Part III
Chapter VIII
 

For a few days Betty was almost happy again. She had come so close to the nucleus of love that it had warmed her veins and intoxicated her brain. Imagination for a brief moment had given place to reality, and if she felt wiser and older still than after her five months of meditation on the events of the summer, she felt less sober. One great desire of the past year had been fulfilled, and its memory sparkled in her brain, and her heart was lighter. It had been hours before she had ceased to feel the pressure of his arms.

She wondered how she could have been so weak as to think of marrying Burleigh in self-defence, and she punished him by an indifference of manner which approached frigidity; until one of the evening journals copied a bitter attack upon him from the leading newspaper of his State, when she relented and permitted him to console himself in her presence. And although, as the weeks passed and she saw Senator North from the gallery of the Senate only, or for a few impersonal moments in the crowd, and the elixir in her veins lost its strength, still she felt that life was sufferable once more. She had endeavoured to put Mrs. North from her mind, but more than once she caught herself wishing that some one would mention her name. Nobody did in those excited days, and Betty had no means of learning whether her sudden good health had been final or temporary. Sally Carter did not allude to her again. When she and Betty met, it was to wrangle on the Cuban question, for Miss Carter was all for war.

And then one day the newsboys shrieked in the streets that the Maine had been blown up in Havana Harbor.

For a few days Congress held its peace, and the country showed a praiseworthy attempt to believe in the theory of accident or to wait for full proof of Spanish treachery. The Maine was blown up on Tuesday, and on Thursday night at the Madisons' the subject almost was avoided; it was the most peaceful salon Betty had held.

But it was merely the calm before the storm. The fever was still in the country's blood, which began to flow freely to the brain again as soon as the shock was over. The press could not let pass the most glorious opportunity in its history for head-lines; there were more mass meetings than even the press could grapple with, and all the latent oratorical ability in the country burst into flower. It seemed to Betty when she rose in the night and leaned out of her window that she could hear the roar of the great national storm.

And it rose and swelled and left the old landmarks behind it. The memory of the gales of the past year, with the intervals of doubt and rest, was insignificant beside this volume of fury pouring out of every State, to concentrate at last, fierce, unreasoning, and irresistible, about the White House and Capitol Hill. It was not long before the great quiet village on the Potomac seemed to epitomize the terrible mood of the country it represented, and the country had made up its mind long before the report of the Maine Court of Inquiry came in. The cry no longer was for the suffering Cuban, but for revenge. The Senate held down its "kickers" with an iron hand, but one or two of the inferior men managed to shout across the Chamber to their constituents. Senator North scarcely left his seat. Burleigh told Betty that he should not allude to the subject in the Senate until after the Court of Inquiry's report, but then, whatever the result, he should speak and ask for war. Betty argued with him by the hour, and although he discussed the matter from every side, it was evident that he did it merely for the pleasure of talking to her and that she could not shake his resolution for a moment. It was time for the United States to put an end to the barbarous state of affairs a few miles from her shores, and that was the end of it. He admitted the patriotism of Senator North's attitude, but contended that the United States would be more dishonoured if she disregarded this terrible appeal to her humanity. When Betty accused him of short- sightedness, he replied that a foretold result required a straight line of succession, and that when great events thickened the line of succession was anything but straight; therefore ultimates could not be foretold. He admitted that Senator North had proved himself possessed of the faculty of what Herbert Spencer calls representativeness more than once, but men as wise and calm in their judgment had been mistaken before. But he and others of his standing were preserving the dignity of the Senate, and that was something.