The Gilded Age
Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
Part 3 out of 9
Mr. Bigler went on and gave some very interesting details of the intimate
connection between railroads and politics, and thoroughly entertained
himself all dinner time, and as much disgusted Ruth, who asked no more
questions, and her father who replied in monosyllables:
"I wish," said Ruth to her father, after the guest had gone, "that you
wouldn't bring home any more such horrid men. Do all men who wear big
diamond breast-pins, flourish their knives at table, and use bad grammar,
"O, child, thee mustn't be too observing. Mr. Bigler is one of the most
important men in the state; nobody has more influence at Harrisburg.
I don't like him any more than thee does, but I'd better lend him a
little money than to have his ill will."
"Father, I think thee'd better have his ill-will than his company. Is it
true that he gave money to help build the pretty little church of
St. James the Less, and that he is, one of the vestrymen?"
"Yes. He is not such a bad fellow. One of the men in Third street asked
him the other day, whether his was a high church or a low church? Bigler
said he didn't know; he'd been in it once, and he could touch the ceiling
in the side aisle with his hand."
"I think he's just horrid," was Ruth's final summary of him, after the
manner of the swift judgment of women, with no consideration of the
extenuating circumstances. Mr. Bigler had no idea that he had not made a
good impression on the whole family; he certainly intended to be
agreeable. Margaret agreed with her daughter, and though she never said
anything to such people, she was grateful to Ruth for sticking at least
one pin into him.
Such was the serenity of the Bolton household that a stranger in it would
never have suspected there was any opposition to Ruth's going to the
Medical School. And she went quietly to take her residence in town, and
began her attendance of the lectures, as if it were the most natural
thing in the world. She did not heed, if she heard, the busy and
wondering gossip of relations and acquaintances, gossip that has no less
currency among the Friends than elsewhere because it is whispered slyly
and creeps about in an undertone.
Ruth was absorbed, and for the first time in her life thoroughly happy;
happy in the freedom of her life, and in the keen enjoyment of the
investigation that broadened its field day by day. She was in high
spirits when she came home to spend First Days; the house was full of her
gaiety and her merry laugh, and the children wished that Ruth would never
go away again. But her mother noticed, with a little anxiety, the
sometimes flushed face, and the sign of an eager spirit in the kindling
eyes, and, as well, the serious air of determination and endurance in her
face at unguarded moments.
The college was a small one and it sustained itself not without
difficulty in this city, which is so conservative, and is yet the origin
of so many radical movements. There were not more than a dozen
attendants on the lectures all together, so that the enterprise had the
air of an experiment, and the fascination of pioneering for those engaged
in it. There was one woman physician driving about town in her carriage,
attacking the most violent diseases in all quarters with persistent
courage, like a modern Bellona in her war chariot, who was popularly
supposed to gather in fees to the amount ten to twenty thousand dollars a
year. Perhaps some of these students looked forward to the near day when
they would support such a practice and a husband besides, but it is
unknown that any of them ever went further than practice in hospitals and
in their own nurseries, and it is feared that some of them were quite as
ready as their sisters, in emergencies, to "call a man."
If Ruth had any exaggerated expectations of a professional life, she kept
them to herself, and was known to her fellows of the class simply as a
cheerful, sincere student, eager in her investigations, and never
impatient at anything, except an insinuation that women had not as much
mental capacity for science as men.
"They really say," said one young Quaker sprig to another youth of his
age, "that Ruth Bolton is really going to be a saw-bones, attends
lectures, cuts up bodies, and all that. She's cool enough for a surgeon,
anyway." He spoke feelingly, for he had very likely been weighed in
Ruth's calm eyes sometime, and thoroughly scared by the little laugh that
accompanied a puzzling reply to one of his conversational nothings. Such
young gentlemen, at this time, did not come very distinctly into Ruth's
horizon, except as amusing circumstances.
About the details of her student life, Ruth said very little to her
friends, but they had reason to know, afterwards, that it required all
her nerve and the almost complete exhaustion of her physical strength,
to carry her through. She began her anatomical practice upon detached
portions of the human frame, which were brought into the demonstrating
room--dissecting the eye, the ear, and a small tangle of muscles and
nerves--an occupation which had not much more savor of death in it than
the analysis of a portion of a plant out of which the life went when it
was plucked up by the roots. Custom inures the most sensitive persons to
that which is at first most repellant; and in the late war we saw the
most delicate women, who could not at home endure the sight of blood,
become so used to scenes of carnage, that they walked the hospitals and
the margins of battle-fields, amid the poor remnants of torn humanity,
with as perfect self-possession as if they were strolling in a flower
It happened that Ruth was one evening deep in a line of investigation
which she could not finish or understand without demonstration, and so
eager was she in it, that it seemed as if she could not wait till the
next day. She, therefore, persuaded a fellow student, who was reading
that evening with her, to go down to the dissecting room of the college,
and ascertain what they wanted to know by an hour's work there. Perhaps,
also, Ruth wanted to test her own nerve, and to see whether the power of
association was stronger in her mind than her own will.
The janitor of the shabby and comfortless old building admitted the
girls, not without suspicion, and gave them lighted candles, which they
would need, without other remark than "there's a new one, Miss," as the
girls went up the broad stairs.
They climbed to the third story, and paused before a door, which they
unlocked, and which admitted them into a long apartment, with a row of
windows on one side and one at the end. The room was without light, save
from the stars and the candles the girls carried, which revealed to them
dimly two long and several small tables, a few benches and chairs, a
couple of skeletons hanging on the wall, a sink, and cloth-covered heaps
of something upon the tables here and there.
The windows were open, and the cool night wind came in strong enough to
flutter a white covering now and then, and to shake the loose casements.
But all the sweet odors of the night could not take from the room a faint
suggestion of mortality.
The young ladies paused a moment. The room itself was familiar enough,
but night makes almost any chamber eerie, and especially such a room of
detention as this where the mortal parts of the unburied might--almost be
supposed to be, visited, on the sighing night winds, by the wandering
spirits of their late tenants.
Opposite and at some distance across the roofs of lower buildings, the
girls saw a tall edifice, the long upper story of which seemed to be a
dancing hall. The windows of that were also open, and through them they
heard the scream of the jiggered and tortured violin, and the pump, pump
of the oboe, and saw the moving shapes of men and women in quick
transition, and heard the prompter's drawl.
"I wonder," said Ruth, "what the girls dancing there would think if they
saw us, or knew that there was such a room as this so near them."
She did not speak very loud, and, perhaps unconsciously, the girls drew
near to each other as they approached the long table in the centre of the
room. A straight object lay upon it, covered with a sheet. This was
doubtless "the new one" of which the janitor spoke. Ruth advanced, and
with a not very steady hand lifted the white covering from the upper part
of the figure and turned it down. Both the girls started. It was a
negro. The black face seemed to defy the pallor of death, and asserted
an ugly life-likeness that was frightful.
Ruth was as pale as the white sheet, and her comrade whispered, "Come
away, Ruth, it is awful."
Perhaps it was the wavering light of the candles, perhaps it was only the
agony from a death of pain, but the repulsive black face seemed to wear a
scowl that said, "Haven't you yet done with the outcast, persecuted black
man, but you must now haul him from his grave, and send even your women
to dismember his body?"
Who is this dead man, one of thousands who died yesterday, and will be
dust anon, to protest that science shall not turn his worthless carcass
to some account?
Ruth could have had no such thought, for with a pity in her sweet face,
that for the moment overcame fear and disgust, she reverently replaced
the covering, and went away to her own table, as her companion did to
hers. And there for an hour they worked at their several problems,
without speaking, but not without an awe of the presence there, "the new
one," and not without an awful sense of life itself, as they heard the
pulsations of the music and the light laughter from the dancing-hall.
When, at length, they went away, and locked the dreadful room behind
them, and came out into the street, where people were passing, they, for
the first time, realized, in the relief they felt, what a nervous strain
they had been under.
While Ruth was thus absorbed in her new occupation, and the spring was
wearing away, Philip and his friends were still detained at the Southern
Hotel. The great contractors had concluded their business with the state
and railroad officials and with the lesser contractors, and departed for
the East. But the serious illness of one of the engineers kept Philip
and Henry in the city and occupied in alternate watchings.
Philip wrote to Ruth of the new acquaintance they had made, Col. Sellers,
an enthusiastic and hospitable gentleman, very much interested in the
development of the country, and in their success. They had not had an
opportunity to visit at his place "up in the country" yet, but the
Colonel often dined with them, and in confidence, confided to them his
projects, and seemed to take a great liking to them, especially to his
friend Harry. It was true that he never seemed to have ready money,
but he was engaged in very large operations.
The correspondence was not very brisk between these two young persons,
so differently occupied; for though Philip wrote long letters, he got
brief ones in reply, full of sharp little observations however, such as
one concerning Col. Sellers, namely, that such men dined at their house
Ruth's proposed occupation astonished Philip immensely, but while he
argued it and discussed it, he did not dare hint to her his fear that it
would interfere with his most cherished plans. He too sincerely
respected Ruth's judgment to make any protest, however, and he would have
defended her course against the world.
This enforced waiting at St. Louis was very irksome to Philip. His money
was running away, for one thing, and he longed to get into the field,
and see for himself what chance there was for a fortune or even an
occupation. The contractors had given the young men leave to join the
engineer corps as soon as they could, but otherwise had made no provision
for them, and in fact had left them with only the most indefinite
expectations of something large in the future.
Harry was entirely happy; in his circumstances. He very soon knew
everybody, from the governor of the state down to the waiters at the
hotel. He had the Wall street slang at his tongue's end; he always
talked like a capitalist, and entered with enthusiasm into all the land
and railway schemes with which the air was thick.
Col. Sellers and Harry talked together by the hour and by the day. Harry
informed his new friend that he was going out with the engineer corps of
the Salt Lick Pacific Extension, but that wasn't his real business.
"I'm to have, with another party," said Harry, "a big contract in the
road, as soon as it is let; and, meantime, I'm with the engineers to spy
out the best land and the depot sites."
"It's everything," suggested' the Colonel, "in knowing where to invest.
I've known people throwaway their money because they were too
consequential to take Sellers' advice. Others, again, have made their
pile on taking it. I've looked over the ground; I've been studying it
for twenty years. You can't put your finger on a spot in the map of
Missouri that I don't know as if I'd made it. When you want to place
anything," continued the Colonel, confidently, "just let Beriah Sellers
know. That's all."
"Oh, I haven't got much in ready money I can lay my hands on now, but if
a fellow could do anything with fifteen or twenty thousand dollars,
as a beginning, I shall draw for that when I see the right opening."
"Well, that's something, that's something, fifteen or twenty thousand
dollars, say twenty--as an advance," said the Colonel reflectively, as if
turning over his mind for a project that could be entered on with such a
"I'll tell you what it is--but only to you Mr. Brierly, only to you,
mind; I've got a little project that I've been keeping. It looks small,
looks small on paper, but it's got a big future. What should you say,
sir, to a city, built up like the rod of Aladdin had touched it, built up
in two years, where now you wouldn't expect it any more than you'd expect
a light-house on the top of Pilot Knob? and you could own the land! It
can be done, sir. It can be done!"
The Colonel hitched up his chair close to Harry, laid his hand on his
knee, and, first looking about him, said in a low voice, "The Salt Lick
Pacific Extension is going to run through Stone's Landing! The Almighty
never laid out a cleaner piece of level prairie for a city; and it's the
natural center of all that region of hemp and tobacco."
"What makes you think the road will go there? It's twenty miles, on the
map, off the straight line of the road?"
"You can't tell what is the straight line till the engineers have been
over it. Between us, I have talked with Jeff Thompson, the division
engineer. He understands the wants of Stone's Landing, and the claims of
the inhabitants--who are to be there. Jeff says that a railroad is for-
the accommodation of the people and not for the benefit of gophers; and
if, he don't run this to Stone's Landing he'll be damned! You ought to
know Jeff; he's one of the most enthusiastic engineers in this western
country, and one of the best fellows that ever looked through the bottom
of a glass."
The recommendation was not undeserved. There was nothing that Jeff
wouldn't do, to accommodate a friend, from sharing his last dollar with
him, to winging him in a duel. When he understood from Col. Sellers.
how the land lay at Stone's Landing, he cordially shook hands with that
gentleman, asked him to drink, and fairly roared out, "Why, God bless my
soul, Colonel, a word from one Virginia gentleman to another is 'nuff
ced.' There's Stone's Landing been waiting for a railroad more than four
thousand years, and damme if she shan't have it."
Philip had not so much faith as Harry in Stone's Landing, when the latter
opened the project to him, but Harry talked about it as if he already
owned that incipient city.
Harry thoroughly believed in all his projects and inventions, and lived
day by day in their golden atmosphere. Everybody liked the young fellow,
for how could they help liking one of such engaging manners and large
fortune? The waiters at the hotel would do more for him than for any
other guest, and he made a great many acquaintances among the people of
St. Louis, who liked his sensible and liberal views about the development
of the western country, and about St. Louis. He said it ought to be the
national capital. Harry made partial arrangements with several of the
merchants for furnishing supplies for his contract on the Salt Lick
Pacific Extension; consulted the maps with the engineers, and went over
the profiles with the contractors, figuring out estimates for bids.
He was exceedingly busy with those things when he was not at the bedside
of his sick acquaintance, or arranging the details of his speculation
with Col. Sellers.
Meantime the days went along and the weeks, and the money in Harry's
pocket got lower and lower. He was just as liberal with what he had as
before, indeed it was his nature to be free with his money or with that
of others, and he could lend or spend a dollar with an air that made it
seem like ten. At length, at the end of one week, when his hotel bill
was presented, Harry found not a cent in his pocket to meet it. He
carelessly remarked to the landlord that he was not that day in funds,
but he would draw on New York, and he sat down and wrote to the
contractors in that city a glowing letter about the prospects of the
road, and asked them to advance a hundred or two, until he got at work.
No reply came. He wrote again, in an unoffended business like tone,
suggesting that he had better draw at three days. A short answer came to
this, simply saying that money was very tight in Wall street just then,
and that he had better join the engineer corps as soon as he could.
But the bill had to be paid, and Harry took it to Philip, and asked him
if he thought he hadn't better draw on his uncle. Philip had not much
faith in Harry's power of "drawing," and told him that he would pay the
bill himself. Whereupon Harry dismissed the matter then and thereafter
from his thoughts, and, like a light-hearted good fellow as he was, gave
himself no more trouble about his board-bills. Philip paid them, swollen
as they were with a monstrous list of extras; but he seriously counted
the diminishing bulk of his own hoard, which was all the money he had in
the world. Had he not tacitly agreed to share with Harry to the last in
this adventure, and would not the generous fellow divide; with him if he,
Philip, were in want and Harry had anything?
The fever at length got tired of tormenting the stout young engineer, who
lay sick at the hotel, and left him, very thin, a little sallow but an
"acclimated" man. Everybody said he was "acclimated" now, and said it
cheerfully. What it is to be acclimated to western fevers no two persons
Some say it is a sort of vaccination that renders death by some malignant
type of fever less probable. Some regard it as a sort of initiation,
like that into the Odd Fellows, which renders one liable to his regular
dues thereafter. Others consider it merely the acquisition of a habit of
taking every morning before breakfast a dose of bitters, composed of
whiskey and assafoetida, out of the acclimation jug.
Jeff Thompson afterwards told Philip that he once asked Senator Atchison,
then acting Vice-President: of the United States, about the possibility
of acclimation; he thought the opinion of the second officer of our great
government would be, valuable on this point. They were sitting together
on a bench before a country tavern, in the free converse permitted by our
"I suppose, Senator, that you have become acclimated to this country?"
"Well," said the Vice-President, crossing his legs, pulling his wide-
awake down over his forehead, causing a passing chicken to hop quickly
one side by the accuracy of his aim, and speaking with senatorial
deliberation, "I think I have. I've been here twenty-five years, and
dash, dash my dash to dash, if I haven't entertained twenty-five separate
and distinct earthquakes, one a year. The niggro is the only person who
can stand the fever and ague of this region."
The convalescence of the engineer was the signal for breaking up quarters
at St. Louis, and the young fortune-hunters started up the river in good
spirits. It was only the second time either of them had been upon a
Mississippi steamboat, and nearly everything they saw had the charm of
novelty. Col. Sellers was at the landing to bid thorn good-bye.
"I shall send you up that basket of champagne by the next boat; no, no;
no thanks; you'll find it not bad in camp," he cried out as the plank was
hauled in. "My respects to Thompson. Tell him to sight for Stone's.
Let me know, Mr. Brierly, when you are ready to locate; I'll come over
from Hawkeye. Goodbye."
And the last the young fellows saw of the Colonel, he was waving his hat,
and beaming prosperity and good luck.
The voyage was delightful, and was not long enough to become monotonous.
The travelers scarcely had time indeed to get accustomed to the splendors
of the great saloon where the tables were spread for meals, a marvel of
paint and gilding, its ceiling hung with fancifully cut tissue-paper of
many colors, festooned and arranged in endless patterns. The whole was
more beautiful than a barber's shop. The printed bill of fare at dinner
was longer and more varied, the proprietors justly boasted, than that of
any hotel in New York. It must have been the work of an author of talent
and imagination, and it surely was not his fault if the dinner itself was
to a certain extent a delusion, and if the guests got something that
tasted pretty much the same whatever dish they ordered; nor was it his
fault if a general flavor of rose in all the dessert dishes suggested
that they hid passed through the barber's saloon on their way from the
The travelers landed at a little settlement on the left bank, and at once
took horses for the camp in the interior, carrying their clothes and
blankets strapped behind the saddles. Harry was dressed as we have seen
him once before, and his long and shining boots attracted not a little
the attention of the few persons they met on the road, and especially of
the bright faced wenches who lightly stepped along the highway,
picturesque in their colored kerchiefs, carrying light baskets, or riding
upon mules and balancing before them a heavier load.
Harry sang fragments of operas and talked abort their fortune. Philip
even was excited by the sense of freedom and adventure, and the beauty of
the landscape. The prairie, with its new grass and unending acres of
brilliant flowers--chiefly the innumerable varieties of phlox-bore the
look of years of cultivation, and the occasional open groves of white
oaks gave it a park-like appearance. It was hardly unreasonable to
expect to see at any moment, the gables and square windows of an
Elizabethan mansion in one of the well kept groves.
Towards sunset of the third day, when the young gentlemen thought they
ought to be near the town of Magnolia, near which they had been directed
to find the engineers' camp, they descried a log house and drew up before
it to enquire the way. Half the building was store, and half was
dwelling house. At the door of the latter stood a regress with a bright
turban on her head, to whom Philip called,
"Can you tell me, auntie, how far it is to the town of Magnolia?"
"Why, bress you chile," laughed the woman, "you's dere now."
It was true. This log horse was the compactly built town, and all
creation was its suburbs. The engineers' camp was only two or three
"You's boun' to find it," directed auntie, "if you don't keah nuffin
'bout de road, and go fo' de sun-down."
A brisk gallop brought the riders in sight of the twinkling light of the
camp, just as the stars came out. It lay in a little hollow, where a
small stream ran through a sparse grove of young white oaks. A half
dozen tents were pitched under the trees, horses and oxen were corraled
at a little distance, and a group of men sat on camp stools or lay on
blankets about a bright fire. The twang of a banjo became audible as
they drew nearer, and they saw a couple of negroes, from some neighboring
plantation, "breaking down" a juba in approved style, amid the "hi, hi's"
of the spectators.
Mr. Jeff Thompson, for it was the camp of this redoubtable engineer, gave
the travelers a hearty welcome, offered them ground room in his own tent,
ordered supper, and set out a small jug, a drop from which he declared
necessary on account of the chill of the evening.
"I never saw an Eastern man," said Jeff, "who knew how to drink from a
jug with one hand. It's as easy as lying. So." He grasped the handle
with the right hand, threw the jug back upon his arm, and applied his
lips to the nozzle. It was an act as graceful as it was simple.
"Besides," said Mr. Thompson, setting it down, "it puts every man on his
honor as to quantity."
Early to turn in was the rule of the camp, and by nine o'clock everybody
was under his blanket, except Jeff himself, who worked awhile at his
table over his field-book, and then arose, stepped outside the tent door
and sang, in a strong and not unmelodious tenor, the Star Spangled Banner
from beginning to end. It proved to be his nightly practice to let off
the unexpended seam of his conversational powers, in the words of this
It was a long time before Philip got to sleep. He saw the fire light,
he saw the clear stars through the tree-tops, he heard the gurgle of the
stream, the stamp of the horses, the occasional barking of the dog which
followed the cook's wagon, the hooting of an owl; and when these failed
he saw Jeff, standing on a battlement, mid the rocket's red glare, and
heard him sing, "Oh, say, can you see?", It was the first time he had
ever slept on the ground.
----"We have view'd it,
And measur'd it within all, by the scale
The richest tract of land, love, in the kingdom!
There will be made seventeen or eighteeen millions,
Or more, as't may be handled!
The Devil is an Ass.
Nobody dressed more like an engineer than Mr. Henry Brierly. The
completeness of his appointments was the envy of the corps, and the gay
fellow himself was the admiration of the camp servants, axemen, teamsters
"I reckon you didn't git them boots no wher's this side o' Sent Louis?"
queried the tall Missouri youth who acted as commissariy's assistant.
"No, New York."
"Yas, I've heern o' New York," continued the butternut lad, attentively
studying each item of Harry's dress, and endeavoring to cover his design
with interesting conversation. "'N there's Massachusetts.",
"It's not far off."
"I've heern Massachusetts was a-----of a place. Les, see, what state's
"Massachusetts," kindly replied Harry, "is in the state of Boston."
"Abolish'n wan't it? They must a cost right smart," referring to the
Harry shouldered his rod and went to the field, tramped over the prairie
by day, and figured up results at night, with the utmost cheerfulness and
industry, and plotted the line on the profile paper, without, however,
the least idea of engineering practical or theoretical. Perhaps there
was not a great deal of scientific knowledge in the entire corps, nor was
very much needed. They were making, what is called a preliminary survey,
and the chief object of a preliminary survey was to get up an excitement
about the road, to interest every town in that part of the state in it,
under the belief that the road would run through it, and to get the aid
of every planter upon the prospect that a station would be on his land.
Mr. Jeff Thompson was the most popular engineer who could be found for
this work. He did not bother himself much about details or
practicabilities of location, but ran merrily along, sighting from the
top of one divide to the top of another, and striking "plumb" every town
site and big plantation within twenty or thirty miles of his route. In
his own language he "just went booming."
This course gave Harry an opportunity, as he said, to learn the practical
details of engineering, and it gave Philip a chance to see the country,
and to judge for himself what prospect of a fortune it offered. Both he
and Harry got the "refusal" of more than one plantation as they went
along, and wrote urgent letters to their eastern correspondents, upon the
beauty of the land and the certainty that it would quadruple in value as
soon as the road was finally located. It seemed strange to them that
capitalists did not flock out there and secure this land.
They had not been in the field over two weeks when Harry wrote to his
friend Col. Sellers that he'd better be on the move, for the line was
certain to go to Stone's Landing. Any one who looked at the line on the
map, as it was laid down from day to day, would have been uncertain which
way it was going; but Jeff had declared that in his judgment the only
practicable route from the point they then stood on was to follow the
divide to Stone's Landing, and it was generally understood that that town
would be the next one hit.
"We'll make it, boys," said the chief, "if we have to go in a balloon."
And make it they did In less than a week, this indomitable engineer had
carried his moving caravan over slues and branches, across bottoms and
along divides, and pitched his tents in the very heart of the city of
"Well, I'll be dashed," was heard the cheery voice of Mr. Thompson, as he
stepped outside the tent door at sunrise next morning. "If this don't
get me. I say, yon, Grayson, get out your sighting iron and see if you
can find old Sellers' town. Blame me if we wouldn't have run plumb by it
if twilight had held on a little longer. Oh! Sterling, Brierly, get up
and see the city. There's a steamboat just coming round the bend." And
Jeff roared with laughter. "The mayor'll be round here to breakfast."
The fellows turned out of the tents, rubbing their eyes, and stared about
them. They were camped on the second bench of the narrow bottom of a
crooked, sluggish stream, that was some five rods wide in the present
good stage of water. Before them were a dozen log cabins, with stick and
mud chimneys, irregularly disposed on either side of a not very well
defined road, which did not seem to know its own mind exactly, and, after
straggling through the town, wandered off over the rolling prairie in an
uncertain way, as if it had started for nowhere and was quite likely to
reach its destination. Just as it left the town, however, it was cheered
and assisted by a guide-board, upon which was the legend "10 Mils to
The road had never been made except by the travel over it, and at this
season--the rainy June--it was a way of ruts cut in the black soil, and
of fathomless mud-holes. In the principal street of the city, it had
received more attention; for hogs; great and small, rooted about in it
and wallowed in it, turning the street into a liquid quagmire which could
only be crossed on pieces of plank thrown here and there.
About the chief cabin, which was the store and grocery of this mart of
trade, the mud was more liquid than elsewhere, and the rude platform in
front of it and the dry-goods boxes mounted thereon were places of refuge
for all the loafers of the place. Down by the stream was a dilapidated
building which served for a hemp warehouse, and a shaky wharf extended
out from it, into the water. In fact a flat-boat was there moored by it,
it's setting poles lying across the gunwales. Above the town the stream
was crossed by a crazy wooden bridge, the supports of which leaned all
ways in the soggy soil; the absence of a plank here and there in the
flooring made the crossing of the bridge faster than a walk an offense
not necessary to be prohibited by law.
"This, gentlemen," said Jeff, "is Columbus River, alias Goose Run. If it
was widened, and deepened, and straightened, and made, long enough, it
would be one of the finest rivers in the western country."
As the sun rose and sent his level beams along the stream, the thin
stratum of mist, or malaria, rose also and dispersed, but the light was
not able to enliven the dull water nor give any hint of its apparently
fathomless depth. Venerable mud-turtles crawled up and roosted upon the
old logs in the stream, their backs glistening in the sun, the first
inhabitants of the metropolis to begin the active business of the day.
It was not long, however, before smoke began to issue from the city
chimnies; and before the engineers, had finished their breakfast they
were the object of the curious inspection of six or eight boys and men,
who lounged into the camp and gazed about them with languid interest,
their hands in their pockets every one.
"Good morning; gentlemen," called out the chief engineer, from the table.
"Good mawning," drawled out the spokesman of the party. "I allow thish-
yers the railroad, I heern it was a-comin'."
"Yes, this is the railroad; all but the rails and the ironhorse."
"I reckon you kin git all the rails you want oaten my white oak timber
over, thar," replied the first speaker, who appeared to be a man of
property and willing to strike up a trade.
"You'll have to negotiate with the contractors about the rails, sir,"
said Jeff; "here's Mr. Brierly, I've no doubt would like to buy your
rails when the time comes."
"O," said the man, "I thought maybe you'd fetch the whole bilin along
with you. But if you want rails, I've got em, haint I Eph."
"Heaps," said Eph, without taking his eyes off the group at the table.
"Well," said Mr. Thompson, rising from his seat and moving towards his
tent, "the railroad has come to Stone's Landing, sure; I move we take a
drink on it all round."
The proposal met with universal favor. Jeff gave prosperity to Stone's
Landing and navigation to Goose Run, and the toast was washed down with
gusto, in the simple fluid of corn; and with the return compliment that a
rail road was a good thing, and that Jeff Thompson was no slouch.
About ten o'clock a horse and wagon was descried making a slow approach
to the camp over the prairie. As it drew near, the wagon was seen to
contain a portly gentleman, who hitched impatiently forward on his seat,
shook the reins and gently touched up his horse, in the vain attempt to
communicate his own energy to that dull beast, and looked eagerly at the
tents. When the conveyance at length drew up to Mr. Thompson's door,
the gentleman descended with great deliberation, straightened himself up,
rubbed his hands, and beaming satisfaction from every part of his radiant
frame, advanced to the group that was gathered to welcome him, and which
had saluted him by name as soon as he came within hearing.
"Welcome to Napoleon, gentlemen, welcome. I am proud to see you here
Mr. Thompson. You are, looking well Mr. Sterling. This is the country,
sir. Right glad to see you Mr. Brierly. You got that basket of
champagne? No? Those blasted river thieves! I'll never send anything
more by 'em. The best brand, Roederer. The last I had in my cellar,
from a lot sent me by Sir George Gore--took him out on a buffalo hunt,
when he visited our, country. Is always sending me some trifle. You
haven't looked about any yet, gentlemen? It's in the rough yet, in the
rough. Those buildings will all have to come down. That's the place for
the public square, Court House, hotels, churches, jail--all that sort of
thing. About where we stand, the deepo. How does that strike your
engineering eye, Mr. Thompson? Down yonder the business streets, running
to the wharves. The University up there, on rising ground, sightly
place, see the river for miles. That's Columbus river, only forty-nine
miles to the Missouri. You see what it is, placid, steady, no current to
interfere with navigation, wants widening in places and dredging, dredge
out the harbor and raise a levee in front of the town; made by nature on
purpose for a mart. Look at all this country, not another building
within ten miles, no other navigable stream, lay of the land points right
here; hemp, tobacco, corn, must come here. The railroad will do it,
Napoleon won't know itself in a year."
"Don't now evidently," said Philip aside to Harry. "Have you breakfasted
"Hastily. Cup of coffee. Can't trust any coffee I don't import myself.
But I put up a basket of provisions,--wife would put in a few delicacies,
women always will, and a half dozen of that Burgundy, I was telling you
of Mr. Briefly. By the way, you never got to dine with me." And the
Colonel strode away to the wagon and looked under the seat for the
Apparently it was not there. For the Colonel raised up the flap, looked
in front and behind, and then exclaimed,
"Confound it. That comes of not doing a thing yourself. I trusted to
the women folks to set that basket in the wagon, and it ain't there."
The camp cook speedily prepared a savory breakfast for the Colonel,
broiled chicken, eggs, corn-bread, and coffee, to which he did ample
justice, and topped off with a drop of Old Bourbon, from Mr. Thompson's
private store, a brand which he said he knew well, he should think it
came from his own sideboard.
While the engineer corps went to the field, to run back a couple of miles
and ascertain, approximately, if a road could ever get down to the
Landing, and to sight ahead across the Run, and see if it could ever get
out again, Col. Sellers and Harry sat down and began to roughly map out
the city of Napoleon on a large piece of drawing paper.
"I've got the refusal of a mile square here," said the Colonel, "in our
names, for a year, with a quarter interest reserved for the four owners."
They laid out the town liberally, not lacking room, leaving space for the
railroad to come in, and for the river as it was to be when improved.
The engineers reported that the railroad could come in, by taking a
little sweep and crossing the stream on a high bridge, but the grades
would be steep. Col. Sellers said he didn't care so much about the
grades, if the road could only be made to reach the elevators on the
river. The next day Mr. Thompson made a hasty survey of the stream for a
mile or two, so that the Colonel and Harry were enabled to show on their
map how nobly that would accommodate the city. Jeff took a little
writing from the Colonel and Harry for a prospective share but Philip
declined to join in, saying that he had no money, and didn't want to make
engagements he couldn't fulfill.
The next morning the camp moved on, followed till it was out of sight by
the listless eyes of the group in front of the store, one of whom
remarked that, "he'd be doggoned if he ever expected to see that railroad
Harry went with the Colonel to Hawkeye to complete their arrangements, a
part of which was the preparation of a petition to congress for the
improvement of the navigation of Columbus River.
Eight years have passed since the death of Mr. Hawkins. Eight years are
not many in the life of a nation or the history of a state, but they
maybe years of destiny that shall fix the current of the century
following. Such years were those that followed the little scrimmage on
Lexington Common. Such years were those that followed the double-shotted
demand for the surrender of Fort Sumter. History is never done with
inquiring of these years, and summoning witnesses about them, and trying
to understand their significance.
The eight years in America from 1860 to 1868 uprooted institutions that
were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the
social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the
entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of
two or three generations.
As we are accustomed to interpret the economy of providence, the life of
the individual is as nothing to that of the nation or the race; but who
can say, in the broader view and the more intelligent weight of values,
that the life of one man is not more than that of a nationality, and that
there is not a tribunal where the tragedy of one human soul shall not
seem more significant than the overturning of any human institution
When one thinks of the tremendous forces of the upper and the nether
world which play for the mastery of the soul of a woman during the few
years in which she passes from plastic girlhood to the ripe maturity of
womanhood, he may well stand in awe before the momentous drama.
What capacities she has of purity, tenderness, goodness; what capacities
of vileness, bitterness and evil. Nature must needs be lavish with the
mother and creator of men, and centre in her all the possibilities of
life. And a few critical years can decide whether her life is to be full
of sweetness and light, whether she is to be the vestal of a holy temple,
or whether she will be the fallen priestess of a desecrated shrine.
There are women, it is true, who seem to be capable neither of rising
much nor of falling much, and whom a conventional life saves from any
special development of character.
But Laura was not one of them. She had the fatal gift of beauty, and
that more fatal gift which does not always accompany mere beauty, the
power of fascination, a power that may, indeed, exist without beauty.
She had will, and pride and courage and ambition, and she was left to be
very much her own guide at the age when romance comes to the aid of
passion, and when the awakening powers of her vigorous mind had little
object on which to discipline themselves.
The tremendous conflict that was fought in this girl's soul none of those
about her knew, and very few knew that her life had in it anything
unusual or romantic or strange.
Those were troublous days in Hawkeye as well as in most other Missouri
towns, days of confusion, when between Unionist and Confederate
occupations, sudden maraudings and bush-whackings and raids, individuals
escaped observation or comment in actions that would have filled the town
with scandal in quiet times.
Fortunately we only need to deal with Laura's life at this period
historically, and look back upon such portions of it as will serve to
reveal the woman as she was at the time of the arrival of Mr. Harry
Brierly in Hawkeye.
The Hawkins family were settled there, and had a hard enough struggle
with poverty and the necessity of keeping up appearances in accord with
their own family pride and the large expectations they secretly cherished
of a fortune in the Knobs of East Tennessee. How pinched they were
perhaps no one knew but Clay, to whom they looked for almost their whole
support. Washington had been in Hawkeye off and on, attracted away
occasionally by some tremendous speculation, from which he invariably
returned to Gen. Boswell's office as poor as he went. He was the
inventor of no one knew how many useless contrivances, which were not
worth patenting, and his years had been passed in dreaming and planning
to no purpose; until he was now a man of about thirty, without a
profession or a permanent occupation, a tall, brown-haired, dreamy person
of the best intentions and the frailest resolution. Probably however
the, eight years had been happier to him than to any others in his
circle, for the time had been mostly spent in a blissful dream of the
coming of enormous wealth.
He went out with a company from Hawkeye to the war, and was not wanting
in courage, but be would have been a better soldier if he had been less
engaged in contrivances for circumventing the enemy by strategy unknown
to the books.
It happened to him to be captured in one of his self-appointed
expeditions, but the federal colonel released him, after a short
examination, satisfied that he could most injure the confederate forces
opposed to the Unionists by returning him to his regiment. Col. Sellers
was of course a prominent man during the war. He was captain of the home
guards in Hawkeye, and he never left home except upon one occasion, when
on the strength of a rumor, he executed a flank movement and fortified
Stone's Landing, a place which no one unacquainted with the country would
be likely to find.
"Gad," said the Colonel afterwards, "the Landing is the key to upper
Missouri, and it is the only place the enemy never captured. If other
places had been defended as well as that was, the result would have been
The Colonel had his own theories about war as he had in other things.
If everybody had stayed at home as he did, he said, the South never would
have been conquered. For what would there have been to conquer? Mr.
Jeff Davis was constantly writing him to take command of a corps in the
confederate army, but Col. Sellers said, no, his duty was at home. And
he was by no means idle. He was the inventor of the famous air torpedo,
which came very near destroying the Union armies in Missouri, and the
city of St. Louis itself.
His plan was to fill a torpedo with Greek fire and poisonous and deadly
missiles, attach it to a balloon, and then let it sail away over the
hostile camp and explode at the right moment, when the time-fuse burned
out. He intended to use this invention in the capture of St. Louis,
exploding his torpedoes over the city, and raining destruction upon it
until the army of occupation would gladly capitulate. He was unable to
procure the Greek fire, but he constructed a vicious torpedo which would
have answered the purpose, but the first one prematurely exploded in his
wood-house, blowing it clean away, and setting fire to his house. The
neighbors helped him put out the conflagration, but they discouraged any
more experiments of that sort.
The patriotic old gentleman, however, planted so much powder and so many
explosive contrivances in the roads leading into Hawkeye, and then forgot
the exact spots of danger, that people were afraid to travel the
highways, and used to come to town across the fields, The Colonel's motto
was, "Millions for defence but not one cent for tribute."
When Laura came to Hawkeye she might have forgotten the annoyances of the
gossips of Murpheysburg and have out lived the bitterness that was
growing in her heart, if she had been thrown less upon herself, or if the
surroundings of her life had been more congenial and helpful. But she
had little society, less and less as she grew older that was congenial to
her, and her mind preyed upon itself; and the mystery of her birth at
once chagrined her and raised in her the most extravagant expectations.
She was proud and she felt the sting of poverty. She could not but be
conscious of her beauty also, and she was vain of that, and came to take
a sort of delight in the exercise of her fascinations upon the rather
loutish young men who came in her way and whom she despised.
There was another world opened to her--a world of books. But it was not
the best world of that sort, for the small libraries she had access to in
Hawkeye were decidedly miscellaneous, and largely made up of romances and
fictions which fed her imagination with the most exaggerated notions of
life, and showed her men and women in a very false sort of heroism. From
these stories she learned what a woman of keen intellect and some culture
joined to beauty and fascination of manner, might expect to accomplish in
society as she read of it; and along with these ideas she imbibed other
very crude ones in regard to the emancipation of woman.
There were also other books-histories, biographies of distinguished
people, travels in far lands, poems, especially those of Byron, Scott and
Shelley and Moore, which she eagerly absorbed, and appropriated therefrom
what was to her liking. Nobody in Hawkeye had read so much or, after a
fashion, studied so diligently as Laura. She passed for an accomplished
girl, and no doubt thought herself one, as she was, judged by any
standard near her.
During the war there came to Hawkeye a confederate officer, Col. Selby,
who was stationed there for a time, in command of that district. He was
a handsome, soldierly man of thirty years, a graduate of the University
of Virginia, and of distinguished family, if his story might be believed,
and, it was evident, a man of the world and of extensive travel and
To find in such an out of the way country place a woman like Laura was a
piece of good luck upon which Col. Selby congratulated himself. He was
studiously polite to her and treated her with a consideration to which
she was unaccustomed. She had read of such men, but she had never seen
one before, one so high-bred, so noble in sentiment, so entertaining in
conversation, so engaging in manner.
It is a long story; unfortunately it is an old story, and it need not be
dwelt on. Laura loved him, and believed that his love for her was as
pure and deep as her own. She worshipped him and would have counted her
life a little thing to give him, if he would only love her and let her
feed the hunger of her heart upon him.
The passion possessed her whole being, and lifted her up, till she seemed
to walk on air. It was all true, then, the romances she had read, the
bliss of love she had dreamed of. Why had she never noticed before how
blithesome the world was, how jocund with love; the birds sang it, the
trees whispered it to her as she passed, the very flowers beneath her
feet strewed the way as for a bridal march.
When the Colonel went away they were engaged to be married, as soon as he
could make certain arrangements which he represented to be necessary, and
quit the army. He wrote to her from Harding, a small town in the
southwest corner of the state, saying that he should be held in the
service longer than he had expected, but that it would not be more than a
few months, then he should be at liberty to take her to Chicago where he
had property, and should have business, either now or as soon as the war
was over, which he thought could not last long. Meantime why should they
be separated? He was established in comfortable quarters, and if she
could find company and join him, they would be married, and gain so many
more months of happiness.
Was woman ever prudent when she loved? Laura went to Harding, the
neighbors supposed to nurse Washington who had fallen ill there.
Her engagement was, of course, known in Hawkeye, and was indeed a matter
of pride to her family. Mrs. Hawkins would have told the first inquirer
that. Laura had gone to be married; but Laura had cautioned her; she did
not want to be thought of, she said, as going in search of a husband; let
the news come back after she was married.
So she traveled to Harding on the pretence we have mentioned, and was
married. She was married, but something must have happened on that very
day or the next that alarmed her. Washington did not know then or after
what it was, but Laura bound him not to send news of her marriage to
Hawkeye yet, and to enjoin her mother not to speak of it. Whatever cruel
suspicion or nameless dread this was, Laura tried bravely to put it away,
and not let it cloud her happiness.
Communication that summer, as may be imagined, was neither regular nor
frequent between the remote confederate camp at Harding and Hawkeye, and
Laura was in a measure lost sight of--indeed, everyone had troubles
enough of his own without borrowing from his neighbors.
Laura had given herself utterly to her husband, and if he had faults, if
he was selfish, if he was sometimes coarse, if he was dissipated, she did
not or would not see it. It was the passion of her life, the time when
her whole nature went to flood tide and swept away all barriers. Was her
husband ever cold or indifferent? She shut her eyes to everything but
her sense of possession of her idol.
Three months passed. One morning her husband informed her that he had
been ordered South, and must go within two hours.
"I can be ready," said Laura, cheerfully.
"But I can't take you. You must go back to Hawkeye."
"Can't-take-me?" Laura asked, with wonder in her eyes. "I can't live
without you. You said-----"
"O bother what I said,"--and the Colonel took up his sword to buckle it
on, and then continued coolly, "the fact is Laura, our romance is played
Laura heard, but she did not comprehend. She caught his arm and cried,
"George, how can you joke so cruelly? I will go any where with you.
I will wait any where. I can't go back to Hawkeye."
"Well, go where you like. Perhaps," continued he with a sneer, "you
would do as well to wait here, for another colonel."
Laura's brain whirled. She did not yet comprehend. "What does this
mean? Where are you going?"
"It means," said the officer, in measured words, "that you haven't
anything to show for a legal marriage, and that I am going to New
"It's a lie, George, it's a lie. I am your wife. I shall go. I shall
follow you to New Orleans."
"Perhaps my wife might not like it!"
Laura raised her head, her eyes flamed with fire, she tried to utter a
cry, and fell senseless on the floor.
When she came to herself the Colonel was gone. Washington Hawkins stood
at her bedside. Did she come to herself? Was there anything left in her
heart but hate and bitterness, a sense of an infamous wrong at the hands
of the only man she had ever loved?
She returned to Hawkeye. With the exception of Washington and his
mother, no one knew what had happened. The neighbors supposed that the
engagement with Col. Selby had fallen through. Laura was ill for a long
time, but she recovered; she had that resolution in her that could
conquer death almost. And with her health came back her beauty, and an
added fascination, a something that might be mistaken for sadness. Is
there a beauty in the knowledge of evil, a beauty that shines out in the
face of a person whose inward life is transformed by some terrible
experience? Is the pathos in the eyes of the Beatrice Cenci from her
guilt or her innocence?
Laura was not much changed. The lovely woman had a devil in her heart.
That was all.
Mr. Harry Brierly drew his pay as an engineer while he was living at the
City Hotel in Hawkeye. Mr. Thompson had been kind enough to say that it
didn't make any difference whether he was with the corps or not; and
although Harry protested to the Colonel daily and to Washington Hawkins
that he must go back at once to the line and superintend the lay-out with
reference to his contract, yet he did not go, but wrote instead long
letters to Philip, instructing him to keep his eye out, and to let him
know when any difficulty occurred that required his presence.
Meantime Harry blossomed out in the society of Hawkeye, as he did in any
society where fortune cast him and he had the slightest opportunity to
expand. Indeed the talents of a rich and accomplished young fellow like
Harry were not likely to go unappreciated in such a place. A land
operator, engaged in vast speculations, a favorite in the select circles
of New York, in correspondence with brokers and bankers, intimate with
public men at Washington, one who could play the guitar and touch the
banjo lightly, and who had an eye for a pretty girl, and knew the
language of flattery, was welcome everywhere in Hawkeye. Even Miss Laura
Hawkins thought it worth while to use her fascinations upon him, and to
endeavor to entangle the volatile fellow in the meshes of her
"Gad," says Harry to the Colonel, "she's a superb creature, she'd make a
stir in New York, money or no money. There are men I know would give her
a railroad or an opera house, or whatever she wanted--at least they'd
Harry had a way of looking at women as he looked at anything else in the
world he wanted, and he half resolved to appropriate Miss Laura, during
his stay in Hawkeye. Perhaps the Colonel divined his thoughts, or was
offended at Harry's talk, for he replied,
"No nonsense, Mr. Brierly. Nonsense won't do in Hawkeye, not with my
friends. The Hawkins' blood is good blood, all the way from Tennessee.
The Hawkinses are under the weather now, but their Tennessee property is
millions when it comes into market."
"Of course, Colonel. Not the least offense intended. But you can see
she is a fascinating woman. I was only thinking, as to this
appropriation, now, what such a woman could do in Washington. All
correct, too, all correct. Common thing, I assure you in Washington; the
wives of senators, representatives, cabinet officers, all sorts of wives,
and some who are not wives, use their influence. You want an
appointment? Do you go to Senator X? Not much. You get on the right
side of his wife. Is it an appropriation? You'd go 'straight to the
Committee, or to the Interior office, I suppose? You'd learn better than
that. It takes a woman to get any thing through the Land Office: I tell
you, Miss Laura would fascinate an appropriation right through the Senate
and the House of Representatives in one session, if she was in
Washington, as your friend, Colonel, of course as your friend."
"Would you have her sign our petition?" asked the Colonel, innocently.
Harry laughed. "Women don't get anything by petitioning Congress; nobody
does, that's for form. Petitions are referred somewhere, and that's the
last of them; you can't refer a handsome woman so easily, when she is
present. They prefer 'em mostly."
The petition however was elaborately drawn up, with a glowing description
of Napoleon and the adjacent country, and a statement of the absolute
necessity to the prosperity of that region and of one of the stations on
the great through route to the Pacific, of the, immediate improvement of
Columbus River; to this was appended a map of the city and a survey of
the river. It was signed by all the people at Stone's Landing who could
write their names, by Col. Beriah Sellers, and the Colonel agreed to have
the names headed by all the senators and representatives from the state
and by a sprinkling of ex-governors and ex-members of congress. When
completed it was a formidable document. Its preparation and that of more
minute plots of the new city consumed the valuable time of Sellers and
Harry for many weeks, and served to keep them both in the highest
In the eyes of Washington Hawkins, Harry was a superior being, a man who
was able to bring things to pass in a way that excited his enthusiasm.
He never tired of listening to his stories of what he had done and of
what he was going to do. As for Washington, Harry thought he was a man
of ability and comprehension, but "too visionary," he told the Colonel.
The Colonel said he might be right, but he had never noticed anything
visionary about him.
"He's got his plans, sir. God bless my soul, at his age, I was full of
plans. But experience sobers a man, I never touch any thing now that
hasn't been weighed in my judgment; and when Beriah Sellers puts his
judgment on a thing, there it is."
Whatever might have been Harry's intentions with regard to Laura, he saw
more and more of her every day, until he got to be restless and nervous
when he was not with her.
That consummate artist in passion allowed him to believe that the
fascination was mainly on his side, and so worked upon his vanity, while
inflaming his ardor, that he scarcely knew what he was about. Her
coolness and coyness were even made to appear the simple precautions of a
modest timidity, and attracted him even more than the little tendernesses
into which she was occasionally surprised. He could never be away from
her long, day or evening; and in a short time their intimacy was the town
talk. She played with him so adroitly that Harry thought she was
absorbed in love for him, and yet he was amazed that he did not get on
faster in his conquest.
And when he thought of it, he was piqued as well. A country girl, poor
enough, that was evident; living with her family in a cheap and most
unattractive frame house, such as carpenters build in America, scantily
furnished and unadorned; without the adventitious aids of dress or jewels
or the fine manners of society--Harry couldn't understand it. But she
fascinated him, and held him just beyond the line of absolute familiarity
at the same time. While he was with her she made him forget that the
Hawkins' house was nothing but a wooden tenement, with four small square
rooms on the ground floor and a half story; it might have been a palace
for aught he knew.
Perhaps Laura was older than Harry. She was, at any rate, at that ripe
age when beauty in woman seems more solid than in the budding period of
girlhood, and she had come to understand her powers perfectly, and to
know exactly how much of the susceptibility and archness of the girl it
was profitable to retain. She saw that many women, with the best
intentions, make a mistake of carrying too much girlishness into
womanhood. Such a woman would have attracted Harry at any time, but only
a woman with a cool brain and exquisite art could have made him lose his
head in this way; for Harry thought himself a man of the world. The
young fellow never dreamed that he was merely being experimented on; he
was to her a man of another society and another culture, different from
that she had any knowledge of except in books, and she was not unwilling
to try on him the fascinations of her mind and person.
For Laura had her dreams. She detested the narrow limits in which her
lot was cast, she hated poverty. Much of her reading had been of modern
works of fiction, written by her own sex, which had revealed to her
something of her own powers and given her indeed, an exaggerated notion
of the influence, the wealth, the position a woman may attain who has
beauty and talent and ambition and a little culture, and is not too
scrupulous in the use of them. She wanted to be rich, she wanted luxury,
she wanted men at her feet, her slaves, and she had not--thanks to some
of the novels she had read--the nicest discrimination between notoriety
and reputation; perhaps she did not know how fatal notoriety usually is
to the bloom of womanhood.
With the other Hawkins children Laura had been brought up in the belief
that they had inherited a fortune in the Tennessee Lands. She did not by
any means share all the delusion of the family; but her brain was not
seldom busy with schemes about it. Washington seemed to her only to
dream of it and to be willing to wait for its riches to fall upon him in
a golden shower; but she was impatient, and wished she were a man to take
hold of the business.
"You men must enjoy your schemes and your activity and liberty to go
about the world," she said to Harry one day, when he had been talking of
New York and Washington and his incessant engagements.
"Oh, yes," replied that martyr to business, "it's all well enough, if you
don't have too much of it, but it only has one object."
"What is that?"
"If a woman doesn't know, it's useless to tell her. What do you suppose
I am staying in Hawkeye for, week after week, when I ought to be with my
"I suppose it's your business with Col. Sellers about Napoleon, you've
always told me so," answered Laura, with a look intended to contradict
"And now I tell you that is all arranged, I suppose you'll tell me I
ought to go?"
"Harry!" exclaimed Laura, touching his arm and letting her pretty hand
rest there a moment. "Why should I want you to go away? The only person
in Hawkeye who understands me."
"But you refuse to understand me," replied Harry, flattered but still
petulant. "You are like an iceberg, when we are alone."
Laura looked up with wonder in her great eyes, and something like a blush
suffusing her face, followed by a look of langour that penetrated Harry's
heart as if it had been longing.
"Did I ever show any want of confidence in you, Harry?" And she gave him
her hand, which Harry pressed with effusion--something in her manner told
him that he must be content with that favor.
It was always so. She excited his hopes and denied him, inflamed his
passion and restrained it, and wound him in her toils day by day. To
what purpose? It was keen delight to Laura to prove that she had power
Laura liked to hear about life at the east, and especially about the
luxurious society in which Mr. Brierly moved when he was at home. It
pleased her imagination to fancy herself a queen in it.
"You should be a winter in Washington," Harry said.
"But I have no acquaintances there."
"Don't know any of the families of the congressmen? They like to have a
pretty woman staying with them."
"Suppose Col. Sellers should, have business there; say, about this
Columbus River appropriation?"
"Sellers!" and Laura laughed.
"You needn't laugh. Queerer things have happened. Sellers knows
everybody from Missouri, and from the West, too, for that matter. He'd
introduce you to Washington life quick enough. It doesn't need a crowbar
to break your way into society there as it does in Philadelphia. It's
democratic, Washington is. Money or beauty will open any door. If I
were a handsome woman, I shouldn't want any better place than the capital
to pick up a prince or a fortune."
"Thank you," replied Laura. "But I prefer the quiet of home, and the
love of those I know;" and her face wore a look of sweet contentment and
unworldliness that finished Mr. Harry Brierly for the day.
Nevertheless, the hint that Harry had dropped fell upon good ground, and
bore fruit an hundred fold; it worked in her mind until she had built up
a plan on it, and almost a career for herself. Why not, she said, why
shouldn't I do as other women have done? She took the first opportunity
to see Col. Sellers, and to sound him about the Washington visit. How
was he getting on with his navigation scheme, would it be likely to take
him from home to Jefferson City; or to Washington, perhaps?
"Well, maybe. If the people of Napoleon want me to go to Washington, and
look after that matter, I might tear myself from my home. It's been
suggested to me, but--not a word of it to Mrs. Sellers and the children.
Maybe they wouldn't like to think of their father in Washington. But
Dilworthy, Senator Dilworthy, says to me, 'Colonel, you are the man, you
could influence more votes than any one else on such a measure, an old
settler, a man of the people, you know the wants of Missouri; you've a
respect for religion too, says he, and know how the cause of the gospel
goes with improvements: Which is true enough, Miss Laura, and hasn't been
enough thought of in connection with Napoleon. He's an able man,
Dilworthy, and a good man. A man has got to be good to succeed as he
has. He's only been in Congress a few years, and he must be worth a
million. First thing in the morning when he stayed with me he asked
about family prayers, whether we had 'em before or after breakfast.
I hated to disappoint the Senator, but I had to out with it, tell him we
didn't have 'em, not steady. He said he understood, business
interruptions and all that, some men were well enough without, but as for
him he never neglected the ordinances of religion. He doubted if the
Columbus River appropriation would succeed if we did not invoke the
Divine Blessing on it."
Perhaps it is unnecessary to say to the reader that Senator Dilworthy had
not stayed with Col. Sellers while he was in Hawkeye; this visit to his
house being only one of the Colonel's hallucinations--one of those
instant creations of his fertile fancy, which were always flashing into
his brain and out of his mouth in the course of any conversation and
without interrupting the flow of it.
During the summer Philip rode across the country and made a short visit
in Hawkeye, giving Harry an opportunity to show him the progress that he
and the Colonel had made in their operation at Stone's Landing, to
introduce him also to Laura, and to borrow a little money when he
departed. Harry bragged about his conquest, as was his habit, and took
Philip round to see his western prize.
Laura received Mr. Philip with a courtesy and a slight hauteur that
rather surprised and not a little interested him. He saw at once that
she was older than Harry, and soon made up his mind that she was leading
his friend a country dance to which he was unaccustomed. At least he
thought he saw that, and half hinted as much to Harry, who flared up at
once; but on a second visit Philip was not so sure, the young lady was
certainly kind and friendly and almost confiding with Harry, and treated
Philip with the greatest consideration. She deferred to his opinions,
and listened attentively when he talked, and in time met his frank manner
with an equal frankness, so that he was quite convinced that whatever she
might feel towards Harry, she was sincere with him. Perhaps his manly
way did win her liking. Perhaps in her mind, she compared him with
Harry, and recognized in him a man to whom a woman might give her whole
soul, recklessly and with little care if she lost it. Philip was not
invincible to her beauty nor to the intellectual charm of her presence.
The week seemed very short that he passed in Hawkeye, and when he bade
Laura good by, he seemed to have known her a year.
"We shall see you again, Mr. Sterling," she said as she gave him her
hand, with just a shade of sadness in her handsome eyes.
And when he turned away she followed him with a look that might have
disturbed his serenity, if he had not at the moment had a little square
letter in his breast pocket, dated at Philadelphia, and signed "Ruth."
The visit of Senator Abner Dilworthy was an event in Hawkeye. When a
Senator, whose place is in Washington moving among the Great and guiding
the destinies of the nation, condescends to mingle among the people and
accept the hospitalities of such a place as Hawkeye, the honor is not
considered a light one. All, parties are flattered by it and politics
are forgotten in the presence of one so distinguished among his fellows.
Senator Dilworthy, who was from a neighboring state, had been a Unionist
in the darkest days of his country, and had thriven by it, but was that
any reason why Col. Sellers, who had been a confederate and had not
thriven by it, should give him the cold shoulder?
The Senator was the guest of his old friend Gen. Boswell, but it almost
appeared that he was indebted to Col. Sellers for the unreserved
hospitalities of the town. It was the large hearted Colonel who, in a
manner, gave him the freedom of the city.
"You are known here, sir," said the Colonel," and Hawkeye is proud of
you. You will find every door open, and a welcome at every hearthstone.
I should insist upon your going to my house, if you were not claimed by
your older friend Gen. Boswell. But you will mingle with our people, and
you will see here developments that will surprise you."
The Colonel was so profuse in his hospitality that he must have made the
impression upon himself that he had entertained the Senator at his own
mansion during his stay; at any rate, he afterwards always spoke of him
as his guest, and not seldom referred to the Senator's relish of certain
viands on his table. He did, in fact, press him to dine upon the morning
of the day the Senator was going away.
Senator Dilworthy was large and portly, though not tall--a pleasant
spoken man, a popular man with the people.
He took a lively interest in the town and all the surrounding country,
and made many inquiries as to the progress of agriculture, of education,
and of religion, and especially as to the condition of the emancipated
"Providence," he said, "has placed them in our hands, and although you
and I, General, might have chosen a different destiny for them, under the
Constitution, yet Providence knows best."
"You can't do much with 'em," interrupted Col. Sellers. "They are a
speculating race, sir, disinclined to work for white folks without
security, planning how to live by only working for themselves. Idle,
sir, there's my garden just a ruin of weeds. Nothing practical in 'em."
"There is some truth in your observation, Colonel, but you must educate
"You educate the niggro and you make him more speculating than he was
before. If he won't stick to any industry except for himself now, what
will he do then?"
"But, Colonel, the negro when educated will be more able to make his
"Never, sir, never. He would only have a wider scope to injure himself.
A niggro has no grasp, sir. Now, a white man can conceive great
operations, and carry them out; a niggro can't."
"Still," replied the Senator, "granting that he might injure himself in a
worldly point of view, his elevation through education would multiply his
chances for the hereafter--which is the important thing after all,
Colonel. And no matter what the result is, we must fulfill our duty by
"I'd elevate his soul," promptly responded the Colonel; "that's just it;
you can't make his soul too immortal, but I wouldn't touch him, himself.
Yes, sir! make his soul immortal, but don't disturb the niggro as he
Of course one of the entertainments offered the Senator was a public
reception, held in the court house, at which he made a speech to his
fellow citizens. Col. Sellers was master of ceremonies. He escorted the
band from the city hotel to Gen. Boswell's; he marshalled the procession
of Masons, of Odd Fellows, and of Firemen, the Good Templars, the Sons of
Temperance, the Cadets of Temperance, the Daughters of Rebecca, the
Sunday School children, and citizens generally, which followed the
Senator to the court house; he bustled about the room long after every
one else was seated, and loudly cried "Order!" in the dead silence which
preceded the introduction of the Senator by Gen. Boswell. The occasion
was one to call out his finest powers of personal appearance, and one he
long dwelt on with pleasure.
This not being an edition of the Congressional Globe it is impossible to
give Senator Dilworthy's speech in full. He began somewhat as follows:
"Fellow citizens: It gives me great pleasure to thus meet and mingle with
you, to lay aside for a moment the heavy duties of an official and
burdensome station, and confer in familiar converse with my friends in
your great state. The good opinion of my fellow citizens of all sections
is the sweetest solace in all my anxieties. I look forward with longing
to the time when I can lay aside the cares of office--" ["dam sight,"
shouted a tipsy fellow near the door. Cries of "put him out."]
"My friends, do not remove him. Let the misguided man stay. I see that
he is a victim of that evil which is swallowing up public virtue and
sapping the foundation of society. As I was saying, when I can lay down
the cares of office and retire to the sweets of private life in some such
sweet, peaceful, intelligent, wide-awake and patriotic place as Hawkeye
(applause). I have traveled much, I have seen all parts of our glorious
union, but I have never seen a lovelier village than yours, or one that
has more signs of commercial and industrial and religious prosperity--
The Senator then launched into a sketch of our great country, and dwelt
for an hour or more upon its prosperity and the dangers which threatened
He then touched reverently upon the institutions of religion, and upon
the necessity of private purity, if we were to have any public morality.
"I trust," he said, "that there are children within the sound of my
voice," and after some remarks to them, the Senator closed with an
apostrophe to "the genius of American Liberty, walking with the Sunday
School in one hand and Temperance in the other up the glorified steps of
the National Capitol."
Col. Sellers did not of course lose the opportunity to impress upon so
influential a person as the Senator the desirability of improving the
navigation of Columbus river. He and Mr. Brierly took the Senator over
to Napoleon and opened to him their plan. It was a plan that the Senator
could understand without a great deal of explanation, for he seemed to be
familiar with the like improvements elsewhere. When, however, they
reached Stone's Landing the Senator looked about him and inquired,
"Is this Napoleon?"
"This is the nucleus, the nucleus," said the Colonel, unrolling his map.
"Here is the deepo, the church, the City Hall and so on."
"Ah, I see. How far from here is Columbus River? Does that stream
"That, why, that's Goose Run. Thar ain't no Columbus, thout'n it's over
to Hawkeye," interrupted one of the citizens, who had come out to stare
at the strangers. "A railroad come here last summer, but it haint been
here no mo'."
"Yes, sir," the Colonel hastened to explain, "in the old records Columbus
River is called Goose Run. You see how it sweeps round the town-forty-
nine miles to the Missouri; sloop navigation all the way pretty much,
drains this whole country; when it's improved steamboats will run right
up here. It's got to be enlarged, deepened. You see by the map.
Columbus River. This country must have water communication!"
"You'll want a considerable appropriation, Col. Sellers.
"I should say a million; is that your figure Mr. Brierly."
"According to our surveys," said Harry, "a million would do it; a million
spent on the river would make Napoleon worth two millions at least."
"I see," nodded the Senator. "But you'd better begin by asking only for
two or three hundred thousand, the usual way. You can begin to sell town
lots on that appropriation you know."
The Senator, himself, to do him justice, was not very much interested in
the country or the stream, but he favored the appropriation, and he gave
the Colonel and Mr. Brierly to and understand that he would endeavor to
get it through. Harry, who thought he was shrewd and understood
Washington, suggested an interest.
But he saw that the Senator was wounded by the suggestion.
"You will offend me by repeating such an observation," he said.
"Whatever I do will be for the public interest. It will require a
portion of the appropriation for necessary expenses, and I am sorry to
say that there are members who will have to be seen. But you can reckon
upon my humble services."
This aspect of the subject was not again alluded to. The Senator
possessed himself of the facts, not from his observation of the ground,
but from the lips of Col. Sellers, and laid the appropriation scheme away
among his other plans for benefiting the public.
It was on this visit also that the Senator made the acquaintance of Mr.
Washington Hawkins, and was greatly taken with his innocence, his
guileless manner and perhaps with his ready adaptability to enter upon
any plan proposed.
Col. Sellers was pleased to see this interest that Washington had
awakened, especially since it was likely to further his expectations with
regard to the Tennessee lands; the Senator having remarked to the
Colonel, that he delighted to help any deserving young man, when the
promotion of a private advantage could at the same time be made to
contribute to the general good. And he did not doubt that this was an
opportunity of that kind.
The result of several conferences with Washington was that the Senator
proposed that he should go to Washington with him and become his private
secretary and the secretary of his committee; a proposal which was
The Senator spent Sunday in Hawkeye and attended church. He cheered the
heart of the worthy and zealous minister by an expression of his sympathy
in his labors, and by many inquiries in regard to the religious state of
the region. It was not a very promising state, and the good man felt how
much lighter his task would be, if he had the aid of such a man as
"I am glad to see, my dear sir," said the Senator, "that you give them
the doctrines. It is owing to a neglect of the doctrines, that there is
such a fearful falling away in the country. I wish that we might have
you in Washington--as chaplain, now, in the senate."
The good man could not but be a little flattered, and if sometimes,
thereafter, in his discouraging work, he allowed the thought that he
might perhaps be called to Washington as chaplain of the Senate, to cheer
him, who can wonder. The Senator's commendation at least did one service
for him, it elevated him in the opinion of Hawkeye.
Laura was at church alone that day, and Mr. Brierly walked home with her.
A part of their way lay with that of General Boswell and Senator
Dilworthy, and introductions were made. Laura had her own reasons for
wishing to know the Senator, and the Senator was not a man who could be
called indifferent to charms such as hers. That meek young lady so
commended herself to him in the short walk, that he announced his
intentions of paying his respects to her the next day, an intention which
Harry received glumly; and when the Senator was out of hearing he called
him "an old fool."
"Fie," said Laura, "I do believe you are jealous, Harry. He is a very
pleasant man. He said you were a young man of great promise."
The Senator did call next day, and the result of his visit was that he
was confirmed in his impression that there was something about him very
attractive to ladies. He saw Laura again and again daring his stay, and
felt more and more the subtle influence of her feminine beauty, which
every man felt who came near her.
Harry was beside himself with rage while the Senator remained in town;
he declared that women were always ready to drop any man for higher game;
and he attributed his own ill-luck to the Senator's appearance. The
fellow was in fact crazy about her beauty and ready to beat his brains
out in chagrin. Perhaps Laura enjoyed his torment, but she soothed him
with blandishments that increased his ardor, and she smiled to herself to
think that he had, with all his protestations of love, never spoken of
marriage. Probably the vivacious fellow never had thought of it. At any
rate when he at length went away from Hawkeye he was no nearer it. But
there was no telling to what desperate lengths his passion might not
Laura bade him good bye with tender regret, which, however, did not
disturb her peace or interfere with her plans. The visit of Senator
Dilworthy had become of more importance to her, and it by and by bore the
fruit she longed for, in an invitation to visit his family in the
National Capital during the winter session of Congress.
O lift your natures up:
Embrace our aims: work out your freedom. Girls,
Knowledge is now no more a fountain sealed;
Drink deep until the habits of the slave,
The sins of emptiness, gossip and spite
And slander, die.
Whether medicine is a science, or only an empirical method of getting a
living out of the ignorance of the human race, Ruth found before her
first term was over at the medical school that there were other things
she needed to know quite as much as that which is taught in medical
books, and that she could never satisfy her aspirations without more
"Does your doctor know any thing--I don't mean about medicine, but about
things in general, is he a man of information and good sense?" once asked
an old practitioner. "If he doesn't know any thing but medicine the
chance is he doesn't know that:"
The close application to her special study was beginning to tell upon
Ruth's delicate health also, and the summer brought with it only
weariness and indisposition for any mental effort.
In this condition of mind and body the quiet of her home and the
unexciting companionship of those about her were more than ever tiresome.
She followed with more interest Philip's sparkling account of his life
in the west, and longed for his experiences, and to know some of those
people of a world so different from here, who alternately amused and
displeased him. He at least was learning the world, the good and the bad
of it, as must happen to every one who accomplishes anything in it.
But what, Ruth wrote, could a woman do, tied up by custom, and cast into
particular circumstances out of which it was almost impossible to
extricate herself? Philip thought that he would go some day and
extricate Ruth, but he did not write that, for he had the instinct to
know that this was not the extrication she dreamed of, and that she must
find out by her own experience what her heart really wanted.
Philip was not a philosopher, to be sure, but he had the old fashioned
notion, that whatever a woman's theories of life might be, she would come
round to matrimony, only give her time. He could indeed recall to mind
one woman--and he never knew a nobler--whose whole soul was devoted and
who believed that her life was consecrated to a certain benevolent
project in singleness of life, who yielded to the touch of matrimony, as
an icicle yields to a sunbeam.
Neither at home nor elsewhere did Ruth utter any complaint, or admit any
weariness or doubt of her ability to pursue the path she had marked out
for herself. But her mother saw clearly enough her struggle with
infirmity, and was not deceived by either her gaiety or by the cheerful
composure which she carried into all the ordinary duties that fell to
her. She saw plainly enough that Ruth needed an entire change of scene
and of occupation, and perhaps she believed that such a change, with the
knowledge of the world it would bring, would divert Ruth from a course
for which she felt she was physically entirely unfitted.
It therefore suited the wishes of all concerned, when autumn came, that
Ruth should go away to school. She selected a large New England
Seminary, of which she had often heard Philip speak, which was attended
by both sexes and offered almost collegiate advantages of education.
Thither she went in September, and began for the second time in the year
a life new to her.
The Seminary was the chief feature of Fallkill, a village of two to three
thousand inhabitants. It was a prosperous school, with three hundred
students, a large corps of teachers, men and women, and with a venerable
rusty row of academic buildings on the shaded square of the town. The
students lodged and boarded in private families in the place, and so it
came about that while the school did a great deal to support the town,
the town gave the students society and the sweet influences of home life.
It is at least respectful to say that the influences of home life are
Ruth's home, by the intervention of Philip, was in a family--one of the
rare exceptions in life or in fiction--that had never known better days.
The Montagues, it is perhaps well to say, had intended to come over in
the Mayflower, but were detained at Delft Haven by the illness of a
child. They came over to Massachusetts Bay in another vessel, and thus
escaped the onus of that brevet nobility under which the successors of
the Mayflower Pilgrims have descended. Having no factitious weight of
dignity to carry, the Montagues steadily improved their condition from
the day they landed, and they were never more vigorous or prosperous than
at the date of this narrative. With character compacted by the rigid
Puritan discipline of more than two centuries, they had retained its
strength and purity and thrown off its narrowness, and were now
blossoming under the generous modern influences. Squire Oliver Montague,
a lawyer who had retired from the practice of his profession except in
rare cases, dwelt in a square old fashioned New England mile away from
the green. It was called a mansion because it stood alone with ample
fields about it, and had an avenue of trees leading to it from the road,
and on the west commanded a view of a pretty little lake with gentle
slopes and nodding were now blossoming under the generous modern
influences. Squire Oliver Montague, a lawyer who had retired from the
practice of his profession except in rare cases, dwelt in a square old
fashioned New England groves. But it was just a plain, roomy house,
capable of extending to many guests an unpretending hospitality.
The family consisted of the Squire and his wife, a son and a daughter
married and not at home, a son in college at Cambridge, another son at
the Seminary, and a daughter Alice, who was a year or more older than
Ruth. Having only riches enough to be able to gratify reasonable
desires, and yet make their gratifications always a novelty and a
pleasure, the family occupied that just mean in life which is so rarely
attained, and still more rarely enjoyed without discontent.
If Ruth did not find so much luxury in the house as in her own home,
there were evidences of culture, of intellectual activity and of a zest
in the affairs of all the world, which greatly impressed her. Every room
had its book-cases or book-shelves, and was more or less a library; upon
every table was liable to be a litter of new books, fresh periodicals and
daily newspapers. There were plants in the sunny windows and some choice
engravings on the walls, with bits of color in oil or water-colors;
the piano was sure to be open and strewn with music; and there were
photographs and little souvenirs here and there of foreign travel.
An absence of any "what-pots" in the corners with rows of cheerful
shells, and Hindoo gods, and Chinese idols, and nests of use less boxes
of lacquered wood, might be taken as denoting a languidness in the family
concerning foreign missions, but perhaps unjustly.
At any rate the life of the world flowed freely into this hospitable
house, and there was always so much talk there of the news of the day,
of the new books and of authors, of Boston radicalism and New York
civilization, and the virtue of Congress, that small gossip stood a very
All this was in many ways so new to Ruth that she seemed to have passed
into another world, in which she experienced a freedom and a mental
exhilaration unknown to her before. Under this influence she entered
upon her studies with keen enjoyment, finding for a time all the
relaxation she needed, in the charming social life at the Montague house.
It is strange, she wrote to Philip, in one of her occasional letters,
that you never told me more about this delightful family, and scarcely
mentioned Alice who is the life of it, just the noblest girl, unselfish,
knows how to do so many things, with lots of talent, with a dry humor,
and an odd way of looking at things, and yet quiet and even serious
often--one of your "capable" New England girls. We shall be great
friends. It had never occurred to Philip that there was any thing
extraordinary about the family that needed mention. He knew dozens of
girls like Alice, he thought to himself, but only one like Ruth.
Good friends the two girls were from the beginning. Ruth was a study to
Alice; the product of a culture entirely foreign to her experience, so
much a child in some things, so much a woman in others; and Ruth in turn,
it must be confessed, probing Alice sometimes with her serious grey eyes,
wondered what her object in life was, and whether she had any purpose
beyond living as she now saw her. For she could scarcely conceive of a
life that should not be devoted to the accomplishment of some definite
work, and she had-no doubt that in her own case everything else would
yield to the professional career she had marked out.
"So you know Philip Sterling," said Ruth one day as the girls sat at
their sewing. Ruth never embroidered, and never sewed when she could
avoid it. Bless her.
"Oh yes, we are old friends. Philip used to come to Fallkill often while
he was in college. He was once rusticated here for a term."
"Suspended for some College scrape. He was a great favorite here.
Father and he were famous friends. Father said that Philip had no end of
nonsense in him and was always blundering into something, but he was a
royal good fellow and would come out all right."
"Did you think he was fickle?"
"Why, I never thought whether he was or not," replied Alice looking up.
"I suppose he was always in love with some girl or another, as college
boys are. He used to make me his confidant now and then, and be terribly
in the dumps."
"Why did he come to you?" pursued Ruth you were younger than he."
"I'm sure I don't know. He was at our house a good deal. Once at a
picnic by the lake, at the risk of his own life, he saved sister Millie
from drowning, and we all liked to have him here. Perhaps he thought as
he had saved one sister, the other ought to help him when he was in
trouble. I don't know."
The fact was that Alice was a person who invited confidences, because she
never betrayed them, and gave abundant sympathy in return. There are
persons, whom we all know, to whom human confidences, troubles and heart-
aches flow as naturally its streams to a placid lake.
This is not a history of Fallkill, nor of the Montague family, worthy as
both are of that honor, and this narrative cannot be diverted into long
loitering with them. If the reader visits the village to-day, he will
doubtless be pointed out the Montague dwelling, where Ruth lived, the
cross-lots path she traversed to the Seminary, and the venerable chapel
with its cracked bell.
In the little society of the place, the Quaker girl was a favorite, and
no considerable social gathering or pleasure party was thought complete
without her. There was something in this seemingly transparent and yet
deep character, in her childlike gaiety and enjoyment of the society
about her, and in her not seldom absorption in herself, that would have
made her long remembered there if no events had subsequently occurred to
recall her to mind.
To the surprise of Alice, Ruth took to the small gaieties of the village
with a zest of enjoyment that seemed foreign to one who had devoted her
life to a serious profession from the highest motives. Alice liked
society well enough, she thought, but there was nothing exciting in that
of Fallkill, nor anything novel in the attentions of the well-bred young
gentlemen one met in it. It must have worn a different aspect to Ruth,
for she entered into its pleasures at first with curiosity, and then with
interest and finally with a kind of staid abandon that no one would have
deemed possible for her. Parties, picnics, rowing-matches, moonlight
strolls, nutting expeditions in the October woods,--Alice declared that
it was a whirl of dissipation. The fondness of Ruth, which was scarcely
disguised, for the company of agreeable young fellows, who talked
nothings, gave Alice opportunity for no end of banter.
"Do you look upon them as I subjects, dear?" she would ask.
And Ruth laughed her merriest laugh, and then looked sober again.
Perhaps she was thinking, after all, whether she knew herself.
If you should rear a duck in the heart of the Sahara, no doubt it would
swim if you brought it to the Nile.
Surely no one would have predicted when Ruth left Philadelphia that she
would become absorbed to this extent, and so happy, in a life so unlike
that she thought she desired. But no one can tell how a woman will act
under any circumstances. The reason novelists nearly always fail in
depicting women when they make them act, is that they let them do what
they have observed some woman has done at sometime or another. And that
is where they make a mistake; for a woman will never do again what has
been done before. It is this uncertainty that causes women, considered
as materials for fiction, to be so interesting to themselves and to
As the fall went on and the winter, Ruth did not distinguish herself
greatly at the Fallkill Seminary as a student, a fact that apparently
gave her no anxiety, and did not diminish her enjoyment of a new sort of
power which had awakened within her.
In mid-winter, an event occurred of unusual interest to the inhabitants
of the Montague house, and to the friends of the young ladies who sought
This was the arrival at the Sassacua Hotel of two young gentlemen from
It is the fashion in New England to give Indian names to the public
houses, not that the late lamented savage knew how to keep a hotel, but
that his warlike name may impress the traveler who humbly craves shelter
there, and make him grateful to the noble and gentlemanly clerk if he is
allowed to depart with his scalp safe.
The two young gentlemen were neither students for the Fallkill Seminary,
nor lecturers on physiology, nor yet life assurance solicitors, three
suppositions that almost exhausted the guessing power of the people at
the hotel in respect to the names of "Philip Sterling and Henry Brierly,
Missouri," on the register. They were handsome enough fellows, that was
evident, browned by out-door exposure, and with a free and lordly way
about them that almost awed the hotel clerk himself. Indeed, he very
soon set down Mr. Brierly as a gentleman of large fortune, with enormous
interests on his shoulders. Harry had a way of casually mentioning
western investments, through lines, the freighting business, and the
route through the Indian territory to Lower California, which was
calculated to give an importance to his lightest word.
"You've a pleasant town here, sir, and the most comfortable looking hotel
I've seen out of New York," said Harry to the clerk; "we shall stay here
a few days if you can give us a roomy suite of apartments."
Harry usually had the best of everything, wherever he went, as such
fellows always do have in this accommodating world. Philip would have
been quite content with less expensive quarters, but there was no
resisting Harry's generosity in such matters.
Railroad surveying and real-estate operations were at a standstill during
the winter in Missouri, and the young men had taken advantage of the lull
to come east, Philip to see if there was any disposition in his friends,
the railway contractors, to give him a share in the Salt Lick Union
Pacific Extension, and Harry to open out to his uncle the prospects of
the new city at Stone's Landing, and to procure congressional
appropriations for the harbor and for making Goose Run navigable. Harry
had with him a map of that noble stream and of the harbor, with a perfect
net-work of railroads centering in it, pictures of wharves, crowded with
steamboats, and of huge grain-elevators on the bank, all of which grew
out of the combined imaginations of Col. Sellers and Mr. Brierly. The
Colonel had entire confidence in Harry's influence with Wall street, and
with congressmen, to bring about the consummation of their scheme, and he
waited his return in the empty house at Hawkeye, feeding his pinched
family upon the most gorgeous expectations with a reckless prodigality.
"Don't let 'em into the thing more than is necessary," says the Colonel
to Harry; "give 'em a small interest; a lot apiece in the suburbs of the
Landing ought to do a congressman, but I reckon you'll have to mortgage a
part of the city itself to the brokers."
Harry did not find that eagerness to lend money on Stone's Landing in
Wall street which Col. Sellers had expected, (it had seen too many such
maps as he exhibited), although his uncle and some of the brokers looked
with more favor on the appropriation for improving the navigation of
Columbus River, and were not disinclined to form a company for that
purpose. An appropriation was a tangible thing, if you could get hold of
it, and it made little difference what it was appropriated for, so long
as you got hold of it.
Pending these weighty negotiations, Philip has persuaded Harry to take a
little run up to Fallkill, a not difficult task, for that young man would
at any time have turned his back upon all the land in the West at sight
of a new and pretty face, and he had, it must be confessed, a facility in
love making which made it not at all an interference with the more
serious business of life. He could not, to be sure, conceive how Philip
could be interested in a young lady who was studying medicine, but he had
no objection to going, for he did not doubt that there were other girls
in Fallkill who were worth a week's attention.
The young men were received at the house of the Montagues with the
hospitality which never failed there.
"We are glad to see you again," exclaimed the Squire heartily, "you are
welcome Mr. Brierly, any friend of Phil's is welcome at our house"
"It's more like home to me, than any place except my own home," cried
Philip, as he looked about the cheerful house and went through a general
"It's a long time, though, since you have been here to say so," Alice
said, with her father's frankness of manner; "and I suspect we owe the
visit now to your sudden interest in the Fallkill Seminary."
Philip's color came, as it had an awkward way of doing in his tell-tale
face, but before he could stammer a reply, Harry came in with,
"That accounts for Phil's wish to build a Seminary at Stone's Landing,
our place in Missouri, when Col. Sellers insisted it should be a
University. Phil appears to have a weakness for Seminaries."
"It would have been better for your friend Sellers," retorted Philip,
"if he had had a weakness for district schools. Col. Sellers, Miss
Alice, is a great friend of Harry's, who is always trying to build a
house by beginning at the top."
"I suppose it's as easy to build a University on paper as a Seminary, and
it looks better," was Harry's reflection; at which the Squire laughed,
and said he quite agreed with him. The old gentleman understood Stone's
Landing a good deal better than he would have done after an hour's talk
with either of it's expectant proprietors.
At this moment, and while Philip was trying to frame a question that he
found it exceedingly difficult to put into words, the door opened
quietly, and Ruth entered. Taking in the, group with a quick glance, her
eye lighted up, and with a merry smile she advanced and shook hands with
Philip. She was so unconstrained and sincerely cordial, that it made
that hero of the west feel somehow young, and very ill at ease.
For months and months he had thought of this meeting and pictured it to
himself a hundred times, but he had never imagined it would be like this.
He should meet Ruth unexpectedly, as she was walking alone from the
school, perhaps, or entering the room where he was waiting for her, and
she would cry "Oh! Phil," and then check herself, and perhaps blush, and
Philip calm but eager and enthusiastic, would reassure her by his warm
manner, and he would take her hand impressively, and she would look up
timidly, and, after his' long absence, perhaps he would be permitted to
Good heavens, how many times he had come to this point, and wondered if
it could happen so. Well, well; he had never supposed that he should be
the one embarrassed, and above all by a sincere and cordial welcome.
"We heard you were at the Sassacus House," were Ruth's first words; "and
this I suppose is your friend?"
"I beg your pardon," Philip at length blundered out, "this is Mr. Brierly
of whom I have written you."
And Ruth welcomed Harry with a friendliness that Philip thought was due
to his friend, to be sure, but which seemed to him too level with her
reception of himself, but which Harry received as his due from the other
Questions were asked about the journey and about the West, and the
conversation became a general one, until Philip at length found himself
talking with the Squire in relation to land and railroads and things he
couldn't keep his mind on especially as he heard Ruth and Harry in an
animated discourse, and caught the words "New York," and "opera," and
"reception," and knew that Harry was giving his imagination full range in
the world of fashion.
Harry knew all about the opera, green room and all (at least he said so)
and knew a good many of the operas and could make very entertaining
stories of their plots, telling how the soprano came in here, and the
basso here, humming the beginning of their airs--tum-ti-tum-ti-ti--
suggesting the profound dissatisfaction of the basso recitative--down-
among-the-dead-men--and touching off the whole with an airy grace quite
captivating; though he couldn't have sung a single air through to save
himself, and he hadn't an ear to know whether it was sung correctly. All
the same he doted on the opera, and kept a box there, into which he
lounged occasionally to hear a favorite scene and meet his society
If Ruth was ever in the city he should be happy to place his box at the
disposal of Ruth and her friends. Needless to say that she was delighted
with the offer.
When she told Philip of it, that discreet young fellow only smiled, and
said that he hoped she would be fortunate enough to be in New York some
evening when Harry had not already given the use of his private box to
some other friend.
The Squire pressed the visitors to let him send for their trunks and
urged them to stay at his house, and Alice joined in the invitation, but
Philip had reasons for declining. They staid to supper, however, and in;
the evening Philip had a long talk apart with Ruth, a delightful hour to
him, in which she spoke freely of herself as of old, of her studies at
Philadelphia and of her plans, and she entered into his adventures and
prospects in the West with a genuine and almost sisterly interest; an
interest, however, which did not exactly satisfy Philip--it was too
general and not personal enough to suit him. And with all her freedom in
speaking of her own hopes, Philip could not, detect any reference to
himself in them; whereas he never undertook anything that he did not
think of Ruth in connection with it, he never made a plan that had not
reference to her, and he never thought of anything as complete if she
could not share it. Fortune, reputation these had no value to him except
in Ruth's eyes, and there were times when it seemed to him that if Ruth
was not on this earth, he should plunge off into some remote wilderness
and live in a purposeless seclusion.
"I hoped," said Philip; "to get a little start in connection with this
new railroad, and make a little money, so that I could came east and
engage in something more suited to my tastes. I shouldn't like to live
in the West. Would you?
"It never occurred to me whether I would or not," was the unembarrassed
reply. "One of our graduates went to Chicago, and has a nice practice
there. I don't know where I shall go. It would mortify mother
dreadfully to have me driving about Philadelphia in a doctor's gig."
Philip laughed at the idea of it. "And does it seem as necessary to you
to do it as it did before you came to Fallkill?"
It was a home question, and went deeper than Philip knew, for Ruth at
once thought of practicing her profession among the young gentlemen and
ladies of her acquaintance in the village; but she was reluctant to admit
to herself that her notions of a career had undergone any change.
"Oh, I don't think I should come to Fallkill to practice, but I must do
something when I am through school; and why not medicine?"
Philip would like to have explained why not, but the explanation would be
of no use if it were not already obvious to Ruth.
Harry was equally in his element whether instructing Squire Montague
about the investment of capital in Missouri, the improvement of Columbus
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