Read CHAPTER XX of The Gilded Age, free online book, by Mark Twain, on

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.