Senator North by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
On Thursday she not only witnessed the last moments of the last session of the Fifty-fourth Congress, but the initial ceremonies of the inauguration of a President of the United States. She had seen the galleries crowded before, but never as they were to-day. Even the Diplomatists' Gallery, usually empty, was full of women and attaches, and the very steps of the other galleries were set thick with people. Thousands had stood patiently in the corridors since early morning, and thousands stood there still, or wandered about looking at the statues and painted walls. The Senators were all in their seats; most of them would gladly have been in bed, for they had been up all night; and the Ambassadors and Envoys were brilliant and glittering curves of colour: the effect greatly enhanced by the Republican simplicity of the men to whose country they were accredited. The Judges of the Supreme Court, in their flowing silk gowns, alone reminded the spectator that the United States had not sprung full-fledged from nothing, without traditions and without precedent.
What little is left of form in the Republic was observed. Two Senators and one Representative, the Committee appointed to call on the retiring President, who had just signed his last bill in his room close by, entered and announced that Mr. Cleveland had no further messages for the Senate, and extended his congratulations to both Houses of Congress upon the termination of their labours. The United States had been without a ruler for twenty minutes when the assistant doorkeeper announced the Vice-President, two pages drew back the doors, and Mr. Hobart entered on the arm of a Senator and took the seat on the dais beside his predecessor, who still occupied the chair of the presiding officer of the Senate. Then there was another long wait, during which the people in the galleries gossiped loudly and the Senators yawned. Finally the President elect and the ex-President, after being formally announced, entered arm in arm. Both looked very Republican indeed, especially poor Mr. Cleveland, who toiled along with the gout, leaning what he could of his massive figure upon an umbrella. The women stood up, and with one accord pronounced their President-elect as good-looking as he undoubtedly was strong and amiable and firm and calm and pious. Mr. Hobart took the oath of office, and after the necessary speeches and the proclamation for an Extra Session, the new Senators were sworn in by the new Vice- President, and Betty wondered how any man would dare to break so solemn an oath.
As soon as the move began toward the platform outside, Betty escaped through the crowd and went home. As she drove down the Avenue, she heard the stupendous shout of joy, some fifty thousand strong, with which the American public ever greets its new President and the consequent show. Be he Republican or Democrat, it is all one for the day; he is an excuse to gather, to yell, and to gaze.
Betty turned her head and caught a glimpse of a bareheaded man on his feet, bowing and bowing and bowing, and of a heavy figure with its hat on seated beside him. She speculated upon the sardonic reflections active inside of that hat.
She did not expect to see Senator North for at least twenty-four hours, but his card was brought to her while she was still at luncheon. She went rapidly to her boudoir, and found him standing with his overcoat on and his hat in his hand.
Although he had been up all the night before and had not had his full measure of rest for a week, he looked as calm as usual, and there was not a hint of fatigue in his face nor of disorder in his dress.
"You deserted us last night," he said, smiling. "I thought perhaps you would sit up and see us through."
"I was up there at nine this morning and saw the Senate floor littered with papers. It had a very allnight look. Have you had luncheon? Won't you come in?"
"I should be glad to, but I haven't time. I find I must go North to- night, and am on my way home to get a few hours' rest. I wanted to thank you for many pleasant hours--in this room." His eyes moved about slowly and softened somewhat. It is not improbable that he would have liked to throw himself among the cushions of the divan and go to sleep.
"Well! You might postpone that until we part for life," said Betty, lightly. "You forget that Congress will convene in Extra Session on the fifteenth."
"Yes, but there is no necessity for me to be here until some time in May at earliest. The principal object of the Session is the revision of the Tariff, and the new bill originates with the Ways and Means Committee. After it has been thrashed out in the House and returned to the Committee for amendments, it will be referred to the Finance Committee of the Senate. All that takes time. I am not a member of the Finance Committee this term, and I shall not return until the debate opens in the Senate. As to the Arbitration business, Ward will look after that. I would not stir if there were a chance of the Treaty coming back to the Senate in its original form, but there is not. When Ward telegraphs me I shall come down and cast my vote."
His long speech had given Betty time to recover from his first announcement, and her eyes were full of the frank earnestness which had established the desired relation between herself and Senator North.
"I am glad you are going to have a rest," she said; "that is, if you are."
"Oh, it is work that sits very lightly on me, and is very congenial: I am going to do all I can to allay this war fever in my own State. It is not too late to appeal to their reason; but it might be at any moment."
"Well, at all events, you go to the bracing climate of the North. But I am sorry you go so soon. Mother cannot stay in Washington after the third week in May. I am afraid we shall not meet again until you come to the Adirondacks."
"Ah, the Adirondacks!" he said. "Yes, I shall see you there. Good- bye."
He did not smile. There were times when he seemed to turn a key and lock up his features. This was one of them. Betty felt as if she were looking at a mask contrived with unusual skill.
He shook her warmly by the hand, however. "I forgot to say that I shall be in Washington off and on--for a day or so. My wife remains here. It is still too cold for her in the North. Good-bye again."
He left her, and she did not return to her luncheon.