Part I
Chapter XIV
 

"Do all Southerners make such delicious coffee?" asked Senator Burleigh, as the four sat about the attractive table in the breakfast- room.

"The Southerners are the only cooks in the United States," announced Miss Carter. "The real difference between the South and the North is that one enjoys itself getting dyspepsia and the other does not."

"There are just six kinds of hot bread on this table," said Burleigh, meditatively.

"And no pie and no doughnuts. Mr. Montgomery, you are really a Southerner--ar'n't you glad to get back to darky cooks?"

"I was until we began on this tariff bill, and now there is not an object you can mention, edible or otherwise, that I don't loathe."

"The details of such a bill must be maddening," said Betty, sympathetically, "but, after all, it is an honour to be on the Ways and Means Committee. There is compensation in everything."

"I don't know. When a man lobbyist tries to find out your weak spot and play on it, you can kick him out of the house, but when they set a woman at you, all you can do is to bow and say: 'My dear madam, it is with the greatest regret I am obliged to inform you that I have sat up every night until three o'clock studying this subject, and that I have made up my mind.' Whereupon she talks straight ahead and hints at trouble with certain constituents next year who want free coal and an exorbitant duty on Zante currants, raisins, wine, and wool. The whole army of lobbyists have camped on my doorstep ever since we began to draw up this bill. How they find time to camp on any one's else would make an interesting study in ubiquity."

"I am afraid some of your ideals have been shattered, and I am afraid you are shattering some of Miss Madison's," said Burleigh, smiling into Betty's disgusted face.

"I hate the dirty work of politics," said Montgomery, gloomily. "Of course it doesn't demoralize you so long as you keep your own hands clean, but it is sickening to suspect that you are sitting cheek by jowl in the Committee Room with a man whose pocket is stuffed with some Trust Company's shares."

"I used to hate it, but I don't see any remedy until we have an educated generation of high-class politicians, and I think that millennium is not far off. As matters stand, there is bound to be a certain percentage of scoundrels and of men too weak to resist a bribe in a great and shifting body like the House. Any scoundrel feels that he can slink among the rest unseen. The old members who have been returned term after term since they began to grow stubby beards on their cast-iron chins are an argument against rotation; they have had a chance to acquire the confidence of the public, they are experienced legislators, and they are incorruptible."

Betty drew a long sigh of relief. "You have cleared up the atmosphere a little," she said. "I thought I was going to learn that the House, at least, was one hideous mass of corruption, praying for burial."

"That is what they think of us outside," said Montgomery. "We might as well all be gangrene, for we get the credit of it."

"I don't like your similes," said Miss Carter; "I haven't finished my breakfast. Mr. Burleigh, you've put on your senatorial manner and I like you better without it. I thought you were going to say, 'Don't interrupt, please,' or 'Would you kindly be quiet until I finish?' at least twice."

"I beg pardon humbly. I am flattered to know that you have thought it worth while to listen to any remarks I may have been forced to make in the Senate."

"I have been twice to the gallery with Betty, and both times you were talking like a steam-engine and warning people off the track."

It was so apt a description of Burleigh's style when on his feet that even he laughed.

"I don't like to be interrupted or contradicted," he said, "I frankly admit it."

"Better not marry an American girl."

"Some Englishwomen have wills of their own," remarked Mr. Montgomery.

"Some men are tyrants in public life and slaves at home--to a beautiful woman," remarked Senator Burleigh.

"Some men are so clever," said Miss Carter. "Give me another waffle, please."