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

Once more Louise had good news from her Washington ­Senator Dilworthy was going to sell the Tennessee Land to the government!  Louise told Laura in confidence.  She had told her parents, too, and also several bosom friends; but all of these people had simply looked sad when they heard the news, except Laura.  Laura’s face suddenly brightened under it ­only for an instant, it is true, but poor Louise was grateful for even that fleeting ray of encouragement.  When next Laura was alone, she fell into a train of thought something like this: 

“If the Senator has really taken hold of this matter, I may look for that invitation to his house at, any moment.  I am perishing to go!  I do long to know whether I am only simply a large-sized pigmy among these pigmies here, who tumble over so easily when one strikes them, or whether I am really .”  Her thoughts drifted into other channels, for a season.  Then she continued: ­ “He said I could be useful in the great cause of philanthropy, and help in the blessed work of uplifting the poor and the ignorant, if he found it feasible to take hold of our Land.  Well, that is neither here nor there; what I want, is to go to Washington and find out what I am.  I want money, too; and if one may judge by what she hears, there are chances there for a .”  For a fascinating woman, she was going to say, perhaps, but she did not.

Along in the fall the invitation came, sure enough.  It came officially through brother Washington, the private Secretary, who appended a postscript that was brimming with delight over the prospect of seeing the Duchess again.  He said it would be happiness enough to look upon her face once more ­it would be almost too much happiness when to it was added the fact that she would bring messages with her that were fresh from Louise’s lips.

In Washington’s letter were several important enclosures.  For instance, there was the Senator’s check for $2,000 ­“to buy suitable clothing in New York with!” It was a loan to be refunded when the Land was sold.  Two thousand ­this was fine indeed.  Louise’s father was called rich, but Laura doubted if Louise had ever had $400 worth of new clothing at one time in her life.  With the check came two through tickets ­good on the railroad from Hawkeye to Washington via New York ­and they were “dead-head” tickets, too, which had been given to Senator Dilworthy by the railway companies.  Senators and representatives were paid thousands of dollars by the government for traveling expenses, but they always traveled “deadhead” both ways, and then did as any honorable, high-minded men would naturally do ­declined to receive the mileage tendered them by the government.  The Senator had plenty of railway passes, and could. easily spare two to Laura ­one for herself and one for a male escort.  Washington suggested that she get some old friend of the family to come with her, and said the Senator would “deadhead” him home again as soon as he had grown tired, of the sights of the capital.  Laura thought the thing over.  At first she was pleased with the idea, but presently she began to feel differently about it.  Finally she said, “No, our staid, steady-going Hawkeye friends’ notions and mine differ about some things ­they respect me, now, and I respect them ­better leave it so ­I will go alone; I am not afraid to travel by myself.”  And so communing with herself, she left the house for an afternoon walk.

Almost at the door she met Col.  Sellers.  She told him about her invitation to Washington.

“Bless me!” said the Colonel.  “I have about made up my mind to go there myself.  You see we’ve got to get another appropriation through, and the Company want me to come east and put it through Congress.  Harry’s there, and he’ll do what he can, of course; and Harry’s a good fellow and always does the very best he knows how, but then he’s young ­rather young for some parts of such work, you know ­and besides he talks too much, talks a good deal too much; and sometimes he appears to be a little bit visionary, too, I think the worst thing in the world for a business man.  A man like that always exposes his cards, sooner or later.  This sort of thing wants an old, quiet, steady hand ­wants an old cool head, you know, that knows men, through and through, and is used to large operations.  I’m expecting my salary, and also some dividends from the company, and if they get along in time, I’ll go along with you Laura ­take you under my wing ­you mustn’t travel alone.  Lord I wish I had the money right now.  ­But there’ll be plenty soon ­plenty.”

Laura reasoned with herself that if the kindly, simple-hearted Colonel was going anyhow, what could she gain by traveling alone and throwing away his company?  So she told him she accepted his offer gladly, gratefully.  She said it would be the greatest of favors if he would go with her and protect her ­not at his own expense as far as railway fares were concerned, of course; she could not expect him to put himself to so much trouble for her and pay his fare besides.  But he wouldn’t hear of her paying his fare ­it would be only a pleasure to him to serve her.  Laura insisted on furnishing the tickets; and finally, when argument failed, she said the tickets cost neither her nor any one else a cent ­she had two of them ­she needed but one ­and if he would not take the other she would not go with him.  That settled the matter.  He took the ticket.  Laura was glad that she had the check for new clothing, for she felt very certain of being able to get the Colonel to borrow a little of the money to pay hotel bills with, here and there.

She wrote Washington to look for her and Col.  Sellers toward the end of November; and at about the time set the two travelers arrived safe in the capital of the nation, sure enough.