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“Louise out there?”
“Oh, I see—you had to come-claim against the Government. Make yourself perfectly easy—I'll take care of that.”
“ But it isn't a claim against the Government.”
“No? Want to be a postmaster? That's all right. Leave it to me. I'll fix it."
“But it isn't postmaster--you're all astray yet."
“Well, good gracious, Washington, why don't you come out and tell me what it is ? What do you want to be so reserved and distrustful with an old friend like me for ? Don't
reckon I can keep a se"There's no secret about it—you merely don't give me a chance to
“Now, look here, old friend, I know the human race ; and I know that when a man comes to Washington, I don't care if it's from heaven, let alone Cherokee Strip, it's because he wants something. And I know that as a rule he's not going to get it; that he'll stay and try for another thing and won't get that; the same luck with the next and the next and the next; and keeps on till he strikes bottom, and is too poor and ashamed to go back, even to Cherokee Strip; and at last his heart breaks and they take up a collection and bury him. There--don't interrupt me, I know what I'm talking about. Happy and prosperous in the Far West, wasn't I? You know that. Principal citizen of Hawkeye, looked up to by everybody, kind of an autocrat, actually a kind of an autocrat, Washington. Well, nothing would do but I must go as Minister to St. James's, the Governor and everybody insisting, you know, and so at last I consented—no getting out of it, had to do it, so here I came. A day too late, Washington. Think of that—what little things change the world's history—yes, sir, the place had been filled. Well, there I was, you see. I offered to compromise and go to Paris. The President was very sorry and all that, but that place, you see, didn't belong to the West, so there I was again. There was no help for it, so I had to stoop a little —we all reach the day some time or other when we've got to do that, Washington, and it's not a bad thing for us, either, take it by and large all around—I had to stoop a little and offer to take Constantinople, Washington, consider this—for it's perfectly true—within a month I asked for China; within another month I begged for Japan ; one year later I was away down, down, down, supplicating with tears and anguish for the bottom office in the gift of the Government of the United States—Flint-picker in the cellars of the War Department. And by George I didn't get it."
Yes. Office established in the time of the Revolution, last century. The musket-flints for the military posts were supplied from the capitol. They do it yet; for although the flint-arm has gone out and the forts have tumbled down, the decree hasn't been repealed-been overlooked and forgotten, you see—and so the vacancies where old Ticonderoga and others used to stand still get their six quarts of gun-flints a year just the same.”
Washington said musingly after a pause :
“How strange it seems—to start for Minister to England at twenty thousand a year and fail for flint-picker at
“ Three dollars a week. It's human life, Washingtonjust an epitome of human ambition, and struggle, and the outcome; you aim for the palace and get drowned in the sewer.”
There was another meditative silence. Then Washington said, with earnest compassion in his voice
“ And so, after coming here, against your inclination, to
satisfy your sense of patriotic duty and appease a selfish public clamour, you get absolutely nothing for it.”
"Nothing?" The Colonel had to get up and stand, to get room for his amazement to expand. “Nothing, Washington? I ask you this : to be a Perpetual Member and the only Perpetual Member of a Diplomatic Body accredited to the greatest country on earth—do you call that nothing ?”
It was Washington's turn to be amazed. stricken dumb; but the wide-eyed wonder, the reverent admiration expressed in his face, were more eloquent than any words could have been. The Colonel's wounded spirit was healed, and he resumed his seat, pleased and content. He leaned forward and said, impressively
“What was due to a man who had become for ever conspicuous by an experience without precedent in the history of the world ?--a man made permanently and diplomatically sacred, so to speak, by having been connected, temporarily, through solicitation, with every single diplomatic post in the roster of this government, from Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of St. James all the way down to Consul to a guano rock in the Straits of Sunda--salary payable in guanowhich disappeared by volcanic convulsion the day before they got down to my name in the list of applicants. Certainly something august enough to be answerable to the size of this unique and memorable experience was my due, and I got it. By the common voice of this community, by acclamation of the people, that mighty utterance which brushes aside laws and legislation, and from whose decrees there is no appeal, I was named Perpetual Member of the Diplomatic Body, representing the multifarious sovereignties and civilisations of the globe near the republican court of the United States of America. And they brought me home with a torchlight procession."
“ It is wonderful, Colonel—simply wonderful.”
“You have named the word. Think of it. I frown, and there is war; I smile, and contending nations lay down their arms."
“It is awful. The responsibility, I mean."
"It is nothing. Responsibility is no burden to me; I am used to it; have always been used to it.”
“And the work—the work! Do you have to attend all the sittings ?”
“Who, I? Does the Emperor of Russia attend the conclaves of the governors of the provinces ? He sits at home and indicates his pleasure."
Washington was silent a moment, then a deep sigh escaped him.
“How proud I was an hour ago; how paltry seems my little promotion now! Colonel, the reason I came to Washington is — I am Congressional Delegate from Cherokee Strip!”
The Colonel sprang to his feet and broke out with prodigious enthusiasm
“Give me your hand, my boy—this is immense news ! I congratulate you with all my heart. My prophecies stand confirmed. I always said it was in you. I always said you were born for high distinction and would achieve it. You ask Polly if I didn't.”
Washington was dazed by this most unexpected demonstration.
“Why, Colonel, there's nothing to it. That little, narrow, desolate, unpeopled, oblong streak of grass and gravel, lost in the remote wastes of the vast continent—why, it's like representing a billiard table--a discarded one.”
“ Tut-tut, it's a great, it's a staving preferment, and just opulent with influence here."
Shucks, Colonel, I haven't even a vote.” “That's nothing, you can make speeches.” “No, I can't. The population only two hundred“That's all right, that's all right
"And they hadn't any right to elect me; we're not even a territory, there's no Organic Act, the government hasn't any official knowledge of us whatever.”
“Never mind about that; I'll fix that. I'll rush the thing through, I'll get you organised in no time."
“Will you, Colonel ?-it's too good of you; but it's just your old sterling self, the same old, ever-faithful friend,” and the grateful tears welled up in Washington's eyes.
“It's just as good as done, my boy, just as good as done. Shake hands. We'll hitch teams together, you and I, and we'll make things hum !”
Samuel L. Clemens (“Mark Twain").
A LESSON TO FAULT-FINDERS.
And the barber kept on shaving. “Don't you see, Mister Brown,” Cried the youth, with a frown, “How wrong the whole thing is, How preposterous each wing is, How flattened the head is, how jammed down the neck is, In short, the whole owl, what an ignorant wreck ’tis ?