THE STATESMEN SNOWBOUND
By ROBERT FITZGERALD
Illustrated by Wad-el-Ward
New York and Washington THE NEALE PUBLISHING COMPANY 1909
I. The Funeral
II. Senator Bull and Mr. Ridley—Trials and Tribulations of the Newly Fledged Member
III. Colonel Manysnifters—An Outing with the "Jewels"
IV. An Accident—Dinner
V. Senator Bull's Story
VI. Representative Holloway Has the Floor
VII. Representative Van Rensselaer Unfolds a Strange Tale
VIII. Senator Wendell Reads "The Creaking of the Stairs"
IX. Senator Hammond's Experience
X. Mr. Callahan's Story
XI. What Happened to Denmead
XII. O'Brien's Narrative
XIII. An Uninvited Guest
Senator Bull and Sammy Ridley
Colonel Ross Addressing the Jury
"Stick to the Thirteenth Commandment!"
"Upon each stair the clear impression of a naked human foot!"
"Ah Moy, shrieking, turned and fled!"
"Shoved a revolver right up in the teeth of the prosperous one!"
"Writes the dramatic criticisms for the moving-picture shows"
"Framed in the doorway stood one of the finest examples of the early Gothic I have ever seen"
An Uninvited Guest
The Statesmen Snowbound
Toward the close of the —th Congress I was designated a member of a committee on the part of the House to accompany the remains of the late Senator Thurlow to their last resting-place at the old home in Kentucky. And it might be well to state here that I am quite aware that some of my ungrateful countrymen apply the spiteful term "junket" to a journey of this description. When one considers the sacrifices we Congressmen make in order to serve the nation, it is hard to believe that unthinking persons begrudge us a little pleasure. In many cases we give up all home life, business interests, and personal comfort, and take up our abode in second-rate hotels and boarding-houses. We are continually pestered and annoyed by office-seekers, book-agents, cranks, and reporters; and, alas, we form habits that cling like barnacles, try as hard as we may to shake them off. A taste of public life is fatal to most men, and the desire to feed from the public crib goes right to the bone. It is like a cancer, and it is removed only with grave danger to the afflicted. Everything, therefore, which may lighten our burdens and tend to relieve the situation should be the aim and study of our constituents. But this may be digression.
The trip out was necessarily a quiet one, though a well-stocked buffet kept the delegation from absolute depression. Leaving Washington early in the afternoon we arrived at the little Kentucky town the next morning about eleven o'clock, and found that we had yet some five miles to go over bad roads to the homestead. We were met by two nephews of the deceased, with a host of relatives and friends. The son, Albert Thurlow, came on with us from Washington. There was ample accommodation in the way of conveyances, and we proceeded slowly up into the higher country. In something more than an hour the house was reached—a big home-like structure, large enough for us all, and the entertainment most lavish. The estate was an extensive one, and the innumerable outbuildings and well-stocked barns gave evidence of wealth and thrift. A long drive between rows of lofty poplars led to the main entrance, and the view from the front of the house down to the river was superb. There were servants in abundance, and nothing had been overlooked to insure our comfort. The stables were the attraction for most of our party, and several kings of the turf were brought out for inspection. We were taken all over the place, and many things of interest were shown us. A Bible and powder-horn, once the property of Daniel Boone, books with the autograph of Henry Clay, duelling pistols, quaint and almost priceless silver and china, and a rare collection of old prints and family portraits. The walls in one room were fairly lined with cups, the trophies of many a famous meet.
And such whiskey! There is nothing like it in Washington, or in the whole world, perhaps. A volume might be written in praise of that mellow, golden fluid. There were many in our party who would gladly add to this glowing testimony, and wax eloquent over the virtues of that noble life-saver and panacea, referred to by our good hosts as "a little something." Accustomed, as most of us were, to the stuff served over the Washington bars, this was indeed well worth the trip out.
Late February is not the time to see rural Kentucky at its best, and but few signs of spring were visible. The day of the funeral dawned with leaden skies, and a piercing wind from the north groaned in the chimneys, and whistled through the leafless trees on the lawn. The branches of a huge maple scraped and fretted against my windows and woke me several times during the night. At an early hour a servant was piling high the fire, and the room was soon bathed in a cheerful glow, the logs cracking and sputtering merrily. I parted the curtains of my large old-fashioned bed, slipped to the floor feeling very well and fit, and glanced curiously about me. Every appointment of the room was long out of date, but nevertheless made for snugness and comfort. The lover of antique furniture would surely revel here. I do not know what would delight him most; the high-post bed, the dressing-table, the chest of drawers, or the old clock on the mantel. The sheets and hangings smelled faintly of lavender, the walls were papered with landscapes in which pretty shepherdesses, impossible sheep, and garlands of roses predominated,—a style much in vogue in the early forties,—indeed the room seemed as if it had been closed and laid away by a tidy housewife years before, and opened and aired for my reception but yesterday. An illumined text,—a "Jonah under his Gourd," elaborately worked in colored silks,—a smirking likeness of "The Father of his Country," and an equally self-satisfied looking portrait of Mrs. W. hung in prominent places.
There was a gentle tap on the door, and an ancient darky entered, with a tall glass of whipped-cream punch, light as a feather, and as delicate as thought. Then, breakfast, in a long, low-ceilinged room on the ground floor, with a blazing fire at each end, a pickaninny gravely watchful over both. Only the male members of the family were at the meal, which was a solemn festival as befitting a house of mourning.
At ten o'clock the funeral procession left the mansion and slowly wound its way along a rough road to a little weather-beaten church a mile or so distant. It was set well back from the highway in the shadow of tall pines, and looked lonely and uncared-for. In the churchyard were a few scattered tombstones, moss-grown, and very much awry. The graves were unkempt and sunken, and weeds and poison ivy struggled for the mastery. The day was bitterly cold, with an occasional flurry of snow; but, in spite of that, an immense crowd had gathered. The church and churchyard were filled to overflowing. It was the largest collection of queer looking people, horses, and "fixes" I have ever seen. The services were brief, but most impressive, and it must have been a trying ordeal for the aged clergyman, an old friend of the deceased. Several times his voice faltered, and he seemed about to break down. The coffin was borne to the grave by six stalwart negroes, laborers on the estate. A lad followed, leading poor Thurlow's favorite horse. Then the widow and her son, the relatives, friends, and family servants. A fine male quartet sang "Nearer, my God, to Thee," and a soul-stirring contralto, "Asleep in Jesus." Tears stood in the eyes of all, the negroes weeping openly and uncontrollably. As the grave was filled in, the snow began to fall in real earnest, gusts of wind lashing the pines into fury. It was the beginning of a three days' blizzard long to be remembered in that country.
Returning to the warmth and comfort of the homestead, we found a vast array of eatables and drinkables; every one was welcomed, but notwithstanding the unusual number of guests, all was well-ordered and decorous. The Thurlows and their numerous clan are a fine-looking folk; the men, sturdy, well set-up—a fighting people, yet generous, kindly and hospitable. The women—gracious, lovely, and altogether charming. Beyond the universally cherished idea of beautiful women, blooded horses, and blue grass, my knowledge of Kentucky had been rather vague. My information had been derived chiefly from my experience on various Election Committees, where moonshiners, mountain feuds, and double-barrelled shot guns played prominent parts. Commonwealths, like communities, are advertised most widely by the evils in their midst; a fact which jolts the reformer and drives the optimist to drink. The lordly manner of living, the immense estates, and the magnificent hospitality of our hosts, was a revelation to me; and an occasional reference by one of the older servants to the grandeur of antebellum days indicated a condition of even greater splendor and luxury. But the cruel hand of war had devastated and impoverished the country, the slaves were freed, and the land for years lay untilled and neglected. Marse Henry, the head of the house, was killed in almost the first battle of the war. Marse Breckinridge died, a prisoner in Fort Warren, and now Marse Preston had followed them to the land of shadows. Uncle Eph'm, himself, was getting very feeble and helpless, and it would not be long before he joined his loved ones on the other shore. De good ole times were gone forever!
It was with regret that I left this attractive home, and I gladly accepted an invitation to return in the fall for the shooting. For the shooting, indeed! Why, that was all over! Dan Cupid never aimed truer! My wife—a Kentuckian—says that I will never shine as a Nimrod, but it seems to me that I have had pretty fair success in that role.
SENATOR BULL AND MR. RIDLEY—TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF THE NEWLY FLEDGED MEMBER.
Again on the train, our troubles were over, and we pulled out of the station amid cheers and yells from hundreds of throats—an odd contrast to the mournful silence of the throng upon our arrival.
In our party were Senators Baker, of Kentucky; Bull, of Montana; Wendell, of Massachusetts; Hammond, of Michigan; Pennypacker, of West Virginia; and Congressmen Holloway, of Illinois; Manysnifters, of Georgia; Van Rensselaer, of New York; a majority of the Kentucky delegation, Mr. Ridley, Senator Bull's private secretary, and several newspaper men.
Senator Bull is seventy, tall and massive. His features are striking—a big nose, heavy, grizzled mustache, bushy brows emphasizing eyes blue and kindly, a wide mouth, tobacco-stained, with a constant movement of the jaws—bovine, but shrewdly ruminative. A leonine head of shaggy white hair crowns the whole. Ridley, the private secretary, is about the same age. He is a ruddy-cheeked, round-paunched little fellow, scarcely measuring up to the Senator's shoulder. The thin fringe of hair around his shining pate gives him the appearance of a jolly friar. He peers at you through gold-rimmed spectacles, and is quite helpless without them. He has been with Senator Bull for years, serving him faithfully in various capacities, and is now a partner in the enterprises which have made the Senator many times a millionaire. The title of "private secretary" is one of courtesy merely, and seems to highly amuse the two friends.
At nightfall we had left the storm behind us, and were speeding over the mountains. The sunlight, lingering on the higher peaks, cast great shadows into the depths beyond. There had been much snow all winter, and the summits sparkled and shone out dazzlingly, then went pink and crimson and purple as the radiance slowly faded. The lamps had not been lighted in the car, and most of us had gathered at the observation end, impressed by the grandeur of it all, when the silence was broken by Mr. Ridley.
"That's a pretty sight, sure! It gives me a kind of solemn feeling all over. The glory up there makes me think of dying, and heaven, and angels, and all that," he said gravely. "That patch of light calls to mind the fellows I know who climb the heights, and when they get near the top the sunshine of prosperity, or fame, or notoriety, or whatever you call it, strikes them and it wilts them, and they can't stand it for long, so they fall back, and you don't hear of them any more. There're others, though, who get up there and fairly bask in it all, walk around, lie down, eat and sleep in it. They can stand it, and, my, what big shadows they throw!"
"Well, well, well, Sammy Ridley, I never heard you talk like that before," said Senator Bull; "it must have been that funeral to-day. Got on your nerves, eh? Some folks are affected like that. Come away from that window, boy, and get back to earth again." Thus urged, Mr. Ridley got back to earth again, and took a drink of generous size. Several of the delegation joined him. The movement seemed a popular one.
The conversation then turned to the deceased, his many good qualities, his probable successor in the Senate, and the bearing his death would have upon the political situation in Kentucky.
"We will miss him in the Senate," said Senator Wendell; "we will miss his wise counsel, the broad statesmanlike views, and the kindly personality that endeared him to us all. Thurlow was a great man, and the State of Kentucky will no doubt erect a fitting memorial."
"Yes," said Mr. Ridley, "I suppose they will. They ought to. It may be some consolation to the family anyhow. But it is an empty sort of thing, after all, when you come to think of it. A man's life and actions are his best monument; those who loved him will never forget him, his enemies will be sorry they spoke, and there will be something more than appropriate cut on his tombstone—that's certainly all a man should want. What's the use of waiting for a fellow to die before immortalizing him in marble or bronze? It is small satisfaction to him personally. Why not put up a statue while he is living, and let him have the pleasure of walking past it with his wife and children on a fine Sunday afternoon when all the folks are out?"
"There is a rich vein of truth in what you say, Sammy," said Senator Bull; "but you are alive and well, and it is almost impossible for you to take a dead man's view of the situation."
"I don't know but what you are right, Senator," observed Mr. Ridley thoughtfully, and the group relapsed into silence.
"You are a Southern man, I believe, Mr. Ridley," said Representative Van Rensselaer a few minutes later, as they touched glasses.
"I was one, sir, very much of one; that's why I am limping around now. I was in the Confederate Army, up to the fall of sixty-three, and then I was taken prisoner."
"So you have had a taste of Union prisons, eh?" asked Senator Baker, who spoke feelingly—his "Recollections of Johnson's Island" had just made its appearance.
"Just a leetle might of a taste, Senator; nothing like your experience, though. You see, it was this way with me. I was captured by a pretty good sort of a fellow—a big, husky, soft-hearted chap who wouldn't hurt a flea. That's him over there," pointing to Senator Bull, "and he has held me prisoner ever since. He ran up against me at Chickamauga."
"Well?" said Senator Baker expectantly.
"Tell them the whole story, Sammy," said Senator Bull, as several of the party drew their chairs up closer to the private secretary; "tell them the whole story; it will kill time, anyway."
"Yes," continued Mr. Ridley, "I was taken prisoner, and it all came of my foolishness and scorn for the enemy. We boys of the —th Arkansas thought any Johnny Reb could whip five Yanks, and it made us kind of careless-like, I reckon. I was a raw country lad when the war broke out, as tough a specimen as ever Jefferson County turned loose on the unsuspecting public, but I wasn't much worse than the rest of the boys who loafed around Todd's livery stable swapping lies, chawing tobacco, and setting the nation to rights. We were all full of fight when the Sumter news came, and anxious to get in it; and I saw a heap of it, too, before I made the acquaintance of Nathan Bull.
"There was some lively skirmishing on the morning of September twentieth, sixty-three, before the armies got together in earnest. It was real comical to see the boys tearing up their love-letters and playing-cards just before going into battle. The roads and fields were speckled with the scraps just like a snowfall on the stage, as I reckon all of you have seen in plays like 'Alone in London,' and the 'Banker's Daughter.' It was in one of those preliminary set-tos that somehow my company strayed away, and left me up in the woods with a bullet in my leg. I was looking around for some place where I could lie down and nurse myself a bit, and at the same time keep clear of the shells and other things flying around. The air was full of them—making a noise like 'Whar-izz-yer?' 'Whar-izz-yer?' Haven't you often heard that sound, Senator? Some poor devil hears it once too often, every now and then, doesn't he?
"It was very hot and dusty, and I was plumb crazy for water. Somehow I managed to work my way out to a big clear space on the side of the hill. The brush and weeds were up to your neck. At the foot of the hill was a piece of marshy land where there had once been a spring. It had long since dried up, but there were patches of greenish water here and there. I threw myself on the ground, and my, how good that nasty-looking water tasted! Then I bathed my face and hands in it. I heard a man over to my right shout out that General Hood had been killed; and in a minute or so two of our officers dashed out of the timber, coming my way, riding for dear life, and nearly trampling me. Meanwhile, the battle seemed to be raging all around me. Most of the heavy fighting that day was done in the woods, and the losses were big on both sides. Well, I dragged myself to a little clump of sassafras, not caring much whether I lived or died, I was that played out, and my leg burning and stinging just as though it was being touched up with a red-hot poker. I had been there about fifteen minutes when a blue-coat rose up in front of me—right out of the ground it seemed—and says, very fierce, 'You're my prisoner!' He was a young fellow, about my age, and didn't look at all dangerous. I just wished that leg of mine had been all right, I would have given him his money's worth, I tell you! But it wasn't any use. I couldn't stir for the misery.
"'You're my prisoner,' he says again, louder'n before.
"'All right,' says I, 'I'm willing,' seeing there wasn't anything else to say, and putting a free and easy face on it.
"'Get up, then, and come along with me,' says he. I pointed to my leg, and tried to grin. He saw the curious way it was lying—all twisted up—and the big red splotch on my trousers, and says, as if imparting information, 'You're hurt, man, badly hurt. Keep perfectly still,' which seemed to be unnecessary, as that was the onliest thing I could do anyhow. 'I'll get you out of this. Now, brace up,' and he knelt down, and held out his canteen. I tried to take it, but the effort was too much for me. 'Poor chap, he's gone,' I heard him say, and then I faded away. When I came to—a minute later it seemed to me—I was in a Yankee hospital; a big tent full of men groaning and dying, and doctors running this way and that with bottles, and bandages, and knives; and the cussing, and the screaming, and the smells! It makes me sick to think of it, even now. It was hell! I know you don't want to hear about the time I spent there, and in another place like it, tossing and groaning through the long days and nights; and when I got nearly well again, about my life in prison, and my parole. Nathan fixed that, and I walked out a free man, limping a little, just as I've done ever since. Nathan hadn't forgotten the Reb he had taken prisoner, and when I went back to Pine Bluff, poorer'n a rat, and no prospects to speak of, he gave me my start in life. He sent me with a letter to his folks in Illinois, and when I got there they gave me work to do, and treated me like one of their own. They certainly were white to me. When Nathan came home after the war, he cal'lated that Illinois was too far east for him, so after a few years we packed up our duds, and 'migrated out to Montana. There we've been ever since. That's my story, and it ain't a very startling one after all, is it?"
"And it is true—every word of it," said Senator Bull warmly. "Sammy has stuck by me through thick and thin. I don't believe I could have made out without him. As a mine boss, store keeper, deputy sheriff, and Indian fighter, we swear by him out our way. There is a fellow, gentlemen, who calls a spade a spade, and oftener than not a damned spade!"
"Don't take my character away, Nathan," expostulated Mr. Ridley humbly; "give me a show. I'm an old man now, and all I've got left is my good name, and a little something in the savings bank. Don't be hard on me."
"Sammy," continued the Senator, unnoticing, "could have gone to Congress if he had cared to. The Democrats were after him only year before last. Their man won out hands down. Sammy declined the nomination. And that's the only thing I have against Sammy Ridley. He is a Democrat. It's born in him, just as some folks inherit a taste for liquor, and others come into the world plumb crazy, and are satisfied to stay that way all their lives. However, it is not as bad as it seems. They do say out in our country that the firm of 'Bull and Ridley' is bound to get there, because when the Republican party is in the saddle, and there's anything to be had, it's 'Bull and Ridley,' and when the Democrats are on top, it's 'Ridley and Bull,' and when the Populists come in we are going out of business. So there may be some truth in it after all. What say you, Sammy boy?" Mr. Ridley nodded gravely. "In Washington Sammy is invited everywhere, but society is not his strong point. He won't get in the swim."
"I'd rather not be 'in the swim' than swim in dirty water," said the private secretary brusquely. "But speaking of the Senator; there, friends, is certainly an all-around heavy-weight."
"Sammy, Sammy," said the Senator reproachfully. "I see you are getting back at me. I didn't think it of you. No bouquets, if you please. As a matter of fact, gentlemen, I feel that I am growing beautifully less every day; I have noticed it ever since I came to Washington. I haven't been in the Senate long enough to amount to anything, if I ever do. We new people are only in demand when there is a vote to be taken. We are put on minor committees, and are thankful for any crumbs that fall from the great man's table. I am a very small spar in the ship of state. It takes all the conceit out of a fellow when he finds how little he amounts to in Washington. He leaves his own part of the world a giant, puffed up with pride and importance; but the shrinking process begins as soon as the train rolls out of the home depot. It comes on like an attack of the ague—you are first hot, then cold, then colder still. You shiver and shake——"
"For drinks?" murmured one of the newspaper men absently.
"Well—yes," replied the Senator, smiling. "I hadn't thought of that. Very neatly put. Quite true. And, as I say, he shivers and shakes—for drinks—loses, and loses—pays for them, and by the time he reaches Washington he and his pocket-book are several sizes below normal."
The humble attitude of this, one of America's wealthiest and most influential men, was edifying but scarcely convincing. The newspaper men looked at one another dubiously. Perhaps, they thought, when the Senator's magnificent house in the West End was completed, and his wife and daughters came over from Paris, the poor fellow would not be so lonely and neglected. He was a fine man, and it seemed too bad that he should be so side-tracked.
"Quite true, Senator," agreed Representative Holloway, "and matters are even worse in the House. There are more of us there, and the mere individual is more dwarf-like than over in the Senate. We are treated like a lot of naughty school-boys, and when we meekly beg leave 'to speak out in meetin'' we are practically told to shut up and sit down. The new comer is the victim of much quiet hazing on the part of his colleagues,—ably aided and abetted by the Speaker,—but he soon learns the ropes, and quickly effaces himself. He reserves his babble for the cloak-room and hotel lobby; yet, to many of his constituents, he is still a great man. There is no sadder sight in the world than the newly-fledged Congressman in the throes of his maiden speech, delivered to a half-filled House, busily reading the papers, talking, writing, or absorbed in thought. An official stenographer, right under his nose, wearily jots down the effort, and the real audience consists of a few bored friends in the galleries who smile uneasily now and then, and wonder what it is all about, and how long the blamed thing is going to last. Anyway, he gets it in the Record for free distribution to thousands of constituents, who read it, perhaps, and try to imagine why 'Applause' is tagged on to the finish."
"A gloomy picture, but not overdrawn," sighed one of the Kentucky delegation. "Here's looking at you, Holloway," he added, more cheerfully, "here's looking at you."
COLONEL MANYSNIFTERS—AN OUTING WITH THE "JEWELS"
Colonel Manysnifters, who had been quietly smoking a little apart from the group, now drew up and joined us. He had been imbibing rather freely since we left the station, but with the exception of a somewhat suspicious silence, had shown no further effects of his efforts in behalf of the Whiskey Trust. The Colonel's resemblance to Uncle Sam (as popularly portrayed) was so striking that children taken to the Capitol for the first time would shout with glee when he was pointed out to them. Rural visitors went home satisfied that the country was safe—they had seen Uncle Sam on hand, sober, and 'tending to business!' A friend once said to him, "Manysnifters, you look so much like Uncle Sam that whenever I see you on a jag I feel like this great nation of ours is going to hell!"
Georgia is the Colonel's native State, and he is proud of it, but I imagine that some recent legislation down there has greatly upset him. He looked rather downcast when I last saw him, and refused nourishment either in solid or liquid form. And then he said, eyeing me solemnly, "'Times is right porely down our way, boss. Things don't lap. De chinquapin crap done gin out 'fore de simmons is ripe!' Now, boy, don't ask me how things are going in my State. You know as much about it as I do. Let the old man alone, won't you?" and so I left him.
"Well, Colonel, how do you feel now?" asked Senator Bull solicitously.
"Oh, I'm all right," replied the Colonel, suspicion lurking in his tones. "I know what you think, Senator, but I am not. No, siree! I have had three or four small ones, but I am not 'lit' by a jugful! The idea! Drunk on four high-balls! Why, they just clear my brain—drive the fog out. Maybe it's the Scotch, maybe the soda. A fine combination, the high-ball. I am as stupid as an owl when I am cold sober, but when I drink, I soar! I feel like a lark with nothing between myself and the sun except a little fresh air and exercise. Oh, there's nothing the matter with me; any one can see that.
"It's funny how small this world is, and how time flies. I supposed you all noticed the tall, bald-headed man with the spectacles who ran up and hugged me to-day. Ain't he the ugly one? His ma certainly did hand his pa a lemon when he was born. Why, if I had been a long-lost brother he could not have been gladder to see me. Well, I was glad to see him, too, but the sight of him called up memories at once humiliating and smile-provoking. Senator, may I trouble you to depress the business end of that syphon? Thank you. Now, that fellow's name is Seymour—that's why he wears specs, I suppose—and he rattles around in the chair of Applied Science at Jay College, this State. Not much of an institution, and still less of a job, I imagine, and poor Seymour's salary quite in keeping. If there ever was any one deserving a Carnegie medal, Seymour is the chap. He studied medicine once, and graduated high up, but he never practised his profession! That's saving lives for you. Can you beat it?
"Well, Harry was a protege, or something of the sort, of our late friend Thurlow. And, as I said, I beheld his honest, glowing countenance with mixed feelings. But it is a long story—a long story——" and the Colonel paused as if seeking encouragement to proceed.
It was forthcoming.
"We would like very much to hear it," said Senator Wendell gravely; "that is, of course, if it involves no sacrifice of your feelings. We are all friends here, and will go at once into executive session. Let all who have a story to tell, an anecdote to relate, or a joke to perpetrate, feel free to do so. The galleries shall be cleared, and reporters and the public excluded—metaphorically speaking," he added hastily, turning to the newspaper men, who wore a pained expression, "metaphorically speaking, of course." The skies journalistic cleared at once, and then Colonel Manysnifters, a born diplomat, whispered to the waiting porter, who nodded knowingly, and disappeared.
"Senator, I thank you. You relieve the situation. I am a modest man, sir, and hesitate to talk about myself even among friends; but since you all insist, there is nothing for me to do but yield as gracefully as I may—and as a yielder I glitter in the front rank. My experience, gentlemen, was a peculiar one, and I think it will hold you for a while.
"It was during that never-to-be-forgotten session of Congress which lasted almost up to the time for getting together again. Cleveland was on the thro—in the White House, I mean—and I was looking after things up at the big building on Capitol Hill.
"One day in the latter part of June, when the sun was firing up for a real old-fashioned Washington summer, and the thermometer about four degrees below Jackson City, a number of my constituents came on to see me, and after we had transacted certain important business I undertook to show the boys the town; and in the party was this fellow, Professor Seymour.
"We started out one broiling afternoon upon our giddy round of pleasure, and, after keeping up the festivities all night and a portion of the next day, I became separated from my friends in some unaccountable way, and toward evening found myself wandering down town near the wharves. It was very dusty and close, and the temperature a slice of Hades served up on a hot plate. There was no need for matches, all you had to do was to put your unlighted cigar in your mouth and puff away. I was trying hard to remember why I had on glasses,—they were of no use in the world to me,—and I was also much astonished to find that I was wearing Seymour's coat and hat, the latter a typical western slouch, broad-brimmed and generous. I also sported a tie loud enough to frighten an automobile. After pondering awhile upon this remarkable state of affairs, the thought arose so far as I knew I might be Seymour myself! I was strangely befuddled by the adventures of the past twenty-four hours, and it was not long before I began to seriously argue with myself that I was Seymour,—undoubtedly Seymour,—indeed, why should I not be Seymour as well as any one else? This masterly line of reason settled it. I was Seymour, and as an instructor and guide of youth I felt that I ought to be thoroughly ashamed of myself for flocking with the dissipated crowd I had just left. Acting upon this elevating thought, I braced up considerably, assumed an air of virtue, and not knowing exactly what to do next, joined a throng of people who were jostling one another in their efforts to get on a steamboat. A sail, I fancied, would do me no end of good, and as the ticket seller assured me with a smile that the boat was perfectly safe and would return in a few hours, I went aboard with the rest of the fools, children, and old folks. This I accomplished after barely escaping a plunge into the river from what struck me as being an exceedingly narrow gang-plank.
"The band struck up one of Sousa's lively marches, a hoarse whistle sounded, the boat trembled all over, and we were off. As the Charles Auchester glided out into the stream, two young women with camp stools in their hands pushed through the crowd at the entrance to the hurricane deck—an elevation I had succeeded in attaining—and took their seats near a life-raft upon which I reclined, Cleopatra-like.
"'Oh, aren't these excursions perfectly lovely, Ruby?' said the taller of the pair, taking off her hat and dropping it in her lap.
"'Yes, and so cheap. All the way to Indian Head and back for a quarter. It's a godsend for us poor tired folks who have to stay in town all summer. And you know what that means, don't you, Pearl?'
"'Oh, yes, but don't let's talk about it,' said the other fretfully. 'I try not even to think of what we will have to go through. What good does it do to fuss over things we can't help?'
"'That's right, dear,' said her companion, 'and it doesn't pay to look far ahead, either, if one wants to be happy. I never do.'
"They were pretty and quite well dressed, these two maidens. As to their being without a male escort, I rather admired their sturdy independence. Everything about them bespoke refinement, and yet the very next remark from the girl called Ruby sent a shiver through my sensitive frame, and caused my hastily formed but favorable opinion of the pair to change color.
"'I'd give anything, Pearl, if Will and the other fellows were here. They always buy, and I've got an awful thirst on me.'
"'We might have some beer, anyway,' mildly suggested Pearl, and a flying waiter took the order.
"'I guess we can pick up something on the boat,' remarked Ruby; who, by the way, was good to look at—a black-eyed lass with regular features and lots of pink and white complexion. Pearl, languidly sipping her beer, nodded in the affirmative. This person, evidently the younger of the two, had a babyish face, big innocent blue eyes, and a profusion of fluffy yellow hair. She did not appeal as much to my sense of the beautiful as the dark one did; but I have always been partial to brunettes. She told me later that she was twenty—which figure was enough for me to know, I suppose. Oh, I understand women. They are an open book to me.
"About eight o'clock the moon, immense and crimson, came up from behind the Maryland hills, and cast a lurid path upon the wavelets. The girls, or rather the 'Jewels,' as I have since learned to think of them, huddled closer together, with a not too capacious shawl around them, for the wind was freshening considerably. For a while I stopped looking at them, being interested in the little stunts that are done on the boat as it passes Mount Vernon. The tolling of the bell and the dirge by the band absorbed all my attention.
"It was not long, though, before I began to feel that I was the object of very earnest scrutiny on the part of an individual or individuals nearby. Turning suddenly, I met the basilisk gaze of Pearl and Ruby. Their dreadful remark came to me with crushing force. They had begun, as they coarsely put it, 'to pick up something.' Lobster-like, finding myself in hot water, I turned several beautiful shades of red immediately. I became terror-stricken—I, the dignified Professor of Applied Science at Jay College, Kentucky! All my innate modesty began to assert itself; and is not this the surest protection of the innocent? I arose and fled.
"Unfortunately, while retreating, I looked back, simply to see how the shameless creatures were affected by my departure. Oh, fatal curiosity! They must have considered my backward glance an invitation to follow, for they did so with alacrity. That accursed backward glance! Lot's wife—you know the story.
"However, I saw that I was in for it, so just before reaching the steps leading to the bar, I resolutely faced my pursuers and stood at bay. They bore down upon me like ships that pass—no, I won't say that.
"'You sweet thing,' chirped Ruby, 'it knew how thirsty we were, didn't it? I don't care if it isn't the youngest baby at the christening, it's just all skeeky; so there!' This speech was delivered in gentle tones, but loud enough to be heard by several bystanders, who snickered disagreeably.
"'Yes, popper,' joined in Pearl warmly, 'do buy us a drink.'
"'Yes, popper!' I could have slapped her! Heavens! Did I look as old as that? I was aghast, for I have always prided myself upon my youthful appearance.
"'If you call me "popper" again,' said I in a savage undertone, 'I will throw you overboard! Do you hear? How dare you speak to me anyway? I have a great mind to call an officer! Come now, girls,' I added in a milder strain, aware of the helplessness of the situation, 'let's go below; and keep quiet, do. I will buy the drinks.'
"Then in sheer self-defense I ordered beer, then more beer, then cocktails, then I don't know what—Pearl asked the waiter to bring it—a queer greenish-yellow stuff which quickly overpowered me. When the vile mixture had gotten in its handiwork the Jewels seemed highly satisfied, and laughed gleefully. A few moments later I was introduced to a 'gentleman friend' of theirs whom they fished out of the crowd. He was a flashily dressed youth who insisted upon another drink—and another—at my expense. After that I have a faint recollection of getting off the boat upon its return to Washington, and of being hustled into a night-liner, the Jewels and their pal nobly standing by me. We jogged along for miles, Ruby singing at the top of her voice and the gentleman friend joining in at the chorus. Pearl's head was bent over, wobbly fashion. She was either asleep, or lost in deep thought. I have also a dim recollection of the vehicle coming to an abrupt halt, and a head thrust in at the window, saying pointedly that if we did not make less noise he would run the whole blanketty-blank gang in. This made me mad, and I wanted to fight the stranger then and there; but my warlike purpose was frustrated by the Jewels and their friend, who flung themselves upon me, wisely detaining me. The end of our journey was reached soon afterwards and our little party rolled out.
"I was then dragged up an apparently endless flight of steps, and into the vestibule of a large old-fashioned house, once the stately residence of a famous man, but now given over to the undesirable class of persons into whose clutches I had fallen. An aged negress tugged at an immense paneled door, and let us into a wide hall, at the end of which a lamp burned feebly. Then we struggled up more stairs, and after many turnings drew up before a shabbily furnished room. Into this I was rudely pushed, and the door closed and locked upon me. I rocked about in the darkness, grabbed the bed as it swung around for the third time, got a strangle hold, and went right to sleep. From this I was awakened some hours later by voices in the hall just outside. The transom over the door was open, so I could hear pretty well all that was said.
"'That's a good sort of haul you made to-night—nit!' growled a deep bass. 'Ain't you afraid you'll get into trouble? That fellow in there is Colonel Manysnifters. You've all heard of him—haven't yer? Why, he is the biggest man in the House—a great swell—money to throw at the birds; and he's been a throwin' it, hey?' said he of the voice, with a chuckle; 'but he ain't no greenhorn, I can tell yer! The old sport can make it powerful warm for us when he gets out of here!'
"'Suppose he never gets out—not for a long time, anyway; and the ransom—just think of the ransom!' joyously urged one of the Jewels, whose voice I recognized.
"'Oh, that sorter thing don't go now,' said the man; 'besides, the cop who stopped yer awhile ago knows a thing or two. You can't work any Turkish brigand racket here in Washington—the town's too small. Could do it in New York, I suppose, but not down here. The game ain't worth the candle, anyhow. The chap's blown in all he had about him. We've got his scarf-pin and alarm clock, and that's all there is to it.'
"'I guess you're right,' remarked the Jewel; 'but wait until Lola comes, and see what she says.'
"'So they think I am old Manysnifters,' thought I, trying to smile. 'That's real funny, ain't it? Oh, if he were only here now, wouldn't he get me out of this?' And in my fancy I could see my husky friend grappling with the gang outside, pitching them down the stairs, and carrying me off in triumph—the way they do it in the best sellers. My captors then went below, their voices trailing away into silence. They left me with some nasty thoughts.
"'What would the faculty of Jay think of their Seymour, could they but gaze upon him now? What would my pupils say? The World, the great World at large, the Press, the Pulpit?' (My brother is an Atlanta clergyman.) 'What would these great social forces say?' Confused ideas of my identity and importance arose like fumes to further befuddle me. I sat on the side, and in the middle of the bed, in despair—longing for something to smoke!
"The hours dragged slowly by, and yet Lola, Lola the mysterious, upon whose decision so much depended, came not.
"'Something must be done, and quickly,' thought I, and I started to get up. But hark! I heard some one in the hall softly slip a key in the lock of my door, and turn it with a creaking sound. The next moment a very odd figure came into the room. 'Twas a little old woman, and as she glided toward me I sank back on the couch quivering with terror! On, on, she came, and lightly touched my forehead.
"My first impulse was to shriek with affright; the impulse was all right, but I just couldn't do it. I must have been paralyzed. I blew first hot and then cold, and then stopped blowing altogether.
"So there I lay, stark with fear. But my visitor seemed to be very harmless. She drew up a chair by the side of the bed and took her seat, muttering something I couldn't catch. Then she bent over me and I felt her warm breath on my cheek!...
"The situation had changed but slightly when I came to a little later. She was talking.
"'Marse Edwin, Marse Edwin, don't yer know yer ole black mammy? Hush-sh-sh, chile, doan' answer me, 'cept in a whisper! I'se done come fer to save yer! I nussed yer when yer was a little baby, and I promised ole Missus always to look arter yer. De sojers is a huntin' fer yer, Marse Edwin; dey's all eround us! Hush-sh-sh!' said she, as I attempted to rise; 'lie still, honey, dey'll sartainly cotch yer if yer goes out now! Dey's sentinils posted everywhar, and dey'll shoot you down like a dog! My poor Marse Edwin,' she wailed, 'why did yer do it? Why did yer do it? Why did yer kill him? He nebber done yer no harm. Why, Gawd bless him, he done sot ole Mammy free! But dar ain't no use talkin' 'bout it now!' She walked up and down the room several times, still muttering, and then peered out of the window. Something in the street attracted her.
"'Hush-sh-sh, chile, now's de time! Git up quick, deary, but fer de Lawd's sake doan' make no noise! Follow de ole woman—dis way.' I got up at once and obeyed her. It was a ghastly sort of thing, this Marse Edwin business, but I saw a chance of escape at the bottom of it. We went to the lower part of the house on tip-toe, and the negress, opening the street door, pushed me out into the cool dawn, saying with a shaking voice, 'Run, Marse Edwin, run fer yer life! Watch out for de sojers! Good-bye, Gawd bress you, my lam'!' And I ran, you bet.
"Day was breaking when I found myself in the street, and as I emerged from the slightly disreputable neighborhood where I had passed the night I felt sure that a glance in the mirror would show me up a haggard, white-haired wreck. The air was wonderfully reviving, though, and I felt a subtle change stealing over me. An odd, pricking sensation, like one's foot awakening from sleep, gradually took possession of me, and to my horror I appeared to be separating from myself. Any one who has had that feeling knows what it is. At one moment I was the Professor; the next, I was undoubtedly Manysnifters! I found myself walking by the side of one; then, in the twinkling of an eye, with the other. It was not long, however, before I began to get tired of it, so just before I reached the hotel I determined to decide once for all who I was. I felt that it was important I should know. The decision was arrived at by a simple expedient to which I invariably resort whenever I find my judgment wavering. There is no patent on the thing, and I don't mind letting you all into it. Fortunately, I still had my luck-piece—an ancient Roman coin—with me.
"'Now,' thought I, 'let the antique beer check decide it. I will cinch this question by tossing up. If it falls heads, I am Manysnifters, and if the reverse appears, I am the Professor. I will abide by the decree of Fate.'
"Up went the Denarius, striking the asphalt with a merry ring in its fall. I bent eagerly over it, and lo, the image and superscription of Caesar stared me in the face!
"So I was Manysnifters after all, and this fact was further impressed upon me an hour or so later by an enterprising office-seeker, to whom, in my enfeebled state, I fell an easy prey—I endorsed his application for the Nova Zembla consulship."
Colonel Manysnifters's story was very thirst-provoking, and President Madison, our grinning drink-mixer, had a busy half-hour of it. It was now about seven o'clock and we were again overtaken by the storm, which hurled itself upon us, fairly rocking the car in its violence. The train, which had been proceeding slowly and jerkily, now came to a full stop. An avalanche of snow, earth, and loose stones had fallen at the end of a deep cut. Had we been going at any speed an awful catastrophe would have resulted. As it was we were barely moving when we ran into the obstruction. It would be hours before the track could be cleared, and there was no relief in sight. Fortunately, we were well provisioned, and could stand a siege of a day or so in any event. The brakeman set out on his long, hard journey to the nearest telegraph station, swinging his lantern, and swearing picturesquely. Every precaution was taken to guard the train against further accident. Our party accepted the inevitable philosophically. Dinner was announced, and amid the good things provided by our chef we soon forgot our mishap.
"Now, gentlemen," said Colonel Manysnifters genially, between the soup and fish, "let's cut out golf, religion, baseball, and politics, and get down to serious subjects. Senator, what is the best poker hand you ever held?"
Senator Wendell, thus addressed, said, with a far-away look in his eyes, "Let me see, let me see. Oh, I remember now; it happened twice—three times—or was it three times? Twice I will swear to."
"I say it happened twice; I am positive of it—and before the draw, too."
"Who was dealing?" asked the Colonel eagerly.
"Poker stories barred," said Senator Baker sternly. "Remember, gentlemen, that this is a non-partisan gathering; not only that, but some of us know absolutely nothing about the game. And yet, and yet," said he thoughtfully, as if to himself, "it is a fascinating subject. Why, on one occasion,—I will never forget it,—being right under the guns, I passed without looking at my hand. The man next to me opened the pot, and all the rest stayed. I picked up my cards carelessly, and imagine my delight when I found that I had——"
"Senator, Senator," said Van Rensselaer reproachfully, "I am surprised. I didn't think you would go back on the sentiments you so warmly espoused a few moments ago. Let us avoid so agitating a topic. Personally," continued he, slowly and dreamily, as if going into a trance, "I have no objection to the game. I have played it myself, though I do not pose as an expert. Coming over on the steamer last summer—'twas the night before we landed—the game was steep, painfully steep, and nothing friendly about it, with the lid off finally. I was about two thousand to the bad,—it was the consolation round, ending with and up to me,—my deal, and the fellows counting and stacking their chips preparatory to cashing in. I doled the papes with deliberation, and a saddened soul, and skinned my hand carefully. They were hearts—all but one. A seven, four, six, five and a trey of clubs. That's the way they came to me. A nice little straight, but apparently not nice enough. All the fellows stayed, and there was considerable hoisting before the draw. Then the man next to me took one card; the Englishman with the monocle, two; General Thomas, one; the fat man from Cincinnati, three (to his aces), and Doctor McNab stood pat; and then discarding the trey of clubs—foolhardy, very foolhardy, but I did it—I dealt myself one—the eight of hearts! My, how good I felt! The battle was on! Backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, until one by one the players dropped out, leaving the Doctor and myself to settle it. Doctor McNab saw my three thousand and raised me five.
"Five better," said I.
"Back at you," said he; the others in the meanwhile keeping tab in their notebooks.
"Once again," said I.
"And again," said he.
"That was about all I could stand, and I called him. With a leer of triumph he threw his hand on the table, face-up, displaying——"
"Stop him, stop him!" shouted Mr. Ridley, rising excitedly. "Don't let him take the money! If I'd a knowed you at the time, brother, it never would a happened! I'd a put you wise to that McNab. He ain't no more doctor than I am, and his name ain't McNab either! The scar-faced son of a gun! I've been up against him, and so has Bull; ain't you, Nathan?"
"Poker stories are barred, I believe," said the Senator coldly.
Mr. Ridley's face was a study.
"Well, I'll be damned!" he muttered, with his mouth full of potatoes. "Let's change the subject; there are lots of other things to talk about. I like war stories, myself. Senator," said he, turning to Senator Hammond, "the first time I ever saw you—and then it was some distance off—you were in the biggest kind of a hurry; I never saw a man so anxious to get from here, say, to over there."
"When was it? I do not recollect," said the old veteran pleasantly.
"Why, at Bull Run; don't you remember Bull Run?"
"Do I? Well, I should say I did. You fellows certainly had us going that day, and if you had been smart you would have pushed matters, captured Washington, and thus ended the war, or at least have been in a position to dictate your own terms. As to our retreat, I remember so well the disgusted tones of a staunch Union lady living in Washington, speaking to one of the boys on the night of our return.
"'You coward!' she said bitterly, 'to run away at the first fire! Don't you know that the finger of scorn will be pointed at you all the rest of your life?'
"'That may be so, lady,' said the soldier doggedly, 'but I'd ruther hev the finger o' scorn pinted at me any time than one o' them damned Rebel cannon!'
"And another of the boys limping by, foot-sore and weary, was accosted by this same angry dame, 'You ran, did you? You ran! Shame! Shame! A big fellow like you! Why did you run?'
"'I run, mum, 'cause I couldn't fly, that's why I run!'"
"Yes, quite true; and yet, after all, how like the moon we are," muttered one of the newspaper men disconnectedly.
"How so?" inquired Senator Hammond acidly.
"Why, here we are, full—gloriously full—on the twentieth of the month, and eight days later, down to our last quarter."
"That's bad, very bad, O'Brien," said another scribe mournfully. "Forgive him, Senator. I will have something to say to him later." Withering glances were cast at the unlucky one, who seemed about to sink under the table, and the wind outside howled dismally, and rattled the windows in its rage.
The situation was steadied somewhat by Senator Pennypacker. The Senator, who entered public life five years ago a poor man, and who, by living economically, saving his pay, and borrowing his chewing tobacco, is at present worth considerably over a million dollars, now favored the company with some sage remarks as to the tendency of the times toward extravagance, the high cost of living in Washington, the iniquity of the boarding-house keepers, and the difficulty he had to make both ends meet. The Senator is a tall, lank, ungainly looking man; thin lipped, with mean, cunning eyes, strained ever for the main chance. A few tufts of reddish hair are flattened on either side of his cranium, and his nose and chin were sharpened on the grindstone of necessity and early hardship into twin beaks. Verily a vulture, battening now on the Trusts, and feared and hated by other birds of smaller body and weaker wing. With him, Selfishness is indeed the main-spring of Ambition! His features are well-known to the public through the medium of those extensive advertisements in the papers heralding the great vegetable remedy "Gee-Soo-Na."
His remarks were received in silence, though a careful observer might have noticed an exchange of solemn winks between Colonel Manysnifters and Sammy Ridley.
"Oh, he is the stingy one, all right," Colonel Manysnifters confided later to Mr. Ridley. "He is the kind of fellow who would send his best girl a box of candy Saturday morning, and call around Sunday night and eat it all up."
When the Senator had fully delivered himself, some one brought up the negro question.
"They certainly are the limit in Washington," said Colonel Manysnifters. "The sassy black rascals seem to think they own the town. And nigger policemen, too! Think of a white man being arrested by a nigger policeman!"
"I do not see why lawbreakers should object to the color of the man who gathers them in," said Van Rensselaer sarcastically.
"We Southerners do, anyway," retorted the Colonel hotly.
"You Southerners should behave yourselves, then there would be no trouble," observed Senator Hammond dryly.
"Well, that's all right, now," said Colonel Manysnifters, flaring up, "we don't expect you Northerners to feel as we do about it! We——"
"Come, come, Manysnifters," said Senator Bull pacifically, "don't get excited. Don't let the 'nigger in the wood-pile' spoil this occasion. Calm yourself."
"Oh, I'm not excited. It takes a lot to excite me," said the Colonel; "but just to give you an idea of how things are going in Washington, a cousin of mine from Atlanta, a kindly disposed chap as ever lived, meeting an old negress on the street there the other day, said to her, 'Well, Auntie, how are you this bright morning?'
"'Huh!' exclaimed the old woman angrily, 'Auntie! Don't you call me no Auntie! I ain't yoh aunt, and I ain't yoh uncle; I'se yoh ekal!' Now wouldn't that jar you? That's the way the niggers feel about it in Washington."
"Forget it, Manysnifters," urged Senator Bull, "forget it. Give the colored brother a show. He will work out his own salvation."
"At the end of a rope," growled the Colonel.
"Be charitable, sir, be charitable," said Senator Pennypacker ponderously. "The negro problem lies with the white people of the South. They will solve it. Give them time. Perhaps they may find
"'With keen, discriminating sight, Black's not so black, Nor white's so very white!'"
"Oh, we will solve it all right," said Colonel Manysnifters knowingly, "trust us for that. Only—you Northern folks keep your hands off. That's all we ask!"
Mr. Ridley, to soothe the fiery Southerner, poured out a generous libation, and the dark cloud rolled over.
SENATOR BULL'S STORY
When we returned to the observation car Senator Bull was unanimously called to the chair.
"I shall hark back to my boyhood days," said he, "and relate an incident in my early life, and its sequel when I attained man's estate. I suppose all of us have had experiences which have more than once brought home the weight of that bewhiskered old maxim—'Truth is stronger than fiction.'
"There were twelve of us—Bert Martin, Joey Scott, Tom Hyland, Georgie Morris, Jake Milburn, Bob Hardee, Lannie Sudduth, Owen Prouty, Alf Rush, Ed Ross, Dolph Levy, and myself. The Forestburg Rifles we called ourselves. Ed Ross was captain, and Lannie Sudduth and Bob Hardee, lieutenants. There were no other officers, for that would have left too few privates; but, as it was, our nine men marching single file and wide apart made a fine showing. Owen Prouty limping bravely along, brought up the rear. 'That lame Prouty boy' was the gamest fellow in the command and it nearly broke his heart when we marched away in earnest in sixty-one, and left him behind—the leader of the home-guard.
"The Rifles were armed with wooden guns, and drilled twice a week in Bert Martin's barn—drilled with almost the same precision and attention to the manual as we had to do in later years. Ed Ross was a strict disciplinarian even then, and awfully in earnest. Indeed, we all were for that matter. When the notion is strong upon them, young folks beat their elders all hollow at that sort of thing. Every Saturday afternoon at three o'clock, weather permitting, we met at our armory, and after some preliminary maneuvers marched down High Street. Old Cush Woodberry and the other loafers at Horton's would come out on the platform in front of the store and review the troops. The interest those lazy fellows took in us was astonishing. Old Cush even volunteered one day to give us some instructions in tactics, but our gallant captain courteously declined. There were others, though, who did not admire us so much. The green-eyed monster reigned supreme over on Liberty Street, and around by the court-house lot. There the country lads in town for Saturday market were entrenched, and they jeered at us enviously from the line of wagons drawn up in battle array. Occasionally a rotten apple or potato would sail through the air in our direction, but we marched past our tormentors stiffly erect, and apparently unconscious. Had our numbers been stronger we would have joyfully stormed the enemy's works, but the country boys were bigger than we, and vastly more numerous; so with us discretion was indeed the better part of valor.
"The Rifles were organized just after school broke up, and flourished all that summer; a remarkable thing for Forestburg boys, for we were a squabbling lot, prone to quarrel and fight upon the slightest provocation. But in some way our captain held us together—just as he did afterward at Antietam and Gettysburg. Dear old chap, he holds us still!
"In early September we received our colors. Up to that time Owen Prouty had carried a small flag on his musket, but it had never been dignified as the company's colors. Our real flag was given to us by the little McDermott girl, and the giving was done so prettily and sweetly that our boyish hearts were touched—and this is saying a good deal. Not, indeed, that the Forestburg boys were rougher than other boys, for I guess they are all pretty much alike; but we had been taught to hate and shun the McDermotts. They were newcomers, and Danny McDermott had been a Young Irelander, or something else equally as dreadful. Then, too, Forestburg was a Knownothing stronghold, and we fell naturally into our daddies' way of thinking. So we roundly snubbed the pleasant-faced Danny and his family whenever we had a chance, and the fellows at school used to bully Terence, the son, most atrociously. Yet as we marched by the McDermotts' on Saturday afternoons little Katie would always run out to the gate delightedly and wave a large flag, and after a while we came to look upon the little golden-haired child and her flag as quite a feature of our parade. Finally, one day she stepped into the street, and with a quaint curtsy presented the flag, garlanded with roses and buttercups, to our captain. The command was at once ordered to halt, and all eyes were fixed upon Ed and the blushing child.
"'Attention!' shouted Captain Ross. We obeyed and looked straight ahead as good soldiers should, with a sly glance out of the corners of our eyes at our leader. But Ed knew just what to do. He faced about sharply, and made a low bow to the lady, took the flag held out to him, and then made a speech. Ed Ross was always a fine talker, and had won the elocution prize at school the year before. On this occasion he fairly surpassed himself. I have often thought of it since. At our next meeting we unanimously elected Miss Katherine Burke McDermott an honorary member of the Rifles. Tom Ryland's sister drew up the resolutions, and they were very beautiful.
* * * * *
"It was a sultry afternoon, and the little jury-room was suffocating. The fight for a life which had raged out in the gloomy court-room for two weeks or more was now transferred to the ten by twelve cubby-hole where we had been cooped up since noon. The evidence against the prisoner was overwhelming, but some of the jurors still wavered as to their clear duty. Eight of us were for murder in the first degree; the others were in the same frame of mind, I am sure, but tantalizingly slow about saying so. It looked like an all-night struggle.
"Thrice since midday had Sheriff Watkins popped in his red head and asked if we had agreed upon a verdict, and as often had he angrily withdrawn. Watkins had a profound contempt for juries in general, and our jury in particular. According to the sheriff, the case of Commonwealth against Hardy was decided, and decided fully, when Dillingham finished his speech. Dillingham was the prosecuting attorney, and Watkins worshipped him down to the ground. Watkins was therefore clearly prejudiced, but in this instance his views were undeniably sound.
"The court, despairing and thirsty, had adjourned to meet at seven o'clock. In the jury-room all arguments for and against the stand taken by the unshaken eight seemed exhausted. The hours dragged wearily by. At half-past five o'clock, to our great surprise, three of the obstinate crowd came over to our way of thinking. Whether stern duty, our mutual discomfort, or the prospect of another night away from their families wrought this, I know not. So then, with the single exception of Colonel Ross, we were all for stringing up the prisoner.
"Colonel Ross still stuck out doggedly for a milder punishment—anything to save the poor devil's life, he said. For the first time in my career I rebelled against the judgment of my old friend, and for the first time found myself arrayed against him, and the novelty of the situation was far from agreeable. The clock in the town hall struck six, and the whistles down at Thayer's mill blew furiously. The Colonel was biting the ends of his mustache and gazing moodily into the crowded street below. I went up to him and put my hand on his shoulder.
"'Now, Colonel,' said I, in my most persuasive tones, 'can't you make up your mind to join us in this thing? We are all agreed except yourself. God knows we have no personal feeling against Hardy. We are simply doing what we think is our duty, and a mighty nasty one it is, too! You know that. But we owe something to society—society, whose structure was shaken to its very foundation by the perpetration of this crime! (Dillingham's own words.) The prisoner is clearly guilty. Why, the fellow practically confesses it. We ought to put some stop to the killing and general rascality up there in the settlement. Our section is fast becoming a monstrous blot on the fair name of the Commonwealth! (Dillingham again.) What is there left for us to do but carry out the law? What is there left for——' My voice died away weakly. Something in the Colonel's face effectually blasted my budding eloquence. At that moment I felt myself a greater criminal than Hardy or any of his gang.
"Colonel Ross tapped the floor impatiently with his crutch. He was a testy man, but much was borne from him.
"'Gentlemen,' said he, his eyes flashing, 'I verily think that the good God above in His great wisdom and mercy picked out this jury Himself. I am sure He did. Now, listen to me. It will not take long.
"'We have all had a tedious two weeks of it, haven't we? The weather has been warm; our business neglected; some of us have sick ones at home we are anxious to see; and we are all losing our health and temper in this close confinement. And I by no means omit the dreadful meals at the Darby House. But, gentlemen, rather than come over to you and hang Eph Hardy, I would stay here forever! Not, indeed, that there is any danger of that, for the Judge will discharge us pretty soon if we do not come to terms. But I can at least go to my home with nothing to haunt me the rest of my life. I can at least close my eyes at night without fear of troubled dreams or hours of unrest. And I thank God for it.
"'Now, my friends, while all that we've gone through has been wearing on a fellow, it has not been without interest. You have doubtless heard and gazed in wonder at "the cloud of witnesses" the defense and prosecution have summoned for this case. You have listened open-mouthed to the fine eloquence of the lawyers. You have seen, day after day, the fashionable city folk, who have come down to our little town, troop in and take their seats—and the reporters, and the men with the cameras, and the hungry-looking "poor whites." Now, gentlemen, of course you have seen and heard all this, and of course you have been duly impressed. I have been, I grant you; but of late there has been but one thing in that court-room I could see; but one thing that interested me, and held my attention to the exclusion of all else. I don't suppose you know what I mean. It is this—back, 'way back by the door a little woman has been in torture, such torture as I hope you will never know. I cannot keep my eyes from that shabbily dressed figure; from that white, tear-stained face. Again and again I have seen her veil drawn down, and the poor creature shaking with grief. At first I did not know her, though I guessed. Watkins told me about her. She is the prisoner's mother.
"'When Dillingham was putting in his finishing touches this morning I thought of my mother. She was like that when they brought my brother Archie home. You remember Archie—and the day he was drowned? We were all in swimming that Sunday, you know, and Parson Moore said it was a judgment, but my poor mother could not bring herself to think so.
"'Well, the Hardy woman called to mind mother when they told her about Archie. That same awful, awful look of despair.
"'As I said before, I see the hand of God in the choosing of this jury.' The Colonel eyed us almost exultingly.
"'Boys! Attention!' Mechanically we old soldiers arose and faced about, obeying our Colonel as of yore. The order was electrical, and set us tingling with expectation. Something else was surely coming.
"The Colonel bowed profoundly to an imaginary person at his side.
"'Boys, listen! I accept this flag from your fair hands in behalf of my men and myself. Mere words fail to express our thanks, but in deeds most glorious will we attest our love for you, and the Stars and Stripes!'—or something like that—all very childish and grandiloquent, but we kept our word, didn't we? And again—picture it to yourselves, now—Bob Hardee's barn; your captain in the chair; Private Ryland rises, and offers the following: "Be it Resolved, that Miss Katherine Burke McDermott be, and hereby is, elected an honorary member for life in the Forestburg Rifles, and that we swear to cherish and protect her forever." That was the gist of it, I believe, and there were other resolutions regarding the same young lady, which have unfortunately escaped my memory. But, boys, need I remind you that these resolutions were adopted unanimously? O, let them bind us still! That broken-hearted woman in there was once the little golden-haired lass to whom we were so loyal in the long ago. Shall we not be loyal to-day? It isn't justice, and it isn't law; but, boys, we've got to save that fellow's life—now, haven't we?'
"An hour later we entered the court-room. The woman over by the door looked up with a faint flush on her face. Hope had made it radiant. She knew that 'The Rifles' would never vote to take her boy's life!
"And she was right.
"We acquitted him.
"The verdict was heard in absolute silence. Then there was a slight stir in the rear of the room. Nothing, after all; only—a woman had fainted. It was hot in the court-room that night, and no place for women, anyhow, as Colonel Ross gruffly remarked at the time.
"But there were tears in his eyes."
REPRESENTATIVE HOLLOWAY HAS THE FLOOR
At the conclusion of Senator Bull's story President Madison was again requisitioned, and a crap game which was in lively progress in the dining-car was thus rudely disturbed.
"Tell us, Holloway, about your nomination and election to Congress. Was it not somewhat in the nature of a surprise?" asked Congressman Van Rensselaer.
"Very much so. It will hardly make a story, but if you would like to hear how it happens that the —th District of Illinois is represented in Congress by a Democrat for the first time in its history, here goes—but mind you, now, I don't pretend to be in Senator Bull's class as a story teller.
"It was a piping hot day in August, and Harrisville at its worst. Whenever a vehicle passed, clouds of dust floated in at the windows and settled upon my books, my papers, and covered my green baize table with an infinitesimal section of H—— County real estate. Even the slumberer on the sofa was not exempt. His usually ruddy face had become ashen, and his snoring was developing into a series of choking gasps. It was fearful, this dust,—alkaline, penetrating, stifling,—and from such soil the raw-boned, hard-featured men of H—— wrung a living. And I, sharing their narrow lives, began to understand the true significance of the word 'onery' as applied to us by our more prosperous and ofttimes just exasperated neighbors.
"It was court day, and I had just come in after a stiff tussle with a pig-headed judge, an irritating opposing counsel, and a H—— County jury. I thought of old Uncle Peter Whitehead, 'The onriest critters in the whole State of Illinoy come out o' H——! Thar ain't no tellin' which way an H—— County jury's a goin' to jump. The law and the facts ain't nothin' ter them, it's jest the way they are feelin' that particler day and minnit. If so happen they got outer bed the wrong foot furrard that mornin', then it's good-by ter the pris'ner, and hell fer the lawyer that's defendin' him!'
"Court had adjourned until two o'clock, leaving the fate of my client undecided, and I came into my office, tired-out, warm, and exceedingly anxious. Clearing Thad Hawley meant a great deal to me just then. It was my first important case, and I felt that my future would be decided in a great measure by its outcome. If the twelve stolid farmers upon whom I had showered my eloquence went Fraley-ward in their verdict, I knew that my professional goose would be cooked, and visions of a move to some distant bailiwick rose up before me. Fraley and Hicks would then monopolize the Harrisville practice, and perhaps in a year or so some other fledgling would rise up in his ignorance and be as ruthlessly cut down as I had been.
"Yes, I was worried, and the sight of Andrew Sale asleep on my sofa did not tend to soothe that feeling. At any time a visit from the county chairman would have been most unwelcome, but now it was an exhibition of unmitigated gall! Another contribution, I supposed, angrily eyeing the sleeper. I had been the 'good thing' for Sale and his crowd for some years past, and had pretty well resolved to cut loose from them—and politics. I thought of the many ambitious young fellows I knew who had been permanently injured while hovering around the political flame. Some, indeed, were burned to death, others are floundering through life on crippled wings; all were more or less singed, both morally and financially. My experience thus far had been a financial singe, and the last scorching was still fresh and quivering. Only the week before I had given Sale my check for quite a tolerable sum, and then as soon as he had left my office, kicked myself for doing so. The money, he said, was to go toward defraying the expenses of the nominating convention, which was to meet at Shawnee on the twenty-first, and as a good man and true I had to 'cough up' with the rest of them.
"And here he was again!
"As I glared at him the chairman turned over uneasily, sputtered, sneezed, opened his eyes, and sat up, staring stupidly.
"'How're you? How're you?' he roared, wiping his face with a grimy handkerchief. 'Ain't this dust awful? There ain't no doing anything with it. If you put the winders down you'll smother with the heat, and if you leave 'em up, you'll choke to death. Hobson's choice, eh? Ha, ha! And all that prayin' for rain on Sunday, too. Providence's ways is certainly beyond us—ain't they? Well, I rather guess this visit 'll surprise ye.'
"'It does, Mr. Sale, it does!' said I warmly. 'You know I told you when you were here the other day that I could not—you know damn well that——'
"'Now, now, now,' said he soothingly, holding up his hand, 'don't do that! You're on the wrong tack, Mister, 'deed you are. There's another guess a comin' to you. It ain't money we want this time, no, siree! Money don't cut no ice this trip, though it is a mighty handy thing to have a jinglin' in your jeans—ain't it? No, it ain't the "sinews," as Jim McGubbin calls it; it's you, Mr. Holloway; it's you, sir!'
"'Me, Mr. Sale?'
"'Yes, sir; you. Why it's as plain as the nose on your face, Mr. Holloway, and that is—the Democratic party of the —th deestric' is pretty unanimous on one thing anyhow, this year. I'll admit we ain't come to no final decision on our platform, but we air pretty generally agreed on our candidate, and that's the Honrubble Andrew Jackson Holloway—yourself, sir! That's why I am here to-day. When I heerd you speakin' in court just now, I turned and says to Jim McGubbin, says I, "That there's the voice that'll wake 'em up in Congress." I felt just like the old feller in the Bible. The sperrit of prophecy was on me. And Jim he agreed with me. Jim's got the Shawnee organization right under his thumb, same as—'tween you and me—I've got H——. McGubbin's out and out for Holloway. "Holloway and Reform!" That's our cry this year. I seen Potter James and old Pete Whitehead over to Andrewville yesterday, and they'll fetch their people in line for you all right. If you'll make the run, we'll elect you sure; and that ain't no lie.'
"Sale, a big man with a loud voice, impressive tones, and masterful ways, overpowered me.
"'Sit down, Mr. Sale,' I said weakly, 'sit down. Let us talk it over. This nomination—it is a great honor, I am sure—I can scarcely tell you how flattered—how——'
"'Oh, that's all right, that's all right,' said he, beaming. 'I know'd you'd be a little, well—flustered, eh?—when I fust broke the news to you, and I don't say but what it isn't perfectly natural, too. These things don't happen to a man every day, and especially to—beggin' your pardon—to a man as young as yourself, sir. But the Democratic party of the —th deestric' of Illinoy knows a good thing when they sees it.' Sale's unconscious sarcasm hurt me. 'I have sounded them to the bottom,' he went on, 'and it's Holloway, Holloway, Holloway, everywhere. Now you'll let us put you up, won't you? There ain't no earthly doubt 'bout your gettin' the nomination. Harrison may give old Colonel Harrison its vote on the first ballot, just as a compliment, you know; and I'll admit that down Hall City way there's some talk of Sile Munyon, but there ain't nothin' to it. We'll prick the Munyon boom before it's bigger'n a pea. We'll fix things, you bet. And we'll elect you, too! It's a good job to hold down—that of being a Congressman; it ain't the office so much as it is the purgatives that go with it. I'd like to go to Congress myself. Maybe I will some day. Well, as I was goin' to say, I driv over to the Courthouse Sunday, and saw the boys there, and I talked them into the right way o' thinkin'. They are all O. K.
"'There's a deal of grumblin' and dissatisfaction 'mongst the Republicans just now. Sam Thorne ain't done the square thing by the gang that 'lected him, and they are mighty sore over it. Washington's kinder turned his head. He's got awful stuck up of late, and wears a long-tailed coat and beaver hat all the time. And that 'pointment of Ben McConnell postmaster of Liberty has hurt Thorne and the Republican party a heap all over the deestric'. Ben McConnell never voted the Republican ticket but twicst in his life. Up to two years ago he was a red-hot Democrat, and no one down in their hearts, Republican or Democrat, has any use for a turncoat. I take it all in all, he is the most onpopular man in Illinoy to-day. His conduct is as hard to swaller as a dose of them old Greek twins, Castor Oil and Politics, we use to wrastle with at school. Of course in political life, like in ordinary life, you have to eat a peck o' dirt before you die, but you don't have to eat it all at oncst like he's a doin'! Why, old war-horses, Republicans all their lives, were turned down for this here upstart! It's done the party a deal of harm. And then, as I said before, Sam Thorne's confounded airs is making everybody sick. No one ever thought anything of the Thornes when I fust grew up. They wasn't no better'n any one else. Sam Thorne's father was the clerk of the court at Liberty, and a darned poor one at that, as I have often heard my father say. I went to school with Sam, and many's the thrashin' I have given him, but that's neither here nor there.
"'Oh, we've got 'em this time, sure! Yes, they're going to run Thorne again. He's got hold of a wad there in Washington, and can buy up the whole convention if need be. I wouldn't trust any of them Republicans. The Democratic party is above sech doin's. We stand for purity, patriotism—the whole bag o' tricks! Ha, ha! And politics, I guess, is like everything else. So long as you stick to the Thirteenth Commandment, you'll get there without any trouble.'
"'The Thirteenth Commandment'?
"'Yes, the Thirteenth—"Thou shalt not be found out," you know. Oh, we'll fix the Thorne gang as sure's you're born to die! My luck'll carry you through. It sure will! A chiropodist in Chicago once told me that there was a terribul commotion in the heavens when I was born. Venus was bit by the Dog Star—or some sech foolishness—all of which went to show that I come on the earth at jest the right diabolical moment. And I guess the fellow knew what he was a talkin' about, with his maps, and charts, and things. Anyway, I've got no kick comin'. I have always had the best o' good luck, and I'll pass it on to you.'
"Sale was a good talker, and carried everything before him. Now and then I managed to slip in a word or two in feeble protest, but he swept away all my objections with the same easy movement that he chased off the flies from his face.
"When I looked at my watch it was ten minutes before two o'clock. Sale was going out into the hot street, jubilant, and I was the more than probable nominee of the Democratic party of the —th district for Congress! I knew that Sale would make good his word; and, having given it, I would stick to mine. But my tempter out of the way, I writhed and groaned under my folly and weakness. I grabbed up my hat, and hurried back to court as in a nightmare. The Hawley case went against me, but it paled into insignificance by the side of my newer and greater misfortune.
"For Sale had hypnotized me!
"Of course I was nominated. Nominated with shouts, and cat-calls, and much unearthly clamor. Nominated on the second ballot to the eternal confusion of the Munyon crowd, who afterward, I have been told, bolted the ticket and voted solidly for my Republican opponent. I made a speech, and was wildly cheered, then dragged in Lum Atkins's buggy to my hotel by an army of yelling partisans. I was interviewed by reporters, photographed by an enthusiastic young woman on the Argus staff, and made in every way to feel that I was one of the truly great. But I knew otherwise.
"In the months following I hobnobbed lovingly with every heeler, ward-worker, and thug in that part of the State. My bar'l was tapped, and well tapped. The stubs in my check-book are mutely eloquent. Then the press got in its fine work. When the opposition sheets were through with me not a shred of character had I left. I shivered in my moral nakedness, one enterprising journal said, and that is just about what I did. My public appearances—on the stump, and on the rostrum—afforded rare fun for the other side. I was not an orator—never claimed to be one—and of course they made the most of it. I spoke my little piece as well as I could, but my opponent was known as 'The Silver-tongued Demosthenes of Illinois'—or something like that—so where did I come in? And how those newspaper fellows did enjoy it all! God bless them! They have proven good friends of mine since, but their sharpened quills were fiery darts to me in those days!
"And I was otherwise discouraged. My encounter with big Bill Such of Sangamon left him, as before, the undisputed rough and tumble champion of middle Illinois. My people at home, too, were solidly against me. Life-long Republicans, as they had always been, they felt that I had disgraced them, and showed it very plainly. As the standard-bearer of a party upon whose banners Victory had never perched, at least so far as my district was concerned, I was indeed the leader of a forlorn and ragged hope; but my blood was up, and I was determined at least to make a better showing than any other Democrat had done.
"But it was an expensive ambition.
"Election day rolled around, and I spent the greater part of the time driving to and from the polling places in my own county. I was particularly anxious to carry H——, even though all the other counties failed me. That would soften the blow to the family pride, I thought. Not a morsel of food passed my lips during the whole of that trying fifth of November. From sunrise to sunset I never left my buggy, except once to vote, and at nightfall I was fairly done up. When all was over I was too tired-out to await returns at headquarters, so I turned in quite early, only venturing to hope that the fate of Judkins would not be mine. For Judkins, a recent victim, had been so overwhelmingly defeated in the spring elections that he had retired from the political arena in disgust; anathematizing politics in general and the politics of the —th district in particular. Then, in his weak and shattered condition, he fell into the arms of the eldest Parsons girl, who had been stalking him for, lo, these many years!
"I slept as soundly as though trouble, sorrow, and Congressional elections had never been; and in the morning came the surprise.
"I was elected by an enormous majority!
"I can not explain this phenomenon; they are still trying to do that out my way. It was an upheaval, with the great Democratic party and its astonished candidate very much on top. Its like will never occur again in my State; not in my district, anyhow. A recent Republican gerrymander will prevent that. Andrew Sale says he did it. Maybe he did; I don't know."
"It was Fate—f-a-t-e—Fate!" said Colonel Manysnifters, solemnly. "There's no avoiding it. My sainted parents, both good Presbyterians in their day, would doubtless have urged predestination. That may be it. Your election to Congress was something you couldn't side-step. Nor, by the same token, can I. Only when I am nominated, I don't worry any more. There is a general election, I believe, but that doesn't fret me much. We have eliminated the opposition down our way—perfectly legal and statutory. Oh, yes. There are a few 'lily-white' votes cast on the other side, they tell me,—sort of a registered kick for conscience's sake, I suppose,—but it is just a matter of form, and nobody gets excited over it. They are trifles lighter than air, yet—
"'Small things should not unheeded be, Nor atoms due attention lack, We all know well the miseree Occasioned by an unseen tack!'
"'Little drops of water, Little grains of sand Make contractors' mortar That is used throughout the land.'"
"Well," said Sammy Ridley, drawing a deep breath when the Colonel was through, "I may be a damn fool, but I am no poet!"
REPRESENTATIVE VAN RENSSELAER UNFOLDS A STRANGE TALE
"And now, Van Rensselaer," said Colonel Manysnifters, "it's around to you. I reckon you have something up your sleeve that will surprise us, eh?" The debonair Congressman from the Empire State was quite equal to the occasion. He seemed primed and ready, and needed no further urging. There was another hiss of soda, the clink of glasses, and with a prolonged sigh of satisfaction he began.
"This is a true tale, and unfolded now for the first time. Harken unto the evidence.
"It was a lovely afternoon in early spring, and 'The Avenue' was alive with a leisurely moving throng—for no one hurries in Washington. I strolled along, thoroughly enjoying the balmy weather, the crowds, and the charm of it all. About four o'clock hundreds of government clerks streamed out sluggishly from the side streets. At the crossings fakirs were busy, their customers good-naturedly elbowing each other in their eagerness to be swindled. And violets everywhere! The air was filled with the scent of them. Men, women, and children with trays piled high with the tiny purple and white flowers were doing a tremendous business; their customers ranging from dignified statesmen to the loudly dressed Afro-American gayly swinging along. Out of the fashionable Northwest came many carriages, passing from the grim shadow of the Treasury into the sunlit way beyond. The trend of movement was eastward—always eastward—toward the great white dome on the hill. Congress was in session, and history was making there. The war debate was on in all its fury, with the whole world listening breathlessly. Pictures of the ill-fated Maine were much in evidence, and maps of Cuba in the shop windows were closely scanned. The probability of war with Spain was loudly and boastfully discussed by seedy looking men in front of the cheaper hotels and restaurants. Extra editions of the New York papers with huge scare headlines were eagerly bought up. The latest news from the Capitol—via New York—was seized upon with avidity. The papers were filled with the rumored departure of the American Consul-General from Havana. 'Twas said that he was coming direct to Washington. His portrait and the Maine lithographs were hung side by side, and the people spoke of 'Our Fitz' with enthusiastic affection. The President and his Cabinet were roundly censured for their policy of moderation. Much whiskey and beer was consumed by thirsty patriots. The pent-up feeling of the people found relief here and there by loud cheering—especially at the bulletin boards. Tiny Cuban flags were worn. Crossed American and Cuban flags were everywhere displayed.