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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.

WHENEVER a man reaches the top of the political ladder, his
enemies unite to pull him down. His friends become critical and
exacting. Among the many dangers of this sort which now
threatened Ratcliffe, there was one that, had he known it, might
have made him more uneasy than any of those which were the
work of senators and congressmen. Carrington entered into an
alliance, offensive and defensive, with Sybil. It came about in this
wise. Sybil was fond of riding. and occasionally, when Carrington
could spare the time, he went as her guide and protector in these
country excursions; for every Virginian, however out at elbows,
has a horse, as he has shoes or a shirt.

In a thoughtless moment Carrington had been drawn into a
promise that he would take Sybil to Arlington. The promise was
one that he did not hurry to keep, for there were reasons which
made a visit to Arlington anything but a pleasure to him; but Sybil
would listen to no excuses, and so it came about that, one lovely
March morning, when the shrubs and the trees in the square before
the house were just beginning, under the warmer sun, to show
signs of their coming wantonness, Sybil stood at the open window
waiting for him, while her new Kentucky horse before the door
showed what he thought of the delay by curving his neck, tossing
his head, and pawing the pavement.

Carrington was late and kept her waiting so long, that the
mignonette and geraniums, which adorned the window, suffered
for his slowness, and the curtain tassels showed signs of wilful
damage. Nevertheless he arrived at length, and they set out
together, choosing the streets least enlivened by horse-cars and
provision-carts, until they had crept through the great metropolis
of Georgetown and come upon the bridge which crosses the noble
river just where its bold banks open out to clasp the city of
Washington in their easy embrace. Then reaching the Virginia side
they cantered gaily up the laurel-margined road, with glimpses of
woody defiles, each carrying its trickling stream and rich in
promise of summer flowers, while from point to point they caught
glorious glimpses of the distant city and river. They passed the
small military station on the heights, still dignified by the name of
fort, though Sybil silently wondered how a fort was possible
without fortifications, and complained that there was nothing more
warlike than a "nursery of telegraph poles." The day was blue and
gold; everything smiled and sparkled in the crisp freshness of the
morning. Sybil was in bounding spirits. and not at all pleased to
find that her companion became moody and abstracted as they
went on. "Poor Mr. Carrington!" thought she to herself, "he is so
nice; but when he puts on that solemn air, one might as well go to
sleep. I am quite certain no nice woman will ever marry him if he
looks like that;" and her practical mind ran off among all the girls
of her acquaintance, in search of one who would put up with
Carrington's melancholy face. She knew his devotion to her sister,
but had long ago rejected this as a hopeless chance. There was a
simplicity about Sybil's way of dealing with life, which had its own
charm. She never troubled herself about the impossible or the
unthinkable. She had feelings, and was rather quick in her
sympathies and sorrows, but she was equally quick in getting over
them, and she expected other people to do likewise. Madeleine
dissected her own feelings and was always wondering whether
they were real or not; she had a habit of taking off her mental
clothing, as she might take off a dress, and looking at it as though
it belonged to some one else, and as though sensations were
manufactured like clothes. This seems to be one of the easier ways
of deadening sorrow, as though the mind could teach itself to lop
off its feelers. Sybil particularly disliked this self-inspection. In the
first place she did not understand it, and in the second her mind
was all feelers, and amputation was death. She could no more
analyse a feeling than doubt its existence, both which were habits
of her sister.

How was Sybil to know what was passing in Carrington's mind?
He was thinking of nothing in which she supposed herself
interested. He was troubled with memories of civil war and of
associations still earlier, belonging to an age already vanishing or
vanished; but what could she know about civil war who had been
almost an infant at the time? At this moment, she happened to be
interested in the baffle of Waterloo, for she was reading "Vanity
Fair," and had cried as she ought for poor little Emmy, when her
husband, George Osborne, lay dead on the field there, with a bullet
through his heart. But how was she to know that here, only a few
rods before her, lay scores and hundreds of George Osbornes, or
his betters, and in their graves the love and hope of many Emmys,
not creatures of the imagination, but flesh and blood, like herself?
To her, there was no more in those associations which made
Carrington groan in the silence of his thoughts, than if he had been
old Kaspar, and she the little Wilhelmine. What was a skull more
or less to her? What concern had she in the famous victory?

Yet even Sybil was startled as she rode through the gate and found
herself suddenly met by the long white ranks of head-stones,
stretching up and down the hill-sides by thousands, in order of
baffle; as though Cadmus had reversed his myth, and had sown
living men, to come up dragons' teeth. She drew in her horse with
a shiver and a sudden impulse to cry. Here was something new to
her. This was war--wounds, disease, death. She dropped her voice
and with a look almost as serious as Carrington's, asked what all
these graves meant. When Carrington told her, she began for the
first time to catch some dim notion why his face was not quite as
gay as her own. Even now this idea was not very precise, for he
said little about himself, but at least she grappled with the fact that
he had actually, year after year, carried arms against these men
who lay at her feet and who had given their lives for her cause. It
suddenly occurred to her as a new thought that perhaps he himself
might have killed one of them with his own hand. There was a
strange shock in this idea. She felt that Carrington was further
from her. He gained dignity in his rebel isolation. She wanted to
ask him how he could have been a traitor, and she did not dare.
Carrington a traitor!

Carrington killing her friends! The idea was too large to grasp. She
fell back on the simpler task of wondering how he had looked in
his rebel uniform.

They rode slowly round to the door of the house and dismounted,
after he had with some difficulty found a man to hold their horses.
From the heavy brick porch they looked across the superb river to
the raw and incoherent ugliness of the city, idealised into dreamy
beauty by the atmosphere, and the soft background of purple hills
behind. Opposite them, with its crude "thus saith the law" stamped
on white dome and fortress-like walls, rose the Capitol.

Carrington stood with her a short time while they looked at the
view; then said he would rather not go into the house himself, and
sat down on the steps while she strolled alone through the rooms.
These were bare and gaunt, so that she, with her feminine sense of
fitness, of course considered what she would do to make them
habitable. She had a neat fancy for furniture, and distributed her
tones and half tones and bits of colour freely about the walls and
ceilings, with a high-backed chair here, a spindle-legged sofa
there, and a claw-footed table in the centre, until her eye was
caught by a very dirty deal desk, on which stood an open book,
with an inkstand and some pens. On the leaf she read the last
entry: "Eli M. Grow and lady, Thermopyle Centre." Not even the
graves outside had brought the horrors of war so near.

What a scourge it was! This respectable family turned out of such
a lovely house, and all the pretty old furniture swept away before a
horde of coarse invaders "with ladies." Did the hosts of Attila write
their names on visiting books in the temple of Vesta and the house
of Sallust? What a new terror they would have added to the name
of the scourge of God! Sybil returned to the portico and sat down
by Carrington on the steps.

"How awfully sad it is!" said she; "I suppose the house was prettily
furnished when the Lees lived here? Did you ever see it then?"

Sybil was not very profound, but she had sympathy, and at this
moment Carrington felt sorely in need of comfort. He wanted
some one to share his feelings, and he turned towards her hungry
for companionship.

"The Lees were old family friends of mine," said he. "I used to stay
here when I was a boy, even as late as the spring of 1861. The last
time I sat here, it was with them. We were wild about disunion and
talked of nothing else. I have been trying to recall what was said
then. We never thought there would be war, and as for coercion, it
was nonsense. Coercion, indeed!

The idea was ridiculous. I thought so, too, though I was a Union
man and did not want the State to go out. But though I felt sure
that Virginia must suffer, I never thought we could be beaten. Yet
now I am sitting here a pardoned rebel, and the poor Lees are
driven away and their place is a grave-yard."

Sybil became at once absorbed in the Lees and asked many
questions, all which Carrington gladly answered. He told her how
he had admired and followed General Lee through the war. "We
thought he was to be our Washington, you know; and perhaps he
had some such idea himself;" and then, when Sybil wanted to hear
about the baffles and the fighting, he drew a rough map on the
gravel path to show her how the two lines had run, only a few
miles away; then he told her how he had carried his musket day
after day over all this country, and where he had seen his battles.
Sybil had everything to learn; the story came to her with all the
animation of real life, for here under her eyes were the graves of
her own champions, and by her side was a rebel who had stood
under our fire at Malvern Hill and at South Mountain, and who
was telling her how men looked and what they thought in face of
death. She listened with breathless interest, and at last summoned
courage to ask in an awestruck tone whether Carrington had ever
killed any one himself. She was relieved, although a little
disappointed, when he said that he believed not; he hoped not;
though no private who has discharged a musket in baffle can be
quite sure where the bullet went. "I never tried to kill any one,"
said he, "though they tried to kill me incessantly." Then Sybil
begged to know how they had tried to kill him, and he told her one
or two of those experiences, such as most soldiers have had, when
he had been fired upon and the balls had torn his clothes or drawn
blood. Poor Sybil was quite overcome, and found a deadly
fascination in the horror. As they sat together on the steps with the
glorious view spread before them, her attention was so closely
fixed on his story that she saw neither the view nor even the
carriages of tourists who drove up, looked about, and departed,
envying Carrington his occupation with the lovely girl.

She was in imagination rushing with him down the valley of
Virginia on the heels of our flying army, or gloomily toiling back
to the Potomac after the bloody days at Gettysburg, or watching
the last grand deb�cle on the road from Richmond to Appomattox.
They would have sat there till sunset if Carrington had not at
length insisted that they must go, and then she rose slowly with a
deep sigh and undisguised regret.

As they rode away, Carrington, whose thoughts were not devoted
to his companion so entirely as they should have been, ventured to
say that he wished her sister had come with them, but he found
that his hint was not well received.

Sybil emphatically rejected the idea: "I'm very glad she didn't
come. If she had, you would have talked with her all the time, and
I should have been left to amuse myself. You would have been
discussing things, and I hate discussions. She would have been
hunting for first principles, and you would have been running
about, trying to catch some for her. Besides, she is coming herself
some Sunday with that tiresome Mr. Ratcliffe. I don't see what she
finds in that man to amuse her. Her taste is getting to be
demoralised in Washington. Do you know, Mr. Carrington, I'm not
clever or serious, like Madeleine, and I can't read laws, and hate
politics, but I've more common sense than she has, and she makes
me cross with her. I understand now why young widows are
dangerous, and why they're bumed at their husband's funerals in
India. Not that I want to have Madeleine burned, for she's a dear,
good creature, and I love her better than anything in the world; but
she will certainly do herself some dreadful mischief one of these
days; she has the most extravagant notions about self-sacrifice and
duty; if she hadn't luckily thought of taking charge of me, she
would have done some awful thing long ago, and if I could only be
a little wicked, she would be quite happy all the rest of her life in
reforming me; but now she has got hold of that Mr. Ratcliffe, and
he is trying to make her think she can reform him, and if he does,
it's all up with us. Madeleine will just go and break her heart over
that odious, great, coarse brute, who only wants her money."

Sybil delivered this little oration with a degree of energy that went
to Carrington's heart. She did not often make such sustained
efforts, and it was clear that on this subject she had exhausted her
whole mind. Carrington was delighted, and urged her on. "I dislike
Mr. Ratcliffe as much as you do;--more perhaps. So does every
one who knows much about him. But we shall only make the
matter worse if we interfere. What can we do?"

"That is just what I tell everybody," resumed Sybil. "There is
Victoria Dare always telling me I ought to do something; and Mr.
Schneidekoupon too; just as though I could do anything.
Madeleine has done nothing but get into mischief here. Half the
people think her worldly and ambitious. Only last night that
spiteful old woman, Mrs. Clinton, said to me: 'Your sister is quite
spoiled by Washington. She is more wild for power than any
human being I ever saw.' I was dreadfully angry and told her she
was quite mistaken--Madeleine was not the least spoiled. But I
couldn't say that she was not fond of power, for she is; but not in
the way Mrs. Clinton meant.

You should have seen her the other evening when Mr. Ratcliffe
said about some matter of public business that he would do
whatever she thought right; she spoke up quite sharply for her,
with a scornful little laugh, and said that he had better do what he
thought right. He looked for a moment almost angry, and muttered
something about women's being incomprehensible. He is always
trying to tempt her with power. She might have had long ago all
the power he could give her, but I can see, and he sees too, that she
always keeps him at arm's length. He doesn't like it, but he expects
one of these days to find a bribe that will answer. I wish we had
never come to Washington. New York is so much nicer and the
people there are much more amusing; they dance ever so much
better and send one flowers all the time, and then they never talk
about first principles. Maude had her hospitals and paupers and
training school, and got along very well. It was so safe. But when I
say so to her, she only smiles in a patronising kind of way, and
tells me that I shall have as much of Newport as I want; just as
though I were a child, and not a woman of twenty-five. Poor
Maude! I can't stay with her if she marries Mr. Ratcliffe, and it
would break my heart to leave her with that man. Do you think he
would beat her? Does he drink? I would almost rather be beaten a
little, if I cared for a man, than be taken out to Peonia. Oh, Mr.
Carrington! you are our only hope. She will listen to you.

Don't let her marry that dreadful politician."

To all this pathetic appeal, some parts of which were as liffle
calculated to please Carrington as Ratcliffe himself, Carrington
answered that he was ready to do all in his power but that Sybil
must tell him when and how to act.

"Then, it's a bargain," said she; "whenever I want you, I shall call
on you for help, and you shall prevent the marriage."

"Alliance offensive and defensive," said he, laughing; "war to the
knife on Ratcliffe. We will have his scalp if necessary, but I rather
think he will soon commit hari-kari himself if we leave him

"Madeleine will like him all the better if he does anything

replied Sybil, with great seriousness; "I wish there was more
Japanese bric-à-brac here, or any kind of old pots and pans to talk
about. A little art would be good for her. What a strange place this
is, and how people do stand on their heads in it! Nobody thinks
like anyone else. Victoria Dare says she is trying on principle not
to be good, because she wants to keep some new excitements for
the next world. I'm sure she practices as she preaches. Did you see
her at Mrs. Clinton's last night. She behaved more outrageously
than ever. She sat on the stairs all through supper, looking like a
demure yellow cat with two bouquets in her paws--and I know
Lord Dunbeg sent one of them;--and she actually let Mr. French
feed her with ice-cream from a spoon. She says she was showing
Lord Dunbeg a phase, and that he is going to put it into his article
on American Manners and Customs in the Quarterly, but I don't
think it's nice, do you, Mr. Carrington? I wish Madeleine had her
to take care of. She would have enough to do then, I can tell her."

And so, gently prattling, Miss Sybil returned to the city, her
alliance with Carrington completed; and it was a singular fact that
she never again called him dull. There was henceforward a look of
more positive pleasure and cordiality on her face when he made
his appearance wherever she might be; and the next time he
suggested a horseback excursion she instantly agreed to go,
although aware that she had promised a younger gentleman of the
diplomatic body to be at home that same afternoon, and the good
fellow swore polyglot oaths on being turned away from her door.

Mr. Ratcliffe knew nothing of this conspiracy against his peace
and prospects. Even if he had known it, he might only have
laughed, and pursued his own path without a second thought. Yet
it was certain that he did not think Carrington's enmity a thing to
be overlooked, and from the moment of his obtaining a clue to its
cause, he had begun to take precautions against it. Even in the
middle of the contest for the Treasury, he had found time to listen
to Mr. Wilson Keens report on the affairs of the late Samuel

Mr. Keen came to him with a copy of Baker's will and with
memoranda of remarks made by the unsuspecting Mrs. Baker;
"from which it appears," said he, "that Baker, having no time to
put his affairs in order, left special directions that his executors
should carefully destroy all papers that might be likely to
compromise individuals."

"What is the executor's name?" interrupted Ratcliffe.

"The executor's name is--John Carrington," said Keen,
methodically referring to his copy of the will.

Ratcliffe's face was impassive, but the inevitable, "I knew it,"
almost sprang to his lips. He was rather pleased at the instinct
which had led him so directly to the right trail.

Keen went on to say that from Mrs. Baker's conversation it was
certain that the testator's directions had been carried out, and that
the great bulk of these papers had been burned.

"Then it will be useless to press the inquiry further," said Ratcliffe;
"I am much obliged to you for your assistance," and he turned the
conversation to the condition of Mr. Keen's bureau in the Treasury

The next time Ratcliffe saw Mrs. Lee, after his appointment to the
Treasury was confirmed, he asked her whether she did not think
Carrington very well suited for public service, and when she
warmly assented, he said it had occurred to him to offer the place
of Solicitor of the Treasury to Mr.

Carrington, for although the actual salary might not be very much
more than he earned by his private practice, the incidental
advantages to a Washington lawyer were considerable; and to the
Secretary it was especially necessary to have a solicitor in whom
he could place entire confidence. Mrs. Lee was pleased by this
motion of Ratcliffe's, the more because she had supposed that
Ratcliffe had no liking for Carrington. She doubted whether
Carrington would accept the place, but she hoped that it might
modify his dislike for Ratcliffe, and she agreed to sound him on
the subject. There was something a little compromising in thus
allowing herself to appear as the dispenser of Mr. Ratcliffe's
patronage, but she dismissed this objection on the ground that
Carrington's interests were involved, and that it was for him to
judge whether he should take the place or not. Perhaps the world
would not be so charitable if the appointment were made. What
then? Mrs. Lee asked herself the question and did not feel quite at

So far as Carrington was concerned, she might have dismissed her

There was not a chance of his taking the place, as very soon
appeared. When she spoke to him on the subject, and repeated
what Ratcliffe had said, his face flushed, and he sat for some
moments in silence. He never thought very rapidly, but now the
ideas seemed to come so fast as to bewilder his mind.

The situation flashed before his eyes like electric sparks. His first
impression was that Ratcliffe wanted to buy him; to tie his tongue;
to make him run, like a fastened dog, under the waggon of the
Secretary of the Treasury. His second notion was that Ratcliffe
wanted to put Mrs. Lee under obligations, in order to win her
regard; and, again, that he wanted to raise himself in her esteem by
posing as a friend of honest administration and unassisted virtue.
Then suddenly it occurred to him that the scheme was to make him
appear jealous and vindictive; to put him in an attitude where any
reason he might give for declining would bear a look of meanness,
and tend to separate him from Mrs. Lee. Carrington was so
absorbed by these thoughts, and his mind worked so slowly, that
he failed to hear one or two remarks addressed to him by Mrs. Lee,
who became a little alarmed, under the impression that he was
unexpectedly paralyzed.

When at length he heard her and attempted to frame an answer, his
embarrassment increased. He could only stammer that he was
sorry to be obliged to decline, but this office was one he could not

If Madeleine felt a little relieved by this decision, she did not show

From her manner one might have supposed it to be her fondest
wish that Carrington should be Solicitor of the Treasury. She
cross-questioned him with obstinacy. Was not the offer a good
one? --and he was obliged to confess that it was. Were the duties
such as he could not perform? Not at all! there was nothing in the
duties which alarmed him. Did he object to it because of his
southern prejudices against the administration? Oh, no! he had no
political feeling to stand in his way. What, then, could be his
reason for refusing?

Carrington resorted again to silence, until Mrs. Lee, a little
impatiently, asked whether it was possible that his personal dislike
to Racliffe could blind him so far as to make him reject so fair a
proposal. Carrington, finding himself more and more
uncomfortable, rose restlessly from his chair and paced the room.
He felt that Ratclife had fairly out-generaled him, and he was at
his wits' end to know what card he could play that would not lead
directly into Ratcliffe's trump suit. To refuse such an offer was
hard enough at best, for a man who wanted money and
professional advancement as he did, but to injure himself and help
Ratcliffe by this refusal, was abominably hard. Nevertheless, he
was obliged to admit that he would rather not take a position so
directly under Ratcliffe's control. Madeleine said no more, but he
thought she looked annoyed, and he felt himself in an intolerably
painful situation. He was not certain that she herself might not
have had some share in proposing the plan, and that his refusal
might not have some mortifying consequences for her. What must
she think of him, then?

At this very moment he would have given his right arm for a word
of real affection from Mrs. Lee. He adored her. He would willingly
enough have damned himself for her. There was no sacrifice he
would not have made to bring her nearer to him. In his upright,
quiet, simple kind of way, he immolated himself before her. For
months his heart had ached with this hopeless passion. He
recognized that it was hopeless. He knew that she would never
love him, and, to do her justice, she never had given him reason to
suppose that it was in her power to love him, r any man. And here
he stood, obliged to appear ungrateful and prejudiced, mean and
vindictive, in her eyes. He took his seat again, looking so
unutterably dejected, his patient face so tragically mournful, that
Madeleine, after a while, began to see the absurd side of the
matter, and presently burst into a laugh "Please do not look so
frightfully miserable!" said she; "I did not mean to make you
unhappy. After all, what does it matter? You have a perfect right to
refuse, and, for my part, I have not the least wish to see you

On this, Carrington brightened, and declared that if she thought
him right in declining, he cared for nothing else. It was only the
idea of hurting her feelings that weighed on his mind. But in
saying this, he spoke in a tone that implied a deeper feeling, and
made Mrs. Lee again look grave and sigh.

"Ah, Mr. Carrington," she said, "this world will not run as we
want. Do you suppose the time will ever come when every one will
be good and happy and do just what they ought? I thought this
offer might possibly take one anxiety off your shoulders. I am
sorry now that I let myself be led into making it."

Carrington could not answer her. He dared not trust his voice. He
rose to go, and as she held out her hand, he suddenly raised it to
his lips, and so left her. She sat for a moment with tears in her eyes
after he was gone. She thought she knew all that was in his mind,
and with a woman's readiness to explain every act of men by their
consuming passions for her own sex, she took it as a matter of
course that jealousy was the whole cause of Carrington's hostility
to Ratcliffe, and she pardoned it with charming alacrity. "Ten
years ago, I could have loved him," she thought to herself, and
then, while she was half smiling at the idea, suddenly another
thought flashed upon her, and she threw her hand up before her
face as though some one had struck her a blow. Carrington had
reopened the old wound.

When Ratcliffe came to see her again, which he did very shortly
afterwards, glad of so good an excuse, she told him of Carrington's
refusal, adding only that he seemed unwilling to accept any
position that had a political character. Ratcliffe showed no sign of
displeasure; he only said, in a benignant tone, that he was sorry to
be unable to do something for so good a friend of hers; thus
establishing, at all events, his claim on her gratitude. As for
Carrington, the offer which Ratcliffe had made was not intended to
be accepted, and Carrington could not have more embarrassed the
secretary than by closing with it. Ratcliffe's object had been to
settle for his own satisfaction the question of Carrington's hostility,
for he knew the man well enough to feel sure that in any event he
would act a perfectly straightforward part. If he accepted, he
would at least be true to his chief. If he refused, as Ratcliffe
expected, it would be a proof that some means must be found of
getting him out of the way. In any case the offer was a new thread
in the net that Mr. Ratcliffe flattered himself he was rapidly
winding about the affections and ambitions of Mrs. Lee. Yet he
had reasons of his own for thinking that Carrington, more easily
than any other man, could cut the meshes of this net if he chose to
do so, and therefore that it would be wiser to postpone action until
Carrington were disposed of.

Without a moment's delay he made inquiries as to all the vacant or
eligible offices in the gift of the government outside his own
department. Very few of these would answer his purpose. He
wanted some temporary law business that would for a time take its
holder away to a distance, say to Australia or Central Asia, the
further the better; it must be highly paid, and it must be given in
such a way as not to excite suspicion that Ratcliffe was concerned
in the matter. Such an office was not easily found. There is little
law business in Central Asia, and at this moment there was not
enough to require a special agent in Australia. Carrington could
hardly be induced to lead an expedition to the sources of the Nile
in search of business merely to please Mr. Ratcliffe, nor could the
State Department offer encouragement to a hope that government
would pay the expenses of such an expedition. The best that
Ratcliffe could do was to select the place of counsel to the
Mexican claims-commission which was soon to meet in the city of
Mexico, and which would require about six months' absence. By a
little management he could contrive to get the counsel sent away
in advance of the commission, in order to work up a part of the
case on the spot. Ratcliffe acknowledged that Mexico was too
near, but he drily remarked to himself that if Carrington could get
back in time to dislodge him after he had once got a firm hold on
Mrs. Lee, he would never try to run another caucus.

The point once settled in his own mind, Ratcliffe, with his usual
rapidity of action, carried his scheme into effect. In this there was
little difficulty. He dropped in at the office of the Secretary of
State within eight-and-forty hours after his last conversation with
Mrs. Lee. During these early days of every new administration, the
absorbing business of government relates principally to
appointments. The Secretary of the Treasury was always ready to
oblige his colleagues in the Cabinet by taking care of their friends
to any reasonable extent. The Secretary of State was not less
courteous. The moment he understood that Mr. Ratcliffe had a
strong wish to secure the appointment of a certain person as
counsel to the Mexican claims-commission, the Secretary of State
professed readiness to gratify him, and when he heard who the
proposed person was, the suggestion was hailed with pleasure, for
Carrington was well known and much liked at the Department, and
was indeed an excellent man for the place. Ratcliffe hardly needed
to promise an equivalent. The business was arranged in ten

"I only need say," added Ratcliffe, "that if my agency in the affair
is known, Mr. Carrington will certainly refuse the place, for he is
one of your old-fashioned Virginia planters, proud as Lucifer, and
willing to accept nothing by way of favour. I will speak to your
Assistant Secretary about it, and the recommendation shall appear
to come from him."

The very next day Carrington received a private note from his old
friend, the Assistant Secretary of State, who was overjoyed to do
him a kindness.

The note asked him to call at the Department at his earliest
convenience. He went, and the Assistant Secretary announced that
he had recommended Carrington's appointment as counsel to the
Mexican claims-commission, and that the Secretary had approved
the recommendation. "We want a Southern man, a lawyer with a
little knowledge of international law, one who can go at once, and,
above all, an honest man. You fit the description to a hair; so pack
your trunk as soon as you like."

Carrington was startled. Coming as it did, this offer was not only
unobjectionable, but tempting. It was hard for him even to imagine
a reason for hesitation. From the first he felt that he must go, and
yet to go was the very last thing he wanted to do. That he should
suspect Ratcliffe to be at the bottom of this scheme of banishment
was a matter of course, and he instantly asked whether any
influence had been used in his favour; but the Assistant Secretary
so stoutly averred that the appointment was made on his
recommendation alone, as to block all further inquiry. Technically
this assertion was exact, and it made Carrington feel that it would
be base ingratitude on his part not to accept a favour so
handsomely offered.

Yet he could not make up his mind to acceptance. He begged four
and twenty hours' delay, in order, as he said, to see whether he
could arrange his affairs for a six months' absence, although he
knew there would be no difficulty in his doing so. He went away
and sat in his office alone, gloomily wondering what he could do,
although from the first he saw that the situation was only too clear,
and there could not be the least dark corner of a doubt to crawl
into. Six months ago he would have jumped at this offer.

What had happened within six months to make it seem a disaster?

Mrs. Lee! There was the whole story. To go away now was to give
up Mrs. Lee, and probably to give her up to Ratcliffe. Carrington
gnashed his teeth when he thought how skilfully Ratcliffe was
playing his cards. The longer he reflected, the more certain he felt
that Ratcliffe was at the bottom of this scheme to get rid of him;
and yet, as he studied the situation, it occurred to him that after all
it was possible for Ratcliffe to make a blunder. This Illinois
politician was clever, and understood men; but a knowledge of
men is a very different thing from a knowledge of women.
Carrington himself had no great experience in the article of
women, but he thought he knew more than Ratcliffe, who was
evidently relying most on his usual theory of political corruption as
applied to feminine weaknesses, and who was only puzzled at
finding how high a price Mrs. Lee set on herself. If Ratcliffe were
really at the bottom of the scheme for separating Carrington from
her, it could only be because he thought that six months, or even
six weeks, would be enough to answer his purpose. And on
reaching this point in his reflections, Carrington suddenly rose, lit
a cigar, and walked up and down his room steadily for the next
hour, with the air of a general arranging a plan of campaign, or a
lawyer anticipating his opponent's line of argument.

On one point his mind was made up. He would accept. If Ratcliffe
really had a hand in this move, he should be gratified. If he had
laid a trap, he should be caught in it. And when the evening came,
Carrington took his hat and walked off to call upon Mrs. Lee.

He found the sisters alone and quietly engaged in their

Madeleine was dramatically mending an open-work silk stocking,
a delicate and difficult task which required her whole mind. Sybil
was at the piano as usual, and for the first time since he had known
her, she rose when he came in, and, taking her work-basket, sat
down to share in the conversation. She meant to take her place as a
woman, henceforward. She was tired of playing girl. Mr.
Carrington should see that she was not a fool.

Carrington plunged at once into his subject, and announced the
offer made to him, at which Madeleine expressed delight, and
asked many questions. What was the pay? How soon must he go?
How long should he be away? Was there danger from the climate?
and finally she added, with a smile, "What am I to say to Mr.
Ratcliffe if you accept this offer after refusing his?" As for Sybil,
she made one reproachful exclamation: "Oh, Mr. Carrington!" and
sank back into silence and consternation. Her first experiment at
taking a stand of her own in the world was not encouraging. She
felt betrayed.

Nor was Carrington gay. However modest a man may be, only an
idiot can forget himself entirely in pursuing the moon and the
stars. In the bottom of his soul, he had a lingering hope that when
he told his story, Madeleine might look up with a change of
expression, a glance of unpremeditated regard, a little suffusion of
the eyes, a little trembling of the voice. To see himself relegated to
Mexico with such cheerful alacrity by the woman he loved was not
the experience he would have chosen. He could not help feeling
that his hopes were disposed of, and he watched her with a painful
sinking of the heart, which did not lead to lightness of
conversation. Madeleine herself felt that her expressions needed to
be qualified, and she tried to correct her mistake. What should she
do without a tutor? she said. He must let her have a list of books to
read while he was away: they were themselves going north in the
middle of May, and Carrington would be back by the time they
returned in December. After all, they should see as little of him
during the summer if he were in Virginia as if he were in Mexico.

Carrington gloomily confessed that he was very unwilling to go;
that he wished the idea had never been suggested; that he should
be perfectly happy if for any reason the scheme broke down; but
he gave no explanation of his feeling, and Madeleine had too much
tact to press for one. She contented herself by arguing against it,
and talking as vivaciously as she could. Her heart really bled for
him as she saw his face grow more and more pathetic in its quiet
expression of disappointment. But what could she say or do? He
sat till after ten o'clock; he could not tear himself away. He felt
that this was the end of his pleasure in life; he dreaded the solitude
of his thoughts. Mrs. Lee's resources began to show signs of
exhaustion. Long pauses intervened between her remarks; and at
length Carrington, with a superhuman effort, apologized for
inflicting himself upon her so unmercifully. If she knew, he said,
how he dreaded being alone, she would forgive him. Then he rose
to go, and, in taking leave, asked Sybil if she was inclined to ride
the next day; if so, he was at her service. Sybil's face brightened as
she accepted the invitation.

Mrs. Lee, a day or two afterwards, did mention Carrington's
appointment to Mr. Ratcliffe, and she told Carrington that the
Secretary certainly looked hurt and mortified, but showed it only
by almost instantly changing the subject.

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