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- Senator North - 2/56 -


not. I'm sick of blue blood, anyway. Vienna was the deadliest place I ever visited. What makes London interesting is its red streak of plebeianism;--well, I repeat, I think it really dreadful that we should not know even by name the men who make our laws, who are making history, who may be called upon at any moment to decide our fate among nations. I feel a silly little fool."

"I suppose you mean that I am one too. But it always has been my boast, Betty, that I never have had a politician in my house. Your father knew some, but he never brought them here; he knew the fastidious manner in which I had been brought up; and although I am afraid he kept late hours with a good many of them at Chamberlin's and other dreadful places, he always spared me. I suppose this is heredity working out in you."

"Possibly. But you will admit, will you not, that I am old enough to choose my own life?"

"You always have done every single thing you wanted, so I don't see why you talk like that. But if you are going to bring a lot of men to this house who will spit on my carpets and use toothpicks, I beg you will not ask me to receive with you." "Of course you will receive with me, Molly dear--when I know anybody worth receiving. Unfortunately I am not the wife of the President and cannot send out a royal summons. I am hoping that Lady Mary Montgomery will help me. But my first step shall be to pay a daily visit to the Senate Gallery."

"What!" Mrs. Madison's weary voice flew to its upper register. "I _do_ know something about politics--I remember now--the only women who go to the Capitol are lobbyists--dreadful creatures who--who--do all sorts of things. You can't go there; you'll be taken for one."

"We none of us are taken very long for what we are not. I shall take Leontine with me, and those interested enough to notice me will soon learn what I go for."

Mrs. Madison burst into tears. "You are your father all over again! I've seen it developing for at least three years. At first you were just a hard student, and then the loveliest young girl, only caring to have a good time, and coquetting more bewitchingly than any girl I ever saw. I don't see why you had to change."

"Time develops all of us, one way or another. I suppose you would like me to be a charming girl flirting bewitchingly when I am forty-five. I am finished with the meaningless things of life. I want to live now, and I intend to."

"It will be wildly exciting--the Senate Gallery every day, and knowing a lot of lank raw-boned Yankees with political beards." "I am not expecting to fall in love with any of them. I merely discovered some time since that I had a brain, and they happen to be the impulse that possesses it. You always have prided yourself that I am intellectual, and so I am in the flabby 'well-read' fashion. I feel as if my brain had been a mausoleum for skeletons and mummies; it felt alive for the first time when I began to read the newspapers in England. I want no more memoirs and letters and biographies, nor even of the history that is shut up in calf-skin. I want the life of to-day. I want to feel in the midst of current history. All these men here in Washington must be alive to their finger-tips. Sally Carter admires Senator North and Senator Maxwell immensely."

"What does she say about politicians in general?" Mrs. Madison looked almost distraught. "Of course the Norths and the Maxwells come of good New England families--I never did look down on the North as much as some of us did; after all, nearly three hundred years are very respectable indeed--and if these two men had not been in politics I should have been delighted to receive them. I met Senator North once-- at Bar Harbor, while you were with the Carters at Homburg--and thought him charming; and I had some most interesting chats with his wife, who is much the same sort of invalid that I am. But when I establish a standard I am consistent enough to want to keep to it. I asked you what Sally Carter says of the others."

"Oh, she admits that there may be others as _convenable_ as Senator North and Senator Maxwell, and that there is no doubt about there being many bright men in the Senate; but she 'does not care to know any more people.' Being a good cave-dweller, she is true to her traditions."

"People will say you are _passee,_" exclaimed Mrs. Madison, hopefully. "They will be sure to."

Her daughter laughed, showing teeth as brilliant as her eyes. Then she snatched off her riding-hat and shook down her mane of warm brown hair. Her black brows and lashes, like her eyes and mouth, were vivid, but her hair and complexion were soft, without lustre, but very warm. She looked like a flower set on so strongly sapped a stem that her fullness would outlast many women's decline. She had inherited the beauty of her father's branch of the family. Mrs. Madison was very small and thin; but she carried herself erectly and her delicately cut face was little wrinkled. Her eyes were blue, and her hair, which was always carefully rolled, was as white as sea foam. Betty would not permit her to wear black, but dressed her in delicate colours, and she looked somewhat like an animated miniature. She dabbed impatiently at her tears.

"Everybody will cut you--if you go into that dreadful political set."

"I am on the verge of cutting everybody myself, so it doesn't matter. Positively--I shall not accept an invitation of the old sort this winter. The sooner they drop me the better."

Mrs. Madison wept bitterly. "You will become a notorious woman," she sobbed. "People will talk terribly about you. They will say--all sorts of things I have heard come back to me--these politicians make love to every pretty woman they meet. They are so tired of their old frumps from Oshkosh and Kalamazoo." "They do not all come from Oshkosh and Kalamazoo. There are six New England States whose three centuries you have just admitted lift them into the mists of antiquity. There are fourteen Southern States, and I need make no defence--"

"Their gentlemen don't go into politics any more."

"You have admitted that Senator North and Senator Maxwell are gentlemen. There is no reason why there should not be many more."

"Count de Bellairs told me that there was a spittoon at every desk in the Senate and that he counted eight toothpicks in one hour."

"Well, I'll reform them. That will be my holy mission. As for spittoons and toothpicks, they are conspicuous in every hotel in the United States. They should be on our coat-of-arms, and the Great American Novel will be called 'The Great American Toothpick.' Statesmen have cut their teeth on it, and it has been their solace in the great crises of the nation's history. As for spittoons, they were invented for our own Southern aristocrats who loved tobacco then as now. They decorate our Capitol as a mere matter of form. I don't pretend to hope that ninety representative Americans are Beau Brummels, but there must be a respectable minority of gentlemen-- whether self-made or not I don't care. I am going to make a deliberate attempt to know that minority, and shall call on Lady Mary Montgomery this afternoon as the first step. So you are resigned, are you not, Molly dear?"

"No, I am not! But what can I do? I have spoiled you, and you would be just the same if I hadn't. You are more like the men of the family than the women--they always would have their own way. Are they all married?" she added anxiously.

"Do you mean the ninety Senators and the three hundred and fifty-six Representatives? I am sure I do not know. Don't let that worry you. It is my mind that is on the _qui vive_, not my heart."

"You'll hear some old fool make a Websterian speech full of periods and rhetoric, and you'll straight-way imagine yourself in love with him. Your head will be your worst enemy when you do fall in love."

"Webster is the greatest master of style this country has produced. I should hate a man who used either 'periods' or rhetoric. I am the concentrated essence of modernism and have no use for 'oratory' or 'eloquence.' Some of the little speeches in the Record are masterpieces of brevity and pure English, particularly Senator North's."

"You _are_ modern. If we had a Clay, I could understand you--I am too exhausted to discuss the matter further; you _must_ drop it for the present. What will Jack Emory say?"

"I have never given him the least right to say anything."

"I almost wish you were safely married to him. He has not made a great success of his life, but he is your equal and his manners are perfect. I shall live in constant fear now of your marrying a horror with a twang and a toothpick."

"I promise you I won't do that--and that I never will marry Jack Emory."

II

Betty Madison had exercised a great deal of self-control in resisting the natural impulse to cultivate a fad and grapple with a problem. Only her keen sense of humour saved her. On the Sunday following her return, while sauntering home after a long restless tramp about the city, she passed a church which many coloured people were entering. Her newly awakened curiosity in all things pertaining to the political life of her country prompted her to follow them and sit through the service. The clergyman was light in colour, and prayed and preached in simpler and better English than she had heard in more pretentious pulpits, but there was nothing noteworthy, in his remarks beyond a supplication to the Almighty to deliver the negro from the oppression of the "Southern tyrant," followed by an admonition to the negro to improve himself in mind and character if he would hope to compete with the Whites; bitter words and violence but weakened his cause.

This was sound commonsense, but the reverse of the sensational entertainment Betty had half expected, and her eyes wandered from the preacher to his congregation. There were all shades of Afro-American colour and all degrees of prosperity represented. Coal-black women were there, attired in deep and expensive mourning. "Yellow girls" wore smart little tailor costumes. Three young girls, evidently of the lower middle class of coloured society, for they were cheaply dressed, had all the little airs and graces and mannerisms of the typical American girl. In one corner a sleek mulatto with a Semitic profile sat in the recognized attitude of the banker in church; filling his


Senator North - 2/56

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