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Mark Twain > The Gilded Age > Chapter LII

The Gilded Age

Chapter LII


The weeks drifted by monotonously enough, now. The "preliminaries"
continued to drag along in Congress, and life was a dull suspense to
Sellers and Washington, a weary waiting which might have broken their
hearts, maybe, but for the relieving change which they got out of am
occasional visit to New York to see Laura. Standing guard in Washington
or anywhere else is not an exciting business in time of peace, but
standing guard was all that the two friends had to do; all that was
needed of them was that they should be on hand and ready for any
emergency that might come up. There was no work to do; that was all
finished; this was but the second session of the last winter's Congress,
and its action on the bill could have but one result--its passage. The
house must do its work over again, of course, but the same membership was
there to see that it did it.--The Senate was secure--Senator Dilworthy
was able to put all doubts to rest on that head. Indeed it was no secret
in Washington that a two-thirds vote in the Senate was ready and waiting
to be cast for the University bill as soon as it should come before that
body.

Washington did not take part in the gaieties of "the season," as he had
done the previous winter. He had lost his interest in such things; he
was oppressed with cares, now. Senator Dilworthy said to Washington that
an humble deportment, under punishment, was best, and that there was but
one way in which the troubled heart might find perfect repose and peace.
The suggestion found a response in Washington's breast, and the Senator
saw the sign of it in his face.

From that moment one could find the youth with the Senator even oftener
than with Col. Sellers. When the statesman presided at great temperance
meetings, he placed Washington in the front rank of impressive
dignitaries that gave tone to the occasion and pomp to the platform.
His bald headed surroundings made the youth the more conspicuous.

When the statesman made remarks in these meetings, he not infrequently
alluded with effect to the encouraging spectacle of one of the wealthiest
and most brilliant young favorites of society forsaking the light
vanities of that butterfly existence to nobly and self-sacrificingly
devote his talents and his riches to the cause of saving his hapless
fellow creatures from shame and misery here and eternal regret hereafter.
At the prayer meetings the Senator always brought Washington up the aisle
on his arm and seated him prominently; in his prayers he referred to him
in the cant terms which the Senator employed, perhaps unconsciously, and
mistook, maybe, for religion, and in other ways brought him into notice.
He had him out at gatherings for the benefit of the negro, gatherings for
the benefit of the Indian, gatherings for the benefit of the heathen in
distant lands. He had him out time and again, before Sunday Schools,
as an example for emulation. Upon all these occasions the Senator made
casual references to many benevolent enterprises which his ardent young
friend was planning against the day when the passage of the University
bill should make his means available for the amelioration of the
condition of the unfortunate among his fellow men of all nations and all.
climes. Thus as the weeks rolled on Washington grew up, into an imposing
lion once more, but a lion that roamed the peaceful fields of religion
and temperance, and revisited the glittering domain of fashion no more.
A great moral influence was thus brought, to bear in favor of the bill;
the weightiest of friends flocked to its standard; its most energetic
enemies said it was useless to fight longer; they had tacitly surrendered
while as yet the day of battle was not come.

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