Produced by David Widger
THE GILDED AGE
A Tale of Today
by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner
Mr. Harry Brierly drew his pay as an engineer while he was living at the
City Hotel in Hawkeye. Mr. Thompson had been kind enough to say that it
didn't make any difference whether he was with the corps or not; and
although Harry protested to the Colonel daily and to Washington Hawkins
that he must go back at once to the line and superintend the lay-out with
reference to his contract, yet he did not go, but wrote instead long
letters to Philip, instructing him to keep his eye out, and to let him
know when any difficulty occurred that required his presence.
Meantime Harry blossomed out in the society of Hawkeye, as he did in any
society where fortune cast him and he had the slightest opportunity to
expand. Indeed the talents of a rich and accomplished young fellow like
Harry were not likely to go unappreciated in such a place. A land
operator, engaged in vast speculations, a favorite in the select circles
of New York, in correspondence with brokers and bankers, intimate with
public men at Washington, one who could play the guitar and touch the
banjo lightly, and who had an eye for a pretty girl, and knew the
language of flattery, was welcome everywhere in Hawkeye. Even Miss Laura
Hawkins thought it worth while to use her fascinations upon him, and to
endeavor to entangle the volatile fellow in the meshes of her
"Gad," says Harry to the Colonel, "she's a superb creature, she'd make a
stir in New York, money or no money. There are men I know would give her
a railroad or an opera house, or whatever she wanted--at least they'd
Harry had a way of looking at women as he looked at anything else in the
world he wanted, and he half resolved to appropriate Miss Laura, during
his stay in Hawkeye. Perhaps the Colonel divined his thoughts, or was
offended at Harry's talk, for he replied,
"No nonsense, Mr. Brierly. Nonsense won't do in Hawkeye, not with my
friends. The Hawkins' blood is good blood, all the way from Tennessee.
The Hawkinses are under the weather now, but their Tennessee property is
millions when it comes into market."
"Of course, Colonel. Not the least offense intended. But you can see
she is a fascinating woman. I was only thinking, as to this
appropriation, now, what such a woman could do in Washington. All
correct, too, all correct. Common thing, I assure you in Washington; the
wives of senators, representatives, cabinet officers, all sorts of wives,
and some who are not wives, use their influence. You want an
appointment? Do you go to Senator X? Not much. You get on the right
side of his wife. Is it an appropriation? You'd go 'straight to the
Committee, or to the Interior office, I suppose? You'd learn better than
that. It takes a woman to get any thing through the Land Office: I tell
you, Miss Laura would fascinate an appropriation right through the Senate
and the House of Representatives in one session, if she was in
Washington, as your friend, Colonel, of course as your friend."
"Would you have her sign our petition?" asked the Colonel, innocently.
Harry laughed. "Women don't get anything by petitioning Congress; nobody
does, that's for form. Petitions are referred somewhere, and that's the
last of them; you can't refer a handsome woman so easily, when she is
present. They prefer 'em mostly."
The petition however was elaborately drawn up, with a glowing description
of Napoleon and the adjacent country, and a statement of the absolute
necessity to the prosperity of that region and of one of the stations on
the great through route to the Pacific, of the, immediate improvement of
Columbus River; to this was appended a map of the city and a survey of
the river. It was signed by all the people at Stone's Landing who could
write their names, by Col. Beriah Sellers, and the Colonel agreed to have
the names headed by all the senators and representatives from the state
and by a sprinkling of ex-governors and ex-members of congress. When
completed it was a formidable document. Its preparation and that of more
minute plots of the new city consumed the valuable time of Sellers and
Harry for many weeks, and served to keep them both in the highest
In the eyes of Washington Hawkins, Harry was a superior being, a man who
was able to bring things to pass in a way that excited his enthusiasm.
He never tired of listening to his stories of what he had done and of
what he was going to do. As for Washington, Harry thought he was a man
of ability and comprehension, but "too visionary," he told the Colonel.
The Colonel said he might be right, but he had never noticed anything
visionary about him.
"He's got his plans, sir. God bless my soul, at his age, I was full of
plans. But experience sobers a man, I never touch any thing now that
hasn't been weighed in my judgment; and when Beriah Sellers puts his
judgment on a thing, there it is."
Whatever might have been Harry's intentions with regard to Laura, he saw
more and more of her every day, until he got to be restless and nervous
when he was not with her.
That consummate artist in passion allowed him to believe that the
fascination was mainly on his side, and so worked upon his vanity, while
inflaming his ardor, that he scarcely knew what he was about. Her
coolness and coyness were even made to appear the simple precautions of a
modest timidity, and attracted him even more than the little tendernesses
into which she was occasionally surprised. He could never be away from
her long, day or evening; and in a short time their intimacy was the town
talk. She played with him so adroitly that Harry thought she was
absorbed in love for him, and yet he was amazed that he did not get on
faster in his conquest.
And when he thought of it, he was piqued as well. A country girl, poor
enough, that was evident; living with her family in a cheap and most
unattractive frame house, such as carpenters build in America, scantily
furnished and unadorned; without the adventitious aids of dress or jewels
or the fine manners of society--Harry couldn't understand it. But she
fascinated him, and held him just beyond the line of absolute familiarity
at the same time. While he was with her she made him forget that the
Hawkins' house was nothing but a wooden tenement, with four small square
rooms on the ground floor and a half story; it might have been a palace
for aught he knew.
Perhaps Laura was older than Harry. She was, at any rate, at that ripe
age when beauty in woman seems more solid than in the budding period of
girlhood, and she had come to understand her powers perfectly, and to
know exactly how much of the susceptibility and archness of the girl it
was profitable to retain. She saw that many women, with the best
intentions, make a mistake of carrying too much girlishness into
womanhood. Such a woman would have attracted Harry at any time, but only
a woman with a cool brain and exquisite art could have made him lose his
head in this way; for Harry thought himself a man of the world. The
young fellow never dreamed that he was merely being experimented on; he
was to her a man of another society and another culture, different from
that she had any knowledge of except in books, and she was not unwilling
to try on him the fascinations of her mind and person.
For Laura had her dreams. She detested the narrow limits in which her
lot was cast, she hated poverty. Much of her reading had been of modern
works of fiction, written by her own sex, which had revealed to her
something of her own powers and given her indeed, an exaggerated notion
of the influence, the wealth, the position a woman may attain who has
beauty and talent and ambition and a little culture, and is not too
scrupulous in the use of them. She wanted to be rich, she wanted luxury,
she wanted men at her feet, her slaves, and she had not--thanks to some
of the novels she had read--the nicest discrimination between notoriety
and reputation; perhaps she did not know how fatal notoriety usually is
to the bloom of womanhood.
With the other Hawkins children Laura had been brought up in the belief
that they had inherited a fortune in the Tennessee Lands. She did not by
any means share all the delusion of the family; but her brain was not
seldom busy with schemes about it. Washington seemed to her only to
dream of it and to be willing to wait for its riches to fall upon him in
a golden shower; but she was impatient, and wished she were a man to take
hold of the business.
"You men must enjoy your schemes and your activity and liberty to go
about the world," she said to Harry one day, when he had been talking of
New York and Washington and his incessant engagements.
"Oh, yes," replied that martyr to business, "it's all well enough, if you
don't have too much of it, but it only has one object."
"What is that?"
"If a woman doesn't know, it's useless to tell her. What do you suppose
I am staying in Hawkeye for, week after week, when I ought to be with my
"I suppose it's your business with Col. Sellers about Napoleon, you've
always told me so," answered Laura, with a look intended to contradict
"And now I tell you that is all arranged, I suppose you'll tell me I
ought to go?"
"Harry!" exclaimed Laura, touching his arm and letting her pretty hand
rest there a moment. "Why should I want you to go away? The only person
in Hawkeye who understands me."
"But you refuse to understand me," replied Harry, flattered but still
petulant. "You are like an iceberg, when we are alone."
Laura looked up with wonder in her great eyes, and something like a blush
suffusing her face, followed by a look of langour that penetrated Harry's
heart as if it had been longing.
"Did I ever show any want of confidence in you, Harry?" And she gave him
her hand, which Harry pressed with effusion--something in her manner told
him that he must be content with that favor.
It was always so. She excited his hopes and denied him, inflamed his
passion and restrained it, and wound him in her toils day by day. To
what purpose? It was keen delight to Laura to prove that she had power
Laura liked to hear about life at the east, and especially about the
luxurious society in which Mr. Brierly moved when he was at home. It
pleased her imagination to fancy herself a queen in it.
"You should be a winter in Washington," Harry said.
"But I have no acquaintances there."
"Don't know any of the families of the congressmen? They like to have a
pretty woman staying with them."
"Suppose Col. Sellers should, have business there; say, about this
Columbus River appropriation?"
"Sellers!" and Laura laughed.
"You needn't laugh. Queerer things have happened. Sellers knows
everybody from Missouri, and from the West, too, for that matter. He'd
introduce you to Washington life quick enough. It doesn't need a crowbar
to break your way into society there as it does in Philadelphia. It's
democratic, Washington is. Money or beauty will open any door. If I
were a handsome woman, I shouldn't want any better place than the capital
to pick up a prince or a fortune."
"Thank you," replied Laura. "But I prefer the quiet of home, and the
love of those I know;" and her face wore a look of sweet contentment and
unworldliness that finished Mr. Harry Brierly for the day.
Nevertheless, the hint that Harry had dropped fell upon good ground, and
bore fruit an hundred fold; it worked in her mind until she had built up
a plan on it, and almost a career for herself. Why not, she said, why
shouldn't I do as other women have done? She took the first opportunity
to see Col. Sellers, and to sound him about the Washington visit. How
was he getting on with his navigation scheme, would it be likely to take
him from home to Jefferson City; or to Washington, perhaps?
"Well, maybe. If the people of Napoleon want me to go to Washington, and
look after that matter, I might tear myself from my home. It's been
suggested to me, but--not a word of it to Mrs. Sellers and the children.
Maybe they wouldn't like to think of their father in Washington. But
Dilworthy, Senator Dilworthy, says to me, 'Colonel, you are the man, you
could influence more votes than any one else on such a measure, an old
settler, a man of the people, you know the wants of Missouri; you've a
respect for religion too, says he, and know how the cause of the gospel
goes with improvements: Which is true enough, Miss Laura, and hasn't been
enough thought of in connection with Napoleon. He's an able man,
Dilworthy, and a good man. A man has got to be good to succeed as he
has. He's only been in Congress a few years, and he must be worth a
million. First thing in the morning when he stayed with me he asked
about family prayers, whether we had 'em before or after breakfast.
I hated to disappoint the Senator, but I had to out with it, tell him we
didn't have 'em, not steady. He said he understood, business
interruptions and all that, some men were well enough without, but as for
him he never neglected the ordinances of religion. He doubted if the
Columbus River appropriation would succeed if we did not invoke the
Divine Blessing on it."
Perhaps it is unnecessary to say to the reader that Senator Dilworthy had
not stayed with Col. Sellers while he was in Hawkeye; this visit to his
house being only one of the Colonel's hallucinations--one of those
instant creations of his fertile fancy, which were always flashing into
his brain and out of his mouth in the course of any conversation and
without interrupting the flow of it.
During the summer Philip rode across the country and made a short visit
in Hawkeye, giving Harry an opportunity to show him the progress that he
and the Colonel had made in their operation at Stone's Landing, to
introduce him also to Laura, and to borrow a little money when he
departed. Harry bragged about his conquest, as was his habit, and took
Philip round to see his western prize.
Laura received Mr. Philip with a courtesy and a slight hauteur that
rather surprised and not a little interested him. He saw at once that
she was older than Harry, and soon made up his mind that she was leading
his friend a country dance to which he was unaccustomed. At least he
thought he saw that, and half hinted as much to Harry, who flared up at
once; but on a second visit Philip was not so sure, the young lady was
certainly kind and friendly and almost confiding with Harry, and treated
Philip with the greatest consideration. She deferred to his opinions,
and listened attentively when he talked, and in time met his frank manner
with an equal frankness, so that he was quite convinced that whatever she
might feel towards Harry, she was sincere with him. Perhaps his manly
way did win her liking. Perhaps in her mind, she compared him with
Harry, and recognized in him a man to whom a woman might give her whole
soul, recklessly and with little care if she lost it. Philip was not
invincible to her beauty nor to the intellectual charm of her presence.
The week seemed very short that he passed in Hawkeye, and when he bade
Laura good by, he seemed to have known her a year.
"We shall see you again, Mr. Sterling," she said as she gave him her
hand, with just a shade of sadness in her handsome eyes.
And when he turned away she followed him with a look that might have
disturbed his serenity, if he had not at the moment had a little square
letter in his breast pocket, dated at Philadelphia, and signed "Ruth."
The visit of Senator Abner Dilworthy was an event in Hawkeye. When a
Senator, whose place is in Washington moving among the Great and guiding
the destinies of the nation, condescends to mingle among the people and
accept the hospitalities of such a place as Hawkeye, the honor is not
considered a light one. All, parties are flattered by it and politics
are forgotten in the presence of one so distinguished among his fellows.
Senator Dilworthy, who was from a neighboring state, had been a Unionist
in the darkest days of his country, and had thriven by it, but was that
any reason why Col. Sellers, who had been a confederate and had not
thriven by it, should give him the cold shoulder?
The Senator was the guest of his old friend Gen. Boswell, but it almost
appeared that he was indebted to Col. Sellers for the unreserved
hospitalities of the town. It was the large hearted Colonel who, in a
manner, gave him the freedom of the city.
"You are known here, sir," said the Colonel, "and Hawkeye is proud of
you. You will find every door open, and a welcome at every hearthstone.
I should insist upon your going to my house, if you were not claimed by
your older friend Gen. Boswell. But you will mingle with our people, and
you will see here developments that will surprise you."
The Colonel was so profuse in his hospitality that he must have made the
impression upon himself that he had entertained the Senator at his own
mansion during his stay; at any rate, he afterwards always spoke of him
as his guest, and not seldom referred to the Senator's relish of certain
viands on his table. He did, in fact, press him to dine upon the morning
of the day the Senator was going away.
Senator Dilworthy was large and portly, though not tall--a pleasant
spoken man, a popular man with the people.
He took a lively interest in the town and all the surrounding country,
and made many inquiries as to the progress of agriculture, of education,
and of religion, and especially as to the condition of the emancipated
"Providence," he said, "has placed them in our hands, and although you
and I, General, might have chosen a different destiny for them, under the
Constitution, yet Providence knows best."
"You can't do much with 'em," interrupted Col. Sellers. "They are a
speculating race, sir, disinclined to work for white folks without
security, planning how to live by only working for themselves. Idle,
sir, there's my garden just a ruin of weeds. Nothing practical in 'em."
"There is some truth in your observation, Colonel, but you must educate
"You educate the niggro and you make him more speculating than he was
before. If he won't stick to any industry except for himself now, what
will he do then?"
"But, Colonel, the negro when educated will be more able to make his
"Never, sir, never. He would only have a wider scope to injure himself.
A niggro has no grasp, sir. Now, a white man can conceive great
operations, and carry them out; a niggro can't."
"Still," replied the Senator, "granting that he might injure himself in a
worldly point of view, his elevation through education would multiply his
chances for the hereafter--which is the important thing after all,
Colonel. And no matter what the result is, we must fulfill our duty by
"I'd elevate his soul," promptly responded the Colonel; "that's just it;
you can't make his soul too immortal, but I wouldn't touch him, himself.
Yes, sir! make his soul immortal, but don't disturb the niggro as he
Of course one of the entertainments offered the Senator was a public
reception, held in the court house, at which he made a speech to his
fellow citizens. Col. Sellers was master of ceremonies. He escorted the
band from the city hotel to Gen. Boswell's; he marshalled the procession
of Masons, of Odd Fellows, and of Firemen, the Good Templars, the Sons of
Temperance, the Cadets of Temperance, the Daughters of Rebecca, the
Sunday School children, and citizens generally, which followed the
Senator to the court house; he bustled about the room long after every
one else was seated, and loudly cried "Order!" in the dead silence which
preceded the introduction of the Senator by Gen. Boswell. The occasion
was one to call out his finest powers of personal appearance, and one he
long dwelt on with pleasure.
This not being an edition of the Congressional Globe it is impossible to
give Senator Dilworthy's speech in full. He began somewhat as follows:
"Fellow citizens: It gives me great pleasure to thus meet and mingle with
you, to lay aside for a moment the heavy duties of an official and
burdensome station, and confer in familiar converse with my friends in
your great state. The good opinion of my fellow citizens of all sections
is the sweetest solace in all my anxieties. I look forward with longing
to the time when I can lay aside the cares of office--" ["dam sight,"
shouted a tipsy fellow near the door. Cries of "put him out."]
"My friends, do not remove him. Let the misguided man stay. I see that
he is a victim of that evil which is swallowing up public virtue and
sapping the foundation of society. As I was saying, when I can lay down
the cares of office and retire to the sweets of private life in some such
sweet, peaceful, intelligent, wide-awake and patriotic place as Hawkeye
(applause). I have traveled much, I have seen all parts of our glorious
union, but I have never seen a lovelier village than yours, or one that
has more signs of commercial and industrial and religious prosperity
The Senator then launched into a sketch of our great country, and dwelt
for an hour or more upon its prosperity and the dangers which threatened
He then touched reverently upon the institutions of religion, and upon
the necessity of private purity, if we were to have any public morality.
"I trust," he said, "that there are children within the sound of my
voice," and after some remarks to them, the Senator closed with an
apostrophe to "the genius of American Liberty, walking with the Sunday
School in one hand and Temperance in the other up the glorified steps of
the National Capitol."
Col. Sellers did not of course lose the opportunity to impress upon so
influential a person as the Senator the desirability of improving the
navigation of Columbus river. He and Mr. Brierly took the Senator over
to Napoleon and opened to him their plan. It was a plan that the Senator
could understand without a great deal of explanation, for he seemed to be
familiar with the like improvements elsewhere. When, however, they
reached Stone's Landing the Senator looked about him and inquired,
"Is this Napoleon?"
"This is the nucleus, the nucleus," said the Colonel, unrolling his map.
"Here is the deepo, the church, the City Hall and so on."
"Ah, I see. How far from here is Columbus River? Does that stream
"That, why, that's Goose Run. Thar ain't no Columbus, thout'n it's over
to Hawkeye," interrupted one of the citizens, who had come out to stare
at the strangers. "A railroad come here last summer, but it haint been
here no mo'."
"Yes, sir," the Colonel hastened to explain, "in the old records
Columbus River is called Goose Run. You see how it sweeps round the
town--forty-nine miles to the Missouri; sloop navigation all the way
pretty much, drains this whole country; when it's improved steamboats
will run right up here. It's got to be enlarged, deepened. You see by
the map. Columbus River. This country must have water communication!"
"You'll want a considerable appropriation, Col. Sellers.
"I should say a million; is that your figure Mr. Brierly."
"According to our surveys," said Harry, "a million would do it; a million
spent on the river would make Napoleon worth two millions at least."
"I see," nodded the Senator. "But you'd better begin by asking only for
two or three hundred thousand, the usual way. You can begin to sell town
lots on that appropriation you know."
The Senator, himself, to do him justice, was not very much interested in
the country or the stream, but he favored the appropriation, and he gave
the Colonel and Mr. Brierly to and understand that he would endeavor to
get it through. Harry, who thought he was shrewd and understood
Washington, suggested an interest.
But he saw that the Senator was wounded by the suggestion.
"You will offend me by repeating such an observation," he said.
"Whatever I do will be for the public interest. It will require a
portion of the appropriation for necessary expenses, and I am sorry to
say that there are members who will have to be seen. But you can reckon
upon my humble services."
This aspect of the subject was not again alluded to. The Senator
possessed himself of the facts, not from his observation of the ground,
but from the lips of Col. Sellers, and laid the appropriation scheme away
among his other plans for benefiting the public.
It was on this visit also that the Senator made the acquaintance of Mr.
Washington Hawkins, and was greatly taken with his innocence, his
guileless manner and perhaps with his ready adaptability to enter upon
any plan proposed.
Col. Sellers was pleased to see this interest that Washington had
awakened, especially since it was likely to further his expectations with
regard to the Tennessee lands; the Senator having remarked to the
Colonel, that he delighted to help any deserving young man, when the
promotion of a private advantage could at the same time be made to
contribute to the general good. And he did not doubt that this was an
opportunity of that kind.
The result of several conferences with Washington was that the Senator
proposed that he should go to Washington with him and become his private
secretary and the secretary of his committee; a proposal which was
The Senator spent Sunday in Hawkeye and attended church. He cheered the
heart of the worthy and zealous minister by an expression of his sympathy
in his labors, and by many inquiries in regard to the religious state of
the region. It was not a very promising state, and the good man felt how
much lighter his task would be, if he had the aid of such a man as
"I am glad to see, my dear sir," said the Senator, "that you give them
the doctrines. It is owing to a neglect of the doctrines, that there is
such a fearful falling away in the country. I wish that we might have
you in Washington--as chaplain, now, in the senate."
The good man could not but be a little flattered, and if sometimes,
thereafter, in his discouraging work, he allowed the thought that he
might perhaps be called to Washington as chaplain of the Senate, to cheer
him, who can wonder. The Senator's commendation at least did one service
for him, it elevated him in the opinion of Hawkeye.
Laura was at church alone that day, and Mr. Brierly walked home with her.
A part of their way lay with that of General Boswell and Senator
Dilworthy, and introductions were made. Laura had her own reasons for
wishing to know the Senator, and the Senator was not a man who could be
called indifferent to charms such as hers. That meek young lady so
commended herself to him in the short walk, that he announced his
intentions of paying his respects to her the next day, an intention which
Harry received glumly; and when the Senator was out of hearing he called
him "an old fool."
"Fie," said Laura, "I do believe you are jealous, Harry. He is a very
pleasant man. He said you were a young man of great promise."
The Senator did call next day, and the result of his visit was that he
was confirmed in his impression that there was something about him very
attractive to ladies. He saw Laura again and again daring his stay, and
felt more and more the subtle influence of her feminine beauty, which
every man felt who came near her.
Harry was beside himself with rage while the Senator remained in town;
he declared that women were always ready to drop any man for higher game;
and he attributed his own ill-luck to the Senator's appearance. The
fellow was in fact crazy about her beauty and ready to beat his brains
out in chagrin. Perhaps Laura enjoyed his torment, but she soothed him
with blandishments that increased his ardor, and she smiled to herself to
think that he had, with all his protestations of love, never spoken of
marriage. Probably the vivacious fellow never had thought of it. At any
rate when he at length went away from Hawkeye he was no nearer it. But
there was no telling to what desperate lengths his passion might not
Laura bade him good bye with tender regret, which, however, did not
disturb her peace or interfere with her plans. The visit of Senator
Dilworthy had become of more importance to her, and it by and by bore the
fruit she longed for, in an invitation to visit his family in the
National Capital during the winter session of Congress.
O lift your natures up:
Embrace our aims: work out your freedom. Girls,
Knowledge is now no more a fountain sealed;
Drink deep until the habits of the slave,
The sins of emptiness, gossip and spite
And slander, die.
Whether medicine is a science, or only an empirical method of getting a
living out of the ignorance of the human race, Ruth found before her
first term was over at the medical school that there were other things
she needed to know quite as much as that which is taught in medical
books, and that she could never satisfy her aspirations without more
"Does your doctor know any thing--I don't mean about medicine, but about
things in general, is he a man of information and good sense?" once asked
an old practitioner. "If he doesn't know any thing but medicine the
chance is he doesn't know that:"
The close application to her special study was beginning to tell upon
Ruth's delicate health also, and the summer brought with it only
weariness and indisposition for any mental effort.
In this condition of mind and body the quiet of her home and the
unexciting companionship of those about her were more than ever tiresome.
She followed with more interest Philip's sparkling account of his life
in the west, and longed for his experiences, and to know some of those
people of a world so different from here, who alternately amused and
displeased him. He at least was learning the world, the good and the bad
of it, as must happen to every one who accomplishes anything in it.
But what, Ruth wrote, could a woman do, tied up by custom, and cast into
particular circumstances out of which it was almost impossible to
extricate herself? Philip thought that he would go some day and
extricate Ruth, but he did not write that, for he had the instinct to
know that this was not the extrication she dreamed of, and that she must
find out by her own experience what her heart really wanted.
Philip was not a philosopher, to be sure, but he had the old fashioned
notion, that whatever a woman's theories of life might be, she would come
round to matrimony, only give her time. He could indeed recall to mind
one woman--and he never knew a nobler--whose whole soul was devoted and
who believed that her life was consecrated to a certain benevolent
project in singleness of life, who yielded to the touch of matrimony, as
an icicle yields to a sunbeam.
Neither at home nor elsewhere did Ruth utter any complaint, or admit any
weariness or doubt of her ability to pursue the path she had marked out
for herself. But her mother saw clearly enough her struggle with
infirmity, and was not deceived by either her gaiety or by the cheerful
composure which she carried into all the ordinary duties that fell to
her. She saw plainly enough that Ruth needed an entire change of scene
and of occupation, and perhaps she believed that such a change, with the
knowledge of the world it would bring, would divert Ruth from a course
for which she felt she was physically entirely unfitted.
It therefore suited the wishes of all concerned, when autumn came, that
Ruth should go away to school. She selected a large New England
Seminary, of which she had often heard Philip speak, which was attended
by both sexes and offered almost collegiate advantages of education.
Thither she went in September, and began for the second time in the year
a life new to her.
The Seminary was the chief feature of Fallkill, a village of two to three
thousand inhabitants. It was a prosperous school, with three hundred
students, a large corps of teachers, men and women, and with a venerable
rusty row of academic buildings on the shaded square of the town. The
students lodged and boarded in private families in the place, and so it
came about that while the school did a great deal to support the town,
the town gave the students society and the sweet influences of home life.
It is at least respectful to say that the influences of home life are
Ruth's home, by the intervention of Philip, was in a family--one of the
rare exceptions in life or in fiction--that had never known better days.
The Montagues, it is perhaps well to say, had intended to come over in
the Mayflower, but were detained at Delft Haven by the illness of a
child. They came over to Massachusetts Bay in another vessel, and thus
escaped the onus of that brevet nobility under which the successors of
the Mayflower Pilgrims have descended. Having no factitious weight of
dignity to carry, the Montagues steadily improved their condition from
the day they landed, and they were never more vigorous or prosperous than
at the date of this narrative. With character compacted by the rigid
Puritan discipline of more than two centuries, they had retained its
strength and purity and thrown off its narrowness, and were now
blossoming under the generous modern influences. Squire Oliver Montague,
a lawyer who had retired from the practice of his profession except in
rare cases, dwelt in a square old fashioned New England mile away from
the green. It was called a mansion because it stood alone with ample
fields about it, and had an avenue of trees leading to it from the road,
and on the west commanded a view of a pretty little lake with gentle
slopes and nodding were now blossoming under the generous modern
influences. Squire Oliver Montague, a lawyer who had retired from the
practice of his profession except in rare cases, dwelt in a square old
fashioned New England groves. But it was just a plain, roomy house,
capable of extending to many guests an unpretending hospitality.
The family consisted of the Squire and his wife, a son and a daughter
married and not at home, a son in college at Cambridge, another son at
the Seminary, and a daughter Alice, who was a year or more older than
Ruth. Having only riches enough to be able to gratify reasonable
desires, and yet make their gratifications always a novelty and a
pleasure, the family occupied that just mean in life which is so rarely
attained, and still more rarely enjoyed without discontent.
If Ruth did not find so much luxury in the house as in her own home,
there were evidences of culture, of intellectual activity and of a zest
in the affairs of all the world, which greatly impressed her. Every room
had its book-cases or book-shelves, and was more or less a library; upon
every table was liable to be a litter of new books, fresh periodicals and
daily newspapers. There were plants in the sunny windows and some choice
engravings on the walls, with bits of color in oil or water-colors;
the piano was sure to be open and strewn with music; and there were
photographs and little souvenirs here and there of foreign travel.
An absence of any "what-pots" in the corners with rows of cheerful
shells, and Hindoo gods, and Chinese idols, and nests of use less boxes
of lacquered wood, might be taken as denoting a languidness in the family
concerning foreign missions, but perhaps unjustly.
At any rate the life of the world flowed freely into this hospitable
house, and there was always so much talk there of the news of the day,
of the new books and of authors, of Boston radicalism and New York
civilization, and the virtue of Congress, that small gossip stood a very
All this was in many ways so new to Ruth that she seemed to have passed
into another world, in which she experienced a freedom and a mental
exhilaration unknown to her before. Under this influence she entered
upon her studies with keen enjoyment, finding for a time all the
relaxation she needed, in the charming social life at the Montague house.
It is strange, she wrote to Philip, in one of her occasional letters,
that you never told me more about this delightful family, and scarcely
mentioned Alice who is the life of it, just the noblest girl, unselfish,
knows how to do so many things, with lots of talent, with a dry humor,
and an odd way of looking at things, and yet quiet and even serious
often--one of your "capable" New England girls. We shall be great
friends. It had never occurred to Philip that there was any thing
extraordinary about the family that needed mention. He knew dozens of
girls like Alice, he thought to himself, but only one like Ruth.
Good friends the two girls were from the beginning. Ruth was a study to
Alice; the product of a culture entirely foreign to her experience, so
much a child in some things, so much a woman in others; and Ruth in turn,
it must be confessed, probing Alice sometimes with her serious grey eyes,
wondered what her object in life was, and whether she had any purpose
beyond living as she now saw her. For she could scarcely conceive of a
life that should not be devoted to the accomplishment of some definite
work, and she had-no doubt that in her own case everything else would
yield to the professional career she had marked out.
"So you know Philip Sterling," said Ruth one day as the girls sat at
their sewing. Ruth never embroidered, and never sewed when she could
avoid it. Bless her.
"Oh yes, we are old friends. Philip used to come to Fallkill often while
he was in college. He was once rusticated here for a term."
"Suspended for some College scrape. He was a great favorite here.
Father and he were famous friends. Father said that Philip had no end of
nonsense in him and was always blundering into something, but he was a
royal good fellow and would come out all right."
"Did you think he was fickle?"
"Why, I never thought whether he was or not," replied Alice looking up.
"I suppose he was always in love with some girl or another, as college
boys are. He used to make me his confidant now and then, and be terribly
in the dumps."
"Why did he come to you?" pursued Ruth you were younger than he."
"I'm sure I don't know. He was at our house a good deal. Once at a
picnic by the lake, at the risk of his own life, he saved sister Millie
from drowning, and we all liked to have him here. Perhaps he thought as
he had saved one sister, the other ought to help him when he was in
trouble. I don't know."
The fact was that Alice was a person who invited confidences, because she
never betrayed them, and gave abundant sympathy in return. There are
persons, whom we all know, to whom human confidences, troubles and
heart-aches flow as naturally its streams to a placid lake.
This is not a history of Fallkill, nor of the Montague family, worthy as
both are of that honor, and this narrative cannot be diverted into long
loitering with them. If the reader visits the village to-day, he will
doubtless be pointed out the Montague dwelling, where Ruth lived, the
cross-lots path she traversed to the Seminary, and the venerable chapel
with its cracked bell.
In the little society of the place, the Quaker girl was a favorite, and
no considerable social gathering or pleasure party was thought complete
without her. There was something in this seemingly transparent and yet
deep character, in her childlike gaiety and enjoyment of the society
about her, and in her not seldom absorption in herself, that would have
made her long remembered there if no events had subsequently occurred to
recall her to mind.
To the surprise of Alice, Ruth took to the small gaieties of the village
with a zest of enjoyment that seemed foreign to one who had devoted her
life to a serious profession from the highest motives. Alice liked
society well enough, she thought, but there was nothing exciting in that
of Fallkill, nor anything novel in the attentions of the well-bred young
gentlemen one met in it. It must have worn a different aspect to Ruth,
for she entered into its pleasures at first with curiosity, and then with
interest and finally with a kind of staid abandon that no one would have
deemed possible for her. Parties, picnics, rowing-matches, moonlight
strolls, nutting expeditions in the October woods,--Alice declared that
it was a whirl of dissipation. The fondness of Ruth, which was scarcely
disguised, for the company of agreeable young fellows, who talked
nothings, gave Alice opportunity for no end of banter.
"Do you look upon them as I subjects, dear?" she would ask.
And Ruth laughed her merriest laugh, and then looked sober again.
Perhaps she was thinking, after all, whether she knew herself.
If you should rear a duck in the heart of the Sahara, no doubt it would
swim if you brought it to the Nile.
Surely no one would have predicted when Ruth left Philadelphia that she
would become absorbed to this extent, and so happy, in a life so unlike
that she thought she desired. But no one can tell how a woman will act
under any circumstances. The reason novelists nearly always fail in
depicting women when they make them act, is that they let them do what
they have observed some woman has done at sometime or another. And that
is where they make a mistake; for a woman will never do again what has
been done before. It is this uncertainty that causes women, considered
as materials for fiction, to be so interesting to themselves and to
As the fall went on and the winter, Ruth did not distinguish herself
greatly at the Fallkill Seminary as a student, a fact that apparently
gave her no anxiety, and did not diminish her enjoyment of a new sort of
power which had awakened within her.
In mid-winter, an event occurred of unusual interest to the inhabitants
of the Montague house, and to the friends of the young ladies who sought
This was the arrival at the Sassacua Hotel of two young gentlemen from
It is the fashion in New England to give Indian names to the public
houses, not that the late lamented savage knew how to keep a hotel, but
that his warlike name may impress the traveler who humbly craves shelter
there, and make him grateful to the noble and gentlemanly clerk if he is
allowed to depart with his scalp safe.
The two young gentlemen were neither students for the Fallkill Seminary,
nor lecturers on physiology, nor yet life assurance solicitors, three
suppositions that almost exhausted the guessing power of the people at
the hotel in respect to the names of "Philip Sterling and Henry Brierly,
Missouri," on the register. They were handsome enough fellows, that was
evident, browned by out-door exposure, and with a free and lordly way
about them that almost awed the hotel clerk himself. Indeed, he very
soon set down Mr. Brierly as a gentleman of large fortune, with enormous
interests on his shoulders. Harry had a way of casually mentioning
western investments, through lines, the freighting business, and the
route through the Indian territory to Lower California, which was
calculated to give an importance to his lightest word.
"You've a pleasant town here, sir, and the most comfortable looking hotel
I've seen out of New York," said Harry to the clerk; "we shall stay here
a few days if you can give us a roomy suite of apartments."
Harry usually had the best of everything, wherever he went, as such
fellows always do have in this accommodating world. Philip would have
been quite content with less expensive quarters, but there was no
resisting Harry's generosity in such matters.
Railroad surveying and real-estate operations were at a standstill during
the winter in Missouri, and the young men had taken advantage of the lull
to come east, Philip to see if there was any disposition in his friends,
the railway contractors, to give him a share in the Salt Lick Union
Pacific Extension, and Harry to open out to his uncle the prospects of
the new city at Stone's Landing, and to procure congressional
appropriations for the harbor and for making Goose Run navigable. Harry
had with him a map of that noble stream and of the harbor, with a perfect
net-work of railroads centering in it, pictures of wharves, crowded with
steamboats, and of huge grain-elevators on the bank, all of which grew
out of the combined imaginations of Col. Sellers and Mr. Brierly. The
Colonel had entire confidence in Harry's influence with Wall street, and
with congressmen, to bring about the consummation of their scheme, and he
waited his return in the empty house at Hawkeye, feeding his pinched
family upon the most gorgeous expectations with a reckless prodigality.
"Don't let 'em into the thing more than is necessary," says the Colonel
to Harry; "give 'em a small interest; a lot apiece in the suburbs of the
Landing ought to do a congressman, but I reckon you'll have to mortgage a
part of the city itself to the brokers."
Harry did not find that eagerness to lend money on Stone's Landing in
Wall street which Col. Sellers had expected, (it had seen too many such
maps as he exhibited), although his uncle and some of the brokers looked
with more favor on the appropriation for improving the navigation of
Columbus River, and were not disinclined to form a company for that
purpose. An appropriation was a tangible thing, if you could get hold of
it, and it made little difference what it was appropriated for, so long
as you got hold of it.
Pending these weighty negotiations, Philip has persuaded Harry to take a
little run up to Fallkill, a not difficult task, for that young man would
at any time have turned his back upon all the land in the West at sight
of a new and pretty face, and he had, it must be confessed, a facility in
love making which made it not at all an interference with the more
serious business of life. He could not, to be sure, conceive how Philip
could be interested in a young lady who was studying medicine, but he had
no objection to going, for he did not doubt that there were other girls
in Fallkill who were worth a week's attention.
The young men were received at the house of the Montagues with the
hospitality which never failed there.
"We are glad to see you again," exclaimed the Squire heartily, "you are
welcome Mr. Brierly, any friend of Phil's is welcome at our house"
"It's more like home to me, than any place except my own home," cried
Philip, as he looked about the cheerful house and went through a general
"It's a long time, though, since you have been here to say so," Alice
said, with her father's frankness of manner; "and I suspect we owe the
visit now to your sudden interest in the Fallkill Seminary."
Philip's color came, as it had an awkward way of doing in his tell-tale
face, but before he could stammer a reply, Harry came in with,
"That accounts for Phil's wish to build a Seminary at Stone's Landing,
our place in Missouri, when Col. Sellers insisted it should be a
University. Phil appears to have a weakness for Seminaries."
"It would have been better for your friend Sellers," retorted Philip,
"if he had had a weakness for district schools. Col. Sellers, Miss
Alice, is a great friend of Harry's, who is always trying to build a
house by beginning at the top."
"I suppose it's as easy to build a University on paper as a Seminary, and
it looks better," was Harry's reflection; at which the Squire laughed,
and said he quite agreed with him. The old gentleman understood Stone's
Landing a good deal better than he would have done after an hour's talk
with either of it's expectant proprietors.
At this moment, and while Philip was trying to frame a question that he
found it exceedingly difficult to put into words, the door opened
quietly, and Ruth entered. Taking in the, group with a quick glance, her
eye lighted up, and with a merry smile she advanced and shook hands with
Philip. She was so unconstrained and sincerely cordial, that it made
that hero of the west feel somehow young, and very ill at ease.
For months and months he had thought of this meeting and pictured it to
himself a hundred times, but he had never imagined it would be like this.
He should meet Ruth unexpectedly, as she was walking alone from the
school, perhaps, or entering the room where he was waiting for her, and
she would cry "Oh! Phil," and then check herself, and perhaps blush, and
Philip calm but eager and enthusiastic, would reassure her by his warm
manner, and he would take her hand impressively, and she would look up
timidly, and, after his' long absence, perhaps he would be permitted to
Good heavens, how many times he had come to this point, and wondered if
it could happen so. Well, well; he had never supposed that he should be
the one embarrassed, and above all by a sincere and cordial welcome.
"We heard you were at the Sassacus House," were Ruth's first words; "and
this I suppose is your friend?"
"I beg your pardon," Philip at length blundered out, "this is Mr. Brierly
of whom I have written you."
And Ruth welcomed Harry with a friendliness that Philip thought was due
to his friend, to be sure, but which seemed to him too level with her
reception of himself, but which Harry received as his due from the other
Questions were asked about the journey and about the West, and the
conversation became a general one, until Philip at length found himself
talking with the Squire in relation to land and railroads and things he
couldn't keep his mind on especially as he heard Ruth and Harry in an
animated discourse, and caught the words "New York," and "opera," and
"reception," and knew that Harry was giving his imagination full range in
the world of fashion.
Harry knew all about the opera, green room and all (at least he said so)
and knew a good many of the operas and could make very entertaining
stories of their plots, telling how the soprano came in here, and the
basso here, humming the beginning of their airs--tum-ti-tum-ti-ti
--suggesting the profound dissatisfaction of the basso recitative--down
--among--the--dead--men--and touching off the whole with an airy grace
quite captivating; though he couldn't have sung a single air through to
save himself, and he hadn't an ear to know whether it was sung correctly.
All the same he doted on the opera, and kept a box there, into which he
lounged occasionally to hear a favorite scene and meet his society
If Ruth was ever in the city he should be happy to place his box at the
disposal of Ruth and her friends. Needless to say that she was delighted
with the offer.
When she told Philip of it, that discreet young fellow only smiled, and
said that he hoped she would be fortunate enough to be in New York some
evening when Harry had not already given the use of his private box to
some other friend.
The Squire pressed the visitors to let him send for their trunks and
urged them to stay at his house, and Alice joined in the invitation, but
Philip had reasons for declining. They staid to supper, however, and in;
the evening Philip had a long talk apart with Ruth, a delightful hour to
him, in which she spoke freely of herself as of old, of her studies at
Philadelphia and of her plans, and she entered into his adventures and
prospects in the West with a genuine and almost sisterly interest; an
interest, however, which did not exactly satisfy Philip--it was too
general and not personal enough to suit him. And with all her freedom in
speaking of her own hopes, Philip could not, detect any reference to
himself in them; whereas he never undertook anything that he did not
think of Ruth in connection with it, he never made a plan that had not
reference to her, and he never thought of anything as complete if she
could not share it. Fortune, reputation these had no value to him except
in Ruth's eyes, and there were times when it seemed to him that if Ruth
was not on this earth, he should plunge off into some remote wilderness
and live in a purposeless seclusion.
"I hoped," said Philip; "to get a little start in connection with this
new railroad, and make a little money, so that I could came east and
engage in something more suited to my tastes. I shouldn't like to live
in the West. Would you?
"It never occurred to me whether I would or not," was the unembarrassed
reply. "One of our graduates went to Chicago, and has a nice practice
there. I don't know where I shall go. It would mortify mother
dreadfully to have me driving about Philadelphia in a doctor's gig."
Philip laughed at the idea of it. "And does it seem as necessary to you
to do it as it did before you came to Fallkill?"
It was a home question, and went deeper than Philip knew, for Ruth at
once thought of practicing her profession among the young gentlemen and
ladies of her acquaintance in the village; but she was reluctant to admit
to herself that her notions of a career had undergone any change.
"Oh, I don't think I should come to Fallkill to practice, but I must do
something when I am through school; and why not medicine?"
Philip would like to have explained why not, but the explanation would be
of no use if it were not already obvious to Ruth.
Harry was equally in his element whether instructing Squire Montague
about the investment of capital in Missouri, the improvement of Columbus
River, the project he and some gentlemen in New York had for making a
shorter Pacific connection with the Mississippi than the present one; or
diverting Mrs. Montague with his experience in cooking in camp; or
drawing for Miss Alice an amusing picture of the social contrasts of New
England and the border where he had been. Harry was a very entertaining
fellow, having his imagination to help his memory, and telling his
stories as if he believed them--as perhaps he did. Alice was greatly
amused with Harry and listened so seriously to his romancing that he
exceeded his usual limits. Chance allusions to his bachelor
establishment in town and the place of his family on the Hudson, could
not have been made by a millionaire, more naturally.
"I should think," queried Alice, "you would rather stay in New York than
to try the rough life at the West you have been speaking of."
"Oh, adventure," says Harry, "I get tired of New York. And besides I
got involved in some operations that I had to see through. Parties in
New York only last week wanted me to go down into Arizona in a big
diamond interest. I told them, no, no speculation for me. I've got my
interests in Missouri; and I wouldn't leave Philip, as long as he stays
When the young gentlemen were on their way back to the hotel, Mr. Philip,
who was not in very good humor, broke out,
"What the deuce, Harry, did you go on in that style to the Montagues
"Go on?" cried Harry. "Why shouldn't I try to make a pleasant evening?
And besides, ain't I going to do those things? What difference does it
make about the mood and tense of a mere verb? Didn't uncle tell me only
last Saturday, that I might as well go down to Arizona and hunt for
diamonds? A fellow might as well make a good impression as a poor one."
"Nonsense. You'll get to believing your own romancing by and by."
"Well, you'll see. When Sellers and I get that appropriation, I'll show
you an establishment in town and another on the Hudson and a box at the
"Yes, it will be like Col. Sellers' plantation at Hawkeye. Did you ever
"Now, don't be cross, Phil. She's just superb, that little woman. You
never told me."
"Who's just superb?" growled Philip, fancying this turn of the
conversation less than the other.
"Well, Mrs. Montague, if you must know." And Harry stopped to light a
cigar, and then puffed on in silence. The little quarrel didn't last
over night, for Harry never appeared to cherish any ill-will half a
second, and Philip was too sensible to continue a row about nothing; and
he had invited Harry to come with him.
The young gentlemen stayed in Fallkill a week, and were every day at the
Montagues, and took part in the winter gaieties of the village. There
were parties here and there to which the friends of Ruth and the
Montagues were of course invited, and Harry in the generosity of his
nature, gave in return a little supper at the hotel, very simple indeed,
with dancing in the hall, and some refreshments passed round. And Philip
found the whole thing in the bill when he came to pay it.
Before the week was over Philip thought he had a new light on the
character of Ruth. Her absorption in the small gaieties of the society
there surprised him. He had few opportunities for serious conversation
with her. There was always some butterfly or another flitting about,
and when Philip showed by his manner that he was not pleased, Ruth
laughed merrily enough and rallied him on his soberness--she declared he
was getting to be grim and unsocial. He talked indeed more with Alice
than with Ruth, and scarcely concealed from her the trouble that was in
his mind. It needed, in fact, no word from him, for she saw clearly
enough what was going forward, and knew her sex well enough to know there
was no remedy for it but time.
"Ruth is a dear girl, Philip, and has as much firmness of purpose as
ever, but don't you see she has just discovered that she is fond of
society? Don't you let her see you are selfish about it, is my advice."
The last evening they were to spend in Fallkill, they were at the
Montagues, and Philip hoped that he would find Ruth in a different mood.
But she was never more gay, and there was a spice of mischief in her eye
and in her laugh. "Confound it," said Philip to himself, "she's in a
He would have liked to quarrel with her, and fling himself out of the
house in tragedy style, going perhaps so far as to blindly wander off
miles into the country and bathe his throbbing brow in the chilling rain
of the stars, as people do in novels; but he had no opportunity. For
Ruth was as serenely unconscious of mischief as women can be at times,
and fascinated him more than ever with her little demurenesses and
half-confidences. She even said "Thee" to him once in reproach for a
cutting speech he began. And the sweet little word made his heart beat
like a trip-hammer, for never in all her life had she said "thee" to him
Was she fascinated with Harry's careless 'bon homie' and gay assurance?
Both chatted away in high spirits, and made the evening whirl along in
the most mirthful manner. Ruth sang for Harry, and that young gentleman
turned the leaves for her at the piano, and put in a bass note now and
then where he thought it would tell.
Yes, it was a merry evening, and Philip was heartily glad when it was
over, and the long leave-taking with the family was through with.
"Farewell Philip. Good night Mr. Brierly," Ruth's clear voice sounded
after them as they went down the walk.
And she spoke Harry's name last, thought Philip.
"O see ye not yon narrow road
So thick beset wi' thorns and briers?
That is the Path of Righteousness,
Though after it but few inquires.
"And see ye not yon braid, braid road,
That lies across the lily leven?
That is the Path of Wickedness,
Though some call it the road to Heaven."
Thomas the Rhymer.
Phillip and Harry reached New York in very different states of mind.
Harry was buoyant. He found a letter from Col. Sellers urging him to go
to Washington and confer with Senator Dilworthy. The petition was in his
It had been signed by everybody of any importance in Missouri, and would
be presented immediately.
"I should go on myself," wrote the Colonel, "but I am engaged in the
invention of a process for lighting such a city as St. Louis by means of
water; just attach my machine to the water-pipes anywhere and the
decomposition of the fluid begins, and you will have floods of light for
the mere cost of the machine. I've nearly got the lighting part, but I
want to attach to it a heating, cooking, washing and ironing apparatus.
It's going to be the great thing, but we'd better keep this appropriation
going while I am perfecting it."
Harry took letters to several congressmen from his uncle and from Mr.
Duff Brown, each of whom had an extensive acquaintance in both houses
where they were well known as men engaged in large private operations for
the public good and men, besides, who, in the slang of the day,
understood the virtues of "addition, division and silence."
Senator Dilworthy introduced the petition into the Senate with the remark
that he knew, personally, the signers of it, that they were men
interested; it was true, in the improvement of the country, but he
believed without any selfish motive, and that so far as he knew the
signers were loyal. It pleased him to see upon the roll the names of
many colored citizens, and it must rejoice every friend of humanity to
know that this lately emancipated race were intelligently taking part in
the development of the resources of their native land. He moved the
reference of the petition to the proper committee.
Senator Dilworthy introduced his young friend to influential members,
as a person who was very well informed about the Salt Lick Extension of
the Pacific, and was one of the Engineers who had made a careful survey
of Columbus River; and left him to exhibit his maps and plans and to show
the connection between the public treasury, the city of Napoleon and
legislation for the benefit off the whole country.
Harry was the guest of Senator Dilworthy. There was scarcely any good
movement in which the Senator was not interested. His house was open to
all the laborers in the field of total abstinence, and much of his time
was taken up in attending the meetings of this cause. He had a Bible
class in the Sunday school of the church which he attended, and he
suggested to Harry that he might take a class during the time he remained
in Washington, Mr. Washington Hawkins had a class. Harry asked the
Senator if there was a class of young ladies for him to teach, and after
that the Senator did not press the subject.
Philip, if the truth must be told, was not well satisfied with his
western prospects, nor altogether with the people he had fallen in with.
The railroad contractors held out large but rather indefinite promises.
Opportunities for a fortune he did not doubt existed in Missouri, but for
himself he saw no better means for livelihood than the mastery of the
profession he had rather thoughtlessly entered upon. During the summer
he had made considerable practical advance in the science of engineering;
he had been diligent, and made himself to a certain extent necessary to
the work he was engaged on. The contractors called him into their
consultations frequently, as to the character of the country he had been
over, and the cost of constructing the road, the nature of the work, etc.
Still Philip felt that if he was going to make either reputation or money
as an engineer, he had a great deal of hard study before him, and it is
to his credit that he did not shrink from it. While Harry was in
Washington dancing attendance upon the national legislature and making
the acquaintance of the vast lobby that encircled it, Philip devoted
himself day and night, with an energy and a concentration he was capable
of, to the learning and theory of his profession, and to the science of
railroad building. He wrote some papers at this time for the "Plow, the
Loom and the Anvil," upon the strength of materials, and especially upon
bridge-building, which attracted considerable attention, and were copied
into the English "Practical Magazine." They served at any rate to raise
Philip in the opinion of his friends the contractors, for practical men
have a certain superstitious estimation of ability with the pen, and
though they may a little despise the talent, they are quite ready to make
use of it.
Philip sent copies of his performances to Ruth's father and to other
gentlemen whose good opinion he coveted, but he did not rest upon his
laurels. Indeed, so diligently had he applied himself, that when it came
time for him to return to the West, he felt himself, at least in theory,
competent to take charge of a division in the field.
The capital of the Great Republic was a new world to country-bred
Washington Hawkins. St. Louis was a greater city, but its floating.
population did not hail from great distances, and so it had the general
family aspect of the permanent population; but Washington gathered its
people from the four winds of heaven, and so the manners, the faces and
the fashions there, presented a variety that was infinite. Washington
had never been in "society" in St. Louis, and he knew nothing of the ways
of its wealthier citizens and had never inspected one of their dwellings.
Consequently, everything in the nature of modern fashion and grandeur was
a new and wonderful revelation to him.
Washington is an interesting city to any of us. It seems to become more
and more interesting the oftener we visit it. Perhaps the reader has
never been there? Very well. You arrive either at night, rather too
late to do anything or see anything until morning, or you arrive so early
in the morning that you consider it best to go to your hotel and sleep an
hour or two while the sun bothers along over the Atlantic. You cannot
well arrive at a pleasant intermediate hour, because the railway
corporation that keeps the keys of the only door that leads into the town
or out of it take care of that. You arrive in tolerably good spirits,
because it is only thirty-eight miles from Baltimore to the capital, and
so you have only been insulted three times (provided you are not in a
sleeping car--the average is higher there): once when you renewed your
ticket after stopping over in Baltimore, once when you were about to
enter the "ladies' car" without knowing it was a lady's car, and once
When you asked the conductor at what hour you would reach Washington.
You are assailed by a long rank of hackmen who shake their whips in your
face as you step out upon the sidewalk; you enter what they regard as a
"carriage," in the capital, and you wonder why they do not take it out of
service and put it in the museum: we have few enough antiquities, and
it is little to our credit that we make scarcely any effort to preserve
the few we have. You reach your hotel, presently--and here let us draw
the curtain of charity--because of course you have gone to the wrong one.
You being a stranger, how could you do otherwise? There are a hundred
and eighteen bad hotels, and only one good one. The most renowned and
popular hotel of them all is perhaps the worst one known to history.
It is winter, and night. When you arrived, it was snowing. When you
reached the hotel, it was sleeting. When you went to bed, it was
raining. During the night it froze hard, and the wind blew some chimneys
down. When you got up in the morning, it was foggy. When you finished
your breakfast at ten o'clock and went out, the sunshine was brilliant,
the weather balmy and delicious, and the mud and slush deep and
all-pervading. You will like the climate when you get used to it.
You naturally wish to view the city; so you take an umbrella, an
overcoat, and a fan, and go forth. The prominent features you soon
locate and get familiar with; first you glimpse the ornamental upper
works of a long, snowy palace projecting above a grove of trees, and a
tall, graceful white dome with a statue on it surmounting the palace and
pleasantly contrasting with the background of blue sky. That building is
the capitol; gossips will tell you that by the original estimates it was
to cost $12,000,000, and that the government did come within $21,200,000
of building it for that sum.
You stand at the back of the capitol to treat yourself to a view, and it
is a very noble one. You understand, the capitol stands upon the verge
of a high piece of table land, a fine commanding position, and its front
looks out over this noble situation for a city--but it don't see it, for
the reason that when the capitol extension was decided upon, the property
owners at once advanced their prices to such inhuman figures that the
people went down and built the city in the muddy low marsh behind the
temple of liberty; so now the lordly front of the building, with, its
imposing colonades, its, projecting, graceful wings, its, picturesque
groups of statuary, and its long terraced ranges of steps, flowing down
in white marble waves to the ground, merely looks out upon a sorrowful
little desert of cheap boarding houses.
So you observe, that you take your view from the back of the capitol.
And yet not from the airy outlooks of the dome, by the way, because to
get there you must pass through the great rotunda: and to do that, you
would have to see the marvelous Historical Paintings that hang there,
and the bas-reliefs--and what have you done that you should suffer thus?
And besides, you might have to pass through the old part of the building,
and you could not help seeing Mr. Lincoln, as petrified by a young lady
artist for $10,000--and you might take his marble emancipation
proclamation, which he holds out in his hand and contemplates, for a
folded napkin; and you might conceive from his expression and his
attitude, that he is finding fault with the washing. Which is not the
case. Nobody knows what is the matter with him; but everybody feels for
him. Well, you ought not to go into the dome anyhow, because it would be
utterly impossible to go up there without seeing the frescoes in it--and
why should you be interested in the delirium tremens of art?
The capitol is a very noble and a very beautiful building, both within
and without, but you need not examine it now. Still, if you greatly
prefer going into the dome, go. Now your general glance gives you
picturesque stretches of gleaming water, on your left, with a sail here
and there and a lunatic asylum on shore; over beyond the water, on a
distant elevation, you see a squat yellow temple which your eye dwells
upon lovingly through a blur of unmanly moisture, for it recalls your
lost boyhood and the Parthenons done in molasses candy which made it
blest and beautiful. Still in the distance, but on this side of the
water and close to its edge, the Monument to the Father of his Country
towers out of the mud--sacred soil is the, customary term. It has the
aspect of a factory chimney with the top broken off. The skeleton of a
decaying scaffolding lingers about its summit, and tradition says that
the spirit of Washington often comes down and sits on those rafters to
enjoy this tribute of respect which the nation has reared as the symbol
of its unappeasable gratitude. The Monument is to be finished, some day,
and at that time our Washington will have risen still higher in the
nation's veneration, and will be known as the Great-Great-Grandfather of
his Country. The memorial Chimney stands in a quiet pastoral locality
that is full of reposeful expression. With a glass you can see the
cow-sheds about its base, and the contented sheep nimbling pebbles in the
desert solitudes that surround it, and the tired pigs dozing in the holy
calm of its protecting shadow.
Now you wrench your gaze loose, and you look down in front of you and see
the broad Pennsylvania Avenue stretching straight ahead for a mile or
more till it brings up against the iron fence in front of a pillared
granite pile, the Treasury building-an edifice that would command respect
in any capital. The stores and hotels that wall in this broad avenue are
mean, and cheap, and dingy, and are better left without comment. Beyond
the Treasury is a fine large white barn, with wide unhandsome grounds
about it. The President lives there. It is ugly enough outside, but
that is nothing to what it is inside. Dreariness, flimsiness, bad taste
reduced to mathematical completeness is what the inside offers to the
eye, if it remains yet what it always has been.
The front and right hand views give you the city at large. It is a wide
stretch of cheap little brick houses, with here and there a noble
architectural pile lifting itself out of the midst-government buildings,
these. If the thaw is still going on when you come down and go about
town, you will wonder at the short-sightedness of the city fathers, when
you come to inspect the streets, in that they do not dilute the mud a
little more and use them for canals.
If you inquire around a little, you will find that there are more
boardinghouses to the square acre in Washington than there are in any
other city in the land, perhaps. If you apply for a home in one of them,
it will seem odd to you to have the landlady inspect you with a severe
eye and then ask you if you are a member of Congress. Perhaps, just as a
pleasantry, you will say yes. And then she will tell you that she is
"full." Then you show her her advertisement in the morning paper, and
there she stands, convicted and ashamed. She will try to blush, and it
will be only polite in you to take the effort for the deed. She shows
you her rooms, now, and lets you take one--but she makes you pay in
advance for it. That is what you will get for pretending to be a member
of Congress. If you had been content to be merely a private citizen,
your trunk would have been sufficient security for your board. If you
are curious and inquire into this thing, the chances are that your
landlady will be ill-natured enough to say that the person and property
of a Congressman are exempt from arrest or detention, and that with the
tears in her eyes she has seen several of the people's representatives
walk off to their several States and Territories carrying her unreceipted
board bills in their pockets for keepsakes. And before you have been in
Washington many weeks you will be mean enough to believe her, too.
Of course you contrive to see everything and find out everything. And
one of the first and most startling things you find out is, that every
individual you encounter in the City of Washington almost--and certainly
every separate and distinct individual in the public employment, from the
highest bureau chief, clear down to the maid who scrubs Department halls,
the night watchmen of the public buildings and the darkey boy who
purifies the Department spittoons--represents Political Influence.
Unless you can get the ear of a Senator, or a Congressman, or a Chief of
a Bureau or Department, and persuade him to use his "influence" in your
behalf, you cannot get an employment of the most trivial nature in
Washington. Mere merit, fitness and capability, are useless baggage to
you without "influence." The population of Washington consists pretty
much entirely of government employee and the people who board them.
There are thousands of these employees, and they have gathered there from
every corner of the Union and got their berths through the intercession
(command is nearer the word) of the Senators and Representatives of their
respective States. It would be an odd circumstance to see a girl get
employment at three or four dollars a week in one of the great public
cribs without any political grandee to back her, but merely because she
was worthy, and competent, and a good citizen of a free country that
"treats all persons alike." Washington would be mildly thunderstruck at
such a thing as that. If you are a member of Congress, (no offence,) and
one of your constituents who doesn't know anything, and does not want to
go into the bother of learning something, and has no money, and no
employment, and can't earn a living, comes besieging you for help, do you
say, "Come, my friend, if your services were valuable you could get
employment elsewhere--don't want you here?" Oh, no: You take him to a
Department and say, "Here, give this person something to pass away the
time at--and a salary"--and the thing is done. You throw him on his
country. He is his country's child, let his country support him. There
is something good and motherly about Washington, the grand old benevolent
National Asylum for the Helpless.
The wages received by this great hive of employees are placed at the
liberal figure meet and just for skilled and competent labor. Such of
them as are immediately employed about the two Houses of Congress, are
not only liberally paid also, but are remembered in the customary Extra
Compensation bill which slides neatly through, annually, with the general
grab that signalizes the last night of a session, and thus twenty per
cent. is added to their wages, for--for fun, no doubt.
Washington Hawkins' new life was an unceasing delight to him. Senator
Dilworthy lived sumptuously, and Washington's quarters were charming
--gas; running water, hot and cold; bath-room, coal-fires, rich carpets,
beautiful pictures on the walls; books on religion, temperance, public
charities and financial schemes; trim colored servants, dainty food
--everything a body could wish for. And as for stationery, there was no
end to it; the government furnished it; postage stamps were not needed
--the Senator's frank could convey a horse through the mails, if necessary.
And then he saw such dazzling company. Renowned generals and admirals
who had seemed but colossal myths when he was in the far west, went in
and out before him or sat at the Senator's table, solidified into
palpable flesh and blood; famous statesmen crossed his path daily; that
once rare and awe-inspiring being, a Congressman, was become a common
spectacle--a spectacle so common, indeed, that he could contemplate it
without excitement, even without embarrassment; foreign ministers were
visible to the naked eye at happy intervals; he had looked upon the
President himself, and lived. And more; this world of enchantment teemed
with speculation--the whole atmosphere was thick with hand that indeed
was Washington Hawkins' native air; none other refreshed his lungs so
gratefully. He had found paradise at last.
The more he saw of his chief the Senator, the more he honored him, and
the more conspicuously the moral grandeur of his character appeared to
stand out. To possess the friendship and the kindly interest of such a
man, Washington said in a letter to Louise, was a happy fortune for a
young man whose career had been so impeded and so clouded as his.
The weeks drifted by;--Harry Brierly flirted, danced, added lustre
to the brilliant Senatorial receptions, and diligently "buzzed" and
"button-holed" Congressmen in the interest of the Columbus River scheme;
meantime Senator Dilworthy labored hard in the same interest--and in
others of equal national importance. Harry wrote frequently to Sellers,
and always encouragingly; and from these letters it was easy to see that
Harry was a pet with all Washington, and was likely to carry the thing
through; that the assistance rendered him by "old Dilworthy" was pretty
fair--pretty fair; "and every little helps, you know," said Harry.
Washington wrote Sellers officially, now and then. In one of his letters
it appeared that whereas no member of the House committee favored the
scheme at first, there was now needed but one more vote to compass a
majority report. Closing sentence:
"Providence seems to further our efforts."
(Signed,) "ABNER DILWORTHY, U. S. S.,
per WASHINGTON HAWKINS, P. S."
At the end of a week, Washington was able to send the happy news,
officially, as usual,--that the needed vote had been added and the bill
favorably reported from the Committee. Other letters recorded its perils
in Committee of the whole, and by and by its victory, by just the skin of
its teeth, on third reading and final passage. Then came letters telling
of Mr. Dilworthy's struggles with a stubborn majority in his own
Committee in the Senate; of how these gentlemen succumbed, one by one,
till a majority was secured.
Then there was a hiatus. Washington watched every move on the board, and
he was in a good position to do this, for he was clerk of this committee,
and also one other. He received no salary as private secretary, but
these two clerkships, procured by his benefactor, paid him an aggregate
of twelve dollars a day, without counting the twenty percent extra
compensation which would of course be voted to him on the last night of
He saw the bill go into Committee of the whole and struggle for its life
again, and finally worry through. In the fullness of time he noted its
second reading, and by and by the day arrived when the grand ordeal came,
and it was put upon its final passage. Washington listened with bated
breath to the "Aye!" "No!" "No!" "Aye!" of the voters, for a few dread
minutes, and then could bear the suspense no longer. He ran down from
the gallery and hurried home to wait.
At the end of two or three hours the Senator arrived in the bosom of his
family, and dinner was waiting. Washington sprang forward, with the
eager question on his lips, and the Senator said:
"We may rejoice freely, now, my son--Providence has crowned our efforts
Washington sent grand good news to Col. Sellers that night. To Louise he
"It is beautiful to hear him talk when his heart is full of thankfulness
for some manifestation of the Divine favor. You shall know him, some day
my Louise, and knowing him you will honor him, as I do."
"I pulled it through, Colonel, but it was a tough job, there is no
question about that. There was not a friend to the measure in the House
committee when I began, and not a friend in the Senate committee except
old Dil himself, but they were all fixed for a majority report when I
hauled off my forces. Everybody here says you can't get a thing like
this through Congress without buying committees for straight-out cash on
delivery, but I think I've taught them a thing or two--if I could only
make them believe it. When I tell the old residenters that this thing
went through without buying a vote or making a promise, they say, 'That's
rather too thin.' And when I say thin or not thin it's a fact, anyway,
they say, 'Come, now, but do you really believe that?' and when I say I
don't believe anything about it, I know it, they smile and say, 'Well,
you are pretty innocent, or pretty blind, one or the other--there's no
getting around that.' Why they really do believe that votes have been
bought--they do indeed. But let them keep on thinking so. I have found
out that if a man knows how to talk to women, and has a little gift in
the way of argument with men, he can afford to play for an appropriation
against a money bag and give the money bag odds in the game. We've raked
in $200,000 of Uncle Sam's money, say what they will--and there is more
where this came from, when we want it, and I rather fancy I am the person
that can go in and occupy it, too, if I do say it myself, that shouldn't,
perhaps. I'll be with you within a week. Scare up all the men you can,
and put them to work at once. When I get there I propose to make things
hum." The great news lifted Sellers into the clouds. He went to work on
the instant. He flew hither and thither making contracts, engaging men,
and steeping his soul in the ecstasies of business. He was the happiest
man in Missouri. And Louise was the happiest woman; for presently came a
letter from Washington which said:
"Rejoice with me, for the long agony is over! We have waited patiently
and faithfully, all these years, and now at last the reward is at hand.
A man is to pay our family $40,000 for the Tennessee Land! It is but a
little sum compared to what we could get by waiting, but I do so long to
see the day when I can call you my own, that I have said to myself,
better take this and enjoy life in a humble way than wear out our best
days in this miserable separation. Besides, I can put this money into
operations here that will increase it a hundred fold, yes, a thousand
fold, in a few months. The air is full of such chances, and I know our
family would consent in a moment that I should put in their shares with
mine. Without a doubt we shall be worth half a million dollars in a year
from this time--I put it at the very lowest figure, because it is always
best to be on the safe side--half a million at the very lowest
calculation, and then your father will give his consent and we can marry
at last. Oh, that will be a glorious day. Tell our friends the good
news--I want all to share it."
And she did tell her father and mother, but they said, let it be kept
still for the present. The careful father also told her to write
Washington and warn him not to speculate with the money, but to wait a
little and advise with one or two wise old heads. She did this. And she
managed to keep the good news to herself, though it would seem that the
most careless observer might have seen by her springing step and her
radiant countenance that some fine piece of good fortune had descended
Harry joined the Colonel at Stone's Landing, and that dead place sprang
into sudden life. A swarm of men were hard at work, and the dull air was
filled with the cheery music of labor. Harry had been constituted
engineer-in-general, and he threw the full strength of his powers into
his work. He moved among his hirelings like a king. Authority seemed to
invest him with a new splendor. Col. Sellers, as general superintendent
of a great public enterprise, was all that a mere human being could be
--and more. These two grandees went at their imposing "improvement" with
the air of men who had been charged with the work of altering the
foundations of the globe.
They turned their first attention to straightening the river just above
the Landing, where it made a deep bend, and where the maps and plans
showed that the process of straightening would not only shorten distance
but increase the "fall." They started a cut-off canal across the
peninsula formed by the bend, and such another tearing up of the earth
and slopping around in the mud as followed the order to the men, had
never been seen in that region before. There was such a panic among the
turtles that at the end of six hours there was not one to be found within
three miles of Stone's Landing. They took the young and the aged, the
decrepit and the sick upon their backs and left for tide-water in
disorderly procession, the tadpoles following and the bull-frogs bringing
up the rear.
Saturday night came, but the men were obliged to wait, because the
appropriation had not come. Harry said he had written to hurry up the
money and it would be along presently. So the work continued, on Monday.
Stone's Landing was making quite a stir in the vicinity, by this time.
Sellers threw a lot or two on the market, "as a feeler," and they sold
well. He re-clothed his family, laid in a good stock of provisions, and
still had money left. He started a bank account, in a small way--and
mentioned the deposit casually to friends; and to strangers, too; to
everybody, in fact; but not as a new thing--on the contrary, as a matter
of life-long standing. He could not keep from buying trifles every day
that were not wholly necessary, it was such a gaudy thing to get out his
bank-book and draw a check, instead of using his old customary formula,
"Charge it" Harry sold a lot or two, also--and had a dinner party or two
at Hawkeye and a general good time with the money. Both men held on
pretty strenuously for the coming big prices, however.
At the end of a month things were looking bad. Harry had besieged the
New York headquarters of the Columbus River Slack-water Navigation
Company with demands, then commands, and finally appeals, but to no
purpose; the appropriation did not come; the letters were not even
answered. The workmen were clamorous, now. The Colonel and Harry
retired to consult.
"What's to be done?" said the Colonel.
"Hang'd if I know."
"Company say anything?"
"Not a word."
"You telegraphed yesterday?"
Yes, and the day before, too."
Then there was a long pause. Finally both spoke at once:
"I've got it!"
"I've got it!"
"What's yours?" said Harry.
"Give the boys thirty-day orders on the Company for the back pay."
"That's it-that's my own idea to a dot. But then--but then----"
"Yes, I know," said the Colonel; "I know they can't wait for the orders
to go to New York and be cashed, but what's the reason they can't get
them discounted in Hawkeye?"
"Of course they can. That solves the difficulty. Everybody knows the
appropriation's been made and the Company's perfectly good."
So the orders were given and the men appeased, though they grumbled a
little at first. The orders went well enough for groceries and such
things at a fair discount, and the work danced along gaily for a time.
Two or three purchasers put up frame houses at the Landing and moved in,
and of course a far-sighted but easy-going journeyman printer wandered
along and started the "Napoleon Weekly Telegraph and Literary
Repository"--a paper with a Latin motto from the Unabridged dictionary,
and plenty of "fat" conversational tales and double-leaded poetry--all
for two dollars a year, strictly in advance. Of course the merchants
forwarded the orders at once to New York--and never heard of them again.
At the end of some weeks Harry's orders were a drug in the market--nobody
would take them at any discount whatever. The second month closed with a
riot.--Sellers was absent at the time, and Harry began an active absence
himself with the mob at his heels. But being on horseback, he had the
advantage. He did not tarry in Hawkeye, but went on, thus missing
several appointments with creditors. He was far on his flight eastward,
and well out of danger when the next morning dawned. He telegraphed the
Colonel to go down and quiet the laborers--he was bound east for money
--everything would be right in a week--tell the men so--tell them to rely
on him and not be afraid.
Sellers found the mob quiet enough when he reached the Landing.
They had gutted the Navigation office, then piled the beautiful engraved
stock-books and things in the middle of the floor and enjoyed the bonfire
while it lasted. They had a liking for the Colonel, but still they had
some idea of hanging him, as a sort of make-shift that might answer,
after a fashion, in place of more satisfactory game.
But they made the mistake of waiting to hear what he had to say first.
Within fifteen minutes his tongue had done its work and they were all
rich men.--He gave every one of them a lot in the suburbs of the city of
Stone's Landing, within a mile and a half of the future post office and
railway station, and they promised to resume work as soon as Harry got
east and started the money along. Now things were blooming and pleasant
again, but the men had no money, and nothing to live on. The Colonel
divided with them the money he still had in bank--an act which had
nothing surprising about it because he was generally ready to divide
whatever he had with anybody that wanted it, and it was owing to this
very trait that his family spent their days in poverty and at times were
pinched with famine.
When the men's minds had cooled and Sellers was gone, they hated
themselves for letting him beguile them with fine speeches, but it was
too late, now--they agreed to hang him another time--such time as
Providence should appoint.
Rumors of Ruth's frivolity and worldliness at Fallkill traveled to
Philadelphia in due time, and occasioned no little undertalk among the
Hannah Shoecraft told another, cousin that, for her part, she never
believed that Ruth had so much more "mind" than other people; and Cousin
Hulda added that she always thought Ruth was fond of admiration, and that
was the reason she was unwilling to wear plain clothes and attend
Meeting. The story that Ruth was "engaged" to a young gentleman of
fortune in Fallkill came with the other news, and helped to give point to
the little satirical remarks that went round about Ruth's desire to be a
Margaret Bolton was too wise to be either surprised or alarmed by these
rumors. They might be true; she knew a woman's nature too well to think
them improbable, but she also knew how steadfast Ruth was in her
purposes, and that, as a brook breaks into ripples and eddies and dances
and sports by the way, and yet keeps on to the sea, it was in Ruth's
nature to give back cheerful answer to the solicitations of friendliness
and pleasure, to appear idly delaying even, and sporting in the sunshine,
while the current of her resolution flowed steadily on.
That Ruth had this delight in the mere surface play of life that she
could, for instance, be interested in that somewhat serious by-play
called "flirtation," or take any delight in the exercise of those little
arts of pleasing and winning which are none the less genuine and charming
because they are not intellectual, Ruth, herself, had never suspected
until she went to Fallkill. She had believed it her duty to subdue her
gaiety of temperament, and let nothing divert her from what are called
serious pursuits: In her limited experience she brought everything to the
judgment of her own conscience, and settled the affairs of all the world
in her own serene judgment hall. Perhaps her mother saw this, and saw
also that there was nothing in the Friends' society to prevent her from
growing more and more opinionated.
When Ruth returned to Philadelphia, it must be confessed--though it would
not have been by her--that a medical career did seem a little less
necessary for her than formerly; and coming back in a glow of triumph, as
it were, and in the consciousness of the freedom and life in a lively
society and in new and sympathetic friendship, she anticipated pleasure
in an attempt to break up the stiffness and levelness of the society at
home, and infusing into it something of the motion and sparkle which were
so agreeable at Fallkill. She expected visits from her new friends, she
would have company, the new books and the periodicals about which all the
world was talking, and, in short, she would have life.
For a little while she lived in this atmosphere which she had brought
with her. Her mother was delighted with this change in her, with the
improvement in her health and the interest she exhibited in home affairs.
Her father enjoyed the society of his favorite daughter as he did few
things besides; he liked her mirthful and teasing ways, and not less a
keen battle over something she had read. He had been a great reader all
his life, and a remarkable memory had stored his mind with encyclopaedic
information. It was one of Ruth's delights to cram herself with some out
of the way subject and endeavor to catch her father; but she almost
always failed. Mr. Bolton liked company, a house full of it, and the
mirth of young people, and he would have willingly entered into any
revolutionary plans Ruth might have suggested in relation to Friends'
But custom and the fixed order are stronger than the most enthusiastic
and rebellious young lady, as Ruth very soon found. In spite of all her
brave efforts, her frequent correspondence, and her determined animation,
her books and her music, she found herself settling into the clutches of
the old monotony, and as she realized the hopelessness of her endeavors,
the medical scheme took new hold of her, and seemed to her the only
method of escape.
"Mother, thee does not know how different it is in Fallkill, how much
more interesting the people are one meets, how much more life there is."
"But thee will find the world, child, pretty much all the same, when thee
knows it better. I thought once as thee does now, and had as little
thought of being a Friend as thee has. Perhaps when thee has seen more,
thee will better appreciate a quiet life."
"Thee married young. I shall not marry young, and perhaps not at all,"
said Ruth, with a look of vast experience.
"Perhaps thee doesn't know thee own mind; I have known persons of thy
age who did not. Did thee see anybody whom thee would like to live with
always in Fallkill?"
"Not always," replied Ruth with a little laugh. "Mother, I think I
wouldn't say 'always' to any one until I have a profession and am as
independent as he is. Then my love would be a free act, and not in any
way a necessity."
Margaret Bolton smiled at this new-fangled philosophy. "Thee will find
that love, Ruth, is a thing thee won't reason about, when it comes, nor
make any bargains about. Thee wrote that Philip Sterling was at
"Yes, and Henry Brierly, a friend of his; a very amusing young fellow and
not so serious-minded as Philip, but a bit of a fop maybe."
"And thee preferred the fop to the serious-minded?"
"I didn't prefer anybody; but Henry Brierly was good company, which
Philip wasn't always."
"Did thee know thee father had been in correspondence with Philip?"
Ruth looked up surprised and with a plain question in her eyes.
"Oh, it's not about thee."
"What then?" and if there was any shade of disappointment in her tone,
probably Ruth herself did not know it.
"It's about some land up in the country. That man Bigler has got father
into another speculation."
"That odious man! Why will father have anything to do with him? Is it
"Yes. Father advanced money and took land as security, and whatever has
gone with the money and the bonds, he has on his hands a large tract of
"And what has Philip to do with that?"
"It has good timber, if it could ever be got out, and father says that
there must be coal in it; it's in a coal region. He wants Philip to
survey it, and examine it for indications of coal."
"It's another of father's fortunes, I suppose," said Ruth. "He has put
away so many fortunes for us that I'm afraid we never shall find them."
Ruth was interested in it nevertheless, and perhaps mainly because Philip
was to be connected with the enterprise. Mr. Bigler came to dinner with
her father next day, and talked a great deal about Mr. Bolton's
magnificent tract of land, extolled the sagacity that led him to secure
such a property, and led the talk along to another railroad which would
open a northern communication to this very land.
"Pennybacker says it's full of coal, he's no doubt of it, and a railroad
to strike the Erie would make it a fortune."
"Suppose you take the land and work the thing up, Mr. Bigler; you may
have the tract for three dollars an acre."
"You'd throw it away, then," replied Mr. Bigler, "and I'm not the man to
take advantage of a friend. But if you'll put a mortgage on it for the
northern road, I wouldn't mind taking an interest, if Pennybacker is
willing; but Pennybacker, you know, don't go much on land, he sticks to
the legislature." And Mr. Bigler laughed.
When Mr. Bigler had gone, Ruth asked her father about Philip's connection
with the land scheme.
"There's nothing definite," said Mr. Bolton. "Philip is showing aptitude
for his profession. I hear the best reports of him in New York, though
those sharpers don't 'intend to do anything but use him. I've written
and offered him employment in surveying and examining the land. We want
to know what it is. And if there is anything in it that his enterprise
can dig out, he shall have an interest. I should be glad to give the
young fellow a lift."
All his life Eli Bolton had been giving young fellows a lift, and
shouldering the loses when things turned out unfortunately. His ledger,
take-it-altogether, would not show a balance on the right side; but
perhaps the losses on his books will turn out to be credits in a world
where accounts are kept on a different basis. The left hand of the
ledger will appear the right, looked at from the other side.
Philip, wrote to Ruth rather a comical account of the bursting up of the
city of Napoleon and the navigation improvement scheme, of Harry's flight
and the Colonel's discomfiture. Harry left in such a hurry that he
hadn't even time to bid Miss Laura Hawkins good-bye, but he had no doubt
that Harry would console himself with the next pretty face he saw
--a remark which was thrown in for Ruth's benefit. Col. Sellers had in all
probability, by this time, some other equally brilliant speculation in
As to the railroad, Philip had made up his mind that it was merely kept
on foot for speculative purposes in Wall street, and he was about to quit
it. Would Ruth be glad to hear, he wondered, that he was coming East?
For he was coming, in spite of a letter from Harry in New York, advising
him to hold on until he had made some arrangements in regard to
contracts, he to be a little careful about Sellers, who was somewhat
visionary, Harry said.
The summer went on without much excitement for Ruth. She kept up a
correspondence with Alice, who promised a visit in the fall, she read,
she earnestly tried to interest herself in home affairs and such people
as came to the house; but she found herself falling more and more into
reveries, and growing weary of things as they were. She felt that
everybody might become in time like two relatives from a Shaker
establishment in Ohio, who visited the Boltons about this time, a father
and son, clad exactly alike, and alike in manners. The son; however,
who was not of age, was more unworldly and sanctimonious than his father;
he always addressed his parent as "Brother Plum," and bore himself,
altogether in such a superior manner that Ruth longed to put bent pins in
his chair. Both father and son wore the long, single breasted collarless
coats of their society, without buttons, before or behind, but with a row
of hooks and eyes on either side in front. It was Ruth's suggestion that
the coats would be improved by a single hook and eye sewed on in the
small of the back where the buttons usually are.
Amusing as this Shaker caricature of the Friends was, it oppressed Ruth
beyond measure; and increased her feeling of being stifled.
It was a most unreasonable feeling. No home could be pleasanter than
Ruth's. The house, a little out of the city; was one of those elegant
country residences which so much charm visitors to the suburbs of
Philadelphia. A modern dwelling and luxurious in everything that wealth
could suggest for comfort, it stood in the midst of exquisitely kept
lawns, with groups of trees, parterres of flowers massed in colors, with
greenhouse, grapery and garden; and on one side, the garden sloped away
in undulations to a shallow brook that ran over a pebbly bottom and sang
under forest trees. The country about teas the perfection of cultivated
landscape, dotted with cottages, and stately mansions of Revolutionary
date, and sweet as an English country-side, whether seen in the soft
bloom of May or in the mellow ripeness of late October.
It needed only the peace of the mind within, to make it a paradise.
One riding by on the Old Germantown road, and seeing a young girl
swinging in the hammock on the piazza and, intent upon some volume of old
poetry or the latest novel, would no doubt have envied a life so idyllic.
He could not have imagined that the young girl was reading a volume of
reports of clinics and longing to be elsewhere.
Ruth could not have been more discontented if all the wealth about her
had been as unsubstantial as a dream. Perhaps she so thought it.
"I feel," she once said to her father, "as if I were living in a house of
"And thee would like to turn it into a hospital?"
"No. But tell me father," continued Ruth, not to be put off, "is thee
still going on with that Bigler and those other men who come here and
Mr. Bolton smiled, as men do when they talk with women about "business"
"Such men have their uses, Ruth. They keep the world active, and I owe a
great many of my best operations to such men. Who knows, Ruth, but this
new land purchase, which I confess I yielded a little too much to Bigler
in, may not turn out a fortune for thee and the rest of the children?"
"Ah, father, thee sees every thing in a rose-colored light. I do believe
thee wouldn't have so readily allowed me to begin the study of medicine,
if it hadn't had the novelty of an experiment to thee."
"And is thee satisfied with it?"
"If thee means, if I have had enough of it, no. I just begin to see what
I can do in it, and what a noble profession it is for a woman. Would
thee have me sit here like a bird on a bough and wait for somebody to
come and put me in a cage?"
Mr. Bolton was not sorry to divert the talk from his own affairs, and he
did not think it worth while to tell his family of a performance that
very day which was entirely characteristic of him.
Ruth might well say that she felt as if she were living in a house of
cards, although the Bolton household had no idea of the number of perils
that hovered over them, any more than thousands of families in America
have of the business risks and contingences upon which their prosperity
and luxury hang.
A sudden call upon Mr. Bolton for a large sum of money, which must be
forthcoming at once, had found him in the midst of a dozen ventures, from
no one of which a dollar could be realized. It was in vain that he
applied to his business acquaintances and friends; it was a period of
sudden panic and no money. "A hundred thousand! Mr. Bolton," said
Plumly. "Good God, if you should ask me for ten, I shouldn't know where
to get it."
And yet that day Mr. Small (Pennybacker, Bigler and Small) came to Mr.
Bolton with a piteous story of ruin in a coal operation, if he could not
raise ten thousand dollars. Only ten, and he was sure of a fortune.
Without it he was a beggar. Mr. Bolton had already Small's notes for a
large amount in his safe, labeled "doubtful;" he had helped him again and
again, and always with the same result. But Mr. Small spoke with a
faltering voice of his family, his daughter in school, his wife ignorant
of his calamity, and drew such a picture of their agony, that Mr. Bolton
put by his own more pressing necessity, and devoted the day to scraping
together, here and there, ten thousand dollars for this brazen beggar,
who had never kept a promise to him nor paid a debt.
Beautiful credit! The foundation of modern society. Who shall say that
this is not the golden age of mutual trust, of unlimited reliance upon
human promises? That is a peculiar condition of society which enables a
whole nation to instantly recognize point and meaning in the familiar
newspaper anecdote, which puts into the mouth of a distinguished
speculator in lands and mines this remark:--"I wasn't worth a cent two
years ago, and now I owe two millions of dollars."
It was a hard blow to poor Sellers to see the work on his darling
enterprise stop, and the noise and bustle and confusion that had been
such refreshment to his soul, sicken and die out. It was hard to come
down to humdrum ordinary life again after being a General Superintendent
and the most conspicuous man in the community. It was sad to see his
name disappear from the newspapers; sadder still to see it resurrected at
intervals, shorn of its aforetime gaudy gear of compliments and clothed
on with rhetorical tar and feathers.
But his friends suffered more on his account than he did. He was a cork
that could not be kept under the water many moments at a time.
He had to bolster up his wife's spirits every now and then. On one of
these occasions he said:
"It's all right, my dear, all right; it will all come right in a little
while. There's $200,000 coming, and that will set things booming again:
Harry seems to be having some difficulty, but that's to be expected--you
can't move these big operations to the tune of Fisher's Hornpipe, you
know. But Harry will get it started along presently, and then you'll
see! I expect the news every day now."
"But Beriah, you've been expecting it every day, all along, haven't you?"
"Well, yes; yes--I don't know but I have. But anyway, the longer it's
delayed, the nearer it grows to the time when it will start--same as
every day you live brings you nearer to--nearer--"
"Well, no--not that exactly; but you can't understand these things, Polly
dear--women haven't much head for business, you know. You make yourself
perfectly comfortable, old lady, and you'll see how we'll trot this right
along. Why bless you, let the appropriation lag, if it wants to--that's
no great matter--there's a bigger thing than that."
"Bigger than $200,000, Beriah?"
"Bigger, child?--why, what's $200,000? Pocket money! Mere pocket money!
Look at the railroad! Did you forget the railroad? It ain't many months
till spring; it will be coming right along, and the railroad swimming
right along behind it. Where'll it be by the middle of summer? Just
stop and fancy a moment--just think a little--don't anything suggest
itself? Bless your heart, you dear women live right in the present all
the time--but a man, why a man lives----
"In the future, Beriah? But don't we live in the future most too much,
Beriah? We do somehow seem to manage to live on next year's crop of corn
and potatoes as a general thing while this year is still dragging along,
but sometimes it's not a robust diet,--Beriah. But don't look that way,
dear--don't mind what I say. I don't mean to fret, I don't mean to
worry; and I don't, once a month, do I, dear? But when I get a little
low and feel bad, I get a bit troubled and worrisome, but it don't mean
anything in the world. It passes right away. I know you're doing all
you can, and I don't want to seem repining and ungrateful--for I'm not,
Beriah--you know I'm not, don't you?"
"Lord bless you, child, I know you are the very best little woman that
ever lived--that ever lived on the whole face of the Earth! And I know
that I would be a dog not to work for you and think for you and scheme
for you with all my might. And I'll bring things all right yet, honey
--cheer up and don't you fear. The railroad----"
"Oh, I had forgotten the railroad, dear, but when a body gets blue, a
body forgets everything. Yes, the railroad--tell me about the railroad."
"Aha, my girl, don't you see? Things ain't so dark, are they? Now I
didn't forget the railroad. Now just think for a moment--just figure up
a little on the future dead moral certainties. For instance, call this
waiter St. Louis.
"And we'll lay this fork (representing the railroad) from St. Louis to
this potato, which is Slouchburg:
"Then with this carving knife we'll continue the railroad from Slouchburg
to Doodleville, shown by the black pepper:
"Then we run along the--yes--the comb--to the tumbler that's Brimstone:
"Thence by the pipe to Belshazzar, which is the salt-cellar:
"Thence to, to--that quill--Catfish--hand me the pincushion, Marie
"Thence right along these shears to this horse, Babylon:
"Then by the spoon to Bloody Run--thank you, the ink:
"Thence to Hail Columbia--snuffers, Polly, please move that cup and
saucer close up, that's Hail Columbia:
"Then--let me open my knife--to Hark-from-the-Tomb, where we'll put
the candle-stick--only a little distance from Hail Columbia to
Hark-from-the-Tomb--down-grade all the way.
"And there we strike Columbus River--pass me two or throe skeins of
thread to stand for the river; the sugar bowl will do for Hawkeye, and
the rat trap for Stone's Landing-Napoleon, I mean--and you can see how
much better Napoleon is located than Hawkeye. Now here you are with your
railroad complete, and showing its continuation to Hallelujah and thence
"Now then-them you are! It's a beautiful road, beautiful. Jeff Thompson
can out-engineer any civil engineer that ever sighted through an aneroid,
or a theodolite, or whatever they call it--he calls it sometimes one and
sometimes the other just whichever levels off his sentence neatest, I
reckon. But ain't it a ripping toad, though? I tell you, it'll make a
stir when it gets along. Just see what a country it goes through.
There's your onions at Slouchburg--noblest onion country that graces
God's footstool; and there's your turnip country all around Doodleville
--bless my life, what fortunes are going to be made there when they get
that contrivance perfected for extracting olive oil out of turnips--if
there's any in them; and I reckon there is, because Congress has made an
appropriation of money to test the thing, and they wouldn't have done
that just on conjecture, of course. And now we come to the Brimstone
region--cattle raised there till you can't rest--and corn, and all that
sort of thing. Then you've got a little stretch along through Belshazzar
that don't produce anything now--at least nothing but rocks--but
irrigation will fetch it. Then from Catfish to Babylon it's a little
swampy, but there's dead loads of peat down under there somewhere. Next
is the Bloody Run and Hail Columbia country--tobacco enough can be raised
there to support two such railroads. Next is the sassparilla region.
I reckon there's enough of that truck along in there on the line of the
pocket-knife, from Hail Columbia to Hark-from-the Tomb to fat up all the
consumptives in all the hospitals from Halifax to the Holy Land. It just
grows like weeds! I've got a little belt of sassparilla land in there
just tucked away unobstrusively waiting for my little Universal
Expectorant to get into shape in my head. And I'll fix that, you know.
One of these days I'll have all the nations of the earth expecto--"
"But Beriah, dear--"
"Don't interrupt me; Polly--I don't want you to lose the run of the map
--well, take your toy-horse, James Fitz-James, if you must have it--and run
along with you. Here, now--the soap will do for Babylon. Let me see
--where was I? Oh yes--now we run down to Stone's Lan--Napoleon--now we
run down to Napoleon. Beautiful road. Look at that, now. Perfectly
straight line-straight as the way to the grave. And see where it leaves
Hawkeye-clear out in the cold, my dear, clear out in the cold. That
town's as bound to die as--well if I owned it I'd get its obituary ready,
now, and notify the mourners. Polly, mark my words--in three years from
this, Hawkeye'll be a howling wilderness. You'll see. And just look at
that river--noblest stream that meanders over the thirsty earth!
--calmest, gentlest artery that refreshes her weary bosom! Railroad
goes all over it and all through it--wades right along on stilts.
Seventeen bridges in three miles and a half--forty-nine bridges from
Hark-from-the-Tomb to Stone's Landing altogether--forty nine bridges, and
culverts enough to culvert creation itself! Hadn't skeins of thread
enough to represent them all--but you get an idea--perfect trestle-work
of bridges for seventy two miles: Jeff Thompson and I fixed all that, you
know; he's to get the contracts and I'm to put them through on the
divide. Just oceans of money in those bridges. It's the only part of
the railroad I'm interested in,--down along the line--and it's all I
want, too. It's enough, I should judge. Now here we are at Napoleon.
Good enough country plenty good enough--all it wants is population.
That's all right--that will come. And it's no bad country now for
calmness and solitude, I can tell you--though there's no money in that,
of course. No money, but a man wants rest, a man wants peace--a man
don't want to rip and tear around all the time. And here we go, now,
just as straight as a string for Hallelujah--it's a beautiful angle
--handsome up grade all the way --and then away you go to Corruptionville,
the gaudiest country for early carrots and cauliflowers that ever--good
missionary field, too. There ain't such another missionary field outside
the jungles of Central Africa. And patriotic?--why they named it after
Congress itself. Oh, I warn you, my dear, there's a good time coming,
and it'll be right along before you know what you're about, too. That
railroad's fetching it. You see what it is as far as I've got, and if I
had enough bottles and soap and boot-jacks and such things to carry it
along to where it joins onto the Union Pacific, fourteen hundred miles
from here, I should exhibit to you in that little internal improvement a
spectacle of inconceivable sublimity. So, don't you see? We've got the
rail road to fall back on; and in the meantime, what are we worrying
about that $200,000 appropriation for? That's all right. I'd be willing
to bet anything that the very next letter that comes from Harry will--"
The eldest boy entered just in the nick of time and brought a letter,
warm from the post-office.
"Things do look bright, after all, Beriah. I'm sorry I was blue, but it
did seem as if everything had been going against us for whole ages. Open
the letter--open it quick, and let's know all about it before we stir out
of our places. I am all in a fidget to know what it says."
The letter was opened, without any unnecessary delay.