The Gilded Age
Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
Part 6 out of 9
"Did you? I never was. I used to think my old mammy was handsome."
"How interesting your life must have been! I should like to hear about
Washington was about settling himself into his narrative style,
when Mrs. Gen. McFingal caught his eye.
"Have you been at the Capitol to-day, Mr. Hawkins?"
Washington had not. "Is anything uncommon going on?"
"They say it was very exciting. The Alabama business you know.
Gen. Sutler, of Massachusetts, defied England, and they say he wants
"He wants to make himself conspicuous more like," said Laura.
"He always, you have noticed, talks with one eye on the gallery, while
the other is on the speaker."
"Well, my husband says, its nonsense to talk of war, and wicked.
He knows what war is. If we do have war, I hope it will be for the
patriots of Cuba. Don't you think we want Cuba, Mr. Hawkins?"
"I think we want it bad," said Washington. "And Santo Domingo. Senator
Dilworthy says, we are bound to extend our religion over the isles of the
sea. We've got to round out our territory, and--"
Washington's further observations were broken off by Laura, who whisked
him off to another part of the room, and reminded him that they must make
"How stupid and tiresome these people are," she said. "Let's go."
They were turning to say good-by to the hostess, when Laura's attention
was arrested by the sight of a gentleman who was just speaking to Mrs.
Schoonmaker. For a second her heart stopped beating. He was a handsome
man of forty and perhaps more, with grayish hair and whiskers, and he
walked with a cane, as if he were slightly lame. He might be less than
forty, for his face was worn into hard lines, and he was pale.
No. It could not be, she said to herself. It is only a resemblance.
But as the gentleman turned and she saw his full face, Laura put out her
hand and clutched Washington's arm to prevent herself from falling.
Washington, who was not minding anything, as usual, looked 'round in
wonder. Laura's eyes were blazing fire and hatred; he had never seen her
look so before; and her face, was livid.
"Why, what is it, sis? Your face is as white as paper."
"It's he, it's he. Come, come," and she dragged him away.
"It's who?" asked Washington, when they had gained the carriage.
"It's nobody, it's nothing. Did I say he? I was faint with the heat.
Don't mention it. Don't you speak of it," she added earnestly, grasping
When she had gained her room she went to the glass and saw a pallid and
"My God," she cried, "this will never do. I should have killed him, if I
could. The scoundrel still lives, and dares to come here. I ought to
kill him. He has no right to live. How I hate him. And yet I loved
him. Oh heavens, how I did love that man. And why didn't he kill me?
He might better. He did kill all that was good in me. Oh, but he shall
not escape. He shall not escape this time. He may have forgotten. He
will find that a woman's hate doesn't forget. The law? What would the
law do but protect him and make me an outcast? How all Washington would
gather up its virtuous skirts and avoid me, if it knew. I wonder if he
hates me as I do him?"
So Laura raved, in tears and in rage by turns, tossed in a tumult of
passion, which she gave way to with little effort to control.
A servant came to summon her to dinner. She had a headache. The hour
came for the President's reception. She had a raving headache, and the
Senator must go without her.
That night of agony was like another night she recalled. How vividly it
all came back to her. And at that time she remembered she thought she
might be mistaken. He might come back to her. Perhaps he loved her,
a little, after all. Now, she knew he did not. Now, she knew he was a
cold-blooded scoundrel, without pity. Never a word in all these years.
She had hoped he was dead. Did his wife live, she wondered. She caught
at that--and it gave a new current to her thoughts. Perhaps, after all--
she must see him. She could not live without seeing him. Would he smile
as in the old days when she loved him so; or would he sneer as when she
last saw him? If be looked so, she hated him. If he should call her
"Laura, darling," and look SO! She must find him. She must end her
Laura kept her room for two days, on one excuse and another--a nervous
headache, a cold--to the great anxiety of the Senator's household.
Callers, who went away, said she had been too gay--they did not say
"fast," though some of them may have thought it. One so conspicuous and
successful in society as Laura could not be out of the way two days,
without remarks being made, and not all of them complimentary.
When she came down she appeared as usual, a little pale may be, but
unchanged in manner. If there were any deepened lines about the eyes
they had been concealed. Her course of action was quite determined.
At breakfast she asked if any one had heard any unusual noise during the
night? Nobody had. Washington never heard any noise of any kind after
his eyes were shut. Some people thought he never did when they were open
Senator Dilworthy said he had come in late. He was detained in a little
consultation after the Congressional prayer meeting. Perhaps it was his
No, Laura said. She heard that. It was later. She might have been
nervous, but she fancied somebody was trying to get into the house.
Mr. Brierly humorously suggested that it might be, as none of the members
were occupied in night session.
The Senator frowned, and said he did not like to hear that kind of
newspaper slang. There might be burglars about.
Laura said that very likely it was only her nervousness. But she thought
she world feel safer if Washington would let her take one of his pistols.
Washington brought her one of his revolvers, and instructed her in the
art of loading and firing it.
During the morning Laura drove down to Mrs. Schoonmaker's to pay a
"Your receptions are always delightful," she said to that lady, "the
pleasant people all seem to come here."
"It's pleasant to hear you say so, Miss Hawkins. I believe my friends
like to come here. Though society in Washington is mixed; we have a
little of everything."
"I suppose, though, you don't see much of the old rebel element?" said
Laura with a smile.
If this seemed to Mrs. Schoonmaker a singular remark for a lady to make,
who was meeting "rebels" in society every day, she did not express it in
any way, but only said,
"You know we don't say 'rebel' anymore. Before we came to Washington I
thought rebels would look unlike other people. I find we are very much
alike, and that kindness and good nature wear away prejudice. And then
you know there are all sorts of common interests. My husband sometimes
says that he doesn't see but confederates are just as eager to get at the
treasury as Unionists. You know that Mr. Schoonmaker is on the
"Does he know many Southerners?"
"Oh, yes. There were several at my reception the other day. Among
others a confederate Colonel--a stranger--handsome man with gray hair,
probably you didn't notice him, uses a cane in walking. A very agreeable
man. I wondered why he called. When my husband came home and looked
over the cards, he said he had a cotton claim. A real southerner.
Perhaps you might know him if I could think of his name. Yes, here's his
Laura took the card, looked at it intently till she was sure of the
address, and then laid it down, with,
"No, he is no friend of ours."
That afternoon, Laura wrote and dispatched the following note. It was in
a round hand, unlike her flowing style, and it was directed to a number
and street in Georgetown:--
"A Lady at Senator Dilworthy's would like to see Col. George Selby,
on business connected with the Cotton Claims. Can he call Wednesday
at three o'clock P. M.?"
On Wednesday at 3 P. M, no one of the family was likely to be in the
house except Laura.
Col. Selby had just come to Washington, and taken lodgings in Georgetown.
His business was to get pay for some cotton that was destroyed during the
war. There were many others in Washington on the same errand, some of
them with claims as difficult to establish as his. A concert of action
was necessary, and he was not, therefore, at all surprised to receive the
note from a lady asking him to call at Senator Dilworthy's.
At a little after three on Wednesday he rang the bell of the Senator's
residence. It was a handsome mansion on the Square opposite the
President's house. The owner must be a man of great wealth, the Colonel
thought; perhaps, who knows, said he with a smile, he may have got some
of my cotton in exchange for salt and quinine after the capture of New
Orleans. As this thought passed through his mind he was looking at the
remarkable figure of the Hero of New Orleans, holding itself by main
strength from sliding off the back of the rearing bronze horse, and
lifting its hat in the manner of one who acknowledges the playing of that
martial air: "See, the Conquering Hero Comes!" "Gad," said the Colonel
to himself, "Old Hickory ought to get down and give his seat to Gen.
Sutler--but they'd have to tie him on."
Laura was in the drawing room. She heard the bell, she heard the steps
in the hall, and the emphatic thud of the supporting cane. She had risen
from her chair and was leaning against the piano, pressing her left hand
against the violent beating of her heart. The door opened and the
Colonel entered, standing in the full light of the opposite window.
Laura was more in the shadow and stood for an instant, long enough for
the Colonel to make the inward observation that she was a magnificent
Woman. She then advanced a step.
"Col. Selby, is it not?"
The Colonel staggered back, caught himself by a chair, and turned towards
her a look of terror.
"Laura? My God!"
"Yes, your wife!"
"Oh, no, it can't be. How came you here? I thought you were--"
"You thought I was dead? You thought you were rid of me? Not so long as
you live, Col. Selby, not so long as you live;" Laura in her passion was
hurried on to say.
No man had ever accused Col. Selby of cowardice. But he was a coward
before this woman. May be he was not the man he once was. Where was his
coolness? Where was his sneering, imperturbable manner, with which he
could have met, and would have met, any woman he had wronged, if he had
only been forewarned. He felt now that he must temporize, that he must
gain time. There was danger in Laura's tone. There was something
frightful in her calmness. Her steady eyes seemed to devour him.
"You have ruined my life," she said; "and I was so young, so ignorant,
and loved you so. You betrayed me, and left me mocking me and trampling
me into the dust, a soiled cast-off. You might better have killed me
then. Then I should not have hated you."
"Laura," said the Colonel, nerving himself, but still pale, and speaking
appealingly, "don't say that. Reproach me. I deserve it. I was a
scoundrel. I was everything monstrous. But your beauty made me crazy.
You are right. I was a brute in leaving you as I did. But what could I
do? I was married, and--"
"And your wife still lives?" asked Laura, bending a little forward in her
The Colonel noticed the action, and he almost said "no," but he thought
of the folly of attempting concealment.
"Yes. She is here."
What little color had wandered back into Laura's face forsook it again.
Her heart stood still, her strength seemed going from her limbs. Her
last hope was gone. The room swam before her for a moment, and the
Colonel stepped towards her, but she waved him back, as hot anger again
coursed through her veins, and said,
"And you dare come with her, here, and tell me of it, here and mock me
with it! And you think I will have it; George? You think I will let you
live with that woman? You think I am as powerless as that day I fell
dead at your feet?"
She raged now. She was in a tempest of excitement. And she advanced
towards him with a threatening mien. She would kill me if she could,
thought the Colonel; but he thought at the same moment, how beautiful she
is. He had recovered his head now. She was lovely when he knew her,
then a simple country girl, Now she was dazzling, in the fullness of ripe
womanhood, a superb creature, with all the fascination that a woman of
the world has for such a man as Col. Selby. Nothing of this was lost on
him. He stepped quickly to her, grasped both her hands in his, and said,
"Laura, stop! think! Suppose I loved you yet! Suppose I hated my fate!
What can I do? I am broken by the war. I have lost everything almost.
I had as lief be dead and done with it."
The Colonel spoke with a low remembered voice that thrilled through
Laura. He was looking into her eyes as he had looked in those old days,
when no birds of all those that sang in the groves where they walked sang
a note of warning. He was wounded. He had been punished. Her strength
forsook her with her rage, and she sank upon a chair, sobbing,
"Oh! my God, I thought I hated him!"
The Colonel knelt beside her. He took her hand and she let him keep it.
She, looked down into his face, with a pitiable tenderness, and said in a
"And you do love me a little?"
The Colonel vowed and protested. He kissed her hand and her lips. He
swore his false soul into perdition.
She wanted love, this woman. Was not her love for George Selby deeper
than any other woman's could be? Had she not a right to him? Did he
not belong to her by virtue of her overmastering passion? His wife--she
was not his wife, except by the law. She could not be. Even with the
law she could have no right to stand between two souls that were one.
It was an infamous condition in society that George should be tied to
Laura thought this, believed it; because she desired to believe it. She
came to it as an original propositions founded an the requirements of her
own nature. She may have heard, doubtless she had, similar theories that
were prevalent at that day, theories of the tyranny of marriage and of
the freedom of marriage. She had even heard women lecturers say, that
marriage should only continue so long as it pleased either party to it--
for a year, or a month, or a day. She had not given much heed to this,
but she saw its justice now in a dash of revealing desire. It must be
right. God would not have permitted her to love George Selby as she did,
and him to love her, if it was right for society to raise up a barrier
between them. He belonged to her. Had he not confessed it himself?
Not even the religious atmosphere of Senator Dilworthy's house had been
sufficient to instill into Laura that deep Christian principle which had
been somehow omitted in her training. Indeed in that very house had she
not heard women, prominent before the country and besieging Congress,
utter sentiments that fully justified the course she was marking out for
They were seated now, side by side, talking with more calmness. Laura
was happy, or thought she was. But it was that feverish sort of
happiness which is snatched out of the black shadow of falsehood, and is
at the moment recognized as fleeting and perilous, and indulged
tremblingly. She loved. She was loved. That is happiness certainly.
And the black past and the troubled present and the uncertain future
could not snatch that from her.
What did they say as they sat there? What nothings do people usually say
in such circumstances, even if they are three-score and ten? It was
enough for Laura to hear his voice and be near him. It was enough for
him to be near her, and avoid committing himself as much as he could.
Enough for him was the present also. Had there not always been some way
out of such scrapes?
And yet Laura could not be quite content without prying into tomorrow.
How could the Colonel manage to free himself from his wife? Would it be
long? Could he not go into some State where it would not take much time?
He could not say exactly. That they must think of. That they must talk
over. And so on. Did this seem like a damnable plot to Laura against
the life, maybe, of a sister, a woman like herself? Probably not.
It was right that this man should be hers, and there were some obstacles
in the way. That was all. There are as good reasons for bad actions as
for good ones,--to those who commit them. When one has broken the tenth
commandment, the others are not of much account.
Was it unnatural, therefore, that when George Selby departed, Laura
should watch him from the window, with an almost joyful heart as he went
down the sunny square? "I shall see him to-morrow," she said," and the
next day, and the next. He is mine now."
"Damn the woman," said the Colonel as he picked his way down the steps.
"Or," he added, as his thoughts took a new turn, "I wish my wife was in
Open your ears; for which of you will stop,
The vent of hearing when loud Rumor speaks?
I, from the orient to the drooping west,
Making the wind my post-horse, still unfold
The acts commenced on this ball of earth:
Upon my tongues continual slanders ride;
The which in every, language I pronounce,
Stuffing the ears of men with false reports.
King Henry IV.
As may be readily believed, Col. Beriah Sellers was by this time one of
the best known men in Washington. For the first time in his life his
talents had a fair field.
He was now at the centre of the manufacture of gigantic schemes,
of speculations of all sorts, of political and social gossip.
The atmosphere was full of little and big rumors and of vast, undefined
expectations. Everybody was in haste, too, to push on his private plan,
and feverish in his haste, as if in constant apprehension that tomorrow
would be Judgment Day. Work while Congress is in session, said the
uneasy spirit, for in the recess there is no work and no device.
The Colonel enjoyed this bustle and confusion amazingly; he thrived in
the air of-indefinite expectation. All his own schemes took larger shape
and more misty and majestic proportions; and in this congenial air, the
Colonel seemed even to himself to expand into something large and
mysterious. If he respected himself before, he almost worshipped Beriah
Sellers now, as a superior being. If he could have chosen an official
position out of the highest, he would have been embarrassed in the
selection. The presidency of the republic seemed too limited and cramped
in the constitutional restrictions. If he could have been Grand Llama of
the United States, that might have come the nearest to his idea of a
position. And next to that he would have luxuriated in the irresponsible
omniscience of the Special Correspondent.
Col. Sellers knew the President very well, and had access to his presence
when officials were kept cooling their heels in the Waiting-room. The
President liked to hear the Colonel talk, his voluble ease was a
refreshment after the decorous dullness of men who only talked business
and government, and everlastingly expounded their notions of justice and
the distribution of patronage. The Colonel was as much a lover of
farming and of horses as Thomas Jefferson was. He talked to the
President by the hour about his magnificent stud, and his plantation at
Hawkeye, a kind of principality--he represented it. He urged the
President to pay him a visit during the recess, and see his stock farm.
"The President's table is well enough," he used to say, to the loafers
who gathered about him at Willard's, "well enough for a man on a salary,
but God bless my soul, I should like him to see a little old-fashioned
hospitality--open house, you know. A person seeing me at home might
think I paid no attention to what was in the house, just let things flow
in and out. He'd be mistaken. What I look to is quality, sir. The
President has variety enough, but the quality! Vegetables of course you
can't expect here. I'm very particular about mine. Take celery, now--
there's only one spot in this country where celery will grow. But I an
surprised about the wines. I should think they were manufactured in the
New York Custom House. I must send the President some from my cellar.
I was really mortified the other day at dinner to see Blacque Bey leave
his standing in the glasses."
When the Colonel first came to Washington he had thoughts of taking the
mission to Constantinople, in order to be on the spot to look after the
dissemination, of his Eye Water, but as that invention; was not yet quite
ready, the project shrank a little in the presence of vaster schemes.
Besides he felt that he could do the country more good by remaining at
home. He was one of the Southerners who were constantly quoted as
heartily "accepting the situation."
"I'm whipped," he used to say with a jolly laugh, "the government was too
many for me; I'm cleaned out, done for, except my plantation and private
mansion. We played for a big thing, and lost it, and I don't whine, for
one. I go for putting the old flag on all the vacant lots. I said to
the President, says I, 'Grant, why don't you take Santo Domingo, annex
the whole thing, and settle the bill afterwards. That's my way. I'd,
take the job to manage Congress. The South would come into it. You've
got to conciliate the South, consolidate the two debts, pay 'em off in
greenbacks, and go ahead. That's my notion. Boutwell's got the right
notion about the value of paper, but he lacks courage. I should like to
run the treasury department about six months. I'd make things plenty,
and business look up.'"
The Colonel had access to the departments. He knew all the senators and
representatives, and especially, the lobby. He was consequently a great
favorite in Newspaper Row, and was often lounging in the offices there,
dropping bits of private, official information, which were immediately,
caught up and telegraphed all over the country. But it need to surprise
even the Colonel when he read it, it was embellished to that degree that
he hardly recognized it, and the hint was not lost on him. He began to
exaggerate his heretofore simple conversation to suit the newspaper
People used to wonder in the winters of 187- and 187-, where the
"Specials" got that remarkable information with which they every morning
surprised the country, revealing the most secret intentions of the
President and his cabinet, the private thoughts of political leaders,
the hidden meaning of every movement. This information was furnished by
When he was asked, afterwards, about the stolen copy of the Alabama
Treaty which got into the "New York Tribune," he only looked mysterious,
and said that neither he nor Senator Dilworthy knew anything about it.
But those whom he was in the habit of meeting occasionally felt almost
certain that he did know.
It must not be supposed that the Colonel in his general patriotic labors
neglected his own affairs. The Columbus River Navigation Scheme absorbed
only a part of his time, so he was enabled to throw quite a strong
reserve force of energy into the Tennessee Land plan, a vast enterprise
commensurate with his abilities, and in the prosecution of which he was
greatly aided by Mr. Henry Brierly, who was buzzing about the capitol and
the hotels day and night, and making capital for it in some mysterious
"We must create, a public opinion," said Senator Dilworthy. "My only
interest in it is a public one, and if the country wants the institution,
Congress will have to yield."
It may have been after a conversation between the Colonel and Senator
Dilworthy that the following special despatch was sent to a New York
"We understand that a philanthropic plan is on foot in relation to
the colored race that will, if successful, revolutionize the whole
character of southern industry. An experimental institution is in
contemplation in Tennessee which will do for that state what the
Industrial School at Zurich did for Switzerland. We learn that
approaches have been made to the heirs of the late Hon. Silas
Hawkins of Missouri, in reference to a lease of a portion of their
valuable property in East Tennessee. Senator Dilworthy, it is
understood, is inflexibly opposed to any arrangement that will not
give the government absolute control. Private interests must give
way to the public good. It is to be hoped that Col. Sellers, who
represents the heirs, will be led to see the matter in this light."
When Washington Hawkins read this despatch, he went to the Colonel in
some anxiety. He was for a lease, he didn't want to surrender anything.
What did he think the government would offer? Two millions?
"May be three, may be four," said the Colonel, "it's worth more than the
bank of England."
"If they will not lease," said Washington, "let 'em make it two millions
for an undivided half. I'm not going to throw it away, not the whole of
Harry told the Colonel that they must drive the thing through, he
couldn't be dallying round Washington when Spring opened. Phil wanted
him, Phil had a great thing on hand up in Pennsylvania.
"What is that?" inquired the Colonel, always ready to interest himself in
"A mountain of coal; that's all. He's going to run a tunnel into it in
"Does he want any capital?", asked the Colonel, in the tone of a man who
is given to calculating carefully before he makes an investment.
"No. Old man Bolton's behind him. He has capital, but I judged that he
wanted my experience in starting."
"If he wants me, tell him I'll come, after Congress adjourns. I should
like to give him a little lift. He lacks enterprise--now, about that
Columbus River. He doesn't see his chances. But he's a good fellow, and
you can tell him that Sellers won't go back on him."
"By the way," asked Harry, "who is that rather handsome party that's
hanging 'round Laura? I see him with her everywhere, at the Capitol, in
the horse cars, and he comes to Dilworthy's. If he weren't lame, I
should think he was going to run off with her."
"Oh, that's nothing. Laura knows her business. He has a cotton claim.
Used to be at Hawkeye during the war.
"Selby's his name, was a Colonel. Got a wife and family.
Very respectable people, the Selby's."
"Well, that's all right," said Harry, "if it's business. But if a woman
looked at me as I've seen her at Selby, I should understand it. And it's
talked about, I can tell you."
Jealousy had no doubt sharpened this young gentleman's observation.
Laura could not have treated him with more lofty condescension if she had
been the Queen of Sheba, on a royal visit to the great republic. And he
resented it, and was "huffy" when he was with her, and ran her errands,
and brought her gossip, and bragged of his intimacy with the lovely
creature among the fellows at Newspaper Row.
Laura's life was rushing on now in the full stream of intrigue and
fashionable dissipation. She was conspicuous at the balls of the fastest
set, and was suspected of being present at those doubtful suppers that
began late and ended early. If Senator Dilworthy remonstrated about
appearances, she had a way of silencing him. Perhaps she had some hold
on him, perhaps she was necessary to his plan for ameliorating the
condition the tube colored race.
She saw Col. Selby, when the public knew and when it did not know.
She would see him, whatever excuses he made, and however he avoided her.
She was urged on by a fever of love and hatred and jealousy, which
alternately possessed her. Sometimes she petted him, and coaxed him and
tried all her fascinations. And again she threatened him and reproached
him. What was he doing? Why had he taken no steps to free himself?
Why didn't he send his wife home? She should have money soon.
They could go to Europe--anywhere. What did she care for talk?
And he promised, and lied, and invented fresh excuses for delay, like a
cowardly gambler and roue as he was, fearing to break with her, and half
the time unwilling to give her up.
"That woman doesn't know what fear is," he said to himself, "and she
watches me like a hawk."
He told his wife that this woman was a lobbyist, whom he had to tolerate
and use in getting through his claims, and that he should pay her and
have done with her, when he succeeded.
Henry Brierly was at the Dilwortby's constantly and on such terms of
intimacy that he came and went without question. The Senator was not an
inhospitable man, he liked to have guests in his house, and Harry's gay
humor and rattling way entertained him; for even the most devout men and
busy statesmen must have hours of relaxation.
Harry himself believed that he was of great service in the University
business, and that the success of the scheme depended upon him to a great
degree. He spent many hours in talking it over with the Senator after
dinner. He went so far as to consider whether it would be worth his
while to take the professorship of civil engineering in the new
But it was not the Senator's society nor his dinners--at which this
scapegrace remarked that there was too much grace and too little wine--
which attracted him to the horse. The fact was the poor fellow hung
around there day after day for the chance of seeing Laura for five
minutes at a time. For her presence at dinner he would endure the long
bore of the Senator's talk afterwards, while Laura was off at some
assembly, or excused herself on the plea of fatigue. Now and then he
accompanied her to some reception, and rarely, on off nights, he was
blessed with her company in the parlor, when he sang, and was chatty and
vivacious and performed a hundred little tricks of imitation and
ventriloquism, and made himself as entertaining as a man could be.
It puzzled him not a little that all his fascinations seemed to go for so
little with Laura; it was beyond his experience with women. Sometimes
Laura was exceedingly kind and petted him a little, and took the trouble
to exert her powers of pleasing, and to entangle him deeper and deeper.
But this, it angered him afterwards to think, was in private; in public
she was beyond his reach, and never gave occasion to the suspicion that
she had any affair with him. He was never permitted to achieve the
dignity of a serious flirtation with her in public.
"Why do you treat me so?" he once said, reproachfully.
"Treat you how?" asked Laura in a sweet voice, lifting her eyebrows.
"You know well enough. You let other fellows monopolize you in society,
and you are as indifferent to me as if we were strangers."
"Can I help it if they are attentive, can I be rude? But we are such old
friends, Mr. Brierly, that I didn't suppose you would be jealous."
"I think I must be a very old friend, then, by your conduct towards me.
By the same rule I should judge that Col. Selby must be very new."
Laura looked up quickly, as if about to return an indignant answer to
such impertinence, but she only said, "Well, what of Col. Selby, sauce-
"Nothing, probably, you'll care for. Your being with him so much is the
town talk, that's all?"
"What do people say?" asked Laura calmly.
"Oh, they say a good many things. You are offended, though, to have me
speak of it?"
"Not in the least. You are my true friend. I feel that I can trust you.
You wouldn't deceive me, Harry?" throwing into her eyes a look of trust
and tenderness that melted away all his petulance and distrust. "What do
"Some say that you've lost your head about him; others that you don't
care any more for him than you do for a dozen others, but that he is
completely fascinated with you and about to desert his wife; and others
say it is nonsense to suppose you would entangle yourself with a married
man, and that your intimacy only arises from the matter of the cotton,
claims, for which he wants your influence with Dilworthy. But you know
everybody is talked about more or less in Washington. I shouldn't care;
but I wish you wouldn't have so much to do with Selby, Laura," continued
Harry, fancying that he was now upon such terms that his, advice, would
"And you believed these slanders?"
"I don't believe anything against you, Laura, but Col. Selby does not
mean you any good. I know you wouldn't be seen with him if you knew his
"Do you know him?" Laura asked, as indifferently as she could.
"Only a little. I was at his lodgings' in Georgetown a day or two ago,
with Col. Sellers. Sellers wanted to talk with him about some patent
remedy he has, Eye Water, or something of that sort, which he wants to
introduce into Europe. Selby is going abroad very soon."
Laura started; in spite of her self-control.
"And his wife!--Does he take his family? Did you see his wife?"
"Yes. A dark little woman, rather worn--must have been pretty once
though. Has three or four children, one of them a baby. They'll all
go of course. She said she should be glad enough to get away from
Washington. You know Selby has got his claim allowed, and they say he
has had a run, of luck lately at Morrissey's."
Laura heard all this in a kind of stupor, looking straight at Harry,
without seeing him. Is it possible, she was thinking, that this base
wretch, after, all his promises, will take his wife and children and
leave me? Is it possible the town is saying all these things about me?
And a look of bitterness coming into her face--does the fool think he can
"You are angry with me, Laura," said Harry, not comprehending in the
least what was going on in her mind.
"Angry?" she said, forcing herself to come back to his presence.
"With you? Oh no. I'm angry with the cruel world, which, pursues an
independent woman as it never does a man. I'm grateful to you Harry;
I'm grateful to you for telling me of that odious man."
And she rose from her chair and gave him her pretty hand, which the silly
fellow took, and kissed and clung to. And he said many silly things,
before she disengaged herself gently, and left him, saying it was time to
dress, for dinner.
And Harry went away, excited, and a little hopeful, but only a little.
The happiness was only a gleam, which departed and left him thoroughly,
miserable. She never would love him, and she was going to the devil,
besides. He couldn't shut his eyes to what he saw, nor his ears to what
he heard of her.
What had come over this trilling young lady-killer? It was a pity to see
such a gay butterfly broken on a wheel. Was there something good in him,
after all, that had been touched? He was in fact madly in love with this
It is not for us to analyze the passion and say whether it was a worthy
one. It absorbed his whole nature and made him wretched enough. If he
deserved punishment, what more would you have? Perhaps this love was
kindling a new heroism in him.
He saw the road on which Laura was going clearly enough, though he did
not believe the worst he heard of her. He loved her too passionately to
credit that for a moment. And it seemed to him that if he could compel
her to recognize her position, and his own devotion, she might love him,
and that he could save her. His love was so far ennobled, and become a
very different thing from its beginning in Hawkeye. Whether he ever
thought that if he could save her from ruin, he could give her up
himself, is doubtful. Such a pitch of virtue does not occur often in
real life, especially in such natures as Harry's, whose generosity and
unselfishness were matters of temperament rather than habits or
He wrote a long letter to Laura, an incoherent, passionate letter,
pouring out his love as he could not do in her presence, and warning her
as plainly as he dared of the dangers that surrounded her, and the risks
she ran of compromising herself in many ways.
Laura read the letter, with a little sigh may be, as she thought of other
days, but with contempt also, and she put it into the fire with the
thought, "They are all alike."
Harry was in the habit of writing to Philip freely, and boasting also
about his doings, as he could not help doing and remain himself.
Mixed up with his own exploits, and his daily triumphs as a lobbyist,
especially in the matter of the new University, in which Harry was to
have something handsome, were amusing sketches of Washington society,
hints about Dilworthy, stories about Col. Sellers, who had become a well-
known character, and wise remarks upon the machinery of private
legislation for the public-good, which greatly entertained Philip in his
Laura's name occurred very often in these letters, at first in casual
mention as the belle of the season, carrying everything before her with
her wit and beauty, and then more seriously, as if Harry did not exactly
like so much general admiration of her, and was a little nettled by her
treatment of him.
This was so different from Harry's usual tone about women, that Philip
wondered a good deal over it. Could it be possible that he was seriously
affected? Then came stories about Laura, town talk, gossip which Harry
denied the truth of indignantly; but he was evidently uneasy, and at
length wrote in such miserable spirits that Philip asked him squarely
what the trouble was; was he in love?
Upon this, Harry made a clean breast of it, and told Philip all he knew
about the Selby affair, and Laura's treatment of him, sometimes
encouraging him--and then throwing him off, and finally his belief that
she would go, to the bad if something was not done to arouse her from her
infatuation. He wished Philip was in Washington. He knew Laura, and she
had a great respect for his character, his opinions, his judgment.
Perhaps he, as an uninterested person whom she would have some
confidence, and as one of the public, could say some thing to her that
would show her where she stood.
Philip saw the situation clearly enough. Of Laura he knew not much,
except that she was a woman of uncommon fascination, and he thought from
what he had seen of her in Hawkeye, her conduct towards him and towards
Harry, of not too much principle. Of course he knew nothing of her
history; he knew nothing seriously against her, and if Harry was
desperately enamored of her, why should he not win her if he could.
If, however, she had already become what Harry uneasily felt she might
become, was it not his duty to go to the rescue of his friend and try to
save him from any rash act on account of a woman that might prove to be
entirely unworthy of him; for trifler and visionary as he was, Harry
deserved a better fate than this.
Philip determined to go to Washington and see for himself. He had other
reasons also. He began to know enough of Mr. Bolton's affairs to be
uneasy. Pennybacker had been there several times during the winter, and
he suspected that he was involving Mr. Bolton in some doubtful scheme.
Pennybacker was in Washington, and Philip thought he might perhaps find
out something about him, and his plans, that would be of service to Mr.
Philip had enjoyed his winter very well, for a man with his arm broken
and his head smashed. With two such nurses as Ruth and Alice, illness
seemed to him rather a nice holiday, and every moment of his
convalescence had been precious and all too fleeting. With a young
fellow of the habits of Philip, such injuries cannot be counted on to
tarry long, even for the purpose of love-making, and Philip found himself
getting strong with even disagreeable rapidity.
During his first weeks of pain and weakness, Ruth was unceasing in her
ministrations; she quietly took charge of him, and with a gentle firmness
resisted all attempts of Alice or any one else to share to any great
extent the burden with her. She was clear, decisive and peremptory in
whatever she did; but often when Philip, opened his eyes in those first
days of suffering and found her standing by his bedside, he saw a look of
tenderness in her anxious face that quickened his already feverish pulse,
a look that, remained in his heart long after he closed his eyes.
Sometimes he felt her hand on his forehead, and did not open his eyes for
fear she world take it away. He watched for her coming to his chamber;
he could distinguish her light footstep from all others. If this is what
is meant by women practicing medicine, thought Philip to himself, I like
"Ruth," said he one day when he was getting to be quite himself,
"I believe in it?"
"Believe in what?"
"Why, in women physicians."
"Then, I'd better call in Mrs. Dr. Longstreet."
"Oh, no. One will do, one at a time. I think I should be well tomorrow,
if I thought I should never have any other."
"Thy physician thinks thee mustn't talk, Philip," said Ruth putting her
finger on his lips.
"But, Ruth, I want to tell you that I should wish I never had got well
"There, there, thee must not talk. Thee is wandering again," and Ruth
closed his lips, with a smile on her own that broadened into a merry
laugh as she ran away.
Philip was not weary, however, of making these attempts, he rather
enjoyed it. But whenever he inclined to be sentimental, Ruth would cut
him off, with some such gravely conceived speech as, "Does thee think
that thy physician will take advantage of the condition of a man who is
as weak as thee is? I will call Alice, if thee has any dying confessions
As Philip convalesced, Alice more and more took Ruth's place as his
entertainer, and read to him by the hour, when he did not want to talk--
to talk about Ruth, as he did a good deal of the time. Nor was this
altogether unsatisfactory to Philip. He was always happy and contented
with Alice. She was the most restful person he knew. Better informed
than Ruth and with a much more varied culture, and bright and
sympathetic, he was never weary of her company, if he was not greatly
excited by it. She had upon his mind that peaceful influence that Mrs.
Bolton had when, occasionally, she sat by his bedside with her work.
Some people have this influence, which is like an emanation. They bring
peace to a house, they diffuse serene content in a room full of mixed
company, though they may say very little, and are apparently, unconscious
of their own power;
Not that Philip did not long for Ruth's presence all the same. Since he
was well enough to be about the house, she was busy again with her
studies. Now and then her teasing humor came again. She always had a
playful shield against his sentiment. Philip used sometimes to declare
that she had no sentiment; and then he doubted if he should be pleased
with her after all if she were at all sentimental; and he rejoiced that
she had, in such matters what he called the airy grace of sanity. She
was the most gay serious person he ever saw.
Perhaps he waw not so much at rest or so contented with her as with
Alice. But then he loved her. And what have rest and contentment to do
Mr. Buckstone's campaign was brief--much briefer than he supposed it
would be. He began it purposing to win Laura without being won himself;
but his experience was that of all who had fought on that field before
him; he diligently continued his effort to win her, but he presently
found that while as yet he could not feel entirely certain of having won
her, it was very manifest that she had won him. He had made an able
fight, brief as it was, and that at least was to his credit. He was in
good company, now; he walked in a leash of conspicuous captives. These
unfortunates followed Laura helplessly, for whenever she took a prisoner
he remained her slave henceforth. Sometimes they chafed in their
bondage; sometimes they tore themselves free and said their serfdom was
ended; but sooner or later they always came back penitent and worshiping.
Laura pursued her usual course: she encouraged Mr. Buckstone by turns,
and by turns she harassed him; she exalted him to the clouds at one time,
and at another she dragged him down again. She constituted him chief
champion of the Knobs University bill, and he accepted the position, at
first reluctantly, but later as a valued means of serving her--he even
came to look upon it as a piece of great good fortune, since it brought
him into such frequent contact with her.
Through him she learned that the Hon. Mr. Trollop was a bitter enemy of
her bill. He urged her not to attempt to influence Mr. Trollop in any
way, and explained that whatever she might attempt in that direction
would surely be used against her and with damaging effect.
She at first said she knew Mr. Trollop, "and was aware that he had a
Blank-Blank;"--[**Her private figure of speech for Brother--or Son-in-
law]--but Mr. Buckstone said that he was not able to conceive what so
curious a phrase as Blank-Blank might mean, and had no wish to pry into
the matter, since it was probably private, he "would nevertheless venture
the blind assertion that nothing would answer in this particular case and
during this particular session but to be exceedingly wary and keep clear
away from Mr. Trollop; any other course would be fatal."
It seemed that nothing could be done. Laura was seriously troubled.
Everything was looking well, and yet it was plain that one vigorous and
determined enemy might eventually succeed in overthrowing all her plans.
A suggestion came into her mind presently and she said:
"Can't you fight against his great Pension bill and, bring him to terms?"
"Oh, never; he and I are sworn brothers on that measure; we work in
harness and are very loving--I do everything I possibly can for him
there. But I work with might and main against his Immigration bill,
--as pertinaciously and as vindictively, indeed, as he works against our
University. We hate each other through half a conversation and are all
affection through the other half. We understand each other. He is an
admirable worker outside the capitol; he will do more for the Pension
bill than any other man could do; I wish he would make the great speech
on it which he wants to make--and then I would make another and we would
"Well if he wants to make a great speech why doesn't he do it?"
Visitors interrupted the conversation and Mr. Buckstone took his leave.
It was not of the least moment to Laura that her question had not been
answered, inasmuch as it concerned a thing which did not interest her;
and yet, human being like, she thought she would have liked to know.
An opportunity occurring presently, she put the same question to another
person and got an answer that satisfied her. She pondered a good while
that night, after she had gone to bed, and when she finally turned over,
to, go to sleep, she had thought out a new scheme. The next evening at
Mrs. Gloverson's party, she said to Mr. Buckstone:
"I want Mr. Trollop to make his great speech on the Pension bill."
"Do you? But you remember I was interrupted, and did not explain
"Never mind, I know. You must' make him make that speech. I very.
particularly desire, it."
"Oh, it is easy, to say make him do it, but how am I to make him!"
"It is perfectly easy; I have thought it all out."
She then went into the details. At length Mr. Buckstone said:
"I see now. I can manage it, I am sure. Indeed I wonder he never
thought of it himself--there are no end of precedents. But how is this
going to benefit you, after I have managed it? There is where the
"But I will take care of that. It will benefit me a great deal."
"I only wish I could see how; it is the oddest freak. You seem to go the
furthest around to get at a thing--but you are in earnest, aren't you?"
"Yes I am, indeed."
"Very well, I will do it--but why not tell me how you imagine it is going
to help you?"
"I will, by and by.--Now there is nobody talking to him. Go straight and
do it, there's a good fellow."
A moment or two later the two sworn friends of the Pension bill were
talking together, earnestly, and seemingly unconscious of the moving
throng about them. They talked an hour, and then Mr. Buckstone came back
"He hardly fancied it at first, but he fell in love with it after a bit.
And we have made a compact, too. I am to keep his secret and he is to
spare me, in future, when he gets ready to denounce the supporters of the
University bill--and I can easily believe he will keep his word on this
A fortnight elapsed, and the University bill had gathered to itself many
friends, meantime. Senator Dilworthy began to think the harvest was
ripe. He conferred with Laura privately. She was able to tell him
exactly how the House would vote. There was a majority--the bill would
pass, unless weak members got frightened at the last, and deserted--a
thing pretty likely to occur. The Senator said:
"I wish we had one more good strong man. Now Trollop ought to be on our
side, for he is a friend of the negro. But be is against us, and is our
bitterest opponent. If he would simply vote No, but keep quiet and not
molest us, I would feel perfectly cheerful and content. But perhaps
there is no use in thinking of that."
"Why I laid a little plan for his benefit two weeks ago. I think he will
be tractable, maybe. He is to come here tonight."
"Look out for him, my child! He means mischief, sure. It is said that
he claims to know of improper practices having been used in the interest
of this bill, and he thinks be sees a chance to make a great sensation
when the bill comes up. Be wary. Be very, very careful, my dear.
Do your very-ablest talking, now. You can convince a man of anything,
when you try. You must convince him that if anything improper has been
done, you at least are ignorant of it and sorry for it. And if you could
only persuade him out of his hostility to the bill, too--but don't overdo
the thing; don't seem too anxious, dear."
"I won't; I'll be ever so careful. I'll talk as sweetly to him as if he
were my own child! You may trust me--indeed you may."
The door-bell rang.
"That is the gentleman now," said Laura. Senator Dilworthy retired to
Laura welcomed Mr. Trollop, a grave, carefully dressed and very
respectable looking man, with a bald head, standing collar and old
fashioned watch seals.
"Promptness is a virtue, Mr. Trollop, and I perceive that you have it.
You are always prompt with me."
"I always meet my engagements, of every kind, Miss Hawkins."
"It is a quality which is rarer in the world than it has been, I believe.
I wished to see you on business, Mr. Trollop."
"I judged so. What can I do for you?"
"You know my bill--the Knobs University bill?"
"Ah, I believe it is your bill. I had forgotten. Yes, I know the bill."
"Well, would you mind telling me your opinion of it?"
"Indeed, since you seem to ask it without reserve, I am obliged to say
that I do not regard it favorably. I have not seen the bill itself, but
from what I can hear, it--it--well, it has a bad look about it. It--"
"Speak it out--never fear."
"Well, it--they say it contemplates a fraud upon the government."
"Well?" said Laura tranquilly.
"Well! I say 'Well?' too."
"Well, suppose it were a fraud--which I feel able to deny--would it be
the first one?"
"You take a body's breath away! Would you--did you wish me to vote for
it? Was that what you wanted to see me about?"
"Your instinct is correct. I did want you--I do want you to vote for
"Vote for a fr--for a measure which is generally believed to be at least
questionable? I am afraid we cannot come to an understanding, Miss
"No, I am afraid not--if you have resumed your principles, Mr. Trollop."
"Did you send for we merely to insult me? It is time for me to take my
leave, Miss Hawkins."
"No-wait a moment. Don't be offended at a trifle. Do not be offish and
unsociable. The Steamship Subsidy bill was a fraud on the government.
You voted for it, Mr. Trollop, though you always opposed the measure
until after you had an interview one evening with a certain Mrs. McCarter
at her house. She was my agent. She was acting for me. Ah, that is
right--sit down again. You can be sociable, easily enough if you have a
mind to. Well? I am waiting. Have you nothing to say?"
"Miss Hawkins, I voted for that bill because when I came to examine into
"Ah yes. When you came to examine into it. Well, I only want you to
examine into my bill. Mr. Trollop, you would not sell your vote on that
subsidy bill--which was perfectly right--but you accepted of some of the
stock, with the understanding that it was to stand in your brother-in-
"There is no pr--I mean, this is, utterly groundless, Miss Hawkins." But
the gentleman seemed somewhat uneasy, nevertheless.
"Well, not entirely so, perhaps. I and a person whom we will call Miss
Blank (never mind the real name,) were in a closet at your elbow all the
Mr. Trollop winced--then he said with dignity:
"Miss Hawkins is it possible that you were capable of such a thing as
"It was bad; I confess that. It was bad. Almost as bad as selling one's
vote for--but I forget; you did not sell your vote--you only accepted a
little trifle, a small token of esteem, for your brother-in-law. Oh, let
us come out and be frank with each other: I know you, Mr. Trollop.
I have met you on business three or four times; true, I never offered to
corrupt your principles--never hinted such a thing; but always when I had
finished sounding you, I manipulated you through an agent. Let us be
frank. Wear this comely disguise of virtue before the public--it will
count there; but here it is out of place. My dear sir, by and by there
is going to be an investigation into that National Internal Improvement
Directors' Relief Measure of a few years ago, and you know very well that
you will be a crippled man, as likely as not, when it is completed."
"It cannot be shown that a man is a knave merely for owning that stock.
I am not distressed about the National Improvement Relief Measure."
"Oh indeed I am not trying to distress you. I only wished, to make good
my assertion that I knew you. Several of you gentlemen bought of that
stack (without paying a penny down) received dividends from it, (think of
the happy idea of receiving dividends, and very large ones, too, from
stock one hasn't paid for!) and all the while your names never appeared
in the transaction; if ever you took the stock at all, you took it in
other people's names. Now you see, you had to know one of two things;
namely, you either knew that the idea of all this preposterous generosity
was to bribe you into future legislative friendship, or you didn't know
it. That is to say, you had to be either a knave or a--well, a fool--
there was no middle ground. You are not a fool, Mr. Trollop."
"Miss Hawking you flatter me. But seriously, you do not forget that some
of the best and purest men in Congress took that stock in that way?"
"Did Senator Bland?"
"Well, no--I believe not."
"Of course you believe not. Do you suppose he was ever approached, on
"If you had approached him, for instance, fortified with the fact that
some of the best men in Congress, and the purest, etc., etc.; what would
have been the result?"
"Well, what WOULD have been the result?"
"He would have shown you the door! For Mr. Blank is neither a knave nor
a fool. There are other men in the Senate and the House whom no one
would have been hardy enough to approach with that Relief Stock in that
peculiarly generous way, but they are not of the class that you regard as
the best and purest. No, I say I know you Mr. Trollop. That is to say,
one may suggest a thing to Mr. Trollop which it would not do to suggest
to Mr. Blank. Mr. Trollop, you are pledged to support the Indigent
Congressmen's Retroactive Appropriation which is to come up, either in
this or the next session. You do not deny that, even in public. The man
that will vote for that bill will break the eighth commandment in any
other way, sir!"
"But he will not vote for your corrupt measure, nevertheless, madam!"
exclaimed Mr. Trollop, rising from his seat in a passion.
"Ah, but he will. Sit down again, and let me explain why. Oh, come,
don't behave so. It is very unpleasant. Now be good, and you shall
have, the missing page of your great speech. Here it is!"--and she
displayed a sheet of manuscript.
Mr. Trollop turned immediately back from the threshold. It might have
been gladness that flashed into his face; it might have been something
else; but at any rate there was much astonishment mixed with it.
"Good! Where did you get it? Give it me!"
"Now there is no hurry. Sit down; sit down and let us talk and be
The gentleman wavered. Then he said:
"No, this is only a subterfuge. I will go. It is not the missing page."
Laura tore off a couple of lines from the bottom of the sheet.
"Now," she said, "you will know whether this is the handwriting or not.
You know it is the handwriting. Now if you will listen, you will know
that this must be the list of statistics which was to be the 'nub' of
your great effort, and the accompanying blast the beginning of the burst
of eloquence which was continued on the next page--and you will recognize
that there was where you broke down."
She read the page. Mr. Trollop said:
"This is perfectly astounding. Still, what is all this to me? It is
nothing. It does not concern me. The speech is made, and there an end.
I did break down for a moment, and in a rather uncomfortable place, since
I had led up to those statistics with some grandeur; the hiatus was
pleasanter to the House and the galleries than it was to me. But it is
no matter now. A week has passed; the jests about it ceased three or
four days ago. The, whole thing is a matter of indifference to me, Miss
"But you apologized; and promised the statistics for next day. Why
didn't you keep your promise."
"The matter was not of sufficient consequence. The time was gone by to
produce an effect with them."
"But I hear that other friends of the Soldiers' Pension Bill desire them
very much. I think you ought to let them have them."
"Miss Hawkins, this silly blunder of my copyist evidently has more
interest for you than it has for me. I will send my private secretary to
you and let him discuss the subject with you at length."
"Did he copy your speech for you?"
"Of course he did. Why all these questions? Tell me--how did you get
hold of that page of manuscript? That is the only thing that stirs a
passing interest in my mind."
"I'm coming to that." Then she said, much as if she were talking to
herself: "It does seem like taking a deal of unnecessary pains, for a
body to hire another body to construct a great speech for him and then go
and get still another body to copy it before it can be read in the
"Miss Hawkins, what do yo mean by such talk as that?"
"Why I am sure I mean no harm--no harm to anybody in the world. I am
certain that I overheard the Hon. Mr. Buckstone either promise to write
your great speech for you or else get some other competent person to do
"This is perfectly absurd, madam, perfectly absurd!" and Mr. Trollop
affected a laugh of derision.
"Why, the thing has occurred before now. I mean that I have heard that
Congressmen have sometimes hired literary grubs to build speeches for
them.--Now didn't I overhear a conversation like that I spoke of?"
"Pshaw! Why of course you may have overheard some such jesting nonsense.
But would one be in earnest about so farcical a thing?"
"Well if it was only a joke, why did you make a serious matter of it?
Why did you get the speech written for you, and then read it in the House
without ever having it copied?"
Mr. Trollop did not laugh this time; he seemed seriously perplexed. He
"Come, play out your jest, Miss Hawkins. I can't understand what you are
contriving--but it seems to entertain you--so please, go on."
"I will, I assure you; but I hope to make the matter entertaining to you,
too. Your private secretary never copied your speech."
"Indeed? Really you seem to know my affairs better than I do myself."
"I believe I do. You can't name your own amanuensis, Mr. Trollop."
"That is sad, indeed. Perhaps Miss Hawkins can?"
"Yes, I can. I wrote your speech myself, and you read it from my
manuscript. There, now!"
Mr. Trollop did not spring to his feet and smite his brow with his hand
while a cold sweat broke out all over him and the color forsook his face
--no, he only said, "Good God!" and looked greatly astonished.
Laura handed him her commonplace-book and called his attention to the
fact that the handwriting there and the handwriting of this speech were
the same. He was shortly convinced. He laid the book aside and said,
"Well, the wonderful tragedy is done, and it transpires that I am
indebted to you for my late eloquence. What of it? What was all this
for and what does it amount to after all? What do you propose to do
"Oh nothing. It is only a bit of pleasantry. When I overheard that
conversation I took an early opportunity to ask Mr. Buckstone if he knew
of anybody who might want a speech written--I had a friend, and so forth
and so on. I was the friend, myself; I thought I might do you a good
turn then and depend on you to do me one by and by. I never let Mr.
Buckstone have the speech till the last moment, and when you hurried off
to the House with it, you did not know there was a missing page, of
course, but I did.
"And now perhaps you think that if I refuse to support your bill, you
will make a grand exposure?"
"Well I had not thought of that. I only kept back the page for the mere
fun of the thing; but since you mention it, I don't know but I might do
something if I were angry."
"My dear Miss Hawkins, if you were to give out that you composed my
speech, you know very well that people would say it was only your
raillery, your fondness for putting a victim in the pillory and amusing
the public at his expense. It is too flimsy, Miss Hawkins, for a person
of your fine inventive talent--contrive an abler device than that.
"It is easily done, Mr. Trollop. I will hire a man, and pin this page on
his breast, and label it, 'The Missing Fragment of the Hon. Mr. Trollop's
Great Speech--which speech was written and composed by Miss Laura Hawkins
under a secret understanding for one hundred dollars--and the money has
not been paid.' And I will pin round about it notes in my handwriting,
which I will procure from prominent friends of mine for the occasion;
also your printed speech in the Globe, showing the connection between its
bracketed hiatus and my Fragment; and I give you my word of honor that I
will stand that human bulletin board in the rotunda of the capitol and
make him stay there a week! You see you are premature, Mr. Trollop, the
wonderful tragedy is not done yet, by any means. Come, now, doesn't it
Mr Trollop opened his eyes rather widely at this novel aspect of the
case. He got up and walked the floor and gave himself a moment for
reflection. Then he stopped and studied Laura's face a while, and ended
"Well, I am obliged to believe yon would be reckless enough to do that."
"Then don't put me to the test, Mr. Trollop. But let's drop the matter.
I have had my joke and you've borne the infliction becomingly enough.
It spoils a jest to harp on it after one has had one's laugh. I would
much rather talk about my bill."
"So would I, now, my clandestine amanuensis. Compared with some other
subjects, even your bill is a pleasant topic to discuss."
"Very good indeed! I thought. I could persuade you. Now I am sure you
will be generous to the poor negro and vote for that bill."
"Yes, I feel more tenderly toward the oppressed colored man than I did.
Shall we bury the hatchet and be good friends and respect each other's
little secrets, on condition that I vote Aye on the measure?"
"With all my heart, Mr. Trollop. I give you my word of that."
"It is a bargain. But isn't there something else you could give me,
Laura looked at him inquiringly a moment, and then she comprehended.
"Oh, yes! You may have it now. I haven't any, more use for it." She
picked up the page of manuscript, but she reconsidered her intention of
handing it to him, and said, "But never mind; I will keep it close; no
one shall see it; you shall have it as soon as your vote is recorded."
Mr. Trollop looked disappointed. But presently made his adieux, and had
got as far as the hall, when something occurred to Laura. She said to
herself, "I don't simply want his vote under compulsion--he might vote
aye, but work against the bill in secret, for revenge; that man is
unscrupulous enough to do anything. I must have his hearty co-operation
as well as his vote. There is only one way to get that."
She called him back, and said:
"I value your vote, Mr. Trollop, but I value your influence more. You
are able to help a measure along in many ways, if you choose. I want to
ask you to work for the bill as well as vote for it."
"It takes so much of one's time, Miss Hawkins--and time is money, you
"Yes, I know it is--especially in Congress. Now there is no use in you
and I dealing in pretenses and going at matters in round-about ways.
We know each other--disguises are nonsense. Let us be plain. I will
make it an object to you to work for the bill."
"Don't make it unnecessarily plain, please. There are little proprieties
that are best preserved. What do you propose?"
"Well, this." She mentioned the names of several prominent Congressmen.
"Now," said she, "these gentlemen are to vote and work for the bill,
simply out of love for the negro--and out of pure generosity I have put
in a relative of each as a member of the University incorporation. They
will handle a million or so of money, officially, but will receive no
salaries. A larger number of statesmen are to, vote and work for the
bill--also out of love for the negro--gentlemen of but moderate
influence, these--and out of pure generosity I am to see that relatives
of theirs have positions in the University, with salaries, and good ones,
too. You will vote and work for the bill, from mere affection for the
negro, and I desire to testify my gratitude becomingly. Make free
choice. Have you any friend whom you would like to present with a
salaried or unsalaried position in our institution?"
"Well, I have a brother-in-law--"
"That same old brother-in-law, you good unselfish provider! I have heard
of him often, through my agents. How regularly he does 'turn up,' to be
sure. He could deal with those millions virtuously, and withal with
ability, too--but of course you would rather he had a salaried position?"
"Oh, no," said the gentleman, facetiously, "we are very humble, very
humble in our desires; we want no money; we labor solely, for our country
and require no reward but the luxury of an applauding conscience. Make
him one of those poor hard working unsalaried corporators and let him do
every body good with those millions--and go hungry himself! I will try
to exert a little influence in favor of the bill."
Arrived at home, Mr. Trollop sat down and thought it all over--something
after this fashion: it is about the shape it might have taken if he had
spoken it aloud.
"My reputation is getting a little damaged, and I meant to clear it up
brilliantly with an exposure of this bill at the supreme moment, and ride
back into Congress on the eclat of it; and if I had that bit of
manuscript, I would do it yet. It would be more money in my pocket in
the end, than my brother-in-law will get out of that incorporatorship,
fat as it is. But that sheet of paper is out of my reach--she will never
let that get out of her hands. And what a mountain it is! It blocks up
my road, completely. She was going to hand it to me, once. Why didn't
she! Must be a deep woman. Deep devil! That is what she is;
a beautiful devil--and perfectly fearless, too. The idea of her pinning
that paper on a man and standing him up in the rotunda looks absurd at a
first glance. But she would do it! She is capable of doing anything.
I went there hoping she would try to bribe me--good solid capital that
would be in the exposure. Well, my prayer was answered; she did try to
bribe me; and I made the best of a bad bargain and let her. I am check-
mated. I must contrive something fresh to get back to Congress on.
Very well; a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush; I will work for
the bill--the incorporatorship will be a very good thing."
As soon as Mr. Trollop had taken his leave, Laura ran to Senator
Dilworthy and began to speak, but he interrupted her and said
distressfully, without even turning from his writing to look at her:
"Only half an hour! You gave it up early, child. However, it was best,
it was best--I'm sure it was best--and safest."
"Give it up! I!"
The Senator sprang up, all aglow:
"My child, you can't mean that you--"
"I've made him promise on honor to think about a compromise tonight and
come and tell me his decision in the morning."
"Good! There's hope yet that--"
Nonsense, uncle. I've made him engage to let the Tennessee Land bill
"I've made him promise to vote with us!"
"I've made him swear that he'll work for us!"
"PRE - - - POSTEROUS!--Utterly pre--break a window, child, before I
"No matter, it's true anyway. Now we can march into Congress with drums
beating and colors flying!"
"Well--well--well. I'm sadly bewildered, sadly bewildered. I can't
understand it at all--the most extraordinary woman that ever--it's a
great day, it's a great day. There--there--let me put my hand in
benediction on this precious head. Ah, my child, the poor negro will
"Oh bother the poor negro, uncle! Put it in your speech. Good-night,
good-bye--we'll marshal our forces and march with the dawn!"
Laura reflected a while, when she was alone, and then fell to laughing,
"Everybody works for me,"--so ran her thought. "It was a good idea to
make Buckstone lead Mr. Trollop on to get a great speech written for him;
and it was a happy part of the same idea for me to copy the speech after
Mr. Buckstone had written it, and then keep back a page. Mr. B. was
very complimentary to me when Trollop's break-down in the House showed
him the object of my mysterious scheme; I think he will say, still finer
things when I tell him the triumph the sequel to it has gained for us.
"But what a coward the man was, to believe I would have exposed that page
in the rotunda, and so exposed myself. However, I don't know--I don't
know. I will think a moment. Suppose he voted no; suppose the bill
failed; that is to suppose this stupendous game lost forever, that I have
played so desperately for; suppose people came around pitying me--odious!
And he could have saved me by his single voice. Yes, I would have
exposed him! What would I care for the talk that that would have made
about me when I was gone to Europe with Selby and all the world was busy
with my history and my dishonor? It would be almost happiness to spite
somebody at such a time."
The very next day, sure enough, the campaign opened. In due course, the
Speaker of the House reached that Order of Business which is termed
"Notices of Bills," and then the Hon. Mr. Buckstone rose in his place and
gave notice of a bill "To Found and Incorporate the Knobs Industrial
University," and then sat down without saying anything further. The busy
gentlemen in the reporters' gallery jotted a line in their note-books,
ran to the telegraphic desk in a room which communicated with their own
writing-parlor, and then hurried back to their places in the gallery; and
by the time they had resumed their seats, the line which they had
delivered to the operator had been read in telegraphic offices in towns
and cities hundreds of miles away. It was distinguished by frankness of
language as well as by brevity:
"The child is born. Buckstone gives notice of the thieving Knobs
University job. It is said the noses have been counted and enough votes
have been bought to pass it."
For some time the correspondents had been posting their several journals
upon the alleged disreputable nature of the bill, and furnishing daily
reports of the Washington gossip concerning it. So the next morning,
nearly every newspaper of character in the land assailed the measure and
hurled broadsides of invective at Mr. Buckstone. The Washington papers
were more respectful, as usual--and conciliatory, also, as usual. They
generally supported measures, when it was possible; but when they could
not they "deprecated" violent expressions of opinion in other
They always deprecated, when there was trouble ahead. However, 'The
Washington Daily Love-Feast' hailed the bill with warm approbation. This
was Senator Balaam's paper--or rather, "Brother" Balaam, as he was
popularly called, for he had been a clergyman, in his day; and he himself
and all that he did still emitted an odor of sanctity now that he had
diverged into journalism and politics. He was a power in the
Congressional prayer meeting, and in all movements that looked to the
spread of religion and temperance.
His paper supported the new bill with gushing affection; it was a noble
measure; it was a just measure; it was a generous measure; it was a pure
measure, and that surely should recommend it in these corrupt times; and
finally, if the nature of the bill were not known at all, the 'Love
Feast' would support it anyway, and unhesitatingly, for the fact that
Senator Dilworthy was the originator of the measure was a guaranty that
it contemplated a worthy and righteous work.
Senator Dilworthy was so anxious to know what the New York papers would
say about the bill; that he had arranged to have synopses of their
editorials telegraphed to him; he could not wait for the papers
themselves to crawl along down to Washington by a mail train which has
never run over a cow since the road was built; for the reason that it has
never been able to overtake one. It carries the usual "cow-catcher" in
front of the locomotive, but this is mere ostentation. It ought to be
attached to the rear car, where it could do some good; but instead, no
provision is made there for the protection of the traveling public, and
hence it is not a matter of surprise that cows so frequently climb aboard
that train and among the passengers.
The Senator read his dispatches aloud at the breakfast table. Laura was
troubled beyond measure at their tone, and said that that sort of comment
would defeat the bill; but the Senator said:
"Oh, not at all, not at all, my child. It is just what we want.
Persecution is the one thing needful, now--all the other forces are
secured. Give us newspaper persecution enough, and we are safe.
Vigorous persecution will alone carry a bill sometimes, dear; and when
you start with a strong vote in the first place, persecution comes in
with double effect. It scares off some of the weak supporters, true,
but it soon turns strong ones into stubborn ones. And then, presently,
it changes the tide of public opinion. The great public is weak-minded;
the great public is sentimental; the great public always turns around and
weeps for an odious murderer, and prays for-him, and carries flowers to
his prison and besieges the governor with appeals to his clemency, as
soon as the papers begin to howl for that man's blood.--In a word, the
great putty-hearted public loves to 'gush,' and there is no such darling
opportunity to gush as a case of persecution affords."
"Well, uncle, dear; if your theory is right, let us go into raptures,
for nobody can ask a heartier persecution than these editorials are
"I am not so sure of that, my daughter. I don't entirely like the tone
of some of these remarks. They lack vim, they lack venom. Here is one
calls it a 'questionable measure.' Bah, there is no strength in that.
This one is better; it calls it 'highway robbery.' That sounds something
like. But now this one seems satisfied to call it an 'iniquitous
scheme'. 'Iniquitous' does not exasperate anybody; it is weak--puerile.
The ignorant will imagine it to be intended for a compliment. But this
other one--the one I read last--has the true ring: 'This vile, dirty
effort to rob the public treasury, by the kites and vultures that now
infest the filthy den called Congress'--that is admirable, admirable!
We must have more of that sort. But it will come--no fear of that;
they're not warmed up, yet. A week from now you'll see."
"Uncle, you and Brother Balaam are bosom friends--why don't you get his
paper to persecute us, too?"
"It isn't worth while, my, daughter. His support doesn't hurt a bill.
Nobody reads his editorials but himself. But I wish the New York papers
would talk a little plainer. It is annoying to have to wait a week for
them to warm up. I expected better things at their hands--and time is
At the proper hour, according to his previous notice, Mr. Buckstone duly
introduced his bill entitled "An Act to Found and Incorporate the Knobs
Industrial University," moved its proper reference, and sat down.
The Speaker of the House rattled off this observation:
Habitues of the House comprehended that this long, lightning-heeled word
signified that if there was no objection, the bill would take the
customary course of a measure of its nature, and be referred to the
Committee on Benevolent Appropriations, and that it was accordingly so
referred. Strangers merely supposed that the Speaker was taking a gargle
for some affection of the throat.
The reporters immediately telegraphed the introduction of the bill.--And
"The assertion that the bill will pass was premature. It is said
that many favorers of it will desert when the storm breaks upon them
from the public press."
The storm came, and during ten days it waxed more and more violent day by
day. The great "Negro University Swindle" became the one absorbing topic
of conversation throughout the Union. Individuals denounced it, journals
denounced it, public meetings denounced it, the pictorial papers
caricatured its friends, the whole nation seemed to be growing frantic
over it. Meantime the Washington correspondents were sending such
telegrams as these abroad in the land; Under date of--
SATURDAY. "Congressmen Jex and Fluke are wavering; it is believed they
will desert the execrable bill."
MONDAY. "Jex and Fluke have deserted!"
THURSDAY. "Tubbs and Huffy left the sinking ship last night"
"Three desertions. The University thieves are getting scared, though
they will not own it."
"The leaders are growing stubborn--they swear they can carry it, but it
is now almost certain that they no longer have a majority!"
After a day or two of reluctant and ambiguous telegrams:
"Public sentiment seems changing, a trifle in favor of the bill--
but only a trifle."
And still later:
"It is whispered that the Hon. Mr. Trollop has gone over to the pirates.
It is probably a canard. Mr. Trollop has all along been the bravest and
most efficient champion of virtue and the people against the bill, and
the report is without doubt a shameless invention."
"With characteristic treachery, the truckling and pusillanimous reptile,
Crippled-Speech Trollop, has gone over to the enemy. It is contended,
now, that he has been a friend to the bill, in secret, since the day it
was introduced, and has had bankable reasons for being so; but he himself
declares that he has gone over because the malignant persecution of the
bill by the newspapers caused him to study its provisions with more care
than he had previously done, and this close examination revealed the fact
that the measure is one in every way worthy of support. (Pretty thin!)
It cannot be denied that this desertion has had a damaging effect. Jex
and Fluke have returned to their iniquitous allegiance, with six or eight
others of lesser calibre, and it is reported and believed that Tubbs and
Huffy are ready to go back. It is feared that the University swindle is
stronger to-day than it has ever been before."
"It is said that the committee will report the bill back to-morrow. Both
sides are marshaling their forces, and the fight on this bill is
evidently going to be the hottest of the session.--All Washington is
"It's easy enough for another fellow to talk," said Harry, despondingly,
after he had put Philip in possession of his view of the case. "It's
easy enough to say 'give her up,' if you don't care for her. What am I
going to do to give her up?"
It seemed to Harry that it was a situation requiring some active
measures. He couldn't realize that he had fallen hopelessly in love
without some rights accruing to him for the possession of the object of
his passion. Quiet resignation under relinquishment of any thing he
wanted was not in his line. And when it appeared to him that his
surrender of Laura would be the withdrawal of the one barrier that kept
her from ruin, it was unreasonable to expect that he could see how to
give her up.
Harry had the most buoyant confidence in his own projects always; he saw
everything connected with himself in a large way and in rosy lines. This
predominance of the imagination over the judgment gave that appearance of
exaggeration to his conversation and to his communications with regard to
himself, which sometimes conveyed the impression that he was not speaking
the truth. His acquaintances had been known to say that they invariably
allowed a half for shrinkage in his statements, and held the other half
under advisement for confirmation.
Philip in this case could not tell from Harry's story exactly how much
encouragement Laura had given him, nor what hopes he might justly have of
winning her. He had never seen him desponding before. The "brag"
appeared to be all taken out of him, and his airy manner only asserted
itself now and then in a comical imitation of its old self.
Philip wanted time to look about him before he decided what to do.
He was not familiar with Washington, and it was difficult to adjust his
feelings and perceptions to its peculiarities. Coming out of the sweet
sanity of the Bolton household, this was by contrast the maddest Vanity
Fair one could conceive. It seemed to him a feverish, unhealthy
atmosphere in which lunacy would be easily developed. He fancied that
everybody attached to himself an exaggerated importance, from the fact of
being at the national capital, the center of political influence, the
fountain of patronage, preferment, jobs and opportunities.
People were introduced to each other as from this or that state, not from
cities or towns, and this gave a largeness to their representative
feeling. All the women talked politics as naturally and glibly as they
talk fashion or literature elsewhere. There was always some exciting
topic at the Capitol, or some huge slander was rising up like a miasmatic
exhalation from the Potomac, threatening to settle no one knew exactly
where. Every other person was an aspirant for a place, or, if he had
one, for a better place, or more pay; almost every other one had some
claim or interest or remedy to urge; even the women were all advocates
for the advancement of some person, and they violently espoused or
denounced this or that measure as it would affect some relative,
acquaintance or friend.
Love, travel, even death itself, waited on the chances of the dies daily
thrown in the two Houses, and the committee rooms there. If the measure
went through, love could afford to ripen into marriage, and longing for
foreign travel would have fruition; and it must have been only eternal
hope springing in the breast that kept alive numerous old claimants who
for years and years had besieged the doors of Congress, and who looked as
if they needed not so much an appropriation of money as six feet of
ground. And those who stood so long waiting for success to bring them
death were usually those who had a just claim.
Representing states and talking of national and even international
affairs, as familiarly as neighbors at home talk of poor crops and the
extravagance of their ministers, was likely at first to impose upon
Philip as to the importance of the people gathered here.
There was a little newspaper editor from Phil's native town, the
assistant on a Peddletonian weekly, who made his little annual joke about
the "first egg laid on our table," and who was the menial of every
tradesman in the village and under bonds to him for frequent "puffs,"
except the undertaker, about whose employment he was recklessly
facetious. In Washington he was an important man, correspondent, and
clerk of two house committees, a "worker" in politics, and a confident
critic of every woman and every man in Washington. He would be a consul
no doubt by and by, at some foreign port, of the language of which he was
ignorant--though if ignorance of language were a qualification he might
have been a consul at home. His easy familiarity with great men was
beautiful to see, and when Philip learned what a tremendous underground
influence this little ignoramus had, he no longer wondered at the queer
appointments and the queerer legislation.
Philip was not long in discovering that people in Washington did not
differ much from other people; they had the same meannesses,
generosities, and tastes: A Washington boarding house had the odor of a
boarding house the world over.
Col. Sellers was as unchanged as any one Philip saw whom he had known
elsewhere. Washington appeared to be the native element of this man.
His pretentions were equal to any he encountered there. He saw nothing
in its society that equalled that of Hawkeye, he sat down to no table
that could not be unfavorably contrasted with his own at home; the most
airy scheme inflated in the hot air of the capital only reached in
magnitude some of his lesser fancies, the by-play of his constructive
"The country is getting along very well," he said to Philip, "but our
public men are too timid. What we want is more money. I've told
Boutwell so. Talk about basing the currency on gold; you might as well
base it on pork. Gold is only one product. Base it on everything!
You've got to do something for the West. How am I to move my crops?
We must have improvements. Grant's got the idea. We want a canal from
the James River to the Mississippi. Government ought to build it."
It was difficult to get the Colonel off from these large themes when he
was once started, but Philip brought the conversation round to Laura and
her reputation in the City.
"No," he said, "I haven't noticed much. We've been so busy about this
University. It will make Laura rich with the rest of us, and she has
done nearly as much as if she were a man. She has great talent, and will
make a big match. I see the foreign ministers and that sort after her.
Yes, there is talk, always will be about a pretty woman so much in public
as she is. Tough stories come to me, but I put'em away. 'Taint likely
one of Si Hawkins's children would do that--for she is the same as a
child of his. I told her, though, to go slow," added the Colonel, as if
that mysterious admonition from him would set everything right.
"Do you know anything about a Col. Selby?"
"Know all about him. Fine fellow. But he's got a wife; and I told him,
as a friend, he'd better sheer off from Laura. I reckon he thought
better of it and did."
But Philip was not long in learning the truth. Courted as Laura was by a
certain class and still admitted into society, that, nevertheless, buzzed
with disreputable stories about her, she had lost character with the best
people. Her intimacy with Selby was open gossip, and there were winks
and thrustings of the tongue in any group of men when she passed by.
It was clear enough that Harry's delusion must be broken up, and that no
such feeble obstacle as his passion could interpose would turn Laura from
her fate. Philip determined to see her, and put himself in possession of
the truth, as he suspected it, in order to show Harry his folly.
Laura, after her last conversation with Harry, had a new sense of her
position. She had noticed before the signs of a change in manner towards
her, a little less respect perhaps from men, and an avoidance by women.
She had attributed this latter partly to jealousy of her, for no one is
willing to acknowledge a fault in himself when a more agreeable motive
can be found for the estrangement of his acquaintances. But now, if
society had turned on her, she would defy it. It was not in her nature
to shrink. She knew she had been wronged, and she knew that she had no
What she heard of Col. Selby's proposed departure alarmed her more than
anything else, and she calmly determined that if he was deceiving her the
second time it should be the last. Let society finish the tragedy if it
liked; she was indifferent what came after. At the first opportunity,
she charged Selby with his intention to abandon her. He unblushingly
He had not thought of going to Europe. He had only been amusing himself
with Sellers' schemes. He swore that as soon as she succeeded with her
bill, he would fly with her to any part of the world.
She did not quite believe him, for she saw that he feared her, and she
began to suspect that his were the protestations of a coward to gain
time. But she showed him no doubts.
She only watched his movements day by day, and always held herself ready
to act promptly.
When Philip came into the presence of this attractive woman, he could not
realize that she was the subject of all the scandal he had heard. She
received him with quite the old Hawkeye openness and cordiality, and fell
to talking at once of their little acquaintance there; and it seemed
impossible that he could ever say to her what he had come determined to
say. Such a man as Philip has only one standard by which to judge women.
Laura recognized that fact no doubt. The better part of her woman's
nature saw it. Such a man might, years ago, not now, have changed her
nature, and made the issue of her life so different, even after her cruel
abandonment. She had a dim feeling of this, and she would like now to
stand well with him. The spark of truth and honor that was left in her
was elicited by his presence. It was this influence that governed her
conduct in this interview.
"I have come," said Philip in his direct manner, "from my friend
Mr. Brierly. You are not ignorant of his feeling towards you?"
"But perhaps you do not know, you who have so much admiration, how
sincere and overmastering his love is for you?" Philip would not have
spoken so plainly, if he had in mind anything except to draw from Laura
something that would end Harry's passion.
"And is sincere love so rare, Mr. Sterling?" asked Laura, moving her foot
a little, and speaking with a shade of sarcasm.
"Perhaps not in Washington," replied Philip,--tempted into a similar
tone. "Excuse my bluntness," he continued, "but would the knowledge of
his love; would his devotion, make any difference to you in your
"In respect to what?" asked Laura quickly.
"Well, to others. I won't equivocate--to Col. Selby?"
Laura's face flushed with anger, or shame; she looked steadily at Philip
"By what right, sir,--"
"By the right of friendship," interrupted Philip stoutly. "It may matter
little to you. It is everything to him. He has a Quixotic notion that
you would turn back from what is before you for his sake. You cannot be
ignorant of what all the city is talking of." Philip said this
determinedly and with some bitterness.
It was a full minute before Laura spoke. Both had risen, Philip as if to
go, and Laura in suppressed excitement. When she spoke her voice was
very unsteady, and she looked down.
"Yes, I know. I perfectly understand what you mean. Mr. Brierly is
nothing--simply nothing. He is a moth singed, that is all--the trifler
with women thought he was a wasp. I have no pity for him, not the least.
You may tell him not to make a fool of himself, and to keep away. I say
this on your account, not his. You are not like him. It is enough for
me that you want it so. Mr. Sterling," she continued, looking up; and
there were tears in her eyes that contradicted the hardness of her
language, "you might not pity him if you knew my history; perhaps you
would not wonder at some things you hear. No; it is useless to ask me
why it must be so. You can't make a life over--society wouldn't let you
if you would--and mine must be lived as it is. There, sir, I'm not
offended; but it is useless for you to say anything more."
Philip went away with his heart lightened about Harry, but profoundly
saddened by the glimpse of what this woman might have been. He told
Harry all that was necessary of the conversation--she was bent on going
her own way, he had not the ghost of a chance--he was a fool, she had
said, for thinking he had.
And Harry accepted it meekly, and made up his own mind that Philip didn't
know much about women.
The galleries of the House were packed, on the momentous day, not because
the reporting of an important bill back by a committee was a thing to be
excited about, if the bill were going to take the ordinary course
afterward; it would be like getting excited over the empaneling of a
coroner's jury in a murder case, instead of saving up one's emotions for
the grander occasion of the hanging of the accused, two years later,
after all the tedious forms of law had been gone through with.
But suppose you understand that this coroner's jury is going to turn out
to be a vigilance committee in disguise, who will hear testimony for an
hour and then hang the murderer on the spot? That puts a different
aspect upon the matter. Now it was whispered that the legitimate forms
of procedure usual in the House, and which keep a bill hanging along for
days and even weeks, before it is finally passed upon, were going to be
overruled, in this case, and short work made of the, measure; and so,
what was beginning as a mere inquest might, torn out to be something very
In the course of the day's business the Order of "Reports of Committees"
was finally reached and when the weary crowds heard that glad
announcement issue from the Speaker's lips they ceased to fret at the
dragging delay, and plucked up spirit. The Chairman of the Committee on
Benevolent Appropriations rose and made his report, and just then a blue-
uniformed brass-mounted little page put a note into his hand.
It was from Senator Dilworthy, who had appeared upon the floor of the
House for a moment and flitted away again:
"Everybody expects a grand assault in force; no doubt you believe,
as I certainly do, that it is the thing to do; we are strong, and
everything is hot for the contest. Trollop's espousal of our cause
has immensely helped us and we grow in power constantly. Ten of the
opposition were called away from town about noon,(but--so it is
said--only for one day). Six others are sick, but expect to be
about again tomorrow or next day, a friend tells me. A bold
onslaught is worth trying. Go for a suspension of the rules! You
will find we can swing a two-thirds vote--I am perfectly satisfied
of it. The Lord's truth will prevail.
Mr. Buckstone had reported the bills from his committee, one by one,
leaving the bill to the last. When the House had voted upon the
acceptance or rejection of the report upon all but it, and the question
now being upon its disposal--Mr. Buckstone begged that the House would
give its attention to a few remarks which he desired to make. His
committee had instructed him to report the bill favorably; he wished to
explain the nature of the measure, and thus justify the committee's
action; the hostility roused by the press would then disappear, and the
bill would shine forth in its true and noble character. He said that its
provisions were simple. It incorporated the Knobs Industrial University,
locating it in East Tennessee, declaring it open to all persons without
distinction of sex, color or religion, and committing its management to a
board of perpetual trustees, with power to fill vacancies in their own
number. It provided for the erection of certain buildings for the
University, dormitories, lecture-halls, museums, libraries, laboratories,
work-shops, furnaces, and mills. It provided also for the purchase of
sixty-five thousand acres of land, (fully described) for the purposes of
the University, in the Knobs of East Tennessee. And it appropriated
[blank] dollars for the purchase of the Land, which should be the
property of the national trustees in trust for the uses named.
Every effort had been made to secure the refusal of the whole amount of
the property of the Hawkins heirs in the Knobs, some seventy-five
thousand acres Mr. Buckstone said. But Mr. Washington Hawkins (one of
the heirs) objected. He was, indeed, very reluctant to sell any part of
the land at any price; and indeed--this reluctance was justifiable when
one considers how constantly and how greatly the property is rising in
What the South needed, continued Mr. Buckstone, was skilled labor.
Without that it would be unable to develop its mines, build its roads,
work to advantage and without great waste its fruitful land, establish
manufactures or enter upon a prosperous industrial career. Its laborers
were almost altogether unskilled. Change them into intelligent, trained
workmen, and you increased at once the capital, the resources of the
entire south, which would enter upon a prosperity hitherto unknown.
In five years the increase in local wealth would not only reimburse the
government for the outlay in this appropriation, but pour untold wealth
into the treasury.
This was the material view, and the least important in the honorable
Back to Full Books