The weekly letter to the Newcastle Guardian was not finished that night, but
Coniston slept, peacefully, unaware of Mr. Worthington's visit; and never,
indeed, discovered it, since the historian for various reasons of his own did
not see fit to insert the event in his plan of the Town History. Before another
sun had set Jethro Bass had departed for the state capital, not choosing to
remain to superintend the haying of the many farms which had fallen into his
hand,—a most unusual omission for him.
Presently rumors of a mighty issue about the Truro Railroad began to be
discussed by the politicians at the Coniston store, and Jake Wheeler held
himself in instant readiness to answer a summons to the capital—which never
Delegations from Brampton and Harwich went to petition the Legislature for
the franchise, and the Brampton Clarion and Harwich Sentinel declared that the
people of Truro County recognized in Isaac Worthington a great and
public-spirited man, who ought by all means to be the next governor—if the
franchise went through.
One evening Lem Hallowell, after depositing a box of trimmings at Ephraim
Prescott's harness shop, drove up to the platform of the store with the remark
that "things were gittin' pretty hot down to the capital in that franchise
"Hain't you b'en sent for yet, Jake?" he cried, throwing his reins over the
backs of his sweating Morgans; "well, that's strange. Guess the fight hain't as
hot as we hear about. Jethro hain't had to call out his best men."
"I'm a-goin' down if there's trouble," declared Jake, who consistently
"Better git up and git," said Lem; "there's three out of the five railroads
against Truro, and Steve Merrill layin' low. Bije Bixby's down there, and Heth
Sutton, and Abner Parkinson, and all the big bugs. Better get aboard, Jake."
At this moment the discussion was interrupted by the sight of Cynthia
Wetherell coming across the green with an open letter in her hand.
"It's a message from Uncle Jethro," she said.
The announcement was sufficient to warrant the sensation it produced on all
"'Tain't a letter from Jethro, is it?" exclaimed Sam Price, overcome by a
pardonable curiosity. For it was well known that one of Jethro's fixed
principles in life was embodied in his own motto, "Don't write—send."
"It's very funny," answered Cynthia, looking down at the paper with a puzzled
expression. "'Dear Cynthia: Judge Bass wished me to say to you that he would be
pleased if you and Will would come to the capital and spend a week with him at
the Pelican House, and see the sights. The judge says Rias Richardson will tend
store. Yours truly, P. Hartington.' That's all," said Cynthia, looking up.
For a moment you could have heard a pine needle drop on the stoop. Then Rias
thrust his hands in his pockets and voiced the general sentiment.
"Well, I'll be—goldurned!" said he.
"Didn't say nothin' about Jake?" queried Lem.
"No," answered Cynthia, "that's all—except two pieces of cardboard with
something about the Truro Railroad and our names. I don't know what they are."
And she took them from the envelope.
"Guess I could tell you if I was pressed," said Lem, amid a shout of
merriment from the group.
"Air you goin', Will?" said Sam Price, pausing with his foot on the step of
his buggy, that he might have the complete news before he left.
"Godfrey, Will," exclaimed Rigs, breathlessly, "you hain't a-goin' to throw
up a chance to stay a hull week at the Pelican, be you?" The mere possibility of
refusal overpowered Rias.
Those who are familiar with that delightful French song which treats of the
leave-taking of one Monsieur Dumollet will appreciate, perhaps, the attentions
which were showered upon William Wetherell and Cynthia upon their departure for
the capital next morning. Although Mr. Wetherell had at one time been actually a
resident of Boston, he received quite as many cautions from his neighbors as
Monsieur Dumollet. Billets doux and pistols were, of course, not mentioned, but
it certainly behooved him, when he should have arrived at that place of
intrigues, to be on the lookout for cabals.
They took the stage-coach from Brampton over the pass: picturesque
stage-coach with its apple-green body and leather springs, soon to be laid away
forever if the coveted Truro Franchise Bill becomes a law; stage-coach which
pulls up defiantly beside its own rival at Truro station, where our passengers
take the train down the pleasant waterways and past the little white villages
among the fruit trees to the capital. The thrill of anticipation was in
Cynthia's blood, and the flush of pleasure on her cheeks, when they stopped at
last under the sheds. The conductor snapped his fingers and cried, "This way,
Judge," and there was Jethro in his swallow-tailed coat and stove-pipe hat
awaiting them. He seized Wetherell's carpet-bag with one hand and Cynthia's arm
with the other, and shouldered his way through the people, who parted when they
saw who it was.
"Uncle Jethro," cried Cynthia, breathlessly, "I didn't know you were a judge.
What are you judge of?"
"J-judge of clothes, Cynthy. D-don't you wish you had the red cloth to wear
"No, I don't," said Cynthia. "I'm glad enough to be here without it."
"G-glad to hev you in any fixin's, Cynthy," he said, giving her arm a little
squeeze, and by that time they were up the hill and William Wetherell quite
winded. For Jethro was strong as an ox, and Cynthia's muscles were like an
They were among the glories of Main Street now. The capital was then, and
still remains, a typically beautiful New England city, with wide streets shaded
by shapely maples and elms, with substantial homes set back amidst lawns and
gardens. Here on Main Street were neat brick business buildings and banks and
shops, with the park-like grounds of the Capitol farther on, and everywhere,
from curb to doorway, were knots of men talking politics; broad-faced, sunburned
farmers in store clothes, with beards that hid their shirt fronts;
keen-featured, sallow, country lawyers in long black coats crumpled from much
sitting on the small of the back; country storekeepers with shrewd eyes, and
local proprietors and manufacturers.
"Uncle Jethro, I didn't know you were such a great man," she said.
"H-how did ye find out, Cynthy?"
"The way people treat you here. I knew you were great, of course," she
hastened to add.
"H-how do they treat me?" he asked, looking down at her.
"You know," she answered. "They all stop talking when you come along and
stare at you. But why don't you speak to them?"
Jethro smiled and squeezed her arm again, and then they were in the corridor
of the famous Pelican Hotel, hazy with cigar smoke and filled with politicians.
Some were standing, hanging on to pillars, gesticulating, some were ranged in
benches along the wall, and a chosen few were in chairs grouped around the
spittoons. Upon the appearance of Jethro's party, the talk was hushed, the
groups gave way, and they accomplished a kind of triumphal march to the desk.
The clerk, descrying them, desisted abruptly from a conversation across the
cigar counter, and with all the form of a ceremony dipped the pen with a
flourish into the ink and handed it to Jethro.
"Your rooms are ready, Judge," he said.
As they started for the stairs, Jethro and Cynthia leading the way, Wetherell
felt a touch on his elbow and turned to confront Mr. Bijah Bixby—at very close
range, as usual.
"C-come down at last, Will?" he said. "Thought ye would. Need everybody this
"I came on pleasure," retorted Mr. Wetherell, somewhat angrily.
Mr. Bixby appeared hugely to enjoy the joke.
"So I callated," he cried, still holding Wetherell's hand in a mild, but
persuasive grip. "So I callated. Guess I done you an injustice, Will."
"You're a leetle mite smarter than I thought you was. So long. Got a leetle
business now—you understand a leetle business."
Was it possible, indeed, for the simple-minded to come to the capital and not
become involved in cabals? With some misgivings William Wetherell watched Mr.
Bixby disappear among the throng, kicking up his heels behind, and then went
upstairs. On the first floor Cynthia was standing by an open door.
"Dad," she cried, "come and see the rooms Uncle Jethro's got for us!" She
took Wetherell's hand and led him in. "See the lace curtains, and the
chandelier, and the big bureau with the marble top."
Jethro had parted his coat tails and seated himself enjoyably on the bed.
"D-don't come often," he said, "m-might as well have the best."
"Jethro," said Wetherell, coughing nervously and fumbling in the pocket of
his coat, "you've been very kind to us, and we hardly know how to thank you. I—I
didn't have any use for these."
He held out the pieces of cardboard which had come in Cynthia's letter. He
dared not look at Jethro, and his eye was fixed instead upon the somewhat
grandiose signature of Isaac D. Worthington, which they bore. Jethro took them
and tore them up, and slowly tossed the pieces into a cuspidor conveniently
situated near the foot of the bed. He rose and thrust his hands into his
"Er—when you get freshened up, come into Number 7," he said.
Number 7! But we shall come to that later. Supper first, in a great pillared
dining room filled with notables, if we only had the key. Jethro sits silent at
the head of the table eating his crackers and milk, with Cynthia on his left and
William Wetherell on his right. Poor William, greatly embarrassed by his sudden
projection into the limelight, is helpless in the clutches of a lady-waitress
who is demanding somewhat fiercely that he make an immediate choice from a list
of dishes which she is shooting at him with astonishing rapidity. But who is
this, sitting beside him, who comes to William's rescue, and demands that the
lady repeat the bill of fare? Surely a notable, for he has a generous presence,
and jet-black whiskers which catch the light, which give the gentleman, as Mr.
Bixby remarked, "quite a settin'." Yes, we have met him at last. It is none
other than the Honorable Heth Sutton, Rajah of Clovelly, Speaker of the House,
who has condescended to help Mr. Wetherell.
His chamberlain, Mr. Bijah Bixby, sits on the other side of the Honorable
Heth, and performs the presentation of Mr. Wetherell. But Mr. Sutton, as becomes
a man of high position, says little after he has rebuked the waitress, and
presently departs with a carefully chosen toothpick; whereupon Mr. Bixby moves
into the vacant seat—not to Mr. Wetherell's unqualified delight.
"I've knowed him ever sense we was boys," said Mr. Bixby; "you saw how
intimate we was. When he wants a thing done, he says, 'Bije, you go out and get
'em.' Never counts the cost. He was nice to you—wahn't he, Will?" And then Mr.
Bixby leaned over and whispered in Mr. Wetherell's ear; "He knows—you
"Knows what?" demanded Mr. Wetherell.
Mr. Bixby gave him another admiring look.
"Knows you didn't come down here with Jethro jest to see the sights."
At this instant the talk in the dining room fell flat, and looking up William
Wetherell perceived a portly, rubicund man of middle age being shown to his seat
by the headwaiter. The gentleman wore a great, glittering diamond in his shirt,
and a watch chain that contained much fine gold. But the real cause of the
silence was plainly in the young woman who walked beside him, and whose
effective entrance argued no little practice and experience. She was of a type
that catches the eye involuntarily and holds it,—tall, well-rounded,
fresh-complexioned, with heavy coils of shimmering gold hair. Her pawn, which
was far from unbecoming, was in keeping with those gifts with which nature had
endowed her. She carried her head high, and bestowed swift and evidently fatal
glances to right and left during her progress through the room. Mr. Bixby's
voice roused the storekeeper from this contemplation of the beauty.
"That's Alvy Hopkins of Gosport and his daughter. Fine gal, hain't she? Ever
sense she come down here t'other day she's stirred up more turmoil than any
railroad bill I ever seed. She was most suffocated at the governor's ball with
fellers tryin' to get dances—some of 'em old fellers, too. And you understand
"What about him?"
"Alvy says he's a-goin' to be the next governor, or fail up." Mr. Bixby's
voice sank to a whisper, and he spoke into Mr. Wetherell's ear. "Alvy says he
has twenty-five thousand dollars to put in if necessary. I'll introduce you to
him, Will," he added meaningly. "Guess you can help him some—you understand?"
"Mr. Bixby!" cried Mr. Wetherell, putting down his knife and fork.
"There!" said Mr. Bixby, reassuringly; "'twon't be no bother. I know him as
well as I do you—call each other by our given names. Guess I was the first man
he sent for last spring. He knows I go through all them river towns. He says,
'Bije, you get 'em.' I understood."
William Wetherell began to realize the futility of trying to convince Mr.
Bixby of his innocence in political matters, and glanced at Jethro.
"You wouldn't think he was listenin', would you, Will?" Mr. Bixby remarked.
"Ears are sharp as a dog's. Callate he kin hear as far as the governor's
table, and he don't look as if he knows anything. One way he built up his
power—listenin' when they're talkin' sly out there in the rotunda. They're
almighty surprised when they l'arn he knows what they're up to. Guess you
understand how to go along by quiet and listen when they're talkin' sly."
"I never did such a thing in my life," cried William Wetherell, indignantly
But Mr. Bixby winked.
"So long, Will," he said, "see you in Number 7."
Never, since the days of Pompadour and Du Barry, until modern American
politics were invented, has a state been ruled from such a place as Number 7 in
the Pelican House—familiarly known as the Throne Room. In this historic cabinet
there were five chairs, a marble-topped table, a pitcher of iced water, a
bureau, a box of cigars and a Bible, a chandelier with all the gas jets burning,
and a bed, whereon sat such dignitaries as obtained an audience,—railroad
presidents, governors and ex-governors and prospective governors, the Speaker,
the President of the Senate, Bijah Bixby, Peleg Hartington, mighty chiefs from
the North Country, and lieutenants from other parts of the state. These sat on
the bed by preference. Jethro sat in a chair by the window, and never took any
part in the discussions that raged, but listened. Generally there was some one
seated beside him who talked persistently in his ear; as at present, for
instance, Mr. Chauncey Weed, Chairman of the Committee on Corporations of the
House, who took the additional precaution of putting his hand to his mouth when
Mr. Stephen Merrill was in the Throne Room that evening, and confidentially
explained to the bewildered William Wetherell the exact situation in the Truro
Franchise fight. Inasmuch as it has become our duty to describe this celebrated
conflict,—in a popular and engaging manner, if possible,—we shall have to do so
through Mr. Wetherell's eyes, and on his responsibility. The biographies of some
of the gentlemen concerned have since been published, and for some unaccountable
reason contain no mention of the Truro franchise.
"All Gaul," said Mr. Merrill—he was speaking to a literary man—"all Gaul is
divided into five railroads. I am one, the Grand Gulf and Northern, the
impecunious one. That is the reason I'm so nice to everybody, Mr. Wetherell. The
other day a conductor on my road had a shock of paralysis when a man paid his
fare. Then there's Batch, president of the 'Down East' road, as we call it.
Batch and I are out of this fight,—we don't care whether Isaac D. Worthington
gets his franchise or not, or I wouldn't be telling you this. The two railroads
which don't want him to get it, because the Truro would eventually become a
competitor with them, are the Central and the Northwestern. Alexander Duncan is
president of the Central."
"Alexander Duncan!" exclaimed Wetherell. "He's the richest man in the state,
"Yes," said Mr. Merrill, "and he lives in a big square house right here in
the capital. He ain't a bad fellow, Duncan. You'd like him. He loves books. I
wish you could see his library."
"I'm afraid there's not much chance of that," answered Wetherell.
"Well, as I say, there's Duncan, of the Central, and the other is Lovejoy, of
the Northwestern. Lovejoy's a bachelor and a skinflint. Those two, Duncan and
Lovejoy, are using every means in their power to prevent Worthington from
getting that franchise. Have I made myself clear?"
"Do you think Mr. Worthington will get it?" asked Wetherell, who had in mind
a certain nocturnal visit at his store.
Mr. Merrill almost leaped out of his chair at the question. Then he mopped
his face, and winked very deliberately at the storekeeper. Then Mr. Merrill
"Well, well," he said, "for a man who comes down here to stay with Jethro
Bass to ask me that!" Whereupon Mr. Wetherell flushed, and began to perspire
himself. "Didn't you hear Isaac D. Worthington's virtuous appeal to the people
at Brampton?" said Mr. Merrill.
"Yes," replied Wetherell, getting redder.
"I like you, Will," said Mr. Merrill, unexpectedly, "darned if I don't. I'll
tell you what I know about it, and you can have a little fun while you're here,
lookin' on, only it won't do to write about it to the Newcastle Guardian. Guess
Willard wouldn't publish it, anyhow. I suppose you know that Jethro pulls the
strings, end we little railroad presidents dance. We're the puppets now, but
after a while, when I'm crowded out, all these little railroads will get
together and there'll be a row worth looking at, or I'm mistaken. But to go back
to Worthington," continued Mr. Merrill, "he made a little mistake with his bill
in the beginning. Instead of going to Jethro, he went to Heth Sutton, and Heth
got the bill as far as the Committee on Corporations, and there she's been ever
since, with our friend Chauncey Weed, who's whispering over there."
"Mr. Sutton couldn't even get it out of the Committee!" exclaimed Wetherell.
"Not an inch. Jethro saw this thing coming about a year ago, and he took the
precaution to have Chauncey Weed and the rest of the Committee in his pocket—and
of course Heth Sutton's always been there."
William Wetherell thought of that imposing and manly personage, the Honorable
Heth Sutton, being in Jethro's pocket, and marvelled. Mr. Chauncey Weed seemed
of a species better able to thrive in the atmosphere of pockets.
"Well, as I say, there was the Truro Franchise Bill sound asleep in the
Committee, and when Isaac D. Worthington saw that his little arrangement with
Heth Sutton wasn't any good, and that the people of the state didn't have
anything more to say about it than the Crow Indians, and that the end of the
session was getting nearer and nearer, he got desperate and went to Jethro, I
suppose. You know as well as I do that Jethro has agreed to put the bill
"Then why doesn't he get the Committee to report it and put it through?"
"Bless your simple literary nature," exclaimed Mr Merrill, "Jethro's got more
power than any man in the state, but that isn't saying that he doesn't have to
fight occasionally. He has to fight now. He has seven of the twelve senators
hitched, and the governor. But Duncan and Lovejoy have bought up all the loose
blocks of representatives, and it is supposed that the franchise forces only
control a quorum. The end of the session is a week off, and never in all my
experience have I seen a more praiseworthy attendance on the part of members."
"Do you mean that they are being paid to remain in their seats?" cried the
amazed Mr. Wetherell.
"Well," answered Mr. Merrill, with a twinkle in his eye, "that is a little
bald and—and unparliamentary, perhaps, but fairly accurate. Our friend Jethro is
confronted with a problem to tax even his faculties, and to look at him, a man
wouldn't suspect he had a care in the world."
Jethro was apparently quite as free from anxiety the next morning when he
offered, after breakfast, to show Wetherell and Cynthia the sights of the town,
though Wetherell could not but think that the Throne Room and the Truro
Franchise Bill were left at a very crucial moment to take care of themselves.
Jethro talked to Cynthia—or rather, Cynthia talked to Jethro upon innumerable
subject's; they looked upon the statue of a great statesman in the park, and
Cynthia read aloud the quotation graven on the rock of the pedestal, "The
People's Government, made for the People, made by the People, and answerable to
the People." After that they went into the state library, where Wetherell was
introduced to the librarian, Mr. Storrow. They did not go into the State House
because, as everybody knows, Jethro Bass never went there. Mr. Bijah Bixby and
other lieutenants might be seen in the lobbies, and the governor might sign
bills in his own apartment there, but the real seat of government was that
Throne Room into which we have been permitted to enter.
They walked out beyond the outskirts of the town, where there was a grove or
picnic ground which was also used as a park by some of the inhabitants. Jethro
liked the spot, and was in the habit sometimes of taking refuge there when the
atmosphere of the Pelican House became too thick. The three of them had sat down
on one of the board benches to rest, when presently two people were seen at a
little distance walking among the trees, and the sight of them, for some reason,
seemed to give Jethro infinite pleasure.
"Why," exclaimed Cynthia, "one of them is that horrid girl everybody was
looking at in the dining room last night."
"D-don't like her, Cynthy?" said Jethro.
"No," said Cynthia, "I don't."
"She's brazen," declared Cynthia.
It was, indeed, Miss Cassandra Hopkins, daughter of that Honorable Alva
who—according to Mr. Bixby was all ready with a certain sum of money to be the
next governor. Miss Cassandra was arrayed fluffily in cool, pink lawn, and she
carried a fringed parasol, and she was gazing upward with telling effect into
the face of the gentleman by her side. This would have all been very romantic if
the gentleman had been young and handsome, but he was certainly not a man to
sweep a young girl off her feet. He was tall, angular, though broad-shouldered,
with a long, scrawny neck that rose out of a very low collar, and a large head,
scantily covered with hair—a head that gave a physical as well as a mental
effect of hardness. His smooth-shaven face seemed to bear witness that its owner
was one who had pushed frugality to the borders of a vice. It was not a pleasant
face, but now it wore an almost benign expression under the influence of Miss
Cassandra's eyes. So intent, apparently, were both of them upon each other that
they did not notice the group on the bench at the other side of the grove.
William Wetherell ventured to ask Jethro who the man was.
"N-name's Lovejoy," said Jethro.
"Lovejoy!" ejaculated the storekeeper, thinking of what Mr. Merrill had told
him of the opponents of the Truro Franchise Bill. "President of the
Jethro gave his friend a shrewd look.
"G-gettin' posted—hain't you, Will?" he said.
"Is she going to marry that old man?" asked Cynthia.
Jethro smiled a little. "G-guess not," said he, "g-guess not, if the old man
can help it. Nobody's married him yet, and hain't likely to."
Jethro was unusually silent on the way back to the hotel, but he did not seem
to be worried or displeased. He only broke his silence once, in fact, when
Cynthia called his attention to a large poster of some bloodhounds on a fence,
announcing the fact in red letters that "Uncle Tom's Cabin" would be given by a
certain travelling company at the Opera House the next evening.
"L-like to go, Cynthy?"
"Oh, Uncle Jethro, do you think we can go?"
"Never b'en to a show—hev you—never b'en to a show?"
"Never in my life," said Cynthia.
"We'll all go," said Jethro, and he repeated it once or twice as they came to
Main Street, seemingly greatly tickled at the prospect. And there was the Truro
Franchise Bill hanging over him, with only a week left of the session, and
Lovejoy's and Duncan's men sitting so tight in their seats! William Wetherell
could not understand it.