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Mark Twain > The Gilded Age > Chapter XX

The Gilded Age

Chapter XX


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
race.

"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
them."

"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
speculations fruitful."

"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
this being."

"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
is."

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--
(more applause)."

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
it.

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
empty----"

"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
eagerly accepted.

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
Senator Dilworthy.

"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
carry him.

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.

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