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the cold river, that suited his mood. It was winter in his spirit too, just then.
Sometimes he visited the halls of Congress, and saw the great legislators of those days. There was something here that fed his heart. Wintry as his prospects were, the sun still shone overhead; his courage never failed him; he never gave way to weak repining; and when he entered those halls,—when he saw tho deep fire in the eyes of Webster, and heard the superb thunder of his voice, — when he listened to the witty and terrible invectives of Randolph, that "meteor of Congress," as Benton calls him, and watched the electric effect of the "long and skinny forefinger" pointed and shaken, — when charmed by this speaker, or convinced by that, or roused to indignation by another, — there was kindled a sense of power within his own breast, a fire prophetic of his future.
On returning home, he would look on his table for communications, or he would ask, "Has anybody called for me today?" But there was never any letter; and Mrs. Markham's gentle response always was, "No one, Sir."
The thirteenth of January passed,—his birthday. lIe was now nineteen. When the world is bright before us, birthdays are not so unpleasant . But to feel that your time is slipping away from you, with nothing accomplishing, — to see no rainbow of promise in the clouds, — to walk the streets of a lonely city, and think of home, — these things make a birthday sad and solitary.
At last his money was all gone. The prospect was more than dismal, — it was appalling. What was he to do?
Should he borrow of his uncle ?" Not unless it be to keep me from starvation!" was his proud resolve.
Should he apply to his mother? The remembrance of what she had already done for him was as much as his heart could bear. Her image, venerable, patient, blind, was before him: he recalled the sacrifices she had made for his sake, postponing her own comfort, and accepting pain and privation, in order that her
boy might have an education; and he was filled with remorse at the thought that he had never before fully appreciated all that love and devotion. For so it is: seldom, until too late, comes any true recognition of such sacrifices. But when she who made them is no longer with us, — too often, alas, when she has passed forever beyond the reach of filial gratitude and affection, — we awake at once to a realization of her worth and of our loss.
What Salmon did was to make a confidant of Mrs. Markham; for he felt that she at least ought to know his resources.
"This is all I have for the present," he said to her one day, when paymg his week's bill. "I thought you ought to know. I do not wish to appear a swindler,"—with a gloomy smile.
"You a swindler!" exclaimed the good woman, with glistening eyes. "I would trust you as far as I would trust myself. If you have n't any money, never mind. You shall stay, and pay me when yon can. Don't worry yourself at all. It will turn out right, I am sure. You 'll have pupils yet."
"I trust so," said Salmon, touched by her kindness. "At all events, if my life is spared, you shall be paid some day. Now you know how I am situated; and if you choose to keep me longer on an uncertainty, I shall be greatly obliged to you."
His voice shook a little as he spoke.
"As long as you please," she replied.
Just then there was a knock.
"Maybe that is for you!"
And she hastened away, rather to conceal her emotion, I suspect, than in the hope of admitting a patron for her boarder.
She returned in a minute with shining countenance.
"A gentleman and his little boy, to see
Mr. !I have shown them into
Salmon was amazed. Could it be true? A pupil at last! He gave a hurried glance at himself in the mirror, straightened his shirt-collar, gave his hair a touch, and descended, with beating heart, to meet his visitor.
He was dignified enough, however, on entering the parlor, and no cool you would never have suspected that he almost felt his fate depending upon this gentleman's business.
He was a Frenchman, — polite, affable, and of a manner so gracious, you would have said he had come to beg a favor, rather than to grant one.
"This is Mr. ?My name is
Bonfils. This is my little boy. We have come to entreat of you the kindness to take him into your school." .
"I will do so most gladly !" said Salmon, shaking the boy's hand.
"You are very good. We shall be greatly indebted to you. When does your school commence?"
"As soon, Sir, as I shall have engaged a sufficient number of pupils."
"Ah! you have uot a great number, then?"
"I have none," Salmon was obliged to confess.
"None? You surprise me! I have seen your advertisement, I hear good things said of you, — why, then, no pupils?"
"I am hardly known yet. Allow me to count your son here my first, and I have no doubt but others will soon come in."
"Assuredly! Make your compliments
to Mr. , my son. I shall interest
myself. I think I shall send you some pupils. In mean time, my son will wait."
And with many expressions of goodwill the cheerful Monsieur Bonula withdrew.
This was a gleam of hope. The door of Providence had opened just a crack.
It opened no farther, however. No more pupils came. Salmon waited. Day after day glided by like sand under his feet . He could not afford even to advertise now. He was getting fearfully in debt; and debt is always a nightmare to a generous and upright mind.
"Any pupils yet?" asked Monsieur Bonfils, meeting him, one day, in the «treet.
"Not one I" said Salmon, with gloomy emphasis.
"Ah, that is unfortunate !".
He expected nothing less than that the Frenchman would add, — " Then I must place my son elsewhere." But no; he was polite as ever; he was charming.
"You should have many before now. I have spoken for you to my friends. But patience, my dear Sir. You will succeed. In mean time we will wait."
And with a cordial hand-shake, and a Parisian flourish, he smilingly passed on, leaving a gleam of sunshine on the young man's path.
Now Salmon was one who would never, if he could help it, abandon an undertaking in which be had once embarked. But when convinced that persistence was hopeless, then, however reluctantly, he would give it up. On the present occasion, he was not only spending his time and exhausting his energies in a pursuit which grew each day more and more dubious, but his conscience was slung with the thought that he was wronging others. Kind as Mrs. Markham was to him, he did not like to look her in the face and feel that he owed her a debt which was always increasing, and which he knew not how he should ever pay.
"Why don't you get a place in the Department?" said Williams, that enviable fellow, who had light duties, several hours each day to himself, and eight hundred a year!
"That's more easily said than done!" And Salmon shook his head.
"No, it is n't!" The fortunate Williams sat with his logs upon the table, one foot on the other, a pipe in his mouth, and a book in his hand, enjoying himself. "You have an uncle in the Senate. Ask him to use his influence for you. He can get you a place." And pufling a fragrant cloud complacently into the air, he returned to his pleasant reading.
Salmon walked the room. He went out and walked the street. A sore struggle was taking place in his breast. Should he give up the school? Should he go and ask this thing of his uncle? Oh, for somebody to whom he could go for counsel and sympathy!
"Williams is perhaps right . I may wait a year, and not get another pupil. Meanwhile I am growing shabby. I need a new pair of boots. My washerwoman must be paid. Why not get a clerkship as a temporary thing, if nothing more? My uncle can get it for me, without any trouble to himself. It is not like asking him for money."
Yet he dreaded to trouble the Senator even thus much. Proud and sensitive natures do not like to beg favors, any way.
"I 'll wait one day longer. Then, if not a pupil applies, I 'll go to my ifncle."
He waited twenty-four hours. Not a pupil. Then, desperate and discouraged at last, Salmon buttoned his coat, and walked fast through the streets to his uncle's boarding-house.
It was evening. The Senator was at home.
"Well, Salmon ?" inquiringly. "How do you get on?"
"Poorly," said Salmon, sitting down, with his hat on his knee.
"You must have patience, boy!" said the Senator, laying down a pamphlet open at the page where he was reading when his nephew came in. "Pluck and patience, — those are the two oars that pull the boat."
"I have patience enough, and I don't think I 'm lacking in pluck," replied Salmon, coldly. "But one thing I lack, and am likely to lack, —pupils. I 've only one, and I expect every day to lose him."
"Well, what can I do for you?" said the Senator, perceiving that his nephew had come for something.
"I would like to have you get me a place in the Treasury Department."
It was a minute before Dudley Chase replied. He took up the pamphlet, rolled it together, then threw it abruptly upon the table.
"Salmon," said he, "listen. I once got an appointment for a nephew of mine,
and it ruined him. If yon want half-adollar with which to buy a spade, and go out and dig for your living, I 'll give it to you cheerfully. But I will not get you a place under Government."
Salmon felt a choking sensation in his throat. He knew his uncle did not mean it for unkindness; but the sentence seemed hard. He arose, speechless for a moment, mechanically brushing his hat.
"Thank you. I will not trouble you for the half-dollar. I shall try to get along without the appointment. Good night, uncle."
, " Good night, Salmon." Dudley accompanied him to the door. He must have seen what a blow he had given him. "You think me harsh," he added; "but the time will come when you will see that this is the best advice I could give you."
"Perhaps," said Salmon, stiffly; and he walked away, filled with disappointment and bitterness.
"Well, did he promise it?" asked Williams, who sat up awaiting his return.
He had been thinking he would like to have Salmon in his own room at the Department; but now, seeing how serious he looked, his own countenance fell.
"What! did n't he give yon any encouragement?"
"On the other hand," said Salmon, "he advised me to buy a spade and go to digging for my living! And I shall do it before I ask again for an appointment."
Williams was astonished. He thought the Senator from Vermont must be insane.
But, after the lapse of a few years, perhaps he, too, saw that the uncle had given his nephew good advice indeed. Williams remained a clerk in the Department, and was never anything else. Perhaps, if Salmon .had got the appointment he sought, he would have become a clerk like him, and would never have been anything else.
In a little more than twenty years Salmon was himself a Senator, and had the making of such clerks. And what happened a dozen years later? This: he who had once sought in vain a petty appointment was called to administer the finances of the nation. Instead of a clerk grown gray in the Department, to whom the irreverent youngsters might
be saying to-day," , do this," or,
", do that," and he doeth it, he
is himself the supreme ruler there. He could never have got thai place by promotion in the Department itself. I mention this, not to speak slightingly of clerkships, — for he who does his duty faithfully in any calling, however humble, is worthy of honor, — but to show that the ways of Providence are not our ways, and that often we are disappointed for our own good. Had a clerkship been what was in store for Salmon, he would have obtained it; but since, had he got it, he would probably have never been ready to give it up, how fortunate that he received instead the offer of fifty cents wherewith to purchase a spade!
It may be, when the new Secretary entered upon his duties, Williams was there still; for there were men in the Treasury who had been there a much longer term than from 1826 to 1861. I should like to know. I can fancy him-, gray now, slightly bald, and rather roundshouldered, but cheerful as a cricket, introducing himself to the chief.
"My name is Williams. Don't you remember Williams, — boarded at Mrs. Markham's in '26 and '27, when you did?"
"What! David Williams? Are you here yet?"
"Yes, your Honor." (These old clerks all say, " Your Honor," in addressing the Secretary. The younger ones are not so respectful.) "I was never so lucky as to be turned out, and I was never quite prepared to leave. You have got in at last, I see l But it was necessary for you to make a wide circuit first, in order to come in at the top!"
Did such an interview ever take place, I wonder?
But we are talking of that evening so long ago, when Williams seemed the lucky
one, and things looked so black to Salmon, after hu had asked of his uncle bread, and received (as he then thought) a stone.
"Well, then I don't know what the deuse you will do!" said Williams, knocking the ashes out of his pipe.
You would have said that his hopes of Salmon were likewise ashes: he had entertained himself with them a little while; now they were burnt out; and he seemed to knock them out of his pipe, too, into the fire. He got up, yawned,
said ho pitied , and went to bed.
In a little while his breathing denoted that he was fast asleep.
Salmon went to bed, too; but did he sleep?
Do not think, after all this, that he gave way to weak despondency. Something within him seemed to say, "What you have you must obtain through earnest struggle and endeavor. It is only commonplace people and weaklings who find the hinges of life all smoothly oiled. Great doors do not open so easily. Be brave, be strong, be great." It was the voice of Faith speaking within him.
The next morning he arose, more a man than he had ever felt before. This long and severe trial had been necessary to develop what was in him. His selfreliance, his strength of character, his faith in God's providence, — these were tried, and not found wanting.
Still the veil of the future remained impenetrable. Not a gleam of light shone through its sable folds. He could only watch for its uplifting, and sit still.
"A bad beginning makes a good ending," said Williams, one evening, to comfort him.
"Yes, — and a good beginning sometimes makes a bad ending. I had a lesson on that subject once. When I was about eleven years old, I started from Keene, with one of my sisters, to go and visit another sister, who was married and living at Hookset Falls, over on the Merrimac. It was in winter, and we set out in a sleigh with one horse. I was driver. My idea of sleighing was bells and fast driving; and I put the poor beast up to all he knew. We intended to reach a friend's house, at Peterborough, before night; but I found I had used up our horse-power before we had made much more than half the journey. Then came on a violent snow-squall, which obliterated the track. It grew dark; we were blinded by the storm ; we got into drifts, and finally quite lost our way. Not a house was in sight, and the horse was tired out. The prospect of a night in the storm, and only a winding-sheet of snow to cover us, made me bitterly regret the foolish ambition with which I had set out. At last my sister, whose eyes were better than mine, saw a light. We went wallowing through the drifts towards it, and discovered a house. Here we got a boy to guide us; and so at last reached our friend's, in as sad a plight as ever two such mortals were in. Since which time," added Salmon, "I have rather inclined to the opinion that slow beginnings, with steady progress, are best."
"That's first-rate philosophy!" said Williams, secretly congratulating himself, however, on having made what he considered a brisk start in life.
One day Salmon passed a store where some spades were exposed for sale. He stopped to look at them. There was a strauge smile on his face.
"Perhaps, after all, digging is my vocation! Well, it is an honorable one. I only wish to know what God would have me to do. If to dig, then I will undertake it cheerfully."
However, there was one great objection to his lifting a spade. It would first have been necessary to apply to his uncle for the once-rejected half-dollar. He was determined never to do that.
He walked home, very thoughtful. He could not see how it was possible that any good fortune should ever happen to him in Washington. The sights of the city had become exceedingly distasteful to him, associated as they were with his hopes deferred and his heart-sickness. He reached his door. Mrs. Markham met him with beaming countenance.
"There is a gentleman waiting for you! I reckon it's another pupil!"
His face brightened for an instant. But it was clouded again quickly, as he reflected,—
"One more pupil! Very likely! That makes two! At this rate, I shall have four in the course of a year!"
He was inclined to be sarcastic with himself. But he checked the ungrateful thoughts at once.
"What Providence sends me, that let me cheerfully aud thankfully accept!"
He entered the parlor. A gentlemanly person, with an air of culture, advanced to meet him.
"This is Mr.?"
"That is my name, Sir."
"Mrs. Markham said you would be in in a minute; so I have waited."
"You are very kind to do so, Sir. Sit down."
"I have seen your advertisement in the 'Intelligencer.' You still think of establishing a school?"
"That is my intention."
"May I ask if you have been successful in obtaining pupils?"
"Not very. I have one engaged. I would like a dozen more, to begin with."
The gentleman took his hat. "Of course he will go, now he knows what my prospects are!" But Salmon was mistaken. The visitor seemed to have taken his hat merely for the sake of having something in his hands, to occupy them.
"Then perhaps you will be pleased to listen to my proposition?
"My name is Plumlcy. I have established a successful classical school, as you may be aware. It is in G Street."
"I have heard of you, Sir." And Salmon might have added, "I have envied you!"
"Well, Mrs. Plumley has recently opened a young ladies' school, which has succeeded beyond all our expectations."
"I congratulate you sincerely!"
"But it is found that the two schools are more than we can attend to. I pro