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English story

Democracy An American Novel

        Tác giả: by Henry Adams

First published anonymously, March 1880, and soon in various
unauthorized editions. It wasn"t until the 1925 edition that Adams
was listed as author. Henry Adams remarked (ironically as usual),
"The wholesale piracy of Democracy was the single real triumph
of my life."--it was very popular, as readers tried to guess who the
author was and who the characters really were. Chapters XII and
XIII were originally misnumbered.

IN February the weather became warmer and summer-like. In
Virginia there comes often at this season a deceptive gleam of
summer, slipping in between heavy storm-clouds of sleet and
snow; days and sometimes weeks when the temperature is like
June; when the earliest plants begin to show their hardy flowers,
and when the bare branches of the forest trees alone protest against
the conduct of the seasons. Then men and women are languid; life
seems, as in Italy, sensuous and glowing with colour; one is
conscious of walking in an atmosphere that is warm, palpable,
radiant with possibilities; a delicate haze hangs over Arlington,
and softens even the harsh white glare of the Capitol; the struggle
of existence seems to abate; Lent throws its calm shadow over
society; and youthful diplomatists, unconscious of their danger, are
lured into asking foolish girls to marry them; the blood thaws in
the heart and flows out into the veins, like the rills of sparkling
water that trickle from every lump of ice or snow, as though all the
ice and snow on earth, and all the hardness of heart, all the heresy
and schism, all the works of the devil, had yielded to the force of
love and to the fresh warmth of innocent, lamb-like, confiding
virtue. In such a world there should be no guile--but there is a great
deal of it notwithstanding. Indeed, at no other season is there so
much. This is the moment when the two whited sepulchres at
either end of the Avenue reek with the thick atmosphere of bargain
and sale. The old is going; the new is coming. Wealth, office,
power are at auction. Who bids highest? who hates with most
venom? who intrigues with most skill? who has done the dirtiest,
the meanest, the darkest, and the most, political work? He shall
have his reward.

Senator Ratcliffe was absorbed and ill at ease. A swarm of
applicants for office dogged his steps and beleaguered his rooms in
quest of his endorsement of their paper characters. The new
President was to arrive on Monday. Intrigues and combinations, of
which the Senator was the soul, were all alive, awaiting this
arrival. Newspaper correspondents pestered him with questions.
Brother senators called him to conferences. His mind was
pre-occupied with his own interests. One might have supposed
that, at this instant, nothing could have drawn him away from the
political gaming-table, and yet when Mrs. Lee remarked that she
was going to Mount Vernon on Saturday with a little party,
including the British Minister and an Irish gentleman staying as a
guest at the British Legation, the Senator surprised her by
expressing a strong wish to join them. He explained that, as the
political lead was no longer in his hands, the chances were nine in
ten that if he stirred at all he should make a blunder; that his
friends expected him to do something when, in fact, nothing could
be done; that every preparation had already been made, and that
for him to go on an excursion to Mount Vernon, at this moment,
with the British Minister, was, on the whole, about the best use he
could make of his time, since it would hide him for one day at
least.

Lord Skye had fallen into the habit of consulting Mrs. Lee when
his own social resources were low, and it was she who had
suggested this party to Mount Vernon, with Carrington for a guide
and Mr. Gore for variety, to occupy the time of the Irish friend
whom Lord Skye was bravely entertaining.

This gentleman, who bore the title of Dunbeg, was a dilapidated
peer, neither wealthy nor famous. Lord Skye brought him to call
on Mrs. Lee, and in some sort put him under her care. He was
young, not ill-looking, quite intelligent, rather too fond of facts,
and not quick at humour. He was given to smiling in a deprecatory
way, and when he talked, he was either absent or excited; he made
vague blunders, and then smiled in deprecation of offence, or his
words blocked their own path in their rush. Perhaps his manner
was a little ridiculous, but he had a good heart, a good head, and a
title. He found favour in the eyes of Sybil and Victoria Dare, who
declined to admit other women to the party, although they offered
no objection to Mr.

Ratcliffe's admission. As for Lord Dunbeg, he was an enthusiastic
admirer of General Washington, and, as he privately intimated,
eager to study phases of American society. He was delighted to go
with a small party, and Miss Dare secretly promised herself that
she would show him a phase.

The morning was warm, the sky soft, the little steamer lay at the
quiet wharf with a few negroes lazily watching her preparations for
departure.

Carrington, with Mrs. Lee and the young ladies, arrived first, and
stood leaning against the rail, waiting the arrival of their
companions. Then came Mr. Gore, neatly attired and gloved, with
a light spring overcoat; for Mr.

Gore was very careful of his personal appearance, and not a little
vain of his good looks. Then a pretty woman, with blue eyes and
blonde hair, dressed in black, and leading a little girl by the hand,
came on board, and Carrington went to shake hands with her. On
his return to Mrs. Lee's side, she asked about his new
acquaintance, and he replied with a half-laugh, as though he were
not proud of her, that she was a client, a pretty widow, well known
in Washington. "Any one at the Capitol would tell you all about
her.

She was the wife of a noted lobbyist, who died about two years
ago.

Congressmen can refuse nothing to a pretty face, and she was their
idea of feminine perfection. Yet she is a silly little woman, too.
Her husband died after a very short illness, and, to my great
surprise, made me executor under his will. I think he had an idea
that he could trust me with his papers, which were important and
compromising, for he seems to have had no time to go over them
and destroy what were best out of the way. So, you see, I am left
with his widow and child to look after. Luckily, they are well
provided for."

"Still you have not told me her name." "Her name is Baker--Mrs.
Sam Baker. But they are casting off, and Mr.

Ratcliffe will be left behind. I'll ask the captain to wait." About a
dozen passengers had arrived, among them the two Earls, with a
footman carrying a promising lunch-basket, and the planks were
actually hauled in when a carriage dashed up to the whatf, and Mr.
Ratcliffe leaped out and hurried on board. "Off with you as quick
as you can!" said he to the negro-hands, and in another moment the
little steamer had begun her journey, pounding the muddy waters
of the Potomac and sending up its small column of smoke as
though it were a newly invented incense-burner approaching the
temple of the national deity. Ratcliffe explained in great glee how
he had barely managed to escape his visitors by telling them that
the British Minister was waiting for him, and that he would be
back again presently. "If they had known where I was going," said
he, "you would have seen the boat swamped with office-seekers.
Illinois alone would have brought you to a watery grave." He was
in high spirits, bent upon enjoying his holiday, and as they passed
the arsenal with its solitary sentry, and the navy-yard, with its one
unseaworthy wooden war-steamer, he pointed out these evidences
of national grandeur to Lord Skye, threatening, as the last terror of
diplomacy, to send him home in an American frigate. They were
thus indulging in senatorial humour on one side of the boat, while
Sybil and Victoria, with the aid of Mr. Gore and Carrington, were
improving Lord Dunbeg's mind on the other.

Miss Dare, finding for herself at last a convenient seat where she
could repose and be mistress of the situation, put on a more than
usually demure expression and waited with gravity until her noble
neighbour should give her an opportunity to show those powers
which, as she believed, would supply a phase in his existence.
Miss Dare was one of those young persons, sometimes to be found
in America, who seem to have no object in life, and while
apparently devoted to men, care nothing about them, but find
happiness only in violating rules; she made no parade of whatever
virtues she had, and her chief pleasure was to make fun of all the
world and herself.

"What a noble river!" remarked Lord Dunbeg, as the boat passed
out upon the wide stream; "I suppose you often sail on it?"

"I never was here in my life till now," replied the untruthful Miss
Dare; "we don't think much of it; it s too small; we're used to so
much larger rivers."

"I am afraid you would not like our English rivers then; they are
mere brooks compared with this."

"Are they indeed?" said Victoria, with an appearance of vague
surprise; "how curious! I don't think I care to be an Englishwoman
then. I could not live without big rivers."

Lord Dunbeg stared, and hinted that this was almost unreasonable.

"Unless I were a Countess!" continued Victoria, meditatively,
looking at Alexandria, and paying no attention to his lordship; "I
think I could manage if I were a C-c-countess. It is such a pretty
title!"

"Duchess is commonly thought a prettier one," stammered
Dunbeg, much embarrassed. The young man was not used to chaff
from women.

"I should be satisfied with Countess. It sounds well. I am surprised
that you don't like it." Dunbeg looked about him uneasily for some
means of escape but he was barred in. "I should think you would
feel an awful responsibility in selecting a Countess. How do you
do it?"

Lord Dunbeg nervously joined in the general laughter as Sybil
ejaculated:

"Oh, Victoria!" but Miss Dare continued without a smile or any
elevation of her monotonous voice:

"Now, Sybil, don't interrupt me, please. I am deeply interested in
Lord Dunbeg's conversation. He understands that my interest is
purely scientific, but my happiness requires that I should know
how Countesses are selected.

Lord Dunbeg, how would you recommend a friend to choose a
Countess?"

Lord Dunbeg began to be amused by her impudence, and he even
tried to lay down for her satisfaction one or two rules for selecting
Countesses, but long before he had invented his first rule, Victoria
had darted off to a new subject.

"Which would you rather be, Lord Dunbeg? an Earl or George
Washington?"

"George Washington, certainly," was the Earl's courteous though
rather bewildered reply.

"Really?" she asked with a languid affectation of surprise; "it is
awfully kind of you to say so, but of course you can't mean it.

"Indeed I do mean it."

"Is it possible? I never should have thought it."

"Why not, Miss Dare?"

"You have not the air of wishing to be George Washington."

"May I again ask, why not?"

"Certainly. Did you ever see George Washington?"

"Of course not. He died fifty years before I was born."

"I thought so. You see you don't know him. Now, will you give us
an idea of what you imagine General Washington to have looked
like?"

Dunbeg gave accordingly a flattering description of General
Washington, compounded of Stuart's portrait and Greenough's
statue of Olympian Jove with Washington's features, in the Capitol
Square. Miss Dare listened with an expression of superiority not
unmlxed with patience, and then she enlightened him as follows:

"All you have been saying is perfect stuff--excuse the vulgarity of
the expression. When I am a Countess I will correct my language.
The truth is that General Washington was a raw-boned country
farmer, very hard-featured, very awkward, very illiterate and very
dull; very bad tempered, very profane, and generally tipsy after
dinner."

"You shock me, Miss Dare!" exclaimed Dunbeg.

"Oh! I know all about General Washington. My grandfather knew
him intimately, and often stayed at Mount Vernon for weeks
together. You must not believe what you read, and not a word of
what Mr. Carrington will say.

He is a Virginian and will tell you no end of fine stories and not a
syllable of truth in one of them. We are all patriotic about
Washington and like to hide his faults. If I weren't quite sure you
would never repeat it, I would not tell you this. The truth is that
even when George Washington was a small boy, his temper was so
violent that no one could do anything with him. He once cut down
all his father's fruit-trees in a fit of passion, and then, just because
they wanted to flog him, he threatened to brain his father with the
hatchet. His aged wife suffered agonies from him. My grandfather
often told me how he had seen the General pinch and swear at her
till the poor creature left the room in tears; and how once at Mount
Vernon he saw Washington, when quite an old man, suddenly rush
at an unoffending visitor, and chase him off the place, beating him
all the time over the head with a great stick with knots in it, and all
just because he heard the poor man stammer; he never could abide
s-s-stammering."

Carrington and Gore burst into shouts of laughter over this
description of the Father of his country, but Victoria continued in
her gentle drawl to enlighten Lord Dunbeg in regard to other
subjects with information equally mendacious, until he decided
that she was quite the most eccentric person he had ever met. The
boat arrived at Mount Vernon while she was still engaged in a
description of the society and manners of America, and especially
of the rules which made an offer of marriage necessary. According
to her, Lord Dunbeg was in imminent peril; gentlemen, and
especially foreigners, were expected, in all the States south of the
Potomac, to offer themselves to at least one young lady in every
city: "and I had only yesterday," said Victoria, "a letter from a
lovely girl in North Carolina, a dear friend of mine, who wrote me
that she was right put out because her brothers had called on a
young English visitor with shot guns, and she was afraid he
wouldn't recover, and, after all, she says she should have refused
him."

Meanwhile Madeleine, on the other side of the boat, undisturbed
by the laughter that surrounded Miss Dare, chatted soberly and
seriously with Lord Skye and Senator Ratcliffe. Lord Skye, too, a
little intoxicated by the brilliancy of the morning, broke out into
admiration of the noble river, and accused Americans of not
appreciating the beauties of their own country.

"Your national mind," said he, "has no eyelids. It requires a broad
glare and a beaten road. It prefers shadows which you can cut out
with a knife. It doesn't know the beauty of this Virginia winter
softness."

Mrs. Lee resented the charge. America, she maintained, had not
worn her feelings threadbare like Europe. She had still her story to
tell; she was waiting for her Burns and Scott, her Wordsworth and
Byron, her Hogarth and Turner. "You want peaches in spring," said
she. "Give us our thousand years of summer, and then complain, if
you please, that our peach is not as mellow as yours. Even our
voices may be soft then," she added, with a significant look at Lord
Skye.

"We are at a disadvantage in arguing with Mrs. Lee," said he to
Ratcliffe; "when she ends as counsel, she begins as witness. The
famous Duchess of Devonshire's lips were not half as convincing
as Mrs. Lee's voice."

Ratcliffe listened carefully, assenting whenever he saw that Mrs.
Lee wished it. He wished he understood precisely what tones and
half-tones, colours and harmonies, were.

They arrived and strolled up the sunny path. At the tomb they
halted, as all good Americans do, and Mr. Gore, in a tone of
subdued sorrow, delivered a short address--

"It might be much worse if they improved it," he said, surveying its
proportions with the æsthetic eye of a cultured Bostonian. "As it
stands, this tomb is a simple misfortune which might befall any of
us; we should not grieve over it too much. What would our
feelings be if a Congressional committee reconstructed it of white
marble with Gothic pepper-pots, and gilded it inside on
machine-moulded stucco!"

Madeleine, however, insisted that the tomb, as it stood, was the
only restless spot about the quiet landscape, and that it
contradicted all her ideas about repose in the grave. Ratcliffe
wondered what she meant.

They passed on, wandering across the lawn, and through the house.
Their eyes, weary of the harsh colours and forms of the city, took
pleasure in the worn wainscots and the stained walls. Some of the
rooms were still occupied; fires were burning in the wide
fire-places. All were tolerably furnished, and there was no
uncomfortable sense of repair or newness. They mounted the
stairs, and Mrs. Lee fairly laughed when she was shown the room
in which General Washington slept, and where he died.

Carrington smiled too. "Our old Virginia houses were mostly like
this," said he; "suites of great halls below, and these gaunt barracks
above. The Virginia house was a sort of hotel. When there was a
race or a wedding, or a dance, and the house was full, they thought
nothing of packing half a dozen people in one room, and if the
room was large, they stretched a sheet a cross to separate the men
from the women. As for toilet, those were not the mornings of cold
baths. With our ancestors a little washing went a long way."

"Do you still live so in Virginia?" asked Madeleine.

"Oh no, it is quite gone. We live now like other country people,
and try to pay our debts, which that generation never did. They
lived from hand to mouth. They kept a stable-full of horses. The
young men were always riding about the country, betting on
horse-races, gambling, drinking, fighting, and making love. No one
knew exactly what he was worth until the crash came about fifty
years ago, and the whole thing ran out."

"Just what happened in Ireland!" said Lord Dunbeg, much
interested and full of his article in the Quarterly; "the resemblance
is perfect, even down to the houses."

Mrs. Lee asked Carrington bluntly whether he regretted the
destruction of this old social arrangement.

"One can't help regretting," said he, "whatever it was that produced
George Washington, and a crowd of other men like him. But I
think we might produce the men still if we had the same field for
them."

"And would you bring the old society back again if you could?"
asked she.

"What for? It could not hold itself up. General Washington himself
could not save it. Before he died he had lost his hold on Virginia,
and his power was gone."

The party for a while separated, and Mrs. Lee found herself alone
in the great drawing-room. Presently the blonde Mrs. Baker
entered, with her child, who ran about making more noise than
Mrs. Washington would have permitted.

Madeleine, who had the usual feminine love of children, called the
girl to her and pointed out the shepherds and shepherdesses carved
on the white Italian marble of the fireplace; she invented a little
story about them to amuse the child, while the mother stood by and
at the end thanked the story-teller with more enthusiasm than
seemed called for. Mrs. Lee did not fancy her effusive manner, or
her complexion, and was glad when Dunbeg appeared at the
doorway.

"How do you like General Washington at home?" asked she.

"Really, I assure you I feel quite at home myself," replied Dunbeg,
with a more beaming smile than ever. "I am sure General
Washington was an Irishman.

I know it from the look of the place. I mean to look it up and write
an article about it."

"Then if you have disposed of him," said Madeleine, "I think we
will have luncheon, and I have taken the liberty to order it to be
served outside."

There a table had been improvised, and Miss Dare was inspecting
the lunch, and making comments upon Lord Skye's cuisine and
cellar.

"I hope it is very dry champagne," said she, "the taste for sweet
champagne is quite awfully shocking."

The young woman knew no more about dry and sweet champagne
than of the wine of Ulysses, except that she drank both with equal
satisfaction, but she was mimicking a Secretary of the British
Legation who had provided her with supper at her last evening
party. Lord Skye begged her to try it, which she did, and with great
gravity remarked that it was about five per cent. she presumed.
This, too, was caught from her Secretary, though she knew no
more what it meant than if she had been a parrot.

The luncheon was very lively and very good. When it was over, the
gentlemen were allowed to smoke, and conversation fell into a
sober strain, which at last threatened to become serious.

"You want half-tones!" said Madeleine to Lord Skye: "are there not
half-tones enough to suit you on the walls of this house?"

Lord Skye suggested that this was probably owing to the fact that
Washington, belonging, as he did, to the universe, was in his taste
an exception to local rules.

"Is not the sense of rest here captivating?" she continued. "Look at
that quaint garden, and this ragged lawn, and the great river in
front, and the superannuated fort beyond the river! Everything is
peaceful, even down to the poor old General's little bed-room. One
would like to lie down in it and sleep a century or two. And yet
that dreadful Capitol and its office-seekers are only ten miles off."

"No! that is more than I can bear!" broke in Miss Victoria in a
stage whisper, "that dreadful Capitol! Why, not one of us would be
here without that dreadful Capitol! except, perhaps, myself."

"You would appear very well as Mrs. Washington, Victoria."

"Miss Dare has been so very obliging as to give us her views of
General Washington's character this morning," said Dunbeg, "but I
have not yet had time to ask Mr. Carrington for his."

"Whatever Miss Dare says is valuable," replied Carrington, "but
her strong point is facts."

"Never flatter! Mr. Carrington," drawled Miss Dare; "I do not need
it, and it does not become your style. Tell me, Lord Dunbeg, is not
Mr. Carrington a little your idea of General Washington restored to
us in his prime?"

"After your account of General Washington, Miss Dare, how can I
agree with you?"

"After all," said Lord Skye, "I think we must agree that Miss Dare
is in the main right about the charms of Mount Vernon. Even Mrs.
Lee, on the way up, agreed that the General, who is the only
permanent resident here, has the air of being confoundedly bored
in his tomb. I don't myself love your dreadful Capitol yonder, but I
prefer it to a bucolic life here. And I account in this way for my
want of enthusiasm for your great General. He liked no kind of life
but this. He seems to have been greater in the character of a
home-sick Virginia planter than as General or President. I forgive
him his inordinate dulness, for he was not a diplomatist and it was
not his business to lie, but he might once in a way have forgotten
Mount Vernon."

Dunbeg here burst in with an excited protest; all his words seemed
to shove each other aside in their haste to escape first. "All our
greatest Englishmen have been home-sick country squires. I am a
home-sick country squire myself."

"How interesting!" said Miss Dare under her breath.

Mr. Gore here joined in: "It is all very well for you gentlemen to
measure General Washington according to your own private
twelve-inch carpenter's rule. But what will you say to us New
Englanders who never were country gentlemen at all, and never
had any liking for Virginia? What did Washington ever do for us?
He never even pretended to like us. He never was more than barely
civil to us. I'm not finding fault with him; everybody knows that he
never cared for anything but Mount Vernon. For all that, we
idolize him. To us he is Morality, Justice, Duty, Truth; half a
dozen Roman gods with capital letters. He is austere, solitary,
grand; he ought to be deified. I hardly feel easy, eating, drinking,
smoking here on his portico without his permission, taking
liberties with his house, criticising his bedrooms in his absence.
Suppose I heard his horse now trotting up on the other side, and he
suddenly appeared at this door and looked at us. I should abandon
you to his indignation. I should run away and hide myself on the
steamer. The mere thought unmans me."

Ratcliffe seemed amused at Gore's half-serious notions. "You
recall to me,"

said he, "my own feelings when I was a boy and was made by my
father to learn the Farewell Address by heart. In those days
General Washington was a sort of American Jehovah. But the
West is a poor school for Reverence. Since coming to Congress I
have learned more about General Washington, and have been
surprised to find what a narrow base his reputation rests on. A fair
military officer, who made many blunders, and who never had
more men than would make a full army-corps under his command,
he got an enormous reputation in Europe because he did not make
himself king, as though he ever had a chance of doing it. A
respectable, painstaking President, he was treated by the
Opposition with an amount of deference that would have made
government easy to a baby, but it worried him to death. His official
papers are fairly done, and contain good average sense such as a
hundred thousand men in the United States would now write. I
suspect that half of his attachment to this spot rose from his
consciousness of inferior powers and his dread of responsibility.
This government can show to-day a dozen men of equal abilities,
but we don't deify them. What I most wonder at in him is not his
military or political genius at all, for I doubt whether he had much,
but a curious Yankee shrewdness in money matters. He thought
himself a very rich man, yet he never spent a dollar foolishly. He
was almost the only Virginian I ever heard of, in public life, who
did not die insolvent."

During this long speech, Carrington glanced across at Madeleine,
and caught her eye. Ratcliffe's criticism was not to her taste.
Carrington could see that she thought it unworthy of him, and he
knew that it would irritate her.

"I will lay a little trap for Mr. Ratcliffe," thought he to himself;
"we will see whether he gets out of it." So Carrington began, and
all listened closely, for, as a Virginian, he was supposed to know
much about the subject, and his family had been deep in the
confidence of Washington himself.

"The neighbours hereabout had for many years, and may have still,
some curious stories about General Washington's closeness in
money matters. They said he never bought anything by weight but
he had it weighed over again, nor by tale but he had it counted, and
if the weight or number were not exact, he sent it back. Once,
during his absence, his steward had a room plastered, and paid the
plasterer's bill. On the General's return, he measured the room, and
found that the plasterer had charged fifteen shillings too much.
Meanwhile the man had died, and the General made a claim of
fifteen shillings on his estate, which was paid. Again, one of his
tenants brought him the rent. The exact change of fourpence was
required.

The man tendered a dollar, and asked the General to credit him
with the balance against the next year's rent. The General refused
and made him ride nine miles to Alexandria and back for the
fourpence. On the other hand, he sent to a shoemaker in
Alexandria to come and measure him for shoes. The man returned
word that he did not go to any one's house to take measures, and
the General mounted his horse and rode the nine miles to him. One
of his rules was to pay at taverns the same sum for his servants'
meals as for his own. An inn-keeper brought him a bill of
three-and-ninepence for his own breakfast, and three shillings for
his servant. He insisted upon adding the extra ninepence, as he did
not doubt that the servant had eaten as much as he. What do you
say to these anecdotes? Was this meanness or not?"

Ratcliffe was amused. "The stories are new to me," he said. "It is
just as I thought. These are signs of a man who thinks much of
trifles; one who fusses over small matters. We don't do things in
that way now that we no longer have to get crops from granite, as
they used to do in New Hampshire when I was a boy."

Carrington replied that it was unlucky for Virginians that they had
not done things in that way then: if they had, they would not have
gone to the dogs.

Gore shook his head seriously; "Did I not tell you so?" said he.
"Was not this man an abstract virtue? I give you my word I stand in
awe before him, and I feel ashamed to pry into these details of his
life. What is it to us how he thought proper to apply his principles
to nightcaps and feather dusters? We are not his body servants, and
we care nothing about his infirmities. It is enough for us to know
that he carried his rules of virtue down to a pin's point, and that we
ought, one and all, to be on our knees before his tomb."

Dunbeg, pondering deeply, at length asked Carrington whether all
this did not make rather a clumsy politician of the father of his
country.

"Mr. Ratcliffe knows more about politics than I. Ask him," said
Carrington.

"Washington was no politician at all, as we understand the word,"
replied Ratcliffe abruptly. "He stood outside of politics. The thing
couldn't be done to-day. The people don't like that sort of royal
airs."

"I don't understand!" said Mrs. Lee. "Why could you not do it
now?"

"Because I should make a fool of myself;" replied Ratcliffe,
pleased to think that Mrs. Lee should put him on a level with
Washington. She had only meant to ask why the thing could not be
done, and this little touch of Ratcliffe's vanity was inimitable.

"Mr. Ratcliffe means that Washington was too respectable for our
time,"

interposed Carrington.

This was deliberately meant to irritate Ratcliffe, and it did so all
the more because Mrs. Lee turned to Carrington, and said, with
some bitterness:

"Was he then the only honest public man we ever had?"

"Oh no!" replied Carrington cheerfully; "there have been one or
two others."

"If the rest of our Presidents had been like him," said Gore, "we
should have had fewer ugly blots on our short history."

Ratcliffe was exasperated at Carrington's habit of drawing
discussion to this point. He felt the remark as a personal insult, and
he knew it to be intended. "Public men," he broke out, "cannot be
dressing themselves to-day in Washington's old clothes. If
Washington were President now, he would have to learn our ways
or lose his next election. Only fools and theorists imagine that our
society can be handled with gloves or long poles. One must make
one's self a part of it. If virtue won't answer our purpose, we must
use vice, or our opponents will put us out of office, and this was as
true in Washington's day as it is now, and always will be."

"Come," said Lord Skye, who was beginning to fear an open
quarrel; "the conversation verges on treason, and I am accredited
to this government. Why not examine the grounds?"

A kind of natural sympathy led Lord Dunbeg to wander by the side
of Miss Dare through the quaint old garden. His mind being much
occupied by the effort of stowing away the impressions he had just
received, he was more than usually absent in his manner, and this
want of attention irritated the young lady. She made some
comments on flowers; she invented some new species with
startling names; she asked whether these were known in Ireland;
but Lord Dunbeg was for the moment so vague in his answers that
she saw her case was perilous.

"Here is an old sun-dial. Do you have sun-dials in Ireland, Lord
Dunbeg?"

"Yes; oh, certainly! What! sun-dials? Oh, yes! I assure you there
are a great many sun-dials in Ireland, Miss Dare."

"I am so glad. But I suppose they are only for ornament. Here it is
just the other way. Look at this one! they all behave like that. The
wear and tear of our sun is too much for them; they don't last. My
uncle, who has a place at Long Branch, had five sun-dials in ten
years."

"How very odd! But really now, Miss Dare, I don't see how a
sun--dial could wear out."

"Don't you? How strange! Don't you see, they get soaked with
sunshine so that they can't hold shadow. It's like me, you know. I
have such a good time all the time that I can't be unhappy. Do you
ever read the Burlington Hawkeye, Lord Dunbeg?"

"I don't remember; I think not. Is it an American serial?" gasped
Dunbeg, trying hard to keep pace with Miss Dare in her reckless
dashes across country.

"No, not serial at all!" replied Virginia; "but I am afraid you would
find it very hard reading. I shouldn't try."

"Do you read it much, Miss Dare?"

"Oh, always! I am not really as light as I seem. But then I have an
advantage over you because I know the language."

By this time Dunbeg was awake again, and Miss Dare, satisfied
with her success, allowed herself to become more reasonable, until
a slight shade of sentiment began to flicker about their path.

The scattered party, however, soon had to unite again. The boat
rang its bell for return, they filed down the paths and settled
themselves in their old places. As they steamed away, Mrs. Lee
watched the sunny hill-side and the peaceful house above, until she
could see them no more, and the longer she looked, the less she
was pleased with herself. Was it true, as Victoria Dare said, that
she could not live in so pure an air? Did she really need the denser
fumes of the city? Was she, unknown to herself; gradually
becoming tainted with the life about her? or was Ratcliffe right in
accepting the good and the bad together, and in being of his time
since he was in it? Why was it, she said bitterly to herself; that
everything Washington touched, he purified, even down to the
associations of his house?

and why is it that everything we touch seems soiled? Why do I feel
unclean when I look at Mount Vernon? In spite of Mr. Ratcliffe, is
it not better to be a child and to cry for the moon and stars?

The little Baker girl came up to her where she stood, and began
playing with her parasol.

"Who is your little friend?" asked Ratcliffe.

Mrs. Lee rather vaguely replied that she was the daughter of that
pretty woman in black; she believed her name was Baker.

"Baker, did you say?" repeated Ratcliffe.

"Baker--Mrs. Sam Baker; at least so Mr. Carrington told me; he
said she was a client of his."

In fact Ratcliffe soon saw Carrington go up to her and remain by
her side during the rest of the trip. Ratcliffe watched them sharply
and grew more and more absorbed in his own thoughts as the boat
drew nearer and nearer the shore.

Carrington was in high spirits. He thought he had played his cards
with unusual success. Even Miss Dare deigned to acknowledge his
charms that day.

She declared herself to be the moral image of Martha Washington,
and she started a discussion whether Carrington or Lord Dunbeg
would best suit her in the rôle of the General.

"Mr. Carrington is exemplary," she said, "but oh, what joy to be
Martha Washington and a Countess too!"


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