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Mark Twain > The Gilded Age > Chapter XXIII

The Gilded Age

Chapter XXIII



             "O see ye not yon narrow road
             So thick beset wi' thorns and briers?
             That is the Path of Righteousness,
             Though after it but few inquires.

             "And see ye not yon braid, braid road,
             That lies across the lily leven?
             That is the Path of Wickedness,
             Though some call it the road to Heaven."

                                             Thomas the Rhymer.

Phillip and Harry reached New York in very different states of mind.
Harry was buoyant. He found a letter from Col. Sellers urging him to go
to Washington and confer with Senator Dilworthy. The petition was in his
hands.

It had been signed by everybody of any importance in Missouri, and would
be presented immediately.

"I should go on myself," wrote the Colonel, "but I am engaged in the
invention of a process for lighting such a city as St. Louis by means of
water; just attach my machine to the water-pipes anywhere and the
decomposition of the fluid begins, and you will have floods of light for
the mere cost of the machine. I've nearly got the lighting part, but I
want to attach to it a heating, cooking, washing and ironing apparatus.
It's going to be the great thing, but we'd better keep this appropriation
going while I am perfecting it."

Harry took letters to several congressmen from his uncle and from Mr.
Duff Brown, each of whom had an extensive acquaintance in both houses
where they were well known as men engaged in large private operations for
the public good and men, besides, who, in the slang of the day,
understood the virtues of "addition, division and silence."

Senator Dilworthy introduced the petition into the Senate with the remark
that he knew, personally, the signers of it, that they were men
interested; it was true, in the improvement of the country, but he
believed without any selfish motive, and that so far as he knew the
signers were loyal. It pleased him to see upon the roll the names of
many colored citizens, and it must rejoice every friend of humanity to
know that this lately emancipated race were intelligently taking part in
the development of the resources of their native land. He moved the
reference of the petition to the proper committee.

Senator Dilworthy introduced his young friend to influential members,
as a person who was very well informed about the Salt Lick Extension of
the Pacific, and was one of the Engineers who had made a careful survey
of Columbus River; and left him to exhibit his maps and plans and to show
the connection between the public treasury, the city of Napoleon and
legislation for the benefit off the whole country.

Harry was the guest of Senator Dilworthy. There was scarcely any good
movement in which the Senator was not interested. His house was open to
all the laborers in the field of total abstinence, and much of his time
was taken up in attending the meetings of this cause. He had a Bible
class in the Sunday school of the church which he attended, and he
suggested to Harry that he might take a class during the time he remained
in Washington, Mr. Washington Hawkins had a class. Harry asked the
Senator if there was a class of young ladies for him to teach, and after
that the Senator did not press the subject.

Philip, if the truth must be told, was not well satisfied with his
western prospects, nor altogether with the people he had fallen in with.
The railroad contractors held out large but rather indefinite promises.
Opportunities for a fortune he did not doubt existed in Missouri, but for
himself he saw no better means for livelihood than the mastery of the
profession he had rather thoughtlessly entered upon. During the summer
he had made considerable practical advance in the science of engineering;
he had been diligent, and made himself to a certain extent necessary to
the work he was engaged on. The contractors called him into their
consultations frequently, as to the character of the country he had been
over, and the cost of constructing the road, the nature of the work, etc.

Still Philip felt that if he was going to make either reputation or money
as an engineer, he had a great deal of hard study before him, and it is
to his credit that he did not shrink from it. While Harry was in
Washington dancing attendance upon the national legislature and making
the acquaintance of the vast lobby that encircled it, Philip devoted
himself day and night, with an energy and a concentration he was capable
of, to the learning and theory of his profession, and to the science of
railroad building. He wrote some papers at this time for the "Plow, the
Loom and the Anvil," upon the strength of materials, and especially upon
bridge-building, which attracted considerable attention, and were copied
into the English "Practical Magazine." They served at any rate to raise
Philip in the opinion of his friends the contractors, for practical men
have a certain superstitious estimation of ability with the pen, and
though they may a little despise the talent, they are quite ready to make
use of it.

Philip sent copies of his performances to Ruth's father and to other
gentlemen whose good opinion he coveted, but he did not rest upon his
laurels. Indeed, so diligently had he applied himself, that when it came
time for him to return to the West, he felt himself, at least in theory,
competent to take charge of a division in the field.

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