The Gilded Age
Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
Part 4 out of 9
River, the project he and some gentlemen in New York had for making a
shorter Pacific connection with the Mississippi than the present one; or
diverting Mrs. Montague with his experience in cooking in camp; or
drawing for Miss Alice an amusing picture of the social contrasts of New
England and the border where he had been. Harry was a very entertaining
fellow, having his imagination to help his memory, and telling his
stories as if he believed them--as perhaps he did. Alice was greatly
amused with Harry and listened so seriously to his romancing that he
exceeded his usual limits. Chance allusions to his bachelor
establishment in town and the place of his family on the Hudson, could
not have been made by a millionaire, more naturally.
"I should think," queried Alice, "you would rather stay in New York than
to try the rough life at the West you have been speaking of."
"Oh, adventure," says Harry, "I get tired of New York. And besides I
got involved in some operations that I had to see through. Parties in
New York only last week wanted me to go down into Arizona in a big
diamond interest. I told them, no, no speculation for me. I've got my
interests in Missouri; and I wouldn't leave Philip, as long as he stays
When the young gentlemen were on their way back to the hotel, Mr. Philip,
who was not in very good humor, broke out,
"What the deuce, Harry, did you go on in that style to the Montagues
"Go on?" cried Harry. "Why shouldn't I try to make a pleasant evening?
And besides, ain't I going to do those things? What difference does it
make about the mood and tense of a mere verb? Didn't uncle tell me only
last Saturday, that I might as well go down to Arizona and hunt for
diamonds? A fellow might as well make a good impression as a poor one."
"Nonsense. You'll get to believing your own romancing by and by."
"Well, you'll see. When Sellers and I get that appropriation, I'll show
you an establishment in town and another on the Hudson and a box at the
"Yes, it will be like Col. Sellers' plantation at Hawkeye. Did you ever
"Now, don't be cross, Phil. She's just superb, that little woman. You
never told me."
"Who's just superb?" growled Philip, fancying this turn of the
conversation less than the other.
"Well, Mrs. Montague, if you must know." And Harry stopped to light a
cigar, and then puffed on in silence. The little quarrel didn't last
over night, for Harry never appeared to cherish any ill-will half a
second, and Philip was too sensible to continue a row about nothing; and
he had invited Harry to come with him.
The young gentlemen stayed in Fallkill a week, and were every day at the
Montagues, and took part in the winter gaieties of the village. There
were parties here and there to which the friends of Ruth and the
Montagues were of course invited, and Harry in the generosity of his
nature, gave in return a little supper at the hotel, very simple indeed,
with dancing in the hall, and some refreshments passed round. And Philip
found the whole thing in the bill when he came to pay it.
Before the week was over Philip thought he had a new light on the
character of Ruth. Her absorption in the small gaieties of the society
there surprised him. He had few opportunities for serious conversation
with her. There was always some butterfly or another flitting about,
and when Philip showed by his manner that he was not pleased, Ruth
laughed merrily enough and rallied him on his soberness--she declared he
was getting to be grim and unsocial. He talked indeed more with Alice
than with Ruth, and scarcely concealed from her the trouble that was in
his mind. It needed, in fact, no word from him, for she saw clearly
enough what was going forward, and knew her sex well enough to know there
was no remedy for it but time.
"Ruth is a dear girl, Philip, and has as much firmness of purpose as
ever, but don't you see she has just discovered that she is fond of
society? Don't you let her see you are selfish about it, is my advice."
The last evening they were to spend in Fallkill, they were at the
Montagues, and Philip hoped that he would find Ruth in a different mood.
But she was never more gay, and there was a spice of mischief in her eye
and in her laugh. "Confound it," said Philip to himself, "she's in a
He would have liked to quarrel with her, and fling himself out of the
house in tragedy style, going perhaps so far as to blindly wander off
miles into the country and bathe his throbbing brow in the chilling rain
of the stars, as people do in novels; but he had no opportunity. For
Ruth was as serenely unconscious of mischief as women can be at times,
and fascinated him more than ever with her little demurenesses and half-
confidences. She even said "Thee" to him once in reproach for a cutting
speech he began. And the sweet little word made his heart beat like a
trip-hammer, for never in all her life had she said "thee" to him before.
Was she fascinated with Harry's careless 'bon homie' and gay assurance?
Both chatted away in high spirits, and made the evening whirl along in
the most mirthful manner. Ruth sang for Harry, and that young gentleman
turned the leaves for her at the piano, and put in a bass note now and
then where he thought it would tell.
Yes, it was a merry evening, and Philip was heartily glad when it was
over, and the long leave-taking with the family was through with.
"Farewell Philip. Good night Mr. Brierly," Ruth's clear voice sounded
after them as they went down the walk.
And she spoke Harry's name last, thought Philip.
"O see ye not yon narrow road
So thick beset wi' thorns and briers?
That is the Path of Righteousness,
Though after it but few inquires.
"And see ye not yon braid, braid road,
That lies across the lily leven?
That is the Path of Wickedness,
Though some call it the road to Heaven."
Thomas the Rhymer.
Phillip and Harry reached New York in very different states of mind.
Harry was buoyant. He found a letter from Col. Sellers urging him to go
to Washington and confer with Senator Dilworthy. The petition was in his
It had been signed by everybody of any importance in Missouri, and would
be presented immediately.
"I should go on myself," wrote the Colonel, "but I am engaged in the
invention of a process for lighting such a city as St. Louis by means of
water; just attach my machine to the water-pipes anywhere and the
decomposition of the fluid begins, and you will have floods of light for
the mere cost of the machine. I've nearly got the lighting part, but I
want to attach to it a heating, cooking, washing and ironing apparatus.
It's going to be the great thing, but we'd better keep this appropriation
going while I am perfecting it."
Harry took letters to several congressmen from his uncle and from Mr.
Duff Brown, each of whom had an extensive acquaintance in both houses
where they were well known as men engaged in large private operations for
the public good and men, besides, who, in the slang of the day,
understood the virtues of "addition, division and silence."
Senator Dilworthy introduced the petition into the Senate with the remark
that he knew, personally, the signers of it, that they were men
interested; it was true, in the improvement of the country, but he
believed without any selfish motive, and that so far as he knew the
signers were loyal. It pleased him to see upon the roll the names of
many colored citizens, and it must rejoice every friend of humanity to
know that this lately emancipated race were intelligently taking part in
the development of the resources of their native land. He moved the
reference of the petition to the proper committee.
Senator Dilworthy introduced his young friend to influential members,
as a person who was very well informed about the Salt Lick Extension of
the Pacific, and was one of the Engineers who had made a careful survey
of Columbus River; and left him to exhibit his maps and plans and to show
the connection between the public treasury, the city of Napoleon and
legislation for the benefit off the whole country.
Harry was the guest of Senator Dilworthy. There was scarcely any good
movement in which the Senator was not interested. His house was open to
all the laborers in the field of total abstinence, and much of his time
was taken up in attending the meetings of this cause. He had a Bible
class in the Sunday school of the church which he attended, and he
suggested to Harry that he might take a class during the time he remained
in Washington, Mr. Washington Hawkins had a class. Harry asked the
Senator if there was a class of young ladies for him to teach, and after
that the Senator did not press the subject.
Philip, if the truth must be told, was not well satisfied with his
western prospects, nor altogether with the people he had fallen in with.
The railroad contractors held out large but rather indefinite promises.
Opportunities for a fortune he did not doubt existed in Missouri, but for
himself he saw no better means for livelihood than the mastery of the
profession he had rather thoughtlessly entered upon. During the summer
he had made considerable practical advance in the science of engineering;
he had been diligent, and made himself to a certain extent necessary to
the work he was engaged on. The contractors called him into their
consultations frequently, as to the character of the country he had been
over, and the cost of constructing the road, the nature of the work, etc.
Still Philip felt that if he was going to make either reputation or money
as an engineer, he had a great deal of hard study before him, and it is
to his credit that he did not shrink from it. While Harry was in
Washington dancing attendance upon the national legislature and making
the acquaintance of the vast lobby that encircled it, Philip devoted
himself day and night, with an energy and a concentration he was capable
of, to the learning and theory of his profession, and to the science of
railroad building. He wrote some papers at this time for the "Plow, the
Loom and the Anvil," upon the strength of materials, and especially upon
bridge-building, which attracted considerable attention, and were copied
into the English "Practical Magazine." They served at any rate to raise
Philip in the opinion of his friends the contractors, for practical men
have a certain superstitious estimation of ability with the pen, and
though they may a little despise the talent, they are quite ready to make
use of it.
Philip sent copies of his performances to Ruth's father and to other
gentlemen whose good opinion he coveted, but he did not rest upon his
laurels. Indeed, so diligently had he applied himself, that when it came
time for him to return to the West, he felt himself, at least in theory,
competent to take charge of a division in the field.
The capital of the Great Republic was a new world to country-bred
Washington Hawkins. St. Louis was a greater city, but its floating.
population did not hail from great distances, and so it had the general
family aspect of the permanent population; but Washington gathered its
people from the four winds of heaven, and so the manners, the faces and
the fashions there, presented a variety that was infinite. Washington
had never been in "society" in St. Louis, and he knew nothing of the ways
of its wealthier citizens and had never inspected one of their dwellings.
Consequently, everything in the nature of modern fashion and grandeur was
a new and wonderful revelation to him.
Washington is an interesting city to any of us. It seems to become more
and more interesting the oftener we visit it. Perhaps the reader has
never been there? Very well. You arrive either at night, rather too
late to do anything or see anything until morning, or you arrive so early
in the morning that you consider it best to go to your hotel and sleep an
hour or two while the sun bothers along over the Atlantic. You cannot
well arrive at a pleasant intermediate hour, because the railway
corporation that keeps the keys of the only door that leads into the town
or out of it take care of that. You arrive in tolerably good spirits,
because it is only thirty-eight miles from Baltimore to the capital, and
so you have only been insulted three times (provided you are not in a
sleeping car--the average is higher there): once when you renewed your
ticket after stopping over in Baltimore, once when you were about to
enter the "ladies' car" without knowing it was a lady's car, and once
When you asked the conductor at what hour you would reach Washington.
You are assailed by a long rank of hackmen who shake their whips in your
face as you step out upon the sidewalk; you enter what they regard as a
"carriage," in the capital, and you wonder why they do not take it out of
service and put it in the museum: we have few enough antiquities, and
it is little to our credit that we make scarcely any effort to preserve
the few we have. You reach your hotel, presently--and here let us draw
the curtain of charity--because of course you have gone to the wrong one.
You being a stranger, how could you do otherwise? There are a hundred
and eighteen bad hotels, and only one good one. The most renowned and
popular hotel of them all is perhaps the worst one known to history.
It is winter, and night. When you arrived, it was snowing. When you
reached the hotel, it was sleeting. When you went to bed, it was
raining. During the night it froze hard, and the wind blew some chimneys
down. When you got up in the morning, it was foggy. When you finished
your breakfast at ten o'clock and went out, the sunshine was brilliant,
the weather balmy and delicious, and the mud and slush deep and all-
pervading. You will like the climate when you get used to it.
You naturally wish to view the city; so you take an umbrella, an
overcoat, and a fan, and go forth. The prominent features you soon
locate and get familiar with; first you glimpse the ornamental upper
works of a long, snowy palace projecting above a grove of trees, and a
tall, graceful white dome with a statue on it surmounting the palace and
pleasantly contrasting with the background of blue sky. That building is
the capitol; gossips will tell you that by the original estimates it was
to cost $12,000,000, and that the government did come within $21,200,000
of building it for that sum.
You stand at the back of the capitol to treat yourself to a view, and it
is a very noble one. You understand, the capitol stands upon the verge
of a high piece of table land, a fine commanding position, and its front
looks out over this noble situation for a city--but it don't see it, for
the reason that when the capitol extension was decided upon, the property
owners at once advanced their prices to such inhuman figures that the
people went down and built the city in the muddy low marsh behind the
temple of liberty; so now the lordly front of the building, with, its
imposing colonades, its, projecting, graceful wings, its, picturesque
groups of statuary, and its long terraced ranges of steps, flowing down
in white marble waves to the ground, merely looks out upon a sorrowful
little desert of cheap boarding houses.
So you observe, that you take your view from the back of the capitol.
And yet not from the airy outlooks of the dome, by the way, because to
get there you must pass through the great rotunda: and to do that, you
would have to see the marvelous Historical Paintings that hang there,
and the bas-reliefs--and what have you done that you should suffer thus?
And besides, you might have to pass through the old part of the building,
and you could not help seeing Mr. Lincoln, as petrified by a young lady
artist for $10,000--and you might take his marble emancipation
proclamation, which he holds out in his hand and contemplates, for a
folded napkin; and you might conceive from his expression and his
attitude, that he is finding fault with the washing. Which is not the
case. Nobody knows what is the matter with him; but everybody feels for
him. Well, you ought not to go into the dome anyhow, because it would be
utterly impossible to go up there without seeing the frescoes in it--and
why should you be interested in the delirium tremens of art?
The capitol is a very noble and a very beautiful building, both within
and without, but you need not examine it now. Still, if you greatly
prefer going into the dome, go. Now your general glance gives you
picturesque stretches of gleaming water, on your left, with a sail here
and there and a lunatic asylum on shore; over beyond the water, on a
distant elevation, you see a squat yellow temple which your eye dwells
upon lovingly through a blur of unmanly moisture, for it recalls your
lost boyhood and the Parthenons done in molasses candy which made it
blest and beautiful. Still in the distance, but on this side of the
water and close to its edge, the Monument to the Father of his Country
towers out of the mud--sacred soil is the, customary term. It has the
aspect of a factory chimney with the top broken off. The skeleton of a
decaying scaffolding lingers about its summit, and tradition says that
the spirit of Washington often comes down and sits on those rafters to
enjoy this tribute of respect which the nation has reared as the symbol
of its unappeasable gratitude. The Monument is to be finished, some day,
and at that time our Washington will have risen still higher in the
nation's veneration, and will be known as the Great-Great-Grandfather of
his Country. The memorial Chimney stands in a quiet pastoral locality
that is full of reposeful expression. With a glass you can see the cow-
sheds about its base, and the contented sheep nimbling pebbles in the
desert solitudes that surround it, and the tired pigs dozing in the holy
calm of its protecting shadow.
Now you wrench your gaze loose, and you look down in front of you and see
the broad Pennsylvania Avenue stretching straight ahead for a mile or
more till it brings up against the iron fence in front of a pillared
granite pile, the Treasury building-an edifice that would command respect
in any capital. The stores and hotels that wall in this broad avenue are
mean, and cheap, and dingy, and are better left without comment. Beyond
the Treasury is a fine large white barn, with wide unhandsome grounds
about it. The President lives there. It is ugly enough outside, but
that is nothing to what it is inside. Dreariness, flimsiness, bad taste
reduced to mathematical completeness is what the inside offers to the
eye, if it remains yet what it always has been.
The front and right hand views give you the city at large. It is a wide
stretch of cheap little brick houses, with here and there a noble
architectural pile lifting itself out of the midst-government buildings,
these. If the thaw is still going on when you come down and go about
town, you will wonder at the short-sightedness of the city fathers, when
you come to inspect the streets, in that they do not dilute the mud a
little more and use them for canals.
If you inquire around a little, you will find that there are more
boardinghouses to the square acre in Washington than there are in any
other city in the land, perhaps. If you apply for a home in one of them,
it will seem odd to you to have the landlady inspect you with a severe
eye and then ask you if you are a member of Congress. Perhaps, just as a
pleasantry, you will say yes. And then she will tell you that she is
"full." Then you show her her advertisement in the morning paper, and
there she stands, convicted and ashamed. She will try to blush, and it
will be only polite in you to take the effort for the deed. She shows
you her rooms, now, and lets yon take one--but she makes you pay in
advance for it. That is what you will get for pretending to be a member
of Congress. If you had been content to be merely a private citizen,
your trunk would have been sufficient security for your board. If you
are curious and inquire into this thing, the chances are that your
landlady will be ill-natured enough to say that the person and property
of a Congressman are exempt from arrest or detention, and that with the
tears in her eyes she has seen several of the people's representatives
walk off to their several States and Territories carrying her unreceipted
board bills in their pockets for keepsakes. And before you have been in
Washington many weeks you will be mean enough to believe her, too.
Of course you contrive to see everything and find out everything. And
one of the first and most startling things you find out is, that every
individual you encounter in the City of Washington almost--and certainly
every separate and distinct individual in the public employment, from the
highest bureau chief, clear down to the maid who scrubs Department halls,
the night watchmen of the public buildings and the darkey boy who
purifies the Department spittoons--represents Political Influence.
Unless you can get the ear of a Senator, or a Congressman, or a Chief of
a Bureau or Department, and persuade him to use his "influence" in your
behalf, you cannot get an employment of the most trivial nature in
Washington. Mere merit, fitness and capability, are useless baggage to
you without "influence." The population of Washington consists pretty
much entirely of government employee and the people who board them.
There are thousands of these employees, and they have gathered there from
every corner of the Union and got their berths through the intercession
(command is nearer the word) of the Senators and Representatives of their
respective States. It would be an odd circumstance to see a girl get
employment at three or four dollars a week in one of the great public
cribs without any political grandee to back her, but merely because she
was worthy, and competent, and a good citizen of a free country that
"treats all persons alike." Washington would be mildly thunderstruck at
such a thing as that. If you are a member of Congress, (no offence,) and
one of your constituents who doesn't know anything, and does not want to
go into the bother of learning something, and has no money, and no
employment, and can't earn a living, comes besieging you for help, do you
say, "Come, my friend, if your services were valuable you could get
employment elsewhere--don't want you here? "Oh, no: You take him to a
Department and say, "Here, give this person something to pass away the
time at--and a salary"--and the thing is done. You throw him on his
country. He is his country's child, let his country support him. There
is something good and motherly about Washington, the grand old benevolent
National Asylum for the Helpless.
The wages received by this great hive of employees are placed at the
liberal figure meet and just for skilled and competent labor. Such of
them as are immediately employed about the two Houses of Congress, are
not only liberally paid also, but are remembered in the customary Extra
Compensation bill which slides neatly through, annually, with the general
grab that signalizes the last night of a session, and thus twenty per
cent. is added to their wages, for--for fun, no doubt.
Washington Hawkins' new life was an unceasing delight to him. Senator
Dilworthy lived sumptuously, and Washington's quarters were charming--
gas; running water, hot and cold; bath-room, coal-fires, rich carpets,
beautiful pictures on the walls; books on religion, temperance, public
charities and financial schemes; trim colored servants, dainty food--
everything a body could wish for. And as for stationery, there was no
end to it; the government furnished it; postage stamps were not needed--
the Senator's frank could convey a horse through the mails, if necessary.
And then he saw such dazzling company. Renowned generals and admirals
who had seemed but colossal myths when he was in the far west, went in
and out before him or sat at the Senator's table, solidified into
palpable flesh and blood; famous statesmen crossed his path daily; that
once rare and awe-inspiring being, a Congressman, was become a common
spectacle--a spectacle so common, indeed, that he could contemplate it
without excitement, even without embarrassment; foreign ministers were
visible to the naked eye at happy intervals; he had looked upon the
President himself, and lived. And more; this world of enchantment teemed
with speculation--the whole atmosphere was thick with hand that indeed
was Washington Hawkins' native air; none other refreshed his lungs so
gratefully. He had found paradise at last.
The more he saw of his chief the Senator, the more he honored him, and
the more conspicuously the moral grandeur of his character appeared to
stand out. To possess the friendship and the kindly interest of such a
man, Washington said in a letter to Louise, was a happy fortune for a
young man whose career had been so impeded and so clouded as his.
The weeks drifted by;--Harry Brierly flirted, danced, added lustre to the
brilliant Senatorial receptions, and diligently "buzzed" and "button-
holed" Congressmen in the interest of the Columbus River scheme; meantime
Senator Dilworthy labored hard in the same interest--and in others of
equal national importance. Harry wrote frequently to Sellers, and always
encouragingly; and from these letters it was easy to see that Harry was a
pet with all Washington, and was likely to carry the thing through; that
the assistance rendered him by "old Dilworthy" was pretty fair--pretty
fair; "and every little helps, you know," said Harry.
Washington wrote Sellers officially, now and then. In one of his letters
it appeared that whereas no member of the House committee favored the
scheme at first, there was now needed but one more vote to compass a
majority report. Closing sentence:
"Providence seems to further our efforts."
(Signed,) "ABNER DILWORTHY, U. S. S.,
per WASHINGTON HAWKINS, P. S."
At the end of a week, Washington was able to send the happy news,
officially, as usual,--that the needed vote had been added and the bill
favorably reported from the Committee. Other letters recorded its perils
in Committee of the whole, and by and by its victory, by just the skin of
its teeth, on third reading and final passage. Then came letters telling
of Mr. Dilworthy's struggles with a stubborn majority in his own
Committee in the Senate; of how these gentlemen succumbed, one by one,
till a majority was secured.
Then there was a hiatus. Washington watched every move on the board, and
he was in a good position to do this, for he was clerk of this committee,
and also one other. He received no salary as private secretary, but
these two clerkships, procured by his benefactor, paid him an aggregate
of twelve dollars a day, without counting the twenty percent extra
compensation which would of course be voted to him on the last night of
He saw the bill go into Committee of the whole and struggle for its life
again, and finally worry through. In the fullness of time he noted its
second reading, and by and by the day arrived when the grand ordeal came,
and it was put upon its final passage. Washington listened with bated
breath to the "Aye!" "No!" "No!" "Aye!" of the voters, for a few dread
minutes, and then could bear the suspense no longer. He ran down from
the gallery and hurried home to wait.
At the end of two or three hours the Senator arrived in the bosom of his
family, and dinner was waiting. Washington sprang forward, with the
eager question on his lips, and the Senator said:
"We may rejoice freely, now, my son--Providence has crowned our efforts
Washington sent grand good news to Col. Sellers that night. To Louise he
"It is beautiful to hear him talk when his heart is full of thankfulness
for some manifestation of the Divine favor. You shall know him, some day
my Louise, and knowing him you will honor him, as I do."
"I pulled it through, Colonel, but it was a tough job, there is no
question about that. There was not a friend to the measure in the House
committee when I began, and not a friend in the Senate committee except
old Dil himself, but they were all fixed for a majority report when I
hauled off my forces. Everybody here says you can't get a thing like
this through Congress without buying committees for straight-out cash on
delivery, but I think I've taught them a thing or two--if I could only
make them believe it. When I tell the old residenters that this thing
went through without buying a vote or making a promise, they say, 'That's
rather too thin.' And when I say thin or not thin it's a fact, anyway,
they say, 'Come, now, but do you really believe that?' and when I say I
don't believe anything about it, I know it, they smile and say, 'Well,
you are pretty innocent, or pretty blind, one or the other--there's no
getting around that.' Why they really do believe that votes have been
bought--they do indeed. But let them keep on thinking so. I have found
out that if a man knows how to talk to women, and has a little gift in
the way of argument with men, he can afford to play for an appropriation
against a money bag and give the money bag odds in the game. We've raked
in $200,000 of Uncle Sam's money, say what they will--and there is more
where this came from, when we want it, and I rather fancy I am the person
that can go in and occupy it, too, if I do say it myself, that shouldn't,
perhaps. I'll be with you within a week. Scare up all the men you can,
and put them to work at once. When I get there I propose to make things
hum." The great news lifted Sellers into the clouds. He went to work on
the instant. He flew hither and thither making contracts, engaging men,
and steeping his soul in the ecstasies of business. He was the happiest
man in Missouri. And Louise was the happiest woman; for presently came a
letter from Washington which said:
"Rejoice with me, for the long agony is over! We have waited patiently
and faithfully, all these years, and now at last the reward is at hand.
A man is to pay our family $40,000 for the Tennessee Land! It is but a
little sum compared to what we could get by waiting, but I do so long to
see the day when I can call you my own, that I have said to myself,
better take this and enjoy life in a humble way than wear out our best
days in this miserable separation. Besides, I can put this money into
operations here that will increase it a hundred fold, yes, a thousand
fold, in a few months. The air is full of such chances, and I know our
family would consent in a moment that I should put in their shares with
mine. Without a doubt we shall be worth half a million dollars in a year
from this time--I put it at the very lowest figure, because it is always
best to be on the safe side--half a million at the very lowest
calculation, and then your father will give his consent and we can marry
at last. Oh, that will be a glorious day. Tell our friends the good
news--I want all to share it."
And she did tell her father and mother, but they said, let it be kept
still for the present. The careful father also told her to write
Washington and warn him not to speculate with the money, but to wait a
little and advise with one or two wise old heads. She did this. And she
managed to keep the good news to herself, though it would seem that the
most careless observer might have seen by her springing step and her
radiant countenance that some fine piece of good fortune had descended
Harry joined the Colonel at Stone's Landing, and that dead place sprang
into sudden life. A swarm of men were hard at work, and the dull air was
filled with the cheery music of labor. Harry had been constituted
engineer-in-general, and he threw the full strength of his powers into
his work. He moved among his hirelings like a king. Authority seemed to
invest him with a new splendor. Col. Sellers, as general superintendent
of a great public enterprise, was all that a mere human being could be--
and more. These two grandees went at their imposing "improvement" with
the air of men who had been charged with the work of altering the
foundations of the globe.
They turned their first attention to straightening the river just above
the Landing, where it made a deep bend, and where the maps and plans
showed that the process of straightening would not only shorten distance
but increase the "fall." They started a cut-off canal across the
peninsula formed by the bend, and such another tearing up of the earth
and slopping around in the mud as followed the order to the men, had
never been seen in that region before. There was such a panic among the
turtles that at the end of six hours there was not one to be found within
three miles of Stone's Landing. They took the young and the aged, the
decrepit and the sick upon their backs and left for tide-water in
disorderly procession, the tadpoles following and the bull-frogs bringing
up the rear.
Saturday night came, but the men were obliged to wait, because the
appropriation had not come. Harry said he had written to hurry up the
money and it would be along presently. So the work continued, on Monday.
Stone's Landing was making quite a stir in the vicinity, by this time.
Sellers threw a lot or two on the market, "as a feeler," and they sold
well. He re-clothed his family, laid in a good stock of provisions, and
still had money left. He started a bank account, in a small way--and
mentioned the deposit casually to friends; and to strangers, too; to
everybody, in fact; but not as a new thing--on the contrary, as a matter
of life-long standing. He could not keep from buying trifles every day
that were not wholly necessary, it was such a gaudy thing to get out his
bank-book and draw a check, instead of using his old customary formula,
"Charge it" Harry sold a lot or two, also--and had a dinner party or two
at Hawkeye and a general good time with the money. Both men held on
pretty strenuously for the coming big prices, however.
At the end of a month things were looking bad. Harry had besieged the
New York headquarters of the Columbus River Slack-water Navigation
Company with demands, then commands, and finally appeals, but to no
purpose; the appropriation did not come; the letters were not even
answered. The workmen were clamorous, now. The Colonel and Harry
retired to consult.
"What's to be done?" said the Colonel.
"Hang'd if I know."
"Company say anything?"
"Not a word."
"You telegraphed yesterday?"
Yes, and the day before, too."
Then there was a long pause. Finally both spoke at once:
"I've got it!"
"I've got it!"
"What's yours?" said Harry.
"Give the boys thirty-day orders on the Company for the back pay."
"That's it-that's my own idea to a dot. But then--but then----"
"Yes, I know," said the Colonel; "I know they can't wait for the orders
to go to New York and be cashed, but what's the reason they can't get
them discounted in Hawkeye?"
"Of course they can. That solves the difficulty. Everybody knows the
appropriation's been made and the Company's perfectly good."
So the orders were given and the men appeased, though they grumbled a
little at first. The orders went well enough for groceries and such
things at a fair discount, and the work danced along gaily for a time.
Two or three purchasers put up frame houses at the Landing and moved in,
and of course a far-sighted but easy-going journeyman printer wandered
along and started the "Napoleon Weekly Telegraph and Literary
Repository"--a paper with a Latin motto from the Unabridged dictionary,
and plenty of "fat" conversational tales and double-leaded poetry--all
for two dollars a year, strictly in advance. Of course the merchants
forwarded the orders at once to New York--and never heard of them again.
At the end of some weeks Harry's orders were a drug in the market--nobody
would take them at any discount whatever. The second month closed with a
riot.--Sellers was absent at the time, and Harry began an active absence
himself with the mob at his heels. But being on horseback, he had the
advantage. He did not tarry in Hawkeye, but went on, thus missing
several appointments with creditors. He was far on his flight eastward,
and well out of danger when the next morning dawned. He telegraphed the
Colonel to go down and quiet the laborers--he was bound east for money--
everything would be right in a week--tell the men so--tell them to rely
on him and not be afraid.
Sellers found the mob quiet enough when he reached the Landing.
They had gutted the Navigation office, then piled the beautiful engraved
stock-books and things in the middle of the floor and enjoyed the bonfire
while it lasted. They had a liking for the Colonel, but still they had
some idea of hanging him, as a sort of make-shift that might answer,
after a fashion, in place of more satisfactory game.
But they made the mistake of waiting to hear what he had to say first.
Within fifteen minutes his tongue had done its work and they were all
rich men.--He gave every one of them a lot in the suburbs of the city of
Stone's Landing, within a mile and a half of the future post office and
railway station, and they promised to resume work as soon as Harry got
east and started the money along. Now things were blooming and pleasant
again, but the men had no money, and nothing to live on. The Colonel
divided with them the money he still had in bank--an act which had
nothing surprising about it because he was generally ready to divide
whatever he had with anybody that wanted it, and it was owing to this
very trait that his family spent their days in poverty and at times were
pinched with famine.
When the men's minds had cooled and Sellers was gone, they hated
themselves for letting him beguile them with fine speeches, but it was
too late, now--they agreed to hang him another time--such time as
Providence should appoint.
Rumors of Ruth's frivolity and worldliness at Fallkill traveled to
Philadelphia in due time, and occasioned no little undertalk among the
Hannah Shoecraft told another, cousin that, for her part, she never
believed that Ruth had so much more "mind" than other people; and Cousin
Hulda added that she always thought Ruth was fond of admiration, and that
was the reason she was unwilling to wear plain clothes and attend
Meeting. The story that Ruth was "engaged" to a young gentleman of
fortune in Fallkill came with the other news, and helped to give point to
the little satirical remarks that went round about Ruth's desire to be a
Margaret Bolton was too wise to be either surprised or alarmed by these
rumors. They might be true; she knew a woman's nature too well to think
them improbable, but she also knew how steadfast Ruth was in her
purposes, and that, as a brook breaks into ripples and eddies and dances
and sports by the way, and yet keeps on to the sea, it was in Ruth's
nature to give back cheerful answer to the solicitations of friendliness
and pleasure, to appear idly delaying even, and sporting in the sunshine,
while the current of her resolution flowed steadily on.
That Ruth had this delight in the mere surface play of life that she
could, for instance, be interested in that somewhat serious by-play
called "flirtation," or take any delight in the exercise of those little
arts of pleasing and winning which are none the less genuine and charming
because they are not intellectual, Ruth, herself, had never suspected
until she went to Fallkill. She had believed it her duty to subdue her
gaiety of temperament, and let nothing divert her from what are called
serious pursuits: In her limited experience she brought everything to the
judgment of her own conscience, and settled the affairs of all the world
in her own serene judgment hall. Perhaps her mother saw this, and saw
also that there was nothing in the Friends' society to prevent her from
growing more and more opinionated.
When Ruth returned to Philadelphia, it must be confessed--though it would
not have been by her--that a medical career did seem a little less
necessary for her than formerly; and coming back in a glow of triumph, as
it were, and in the consciousness of the freedom and life in a lively
society and in new and sympathetic friendship, she anticipated pleasure
in an attempt to break up the stiffness and levelness of the society at
home, and infusing into it something of the motion and sparkle which were
so agreeable at Fallkill. She expected visits from her new friends, she
would have company, the new books and the periodicals about which all the
world was talking, and, in short, she would have life.
For a little while she lived in this atmosphere which she had brought
with her. Her mother was delighted with this change in her, with the
improvement in her health and the interest she exhibited in home affairs.
Her father enjoyed the society of his favorite daughter as he did few
things besides; he liked her mirthful and teasing ways, and not less a
keen battle over something she had read. He had been a great reader all
his life, and a remarkable memory had stored his mind with encyclopaedic
information. It was one of Ruth's delights to cram herself with some out
of the way subject and endeavor to catch her father; but she almost
always failed. Mr. Bolton liked company, a house full of it, and the
mirth of young people, and he would have willingly entered into any
revolutionary plans Ruth might have suggested in relation to Friends'
But custom and the fixed order are stronger than the most enthusiastic
and rebellious young lady, as Ruth very soon found. In spite of all her
brave efforts, her frequent correspondence, and her determined animation,
her books and her music, she found herself settling into the clutches of
the old monotony, and as she realized the hopelessness of her endeavors,
the medical scheme took new hold of her, and seemed to her the only
method of escape.
"Mother, thee does not know how different it is in Fallkill, how much
more interesting the people are one meets, how much more life there is."
"But thee will find the world, child, pretty much all the same, when thee
knows it better. I thought once as thee does now, and had as little
thought of being a Friend as thee has. Perhaps when thee has seen more,
thee will better appreciate a quiet life."
"Thee married young. I shall not marry young, and perhaps not at all,"
said Ruth, with a look of vast experience.
"Perhaps thee doesn't know thee own mind; I have known persons of thy
age who did not. Did thee see anybody whom thee would like to live with
always in Fallkill?"
"Not always," replied Ruth with a little laugh. "Mother, I think I
wouldn't say 'always' to any one until I have a profession and am as
independent as he is. Then my love would be a free act, and not in any
way a necessity."
Margaret Bolton smiled at this new-fangled philosophy. "Thee will find
that love, Ruth, is a thing thee won't reason about, when it comes, nor
make any bargains about. Thee wrote that Philip Sterling was at
"Yes, and Henry Brierly, a friend of his; a very amusing young fellow and
not so serious-minded as Philip, but a bit of a fop maybe."
"And thee preferred the fop to the serious-minded?"
"I didn't prefer anybody; but Henry Brierly was good company, which
Philip wasn't always."
"Did thee know thee father had been in correspondence with Philip?"
Ruth looked up surprised and with a plain question in her eyes.
"Oh, it's not about thee."
"What then?" and if there was any shade of disappointment in her tone,
probably Ruth herself did not know it.
"It's about some land up in the country. That man Bigler has got father
into another speculation."
"That odious man! Why will father have anything to do with him? Is it
"Yes. Father advanced money and took land as security, and whatever has
gone with the money and the bonds, he has on his hands a large tract of
"And what has Philip to do with that?"
"It has good timber, if it could ever be got out, and father says that
there must be coal in it; it's in a coal region. He wants Philip to
survey it, and examine it for indications of coal."
"It's another of father's fortunes, I suppose," said Ruth. "He has put
away so many fortunes for us that I'm afraid we never shall find them."
Ruth was interested in it nevertheless, and perhaps mainly because Philip
was to be connected with the enterprise. Mr. Bigler came to dinner with
her father next day, and talked a great deal about Mr. Bolton's
magnificent tract of land, extolled the sagacity that led him to secure
such a property, and led the talk along to another railroad which would
open a northern communication to this very land.
"Pennybacker says it's full of coal, he's no doubt of it, and a railroad
to strike the Erie would make it a fortune."
"Suppose you take the land and work the thing up, Mr. Bigler; you may
have the tract for three dollars an acre."
"You'd throw it away, then," replied Mr. Bigler, "and I'm not the man to
take advantage of a friend. But if you'll put a mortgage on it for the
northern road, I wouldn't mind taking an interest, if Pennybacker is
willing; but Pennybacker, you know, don't go much on land, he sticks to
the legislature." And Mr. Bigler laughed.
When Mr. Bigler had gone, Ruth asked her father about Philip's connection
with the land scheme.
"There's nothing definite," said Mr. Bolton. "Philip is showing aptitude
for his profession. I hear the best reports of him in New York, though
those sharpers don't 'intend to do anything but use him. I've written
and offered him employment in surveying and examining the land. We want
to know what it is. And if there is anything in it that his enterprise
can dig out, he shall have an interest. I should be glad to give the
young fellow a lift."
All his life Eli Bolton had been giving young fellows a lift, and
shouldering the loses when things turned out unfortunately. His ledger,
take-it-altogether, would not show a balance on the right side; but
perhaps the losses on his books will turn out to be credits in a world
where accounts are kept on a different basis. The left hand of the
ledger will appear the right, looked at from the other side.
Philip, wrote to Ruth rather a comical account of the bursting up of the
city of Napoleon and the navigation improvement scheme, of Harry's flight
and the Colonel's discomfiture. Harry left in such a hurry that he
hadn't even time to bid Miss Laura Hawkins good-bye, but he had no doubt
that Harry would console himself with the next pretty face he saw--
a remark which was thrown in for Ruth's benefit. Col. Sellers had in all
probability, by this time, some other equally brilliant speculation in
As to the railroad, Philip had made up his mind that it was merely kept
on foot for speculative purposes in Wall street, and he was about to quit
it. Would Ruth be glad to hear, he wondered, that he was coming East?
For he was coming, in spite of a letter from Harry in New York, advising
him to hold on until he had made some arrangements in regard to
contracts, he to be a little careful about Sellers, who was somewhat
visionary, Harry said.
The summer went on without much excitement for Ruth. She kept up a
correspondence with Alice, who promised a visit in the fall, she read,
she earnestly tried to interest herself in home affairs and such people
as came to the house; but she found herself falling more and more into
reveries, and growing weary of things as they were. She felt that
everybody might become in time like two relatives from a Shaker
establishment in Ohio, who visited the Boltons about this time, a father
and son, clad exactly alike, and alike in manners. The son; however,
who was not of age, was more unworldly and sanctimonious than his father;
he always addressed his parent as "Brother Plum," and bore himself,
altogether in such a superior manner that Ruth longed to put bent pins in
his chair. Both father and son wore the long, single breasted collarless
coats of their society, without buttons, before or behind, but with a row
of hooks and eyes on either side in front. It was Ruth's suggestion that
the coats would be improved by a single hook and eye sewed on in the
small of the back where the buttons usually are.
Amusing as this Shaker caricature of the Friends was, it oppressed Ruth
beyond measure; and increased her feeling of being stifled.
It was a most unreasonable feeling. No home could be pleasanter than
Ruth's. The house, a little out of the city; was one of those elegant
country residences which so much charm visitors to the suburbs of
Philadelphia. A modern dwelling and luxurious in everything that wealth
could suggest for comfort, it stood in the midst of exquisitely kept
lawns, with groups of trees, parterres of flowers massed in colors, with
greenhouse, grapery and garden; and on one side, the garden sloped away
in undulations to a shallow brook that ran over a pebbly bottom and sang
under forest trees. The country about teas the perfection of cultivated
landscape, dotted with cottages, and stately mansions of Revolutionary
date, and sweet as an English country-side, whether seen in the soft
bloom of May or in the mellow ripeness of late October.
It needed only the peace of the mind within, to make it a paradise.
One riding by on the Old Germantown road, and seeing a young girl
swinging in the hammock on the piazza and, intent upon some volume of old
poetry or the latest novel, would no doubt have envied a life so idyllic.
He could not have imagined that the young girl was reading a volume of
reports of clinics and longing to be elsewhere.
Ruth could not have been more discontented if all the wealth about her
had been as unsubstantial as a dream. Perhaps she so thought it.
"I feel," she once said to her father, "as if I were living in a house of
"And thee would like to turn it into a hospital?"
"No. But tell me father," continued Ruth, not to be put off, "is thee
still going on with that Bigler and those other men who come here and
Mr. Bolton smiled, as men do when they talk with women about "business"
"Such men have their uses, Ruth. They keep the world active, and I owe a
great many of my best operations to such men. Who knows, Ruth, but this
new land purchase, which I confess I yielded a little too much to Bigler
in, may not turn out a fortune for thee and the rest of the children?"
"Ah, father, thee sees every thing in a rose-colored light. I do believe
thee wouldn't have so readily allowed me to begin the study of medicine,
if it hadn't had the novelty of an experiment to thee."
"And is thee satisfied with it?"
"If thee means, if I have had enough of it, no. I just begin to see what
I can do in it, and what a noble profession it is for a woman. Would
thee have me sit here like a bird on a bough and wait for somebody to
come and put me in a cage?"
Mr. Bolton was not sorry to divert the talk from his own affairs, and he
did not think it worth while to tell his family of a performance that
very day which was entirely characteristic of him.
Ruth might well say that she felt as if she were living in a house of
cards, although the Bolton household had no idea of the number of perils
that hovered over them, any more than thousands of families in America
have of the business risks and contingences upon which their prosperity
and luxury hang.
A sudden call upon Mr. Bolton for a large sum of money, which must be
forthcoming at once, had found him in the midst of a dozen ventures, from
no one of which a dollar could be realized. It was in vain that he
applied to his business acquaintances and friends; it was a period of
sudden panic and no money. "A hundred thousand! Mr. Bolton," said
Plumly. "Good God, if you should ask me for ten, I shouldn't know where
to get it."
And yet that day Mr. Small (Pennybacker, Bigler and Small) came to Mr.
Bolton with a piteous story of ruin in a coal operation, if he could not
raise ten thousand dollars. Only ten, and he was sure of a fortune.
Without it he was a beggar. Mr. Bolton had already Small's notes for a
large amount in his safe, labeled "doubtful;" he had helped him again and
again, and always with the same result. But Mr. Small spoke with a
faltering voice of his family, his daughter in school, his wife ignorant
of his calamity, and drew such a picture of their agony, that Mr. Bolton
put by his own more pressing necessity, and devoted the day to scraping
together, here and there, ten thousand dollars for this brazen beggar,
who had never kept a promise to him nor paid a debt.
Beautiful credit! The foundation of modern society. Who shall say that
this is not the golden age of mutual trust, of unlimited reliance upon
human promises? That is a peculiar condition of society which enables a
whole nation to instantly recognize point and meaning in the familiar
newspaper anecdote, which puts into the mouth of a distinguished
speculator in lands and mines this remark:--"I wasn't worth a cent two
years ago, and now I owe two millions of dollars."
It was a hard blow to poor Sellers to see the work on his darling
enterprise stop, and the noise and bustle and confusion that had been
such refreshment to his soul, sicken and die out. It was hard to come
down to humdrum ordinary life again after being a General Superintendent
and the most conspicuous man in the community. It was sad to see his
name disappear from the newspapers; sadder still to see it resurrected at
intervals, shorn of its aforetime gaudy gear of compliments and clothed
on with rhetorical tar and feathers.
But his friends suffered more on his account than he did. He was a cork
that could not be kept under the water many moments at a time.
He had to bolster up his wife's spirits every now and then. On one of
these occasions he said:
"It's all right, my dear, all right; it will all come right in a little
while. There's $200,000 coming, and that will set things booming again:
Harry seems to be having some difficulty, but that's to be expected--you
can't move these big operations to the tune of Fisher's Hornpipe, you
know. But Harry will get it started along presently, and then you'll
see! I expect the news every day now."
"But Beriah, you've been expecting it every day, all along, haven't you?"
"Well, yes; yes--I don't know but I have. But anyway, the longer it's
delayed, the nearer it grows to the time when it will start--same as
every day you live brings you nearer to--nearer--"
"Well, no--not that exactly; but you can't understand these things, Polly
dear--women haven't much head for business, you know. You make yourself
perfectly comfortable, old lady, and you'll see how we'll trot this right
along. Why bless you, let the appropriation lag, if it wants to--that's
no great matter--there's a bigger thing than that."
"Bigger than $200,000, Beriah?"
"Bigger, child?--why, what's $200,000? Pocket money! Mere pocket money!
Look at the railroad! Did you forget the railroad? It ain't many months
till spring; it will be coming right along, and the railroad swimming
right along behind it. Where'll it be by the middle of summer? Just
stop and fancy a moment--just think a little--don't anything suggest
itself? Bless your heart, you dear women live right in the present all
the time--but a man, why a man lives----
"In the future, Beriah? But don't we live in the future most too much,
Beriah? We do somehow seem to manage to live on next year's crop of corn
and potatoes as a general thing while this year is still dragging along,
but sometimes it's not a robust diet,--Beriah. But don't look that way,
dear--don't mind what I say. I don't mean to fret, I don't mean to
worry; and I don't, once a month, do I, dear? But when I get a little
low and feel bad, I get a bit troubled and worrisome, but it don't mean
anything in the world. It passes right away. I know you're doing all
you can, and I don't want to seem repining and ungrateful--for I'm not,
Beriah--you know I'm not, don't you?"
"Lord bless you, child, I know you are the very best little woman that
ever lived--that ever lived on the whole face of the Earth! And I know
that I would be a dog not to work for you and think for you and scheme
for you with all my might. And I'll bring things all right yet, honey--
cheer up and don't you fear. The railroad----"
"Oh, I had forgotten the railroad, dear, but when a body gets blue, a
body forgets everything. Yes, the railroad--tell me about the railroad."
"Aha, my girl, don't you see? Things ain't so dark, are they? Now I
didn't forget the railroad. Now just think for a moment--just figure up
a little on the future dead moral certainties. For instance, call this
waiter St. Louis.
"And we'll lay this fork (representing the railroad) from St. Louis to
this potato, which is Slouchburg:
"Then with this carving knife we'll continue the railroad from Slouchburg
to Doodleville, shown by the black pepper:
"Then we run along the--yes--the comb--to the tumbler that's Brimstone:
"Thence by the pipe to Belshazzar, which is the salt-cellar:
"Thence to, to--that quill--Catfish--hand me the pincushion, Marie
"Thence right along these shears to this horse, Babylon:
"Then by the spoon to Bloody Run--thank you, the ink:
"Thence to Hail Columbia--snuffers, Polly, please move that cup and
saucer close up, that's Hail Columbia:
"Then--let me open my knife--to Hark-from-the-Tomb, where we'll put the
candle-stick--only a little distance from Hail Columbia to Hark-from-the-
Tomb--down-grade all the way.
"And there we strike Columbus River--pass me two or throe skeins of
thread to stand for the river; the sugar bowl will do for Hawkeye, and
the rat trap for Stone's Landing-Napoleon, I mean--and you can see how
much better Napoleon is located than Hawkeye. Now here you are with your
railroad complete, and showing its continuation to Hallelujah and thence
"Now then-them you are! It's a beautiful road, beautiful. Jeff Thompson
can out-engineer any civil engineer that ever sighted through an aneroid,
or a theodolite, or whatever they call it--he calls it sometimes one and
sometimes the other just whichever levels off his sentence neatest, I
reckon. But ain't it a ripping toad, though? I tell you, it'll make a
stir when it gets along. Just see what a country it goes through.
There's your onions at Slouchburg--noblest onion country that graces
God's footstool; and there's your turnip country all around Doodleville--
bless my life, what fortunes are going to be made there when they get
that contrivance perfected for extracting olive oil out of turnips--if
there's any in them; and I reckon there is, because Congress has made an
appropriation of money to test the thing, and they wouldn't have done
that just on conjecture, of course. And now we come to the Brimstone
region--cattle raised there till you can't rest--and corn, and all that
sort of thing. Then you've got a little stretch along through Belshazzar
that don't produce anything now--at least nothing but rocks--but
irrigation will fetch it. Then from Catfish to Babylon it's a little
swampy, but there's dead loads of peat down under there somewhere. Next
is the Bloody Run and Hail Columbia country--tobacco enough can be raised
there to support two such railroads. Next is the sassparilla region.
I reckon there's enough of that truck along in there on the line of the
pocket-knife, from Hail Columbia to Hark-from-the Tomb to fat up all the
consumptives in all the hospitals from Halifax to the Holy Land. It just
grows like weeds! I've got a little belt of sassparilla land in there
just tucked away unobstrusively waiting for my little Universal
Expectorant to get into shape in my head. And I'll fix that, you know.
One of these days I'll have all the nations of the earth expecto--"
"But Beriah, dear--"
"Don't interrupt me; Polly--I don't want you to lose the run of the map--
well, take your toy-horse, James Fitz-James, if you must have it--and run
along with you. Here, now--the soap will do for Babylon. Let me see--
where was I? Oh yes--now we run down to Stone's Lan--Napoleon--now we
run down to Napoleon. Beautiful road. Look at that, now. Perfectly
straight line-straight as the way to the grave. And see where it leaves
Hawkeye-clear out in the cold, my dear, clear out in the cold. That
town's as bound to die as--well if I owned it I'd get its obituary ready,
now, and notify the mourners. Polly, mark my words--in three years from
this, Hawkeye'll be a howling wilderness. You'll see. And just look at
that river--noblest stream that meanders over the thirsty earth!--
calmest, gentlest artery that refreshes her weary bosom! Railroad goes
all over it and all through it--wades right along on stilts. Seventeen
bridges in three miles and a half-forty-nine bridges from Hark-from-the-
Tomb to Stone's Landing altogether--forty nine bridges, and culverts
enough to culvert creation itself! Hadn't skeins of thread enough to
represent them all--but you get an idea--perfect trestle-work of bridges
for seventy two miles: Jeff Thompson and I fixed all that, you know; he's
to get the contracts and I'm to put them through on the divide. Just
oceans of money in those bridges. It's the only part of the railroad I'm
interested in,--down along the line--and it's all I want, too. It's
enough, I should judge. Now here we are at Napoleon. Good enough country
plenty good enough--all it wants is population. That's all right--that
will come. And it's no bad country now for calmness and solitude, I can
tell you--though there's no money in that, of course. No money, but a
man wants rest, a man wants peace--a man don't want to rip and tear
around all the time. And here we go, now, just as straight as a string
for Hallelujah--it's a beautiful angle--handsome up grade all the way--
and then away you go to Corruptionville, the gaudiest country for early
carrots and cauliflowers that ever--good missionary field, too. There
ain't such another missionary field outside the jungles of Central
Africa. And patriotic?--why they named it after Congress itself. Oh,
I warn you, my dear, there's a good time coming, and it'll be right along
before you know what you're about, too. That railroad's fetching it.
You see what it is as far as I've got, and if I had enough bottles and
soap and boot-jacks and such things to carry it along to where it joins
onto the Union Pacific, fourteen hundred miles from here, I should
exhibit to you in that little internal improvement a spectacle of
inconceivable sublimity. So, don't you see? We've got the rail road to
fall back on; and in the meantime, what are we worrying about that
$200,000 appropriation for? That's all right. I'd be willing to bet
anything that the very next letter that comes from Harry will--"
The eldest boy entered just in the nick of time and brought a letter,
warm from the post-office.
"Things do look bright, after all, Beriah. I'm sorry I was blue, but it
did seem as if everything had been going against us for whole ages. Open
the letter--open it quick, and let's know all about it before we stir out
of our places. I am all in a fidget to know what it says."
The letter was opened, without any unnecessary delay.
Whatever may have been the language of Harry's letter to the Colonel,
the information it conveyed wars condensed or expanded, one or the other,
from the following episode of his visit to New York:
He called, with official importance in his mien, at No.--Wall street,
where a great gilt sign betokened the presence of the head-quarters of
the a Columbus River Slack-Water Navigation Company." He entered and
gave a dressy porter his card, and was requested to wait a moment in a
sort of ante-room. The porter returned in a minute; and asked whom he
would like to see?
"The president of the company, of course."
"He is busy with some gentlemen, sir; says he will be done with them
That a copper-plate card with "Engineer-in-Chief" on it should be
received with such tranquility as this, annoyed Mr. Brierly not a little.
But he had to submit. Indeed his annoyance had time to augment a good
deal; for he was allowed to cool his heels a frill half hour in the ante-
room before those gentlemen emerged and he was ushered into the presence.
He found a stately dignitary occupying a very official chair behind a
long green morocco-covered table, in a room with sumptuously carpeted and
furnished, and well garnished with pictures.
"Good morning, sir; take a seat--take a seat."
"Thank you sir," said Harry, throwing as much chill into his manner as
his ruffled dignity prompted.
"We perceive by your reports and the reports of the Chief Superintendent,
that you have been making gratifying progress with the work.--We are all
very much pleased."
"Indeed? We did not discover it from your letters--which we have not
received; nor by the treatment our drafts have met with--which were not
honored; nor by the reception of any part of the appropriation, no part
of it having come to hand."
"Why, my dear Mr. Brierly, there must be some mistake, I am sure we wrote
you and also Mr. Sellers, recently--when my clerk comes he will show
copies--letters informing you of the ten per cent. assessment."
"Oh, certainly, we got those letters. But what we wanted was money to
carry on the work--money to pay the men."
"Certainly, certainly--true enough--but we credited you both for a large
part of your assessments--I am sure that was in our letters."
"Of course that was in--I remember that."
"Ah, very well then. Now we begin to understand each other."
"Well, I don't see that we do. There's two months' wages due the men,
"How? Haven't you paid the men?"
"Paid them! How are we going to pay them when you don't honor our
"Why, my dear sir, I cannot see how you can find any fault with us. I am
sure we have acted in a perfectly straight forward business way.--Now let
us look at the thing a moment. You subscribed for 100 shares of the
capital stock, at $1,000 a share, I believe?"
"Yes, sir, I did."
"And Mr. Sellers took a like amount?"
"Very well. No concern can get along without money. We levied a ten per
cent. assessment. It was the original understanding that you and Mr.
Sellers were to have the positions you now hold, with salaries of $600 a
month each, while in active service. You were duly elected to these
places, and you accepted them. Am I right?"
"Very well. You were given your instructions and put to work. By your
reports it appears that you have expended the sum of $9,610 upon the said
work. Two months salary to you two officers amounts altogether to
$2,400--about one-eighth of your ten per cent. assessment, you see; which
leaves you in debt to the company for the other seven-eighths of the
assessment--viz, something over $8,000 apiece. Now instead of requiring
you to forward this aggregate of $16,000 or $17,000 to New York, the
company voted unanimously to let you pay it over to the contractors,
laborers from time to time, and give you credit on the books for it.
And they did it without a murmur, too, for they were pleased with the
progress you had made, and were glad to pay you that little compliment--
and a very neat one it was, too, I am sure. The work you did fell short
of $10,000, a trifle. Let me see--$9,640 from $20,000 salary $2;400
added--ah yes, the balance due the company from yourself and Mr. Sellers
is $7,960, which I will take the responsibility of allowing to stand for
the present, unless you prefer to draw a check now, and thus----"
"Confound it, do you mean to say that instead of the company owing us
$2,400, we owe the company $7,960?"
"And that we owe the men and the contractors nearly ten thousand dollars
"Owe them! Oh bless my soul, you can't mean that you have not paid these
"But I do mean it!"
The president rose and walked the floor like a man in bodily pain. His
brows contracted, he put his hand up and clasped his forehead, and kept
saying, "Oh, it is, too bad, too bad, too bad! Oh, it is bound to be
found out--nothing can prevent it--nothing!"
Then he threw himself into his chair and said:
"My dear Mr. Brierson, this is dreadful--perfectly dreadful. It will be
found out. It is bound to tarnish the good name of the company; our
credit will be seriously, most seriously impaired. How could you be so
thoughtless--the men ought to have been paid though it beggared us all!"
"They ought, ought they? Then why the devil--my name is not Bryerson, by
the way--why the mischief didn't the compa--why what in the nation ever
became of the appropriation? Where is that appropriation?--if a
stockholder may make so bold as to ask."
The appropriation?--that paltry $200,000, do you mean?"
"Of course--but I didn't know that $200,000 was so very paltry. Though I
grant, of course, that it is not a large sum, strictly speaking. But
where is it?"
"My dear sir, you surprise me. You surely cannot have had a large
acquaintance with this sort of thing. Otherwise you would not have
expected much of a result from a mere INITIAL appropriation like that.
It was never intended for anything but a mere nest egg for the future and
real appropriations to cluster around."
"Indeed? Well, was it a myth, or was it a reality? Whatever become of
"Why the--matter is simple enough. A Congressional appropriation costs
money. Just reflect, for instance--a majority of the House Committee,
say $10,000 apiece--$40,000; a majority of the Senate Committee, the same
each--say $40,000; a little extra to one or two chairman of one or two
such committees, say $10,000 each--$20,000; and there's $100,000 of the
money gone, to begin with. Then, seven male lobbyists, at $3,000 each--
$21,000; one female lobbyist, $10,000; a high moral Congressman or
Senator here and there--the high moral ones cost more, because they.
give tone to a measure--say ten of these at $3,000 each, is $30,000; then
a lot of small-fry country members who won't vote for anything whatever
without pay--say twenty at $500 apiece, is $10,000; a lot of dinners to
members--say $10,000 altogether; lot of jimcracks for Congressmen's wives
and children--those go a long way--you can't sped too much money in that
line--well, those things cost in a lump, say $10,000--along there
somewhere; and then comes your printed documents--your maps, your tinted
engravings, your pamphlets, your illuminated show cards, your
advertisements in a hundred and fifty papers at ever so much a line--
because you've got to keep the papers all light or you are gone up, you
know. Oh, my dear sir, printing bills are destruction itself. Ours so
far amount to--let me see--10; 52; 22; 13;--and then there's 11; 14; 33--
well, never mind the details, the total in clean numbers foots up
$118,254.42 thus far!"
"Oh, yes indeed. Printing's no bagatelle, I can tell you. And then
there's your contributions, as a company, to Chicago fires and Boston
fires, and orphan asylums and all that sort of thing--head the list, you
see, with the company's full name and a thousand dollars set opposite--
great card, sir--one of the finest advertisements in the world--the
preachers mention it in the pulpit when it's a religious charity--one of
the happiest advertisements in the world is your benevolent donation.
Ours have amounted to sixteen thousand dollars and some cents up to this
"Oh, yes. Perhaps the biggest thing we've done in the advertising line
was to get an officer of the U. S. government, of perfectly Himmalayan
official altitude, to write up our little internal improvement for a
religious paper of enormous circulation--I tell you that makes our bonds
go handsomely among the pious poor. Your religious paper is by far the
best vehicle for a thing of this kind, because they'll 'lead' your
article and put it right in the midst of the reading matter; and if it's
got a few Scripture quotations in it, and some temperance platitudes and
a bit of gush here and there about Sunday Schools, and a sentimental
snuffle now and then about 'God's precious ones, the honest hard-handed
poor,' it works the nation like a charm, my dear sir, and never a man
suspects that it is an advertisement; but your secular paper sticks you
right into the advertising columns and of course you don't take a trick.
Give me a religious paper to advertise in, every time; and if you'll just
look at their advertising pages, you'll observe that other people think a
good deal as I do--especially people who have got little financial
schemes to make everybody rich with. Of course I mean your great big
metropolitan religious papers that know how to serve God and make money
at the same time--that's your sort, sir, that's your sort--a religious
paper that isn't run to make money is no use to us, sir, as an
advertising medium--no use to anybody--in our line of business. I guess
our next best dodge was sending a pleasure trip of newspaper reporters
out to Napoleon. Never paid them a cent; just filled them up with
champagne and the fat of the land, put pen, ink and paper before them
while they were red-hot, and bless your soul when you come to read their
letters you'd have supposed they'd been to heaven. And if a sentimental
squeamishness held one or two of them back from taking a less rosy view
of Napoleon, our hospitalities tied his tongue, at least, and he said
nothing at all and so did us no harm. Let me see--have I stated all the
expenses I've been at? No, I was near forgetting one or two items.
There's your official salaries--you can't get good men for nothing.
Salaries cost pretty lively. And then there's your big high-sounding
millionaire names stuck into your advertisements as stockholders--another
card, that--and they are stockholders, too, but you have to give them the
stock and non-assessable at that--so they're an expensive lot. Very,
very expensive thing, take it all around, is a big internal improvement
concern--but you see that yourself, Mr. Bryerman--you see that, yourself,
"But look here. I think you are a little mistaken about it's ever having
cost anything for Congressional votes. I happen to know something about
that. I've let you say your say--now let me say mine. I don't wish to
seem to throw any suspicion on anybody's statements, because we are all
liable to be mistaken. But how would it strike you if I were to say that
I was in Washington all the time this bill was pending? and what if I
added that I put the measure through myself? Yes, sir, I did that little
thing. And moreover, I never paid a dollar for any man's vote and never
promised one. There are some ways of doing a thing that are as good as
others which other people don't happen to think about, or don't have the
knack of succeeding in, if they do happen to think of them. My dear sir,
I am obliged to knock some of your expenses in the head--for never a cent
was paid a Congressman or Senator on the part of this Navigation Company."
The president smiled blandly, even sweetly, all through this harangue,
and then said:
"Is that so?"
"Every word of it."
"Well it does seem to alter the complexion of things a little. You are
acquainted with the members down there, of course, else you could not
have worked to such advantage?"
"I know them all, sir. I know their wives, their children, their babies
--I even made it a point to be on good terms with their lackeys. I know
every Congressman well--even familiarly."
"Very good. Do you know any of their signatures? Do you know their
"Why I know their handwriting as well as I know my own--have had
correspondence enough with them, I should think. And their signatures--
why I can tell their initials, even."
The president went to a private safe, unlocked it and got out some
letters and certain slips of paper. Then he said:
"Now here, for instance; do you believe that that is a genuine letter?
Do you know this signature here?--and this one? Do you know who those
initials represent--and are they forgeries?"
Harry was stupefied. There were things there that made his brain swim.
Presently, at the bottom of one of the letters he saw a signature that
restored his equilibrium; it even brought the sunshine of a smile to his
The president said:
"That one amuses you. You never suspected him?"
"Of course I ought to have suspected him, but I don't believe it ever
really occurred to me. Well, well, well--how did you ever have the nerve
to approach him, of all others?"
"Why my friend, we never think of accomplishing anything without his
help. He is our mainstay. But how do those letters strike you?"
"They strike me dumb! What a stone-blind idiot I have been!"
"Well, take it all around, I suppose you had a pleasant time in
Washington," said the president, gathering up the letters; "of course you
must have had. Very few men could go there and get a money bill through
without buying a single"
"Come, now, Mr. President, that's plenty of that! I take back everything
I said on that head. I'm a wiser man to-day than I was yesterday, I can
"I think you are. In fact I am satisfied you are. But now I showed you
these things in confidence, you understand. Mention facts as much as you
want to, but don't mention names to anybody. I can depend on you for
that, can't I?"
"Oh, of course. I understand the necessity of that. I will not betray
the names. But to go back a bit, it begins to look as if you never saw
any of that appropriation at all?"
"We saw nearly ten thousand dollars of it--and that was all. Several of
us took turns at log-rolling in Washington, and if we had charged
anything for that service, none of that $10,000 would ever have reached
"If you hadn't levied the assessment you would have been in a close place
"Close? Have you figured up the total of the disbursements I told you
"No, I didn't think of that."
"Well, lets see:
Spent in Washington, say, ........... $191,000
Printing, advertising, etc., say .... $118,000
Charity, say, ....................... $16,000
Total, ............... $325,000
The money to do that with, comes from--
Appropriation, ...................... $200,000
Ten per cent. assessment on capital of
$1,000,000 ..................... $100,000
Total, ............... $300,000
"Which leaves us in debt some $25,000 at this moment. Salaries of home
officers are still going on; also printing and advertising. Next month
will show a state of things!"
"And then--burst up, I suppose?"
"By no means. Levy another assessment"
"Oh, I see. That's dismal."
"By no means."
"Why isn't it? What's the road out?"
"Another appropriation, don't you see?"
"Bother the appropriations. They cost more than they come to."
"Not the next one. We'll call for half a million--get it and go for a
million the very next month."--"Yes, but the cost of it!"
The president smiled, and patted his secret letters affectionately. He
"All these people are in the next Congress. We shan't have to pay them a
cent. And what is more, they will work like beavers for us--perhaps it
might be to their advantage."
Harry reflected profoundly a while. Then he said:
"We send many missionaries to lift up the benighted races of other lands.
How much cheaper and better it would be if those people could only come
here and drink of our civilization at its fountain head."
"I perfectly agree with yon, Mr. Beverly. Must you go? Well, good
morning. Look in, when you are passing; and whenever I can give you any
information about our affairs and pro'spects, I shall be glad to do it."
Harry's letter was not a long one, but it contained at least the
calamitous figures that came out in the above conversation. The Colonel
found himself in a rather uncomfortable place--no $1,200 salary
forthcoming; and himself held responsible for half of the $9,640 due the
workmen, to say nothing of being in debt to the company to the extent of
nearly $4,000. Polly's heart was nearly broken; the "blues" returned in
fearful force, and she had to go out of the room to hide the tears that
nothing could keep back now.
There was mourning in another quarter, too, for Louise had a letter.
Washington had refused, at the last moment, to take $40,000 for the
Tennessee Land, and had demanded $150,000! So the trade fell through,
and now Washington was wailing because he had been so foolish. But he
wrote that his man might probably return to the city soon, and then he
meant to sell to him, sure, even if he had to take $10,000. Louise had a
good cry-several of them, indeed--and the family charitably forebore to
make any comments that would increase her grief.
Spring blossomed, summer came, dragged its hot weeks by, and the
Colonel's spirits rose, day by day, for the railroad was making good
progress. But by and by something happened. Hawkeye had always declined
to subscribe anything toward the railway, imagining that her large
business would be a sufficient compulsory influence; but now Hawkeye was
frightened; and before Col. Sellers knew what he was about, Hawkeye, in a
panic, had rushed to the front and subscribed such a sum that Napoleon's
attractions suddenly sank into insignificance and the railroad concluded
to follow a comparatively straight coarse instead of going miles out of
its way to build up a metropolis in the muddy desert of Stone's Landing.
The thunderbolt fell. After all the Colonel's deep planning; after all
his brain work and tongue work in drawing public attention to his pet
project and enlisting interest in it; after all his faithful hard toil
with his hands, and running hither and thither on his busy feet; after
all his high hopes and splendid prophecies, the fates had turned their
backs on him at last, and all in a moment his air-castles crumbled to
ruins abort him. Hawkeye rose from her fright triumphant and rejoicing,
and down went Stone's Landing! One by one its meagre parcel of
inhabitants packed up and moved away, as the summer waned and fall
approached. Town lots were no longer salable, traffic ceased, a deadly
lethargy fell upon the place once more, the "Weekly Telegraph" faded into
an early grave, the wary tadpole returned from exile, the bullfrog
resumed his ancient song, the tranquil turtle sunned his back upon bank
and log and drowsed his grateful life away as in the old sweet days of
Philip Sterling was on his way to Ilium, in the state of Pennsylvania.
Ilium was the railway station nearest to the tract of wild land which
Mr. Bolton had commissioned him to examine.
On the last day of the journey as the railway train Philip was on was
leaving a large city, a lady timidly entered the drawing-room car, and
hesitatingly took a chair that was at the moment unoccupied. Philip saw
from the window that a gentleman had put her upon the car just as it was
starting. In a few moments the conductor entered, and without waiting an
explanation, said roughly to the lady,
"Now you can't sit there. That seat's taken. Go into the other car."
"I did not intend to take the seat," said the lady rising, "I only sat
down a moment till the conductor should come and give me a seat."
"There aint any. Car's full. You'll have to leave."
"But, sir," said the lady, appealingly, "I thought--"
"Can't help what you thought--you must go into the other car."
"The train is going very fast, let me stand here till we stop."
"The lady can have my seat," cried Philip, springing up.
The conductor turned towards Philip, and coolly and deliberately surveyed
him from head to foot, with contempt in every line of his face, turned
his back upon him without a word, and said to the lady,
"Come, I've got no time to talk. You must go now."
The lady, entirely disconcerted by such rudeness, and frightened, moved
towards the door, opened it and stepped out. The train was swinging
along at a rapid rate, jarring from side to side; the step was a long one
between the cars and there was no protecting grating. The lady attempted
it, but lost her balance, in the wind and the motion of the car, and
fell! She would inevitably have gone down under the wheels, if Philip,
who had swiftly followed her, had not caught her arm and drawn her up.
He then assisted her across, found her a seat, received her bewildered
thanks, and returned to his car.
The conductor was still there, taking his tickets, and growling something
about imposition. Philip marched up to him, and burst out with,
"You are a brute, an infernal brute, to treat a woman that way."
"Perhaps you'd like to make a fuss about it," sneered the conductor.
Philip's reply was a blow, given so suddenly and planted so squarely in
the conductor's face, that it sent him reeling over a fat passenger, who
was looking up in mild wonder that any one should dare to dispute with a
conductor, and against the side of the car.
He recovered himself, reached the bell rope, "Damn you, I'll learn you,"
stepped to the door and called a couple of brakemen, and then, as the
speed slackened; roared out,
"Get off this train."
"I shall not get off. I have as much right here as you."
"We'll see," said the conductor, advancing with the brakemen. The
passengers protested, and some of them said to each other, "That's too
bad," as they always do in such cases, but none of them offered to take a
hand with Philip. The men seized him, wrenched him from his seat,
dragged him along the aisle, tearing his clothes, thrust him from the
car, and, then flung his carpet-bag, overcoat and umbrella after him.
And the train went on.
The conductor, red in the face and puffing from his exertion, swaggered
through the car, muttering "Puppy, I'll learn him." The passengers, when
he had gone, were loud in their indignation, and talked about signing a
protest, but they did nothing more than talk.
The next morning the Hooverville Patriot and Clarion had this "item":--
"We learn that as the down noon express was leaving H---- yesterday
a lady! (God save the mark) attempted to force herself into the
already full palatial car. Conductor Slum, who is too old a bird to
be caught with chaff, courteously informed her that the car was
full, and when she insisted on remaining, he persuaded her to go
into the car where she belonged. Thereupon a young sprig, from the
East, blustered like a Shanghai rooster, and began to sass the
conductor with his chin music. That gentleman delivered the young
aspirant for a muss one of his elegant little left-handers, which so
astonished him that he began to feel for his shooter. Whereupon Mr.
Slum gently raised the youth, carried him forth, and set him down
just outside the car to cool off. Whether the young blood has yet
made his way out of Bascom's swamp, we have not learned. Conductor
Slum is one of the most gentlemanly and efficient officers on the
road; but he ain't trifled with, not much. We learn that the
company have put a new engine on the seven o'clock train, and newly
upholstered the drawing-room car throughout. It spares no effort
for the comfort of the traveling public."
Philip never had been before in Bascom's swamp, and there was nothing
inviting in it to detain him. After the train got out of the way he
crawled out of the briars and the mud, and got upon the track. He was
somewhat bruised, but he was too angry to mind that. He plodded along
over the ties in a very hot condition of mind and body. In the scuffle,
his railway check had disappeared, and he grimly wondered, as he noticed
the loss, if the company would permit him to walk over their track if
they should know he hadn't a ticket.
Philip had to walk some five miles before he reached a little station,
where he could wait for a train, and he had ample time for reflection.
At first he was full of vengeance on the company. He would sue it. He
would make it pay roundly. But then it occurred to him that he did not
know the name of a witness he could summon, and that a personal fight
against a railway corporation was about the most hopeless in the world.
He then thought he would seek out that conductor, lie in wait for him at
some station, and thrash him, or get thrashed himself.
But as he got cooler, that did not seem to him a project worthy of a
gentleman exactly. Was it possible for a gentleman to get even with such
a fellow as that conductor on the letter's own plane? And when he came
to this point, he began to ask himself, if he had not acted very much
like a fool. He didn't regret striking the fellow--he hoped he had left
a mark on him. But, after all, was that the best way? Here was he,
Philip Sterling, calling himself a gentleman, in a brawl with a vulgar
conductor, about a woman he had never seen before. Why should he have
put himself in such a ridiculous position? Wasn't it enough to have
offered the lady his seat, to have rescued her from an accident, perhaps
from death? Suppose he had simply said to the conductor, "Sir, your
conduct is brutal, I shall report you." The passengers, who saw the
affair, might have joined in a report against the conductor, and he might
really have accomplished something. And, now! Philip looked at leis
torn clothes, and thought with disgust of his haste in getting into a
fight with such an autocrat.
At the little station where Philip waited for the next train, he met a
man--who turned out to be a justice of the peace in that neighborhood,
and told him his adventure. He was a kindly sort of man, and seemed very
"Dum 'em," said he, when he had heard the story.
"Do you think any thing can be done, sir?"
"Wal, I guess tain't no use. I hain't a mite of doubt of every word you
say. But suin's no use. The railroad company owns all these people
along here, and the judges on the bench too. Spiled your clothes! Wal,
'least said's soonest mended.' You haint no chance with the company."
When next morning, he read the humorous account in the Patriot and
Clarion, he saw still more clearly what chance he would have had before
the public in a fight with the railroad company.
Still Philip's conscience told him that it was his plain duty to carry
the matter into the courts, even with the certainty of defeat.
He confessed that neither he nor any citizen had a right to consult his
own feelings or conscience in a case where a law of the land had been
violated before his own eyes. He confessed that every citizen's first
duty in such case is to put aside his own business and devote his time
and his best efforts to seeing that the infraction is promptly punished;
and he knew that no country can be well governed unless its citizens as
a body keep religiously before their minds that they are the guardians
of the law, and that the law officers are only the machinery for its
execution, nothing more. As a finality he was obliged to confess that he
was a bad citizen, and also that the general laxity of the time, and the
absence of a sense of duty toward any part of the community but the
individual himself were ingrained in him, am he was no better than the
rest of the people.
The result of this little adventure was that Philip did not reach Ilium
till daylight the next morning, when he descended sleepy and sore, from a
way train, and looked about him. Ilium was in a narrow mountain gorge,
through which a rapid stream ran. It consisted of the plank platform on
which he stood, a wooden house, half painted, with a dirty piazza
(unroofed) in front, and a sign board hung on a slanting pole--bearing
the legend, "Hotel. P. Dusenheimer," a sawmill further down the stream,
a blacksmith-shop, and a store, and three or four unpainted dwellings of
the slab variety.
As Philip approached the hotel he saw what appeared to be a wild beast
crouching on the piazza. It did not stir, however, and he soon found
that it was only a stuffed skin. This cheerful invitation to the tavern
was the remains of a huge panther which had been killed in the region a
few weeks before. Philip examined his ugly visage and strong crooked
fore-arm, as he was waiting admittance, having pounded upon the door.
"Yait a bit. I'll shoost--put on my trowsers," shouted a voice from the
window, and the door was soon opened by the yawning landlord.
"Morgen! Didn't hear d' drain oncet. Dem boys geeps me up zo spate.
Gom right in."
Philip was shown into a dirty bar-room. It was a small room, with a
stove in the middle, set in a long shallow box of sand, for the benefit
of the "spitters," a bar across one end--a mere counter with a sliding
glass-case behind it containing a few bottles having ambitious labels,
and a wash-sink in one corner. On the walls were the bright yellow and
black handbills of a traveling circus, with pictures of acrobats in human
pyramids, horses flying in long leaps through the air, and sylph-like
women in a paradisaic costume, balancing themselves upon the tips of
their toes on the bare backs of frantic and plunging steeds, and kissing
their hands to the spectators meanwhile.
As Philip did not desire a room at that hour, he was invited to wash
himself at the nasty sink, a feat somewhat easier than drying his face,
for the towel that hung in a roller over the sink was evidently as much a
fixture as the sink itself, and belonged, like the suspended brush and
comb, to the traveling public. Philip managed to complete his toilet by
the use of his pocket-handkerchief, and declining the hospitality of the
landlord, implied in the remark, "You won'd dake notin'?" he went into
the open air to wait for breakfast.
The country he saw was wild but not picturesque. The mountain before him
might be eight hundred feet high, and was only a portion of a long
unbroken range, savagely wooded, which followed the stream. Behind the
hotel, and across the brawling brook, was another level-topped, wooded
range exactly like it. Ilium itself, seen at a glance, was old enough to
be dilapidated, and if it had gained anything by being made a wood and
water station of the new railroad, it was only a new sort of grime and
rawness. P. Dusenheimer, standing in the door of his uninviting
groggery, when the trains stopped for water; never received from the
traveling public any patronage except facetious remarks upon his personal
appearance. Perhaps a thousand times he had heard the remark, "Ilium
fuit," followed in most instances by a hail to himself as "AEneas," with
the inquiry "Where is old Anchises? "At first he had replied, "Dere
ain't no such man;" but irritated by its senseless repetition, he had
latterly dropped into the formula of, "You be dam."
Philip was recalled from the contemplation of Ilium by the rolling and
growling of the gong within the hotel, the din and clamor increasing till
the house was apparently unable to contain it; when it burst out of the
front door and informed the world that breakfast was on the table.
The dining room was long, low and narrow, and a narrow table extended its
whole length. Upon this was spread a cloth which from appearance might
have been as long in use as the towel in the barroom. Upon the table was
the usual service, the heavy, much nicked stone ware, the row of plated
and rusty castors, the sugar bowls with the zinc tea-spoons sticking up
in them, the piles of yellow biscuits, the discouraged-looking plates of
butter. The landlord waited, and Philip was pleased to observe the
change in his manner. In the barroom he was the conciliatory landlord.
Standing behind his guests at table, he had an air of peremptory
patronage, and the voice in which he shot out the inquiry, as he seized
Philip's plate, "Beefsteak or liver?" quite took away Philip's power of
choice. He begged for a glass of milk, after trying that green hued
compound called coffee, and made his breakfast out of that and some hard
crackers which seemed to have been imported into Ilium before the
introduction of the iron horse, and to have withstood a ten years siege
of regular boarders, Greeks and others.
The land that Philip had come to look at was at least five miles distant
from Ilium station. A corner of it touched the railroad, but the rest
was pretty much an unbroken wilderness, eight or ten thousand acres of
rough country, most of it such a mountain range as he saw at Ilium.
His first step was to hire three woodsmen to accompany him. By their
help he built a log hut, and established a camp on the land, and then
began his explorations, mapping down his survey as he went along, noting
the timber, and the lay of the land, and making superficial observations
as to the prospect of coal.
The landlord at Ilium endeavored to persuade Philip to hire the services
of a witch-hazel professor of that region, who could walk over the land
with his wand and tell him infallibly whether it contained coal, and
exactly where the strata ran. But Philip preferred to trust to his own
study of the country, and his knowledge of the geological formation.
He spent a month in traveling over the land and making calculations;
and made up his mind that a fine vein of coal ran through the mountain
about a mile from the railroad, and that the place to run in a tunnel was
half way towards its summit.
Acting with his usual promptness, Philip, with the consent of Mr. Bolton,
broke ground there at once, and, before snow came, had some rude
buildings up, and was ready for active operations in the spring. It was
true that there were no outcroppings of coal at the place, and the people
at Ilium said he "mought as well dig for plug terbaccer there;" but
Philip had great faith in the uniformity of nature's operations in ages
past, and he had no doubt that he should strike at this spot the rich
vein that had made the fortune of the Golden Briar Company.
Once more Louise had good news from her Washington--Senator Dilworthy was
going to sell the Tennessee Land to the government! Louise told Laura in
confidence. She had told her parents, too, and also several bosom
friends; but all of these people had simply looked sad when they heard
the news, except Laura. Laura's face suddenly brightened under it--only
for an instant, it is true, but poor Louise was grateful for even that
fleeting ray of encouragement. When next Laura was alone, she fell into
a train of thought something like this:
If the Senator has really taken hold of this matter, I may look for that
invitation to his house at, any moment. I am perishing to go! I do long
to know whether I am only simply a large-sized pigmy among these pigmies
here, who tumble over so easily when one strikes them, or whether I am
really--." Her thoughts drifted into other channels, for a season.
"Then she continued:--"He said I could be useful in the great cause of
philanthropy, and help in the blessed work of uplifting the poor and the
ignorant, if he found it feasible to take hold of our Land. Well, that
is neither here nor there; what I want, is to go to Washington and find
out what I am. I want money, too; and if one may judge by what she
hears, there are chances there for a--." For a fascinating woman, she
was going to say, perhaps, but she did not.
Along in the fall the invitation came, sure enough. It came officially
through brother Washington, the private Secretary, who appended a
postscript that was brimming with delight over the prospect of seeing the
Duchess again. He said it would be happiness enough to look upon her
face once more--it would be almost too much happiness when to it was
added the fact that she would bring messages with her that were fresh
from Louise's lips.
In Washington's letter were several important enclosures. For instance,
there was the Senator's check for $2,000--"to buy suitable clothing in
New York with!" It was a loan to be refunded when the Land was sold.
Two thousand--this was fine indeed. Louise's father was called rich, but
Laura doubted if Louise had ever had $400 worth of new clothing at one
time in her life. With the check came two through tickets--good on the
railroad from Hawkeye to Washington via New York--and they were "dead-
head" tickets, too, which had beep given to Senator Dilworthy by the
railway companies. Senators and representatives were paid thousands of
dollars by the government for traveling expenses, but they always
traveled "deadhead" both ways, and then did as any honorable, high-minded
men would naturally do--declined to receive the mileage tendered them by
the government. The Senator had plenty of railway passes, and could.
easily spare two to Laura--one for herself and one for a male escort.
Washington suggested that she get some old friend of the family to come
with her, and said the Senator would "deadhead" him home again as soon as
he had grown tired, of the sights of the capital. Laura thought the
thing over. At first she was pleased with the idea, but presently she
began to feel differently about it. Finally she said, "No, our staid,
steady-going Hawkeye friends' notions and mine differ about some things--
they respect me, now, and I respect them--better leave it so--I will go
alone; I am not afraid to travel by myself." And so communing with
herself, she left the house for an afternoon walk.
Almost at the door she met Col. Sellers. She told him about her
invitation to Washington.
"Bless me!" said the Colonel. "I have about made up my mind to go there
myself. You see we've got to get another appropriation through, and the
Company want me to come east and put it through Congress. Harry's there,
and he'll do what he can, of course; and Harry's a good fellow and always
does the very best he knows how, but then he's young--rather young for
some parts of such work, you know--and besides he talks too much, talks a
good deal too much; and sometimes he appears to be a little bit
visionary, too, I think the worst thing in the world for a business man.
A man like that always exposes his cards, sooner or later. This sort of
thing wants an old, quiet, steady hand--wants an old cool head, you know,
that knows men, through and through, and is used to large operations.
I'm expecting my salary, and also some dividends from the company, and if
they get along in time, I'll go along with you Laura--take you under my
wing--you mustn't travel alone. Lord I wish I had the money right now.
--But there'll be plenty soon--plenty."
Laura reasoned with herself that if the kindly, simple-hearted Colonel
was going anyhow, what could she gain by traveling alone and throwing
away his company? So she told him she accepted his offer gladly,
gratefully. She said it would be the greatest of favors if he would go
with her and protect her--not at his own expense as far as railway fares
were concerned, of course; she could not expect him to put himself to so
much trouble for her and pay his fare besides. But he wouldn't hear of
her paying his fare--it would be only a pleasure to him to serve her.
Laura insisted on furnishing the tickets; and finally, when argument
failed, she said the tickets cost neither her nor any one else a cent--
she had two of them--she needed but one--and if he would not take the
other she would not go with him. That settled the matter. He took the
ticket. Laura was glad that she had the check for new clothing, for she
felt very certain of being able to get the Colonel to borrow a little of
the money to pay hotel bills with, here and there.
She wrote Washington to look for her and Col. Sellers toward the end of
November; and at about the time set the two travelers arrived safe in the
capital of the nation, sure enough.
She the, gracious lady, yet no paines did spare
To doe him ease, or doe him remedy:
Many restoratives of vertues rare
And costly cordialles she did apply,
To mitigate his stubborne malady.
Spenser's Faerie Queens.
Mr. Henry Brierly was exceedingly busy in New York, so he wrote Col.
Sellers, but he would drop everything and go to Washington.
The Colonel believed that Harry was the prince of lobbyists, a little too
sanguine, may be, and given to speculation, but, then, he knew everybody;
the Columbus River navigation scheme was, got through almost entirely by
his aid. He was needed now to help through another scheme, a benevolent
scheme in which Col. Sellers, through the Hawkinses, had a deep interest.
"I don't care, you know," he wrote to Harry, "so much about the niggroes.
But if the government will buy this land, it will set up the Hawkins
family--make Laura an heiress--and I shouldn't wonder if Beriah Sellers
would set up his carriage again. Dilworthy looks at it different,
of course. He's all for philanthropy, for benefiting the colored race.
There's old Balsam, was in the Interior--used to be the Rev. Orson Balsam
of Iowa--he's made the riffle on the Injun; great Injun pacificator and
land dealer. Balaam'a got the Injun to himself, and I suppose that
Senator Dilworthy feels that there is nothing left him but the colored
man. I do rechon he is the best friend the colored man has got in
Though Harry was in a hurry to reach Washington, he stopped in
Philadelphia; and prolonged his visit day after day, greatly to the
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