The Gilded Age
Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
Part 7 out of 9
gentleman's opinion. [Here he referred to some notes furnished him by
Senator Dilworthy, and then continued.] God had given us the care of
these colored millions. What account should we render to Him of our
stewardship? We had made them free. Should we leave them ignorant?
We had cast them upon their own resources. Should we leave them without
tools? We could not tell what the intentions of Providence are in regard
to these peculiar people, but our duty was plain. The Knobs Industrial
University would be a vast school of modern science and practice, worthy
of a great nation. It would combine the advantages of Zurich, Freiburg,
Creuzot and the Sheffield Scientific. Providence had apparently reserved
and set apart the Knobs of East Tennessee for this purpose. What else
were they for? Was it not wonderful that for more than thirty years,
over a generation, the choicest portion of them had remained in one
family, untouched, as if, separated for some great use!
It might be asked why the government should buy this land, when it had
millions of yes, more than the railroad companies desired, which, it
might devote to this purpose? He answered, that the government had no
such tract of land as this. It had nothing comparable to it for the
purposes of the University: This was to be a school of mining, of
engineering, of the working of metals, of chemistry, zoology, botany,
manufactures, agriculture, in short of all the complicated industries
that make a state great. There was no place for the location of such a
school like the Knobs of East Tennessee. The hills abounded in metals of
all sorts, iron in all its combinations, copper, bismuth, gold and silver
in small quantities, platinum he--believed, tin, aluminium; it was
covered with forests and strange plants; in the woods were found the
coon, the opossum, the fox, the deer and many other animals who roamed in
the domain of natural history; coal existed in enormous quantity and no
doubt oil; it was such a place for the practice of agricultural
experiments that any student who had been successful there would have an
easy task in any other portion of the country.
No place offered equal facilities for experiments in mining, metallurgy,
engineering. He expected to live to see the day, when the youth of the
south would resort to its mines, its workshops, its labratories, its
furnaces and factories for practical instruction in all the great
A noisy and rather ill-natured debate followed, now, and lasted hour
after hour. The friends of the bill were instructed by the leaders to
make no efort to check it; it was deemed better strategy to tire out the
opposition; it was decided to vote down every proposition to adjourn, and
so continue the sitting into the night; opponents might desert, then, one
by one and weaken their party, for they had no personal stake in the
Sunset came, and still the fight went on; the gas was lit, the crowd in
the galleries began to thin, but the contest continued; the crowd
returned, by and by, with hunger and thirst appeased, and aggravated the
hungry and thirsty House by looking contented and comfortable; but still
the wrangle lost nothing of its bitterness. Recesses were moved
plaintively by the opposition, and invariably voted down by the
At midnight the House presented a spectacle calculated to interest a
stranger. The great galleries were still thronged--though only with men,
now; the bright colors that had made them look like hanging gardens were
gone, with the ladies. The reporters' gallery, was merely occupied by
one or two watchful sentinels of the quill-driving guild; the main body
cared nothing for a debate that had dwindled to a mere vaporing of dull
speakers and now and then a brief quarrel over a point of order; but
there was an unusually large attendance of journalists in the reporters'
waiting-room, chatting, smoking, and keeping on the 'qui vive' for the
general irruption of the Congressional volcano that must come when the
time was ripe for it. Senator Dilworthy and Philip were in the
Diplomatic Gallery; Washington sat in the public gallery, and Col.
Sellers was, not far away. The Colonel had been flying about the
corridors and button-holing Congressmen all the evening, and believed
that he had accomplished a world of valuable service; but fatigue was
telling upon him, now, and he was quiet and speechless--for once. Below,
a few Senators lounged upon the sofas set apart for visitors, and talked
with idle Congressmen. A dreary member was speaking; the presiding
officer was nodding; here and there little knots of members stood in the
aisles, whispering together; all about the House others sat in all the
various attitudes that express weariness; some, tilted back, had one or
more legs disposed upon their desks; some sharpened pencils indolently;
some scribbled aimlessly; some yawned and stretched; a great many lay
upon their breasts upon the desks, sound asleep and gently snoring.
The flooding gaslight from the fancifully wrought roof poured down upon
the tranquil scene. Hardly a sound disturbed the stillness, save the
monotonous eloquence of the gentleman who occupied the floor. Now and
then a warrior of the opposition broke down under the pressure, gave it
up, and went home.
Mr. Buckstone began to think it might be safe, now, to "proceed to
business." He consulted with Trollop and one or two others. Senator
Dilworthy descended to the floor of the House and they went to meet him.
After a brief comparison of notes, the Congressmen sought their seats and
sent pages about the House with messages to friends. These latter
instantly roused up, yawned, and began to look alert. The moment the
floor was unoccupied, Mr. Buckstone rose, with an injured look, and said
it was evident that the opponents of the bill were merely talking against
time, hoping in this unbecoming way to tire out the friends of the
measure and so defeat it. Such conduct might be respectable enough in a
village debating society, but it was trivial among statesmen, it was out
of place in so august an assemblage as the House of Representatives of
the United States. The friends of the bill had been not only willing
that its opponents should express their opinions, but had strongly
desired it. They courted the fullest and freest discussion; but it
seemed to him that this fairness was but illy appreciated, since
gentlemen were capable of taking advantage of it for selfish and unworthy
ends. This trifling had gone far enough. He called for the question.
The instant Mr. Buckstone sat down, the storm burst forth. A dozen
gentlemen sprang to their feet.
"Order! Order! Order! Question! Question!"
The sharp blows of the Speaker's gavel rose above the din.
The "previous question," that hated gag, was moved and carried. All
debate came to a sudden end, of course. Triumph No. 1.
Then the vote was taken on the adoption of the report and it carried by a
Mr. Buckstone got the floor again and moved that the rules be suspended
and the bill read a first time.
Mr. Trollop--"Second the motion!"
The Speaker--"It is moved and--"
Clamor of Voices. "Move we adjourn! Second the motion! Adjourn!
Adjourn! Order! Order!"
The Speaker, (after using his gavel vigorously)--"It is moved and
seconded that the House do now adjourn. All those in favor--"
Voices--"Division! Division! Ayes and nays! Ayes and nays!"
It was decided to vote upon the adjournment by ayes and nays. This was
in earnest. The excitement was furious. The galleries were in commotion
in an instant, the reporters swarmed to their places. Idling members of
the House flocked to their seats, nervous gentlemen sprang to their feet,
pages flew hither and thither, life and animation were visible
everywhere, all the long ranks of faces in the building were kindled.
"This thing decides it!" thought Mr. Buckstone; "but let the fight
The voting began, and every sound. ceased but the calling if the names
and the "Aye!" "No!" "No!" "Aye!" of the responses. There was not a
movement in the House; the people seemed to hold their breath.
The voting ceased, and then there was an interval of dead silence while
the clerk made up his count. There was a two-thirds vote on the
University side--and two over.
The Speaker--"The rules are suspended, the motion is carried--first
reading of the bill!"
By one impulse the galleries broke forth into stormy applause, and even
some of the members of the House were not wholly able to restrain their
feelings. The Speaker's gavel came to the rescue and his clear voice
"Order, gentlemen--! The House will come to order! If spectators offend
again, the Sergeant-at-arms will clear the galleries!"
Then he cast his eyes aloft and gazed at some object attentively for a
moment. All eyes followed the direction of the Speaker's, and then there
was a general titter. The Speaker said:
"Let the Sergeant-at Arms inform the gentleman that his conduct is an
infringement of the dignity of the House--and one which is not warranted
by the state of the weather." Poor Sellers was the culprit. He sat in
the front seat of the gallery, with his arms and his tired body
overflowing the balustrade--sound asleep, dead to all excitements, all
disturbances. The fluctuations of the Washington weather had influenced
his dreams, perhaps, for during the recent tempest of applause he had
hoisted his gingham umbrella, and calmly gone on with his slumbers.
Washington Hawkins had seen the act, but was not near enough at hand to
save his friend, and no one who was near enough desired to spoil the
effect. But a neighbor stirred up the Colonel, now that the House had
its eye upon him, and the great speculator furled his tent like the Arab.
"Bless my soul, I'm so absent-minded when I, get to thinking! I never
wear an umbrella in the house--did anybody 'notice it'? What-asleep?
Indeed? And did you wake me sir? Thank you--thank you very much indeed.
It might have fallen out of my hands and been injured. Admirable
article, sir--present from a friend in Hong Kong; one doesn't come across
silk like that in this country--it's the real--Young Hyson, I'm told."
By this time the incident was forgotten, for the House was at war again.
Victory was almost in sight, now, and the friends of the bill threw
themselves into their work with enthusiasm. They soon moved and carried
its second reading, and after a strong, sharp fight, carried a motion to
go into Committee of the whole. The Speaker left his place, of course,
and a chairman was appointed.
Now the contest raged hotter than ever--for the authority that compels
order when the House sits as a House, is greatly diminished when it sits
as Committee. The main fight came upon the filling of the blanks with
the sum to be appropriated for the purchase of the land, of course.
Buckstone--"Mr. Chairman, I move you, sir, that the words 'three millions
of' be inserted."
Mr. Hadley--"Mr. Chairman, I move that the words two and a half dollars
Mr. Clawson--"Mr. Chairman, I move the insertion of the words five and
twenty cents, as representing the true value of this barren and isolated
tract of desolation."
The question, according to rule, was taken upon the smallest sum first.
It was lost.
Then upon the nest smallest sum. Lost, also.
And then upon the three millions. After a vigorous battle that lasted a
considerable time, this motion was carried.
Then, clause by clause the bill was read, discussed, and amended in
trifling particulars, and now the Committee rose and reported.
The moment the House had resumed its functions and received the report,
Mr. Buckstone moved and carried the third reading of the bill.
The same bitter war over the sum to be paid was fought over again, and
now that the ayes and nays could be called and placed on record, every
man was compelled to vote by name on the three millions, and indeed on
every paragraph of the bill from the enacting clause straight through.
But as before, the friends of the measure stood firm and voted in a solid
body every time, and so did its enemies.
The supreme moment was come, now, but so sure was the result that not
even a voice was raised to interpose an adjournment. The enemy were
totally demoralized. The bill was put upon its final passage almost
without dissent, and the calling of the ayes and nays began. When it was
ended the triumph was complete--the two-thirds vote held good, and a veto
was impossible, as far as the House was concerned!
Mr. Buckstone resolved that now that the nail was driven home, he would
clinch it on the other side and make it stay forever. He moved a
reconsideration of the vote by which the bill had passed. The motion was
lost, of course, and the great Industrial University act was an
accomplished fact as far as it was in the power of the House of
Representatives to make it so.
There was no need to move an adjournment. The instant the last motion
was decided, the enemies of the University rose and flocked out of the
Hall, talking angrily, and its friends flocked after them jubilant and
congratulatory. The galleries disgorged their burden, and presently the
house was silent and deserted.
When Col. Sellers and Washington stepped out of the building they were
surprised to find that the daylight was old and the sun well up. Said
"Give me your hand, my boy! You're all right at last! You're a
millionaire! At least you're going to be. The thing is dead sure.
Don't you bother about the Senate. Leave me and Dilworthy to take care
of that. Run along home, now, and tell Laura. Lord, it's magnificent
news--perfectly magnificent! Run, now. I'll telegraph my wife. She
must come here and help me build a house. Everything's all right now!"
Washington was so dazed by his good fortune and so bewildered by the
gaudy pageant of dreams that was already trailing its long ranks through
his brain, that he wandered he knew not where, and so loitered by the way
that when at last he reached home he woke to a sudden annoyance in the
fact that his news must be old to Laura, now, for of course Senator
Dilworthy must have already been home and told her an hour before. He
knocked at her door, but there was no answer.
"That is like the Duchess," said he. "Always cool; a body can't excite
her-can't keep her excited, anyway. Now she has gone off to sleep again,
as comfortably as if she were used to picking up a million dollars every
day or two"
Then he vent to bed. But he could not sleep; so he got up and wrote a
long, rapturous letter to Louise, and another to his mother. And he
closed both to much the same effect:
"Laura will be queen of America, now, and she will be applauded, and
honored and petted by the whole nation. Her name will be in every
one's mouth more than ever, and how they will court her and quote
her bright speeches. And mine, too, I suppose; though they do that
more already, than they really seem to deserve. Oh, the world is so
bright, now, and so cheery; the clouds are all gone, our long
struggle is ended, our, troubles are all over. Nothing can ever
make us unhappy any more. You dear faithful ones will have the
reward of your patient waiting now. How father's Wisdom is proven
at last! And how I repent me, that there have been times when I
lost faith and said, the blessing he stored up for us a tedious
generation ago was but a long-drawn curse, a blight upon us all.
But everything is well, now--we are done with poverty, sad toil,
weariness and heart-break; all the world is filled with sunshine."
Philip left the capitol and walked up Pennsylvania Avenue in company with
Senator Dilworthy. It was a bright spring morning, the air was soft and
inspiring; in the deepening wayside green, the pink flush of the
blossoming peach trees, the soft suffusion on the heights of Arlington,
and the breath of the warm south wind was apparent, the annual miracle of
the resurrection of the earth.
The Senator took off his hat and seemed to open his soul to the sweet
influences of the morning. After the heat and noise of the chamber,
under its dull gas-illuminated glass canopy, and the all night struggle
of passion and feverish excitement there, the open, tranquil world seemed
like Heaven. The Senator was not in an exultant mood, but rather in a
condition of holy joy, befitting a Christian statesman whose benevolent
plans Providence has made its own and stamped with approval. The great
battle had been fought, but the measure had still to encounter the
scrutiny of the Senate, and Providence sometimes acts differently in the
two Houses. Still the Senator was tranquil, for he knew that there is an
esprit de corps in the Senate which does not exist in the House, the
effect of which is to make the members complaisant towards the projects
of each other, and to extend a mutual aid which in a more vulgar body
would be called "log-rolling."
"It is, under Providence, a good night's work, Mr. Sterling. The
government has founded an institution which will remove half the
difficulty from the southern problem. And it is a good thing for the
Hawkins heirs, a very good thing. Laura will be almost a millionaire."
"Do you think, Mr. Dilworthy, that the Hawkinses will get much of the
money?" asked Philip innocently, remembering the fate of the Columbus
The Senator looked at his companion scrutinizingly for a moment to see if
he meant any thing personal, and then replied,
"Undoubtedly, undoubtedly. I have had their interests greatly at heart.
There will of course be a few expenses, but the widow and orphans will
realize all that Mr. Hawkins, dreamed of for them."
The birds were singing as they crossed the Presidential Square, now
bright with its green turf and tender foliage. After the two had gained
the steps of the Senator's house they stood a moment, looking upon the
"It is like the peace of God," said the Senator devoutly.
Entering the house, the Senator called a servant and said, "Tell Miss
Laura that we are waiting to see her. I ought to have sent a messenger
on horseback half an hour ago," he added to Philip, "she will be
transported with our victory. You must stop to breakfast, and see the
excitement." The servant soon came back, with a wondering look and
"Miss Laura ain't dah, sah. I reckon she hain't been dah all night!"
The Senator and Philip both started up. In Laura's room there were the
marks of a confused and hasty departure, drawers half open, little
articles strewn on the floor. The bed had not been disturbed. Upon
inquiry it appeared that Laura had not been at dinner, excusing herself
to Mrs. Dilworthy on the plea of a violent headache; that she made a
request to the servants that she might not be disturbed.
The Senator was astounded. Philip thought at once of Col. Selby. Could
Laura have run away with him? The Senator thought not. In fact it could
not be. Gen. Leffenwell, the member from New Orleans, had casually told
him at the house last night that Selby and his family went to New York
yesterday morning and were to sail for Europe to-day.
Philip had another idea which, he did not mention. He seized his hat,
and saying that he would go and see what he could learn, ran to the
lodgings of Harry; whom he had not seen since yesterday afternoon, when
he left him to go to the House.
Harry was not in. He had gone out with a hand-bag before six o'clock
yesterday, saying that he had to go to New York, but should return next
day. In Harry's-room on the table Philip found this note:
"Dear Mr. Brierly:--Can you meet me at the six o'clock train,
and be my escort to New York? I have to go about this
University bill, the vote of an absent member we must have
here, Senator Dilworthy cannot go.
Yours, L. H."
"Confound it," said Phillip, "the noodle has fallen into her trap. And
she promised she would let him alone."
He only stopped to send a note to Senator Dilworthy, telling him what he
had found, and that he should go at once to New York, and then hastened
to the railway station. He had to wait an hour for a train, and when it
did start it seemed to go at a snail's pace.
Philip was devoured with anxiety. Where could they, have gone? What was
Laura's object in taking Harry? Had the flight anything to do with
Selby? Would Harry be such a fool as to be dragged into some public
It seemed as if the train would never reach Baltimore. Then there was a
long delay at Havre de Grace. A hot box had to be cooled at Wilmington.
Would it never get on? Only in passing around the city of Philadelphia
did the train not seem to go slow. Philip stood upon the platform and
watched for the Boltons' house, fancied he could distinguish its roof
among the trees, and wondered how Ruth would feel if she knew he was so
Then came Jersey, everlasting Jersey, stupid irritating Jersey, where the
passengers are always asking which line they are on, and where they are
to come out, and whether they have yet reached Elizabeth. Launched into
Jersey, one has a vague notion that he is on many lines and no one in
particular, and that he is liable at any moment to come to Elizabeth.
He has no notion what Elizabeth is, and always resolves that the next
time he goes that way, he will look out of the window and see what it is
like; but he never does. Or if he does, he probably finds that it is
Princeton or something of that sort. He gets annoyed, and never can see
the use of having different names for stations in Jersey. By and by.
there is Newark, three or four Newarks apparently; then marshes; then
long rock cuttings devoted to the advertisements of 'patent medicines and
ready-made, clothing, and New York tonics for Jersey agues, and Jersey
City is reached.
On the ferry-boat Philip bought an evening paper from a boy crying
"'Ere's the Evening Gram, all about the murder," and with breathless
haste--ran his eyes over the following:
TRAGEDY IN HIGH LIFE!! A BEAUTIFUL WOMAN SHOOTS A DISTINGUISHED
CONFEDERATE SOLDIER AT THE SOUTHERN HOTEL!!! JEALOUSY THE CAUSE!!!
This morning occurred another of those shocking murders which have
become the almost daily food of the newspapers, the direct result of
the socialistic doctrines and woman's rights agitations, which have
made every woman the avenger of her own wrongs, and all society the
hunting ground for her victims.
About nine o'clock a lady deliberately shot a man dead in the public
parlor of the Southern Hotel, coolly remarking, as she threw down
her revolver and permitted herself to be taken into custody, "He
brought it on himself." Our reporters were immediately dispatched
to the scene of the tragedy, and gathered the following particulars.
Yesterday afternoon arrived at the hotel from Washington, Col.
George Selby and family, who had taken passage and were to sail at
noon to-day in the steamer Scotia for England. The Colonel was a
handsome man about forty, a gentleman Of wealth and high social
position, a resident of New Orleans. He served with distinction in
the confederate army, and received a wound in the leg from which he
has never entirely recovered, being obliged to use a cane in
This morning at about nine o'clock, a lady, accompanied by a
gentleman, called at the office Of the hotel and asked for Col.
Selby. The Colonel was at breakfast. Would the clerk tell him that
a lady and gentleman wished to see him for a moment in the parlor?
The clerk says that the gentleman asked her, "What do you want to
see him for?" and that she replied, "He is going to Europe, and I
ought to just say good by."
Col. Selby was informed; and the lady and gentleman were shown to
the parlor, in which were at the time three or four other persons.
Five minutes after two shots were fired in quick succession, and
there was a rush to the parlor from which the reports came.
Col. Selby was found lying on the floor, bleeding, but not dead.
Two gentlemen, who had just come in, had seized the lady, who made
no resistance, and she was at once given in charge of a police
officer who arrived. The persons who were in the parlor agree
substantially as to what occurred. They had happened to be looking
towards the door when the man--Col. Selby--entered with his cane,
and they looked at him, because he stopped as if surprised and
frightened, and made a backward movement. At the same moment the
lady in the bonnet advanced towards him and said something like,
"George, will you go with me?" He replied, throwing up his hand and
retreating, "My God I can't, don't fire," and the next instants two
shots were heard and he fell. The lady appeared to be beside
herself with rage or excitement, and trembled very much when the
gentlemen took hold of her; it was to them she said, "He brought it
Col. Selby was carried at once to his room and Dr. Puffer, the
eminent surgeon was sent for. It was found that he was shot through
the breast and through the abdomen. Other aid was summoned, but the
wounds were mortal, and Col Selby expired in an hour, in pain, but
his mind was clear to the last and he made a full deposition. The
substance of it was that his murderess is a Miss Laura Hawkins, whom
he had known at Washington as a lobbyist and had some business with
her. She had followed him with her attentions and solicitations,
and had endeavored to make him desert his wife and go to Europe with
her. When he resisted and avoided her she had threatened him. Only
the day before he left Washington she had declared that he should
never go out of the city alive without her.
It seems to have been a deliberate and premeditated murder, the
woman following him to Washington on purpose to commit it.
We learn that the, murderess, who is a woman of dazzling and
transcendent beauty and about twenty six or seven, is a niece of
Senator Dilworthy at whose house she has been spending the winter.
She belongs to a high Southern family, and has the reputation of
being an heiress. Like some other great beauties and belles in
Washington however there have been whispers that she had something
to do with the lobby. If we mistake not we have heard her name
mentioned in connection with the sale of the Tennessee Lands to the
Knobs University, the bill for which passed the House last night.
Her companion is Mr. Harry Brierly, a New York dandy, who has been
in Washington. His connection with her and with this tragedy is not
known, but he was also taken into custody, and will be detained at
least as a witness.
P. S. One of the persons present in the parlor says that after
Laura Hawkins had fired twice, she turned the pistol towards
herself, but that Brierly sprung and caught it from her hand, and
that it was he who threw it on the floor.
Further particulars with full biographies of all the parties in our
Philip hastened at once to the Southern Hotel, where he found still a
great state of excitement, and a thousand different and exaggerated
stories passing from mouth to mouth. The witnesses of the event had told
it over so many time that they had worked it up into a most dramatic
scene, and embellished it with whatever could heighten its awfulness.
Outsiders had taken up invention also. The Colonel's wife had gone
insane, they said. The children had rushed into the parlor and rolled
themselves in their father's blood. The hotel clerk said that he noticed
there was murder in the woman's eye when he saw her. A person who had
met the woman on the stairs felt a creeping sensation. Some thought
Brierly was an accomplice, and that he had set the woman on to kill his
rival. Some said the woman showed the calmness and indifference of
Philip learned that Harry and Laura had both been taken to the city
prison, and he went there; but he was not admitted. Not being a
newspaper reporter, he could not see either of them that night; but the
officer questioned him suspiciously and asked him who he was. He might
perhaps see Brierly in the morning.
The latest editions of the evening papers had the result of the inquest.
It was a plain enough case for the jury, but they sat over it a long
time, listening to the wrangling of the physicians. Dr. Puffer insisted
that the man died from the effects of the wound in the chest. Dr. Dobb
as strongly insisted that the wound in the abdomen caused death. Dr.
Golightly suggested that in his opinion death ensued from a complication
of the two wounds and perhaps other causes. He examined the table
waiter, as to whether Col. Selby ate any breakfast, and what he ate, and
if he had any appetite.
The jury finally threw themselves back upon the indisputable fact that
Selby was dead, that either wound would have killed him (admitted by the
doctors), and rendered a verdict that he died from pistol-shot wounds
inflicted by a pistol in the hands of Laura Hawkins.
The morning papers blazed with big type, and overflowed with details of
the murder. The accounts in the evening papers were only the premonitory
drops to this mighty shower. The scene was dramatically worked up in
column after column. There were sketches, biographical and historical.
There were long "specials" from Washington, giving a full history of
Laura's career there, with the names of men with whom she was said to be
intimate, a description of Senator Dilworthy's residence and of his
family, and of Laura's room in his house, and a sketch of the Senator's
appearance and what he said. There was a great deal about her beauty,
her accomplishments and her brilliant position in society, and her
doubtful position in society. There was also an interview with Col.
Sellers and another with Washington Hawkins, the brother of the
murderess. One journal had a long dispatch from Hawkeye, reporting the
excitement in that quiet village and the reception of the awful
All the parties had been "interviewed." There were reports of
conversations with the clerk at the hotel; with the call-boy; with the
waiter at table with all the witnesses, with the policeman, with the
landlord (who wanted it understood that nothing of that sort had ever
happened in his house before, although it had always been frequented by
the best Southern society,) and with Mrs. Col. Selby. There were
diagrams illustrating the scene of the shooting, and views of the hotel
and street, and portraits of the parties. There were three minute and
different statements from the doctors about the wounds, so technically
worded that nobody could understand them. Harry and Laura had also been
"interviewed" and there was a statement from Philip himself, which a
reporter had knocked him up out of bed at midnight to give, though how he
found him, Philip never could conjecture.
What some of the journals lacked in suitable length for the occasion,
they made up in encyclopaedic information about other similar murders and
The statement from Laura was not full, in fact it was fragmentary, and
consisted of nine parts of, the reporter's valuable observations to one
of Laura's, and it was, as the reporter significantly remarked,
"incoherent", but it appeared that Laura claimed to be Selby's wife,
or to have been his wife, that he had deserted her and betrayed her, and
that she was going to follow him to Europe. When the reporter asked:
"What made you shoot him Miss. Hawkins?"
Laura's only reply was, very simply,
"Did I shoot him? Do they say I shot him?". And she would say no more.
The news of the murder was made the excitement of the day. Talk of it
filled the town. The facts reported were scrutinized, the standing of
the parties was discussed, the dozen different theories of the motive,
broached in the newspapers, were disputed over.
During the night subtle electricity had carried the tale over all the
wires of the continent and under the sea; and in all villages and towns
of the Union, from the. Atlantic to the territories, and away up and
down the Pacific slope, and as far as London and Paris and Berlin, that
morning the name of Laura Hawkins was spoken by millions and millions of
people, while the owner of it--the sweet child of years ago, the
beautiful queen of Washington drawing rooms--sat shivering on her cot-bed
in the darkness of a damp cell in the Tombs.
Philip's first effort was to get Harry out of the Tombs. He gained
permission to see him, in the presence of an officer, during the day,
and he found that hero very much cast down.
"I never intended to come to such a place as this, old fellow," he said
to Philip; "it's no place for a gentleman, they've no idea how to treat a
gentleman. Look at that provender," pointing to his uneaten prison
ration. "They tell me I am detained as a witness, and I passed the night
among a lot of cut-throats and dirty rascals--a pretty witness I'd be in
a month spent in such company."
"But what under heavens," asked Philip, "induced you to come to New York
with Laura! What was it for?"
"What for? Why, she wanted me to come. I didn't know anything about
that cursed Selby. She said it was lobby business for the University.
I'd no idea what she was dragging me into that confounded hotel for.
I suppose she knew that the Southerners all go there, and thought she'd
find her man. Oh! Lord, I wish I'd taken your advice. You might as
well murder somebody and have the credit of it, as get into the
newspapers the way I have. She's pure devil, that girl. You ought to
have seen how sweet she was on me; what an ass I am."
"Well, I'm not going to dispute a poor, prisoner. But the first thing is
to get you out of this. I've brought the note Laura wrote you, for one
thing, and I've seen your uncle, and explained the truth of the case to
him. He will be here soon."
Harry's uncle came, with; other friends, and in the course of the day
made such a showing to the authorities that Harry was released, on giving
bonds to appear as a witness when wanted. His spirits rose with their
usual elasticity as soon as he was out of Centre Street, and he insisted
on giving Philip and his friends a royal supper at Delmonico's, an excess
which was perhaps excusable in the rebound of his feelings, and which was
committed with his usual reckless generosity. Harry ordered, the supper,
and it is perhaps needless to say, that Philip paid the bill.
Neither of the young men felt like attempting to see Laura that day,
and she saw no company except the newspaper reporters, until the arrival
of Col. Sellers and Washington Hawkins, who had hastened to New York
with all speed.
They found Laura in a cell in the upper tier of the women's department.
The cell was somewhat larger than those in the men's department, and
might be eight feet by ten square, perhaps a little longer. It was of
stone, floor and all, and tile roof was oven shaped. A narrow slit in
the roof admitted sufficient light, and was the only means of
ventilation; when the window was opened there was nothing to prevent the
rain coming in. The only means of heating being from the corridor, when
the door was ajar, the cell was chilly and at this time damp. It was
whitewashed and clean, but it had a slight jail odor; its only furniture
was a narrow iron bedstead, with a tick of straw and some blankets, not
When Col. Sellers was conducted to this cell by the matron and looked
in, his emotions quite overcame him, the tears rolled down his cheeks and
his voice trembled so that he could hardly speak. Washington was unable
to say anything; he looked from Laura to the miserable creatures who were
walking in the corridor with unutterable disgust. Laura was alone calm
and self-contained, though she was not unmoved by the sight of the grief
of her friends.
"Are you comfortable, Laura?" was the first word the Colonel could get
"You see," she replied. "I can't say it's exactly comfortable."
"Are you cold?"
"It is pretty chilly. The stone floor is like ice. It chills me through
to step on it. I have to sit on the bed."
"Poor thing, poor thing. And can you eat any thing?"
"No, I am not hungry. I don't know that I could eat any thing, I can't
"Oh dear," continued the Colonel, "it's dreadful. But cheer up, dear,
cheer up;" and the Colonel broke down entirely.
"But," he went on, "we'll stand by you. We'll do everything for you.
I know you couldn't have meant to do it, it must have been insanity, you
know, or something of that sort. You never did anything of the sort
Laura smiled very faintly and said,
"Yes, it was something of that sort. It's all a whirl. He was a
villain; you don't know."
"I'd rather have killed him myself, in a duel you know, all fair. I wish
I had. But don't you be down. We'll get you the best counsel, the
lawyers in New York can do anything; I've read of cases. But you must be
comfortable now. We've brought some of your clothes, at the hotel. What
else, can we get for you?"
Laura suggested that she would like some sheets for her bed, a piece of
carpet to step on, and her meals sent in; and some books and writing
materials if it was allowed. The Colonel and Washington promised to
procure all these things, and then took their sorrowful leave, a great
deal more affected than the criminal was, apparently, by her situation.
The colonel told the matron as he went away that if she would look to
Laura's comfort a little it shouldn't be the worse for her; and to the
turnkey who let them out he patronizingly said,
"You've got a big establishment here, a credit to the city. I've got a
friend in there--I shall see you again, sir."
By the next day something more of Laura's own story began to appear in
the newspapers, colored and heightened by reporters' rhetoric. Some of
them cast a lurid light upon the Colonel's career, and represented his
victim as a beautiful avenger of her murdered innocence; and others
pictured her as his willing paramour and pitiless slayer. Her
communications to the reporters were stopped by her lawyers as soon as
they were retained and visited her, but this fact did not prevent--it may
have facilitated--the appearance of casual paragraphs here and there
which were likely to beget popular sympathy for the poor girl.
The occasion did not pass without "improvement" by the leading journals;
and Philip preserved the editorial comments of three or four of them
which pleased him most. These he used to read aloud to his friends
afterwards and ask them to guess from which journal each of them had been
cut. One began in this simple manner:--
History never repeats itself, but the Kaleidoscopic combinations of
the pictured present often seem to be constructed out of the broken
fragments of antique legends. Washington is not Corinth, and Lais,
the beautiful daughter of Timandra, might not have been the
prototype of the ravishing Laura, daughter of the plebeian house of
Hawkins; but the orators add statesmen who were the purchasers of
the favors of the one, may have been as incorruptible as the
Republican statesmen who learned how to love and how to vote from
the sweet lips of the Washington lobbyist; and perhaps the modern
Lais would never have departed from the national Capital if there
had been there even one republican Xenocrates who resisted her
blandishments. But here the parallel: fails. Lais, wandering away
with the youth Rippostratus, is slain by the women who are jealous
of her charms. Laura, straying into her Thessaly with the youth
Brierly, slays her other lover and becomes the champion of the
wrongs of her sex.
Another journal began its editorial with less lyrical beauty, but with
equal force. It closed as follows:--
With Laura Hawkins, fair, fascinating and fatal, and with the
dissolute Colonel of a lost cause, who has reaped the harvest he
sowed, we have nothing to do. But as the curtain rises on this
awful tragedy, we catch a glimpse of the society at the capital
under this Administration, which we cannot contemplate without alarm
for the fate of the Republic.
A third newspaper took up the subject in a different tone. It said:--
Our repeated predictions are verified. The pernicious doctrines
which we have announced as prevailing in American society have been
again illustrated. The name of the city is becoming a reproach.
We may have done something in averting its ruin in our resolute
exposure of the Great Frauds; we shall not be deterred from
insisting that the outraged laws for the protection of human life
shall be vindicated now, so that a person can walk the streets or
enter the public houses, at least in the day-time, without the risk
of a bullet through his brain.
A fourth journal began its remarks as follows:--
The fullness with which we present our readers this morning the
details of the Selby-Hawkins homicide is a miracle of modern
journalism. Subsequent investigation can do little to fill out the
picture. It is the old story. A beautiful woman shoots her
absconding lover in cold-blood; and we shall doubtless learn in due
time that if she was not as mad as a hare in this month of March,
she was at least laboring under what is termed "momentary insanity."
It would not be too much to say that upon the first publication of the
facts of the tragedy, there was an almost universal feeling of rage
against the murderess in the Tombs, and that reports of her beauty only
heightened the indignation. It was as if she presumed upon that and upon
her sex, to defy the law; and there was a fervent, hope that the law
would take its plain course.
Yet Laura was not without friends, and some of them very influential too.
She had in keeping a great many secrets and a great many reputations,
perhaps. Who shall set himself up to judge human motives. Why, indeed,
might we not feel pity for a woman whose brilliant career had been so
suddenly extinguished in misfortune and crime? Those who had known her
so well in Washington might find it impossible to believe that the
fascinating woman could have had murder in her heart, and would readily
give ear to the current sentimentality about the temporary aberration of
mind under the stress of personal calamity.
Senator Dilworthy, was greatly shocked, of course, but he was full of
charity for the erring.
"We shall all need mercy," he said. "Laura as an inmate of my family was
a most exemplary female, amiable, affectionate and truthful, perhaps too
fond of gaiety, and neglectful of the externals of religion, but a woman
of principle. She may have had experiences of which I am ignorant, but
she could not have gone to this extremity if she had been in her own
To the Senator's credit be it said, he was willing to help Laura and her
family in this dreadful trial. She, herself, was not without money, for
the Washington lobbyist is not seldom more fortunate than the Washington
claimant, and she was able to procure a good many luxuries to mitigate
the severity of her prison life. It enabled her also to have her own
family near her, and to see some of them daily. The tender solicitude of
her mother, her childlike grief, and her firm belief in the real
guiltlessness of her daughter, touched even the custodians of the Tombs
who are enured to scenes of pathos.
Mrs. Hawkins had hastened to her daughter as soon as she received money
for the journey. She had no reproaches, she had only tenderness and
pity. She could not shut out the dreadful facts of the case, but it had
been enough for her that Laura had said, in their first interview,
"mother, I did not know what I was doing." She obtained lodgings near,
the prison and devoted her life to her daughter, as if she had been
really her own child. She would have remained in the prison day and
night if it had been permitted. She was aged and feeble, but this great
necessity seemed to give her new life.
The pathetic story of the old lady's ministrations, and her simplicity
and faith, also got into the newspapers in time, and probably added to
the pathos of this wrecked woman's fate, which was beginning to be felt
by the public. It was certain that she had champions who thought that
her wrongs ought to be placed against her crime, and expressions of this
feeling came to her in various ways. Visitors came to see her, and gifts
of fruit and flowers were sent, which brought some cheer into her hard
and gloomy cell.
Laura had declined to see either Philip or Harry, somewhat to the
former's relief, who had a notion that she would necessarily feel
humiliated by seeing him after breaking faith with him, but to the
discomfiture of Harry, who still felt her fascination, and thought her
refusal heartless. He told Philip that of course he had got through with
such a woman, but he wanted to see her.
Philip, to keep him from some new foolishness, persuaded him to go with
him to Philadelphia; and, give his valuable services in the mining
operations at Ilium.
The law took its course with Laura. She was indicted for murder in the
first degree and held for trial at the summer term. The two most
distinguished criminal lawyers in the city had been retained for her
defence, and to that the resolute woman devoted her days with a courage
that rose as she consulted with her counsel and understood the methods of
criminal procedure in New York.
She was greatly depressed, however, by the news from Washington.
Congress adjourned and her bill had failed to pass the Senate. It must
wait for the next session.
It had been a bad winter, somehow, for the firm of Pennybacker, Bigler
and Small. These celebrated contractors usually made more money during
the session of the legislature at Harrisburg than upon all their summer
work, and this winter had been unfruitful. It was unaccountable to
"You see, Mr. Bolton," he said, and Philip was present at the
conversation, "it puts us all out. It looks as if politics was played
out. We'd counted on the year of Simon's re-election. And, now, he's
reelected, and I've yet to see the first man who's the better for it."
"You don't mean to say," asked Philip, "that he went in without paying
"Not a cent, not a dash cent, as I can hear," repeated Mr. Bigler,
indignantly. "I call it a swindle on the state. How it was done gets
me. I never saw such a tight time for money in Harrisburg."
"Were there no combinations, no railroad jobs, no mining schemes put
through in connection with the election?
"Not that I knew," said Bigler, shaking his head in disgust. "In fact it
was openly said, that there was no money in the election. It's perfectly
"Perhaps," suggested Philip, "it was effected on what the insurance
companies call the 'endowment,' or the 'paid up' plan, by which a policy
is secured after a certain time without further payment."
"You think then," said Mr. Bolton smiling, "that a liberal and sagacious
politician might own a legislature after a time, and not be bothered with
keeping up his payments?"
"Whatever it is," interrupted Mr. Bigler, "it's devilish ingenious and
goes ahead of my calculations; it's cleaned me out, when I thought we had
a dead sure thing. I tell you what it is, gentlemen, I shall go in for
reform. Things have got pretty mixed when a legislature will give away a
United States senatorship."
It was melancholy, but Mr. Bigler was not a man to be crushed by one
misfortune, or to lose his confidence in human nature, on one exhibition
of apparent honesty. He was already on his feet again, or would be if
Mr. Bolton could tide him over shoal water for ninety days.
"We've got something with money in it," he explained to Mr. Bolton,
"got hold of it by good luck. We've got the entire contract for Dobson's
Patent Pavement for the city of Mobile. See here."
Mr. Bigler made some figures; contract so; much, cost of work and
materials so much, profits so much. At the end of three months the city
would owe the company three hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars-two
hundred thousand of that would be profits. The whole job was worth at
least a million to the company--it might be more. There could be no
mistake in these figures; here was the contract, Mr. Bolton knew what
materials were worth and what the labor would cost.
Mr. Bolton knew perfectly well from sore experience that there was always
a mistake in figures when Bigler or Small made them, and he knew that he
ought to send the fellow about his business. Instead of that, he let him
They only wanted to raise fifty thousand dollars to carry on the
contract--that expended they would have city bonds. Mr. Bolton said he
hadn't the money. But Bigler could raise it on his name. Mr. Bolton
said he had no right to put his family to that risk. But the entire
contract could be assigned to him--the security was ample--it was a
fortune to him if it was forfeited. Besides Mr. Bigler had been
unfortunate, he didn't know where to look for the necessaries of life for
his family. If he could only have one more chance, he was sure he could
right himself. He begged for it.
And Mr. Bolton yielded. He could never refuse such appeals. If he had
befriended a man once and been cheated by him, that man appeared to have
a claim upon him forever. He shrank, however, from telling his wife what
he had done on this occasion, for he knew that if any person was more
odious than Small to his family it was Bigler.
"Philip tells me," Mrs. Bolton said that evening, "that the man Bigler
has been with thee again to-day. I hope thee will have nothing more to
do with him."
He has been very unfortunate," replied Mr. Bolton, uneasily.
"He is always unfortunate, and he is always getting thee into trouble.
But thee didn't listen to him again?"
"Well, mother, his family is in want, and I lent him my name--but I took
ample security. The worst that can happen will be a little
Mrs. Bolton looked grave and anxious, but she did not complain or
remonstrate; she knew what a "little inconvenience" meant, but she knew
there was no help for it. If Mr. Bolton had been on his way to market to
buy a dinner for his family with the only dollar he had in the world in
his pocket, he would have given it to a chance beggar who asked him for
it. Mrs. Bolton only asked (and the question showed that she was no mere
provident than her husband where her heart was interested),
"But has thee provided money for Philip to use in opening the coal mine?"
"Yes, I have set apart as much as it ought to cost to open the mine,
as much as we can afford to lose if no coal is found. Philip has the
control of it, as equal partner in the venture, deducting the capital
invested. He has great confidence in his success, and I hope for his
sake he won't be disappointed."
Philip could not but feel that he was treated very much like one of the
Bolton-family--by all except Ruth. His mother, when he went home after
his recovery from his accident, had affected to be very jealous of Mrs.
Bolton, about whom and Ruth she asked a thousand questions--
an affectation of jealousy which no doubt concealed a real heartache,
which comes to every mother when her son goes out into the world and
forms new ties. And to Mrs. Sterling; a widow, living on a small income
in a remote Massachusetts village, Philadelphia was a city of many
splendors. All its inhabitants seemed highly favored, dwelling in ease
and surrounded by superior advantages. Some of her neighbors had
relations living in Philadelphia, and it seemed to them somehow a
guarantee of respectability to have relations in Philadelphia.
Mrs. Sterling was not sorry to have Philip make his way among such well-
to-do people, and she was sure that no good fortune could be too good for
"So, sir," said Ruth, when Philip came from New York, "you have been
assisting in a pretty tragedy. I saw your name in the papers. Is this
woman a specimen of your western friends?"
"My only assistance," replied Philip, a little annoyed, was in trying to
keep Harry out of a bad scrape, and I failed after all. He walked into
her trap, and he has been punished for it. I'm going to take him up to
Ilium to see if he won't work steadily at one thing, and quit his
"Is she as beautiful as the newspapers say she is?"
"I don't know, she has a kind of beauty--she is not like--'
"Not like Alice?"
"Well, she is brilliant; she was called the handsomest woman in
Washington--dashing, you know, and sarcastic and witty. Ruth, do you
believe a woman ever becomes a devil?"
"Men do, and I don't know why women shouldn't. But I never saw one."
"Well, Laura Hawkins comes very near it. But it is dreadful to think of
"Why, do you suppose they will hang a woman? Do you suppose they will be
so barbarous as that?"
"I wasn't thinking of that--it's doubtful if a New York jury would find a
woman guilty of any such crime. But to think of her life if she is
"It is dreadful," said Ruth, thoughtfully, "but the worst of it is that
you men do not want women educated to do anything, to be able to earn an
honest living by their own exertions. They are educated as if they were
always to be petted and supported, and there was never to be any such
thing as misfortune. I suppose, now, that you would all choose to have
me stay idly at home, and give up my profession."
"Oh, no," said Philip, earnestly, "I respect your resolution. But,
Ruth, do you think you would be happier or do more good in following your
profession than in having a home of your own?"
"What is to hinder having a home of my, own?"
"Nothing, perhaps, only you never would be in it--you would be away day
and night, if you had any practice; and what sort of a home would that
make for your husband?"
"What sort of a home is it for the wife whose husband is always away
riding about in his doctor's gig?"
"Ah, you know that is not fair. The woman makes the home."
Philip and Ruth often had this sort of discussion, to which Philip was
always trying to give a personal turn. He was now about to go to Ilium
for the season, and he did not like to go without some assurance from
Ruth that she might perhaps love him some day; when he was worthy of it,
and when he could offer her something better than a partnership in his
"I should work with a great deal better heart, Ruth," he said the morning
he was taking leave, "if I knew you cared for me a little."
Ruth was looking down; the color came faintly to her cheeks, and she
hesitated. She needn't be looking down, he thought, for she was ever so
much shorter than tall Philip.
"It's not much of a place, Ilium," Philip went on, as if a little
geographical remark would fit in here as well as anything else, "and I
shall have plenty of time to think over the responsibility I have taken,
and--" his observation did not seem to be coming out any where.
But Ruth looked up, and there was a light in her eyes that quickened
Phil's pulse. She took his hand, and said with serious sweetness:
"Thee mustn't lose heart, Philip." And then she added, in another mood,
"Thee knows I graduate in the summer and shall have my diploma. And if
any thing happens--mines explode sometimes--thee can send for me.
The opening of the Ilium coal mine was begun with energy, but without
many omens of success. Philip was running a tunnel into the breast of
the mountain, in faith that the coal stratum ran there as it ought to.
How far he must go in he believed he knew, but no one could tell exactly.
Some of the miners said that they should probably go through the
mountain, and that the hole could be used for a railway tunnel. The
mining camp was a busy place at any rate. Quite a settlement of board
and log shanties had gone up, with a blacksmith shop, a small machine
shop, and a temporary store for supplying the wants of the workmen.
Philip and Harry pitched a commodious tent, and lived in the full
enjoyment of the free life.
There is no difficulty in digging a bole in the ground, if you have money
enough to pay for the digging, but those who try this sort of work are
always surprised at the large amount of money necessary to make a small
hole. The earth is never willing to yield one product, hidden in her
bosom, without an equivalent for it. And when a person asks of her coal,
she is quite apt to require gold in exchange.
It was exciting work for all concerned in it. As the tunnel advanced
into the rock every day promised to be the golden day. This very blast
might disclose the treasure.
The work went on week after week, and at length during the night as well
as the daytime. Gangs relieved each other, and the tunnel was every
hour, inch by inch and foot by foot, crawling into the mountain. Philip
was on the stretch of hope and excitement. Every pay day he saw his
funds melting away, and still there was only the faintest show of what
the miners call "signs."
The life suited Harry, whose buoyant hopefulness was never disturbed.
He made endless calculations, which nobody could understand, of the
probable position of the vein. He stood about among the workmen with the
busiest air. When he was down at Ilium he called himself the engineer of
the works, and he used to spend hours smoking his pipe with the Dutch
landlord on the hotel porch, and astonishing the idlers there with the
stories of his railroad operations in Missouri. He talked with the
landlord, too, about enlarging his hotel, and about buying some village
lots, in the prospect of a rise, when the mine was opened. He taught the
Dutchman how to mix a great many cooling drinks for the summer time, and
had a bill at the hotel, the growing length of which Mr. Dusenheimer
contemplated with pleasant anticipations. Mr. Brierly was a very useful
and cheering person wherever he went.
Midsummer arrived: Philip could report to Mr. Bolton only progress, and
this was not a cheerful message for him to send to Philadelphia in reply
to inquiries that he thought became more and more anxious. Philip
himself was a prey to the constant fear that the money would give out
before the coal was struck.
At this time Harry was summoned to New York, to attend the trial of Laura
Hawkins. It was possible that Philip would have to go also, her lawyer
wrote, but they hoped for a postponement. There was important evidence
that they could not yet obtain, and he hoped the judge would not force
them to a trial unprepared. There were many reasons for a delay, reasons
which of course are never mentioned, but which it would seem that a New
York judge sometimes must understand, when he grants a postponement upon
a motion that seems to the public altogether inadequate.
Harry went, but he soon came back. The trial was put off. Every week we
can gain, said the learned counsel, Braham, improves our chances. The
popular rage never lasts long.
"We've struck it!"
This was the announcement at the tent door that woke Philip out of a
sound sleep at dead of night, and shook all the sleepiness out of him in
"What! Where is it? When? Coal? Let me see it. What quality is it?"
were some of the rapid questions that Philip poured out as he hurriedly
dressed. "Harry, wake up, my boy, the coal train is coming. Struck it,
eh? Let's see?"
The foreman put down his lantern, and handed Philip a black lump. There
was no mistake about it, it was the hard, shining anthracite, and its
freshly fractured surface, glistened in the light like polished steel.
Diamond never shone with such lustre in the eyes of Philip.
Harry was exuberant, but Philip's natural caution found expression in his
"Now, Roberts, you are sure about this?"
"What--sure that it's coal?"
"O, no, sure that it's the main vein."
"Well, yes. We took it to be that"
"Did you from the first?"
"I can't say we did at first. No, we didn't. Most of the indications
were there, but not all of them, not all of them. So we thought we'd
prospect a bit."
"It was tolerable thick, and looked as if it might be the vein--looked as
if it ought to be the vein. Then we went down on it a little. Looked
better all the time."
"When did you strike it?"
"About ten o'clock."
"Then you've been prospecting about four hours."
"Yes, been sinking on it something over four hours."
"I'm afraid you couldn't go down very far in four hours--could you?"
"O yes--it's a good deal broke up, nothing but picking and gadding
"Well, it does look encouraging, sure enough--but then the lacking
"I'd rather we had them, Mr. Sterling, but I've seen more than one good
permanent mine struck without 'em in my time."
"Well, that is encouraging too."
"Yes, there was the Union, the Alabama and the Black Mohawk--all good,
sound mines, you know--all just exactly like this one when we first
"Well, I begin to feel a good deal more easy. I guess we've really got
it. I remember hearing them tell about the Black Mohawk."
"I'm free to say that I believe it, and the men all think so too. They
are all old hands at this business."
"Come Harry, let's go up and look at it, just for the comfort of it,"
said Philip. They came back in the course of an hour, satisfied and
There was no more sleep for them that night. They lit their pipes, put a
specimen of the coal on the table, and made it a kind of loadstone of
thought and conversation.
"Of course," said Harry, "there will have to be a branch track built, and
a 'switch-back' up the hill."
"Yes, there will be no trouble about getting the money for that now. We
could sell-out tomorrow for a handsome sum. That sort of coal doesn't go
begging within a mile of a rail-road. I wonder if Mr. Bolton' would
rather sell out or work it?"
"Oh, work it," says Harry, "probably the whole mountain is coal now
you've got to it."
"Possibly it might not be much of a vein after all," suggested Philip.
"Possibly it is; I'll bet it's forty feet thick. I told you. I knew the
sort of thing as soon as I put my eyes on it."
Philip's next thought was to write to his friends and announce their good
fortune. To Mr. Bolton he wrote a short, business letter, as calm as he
could make it. They had found coal of excellent quality, but they could
not yet tell with absolute certainty what the vein was. The prospecting
was still going on. Philip also wrote to Ruth; but though this letter
may have glowed, it was not with the heat of burning anthracite. He
needed no artificial heat to warm his pen and kindle his ardor when he
sat down to write to Ruth. But it must be confessed that the words never
flowed so easily before, and he ran on for an hour disporting in all the
extravagance of his imagination. When Ruth read it, she doubted if the
fellow had not gone out of his senses. And it was not until she reached
the postscript that she discovered the cause of the exhilaration.
"P. S.--We have found coal."
The news couldn't have come to Mr. Bolton in better time. He had never
been so sorely pressed. A dozen schemes which he had in hand, any one
of which might turn up a fortune, all languished, and each needed just
a little more, money to save that which had been invested. He hadn't
a piece of real estate that was not covered with mortgages, even to the
wild tract which Philip was experimenting on, and which had, no
marketable value above the incumbrance on it.
He had come home that day early, unusually dejected.
"I am afraid," he said to his wife, "that we shall have to give up our
house. I don't care for myself, but for thee and the children."
"That will be the least of misfortunes," said Mrs. Bolton, cheerfully,
"if thee can clear thyself from debt and anxiety, which is wearing thee
out, we can live any where. Thee knows we were never happier than when
we were in a much humbler home."
"The truth is, Margaret, that affair of Bigler and Small's has come on me
just when I couldn't stand another ounce. They have made another failure
of it. I might have known they would; and the sharpers, or fools, I
don't know which, have contrived to involve me for three times as much as
the first obligation. The security is in my hands, but it is good for
nothing to me. I have not the money to do anything with the contract."
Ruth heard this dismal news without great surprise. She had long felt
that they were living on a volcano, that might go in to active operation
at any hour. Inheriting from her father an active brain and the courage
to undertake new things, she had little of his sanguine temperament which
blinds one to difficulties and possible failures. She had little
confidence in the many schemes which had been about to lift her father
out of all his embarrassments and into great wealth, ever since she was
a child; as she grew older, she rather wondered that they were as
prosperous as they seemed to be, and that they did not all go to smash
amid so many brilliant projects. She was nothing but a woman, and did
not know how much of the business prosperity of the world is only a,
bubble of credit and speculation, one scheme helping to float another
which is no better than it, and the whole liable to come to naught and
confusion as soon as the busy brain that conceived them ceases its power
to devise, or when some accident produces a sudden panic.
"Perhaps, I shall be the stay of the family, yet," said Ruth, with an
approach to gaiety; "When we move into a little house in town, will thee
let me put a little sign on the door: DR. RUTH BOLTON?
Mrs. Dr. Longstreet, thee knows, has a great income."
"Who will pay for the sign, Ruth?" asked Mr. Bolton.
A servant entered with the afternoon mail from the office. Mr. Bolton
took his letters listlessly, dreading to open them. He knew well what
they contained, new difficulties, more urgent demands fox money.
"Oh, here is one from Philip. Poor fellow. I shall feel his
disappointment as much as my own bad luck. It is hard to bear when one
He opened the letter and read. As he read his face lightened, and he
fetched such a sigh of relief, that Mrs. Bolton and Ruth both exclaimed.
"Read that," he cried, "Philip has found coal!"
The world was changed in a moment. One little sentence had done it.
There was no more trouble. Philip had found coal. That meant relief.
That meant fortune. A great weight was taken off, and the spirits of the
whole household rose magically. Good Money! beautiful demon of Money,
what an enchanter thou art! Ruth felt that she was of less consequence
in the household, now that Philip had found Coal, and perhaps she was not
sorry to feel so.
Mr. Bolton was ten years younger the next morning. He went into the
city, and showed his letter on change. It was the sort of news his
friends were quite willing to listen to. They took a new interest in
him. If it was confirmed, Bolton would come right up again. There would
be no difficulty about his getting all the money he wanted. The money
market did not seem to be half so tight as it was the day before.
Mr. Bolton spent a very pleasant day in his office, and went home
revolving some new plans, and the execution of some projects he had long
been prevented from entering upon by the lack of money.
The day had been spent by Philip in no less excitement. By daylight,
with Philip's letters to the mail, word had gone down to Ilium that coal
had been found, and very early a crowd of eager spectators had come up to
see for themselves.
The "prospecting" continued day and night for upwards of a week, and
during the first four or five days the indications grew more and more
promising, and the telegrams and letters kept Mr. Bolton duly posted.
But at last a change came, and the promises began to fail with alarming
rapidity. In the end it was demonstrated without the possibility of a
doubt that the great "find" was nothing but a worthless seam.
Philip was cast down, all the more so because he had been so foolish as
to send the news to Philadelphia before he knew what he was writing
about. And now he must contradict it. "It turns out to be only a mere
seam," he wrote, "but we look upon it as an indication of better further
Alas! Mr. Bolton's affairs could not wait for "indications." The future
might have a great deal in store, but the present was black and hopeless.
It was doubtful if any sacrifice could save him from ruin. Yet sacrifice
he must make, and that instantly, in the hope of saving something from
the wreck of his fortune.
His lovely country home must go. That would bring the most ready money.
The house that he had built with loving thought for each one of his
family, as he planned its luxurious apartments and adorned it; the
grounds that he had laid out, with so much delight in following the
tastes of his wife, with whom the country, the cultivation of rare trees
and flowers, the care of garden and lawn and conservatories were a
passion almost; this home, which he had hoped his children would enjoy
long after he had done with it, must go.
The family bore the sacrifice better than he did. They declared in fact
--women are such hypocrites--that they quite enjoyed the city (it was in
August) after living so long in the country, that it was a thousand tunes
more convenient in every respect; Mrs. Bolton said it was a relief from
the worry of a large establishment, and Ruth reminded her father that she
should have had to come to town anyway before long.
Mr. Bolton was relieved, exactly as a water-logged ship is lightened by
throwing overboard the most valuable portion of the cargo--but the leak
was not stopped. Indeed his credit was injured instead of helped by the
prudent step be had taken. It was regarded as a sure evidence of his
embarrassment, and it was much more difficult for him to obtain help than
if he had, instead of retrenching, launched into some new speculation.
Philip was greatly troubled, and exaggerated his own share in the
bringing about of the calamity.
"You must not look at it so!" Mr. Bolton wrote him. "You have neither
helped nor hindered--but you know you may help by and by. It would have
all happened just so, if we had never begun to dig that hole. That is
only a drop. Work away. I still have hope that something will occur to
relieve me. At any rate we must not give up the mine, so long as we have
Alas! the relief did not come. New misfortunes came instead. When the
extent of the Bigler swindle was disclosed there was no more hope that
Mr. Bolton could extricate himself, and he had, as an honest man, no
resource except to surrender all his property for the benefit of his
The Autumn came and found Philip working with diminished force but still
with hope. He had again and again been encouraged by good "indications,"
but he had again and again been disappointed. He could not go on much
longer, and almost everybody except himself had thought it was useless to
go on as long as he had been doing.
When the news came of Mr. Bolton's failure, of course the work stopped.
The men were discharged, the tools were housed, the hopeful noise of
pickman and driver ceased, and the mining camp had that desolate and
mournful aspect which always hovers over a frustrated enterprise.
Philip sat down amid the ruins, and almost wished he were buried in them.
How distant Ruth was now from him, now, when she might need him most.
How changed was all the Philadelphia world, which had hitherto stood for
the exemplification of happiness and prosperity.
He still had faith that there was coal in that mountain. He made
a picture of himself living there a hermit in a shanty by the tunnel,
digging away with solitary pick and wheelbarrow, day after day and year
after year, until he grew gray and aged, and was known in all that region
as the old man of the mountain. Perhaps some day--he felt it must be so
some day--he should strike coal. But what if he did? Who would be alive
to care for it then? What would he care for it then? No, a man wants
riches in his youth, when the world is fresh to him. He wondered why
Providence could not have reversed the usual process, and let the
majority of men begin with wealth and gradually spend it, and die poor
when they no longer needed it.
Harry went back to the city. It was evident that his services were no
longer needed. Indeed, he had letters from his uncle, which he did not
read to Philip, desiring him to go to San Francisco to look after some
government contracts in the harbor there.
Philip had to look about him for something to do; he was like Adam;
the world was all before him whereto choose. He made, before he went
elsewhere, a somewhat painful visit to Philadelphia, painful but yet not
without its sweetnesses. The family had never shown him so much
affection before; they all seemed to think his disappointment of more
importance than their own misfortune. And there was that in Ruth's
manner--in what she gave him and what she withheld--that would have made
a hero of a very much less promising character than Philip Sterling.
Among the assets of the Bolton property, the Ilium tract was sold, and
Philip bought it in at the vendue, for a song, for no one cared to even
undertake the mortgage on it except himself. He went away the owner of
it, and had ample time before he reached home in November, to calculate
how much poorer he was by possessing it.
It is impossible for the historian, with even the best intentions,
to control events or compel the persons of his narrative to act wisely
or to be successful. It is easy to see how things might have been better
managed; a very little change here and there would have made a very,
different history of this one now in hand.
If Philip had adopted some regular profession, even some trade, he might
now be a prosperous editor or a conscientious plumber, or an honest
lawyer, and have borrowed money at the saving's bank and built a cottage,
and be now furnishing it for the occupancy of Ruth and himself. Instead
of this, with only a smattering of civil engineering, he is at his
mother's house, fretting and fuming over his ill-luck, and the hardness
and, dishonesty of men, and thinking of nothing but how to get the coal
out of the Ilium hills.
If Senator Dilworthy had not made that visit to Hawkeye, the Hawkins
family and Col. Sellers would not now be dancing attendance upon
Congress, and endeavoring to tempt that immaculate body into one of those
appropriations, for the benefit of its members, which the members find it
so difficult to explain to their constituents; and Laura would not be
lying in the Tombs, awaiting her trial for murder, and doing her best,
by the help of able counsel, to corrupt the pure fountain of criminal
procedure in New York.
If Henry Brierly had been blown up on the first Mississippi steamboat he
set foot on, as the chances were that he would be, he and Col. Sellers
never would have gone into the Columbus Navigation scheme, and probably
never into the East Tennessee Land scheme, and he would not now be
detained in New York from very important business operations on the
Pacific coast, for the sole purpose of giving evidence to convict of
murder the only woman he ever loved half as much as he loves himself.
If Mr. Bolton had said the little word "no" to Mr. Bigler, Alice Montague
might now be spending the winter in Philadelphia, and Philip also
(waiting to resume his mining operations in the spring); and Ruth would
not be an assistant in a Philadelphia hospital, taxing her strength with
arduous routine duties, day by day, in order to lighten a little the
burdens that weigh upon her unfortunate family.
It is altogether a bad business. An honest historian, who had progressed
thus far, and traced everything to such a condition of disaster and
suspension, might well be justified in ending his narrative and writing--
"after this the deluge." His only consolation would be in the reflection
that he was not responsible for either characters or events.
And the most annoying thought is that a little money, judiciously
applied, would relieve the burdens and anxieties of most of these people;
but affairs seem to be so arranged that money is most difficult to get
when people need it most.
A little of what Mr. Bolton has weakly given to unworthy people would now
establish his family in a sort of comfort, and relieve Ruth of the
excessive toil for which she inherited no adequate physical vigor.
A little money would make a prince of Col. Sellers; and a little more
would calm the anxiety of Washington Hawkins about Laura, for however the
trial ended, he could feel sure of extricating her in the end. And if
Philip had a little money he could unlock the stone door in the mountain
whence would issue a stream of shining riches. It needs a golden wand to
strike that rock. If the Knobs University bill could only go through,
what a change would be wrought in the condition of most of the persons in
this history. Even Philip himself would feel the good effects of it;
for Harry would have something and Col. Sellers would have something;
and have not both these cautious people expressed a determination to take
an interest in the Ilium mine when they catch their larks?
Philip could not resist the inclination to pay a visit to Fallkill. He
had not been at the Montague's since the tune he saw Ruth there, and he
wanted to consult the Squire about an occupation. He was determined now
to waste no more time in waiting on Providence, but to go to work at
something, if it were nothing better, than teaching in the Fallkill
Seminary, or digging clams on Hingham beach. Perhaps he could read law
in Squire Montague's office while earning his bread as a teacher in the
It was not altogether Philip's fault, let us own, that he was in this
position. There are many young men like him in American society, of his
age, opportunities, education and abilities, who have really been
educated for nothing and have let themselves drift, in the hope that they
will find somehow, and by some sudden turn of good luck, the golden road
to fortune. He was not idle or lazy, he had energy and a disposition to
carve his own way. But he was born into a time when all young men of his
age caught the fever of speculation, and expected to get on in the world
by the omission of some of the regular processes which have been
appointed from of old. And examples were not wanting to encourage him.
He saw people, all around him, poor yesterday, rich to-day, who had come
into sudden opulence by some means which they could not have classified
among any of the regular occupations of life. A war would give such a
fellow a career and very likely fame. He might have been a "railroad
man," or a politician, or a land speculator, or one of those mysterious
people who travel free on all rail-roads and steamboats, and are
continually crossing and recrossing the Atlantic, driven day and night
about nobody knows what, and make a great deal of money by so doing.
Probably, at last, he sometimes thought with a whimsical smile, he should
end by being an insurance agent, and asking people to insure their lives
for his benefit.
Possibly Philip did not think how much the attractions of Fallkill were
increased by the presence of Alice there. He had known her so long, she
had somehow grown into his life by habit, that he would expect the
pleasure of her society without thinking mach about it. Latterly he
never thought of her without thinking of Ruth, and if he gave the subject
any attention, it was probably in an undefined consciousness that, he had
her sympathy in his love, and that she was always willing to hear him
talk about it. If he ever wondered that Alice herself was not in love
and never spoke of the possibility of her own marriage, it was a
transient thought for love did not seem necessary, exactly, to one so
calm and evenly balanced and with so many resources in her herself.
Whatever her thoughts may have been they were unknown to Philip, as they
are to these historians; if she was seeming to be what she was not, and
carrying a burden heavier than any one else carried, because she had to
bear it alone, she was only doing what thousands of women do, with a
self-renunciation and heroism, of which men, impatient and complaining,
have no conception. Have not these big babies with beards filled all
literature with their outcries, their griefs and their lamentations? It
is always the gentle sex which is hard and cruel and fickle and
"Do you think you would be contented to live in Fallkill, and attend the
county Court?" asked Alice, when Philip had opened the budget of his new
"Perhaps not always," said Philip, "I might go and practice in Boston
maybe, or go to Chicago."
"Or you might get elected to Congress."
Philip looked at Alice to see if she was in earnest and not chaffing him.
Her face was quite sober. Alice was one of those patriotic women in the
rural districts, who think men are still selected for Congress on account
of qualifications for the office.
"No," said Philip, "the chances are that a man cannot get into congress
now without resorting to arts and means that should render hint unfit to
go there; of course there are exceptions; but do you know that I could
not go into politics if I were a lawyer, without losing standing somewhat
in my profession, and without raising at least a suspicion of my
intentions and unselfishness? Why, it is telegraphed all over the
country and commented on as something wonderful if a congressman votes
honestly and unselfishly and refuses to take advantage of his position to
steal from the government."
"But," insisted Alice, "I should think it a noble ambition to go to
congress, if it is so bad, and help reform it. I don't believe it is as
corrupt as the English parliament used to be, if there is any truth in
the novels, and I suppose that is reformed."
"I'm sure I don't know where the reform is to begin. I've seen a
perfectly capable, honest man, time and again, run against an illiterate
trickster, and get beaten. I suppose if the people wanted decent members
of congress they would elect them. Perhaps," continued Philip with a
smile, "the women will have to vote."
"Well, I should be willing to, if it were a necessity, just as I would go
to war and do what I could, if the country couldn't be saved otherwise,"
said Alice, with a spirit that surprised Philip, well as he thought he
knew her. "If I were a young gentleman in these times--"
Philip laughed outright. "It's just what Ruth used to say, 'if she were
a man.' I wonder if all the young ladies are contemplating a change of
"No, only a changed sex," retorted Alice; "we contemplate for the most
part young men who don't care for anything they ought to care for."
"Well," said Philip, looking humble, "I care for some things, you and
Ruth for instance; perhaps I ought not to. Perhaps I ought to care for
Congress and that sort of thing."
"Don't be a goose, Philip. I heard from Ruth yesterday."
"Can I see her letter?"
"No, indeed. But I am afraid her hard work is telling on her, together
with her anxiety about her father."
"Do you think, Alice," asked Philip with one of those selfish thoughts
that are not seldom mixed with real love, "that Ruth prefers her
profession to--to marriage?"
"Philip," exclaimed Alice, rising to quit the room, and speaking
hurriedly as if the words were forced from her, "you are as blind as a
bat; Ruth would cut off her right hand for you this minute."
Philip never noticed that Alice's face was flushed and that her voice was
unsteady; he only thought of the delicious words he had heard. And the
poor girl, loyal to Ruth, loyal to Philip, went straight to her room,
locked the door, threw herself on the bed and sobbed as if her heart
world break. And then she prayed that her Father in Heaven would give
her strength. And after a time she was calm again, and went to her
bureau drawer and took from a hiding place a little piece of paper,
yellow with age. Upon it was pinned a four-leaved clover, dry and yellow
also. She looked long at this foolish memento. Under the clover leaf
was written in a school-girl's hand--"Philip, June, 186-."
Squire Montague thought very well of Philip's proposal. It would have
been better if he had begun the study of the law as soon as he left
college, but it was not too late now, and besides he had gathered some
knowledge of the world.
"But," asked the Squire, "do you mean to abandon your land in
Pennsylvania?" This track of land seemed an immense possible fortune to
this New England lawyer-farmer. Hasn't it good timber, and doesn't the
railroad almost touch it?"
"I can't do anything with it now. Perhaps I can sometime."
"What is your reason for supposing that there is coal there?"
"The opinion of the best geologist I could consult, my own observation
of the country, and the little veins of it we found. I feel certain it
is there. I shall find it some day. I know it. If I can only keep the
land till I make money enough to try again."
Philip took from his pocket a map of the anthracite coal region, and
pointed out the position of the Ilium mountain which he had begun to
"Doesn't it look like it?"
"It certainly does," said the Squire, very much interested. It is not
unusual for a quiet country gentleman to be more taken with such a
venture than a speculator who, has had more experience in its
uncertainty. It was astonishing how many New England clergymen, in the
time of the petroleum excitement, took chances in oil. The Wall street
brokers are said to do a good deal of small business for country
clergymen, who are moved no doubt with the laudable desire of purifying
the New York stock board.
"I don't see that there is much risk," said the Squire, at length.
"The timber is worth more than the mortgage; and if that coal seam does
run there, it's a magnificent fortune. Would you like to try it again in
the spring, Phil?"
Like to try it! If he could have a little help, he would work himself,
with pick and barrow, and live on a crust. Only give him one more
And this is how it came about that the cautious old Squire Montague was
drawn into this young fellow's speculation, and began to have his serene
old age disturbed by anxieties and by the hope of a great stroke of luck.
"To be sure, I only care about it for the boy," he said. The Squire was
like everybody else; sooner or later he must "take a chance."
It is probably on account of the lack of enterprise in women that they
are not so fond of stock speculations and mine ventures as men. It is
only when woman becomes demoralized that she takes to any sort of
gambling. Neither Alice nor Ruth were much elated with the prospect of
Philip's renewal of his mining enterprise.
But Philip was exultant. He wrote to Ruth as if his fortune were already
made, and as if the clouds that lowered over the house of Bolton were
already in the deep bosom of a coal mine buried. Towards spring he went
to Philadelphia with his plans all matured for a new campaign. His
enthusiasm was irresistible.
"Philip has come, Philip has come," cried the children, as if some great
good had again come into the household; and the refrain even sang itself
over in Ruth's heart as she went the weary hospital rounds. Mr. Bolton
felt more courage than he had had in months, at the sight of his manly
face and the sound of his cheery voice.
Ruth's course was vindicated now, and it certainly did not become Philip,
who had nothing to offer but a future chance against the visible result
of her determination and industry, to open an argument with her. Ruth
was never more certain that she was right and that she was sufficient
unto herself. She, may be, did not much heed the still small voice that
sang in her maiden heart as she went about her work, and which lightened
it and made it easy, "Philip has come."
"I am glad for father's sake," she said to Philip, that thee has come.
I can see that he depends greatly upon what thee can do. He thinks women
won't hold out long," added Ruth with the smile that Philip never exactly
"And aren't you tired sometimes of the struggle?"
"Tired? Yes, everybody is tired I suppose. But it is a glorious
profession. And would you want me to be dependent, Philip?"
"Well, yes, a little," said Philip, feeling his way towards what he
wanted to say.
"On what, for instance, just now?" asked Ruth, a little maliciously
"Why, on--" he couldn't quite say it, for it occurred to him that he was
a poor stick for any body to lean on in the present state of his fortune,
and that the woman before him was at least as independent as he was.
"I don't mean depend," he began again. "But I love you, that's all. Am
I nothing--to you?" And Philip looked a little defiant, and as if he had
said something that ought to brush away all the sophistries of obligation
on either side, between man and woman.
Perhaps Ruth saw this. Perhaps she saw that her own theories of a
certain equality of power, which ought to precede a union of two hearts,
might be pushed too far. Perhaps she had felt sometimes her own weakness
and the need after all of so dear a sympathy and so tender an interest
confessed, as that which Philip could give. Whatever moved her--the
riddle is as old as creation--she simply looked up to Philip and said in
a low voice, "Everything."
And Philip clasping both her hands in his, and looking down into her
eyes, which drank in all his tenderness with the thirst of a true woman's
"Oh! Philip, come out here," shouted young Eli, throwing the door wide
And Ruth escaped away to her room, her heart singing again, and now as if
it would burst for joy, "Philip has come."
That night Philip received a dispatch from Harry--"The trial begins
December 18--, found Washington Hawkins and Col. Sellers once more at the
capitol of the nation, standing guard over the University bill. The
former gentleman was despondent, the latter hopeful. Washington's
distress of mind was chiefly on Laura's account. The court would soon
sit to try her, case, he said, and consequently a great deal of ready
money would be needed in the engineering of it. The University bill was
sure to pass this, time, and that would make money plenty, but might not
the, help come too late? Congress had only just assembled, and delays
were to be feared.
"Well," said the Colonel, "I don't know but you are more or less right,
there. Now let's figure up a little on, the preliminaries. I think
Congress always tries to do as near right as it can, according to its
lights. A man can't ask any fairer, than that. The first preliminary it
always starts out on, is, to clean itself, so to speak. It will arraign
two or three dozen of its members, or maybe four or five dozen, for
taking bribes to vote for this and that and the other bill last winter."
"It goes up into the dozens, does it?"
"Well, yes; in a free country likes ours, where any man can run for
Congress and anybody can vote for him, you can't expect immortal purity
all the time--it ain't in nature. Sixty or eighty or a hundred and fifty
people are bound to get in who are not angels in disguise, as young Hicks
the correspondent says; but still it is a very good average; very good
indeed. As long as it averages as well as that, I think we can feel very
well satisfied. Even in these days, when people growl so much and the
newspapers are so out of patience, there is still a very respectable
minority of honest men in Congress."
"Why a respectable minority of honest men can't do any good, Colonel."
"Oh, yes it can, too"
"Oh, in many ways, many ways."
"But what are the ways?"
"Well--I don't know--it is a question that requires time; a body can't
answer every question right off-hand. But it does do good. I am
satisfied of that."
"All right, then; grant that it does good; go on with the preliminaries."
"That is what I am coming to. First, as I said, they will try a lot of
members for taking money for votes. That will take four weeks."
"Yes, that's like last year; and it is a sheer waste of the time for
which the nation pays those men to work--that is what that is. And it
pinches when a body's got a bill waiting."
"A waste of time, to purify the fountain of public law? Well, I never
heard anybody express an idea like that before. But if it were, it would
still be the fault of the minority, for the majority don't institute
these proceedings. There is where that minority becomes an obstruction--
but still one can't say it is on the wrong side.--Well, after they have
finished the bribery cases, they will take up cases of members who have
bought their seats with money. That will take another four weeks."
"Very good; go on. You have accounted for two-thirds of the session."
"Next they will try each other for various smaller irregularities, like
the sale of appointments to West Point cadetships, and that sort of
thing--mere trifling pocket-money enterprises that might better, be
passed over in silence, perhaps, but then one of our Congresses can never
rest easy till it has thoroughly purified itself of all blemishes--and
that is a thing to be applauded."
"How long does it take to disinfect itself of these minor impurities?"
"Well, about two weeks, generally."
"So Congress always lies helpless in quarantine ten weeks of a session.
That's encouraging. Colonel, poor Laura will never get any benefit from
our bill. Her trial will be over before Congress has half purified
itself.--And doesn't it occur to you that by the time it has expelled all
its impure members there, may not be enough members left to do business
"Why I did not say Congress would expel anybody."
"Well won't it expel anybody?"
"Not necessarily. Did it last year? It never does. That would not be
"Then why waste all the session in that tomfoolery of trying members?"
"It is usual; it is customary; the country requires it."
"Then the country is a fool, I think."
"Oh, no. The country thinks somebody is going to be expelled."
"Well, when nobody is expelled, what does the country think then?"
"By that time, the thing has strung out so long that the country is sick
and tired of it and glad to have a change on any terms. But all that
inquiry is not lost. It has a good moral effect."
"Who does it have a good moral effect on?"
"Well--I don't know. On foreign countries, I think. We have always been
under the gaze of foreign countries. There is no country in the world,
sir, that pursues corruption as inveterately as we do. There is no
country in the world whose representatives try each other as much as ours
do, or stick to it as long on a stretch. I think there is something
great in being a model for the whole civilized world, Washington"
"You don't mean a model; you mean an example."
"Well, it's all the same; it's just the same thing. It shows that a man
can't be corrupt in this country without sweating for it, I can tell you
"Hang it, Colonel, you just said we never punish anybody for villainous
"But good God we try them, don't we! Is it nothing to show a disposition
to sift things and bring people to a strict account? I tell you it has
"Oh, bother the effect!--What is it they do do? How do they proceed?
You know perfectly well--and it is all bosh, too. Come, now, how do they
"Why they proceed right and regular--and it ain't bosh, Washington, it
ain't bosh. They appoint a committee to investigate, and that committee
hears evidence three weeks, and all the witnesses on one side swear that
the accused took money or stock or something for his vote. Then the
accused stands up and testifies that he may have done it, but he was
receiving and handling a good deal of money at the time and he doesn't
remember this particular circumstance--at least with sufficient
distinctness to enable him to grasp it tangibly. So of course the thing
is not proven--and that is what they say in the verdict. They don't
acquit, they don't condemn. They just say, 'Charge not proven.' It
leaves the accused is a kind of a shaky condition before the country,
it purifies Congress, it satisfies everybody, and it doesn't seriously
hurt anybody. It has taken a long time to perfect our system, but it is
the most admirable in the world, now."
"So one of those long stupid investigations always turns out in that lame
silly way. Yes, you are correct. I thought maybe you viewed the matter
differently from other people. Do you think a Congress of ours could
convict the devil of anything if he were a member?"
"My dear boy, don't let these damaging delays prejudice you against
Congress. Don't use such strong language; you talk like a newspaper.
Congress has inflicted frightful punishments on its members--now you know
that. When they tried Mr. Fairoaks, and a cloud of witnesses proved him
to be--well, you know what they proved him to be--and his own testimony
and his own confessions gave him the same character, what did Congress do
"Well, what did Congress do?"
"You know what Congress did, Washington. Congress intimated plainly
enough, that they considered him almost a stain upon their body; and
without waiting ten days, hardly, to think the thing over, the rose up
and hurled at him a resolution declaring that they disapproved of his
conduct! Now you know that, Washington."
"It was a terrific thing--"there is no denying that. If he had been
proven guilty of theft, arson, licentiousness, infanticide, and defiling
graves, I believe they would have suspended him for two days."
"You can depend on it, Washington. Congress is vindictive, Congress is
savage, sir, when it gets waked up once. It will go to any length to
vindicate its honor at such a time."
"Ah well, we have talked the morning through, just as usual in these
tiresome days of waiting, and we have reached the same old result; that
is to say, we are no better off than when we began. The land bill is
just as far away as ever, and the trial is closer at hand. Let's give up
everything and die."
"Die and leave the Duchess to fight it out all alone? Oh, no, that won't
do. Come, now, don't talk so. It is all going to come out right. Now
"It never will, Colonel, never in the world. Something tells me that.
I get more tired and more despondent every day. I don't see any hope;
life is only just a trouble. I am so miserable, these days!"
The Colonel made Washington get up and walk the floor with him, arm in
arm. The good old speculator wanted to comfort him, but he hardly knew
how to go about it. He made many attempts, but they were lame; they
lacked spirit; the words were encouraging; but they were only words--he
could not get any heart into them. He could not always warm up, now,
with the old Hawkeye fervor. By and by his lips trembled and his voice
got unsteady. He said:
"Don't give up the ship, my boy--don't do it. The wind's bound to fetch
around and set in our favor. I know it."
And the prospect was so cheerful that he wept. Then he blew a trumpet-
blast that started the meshes of his handkerchief, and said in almost his
breezy old-time way:
"Lord bless us, this is all nonsense! Night doesn't last always; day has
got to break some time or other. Every silver lining has a cloud behind
it, as the poet says; and that remark has always cheered me; though--
I never could see any meaning to it. Everybody uses it, though, and
everybody gets comfort out of it. I wish they would start something
fresh. Come, now, let's cheer up; there's been as good fish in the sea
as there are now. It shall never be said that Beriah Sellers--
It was the telegraph boy. The Colonel reached for the message and
devoured its contents:
"I said it! Never give up the ship! The trial's, postponed till
February, and we'll save the child yet. Bless my life, what lawyers
they, have in New-York! Give them money to fight with; and the ghost of
an excuse, and they: would manage to postpone anything in this world,
unless it might be the millennium or something like that. Now for work
again my boy. The trial will last to the middle of March, sure; Congress
ends the fourth of March. Within three days of the end of the session
they will be done putting through the preliminaries then they will be
ready for national business: Our bill will go through in forty-eight
hours, then, and we'll telegraph a million dollar's to the jury--to the
lawyers, I mean--and the verdict of the jury will be 'Accidental murder
resulting from justifiable insanity'--or something to, that effect,
something to that effect.--Everything is dead sure, now. Come, what is
the matter? What are you wilting down like that, for? You mustn't be a
girl, you know."
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