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Senator North
by Gertrude Atherton
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The women who were privileged to attend the now famous salon wore their freshest and most becoming gowns, and most of the Senators would have been glad to have frivoled away the evening in compliments, so refreshing was the sight of an attractive face after a long and anxious day. But the eyes of the women sparkled with patriotic fire only. One burst into tears and others threatened hysterics, but got through the evening comfortably. Mrs. Madison sat on a sofa and fanned herself nervously; Senator Maxwell and Senator North at her request kept close to her side.

"They were not so excited during the Civil War," she exclaimed, as a shrill voice smote her ear. "I suppose we have developed more nerves or something."

"The mind was possessed by the Grim Fact during the Civil War," said Senator Maxwell. "This is a second-rate thing that appeals to the nerves and not to the soul."

Betty, who understood the patient longing of her statesmen for variety, had imported for the evening several members of the troupe singing at the Metropolitan Opera House. Conversation consequently was interrupted six or seven times, but it burst forth with increased vigour at the end of every song; and when the Polish tenor with mistaken affability sang "The Star Spangled Banner," the women and some of the younger men took it up with such vehemence that Mrs. Madison put her fingers to her ears. When one girl jumped on a chair and waved her handkerchief, which she had painted red, white, and blue, the unwilling hostess asked Senator North if he thought Betty would be able to keep her head till the end of the evening, or would be excited to some extraordinary antic.

"There is not the least danger," he replied soothingly. "Miss Madison could manage to look impassive if a cyclone were raging within her. It is a long while since the Americans have had a chance to be excited. You must make allowances."

Betty for some time had suppressed her Populist with difficulty. He was one of those Americans to whom a keen thin face and a fair education give the superficial appearance of refinement. In a country as democratic as the United States and where schooling and intelligence are so widespread, it is possible for many half-bred men to create a good impression when in an equable frame of mind. But excitement tears their thin coat of gentility in twain, and Betty already regretted having invited Armstrong to her salon. He had not missed a Thursday evening, for he not only appreciated the social advantage of a footing in such a house, but his clever mind enjoyed the conversation there, and the frankly expressed opinions of well- bred people who argued without acerbity and never called each other names. With his slender well-dressed figure and bright fair sharply cut face, he by no means looked an alien, and if he could have corrected the habit of contradicting people up and down—to say nothing of his occasional indulgence in the Congressional snort—his manners would have passed muster in any gathering. He was a good specimen of the ambitious American of obscure birth and clever but shallow brain, quick to seize every opportunity for advancement. But politics were his strongest instinct, and exciting crises stifled every other.

He was very much excited to-night, for he had, during the afternoon, tried three times to bring in a war resolution, and thrice been extinguished by the Speaker. When the tenor started "The Star-Spangled Banner," he braced himself against the wall and sang at the top of his lungs; and the performance seemed to lash his temper rather than relieve it. He twice raised his voice to unburden his mind, and was distracted by Betty, who kept him close beside her. Finally she attempted to change the subject by chatting of personal matters.

"I went to the White House last night," she said, "and was delighted to find that the President had the most charming manners—"

"What's a manner?" interrupted Armstrong, roughly. "You women are all alike. I suppose you'd turn up your nose at William J. Bryan because he ain't what you call a gentleman. But if he were in the White House instead of that milk-and-water puppet of Wall Street, we'd be shooting those murderers down in Cuba as we ought to be. The President and the whole Republican party," he shouted, "are a lot of hogs who've chawed so much gold their digestion won't work and their brains are torpid; and there's nothing to do but to kick them into this war—the whole greedy, white-livered, Trust-owned, thieving lot of them, including that great immaculate Joss up at the White House with his manners. Damn his manners! They come too high—"

"Armstrong," said Burleigh soothingly, but with a glint in his eye, "I have an important communication to make to you. Will you come out into the hall a moment?" He passed his arm through the Populist's, and led him unresistingly away.

Betty glanced at her mother. Mrs. Madison was fanning herself with an air of profound satisfaction. As she met her daughter's eyes, she raised her brows, and her whole being breathed the content of the successful prophetess. Senator North looked grimly amused. Betty turned away hastily. She felt much like laughing, herself.

Burleigh returned alone. "I took the liberty of telling him to go and not to come again," he said. "That sort of man never apologizes, so you are rid of him."

Betty smiled and thanked him; then she frowned a little, for she saw several people glance significantly at each other. She knew that Washington took it for granted she would marry Burleigh.

They went in to supper a few moments later, and in that admirable meal the weary statesmen found the solace that woman denied him. And the flowers were fragrant; the candlelight was grateful to tired eyes, and the champagne unrivalled. Until the toasts—which in this agitated time had become a necessary feature of the salon—the conversation, under the tactful management of Betty and several of her friends, and the diverting influence of the great singers, was but a subdued hum about nothing in particular. When at the end of an hour Burleigh rose impulsively and proposed the health of the President, even the Democrats responded with as much warmth as courtesy.

"You manage your belligerents very well," said Senator North, when he shook her hand awhile later. "Yours has probably been the only amiable supper-room in Washington to-night."



XII



"Now!" exclaimed Sally Carter, who was sobbing hysterically, "I hope they will impeach the President if he delays any longer with the Maine report and if he doesn't send a warlike message on top of it. After that speech I don't see why Congress should wait for him at all."

It was the seventeenth of March, and she and Betty were driving home from the Capitol after listening to the Senator from Vermont on the situation in Cuba,—to that cold, bare, sober statement of the result of personal investigation, which produced a far deeper and more historical impression than all the impassioned rhetoric which had rent the air since the agitation began. He appeared to have no feeling on the matter, no personal bias; he told what he had seen, and he had seen misery, starvation, and wholesale death. He blamed the Spaniards no more than the insurgents, but two hundred thousand people were the victims of both; and the bold yet careful etching he made of the Cuban drama burnt itself into the brains of the forty-six Senators present and of the eight hundred people in the galleries.

"I cannot bring myself to think that death is the worst of all evils," said Betty, "and I do not think that we have any right to go to war with Spain, no matter what she chooses to do with her own. Besides, she is thoroughly frightened now, and I believe would rectify her mistakes in an even greater measure than she has already tried to do, if the President were given time to handle her with tact and diplomacy. If the country would give him a chance to save her pride, war could be averted."

"You are heartless! Don't argue with me. I hate argument when my emotions feel as if they had dynamite in them. I could sit down on the floor of the Senate and scream until war was declared. I hate Senator North. He never moved a muscle of his face during that entire terrible recital. He hardly looked interested. He is a heartless brute."

"He is not heartless. He fears everlasting complications if we go to war with Spain, the expenditure of hundreds of millions, as one result of those complications, and danger to the Constitution. The statesman thinks of his own country first—"

"I won't listen! I won't! I won't! Oh, I never thought I could get so excited about anything. I believe I'm going to have nervous prostration and I sha'n't see you again till war is declared. So there!"

The carriage stopped at her house, and she jumped out and ran up the steps. She kept her word, and it was weeks before Betty saw her to speak to again.

"If intelligent people get into that condition," thought Betty, "what can be expected of the fools? And the fools are more dangerous in the United States than elsewhere, because they are just bright enough to think that they know more than the Almighty ever knew in His best days."

A few days later she was crossing Statuary Hall on her way back from the House Gallery; whither she had gone during an Executive Session of the Senate, when she met Senator North. His face illuminated as he saw her, and they both turned spontaneously and went to a bench behind the immortal ones of the Republic, who in dust and marble were happier than their inheritors to-day.

"I am thinking of coming down here to live, renting a Committee Room," said Betty. "It is the only place where I do not have my opinion asked and where I do not quarrel with my friends. Molly is sure I shall be taken for a lobbyist, and if people were not too absorbed to notice me, I think I should engage a companion; but as it is, I believe I am safe enough. I have had this simple brown serge made, on purpose."

"There is not the least danger of your motives being misconstrued, and the Capitol is swarming with women, all the time. They seem to regard it as a sort of National Theatre, where the most exciting denouement may take place any minute. I fancy they have come from all over the country for the satisfaction of being able to say, for the rest of their lives, that they were in at the death. The poor Capitol has become a sort of asylum for wandering lunatics."

Betty laughed. "I feel calmer here than anywhere else, especially now that Molly has gone over to the Cubans since the publication of that speech. I suspect it has made a good many other converts. I didn't think the tide of excitement in the country could rise any higher, but it appears to have needed that last straw. Have you any hope left?"

"None whatever. The politicians in both parties are rushing the President off his feet and inflaming the country at the same time. Sincere sympathizers with Cuba, like Burleigh, are holding their peace until the President shall have declared himself, but there is very little patriotism amongst politicians desirous of re-election. If Spain was a quick-thinking nation and was not stultified by a mulish obstinacy for which the word 'pride' is a euphemism, or if the President could hypnotize the country for six months, all would be well, but I do not look for a miracle. I have done all I can. I have persuaded my own State to keep quiet, and that has lessened the pressure a little; and I have persuaded no less than eight of our bellicose members to say nothing on the floor of the Senate until the President has sent in his message,—that delay is necessary if we are to meet war with any sort of preparation. That is all I can do, for I don't care to speak on the subject again, to bring it up in the Senate until it no longer can be held down. But I have said a good deal in the lobby."

"I suspect you have! Do you mind all the talk about your being unpatriotic, and that sort of thing? I cried for an hour the other day over an article in a New York paper, headed 'A Traitor,' and saying the most hideous things about you."

"I didn't read it. And don't spoil your eyes over anything sensational American newspapers may say of anybody; let them alone and read the few decent ones. For a public man to worry over such assaults would be a stupid waste of his mental energy; for if he is in the right he consoles himself with the reflection that the traitor of to-day is the patriot of to-morrow. But let politics go to the winds for a little. Tell me something about yourself. I have started no less than four times to go to see you—at half-past six in the afternoon—and turned back."

"I go there and sit almost every afternoon. This excitement has been a godsend. If the world had been pursuing its even way during the last two months, I don't know what would have happened to me. What am I to do when it is over?" she broke out, for they were almost secluded. "The more I think of the future the more hopeless it seems. If there is war, I'll go as a nurse—"

"You will do nothing of the sort. Promise me that—instantly. There will be trained nurses without end, and you would run the risk of fever for nothing. Promise me."

"But I must do something. I have hours that you cannot imagine. Ordinarily I keep up very well, for I have character enough to make the best of life, whatever happens; but one can control one's heart with one's will just so long and no longer. When the world is quiet and I am alone at night, if I don't go to sleep at once—it is terrible! Do you think I should be afraid of death? If I have got to go through life with this terrible ache in my heart, in my whole body —for when I cry my very fingers cramp—I'd a thousand times rather go to Cuba and have done with it."

For a moment he only stared at her. Then he parted his lips as if to speak, but closed them again so firmly that Betty wondered what he was holding back. But his eyes, although they had flashed for a moment and burned still, told her nothing. He did not speak for fully a minute. Then he said,—

"Death can be met with fortitude by any strong brain, but not a lifetime of miserable invalidism. If you contracted fever down there, you might get rid of it in several years and you might not. Meanwhile," he added, smiling, "you would become yellow and wrinkled. So promise me at once that you will not go."

"I swear it!" she said with an attempt at gayety. "Not even for you will I get yellow and wrinkled—and I adore you! Tell me," she went on rapidly and with little further attempt at self-control; "what shall I do next? Shall I go abroad? There is no distraction in castles and cathedrals and crooked streets; they must be enjoyed when one is idle and tranquil. I'm tired of pictures. I suppose I've seen about twenty miles of them in my life. As for the old masters they give me nightmares. There is nothing left but society, and I don't like foreigners and should find little novelty in England—and many reminders! The future appalls me. I cannot face it. Am I inconsiderate to talk like this when you are so worried? Sometimes I feel that I have no right to be even sensible of my individuality when a whole nation is convulsed; it seems almost absurd that there are hundreds of thousands of tragedies within the great one—but there are! There are! And the war will bring oblivion to only those to whom it brings death."

She stopped, panting, after the torrent of words. His hand had closed about her arm, and he was bending close above her. His face had flushed deeply, and once more he opened his lips as if to speak, but did not. Betty shook suddenly. Was the word he would not utter "Wait"? There could be no doubt that a word struggled for utterance, and that he held it back. If he did not, Betty felt that her love would turn cold. For a great love may be killed by a sudden blow, and there is always some one thing that will kill the greatest. But she wished that his brain would flash its message to hers.

The silence between them became so intense and the strain on her eyes so intolerable that she dropped her head and fumbled with her muff. She dared not speak, dared not divert his mind. He was too much the master of his own fate.

"Don't ever hesitate to speak out through consideration for me, my dear," he said. "The only relief we both have is to speak our thoughts occasionally. And you can tell me nothing of yourself that I do not know already. I never forget that you are tormented. But Time will help you. The future which looms with a few dull and insupportable Facts is crowded with small details which consume both time and thought, and it is full of little unexpected pleasures. War is very diverting. One's attitude to a war after the first few shocks is as to a great military drama. If by a miracle ours should be averted, then go to England, where you will have men at least to talk to. When plans for the future are futile, live in the present and be careful to make no mistake. It is the only philosophy for those who are not in the favour of Circumstance. I am going now. Bend your ear closer. I have had so little opportunity to be tender with you, and I have thought of that as much as of anything else."

Betty inclined her head eagerly, and he whispered to her for a moment, then left her.

For a few moments she did not move. The buoyancy of her nature was still considerable, and his last words had thrilled her and made her almost as happy as if he would return in an hour. She rose finally and walked across the hall, her inclination divided between the Senate Gallery where she might look at him, and her boudoir where she might fling herself on her divan and think of him. As she was moving along slowly, seeing no one, her arm was caught by a bony hand, and a familiar drawl smote her ear.

"Laws, Miss Madison, have you gone blind all of a sudden? But you look as if you had two stars in your eyes."

"How do you do, Mrs. Mudd? These are times to make anybody absent- minded."

"Well, I guess! We're gettin' there and no mistake. Now look quick, Miss Madison—there's my husband, the one that's just got up off that bench. He's been talkin' to a constituent."

Betty glanced across the Hall with some interest: she occasionally had doubted the reality of George Washington Mudd. A tall stout man in a loose black overcoat, a black slouch hat, and a big cotton umbrella under his arm, was stalking across the Hall with his head in the air, as if to sniff at the marble effigies of the great. Betty felt young again and gave a delighted laugh.

"Why, I didn't know there really was anything like that!" she cried. "I thought—"

"Well, I guess I'd like to know what you mean," exclaimed an infuriate voice; and Betty, turning to Mrs. Mudd's dark red face, recovered herself instantly.

"I mean that your husband belongs to a type that our dramatists have thought worthy of preservation and of exercising their finest art upon. I often give writers credit for more creative ability than they possess, for I always am seeing some one in real life whose entire type I had supposed had come straight out of their genius. Take yourself, for instance. If I had not met you outside of a book, I should have thought you a triumph of imagination."

"Well—thanks," drawled Mrs. Mudd, mollified though doubtful. "I don't claim that George is handsome, but he's the smartest man in our district and he'll make the House sit up yet." She giggled and rolled her eyes. "He was downright jealous because I came home from the reception and raved over the President," she announced. "Oh, my!"

"Perhaps he's a Populist," suggested Betty.

"Not much he ain't. He's a good Democrat with Silver principles."

"Well, I'm glad you're happy. Good-afternoon."

"I love the greatest man in America and she loves George Washington Mudd," thought Betty, as she walked down the corridor. "Mortals die, but love is imperishable. A half-century hence and where will the love that dwells in every fibre of me now, have gone? Will it be dust with my dust, or vigorous with eternal youth in some poor girl who never heard my name?"

And then she went home to her boudoir.



XIII



Betty, who had come justly to the conclusion that she knew something of politics after a year's application to the science and several object lessons, made in the following weeks her first acquaintance with the intricacies which sometimes may involve political motives. The President was not given time to exhaust diplomacy with Spain, although in his War Message he was obliged to state that he had done so. To deal successfully with a proud and mediaeval country required months, not days, and as Spain had grudgingly but surely yielded all along the line to the demands of the United States, it is safe to assume that she would have withdrawn peacefully her forces from Cuba if her pride could have been saved. Sagasta was working in the interests of peace; but a bigoted old country, too indolent to read history, and puzzled at a youthful nation's industry in the cause of humanity, would move so fast and no faster.

The President was rushed off his feet and his hand was forced. An honest but delirious country was threatening impeachment and clamouring for war. Its representatives were hammering on the doors of the White House and shrieking in Congress. A dishonest press was inflaming it and injuring it in the eyes of the world by assaulting the integrity of the Executive and of the leading men in both Houses; and unscrupulous politicians were extracting every possible party advantage, until it looked as if the Democratic party, rent asunder by Mr. Bryan and his doctrines, would be unified once more. The House, after the President's calm and impersonal message on the Maine report, acted like a mutinous school of bad boys who had not been taught the first principles of breeding and dignity; the few gentlemen in it hardly tried to make themselves heard, and even the Speaker was powerless to quell a couple of hundred tempers all rampant at once. Every conceivable insult was heaped upon the head of the President as he delayed his War Message from day to day, hoping against hope, and gaining what time he could to strengthen the Navy.

It became necessary therefore for the high-class men in the Senate, particularly the Republicans, to present an unbroken front. Whatever the conclusions of the President, they must stand by him. It was their duty as Americans first and Republicans after; for they had elected him to the high and representative office he filled, they were responsible for him, he had done nothing to forfeit their confidence, and everything, by his wise and conservative course, to win their approval. And it was their duty to their party to uphold him, for internal dissensions in this great crisis would weaken their forces and play them into the hands of the Democrats. Therefore, Senator North and others, who had strenuously and consistently opposed war from any cause, until it became evident that the President had been elbowed into the position of a puppet by his people instead of being permitted to guide them, withdrew their opposition, and when his Message finally was forced from his hand, let it be known that they should support it against the powerful faction in the Senate which demanded the recognition of Cuba as a Republic. The Message meant war, but a war that no longer could be averted, and there was nothing left for any high-minded statesman and loyal party man to do but to defend the President from those who would usurp his authority and tie his hands, to demonstrate to the world their belief in a statesmanship which was being attacked at every point by those whom his Message had disappointed, and to provide against one future embarrassment the more.

When Betty had trodden the maze this far, she realized the unenviable position of the conservative faction in the Senate. North's position was particularly unpleasant. He had stood to the country as the embodiment of its conservative spirit, the spirit which was opposed uncompromisingly to this war. Several days before the speech of the Senator from Vermont exploded the inflamed nervous system of the country, he had made an address which had been copied in every State in the Union and been hopefully commented on abroad. In this speech, which was a passionless, impersonal, and judicial argument against interference in the domestic affairs of a friendly nation seeking to put down an insurgent population whose record for butchery and crime equalled her own, as well as a brilliant forecast of the evils, foreign and domestic, which must follow such a war, he demonstrated that if war was declared at this period it would be unjustifiable because it would be the direct result of the accident to the Maine, which, as the explosion could not be traced to the Spanish officials, was not a casus belli. Prior to that accident no important or considerable number of the American people had clamoured for war, only for according belligerent rights to the Cubans, which measure they were not wise enough to see would lead to war. Therefore, had the Maine incident not occurred, the President would have been given the necessary time for successful diplomacy, despite the frantic efforts of the press and the loud-voiced minority; and it could not be claimed that the present clamour, dating from the fifteenth of February, was honestly in behalf of the suffering Cuban. It was for revenge, and it was an utterly unreasonable demand for revenge, as no sane man believed that Spain had seized the first opportunity to cut her throat; and until it could be proved that she had done so, it was a case for indemnity, not for war. Therefore, if war came at the present juncture it was because the people of the United States had made up their minds they wanted a fight, they would have a fight, they didn't care whether they had an excuse or not.

The speech made a profound impression even in the agitated state of the public mind, for bitterly as North might be denounced he always was listened to. The press lashed itself into a fury and wrote head- lines which would have ridden its editors into prison had the country possessed libel laws adequate to protect a noble provision of the Constitution. The temperate men in the country had been with North from the beginning, but the excited millions excoriated him the more loudly. He was denounced at public banquets and accused by excited citizens all over the Union, except in his own State, of every depravity, from holding an unimaginable number of Spanish bonds to taking a ferocious pleasure in the sufferings of the reconcentrados.

And in the face of this he must cast his vote for war.

A weaker man would have held stubbornly to his position, made notorious by his personality, and a less patriotic have chosen the satisfaction of being consistent to the bitter end and winning some measure of approval from the unthinking.

But North was a statesman, and although Betty did not see him to speak to for many weeks after the Message went to Congress, she doubted if he had hesitated a moment in choosing his course. He was a man who made a problem of nothing, who thought and acted promptly on all questions great and small. It was his manifest duty to support his President, who was also the head of his party, and to do what he could to win the sympathy of Europe for his country by making its course appear the right and inevitable one.

North's position was the logical result of the deliberations and decisions of the year 1787. Hamilton, the greatest creative and constructive genius of his century, never so signally proved his far- sighted statesmanship as when he pleaded for an aristocratic republic with a strong centralized government. As he was capable of anything, he doubtless foresaw the tyranny of the people into which ill- considered liberty would degenerate, just as he foresaw the many strong, wise, and even great men who would be born to rule the country wisely if given the necessary power. If the educated men of the country knew that its destinies were wholly in their hands, and that they alone could achieve the highest honours, there is not one of them who would not train himself in the science of government. Such men, ruling a country in which liberty did not mean a heterogeneous monarchy, would make the lot of the masses far easier than it is to-day. The fifteen million Irish plebeians with which the country is cursed would be harmlessly raising pigs in the country. Hamilton, in one of his letters, speaks of democracy as a poison. Some twenty years ago an eminent Englishman bottled and labelled the poison in its infinite variety, as a warning to the extreme liberals in his own country. We attempted one ideal, and we almost have forgotten what the ideal was. Hamilton's could not have fared worse, and there is good reason to believe that educated and thinking men, unhampered by those who talk bad grammar and think not, would have raised our standards far higher than they are, even with men like North patiently and dauntlessly striving to counteract the poison below. At all events, there would be no question of a President's hand being forced. Nor would such a class of rulers put a man in the White House whose hand could be forced.

Although Betty knew North would disregard the sneers of the press and of ambitious orators who would declaim while cannon thundered, she also knew that his impassive exterior hid a sense of humiliating defeat, and that the moment in which he was obliged to utter his aye for war would be the bitterest of his life. She fancied that he forgot her in these days, but she was willing to have it so. The intense breathless excitement of that time, when scarcely a Senator left his seat from ten in the morning till some late hour of the night, except to snatch a meal; the psychological effect of the silent excited crowds in the galleries and corridors of the Capitol and on its lawns and the immensity of its steps; the solemnity and incalculable significance of the approaching crisis, and the complete gravity of the man who possessed her mind, carried her out of herself and merged her personality for a brief while into the great personality of the nation.



XIV



It was half-past one o'clock in the morning of the nineteenth of April. A thousand people, weary and breathless but intensely silent, were crowded together in the galleries of the Senate. They had been there all night, some of them since early afternoon, a few since twelve o'clock. Outside, the corridors were so packed with humanity that it was a wonder the six acres of building did not sway. For the first time in hours they were silent and motionless, although they could hear nothing.

On the floor of the Senate almost every chair was occupied, and every Senator was singularly erect; no one was lounging, or whispering, or writing to-night. All faced the Vice-President, alone on his dais, much as an army faces its general. Every foot of the wide semicircle between the last curve of chairs and the wall was occupied by members of the House of Representatives, who stood in a dignified silence with which they had been little acquainted of late.

The Senate no longer looked like a Club. It recalled the description of Bryce: "The place seems consecrated to great affairs."

The Secretary was about to call the roll for the vote which would decide the fate of Cuba and alter for ever the position of the United States in the family of nations.

Betty had been in the gallery all night and a part of the preceding day. When the Senate took a recess at half-past six in the evening, she and Mary Montgomery, while Mrs. Shattuc guarded their seats, had forced their way down to the restaurant, but had been obliged to content themselves with a few sandwiches bought at the counter. But Betty was conscious of neither hunger nor fatigue, although the strain during the last eight hours had been almost insupportable: the brief sharp debates, the prosing of bores, interrupted by angry cries of "Vote! Vote!" the reiterated announcement of the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations that the conferees could not agree, the perpetual nagging of two Democrats and one Populist, the long trying intervals of debate on matters irrelevant to the great question torturing every mind, during which there was much confusion on the floor: the Senators talked constantly in groups except when the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations brought in his amended bill;—all this had made up a day trying to the stoutest nerves, and more than one person had fainted and been carried from the galleries.

The blood throbbed in Betty Madison's head from repressed excitement and the long strain on her nerves. But the solemnity of the scene affected her so powerfully that her ego seemed dead, she only was conscious of looking down upon history. It seemed to her that for the first time she fully realized the tremendous issues involved in the calling of that roll of names. The attitude of the American people which she had deprecated and scorned was dignified by the attitude of that historical body below her. Even Senator North did not interest her. The Senate for the time was a unit.

It seemed to her an interminable interval between the last echo of the rumbling voice of the Clerk who had read the resolution amended by the report of the conferees, and the first raucous exasperated note of the Secretary's clerk, after a brief colloquy between Senators. This clerk calls the roll of the Senate at all times as if he hated every member of it, and to-night he was nervous.

Betty felt the blood throb in her ears as she counted the sharp decisive "ayes" and "nos," although Burleigh, whom she had seen during the recess, had told her there was no doubt of the issue. As the clerk entered the M's, she came to herself with a shock, and simultaneously was possessed by a desire to get out of the gallery before Senator North's time came to say "aye." She had heard the roll called many times, she knew there were fourteen M's, and that she would have time to get out of the gallery if she were quick about it. She made so violent an effort to control the excitement raging within her that her brain ached as if a wedge had been driven through it. She whispered hurriedly to Mary Montgomery, who was leaning breathlessly over the rail and did not hear her, then made her way up to the door as rapidly as she could; even the steps were set thick with people.

As she was passed out of the gallery by the doorkeeper, and found herself precipitated upon that pale trembling hollow-eyed crowd wedged together like atoms in a rock, her knees trembled and her courage almost failed her. Several caught her by the arms, and asked her how the vote was going; but she only shrugged her shoulders with the instinct of self-defence and pushed her way toward a big policeman. He knew her and put out his hand, thrusting one or two people aside.

"This has been too much for you, miss, I reckon," he said. "I'll get you downstairs. Keep close behind me."

He forced a way through the crowd to the elevator. To attempt to part the compact mass on the staircase would invite disaster. The elevator boy had deserted his post that he might hear the news the sooner, but the policeman pushed Betty into the car, and manipulated the ropes himself. On the lower floor was another dense crowd; but he got her to the East door after rescuing her twice, called her carriage and returned to his post, well pleased with his bill.

For many moments Betty, bruised from elbows, breathless from her passage through that crush in the stagnant air, could not think connectedly. She vaguely recalled Mrs. Mudd's large face and black silk dress in the Diplomats' Gallery, which even a Cabinet minister might not enter without a permit from a member of the Corps. Doubtless the doorkeepers had been flung to and fro more than once to-night, like little skiffs in an angry sea. She wondered how she had had sufficient presence of mind to fee the policeman, and hoped she had not given him silver instead of the large bill which had seemed to spring to her fingers at the end of that frightful journey.

She leaned out of the open window, wishing it were winter, that the blood might be driven from her head; but there was only the slight chill of a delicious April morning in the air, and the young leaves fluttered gently in the trees. In the afternoon hundreds of boys had sold violets in the streets, and the perfume lingered, floating above the heavier scent of the magnolias in the parks. Betty's weary mind pictured Washington as it would be a few weeks hence, a great forest of brilliant living green amidst which one had almost to look for the houses and the heroes in the squares. Every street was an avenue whose tall trees seemed to cut the sky into blue banners—the word started the rearrangement of her scattered senses; in a few weeks the dust would be flying up to the green from thousands of marching feet.

She burst into tears, and they gave her some relief. The carriage stopped at the house a moment later, and she went directly to her boudoir. She took off her hat and pulled down her hair, rubbing her fingers against her burning head. Senator North took possession of her mind at once. The Senate was no longer a unit to her excited imagination; it seemed to dissolve away and leave one figure standing there beaten and alone.

She forgot the passionate efforts of other Senators in behalf of peace; to her the fine conservative strength of the Senate was personified in one man. And if there were others as pure and unselfish in their ideals, his at least was the master intellect.

She wondered if he remembered in this hour of bitter defeat that she had promised to come to this room and give him what she could of herself. That was weeks and weeks ago, and she had not repeated her intention, as she should have done. But he loved her, and was not likely to forget anything she said to him. Or would he care if he did remember? Must not personal matters seem of small account to-night? Or was he too weary to care for anything but sleep? Perhaps he had flung himself down on a sofa in the cloak-room, or in his Committee Room, and forgotten the national disaster while she watched.

She had been walking rapidly up and down the room. Her thoughts were not yet coherent, and instinct prompted her to get the blood out of her head if she could. A vague sense of danger possessed her, but she was not capable of defining it. Suddenly she stopped and held her breath. She had become aware of a recurring footstep on the sidewalk. Her window abutted some thirty feet away. She craned her head forward, listening so intently that the blood pounded in her ears. She expected to hear the gate open, the footsteps to grow softer on the path. But they continued to pace the stone flags of the sidewalk.

She opened her door, ran down the hall and into the parlor. Without an instant's hesitation she flung open a window and leaned out. The light from the street lamp fell full upon her. He could not fail to see her were he there. But he was not. The man pacing up and down before the house was the night watchman.

Betty closed the window hurriedly and stumbled back into the dark room. The disappointment and reaction were intolerable. She felt the same blind rage with Circumstance which had attacked her the night he had kissed and left her. In such crises conventions are non-existent; she might have been primeval woman for all she recalled in that hour of the teachings of the centuries. Had he been there, she would have called him in. He was hers, whatever stood between them, and she alone had the right to console him.

Her mind turned suddenly to his house. He was there, of course; it was absurd to imagine that his cool deliberation would ever forsake him. The moment the Senate adjourned he would have put on his hat, walked down to the East door, called a cab and gone home. And he was in his library. Why she felt so positive that he was there and not in bed she could not have told, but she saw the light in the long wing. She put her hands to her face suddenly, and moved to the door. She stumbled over a chair, and then noticed the intense darkness of the room. But beyond she saw distinctly the big red brick house of Senator North, with the light burning in the wing. Was she going to him? She wondered vaguely, for her will seemed to be at the bottom of a pile of struggling thoughts and to have nothing to say in the matter. Surely she must. He was a man who stood alone and scorned sympathy or help, but he would be glad of hers because it was hers; there was no possible doubt of that. And in spite of his record he must for the hour feel a bitter and absolute failure.

A pebble would bring him to the window. He would come out, and come back here with her. She opened her arms suddenly. The room was so dark she almost could fancy him beside her. Would that he were!

She had no adequate conception of a morrow. The future was drab and formless. His trouble drew her like a magnet. She trembled at the mere thought of being able to make him forget.

And he? If he came out and saw her standing there, he would be more than a man if he resisted the impulse to return with her here and take her in his arms. And he too must be in a state of mind in which to-day dwarfed and blotted out to-morrow.

For the moment she stood motionless, almost breathless, realizing so vividly the procession of bitter and apprehensive thoughts in the mind which for so long had possessed and controlled hers that she forgot her intention, even her desire to go to him. It was this moment of insight and abstraction from self that saved her. Her own mind seemed to awake suddenly.

It was as if her thinking faculty had descended to her heart during the last hours and been made dizzy and dull by the wild hot whirl of emotions there. It climbed suddenly to where it belonged, and set the rested machinery of her brain to work.

Doubtless his impulse had been to come to her, to the room where he knew she was alone and would receive him if he demanded admittance. He had put the temptation aside, as he had put aside many others; and it had been in her mind, was in her mind still, to make the temptation irresistible. And if he felt a failure to-night, she had it in her power to wreck his life utterly.

It was more than possible that in the remaining years of his vigour dwelt his tardy opportunities for historical fame. The great Republic had sailed out of her summer sea into foreign waters, stormy, unfriendly, bristling with unimaginable dangers. Once more she would need great statesmen, not merely able legislators, and there could be no doubt in the mind of any student of the Senate that she would discover them swiftly. North was the greatest of these; and the record of his future, brilliant, glorious perhaps, seemed to unroll itself suddenly in the dark room.

Betty drew a long hard breath. Her cheeks were cool at last, and she wondered if her heart were dead, it felt so cold. What mad impulse nearly had driven her to him to-night, independently of her will; which had slept, worn out, like other faculties, by a day of hunger, excitement, fatigue, and physical pain? The impulse had risen unhindered and uncriticised from her heart, and if it had risen once it could rise again. The days to come would be full of excitement. She fancied that she already heard the roar of cannon, the beating of drums, the sobs of women. And below the racket and its sad accompaniment was always the low indignant mutter of a triumphant people at those who had dared to set themselves above the popular clamour and ask for sanity. The intolerable longing that had become her constant companion would be fed by every device of unpropitious Circumstance. Again and again she would experience this impulse to go to him, and some night the blood would not recede from her brain in time.

She groped her way out of the dark parlor and down the hall, grateful for an excuse to walk slowly. Her boudoir was brilliant, and the struggle of the last few moments seemed the more terrible and significant by contrast with the dainty luxurious room. She wondered if she ever should dare to enter the parlor again, and if it always would not look dark to her.

She sat down at her desk and wrote a letter. It ran:— Dear Mr. Burleigh,—I will marry you if you still wish it. Will you dine with us to-night?

Betty Madison.

She was too tired for emotion, but she knew what would come later. Nevertheless, she went to the front door and asked the watchman to post the letter. Then she went to bed.



XV



The Senate adjourned a few moments after Betty left the gallery. There was little conversation in the cloak-room. The Senators were very tired, and it surely was a brain of bubbles that could indulge in comment upon the climax of the great finished chapter of the old Republic.

North put on his hat and overcoat at once and left the Capitol. After the close confinement in heated and vitiated air for sixteen hours, the thought of a cab was intolerable: he shook his head at the old darky who owned him and whom he never had been able to dodge during his twenty years' service in Washington, plunged his hands into his overcoat pockets, and strode off with an air of aggressive determination which amused him as a fitting anti-climax. The darky grinned and drove home without looking for another fare. His Senator not only had paid him by the month for several years, but had supported his family for the last ten.

North inhaled the pure cool air, the delicious perfume of violet and magnolia, as Betty had done. Once he paused and looked up at the wooded heights surrounding the city, then down at the Potomac and the great expanse of roofs and leaves. The Washington Monument, the purest, coldest, most impersonal monument on earth, looked as gray as the sky, but its outlines were as sharp as at noonday. North often watched it from the window of his Committee Room; he had seen it rosy with the mists of sunset, as dark as granite under stormy skies, as waxen as death. Normally, it was white and pure and inspiring, never companionable, but helpful in its cold and lofty beauty.

"It is a monument," he thought, to-night, "and to more than Washington."

He turned into Massachusetts Avenue and strolled along, in no hurry to find himself between walls again. He was not conscious of physical fatigue, and experienced no longing for bed, but his brain was tired and he enjoyed the absence of enforced companionship and continued alertness, the cool air, the quiet morning in her last sleep.

Betty, like all brilliant women who love passionately, had over- imagined, in her solitude and excitement. It is true that North had felt the bitterness of defeat, that his mind had dwelt upon the miserable and blasting thought that after years of unquestioned statesmanship and leadership, of hard work and unremitting devotion, his will had had no weight against hysteria and delirium. But both bitterness and the sense of failure had been dismissed in the moment when he had, once for all, accepted the situation; and that had been several days before. Since then, he had shoved aside the past, and had given his undivided thought to the present and the future. He had uttered his "aye" almost indifferently; it had been given to the President days since.

Nevertheless, his brain, tired as it was, did not wander from the great climax in his country's history. To that country at large this climax meant simply a brief and arrogant chastisement of a cruel little nation; the generals would have been quite justified in sending their dress clothes and golf sticks on to Havana; but North knew that this officious "police duty" was the noisy prologue to a new United States, possibly to the birth of a new Constitution.

"Is this the grand finale of the people's rule?" he thought. "They have screamed for the moon as they never screamed before, and this time they have got it fairly between their teeth. Well, it is a dead old planet; will its decay vitiate their own blood and leave them the half-willing prey of a Circumstance they do not dream of now? Dewey will take the Philippines, of course. He would be an inefficient fool if he did not, and he is the reverse. The Spanish in Cuba will crumble almost before the world realizes that the war has begun. The United States will find itself sitting open-mouthed with two huge prizes in its lap. It may, in a fit of virtue which would convulse history, give them back, present them, with much good advice and more rhetoric, to their rightful owners. And it may not. These prizes are crusted with gold; and the stars and stripes will look so well in the breeze above that the pride of patriotism may decide they must remain there. And if it does—if it does... The extremists in the Senate will grow twenty years in one... With the bit between their teeth and the arrogance of triumph in their blood—"

He found himself in front of his own house. He turned slowly and looked intently for a moment toward I Street. His face softened, then he jerked out his latchkey, let himself in and went directly to the library. He still had no desire for bed, and threw himself into an easy-chair before the andirons. But it was the first time in several days that he had sat in a luxurious chair, and the room was full of soft warmth. He fell asleep, and although he seemed to awaken immediately, he could only conclude, when the experience which followed was over, that he had been dreaming.

He suddenly became aware that a chair beside him was occupied, and he wheeled about sharply. His sense of companionship was justified; a man sat there. North stared at him, more puzzled than surprised, endeavouring to fit the familiar face to some name on his long list of acquaintances, and wondering who in Washington could have given a fancy-dress ball that night. His visitor wore his hair in a queue and powdered, a stock of soft lawn, and a dress-coat of plum-coloured cloth cut as in the days of the founders of the Republic.

Although it was some moments before North recognized his visitor, his resentment at this unseasonable intrusion passed quickly; the personality in the chair was so charming, so magnetic, so genial. He was a young man, between thirty and forty, with a long nose, a mobile mouth, dark gray-blue eyes full of fire and humour, and a massive head. It was a face of extraordinary power and intellect, but lit up by a spirit so audacious and impulsive and triumphant that it was like a leaping flame of dazzling brilliancy in some forbidding fortress. He was smiling with a delighted expression of good fellowship; but North experienced a profound conviction that the man was weighing and analyzing him, that he would weigh and analyze everybody with whom he came in contact, and make few mistakes.

"Who the deuce can he be?" he thought, "and why doesn't he speak?" And then it occurred to him that he had not spoken, himself. He was about to inquire with somewhat perfunctory courtesy in what manner he could serve his visitor, when his glance fell on the man's hands. He sat erect with a slight exclamation and experienced a stiffening at the roots of his hair. The hands under the lace ruffles were the most beautiful that ever had been given to a man, even to as small a man as this. They were white and strong and delicate, with pointed fingers wide apart, and filbert nails. North knew them well, for they were the hands of the man whom he admired above all men in the history of his country. But until to-night he had seen them on canvas only, in the Treasury Department of the United States. His feeling of terror passed, and he sat forward eagerly.

"The little lion," he said caressingly, for the man before him might have been his son, although he had been in his tomb with a bullet in his heart for nearly a century. But he looked so young, so restless, so indomitable, that the years slipped out of the century, and Hamilton once more was the most brilliant ornament of a country which had never ceased to need him.

"Yes," he said brightly, "here I am, sir, and you see me at last. This is that one moment in the lifetime of the few when the spirit burns through the flesh and recognizes another spirit who has lost that dear and necessary medium. I have been with you a great deal in your life, but you never have been able to see me until to-night." He gave his head an impatient toss. "How I have wished I were alive during the last three or four months!" he exclaimed. "Not that I could have accomplished what you could not, sir, but it would have been such a satisfaction to have been able to make the effort, and then, when I failed, to tell democracy what I thought of it."

North smiled. All sense of the supernatural had left him. His soul and Hamilton's were face to face; that was the one glorified fact. "I have been tempted several times lately to wish that we had your aristocratic republic," he said, "and that I were the head and centre of it. I have felt a strong desire to wring the neck of that many- headed nuisance called 'the people,' and proceed as if it were where the God of nations intended those incapable of governing should be and remain without protest."

"Oh, yes, you are an aristocrat. That is the reason I have enjoyed the society of your mind all these years. You were so like me in many ways when you were my age, and since then I seem to have grown older with you. I died so young. But in you, in the last twenty years, I seem to have lived on. You have built an iron wall all round those terrible fires of your youth, and roofed it over. It is only now and then that a panel melts and the flame leaps out; and the panel is so quickly replaced! I too should have conquered myself like that and made fewer and fewer mistakes."

"God knows what I might not have been able to do for my country. I have been mad to leap into the arena often enough."

"You are not dead. No man is, whose inspiration lives on. More than one of us would be of shorter stature and shorter gait if we never had had your accomplishment to ponder over. And as to what the nation would have been without you—"

"Yes!" cried Hamilton. "Yes! How can any man of ability submit to death without protest, shrug his shoulders cynically, and say that no man's disappearance causes more than a whirl of bubbles on the surface, that the world goes on its old gait undisturbed, and does as well with the new as the old? Look at Great Britain. She hasn't a single great man in all her eleven million square miles to lead her. That is answer enough to a theory which some men are sincere enough in believing. This country always has needed great leaders, and sometimes she has had them and sometimes not. The time is coming when she will need them as she has not done since the days when three or four of us set her on her feet."

North stood up suddenly and looked down on Hamilton. "What are we coming to?" he asked abruptly. "Monarchy?"

The guest tapped the toe of his little slipper with the tips of his beautiful fingers. He laughed gayly. "I can see only a little farther ahead than your own far-penetrating brain, sir. What do you think?"

"As I walked home tonight, the situation possessed my mind, which by some process of its own seemed to develop link after link in coming events. It seemed to me that I saw a thoroughly disorganized people, unthinkingly but ruthlessly thrusting aside all ideals, and— consequently—in time—ready for anything."

Hamilton nodded, "If they had begun with my ideal, they would have remained there. Now they will leap far behind that—when there is a strong enough man down there in the White House. Certain radical changes, departures from their traditions and those of their fathers, will school them for greater changes still. In some great critical moment when a dictator seems necessary they will shrug their shoulders and say, 'Why not?'"

"I believe you are right, but I doubt if it comes in my time."

Hamilton shook his head. "Every state in Europe has its upper lip curled back above its teeth, and who knows, when the leashes snap, what our fate will be, now that we have practically abandoned our policy of non-interference in the affairs of the Eastern Hemisphere? If all Europe is at somebody's throat in the next five years, we shall not escape; be sure of that. Then will be the great man's opportunity. You always have despised the office of President. Work for it from this day. The reaction from this madness will help you. Democrats as well as Republicans will turn to you as the one man worthy of the confidence of the entire country."

"Not if they guessed that I meditated treason, sir. Nor should I. I agree with you that your ideal was the best, but there is nothing for me to do but to make the best of the one I've inherited. If I am aristocratic in my preferences, I am also a pretty thoroughgoing American."

"Yes, yes, I know, sir. You never will meditate what, if premeditated, would be treason. But when the great moment comes, when your patriotism and your statesmanship force you to admit that if the country is to be saved it must be rescued from the people, and that you alone can rescue it, then you will tear the Constitution down its middle. This country is past amendments. It must begin over again. And the whole great change must come from one man. The people never could be got to vote for an aristocratic republic. They must be stunned into accepting a monarchy. After the monarchy, then the real, the great Republic."

The two men looked long into each other's eyes. Then North said,—

"I repeat that I never should work nor scheme for the position that such a change might bring me. Nevertheless, believing, as I do, that we are on the threshold of a new and entirely different era in this country, if the time should come when I felt that I, as its most highly trained servant, could best serve the United States by taking her destinies entirely into my own hands, I should do so without an instant's hesitation. I have done all I could to preserve the old order for them, and they have called me traitor and gone their own way. Now let them take the consequences."

Hamilton set his mobile lips in a hard line. His eyes looked like steel. "Yes," he said harshly, "let them take the consequences. They had their day, they have gone mad with democracy, let them now die of their own poison. The greatest Republic the world ever will have known is only in the ante-room of its real history." He stood up suddenly and held out his hand. "Good-bye, sir," he said. "We may or may not meet again before you too are forced to abandon your work. But I often shall be close to you, and I believe, I firmly believe, that you will do exactly as I should do if I stood on solid ground to-day."

North took the exquisite hand that had written the greatest state papers of the century, and looked wonderingly at its white beauty. It suddenly gave him the grip of an iron vise. North returned the pressure. Then the strong hand melted from his, and he stood alone.

Exactly in what the transition from sleep to waking consisted, North was not able to define. There was a brief sense of change, including a lifting of heavy eyelids. Technically he awoke. But he was standing on the hearthrug. And his right hand ached.

He shrugged his shoulders.

"What difference does it make whether he appeared to my waking eyes or passed through my sleeping brain and sat down with my soul?"

He plunged his hands into his pockets and stood thinking for many minutes. He said, half aloud, finally,—

"Not in my time, perhaps. But it will come, it will come."



XVI



When Betty awoke at four o'clock in the afternoon, she discovered with some surprise that she had slept soundly for eleven hours. Her head was a trifle heavy, but after her bath she felt so fresh again that the previous day and night seemed like a very long and very ugly dream. She reflected that if she had not written to Burleigh before she went to bed she certainly should do so now. He still seemed the one safeguard for the future; she had convinced herself that with her capacity for violent emotion and nervous exaltation, her head was not to be trusted.

She felt calm enough this afternoon, and she opened with no enthusiasm the note which had arrived from Burleigh. She might have drawn some from its superabundant amount, but she frowned and threw it in the fire. Then she went to her mother's room and announced her engagement.

"My dear!" exclaimed Mrs. Madison. "Well!—I am delighted."

Then she looked keenly at Betty and withheld her congratulations. But she asked no questions, although the edge suddenly left her pleasure and she began to wonder if Burleigh were to be congratulated.

"He is coming to dinner," Betty continued, "and I want you to promise me that you will not leave us alone for a moment, and that you will go with me to New York to-morrow."

"I will do anything you like, of course, and I always enjoy New York."

"I want to get away from Washington, and I want to shop more than anything in life. I hate the thought of everything serious,—the country, the war, everybody and everything, and I feel that if I could spend two weeks with shops and dressmakers I'd be quite happy—almost my old self again."

"I wish you were," said Mrs. Madison, with a sigh. "I wish this country never had had any politics."

The instinct of coquetry was deeply rooted in Betty Madison, but that evening she selected her most unbecoming gown. She was one of those women who never look well in black, and look their worst in it when their complexion shows the tear of secret trouble and broken rest. She had a demi-toilette of black chiffon trimmed with jet and relieved about the neck with pink roses. She cut off the roses; and when arrayed had the satisfaction of seeing herself look thirty-five. For a moment she wavered, and Leontine, with tears, begged to be allowed to remove the gown; but Betty set her teeth and went downstairs.

She had the further satisfaction of seeing a brief flash of surprise and disappointment in Burleigh's eyes as he came forward to greet her; and, indeed, the gown seemed to depress the company for the entire evening. Betty tried to rattle on gayly, but the painful certainty that she looked thirty-five (perhaps more), and that Burleigh saw it, and her mother (who was visibly depressed) saw it, and the butler and the footman (both of whom, she knew through Leontine, admired her extravagantly) saw it, dashed her spirits to zero, and she fell into an unreasoning rage with Senator North.

"I am going to New York to-morrow, and you are not to follow me," she said with a final effort at playfulness. "I have been at such a nervous strain over this wretched war that I must be frivolous and feminine for two whole weeks—and what so serious as being engaged?"

Burleigh sighed. His spirits were unaccountably low. He had forgotten his country for an entire day, and rushed up to the house ten minutes before the appointed hour, his spirits as high as a boy's on his way to the cricket field. But his apple had turned to ashes in a funereal gown, and there seemed no colour about it anywhere.

"Of course you want a change," he said, "but I hope you will write to me."

"I'll write you a little note every day," she said with sudden contrition. "I know I'll feel—and look ever so much better in a few days."

"There!" she thought with a sigh, "I've made this wretched sacrifice for nothing, and I'll never forget how I'm looking at the present moment, to my dying day. I know I'll wear my most distracting gown the next time he comes. Well, what difference? I've got to marry him, anyhow."

She shook hands cordially with him when he rose to go, an hour later, but she did not leave her mother's side. He did not attempt to smile, but shook hands silently with both and left the room as rapidly as dignity would permit.

Mrs. Madison put her handkerchief to her eyes and burst into tears.

"Poor dear man!" she exclaimed. "I felt exactly as if we were having our last dinner together before he went off to the war to get killed. I never spent such a dismal evening in my life. And what on earth made you put on that horrid gown? You look a fright—you almost look older than he does."

"Don't turn the knife round, please. I'm rather sorry, to tell the truth, but I didn't want him to be too overjoyed. I couldn't have stood it."

"Are you sorry that you have engaged yourself to him?"

"No, I am glad—very glad." But she said it without enthusiasm. When she went up to her room, she presented the black gown to Leontine and sent her to bed. Then she put on a peignoir of pink silk and lace and examined herself in the mirror. She looked fifteen years younger and wholly charming; there was no doubt of it.



XVII



The next day, before starting for New York, she wrote a note to Senator North:—

I am going to marry Robert Burleigh. On Tuesday morning I almost went to your house—to bring you back with me here. I came to my senses in time; but I might not again. I want you to understand.

I wish he were not on the winning side. But he is the only man I can even think of marrying.

I do not think this much is disloyal to him. But I will not say other things. B. M.

Burleigh came to the train to see her off, and Betty looked so charming in her rich brown travelling frock and little turban, and smiled so gayly upon him, that his heavy spirit lifted its wings and he begged to be allowed to go to New York on Saturday. But to this she would not listen, and he was forced to content himself with making elaborate preparations for her comfort in the little drawing-room, and buying a copy of every paper and magazine the newsboy had on sale.

"I am sure he will make an ideal husband," said Mrs. Madison, as she waved her hand to him from the window. "He certainly is very much of a man," admitted Betty, "but what on earth are we to do with all these papers? I haven't room to turn round."

The excitement in Washington, great as it was, had been mostly within doors; in New York it appeared to be entirely in the streets, if one excepted the corridors of the hotels. The population, still pale and nervously talkative, surged up and down the sidewalks. On the morrow the city put forth her hundred thousand flags. The very air seemed to turn to stars and stripes.

The Madisons went to the Waldorf-Astoria, and in its refreshing solitudes felt for the first time in months that they must go in search of excitement if they wanted it; none would reach them here.

"Now that the war is declared, I am sorry;" admitted Mrs. Madison, "for so many Americans will be killed."

"Instead of Cubans. I've done with the war. I won't even regret."

For three days Betty shopped furiously, or held long consultations with her dressmaker. On Sunday, after church, she read to her mother, but refused to discuss her engagement, and on Monday she resumed her shopping. She wrote to Burleigh immediately after breakfast every morning, then dismissed him from her mind for twenty-four hours.

The beautiful spring fabrics were in the shops, and she bought so many things she did not want, even for a trousseau, that she wondered if Mrs. Mudd would accept a trunk full of "things." She envied Mrs. Mudd, and would find a contradictory pleasure in making her happy. Miss Trumbull never had manifested any false pride, and matrimony had altered her little in other ways.

At night she slept very well, and if she did not think of Burleigh, neither would she think of Senator North.

She did not open a newspaper. What the country did now had no interest for her; it was marching to its drums, and nothing could stop it. And she would have her fill of politics for the rest of her natural life. As Mrs. Madison always was content with a novel, she made no complaint at the absence of newspapers, particularly as the fighting had not begun. Moreover, Betty took her to the theatre every evening, a dissipation which her invalidism endured without a protest.

It was on Wednesday afternoon that Betty, returning to her rooms, met Sally Carter in a corridor of the hotel. The two girls kissed as if no war had come between them, and Miss Carter announced that she was going to Cuba to nurse the American soldier.

"I almost feel conscience-stricken," she remarked, "now that we actually are in for it. I don't think I believed it ever really could happen. It was more like a great drama that was about to take place somewhere on the horizon. But if the American boys have to be shot, I'm going to be there to do what I can."

They entered the parlor of Mrs. Madison's suite, and that good lady, who had read until her eyes ached, welcomed Sally with effusion and demanded news of Washington.

"We haven't seen a paper or a soul," she said. "We have our meals up here, and I feel as if I were a Catholic in retreat. It's been a relief in a way, especially after the salon, but I should like to know if Washington has burned down, or anything."

"Washington is still there and still excited," said Miss Carter, dropping into a chair and taking off her hat, which she ran the pin through and flung on the floor. "How it keeps it up is beyond the comprehension of one poor set of nerves. I am now dead to all emotion and longing for work. I'm even sorry I painted my best French handkerchiefs red, white, and blue. If you haven't seen the papers I suppose you don't know that Mrs. North is dead. She died suddenly of paralysis on the twenty-second. The strength she got in the Adirondacks soon began to leave her by degrees; the doctor—who is mine, you know—told me the other day that it meant nothing but a temporary improvement at any time; but he had hoped that she would live for several years yet. Betty, what on earth do you find so interesting in Fifth Avenue? I hate it, with its sixty different architectures."

"But it looks so beautiful with all the flags," said Betty, "and the one opposite is really magnificent."

It was a half-hour before Sally ceased from chattering and went in search of her father. Betty had managed to control both her face and her knees, and listened as politely as a person may who longs to strangle the intruder and achieve solitude. The moment Sally had gone Betty went straight to her room, avoiding her mother's eyes, which turned themselves intently upon her.

She did not reappear for dinner, as her mother was made cheerful by the society of the Carters; but as Sally passed her room on her way to bed, she called her in, and the two girls had a few moments' conversation.



XVIII



"Molly," said Betty, the next morning, "I should like to go up to the Adirondacks alone for a few weeks. Would you mind staying here with the Colonel and Sally for another ten days and then returning with them? Sally says she will move into my room and that she and the Colonel will take you to the theatre and do everything they can to make you happy. You know the Colonel delights to be with you."

"I understand, of course, that you are going," said Mrs. Madison. "I shall not be bored, if that is what you mean. I hope you will telegraph at once, so that the house will be warmed at least a day before you arrive. I suppose you have got to a point in your affairs where you must have solitude, but I wish you had not, and I wish you would go where it is warmer."

"Oh, I shall be comfortable enough." She added in a moment, "Don't think I do not appreciate your consideration, for I do."

Then she sat down at the desk and wrote a note to Burleigh. It was a brief epistle, but she was a long while writing it. Her previous notes had been dashed off in ten minutes, and usually related to the play of the previous evening. His replies had been a curious mingling of half- offended pride and a passion which was only restrained by the fear that the lady was not yet ready for it.

Finally Betty concocted the missive to the satisfaction of her mind's diplomatic condition. She had not yet brought herself to begin any of her notes to him formally. "Dear Robert" was as yet unnatural, and "Dear Mr. Burleigh" absurd; so she ignored the convention.

"I suddenly have made up my mind to go to the Adirondacks for a month, quite alone," she wrote. "When one is going to take a tremendous step, one needs solitude that one may do a great deal of hard thinking. I don't wonder that some Catholic women go into retreat. At all events, Washington, 'the world,' even my mother, even you, who always are so kind and considerate, seem impossible to me at present; and if I am to live with some one else for the rest of my life, I must have one uninterrupted month of solitary myself. Doubtless that will do me till the end of my time! So would you mind if I asked you not even to write to me? I have enjoyed your notes so much, but I want to feel absolutely alone. Don't think this is petty egoism. It goes far deeper than that! If we ever are to understand each other I am sure I need not explain myself further. B. M."

"It has a rather heartless ring," she thought with a sigh, "but it will intrigue him, and—who knows? As heaven is my witness, I do not. But I do know this, that unless I get away from them all and fairly inside of myself, whatever I do will seem the wrong thing and I might end by making a dramatic fool of myself."



XIX



The ice was on the lake this time, although it was melting rapidly, but the sun shone all day. She had to wear her furs in the woods, but the greens had never looked so vivid and fresh, and save for an occasional woodchopper and her own servants, there was not a soul to be met in that high solitude. The hotel across the lake would not open for a month. Even the birds still lingered in the South.

After she had been alone for two days she wondered why, when in trouble before, she had not turned instinctively to solitude in the forest. It is only the shallow mind that dislikes and fears the lonely places of Nature: the intellect, no matter what vapours may be sent up from the heart, finds not only solace in retirement, but another form of that companionship of the ego which the deeply religious find in retreat. The intellectual may lack the supreme self-satisfaction of the religious, but they find a keen pleasure in being able to make the very most of the results of years of consistent effort.

Betty, whether alone by a roaring fire of pine cones in the living- room, or wandering along the edge of the lake in the cold brilliant sunshine, or in the more mysterious depths of the forest, listening to the silence or watching the drops of light fall through the matted treetops, felt more at peace with the world than she had done since her fatal embarkation on the political sea. She put the memory of Harriet Walker, insistent at first, impatiently aside, and in a day or two that shadow crept back to its grave.

For a few days her mind, in its grateful repose, hesitated to grapple with the question which had sent her to the mountains; and on one of them, while thinking idly on the great political questions which had magnetized so much of her thought during the past year, the inspiration for which she had so often longed shot up from the concentrated results of thinking and experience, and revealed in what manner she could be of service to her country. This was, whatever her personal life, to gather about her, once a week, as many bright boys of her own condition as she could find, and interest and educate them in the principles of patriotic statesmanship. With her own burning interest in the subject and her personal fascination, she could accomplish far more than any weary professor could do.

She had come up to these fastnesses to decide the future happiness of one or two of three people, and she felt sober enough; but for almost a week she wished that she could live here alone for the rest of her life: she believed that in time she would be serenely content. She had the largest capacity for human happiness, but she guessed that the imagination could be so trained that when far from worldly conditions it could create a world of its own, and would shrink more and more from the practical realities. For Imagination has the instinct of a nun in its depths and loves the cloister of a picturesque solitude. It is a Fool's Paradise, but not inferior to the one which mortals are at liberty to enter and ruin.

But Betty could not live here alone, she could not ignore her responsibilities in any such primitive fashion; and so long as her heart was alive it would make battle for real and tangible happiness.

She had a question to decide which involved not only the heart but the mind: if she made a mistake now, she would be at odds with her higher faculties for the rest of her life. She dreaded the sophistry which sat on either side of the subject; and it was a question whether the very strength of her impulse toward the man she had loved for a year was not the strongest argument in its favour.

But she had given her word to another man, and she had the high and almost fanatical sense of honour of the Southern race. On the other hand, she had a practical modern brain, and during the last year she had been living in close contact with much hard common-sense. She had imagination, and she knew that she already had made Burleigh suffer deeply, and had it in her power to raise that suffering to acuteness; and if that buoyant nature were soured, a useful career might be seriously impaired. On the other hand, she had made a greater man more miserable still, and while he was finding life black enough she had rushed into the camp of the enemy; and his capacity for suffering was far deeper and more enduring than that of the younger man.

She tried to put herself as much aside from the question as possible, but she had her rights and they made themselves heard. She knew, had known at once, that she had outraged all she held most dear, in engaging herself to one man when she loved another, and she had begun to wonder—in irresistible flashes—before the news had come which sent her to the mountains, if she should falter at the last moment. But breeding has carried many a woman over the ploughshares of life, and her mind was probably strong enough to go on to the inevitable without theatric climax. At the same time the idea of marriage with one man when she loved another was abhorrent; that it was particularly so since marriage with the other had become possible, she understood perfectly. And although she continued to reason and to argue, she had a lurking suspicion that while she might be strong enough to conquer a desire she might not be able to conquer a physical revolt, and that it would rout her standards and decide the issue.

She had made up her mind that she would hesitate for a month and no longer, and she also had determined that she would decide the question for herself and throw none of the responsibility on Senator North; she felt the impulse to write to him impersonally more than once. (Perhaps her sense of humour also restrained her.) She wondered if it were one year or twenty years since she had gone to him for advice; and she knew that whichever way she decided, the desire for his good opinion would have something to do with it.

There are only a certain number of arguments in any brain, and after they have been reiterated a sufficient number of times they pall. From argument Betty lapsed naturally into meditation, and the subject of these meditations, tender, regretful, and impassioned, was one man only; and Burleigh had no place in them. Occasionally she forced him into her mind, but he seemed as anxious to get out as she was to drive him; and after the ice melted and she was able to spend hours on the lake, and rest under spreading oaks, where she had only to shut her eyes to imagine herself companioned, she felt herself unfaithful if she cast a solitary thought to Burleigh.

At the end of the month she was not tired of solitude, but she was tired of her intellectual attitude. She was human first and mental afterward; and she wanted nothing on earth but to be the wife of the man whom she had loved for a lifetime in a year. The moment she formulated this wish, hesitation fled and she could not wind up her engagement with Burleigh rapidly enough. Her letter, however, was very sweet and apologetic, and it was also very honest. She knew that unless she told him she loved another man and intended to marry him, he would take the next train for the Adirondacks and plead his cause in person. His reply was characteristic.

"Very well," it ran. "I do not pretend to say I was not prepared after your last letter from New York. And although I could not guess your motive in accepting me, I knew that you did not love me. But if I am not overwhelmed with surprise, the pain is no easier on that account, and will not be until the grass has had time to grow over it a little. And at least it is a relief to know the worst. Of course I forgive you. I doubt if any man could feel bitterly toward you. You compel too much love for that.

"Don't worry about me. I have work enough to do—a State to talk sense into and a nation to which to devote my poor energies. My brain such as it is will be constantly occupied, which is the next best good a man can have." ROBERT BURLEIGH.

Betty wrote him four pages of enthusiastic friendliness in reply, and paid him the compliment of postponing her letter to Senator North until the following day.

But on that day she rose with the feeling that the sun never would set.

She was as brief as possible, for she knew that he hated long letters. Nevertheless, she conveyed an exact impression of her weeks of deliberation and analysis.

"I want you to understand," she went on, "that my only wish when I came here for solitary thought was to do the right thing, irrespective of my own wishes in the matter. But it seems to me there is exactly as much to be said on one side as on the other, and it all comes to this: right or wrong, I have decided for you because I love you; and if you no longer can admire me, if you think that I have violated my sense of honour, then at least I shall marry no one else. B. M."

And as her imagination was strong she did allow herself to be tortured by doubts during the three days that elapsed before she heard from him. She had hoped he would telegraph, but he did not, and her imagination and her common-sense had a long and indecisive argument which threatened ultimate depression. On the third night, however, a messenger from the hotel opposite brought her a note from Senator North.

"I don't know that your mental exercise has done you any harm," he had written, "but it certainly was thrown away. You have too much common- sense and too thorough a capacity for loving to do anything so foolish or so outrageous as to marry the wrong man. If you had followed a romantic impulse—induced by nervous excitement—and married him the day you learned that your word might be put to too severe a test, you would have been miserable, and so would Burleigh. A mistaken sense of duty has been the cause of quite one fourth of the unhappiness of mankind, and few have been so bigoted as not to acknowledge this when too late. And a broken engagement is a small injustice to a man compared to a lifetime with an unloving wife. Burleigh is unhappy now, but it is no lack of admiration which prompts me to say that if he had married you he would have been unhappier still. You could do nothing by halves.

"Formalities with us would be an affectation unworthy of either, and I have come to you at once. I knew that you would send for me, but I preferred to wait until you wrote that your engagement was broken. What I felt when I received your note announcing it, I leave to your imagination, and I forgot it as quickly as possible. I understood perfectly, but you exaggerated the dangers; for my love for you is so great and so absorbing, so complete in all its parts, that nothing but marriage would satisfy me. I should have preferred a memory to a failure.

"If your mother were with you, I should go over to-night. But I shall wait for you at five to-morrow morning where you were in the habit of letting me board your boat. And the day will not be long enough! R. N."

Betty slept little that night, but felt no lack of freshness the next morning when she rose shortly after four. A broken night meant little to her now, and happiness would have stimulated every faculty if she had not slept for a week.

She rowed swiftly across the lake. It was almost June now, and the warmth of summer was in the air, the paler greens among the grim old trees of the forest. The birds had come from the South and were singing to the accompaniment of the pines, the roar of distant cataracts; and yet the world seemed still. The stars were white and faint; the moon was tangled in a treetop on the highest peak.

He might have been the only man awake as he stood with the forest behind him, and she recalled her fancy that although her horizon was thick with flying mist his figure stood there, immovable, always. He looked as if he had not moved since he stood there last, but the mist was gone.

As he stepped into the boat, she moved back that he might take the oars.

"I have on a white frock, and a blue ribbon in my hair," she said nervously, but smiling, "else I could not have forgotten that a year has come and gone."

He too was smiling. "I think it is the only year we ever shall want to forget," he said. And he rowed up the lake.

THE END.

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