly, touched his candle to
the fuse, and ran. By and by the I dull report came, and he was about to
walk back mechanically and see what was accomplished; but he halted;
presently turned on his heel and thought, rather than said:
"No, this is useless, this is absurd. If I found anything it would only
be one of those little aggravating seams of coal which doesn't mean
By this time he was walking out of the tunnel. His thought ran on:
"I am conquered . . . . . . I am out of provisions, out of money.
. . . . I have got to give it up . . . . . . All this hard work
lost! But I am not conquered! I will go and work for money, and come
back and have another fight with fate. Ah me, it may be years, it may,
Arrived at the mouth of the tunnel, he threw his coat upon the ground,
sat down on, a stone, and his eye sought the westering sun and dwelt upon
the charming landscape which stretched its woody ridges, wave upon wave,
to the golden horizon.
Something was taking place at his feet which did not attract his
His reverie continued, and its burden grew more and more gloomy.
Presently he rose up and, cast a look far away toward the valley, and his
thoughts took a new direction:
"There it is! How good it looks! But down there is not up here. Well,
I will go home and pack up--there is nothing else to do"
He moved off moodily toward his cabin. He had gone some distance before
he thought of his coat; then he was about to turn back, but he smiled at
the thought, and continued his journey--such a coat as that could be of
little use in a civilized land; a little further on, he remembered that
there were some papers of value in one of the pockets of the relic, and
then with a penitent ejaculation he turned back picked up the coat and
put it on.
He made a dozen steps, and then stopped very suddenly. He stood still a
moment, as one who is trying to believe something and cannot. He put a
hand up over his shoulder and felt his back, and a great thrill shot
through him. He grasped the skirt of the coat impulsively and another
thrill followed. He snatched the coat from his back, glanced at it,
threw it from him and flew back to the tunnel. He sought the spot where
the coat had lain--he had to look close, for the light was waning--then
to make sure, he put his hand to the ground and a little stream of water
swept against his fingers:
"Thank God, I've struck it at last!"
He lit a candle and ran into the tunnel; he picked up a piece of rubbish
cast out by the last blast, and said:
"This clayey stuff is what I've longed for--I know what is behind it."
He swung his pick with hearty good will till long after the darkness had
gathered upon the earth, and when he trudged home at length he knew he
had a coal vein and that it was seven feet thick from wall to wall.
He found a yellow envelope lying on his rickety table, and recognized
that it was of a family sacred to the transmission of telegrams.
He opened it, read it, crushed it in his hand and threw it down. It
"Ruth is very ill."
It was evening when Philip took the cars at the Ilium station. The news
of, his success had preceded him, and while he waited for the train, he
was the center of a group of eager questioners, who asked him a hundred
things about the mine, and magnified his good fortune. There was no
mistake this time.
Philip, in luck, had become suddenly a person of consideration, whose
speech was freighted with meaning, whose looks were all significant.
The words of the proprietor of a rich coal mine have a golden sound,
and his common sayings are repeated as if they were solid wisdom.
Philip wished to be alone; his good fortune at this moment seemed an
empty mockery, one of those sarcasms of fate, such as that which spreads
a dainty banquet for the man who has no appetite. He had longed for
success principally for Ruth's sake; and perhaps now, at this very moment
of his triumph, she was dying.
"Shust what I said, Mister Sederling," the landlord of the Ilium hotel
kept repeating. "I dold Jake Schmidt he find him dere shust so sure as
"You ought to have taken a share, Mr. Dusenheimer," said Philip.
"Yaas, I know. But d'old woman, she say 'You sticks to your pisiness.
So I sticks to 'em. Und I makes noting. Dat Mister Prierly, he don't
never come back here no more, ain't it?"
"Why?" asked Philip.
"Vell, dere is so many peers, and so many oder dhrinks, I got 'em all set
down, ven he coomes back."
It was a long night for Philip, and a restless one. At any other time
the swing of the cars would have lulled him to sleep, and the rattle and
clank of wheels and rails, the roar of the whirling iron would have only
been cheerful reminders of swift and safe travel. Now they were voices
of warning and taunting; and instead of going rapidly the train seemed to
crawl at a snail's pace. And it not only crawled, but it frequently
stopped; and when it stopped it stood dead still and there was an ominous
silence. Was anything the matter, he wondered. Only a station probably.
Perhaps, he thought, a telegraphic station. And then he listened
eagerly. Would the conductor open the door and ask for Philip Sterling,
and hand him a fatal dispatch?
How long they seemed to wait. And then slowly beginning to move, they
were off again, shaking, pounding, screaming through the night. He drew
his curtain from time to time and looked out. There was the lurid sky
line of the wooded range along the base of which they were crawling.
There was the Susquehannah, gleaming in the moon-light. There was a
stretch of level valley with silent farm houses, the occupants all at
rest, without trouble, without anxiety. There was a church, a graveyard,
a mill, a village; and now, without pause or fear, the train had mounted
a trestle-work high in air and was creeping along the top of it while a
swift torrent foamed a hundred feet below.
What would the morning bring? Even while he was flying to her, her gentle
spirit might have gone on another flight, whither he could not follow
her. He was full of foreboding. He fell at length into a restless doze.
There was a noise in his ears as of a rushing torrent when a stream is
swollen by a freshet in the spring. It was like the breaking up of life;
he was struggling in the consciousness of coming death: when Ruth stood
by his side, clothed in white, with a face like that of an angel,
radiant, smiling, pointing to the sky, and saying, "Come." He awoke with
a cry--the train was roaring through a bridge, and it shot out into
When morning came the train was industriously toiling along through the
fat lands of Lancaster, with its broad farms of corn and wheat, its mean
houses of stone, its vast barns and granaries, built as if, for storing
the riches of Heliogabalus. Then came the smiling fields of Chester,
with their English green, and soon the county of Philadelphia itself, and
the increasing signs of the approach to a great city. Long trains of
coal cars, laden and unladen, stood upon sidings; the tracks of other
roads were crossed; the smoke of other locomotives was seen on parallel
lines; factories multiplied; streets appeared; the noise of a busy city
began to fill the air;--and with a slower and slower clank on the
connecting rails and interlacing switches the train rolled into the
station and stood still.
It was a hot August morning. The broad streets glowed in the sun, and
the white-shuttered houses stared at the hot thoroughfares like closed
bakers' ovens set along the highway. Philip was oppressed with the heavy
air; the sweltering city lay as in a swoon. Taking a street car, he rode
away to the northern part of the city, the newer portion, formerly the
district of Spring Garden, for in this the Boltons now lived, in a small
brick house, befitting their altered fortunes.
He could scarcely restrain his impatience when he came in sight of the
house. The window shutters were not "bowed"; thank God, for that. Ruth
was still living, then. He ran up the steps and rang. Mrs. Bolton met
him at the door.
"Thee is very welcome, Philip."
"She is very ill, but quieter than, she has been, and the fever is a
little abating. The most dangerous time will be when the fever leaves
her. The doctor fears she will not have strength enough to rally from
it. Yes, thee can see her."
Mrs. Bolton led the way to the little chamber where Ruth lay. "Oh,"
said her mother, "if she were only in her cool and spacious room in our
old home. She says that seems like heaven."
Mr. Bolton sat by Ruth's bedside, and he rose and silently pressed
Philip's hand. The room had but one window; that was wide open to admit
the air, but the air that came in was hot and lifeless. Upon the table
stood a vase of flowers. Ruth's eyes were closed; her cheeks were
flushed with fever, and she moved her head restlessly as if in pain.
"Ruth," said her mother, bending over her, "Philip is here."
Ruth's eyes unclosed, there was a gleam of recognition in them, there was
an attempt at a smile upon her face, and she tried to raise her thin
hand, as Philip touched her forehead with his lips; and he heard her
There was nothing to be done but to watch and wait for the cruel fever to
burn itself out. Dr. Longstreet told Philip that the fever had
undoubtedly been contracted in the hospital, but it was not malignant,
and would be little dangerous if Ruth were not so worn down with work,
or if she had a less delicate constitution.
"It is only her indomitable will that has kept her up for weeks. And if
that should leave her now, there will be no hope. You can do more for
her now, sir, than I can?"
"How?" asked Philip eagerly.
"Your presence, more than anything else, will inspire her with the desire
When the fever turned, Ruth was in a very critical condition. For two
days her life was like the fluttering of a lighted candle in the wind.
Philip was constantly by her side, and she seemed to be conscious of his
presence, and to cling to him, as one borne away by a swift stream clings
to a stretched-out hand from the shore. If he was absent a moment her
restless eyes sought something they were disappointed not to find.
Philip so yearned to bring her back to life, he willed it so strongly and
passionately, that his will appeared to affect hers and she seemed slowly
to draw life from his.
After two days of this struggle with the grasping enemy, it was evident
to Dr. Longstreet that Ruth's will was beginning to issue its orders to
her body with some force, and that strength was slowly coming back.
In another day there was a decided improvement. As Philip sat holding
her weak hand and watching the least sign of resolution in her face, Ruth
was able to whisper,
"I so want to live, for you, Phil!"
"You will; darling, you must," said Philip in a tone of faith and courage
that carried a thrill of determination--of command--along all her nerves.
Slowly Philip drew her back to life. Slowly she came back, as one
willing but well nigh helpless. It was new for Ruth to feel this
dependence on another's nature, to consciously draw strength of will from
the will of another. It was a new but a dear joy, to be lifted up and
carried back into the happy world, which was now all aglow with the light
of love; to be lifted and carried by the one she loved more than her own
"Sweetheart," she said to Philip, "I would not have cared to come back
but for thy love."
"Not for thy profession?"
"Oh, thee may be glad enough of that some day, when thy coal bed is dug
out and thee and father are in the air again."
When Ruth was able to ride she was taken into the country, for the pure
air was necessary to her speedy recovery. The family went with her.
Philip could not be spared from her side, and Mr. Bolton had gone up to
Ilium to look into that wonderful coal mine and to make arrangements for
developing it, and bringing its wealth to market. Philip had insisted on
re-conveying the Ilium property to Mr. Bolton, retaining only the share
originally contemplated for himself, and Mr. Bolton, therefore, once
more found himself engaged in business and a person of some consequence
in Third street. The mine turned out even better than was at first
hoped, and would, if judiciously managed, be a fortune to them all.
This also seemed to be the opinion of Mr. Bigler, who heard of it as soon
as anybody, and, with the impudence of his class called upon Mr. Bolton
for a little aid in a patent car-wheel he had bought an interest in.
That rascal, Small, he said, had swindled him out of all he had.
Mr. Bolton told him he was very sorry, and recommended him to sue Small.
Mr. Small also came with a similar story about Mr. Bigler; and Mr.
Bolton had the grace to give him like advice. And he added, "If you and
Bigler will procure the indictment of each other, you may have the
satisfaction of putting each other in the penitentiary for the forgery of
Bigler and Small did not quarrel however. They both attacked Mr. Bolton
behind his back as a swindler, and circulated the story that he had made
a fortune by failing.
In the pure air of the highlands, amid the golden glories of ripening
September, Ruth rapidly came back to health. How beautiful the world is
to an invalid, whose senses are all clarified, who has been so near the
world of spirits that she is sensitive to the finest influences, and
whose frame responds with a thrill to the subtlest ministrations of
soothing nature. Mere life is a luxury, and the color of the grass, of
the flowers, of the sky, the wind in the trees, the outlines of the
horizon, the forms of clouds, all give a pleasure as exquisite as the
sweetest music to the ear famishing for it. The world was all new and
fresh to Ruth, as if it had just been created for her, and love filled
it, till her heart was overflowing with happiness.
It was golden September also at Fallkill. And Alice sat by the open
window in her room at home, looking out upon the meadows where the
laborers were cutting the second crop of clover. The fragrance of it
floated to her nostrils. Perhaps she did not mind it. She was thinking.
She had just been writing to Ruth, and on the table before her was a
yellow piece of paper with a faded four-leaved clover pinned on it--only
a memory now. In her letter to Ruth she had poured out her heartiest
blessings upon them both, with her dear love forever and forever.
"Thank God," she said, "they will never know"
They never would know. And the world never knows how many women there
are like Alice, whose sweet but lonely lives of self-sacrifice, gentle,
faithful, loving souls, bless it continually.
"She is a dear girl," said Philip, when Ruth showed him the letter.
"Yes, Phil, and we can spare a great deal of love for her, our own lives
are so full."
Perhaps some apology to the reader is necessary in view of our failure to
find Laura's father. We supposed, from the ease with which lost persons
are found in novels, that it would not be difficult. But it was; indeed,
it was impossible; and therefore the portions of the narrative containing
the record of the search have been stricken out. Not because they were
not interesting--for they were; but inasmuch as the man was not found,
after all, it did not seem wise to harass and excite the reader to no
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