Senator North by Gertrude Franklin Horn Atherton
Betty went to the Senate Gallery on the following day at the request of Armstrong, and heard an exposition of the Populist religion by the benevolent-looking bore from Nebraska. He was followed by an arraignment of the "gold standard Administration" and the Republican Party, from the leading advocate of bimetallism with-or-without-the- concurrence-of-Europe. The utterances of both gentlemen were delivered with the repose and dignity peculiar to their body, and Patriotism and the Constitution would appear to be their watchword and fetish. Burleigh came up to the gallery as the Silver Senator sat down, and smiled wearily at Betty's puzzled comments.
"Of course they sound well," he replied. "In the first place there is always much to be said on both sides of any question, and a clever speaker can make his side dwarf the other. And of course no party could exist five minutes unless it had some good in it. There are several admirable principles in the Populist creed; there are enough windy theories to upset the Constitution of which they prate; and, by the way, the more wrong-headed a would-be statesman is the more hysterically does he plead for the Constitution. As to the other Senator--I sympathize as deeply with the farmer as any man, and I hoped against hope for the success of the bimetallic envoys; but the farmer is of considerably less importance than the national honour; and if a man is not statesman enough to take the national view when he comes to the Senate, he had better stay at home and become a party boss."
"Are you in trouble at home? I saw that you made a speech just before you left."
"They are furious, and elections are imminent; but I never have believed that it paid in the end to be a politician, and I propose to hold to that view. If I am not re-elected this time, I will venture to say that I shall be six years later--"
"Oh, I should be sorry! I should be sorry! Your heart is in the Senate. How could you settle down contentedly to practise law in a Western city for six years?"
"I certainly should have very little to offer a woman," he said bitterly. His frank handsome face had lost the expression of gayety which had sat so gracefully upon the determination of its contours; he looked harassed and a trifle cynical. "There is only one thing I hate more than leaving the United States Senate--and God knows I love it and its traditions: what that is I feel I now have no right--"
"Oh, yes, you have; for if I loved you I would live at the North Pole with you, and I hate cold weather. I don't want you to put me in that sort of position, both for the sake of your own pride and for our friendship."
"That is like you, and I shall take you at your word. Perhaps you can imagine what it cost me to come out and declare myself in a State howling for Silver, when I knew that to leave Washington meant losing my chance with you. For if I am not re-elected I must go out there and stay. I could afford to live here, of course--I hope you know that I have plenty of money--but my political future is there. Even if you made it a condition, I should not pull up stakes, for a man who despised himself for abandoning his ambitions and his power for usefulness could not be happy with any woman."
"I should not make such a condition. As I said, I willingly would go West with you if I loved you."
"Would to God you did! What I meant was that in going I lose my chance."
Betty looked at him and shook her head slowly.
"Yes!" he said. "Yes! Yes! I believe, I know that I could win you with time. And now that the future looks dark I want you more than ever."
"Ah, I wish I could love you," she exclaimed fervently. "I have enough of feminine insight to know that a woman is really happy only when she is making a man happy, and that she is almost ready to bless the troubles which give her the opportunity to console him."
She was looking straight down at Senator North as she spoke. Her voice was impassioned as she finished, and she forgot the man at her side. But he never had suspected that she loved another man. His face flushed and he lowered his head eagerly.
"Betty!" he said, "Betty! Come to me and I swear to make you happy. You don't know what love is. You need to be taught. Any man can make a woman of feeling love him if he loves her enough and she has no antipathy to him. And there is no reason under heaven why we should not be happy together."
There was only one. Betty was convinced of that; and for the moment the dull ache in her heart prompted her to wish that she never had seen the man down there listening impassively to remarks on the Immigration bill. She wanted to be happy, she was made to be happy, and it was easy to imagine the most exacting woman deeply attached to Robert Burleigh. What was love that it defied the Will? Why could not she shake up her brain as one shakes up a misused sofa-cushion and beat it into proper shape? What was love that persisted in spite of the Will and the judgment, that came whence no mortal could discover, but an abnormal condition of the brain, a convolution that no human treatment could reach? But she only shook her head at Burleigh, although she knew that it would be wisdom to give him her hand in full view of the stragglers in the gallery.
"I must go now," she said. "I have calls to pay. Come and dine with us to-night. If there is even a chance of our losing you, my mother and I must have all of you that we can, meanwhile."